Back to the Beginning: Why Consciously Studio?
“Curiosity is a virtue, being informed is an asset, keeping an open mind is a strength —to act using all three is a responsibility that few assume, but needed from each of us to truly effect change.” —Siria Contreras, Founder/CEO, CONSCIOUSLY STUDIO
You might be curious as to why CONSCIOUSLY STUDIO exists, where it came from and why we feel it’s needed. Read the “1-ON-1” Q&A below with Founder/CEO Siria Contreras to learn what it hopes to accomplish and what sets CONSCIOUSLY STUDIO apart.
1-ON-1: What is CONSCIOUSLY and CONSCIOUSLY STUDIO and what is the difference?
SIRIA: CONSCIOUSLY STUDIO is a “brand new” creative, marketing, and original content production studio based in Los Angeles, CA. We use the terms “brand new” loosely, as it’s not the formula that is completely “brand new”, rather it’s the approach. Our team is comprised of amazing experts from the world of entertainment who also happen to be humanitarians at heart.
CONSCIOUSLY STUDIO is more of the B-2-B lever in our overall CONSCIOUSLY umbrella. This studio or “meeting of the minds” is meant to help empower Brands, Corporations, Organizations to do their part in fostering a better world. However, our approach is a little different than many of the other cause-marketing agencies out there. Instead of just focusing on one campaign or one product, which we can of course do, we think more holistically and find opportunities for brands/corporations to work and collaborate with cause-based organizations as well as the experts working on solutions for some of our world’s biggest problems to create campaigns, activations, and content that not only resonates with audiences but that also engages, entertains, and informs in a way that hasn’t really been done before. We are very committed to empowering audiences and via the branded world of corporations and entertainment, we have such strong tools and opportunities to really impact.
CONSCIOUSLY is the larger initiative that is targeted at GEN Y and GEN Z. Although, in our world it’d be called a B2C initiative, to be honest we see it as an H2H initiative. Human-to-Human initiatives. CONSCIOUSLY will be a more robust editorial platform providing content geared towards Gens Y & Z to help provide them with factual, empowering, entertaining, and relatable content. I can’t talk as much about that just yet, but it’s really going to take a bit of a new approach to editorial content that I’m not really seeing out there these days. We’re really excited about this one. This platform is slated to launch in late Q3.
1-ON-1: WHY DID YOU FEEL A NEED TO START THIS PROJECT? SIRIA: Good question. I’ve been asked this a lot recently. The short answer is I feel a real responsibility (not in a bad way) to apply my strengths to helping to tackle some of our planet and human-centric issues, I have the ability to think on a macro and micro level and to approach things logically, but most importantly I know that nothing changes without action and that nothing changes for the long-term without the right actions based on scalable strategy and I wanted to create something with a multi-platform approach that could help to fill some of those holes that I was seeing in other approaches. However, to be honest beyond that not-so-short, short answer, I feel that there are probably three or four statements that ultimately comprise the real answer for me and I’ve been giving most who ask me a combination of one to two of these and they are:
Nothing Like This. I wasn’t seeing what I was envisioning for these new endeavors out in the world. There were some efforts that came close, but none were exactly this larger more 360 approach. This was the answer, I likely gave the first person who asked me this, a really accomplished and smart Entertainment & Advertising C-Level Exec that I respect. I still stand by this as I really did a lot of research before deciding to embark on this journey.
Impact. Our country has been through a lot, especially in the past couple of years, people have been affected in ways they could not have foreseen a few years ago. I’m a person of action, with a focus on the positive. I really realized last year (2018) that although I have enjoyed my career in Entertainment Marketing, that no matter how much change happened within one company or how much great content they put out, that my impact on the world (outside of my own humanitarian efforts outside of my career—more on that in a minute) was really limited to the impact that I could do through ONE organization or brand. Sure these companies are amazingly influential Fortune 10 and Fortune 500 household names, but it would still just be one company, one campaign at a time. My biggest motivation to begin this journey was that realization. I realized that if I stayed on this path, I’d have to be ok with that. However, I also knew that if I were to create these new initiatives that I would be able to partner and work with ANY company or organization and make a much larger impact and empower others to make more meaningful impact in a more significant way. After I broke it down for myself, I realized it was a no-brainer.
Cause-Marketing Is Not Sexy. This is not to describe the people behind creating real-change nor take away from the serious need for cause-marketing. For me personally, there’s nothing I find more appealing than someone who is informed, makes up their own mind, and is confident in what they believe in. What I mean with that lack of sex-appeal is that typically efforts towards effecting change have either been predictable, sterile, or heavy-handed and sensational. None of which get the job done long-term. What my career in entertainment as a marketer (and a good one if I do say so myself), is an understanding of what audiences respond to and how to deliver results via campaigns that really engage a user driving them to action. I have always been accountable for hitting targets, delivering ROI and have learned what an effective Call To Action really looks like. As part of everything that my marketing world entails having to build audiences for seasons of new and established top network shows, or products, or platforms, I feel has prepared me for leading this team to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems alongside our growing partners of cause-focused experts and orgs, brands, and corporations.
Collaboration - Once I started to really research and put together my plan for what this new project would be, I verified something that I had noticed in the past. There is A LOT of disconnect in the world of cause-marketing. So many organizations, groups, communities, people, brands, and corporations are working separately towards the same desired result, but approaching it in different ways, sometimes undermining (unintentionally or otherwise) efforts along the way. I have a history of bringing people together, building communities, getting others to collaborate and I identified that this was something that really needs to happen now as there are many things that could happen sooner than later if we don’t combine efforts, brainpower, and actions to create bigger change. I’ve worked on some of the biggest TV Shows/Films, products (CBS All Access, DIRECTV NOW, etc) and Specials (The GRAMMYs, The Emmys, Super Bowl, etc) with the world watching (literally) and without teams and teams of people working towards one united mission under one vision, none of these would’ve seen the light of day nor reached millions upon millions of people.. Our world doesn’t work as well without the concept of “Together”. It’s a big undertaking, but one step at a time we’ll get there. The last part of the answer would have to be, that as I mentioned I’ve always done a lot of humanitarian work since I was a teenager, perhaps even younger. I always kept my philanthropic efforts and projects (I am a founding and executive team member of Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles, a co-founder of the Austin based non-profit The Nourish Foundation, am involved with arts/literary org Beyond Baroque, and have worked with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, ACLU, and Autism Speaks) separate from my professional career. I’m excited that I finally get to marry the two to a certain degree.
Big picture though, I joke with our team that what we’re embarking on is the biggest production and CTA campaign of all-time. The good news is we’re up for the challenge.
1-ON-1: WHEN DID YOU GET THE IDEA AND WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO START THIS NOW? SIRIA: I made my mind up to do this about November of last year while at AT&T Entertainment, but tabled it until about December-ish. Then the holidays happened and I really didn’t get back to fully fleshing it out until beginning of this year in January. Being creative and a marketer, I had the name, branding, logo, etc. all done in about a week or two. It was one of those things that just clicked and kept moving quickly. I had most of the team on board by end of January and even more in place by February. So in reality, we were in really good shape less than 8 weeks from when I first really defined the idea. The “Why Now” is another question that I’ve answered a lot since deciding to do this. Once I made up my mind to do this I actually asked myself this question. Did I really want to transition my career into this focus and did I need to do it now or was it something that could wait? I learned later that Y Combinator asks it’s candidates a similar question, “Why was this idea not right two years ago, and why will two years from now be too late?” For me the answer to that was, two years ago I personally was making a career transition leaving CBS where I’d been for a number of years for a role at AT&T, but as a country we also were in transition with new— let’s say “leadership”. Everybody was going through a lot internally with that change, shellshocked to say the least, but in spite of all of the action there was also a lot of “Let’s wait and see what happens”. I’d had a similar idea to CONSCIOUSLY but it was not as big of an idea and actually at that time I did decide to put it on the back-buner. So, two years ago for me I didn’t have the capacity nor bandwidth to really take on the scale that this project needs and it wasn’t something I could’ve done in my spare time.
Why would two years from now be too late. Well, here we are in another time of transition. We know a lot needs to change, but many people don’t really know where to start and also lack a lot of fundamental information (I use the example that most people don’t even know how to recycle common items the right way). I felt that two years from now too many new things would be enforced and we’d again be taking action in a “defensive” state vs. an “offensive” state. Right now, there is time to really make sure that real issues are part of the discussion and that action plans are developed to address them. Something that we didn’t really have in the last political cycle. Politics aside and maybe even larger concern are the various epidemics that plague us as identified in the UN Goals. Very real things could take place in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years if we continue to use endangered resources or continue to not focus our energies on some of our larger issues. Two years from now it will be 2021. Our Present is the Future. 1-ON-1: YOU HAVE A REALLY STRONG TEAM. WHERE DID YOU FIND EACH PERSON?
SIRIA As I mentioned, forming this new endeavor all happened very quickly (I’m a quick and thorough planner—again attributed to having worked in very fast-paced environments). I had in my head, a dream team that I could envision myself bringing this to reality with. Every individual on this team, I have a personal connection with and happen to be not only people that I’m friends with, but also many are former colleagues that I respect on a professional level. I would equate our relationships as friends who have gone to battle together, given the scale of the projects that we’ve worked on together, so I know this is an All-Star Team.
In fact, what makes me most honored to have them working on this effort with me is that many of them are also founders of their own amazing initiatives. They are already making big impacts on their own.
I call this a team of super-heroes combining our powers for the greater good. Here’s a short run-down, a couple of folks are still being added to our website and couple more to the team—we’ll announce those additions soon.
CBS: Mike Myles, Madison Medeiros, Nick Golding, and Natasha Allaire (still being added to our team site) and I all worked at CBS/CBS Interactive together. Any of the big specials, primetime, daytime shows and digital content that you would know we worked on together. Mike headed up our CBS.com Video Team for nearly 14 years, Nick also came out of that video team and still currently lends his talents to CBS—he’s an amazing editor and creative director who has worked with some of the biggest Directors/Producers. Madison was a pillar of our editorial team that helped us with major launches like the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and to grow the CBS.com editorial platform from the ground up. At CBS I also oversaw our events and activations and Natasha is one of the most amazing live event producers and talent wranglers that you’ll ever work with. Lastly, while at CBS, although he is an Executive Coach and Advisor not associated with CBS, is where I met Brandon Maslan who is on our Board of Directors. He was brought up to me by both Mike and our HR Director at the time is an inspiring and encouraging advocate and jumped on board with this idea when it was just a seed back in December.
Variety: Antonio, Brandy, and I met while working at Variety. Brandy helped to launch and manage efforts around the Variety Careers flagship and Antonio oversaw Partnerships and Barters, an area that I absorbed into my role there when he left to take a role at the Los Angeles Times. Brandy and I went on to found an online Arts & Culture editorial site (InTraffik.com - my first foray into publishing) and to produce a lot of Fashion and Charity Events. Antonio is also currently doing double-duty in a new role with the Los Angeles Metro and Brandy is also the CEO/Founder of the app Butiqe, the only “local boutique directory” on the market currently.
Rock and Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles - Via our non-profit I’ve met a lot of amazing women who have turned into part of my extended family—10 years worth of them. The is where I first met Lex McNaughton, who currently oversees Film Education at Film Independent and is also an amazing producer having worked on Sundance Film Fest among many others and powerhouse Charlene DiPaola, who is also the CEO/Creator of Hip Shake Fitness (an online subscription fitness service that focuses strongly on inclusion and diversity).
Wonder Women - The Wonder Women initiative is one organized by friend and colleague Yao Huang, who has been named one of Forbes Top Women in Tech as well as many other accolades. She brings together a lot of Executive Women. This is where I had the pleasure of first meeting the creative and benevolent force known as Laura Anne Edwards who is probably qualified to run a country (just look her up on LINKEDIN and you’ll know why, she’s been a NASA Datanaut, worked with the U.S. Secretary of State, and also is spearheading her DATA OASIS initiative ) and Simone Kiri another future-thinker with a creative and empowering heart who works with some of the biggest brands, both of whom I hit it off with and became a big supporter of as well as friend.
Personal: -Andie and I also used to be L.A. nightlife tastemakers and I helped collaborate on her then Music and Culture Site, we also went on to produce local music nights and djing together along with another friend who is now at Capitol Records here in L.A. while she was the Photo Editor at Filter Magazine and I was at Variety (and later NBC)
- Sarah and I were roommates in our 20s while she was working at Fox Animation on The Cleveland Show and I was at NBC. She was a big part of the online radio station that I co-owned with Dr. Katrina Miller and podcasts that we produced well before the big podcast hype-wave came along. She hosted a comedy-focused site sharing and helped me with some of the operations in our station’s studio. Even then, we were pioneering.
Genta - Genta and I actually went to elementary school together! We’ve known each other since we were little kids and part of a group of four best friends through Jr. High. She and I recently reconnected as she is writing her first novel geared towards middle-readers. We both loved books and reading when we were kids and had an unquenchable thirst for literature at that young age. She also is someone who now as an adult is very committed to helping create a positive world. 1-ON-1: LAST QUESTION, WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT ACCOMPLISHING THROUGH THIS COMPANY? SIRIA: So many things. However, the biggest three are: Providing much needed fact-based information on a variety of subjects, Giving audiences something that they can relate to and gets them to take positive change, and lastly and most importantly Creating Real Change. I’m a naturally curious person who loves learning things. I’m excited to take people back to that beginner stage to really help provide education around areas where more information is needed, i.e. Human Rights, Climate Change, Inclusion/Diversity, and just in general Daily Life all the while applying the entertainment approach to our empowerment mission. I’m confident in our team and I’m confident in myself and our abilities and cannot wait to see what we accomplish via CONSCIOUSLY STUDIO and CONSCIOUSLY in collaboration with experts, organizations, and the world.