Simon Berg: Using Collaborative Tools to Build a Storytelling Platform in the Cloud

In order to create effective content to grab the attention of your target audience, it takes more than a bunch of disconnected tweets and Facebook posts.  It takes a compelling story that speaks directly to the heart and minds of your audience.

Simon Berg, CEO and Founder of Ceros, a Cloud based platform looking to change the way brands communicate with audiences, shares his experiences in using collaboration tools to build and run his growing business.  A small business that has employees, partners and customers spread all over the globe.

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storytellingSmall Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit more about what you do at Ceros?

Simon Berg: It is cloud-based technology platform and at the core, we’re looking to help brands to inspire an engagement with their consumers through storytelling and inspiration.

Brands such as Gucci, Michael Coors and companies like that, would use that technology to create rich, engaging, storytelling outputs using all of our tools. Pushing them out, using all of our distribution tools, to any channel, platform or any device through email distribution.

Consumers see those and experience them in rich, interactive, engaging experiences. We provide all of the technology to create, distribute, and integrate that with commerce.

Small Business Trends:  I would almost call Ceros a storytelling platform?

Simon Berg: Yes, technology has changed the way in which brands and their consumers communicate. It was buyer beware and now it is more seller beware. You have got to beware of what your consumers are thinking and saying, being in the conversation. And you got to figure out ways to communicate a message in a more applicable fashion.

Tense conversations are massive these days. It is very difficult to create a campaign that says my sneakers are cool, buy my sneakers. That doesn’t wash anymore. Likewise, it is typical to weave a story into a conversation just generally around sneakers. So I think communicating messages in a way that it is acceptable in modern times it is important. My belief there is that open communication ultimately has a common thread. I think that is what we are trying to bring back.

If you take a look at magazines, books, catalogs, brochures, street theater, movies, TV shows, radio shows, you name it – all of these modern western forms of communication and media have a common thread.

The common thread is that they all have a start, middle and end, all of them – until the advent of the Web. The Web does not have a start, a middle and an end. Of course, you can say to me, “Google is a good start. ” Okay great, we are at the middle and an end. It never ends and there is no middle.

Genetically and culturally we are wired to enjoy story telling. Children still like to be read books at night and that hasn’t changed. They like stories and you wouldn’t read your child a story of random pieces of information about witches.

We like to think storytelling needs to come back and we are giving tools to “the brave” to be able to create stories. And ultimately, as a result, give them a way to communicate in a modern way that works across multiple devices and channels that allows them to interweave a story that leads to a message. Hopefully, this creates some inspiration and a purchase.

Small Business Trends:  How many people actually work with you at Ceros?

Simon Berg: We have about 32 staff members.

Small Business Trends:  So you have a good mix of clients; you have a number of employees and a number of partners. You have people that sound like they are spread across different geographical locations?

Simon Berg: For me personally, and as business actually, Ceros as a tool is very collaborative and very real-time. As a culture, we are also very spread out globally.

Our teams are in a number of different countries and cities and we have got five or six people in London, about eight or nine people in New York City, and we have about 10 guys spread out across North America. In additional to that we have guys in Italy, guys in Japan, guys in New Zealand, guys in Australia, and as a result of that, our culture is one of collaboration and real-time.

We’ve used Google, Google Hangouts, Google Drive and the Google Docs platform. It has become essential. If I walk into our office on a Monday and we have no electricity and no hot water and no cold water, it would be almost as bad if you were to remove the Google Platform from the middle of our business. I don’t say that because Google wanted me to. I said it because it is true. It really stands out for us as being critical. We can’t live without it.

We recently we had a lot of guys form North America who were in the New York office. We had about 15 people in the office and it came time to order lunch and somebody said, ‘What do you want?’ And they walked up to me with a sheet of paper and said, ‘We are going to the X-restaurant? What do you want?’ I said, ‘Where is the menu?’ It was online. So now I am online and I said, ‘Wait a second.’ I threw up a Google Doc and we ended up with 15 people collaborating in real-time in a Google Doc to order lunch. It sounds funny, but it is actually true. Everybody could see the menu and it was a bit fun as well.

That is a small case. At the larger end we have, every two to three months, an ‘all hands’ or ‘town hall.’ The ‘all hands’ are more me speaking about the business and what we are doing. The ‘town hall’ is a Q & A between all of the team and myself. We use Google Hangouts for that. So we will have 25 to 32 people all appearing on the screen, or looking at shared presentations, documents etc. And that would include the guys in New Zealand or Australia, getting up at inconvenient times, trying to line up with the rest of the world.

Because we use Google Drive, there is always a conversation about, ‘Oh, what’s the latest thoughts on the processing styles?’ Or, ‘What are you thinking about for our next content marketing campaign?’ Instead of having to go, ‘Oh wait, just a second I will send everybody a file.’ Within two clicks, I have pulled up Google Docs inside of the Hangouts and now we are chatting around this document and people are commenting on it in real-time.

I can’t image how you do business globally without such tech. I really don‘t.

Small Business Trends:  Basically, this kind of technology allows you to work the way you need to work and lets your employees engage the way they need to?

Simon Berg: Absolutely 100%. We run most of our meetings with clients remotely. You can share a lot using the Hangouts and sharing documents and presentations on screen. Surprisingly, our email is in Google and our drives are in Google andour presentations are in Google. We don’t need anything but an Internet connection and that it is the gospel truth. We even use Google telephone numbers, because they even have a telephone solution, and their answering machine service. So if Google closes tomorrow – which is highly unlikely – Ceros is dead.

Small Business Trends:  It sounds like the Cloud and services like Google have made a huge difference in the way that you have grown Ceros, as opposed to the other businesses you had in the past?

Simon Berg: For sure. It keeps the cost low and it allows you do to more much quickly.

Small Business Trends:  Where can people learn more about Ceros and what you guys do?

Simon Berg: They can visit the website at You can follow the stories on there and see what our clients are doing and take a look at some of our videos and get a sense of what we are all about.

This interview on using collaborative tools to build a storytelling platform in the clouds is part of the One on One interview series with thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This transcript has been edited for publication.  

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.