White House Is First Client for Social-to-Real World Consultancy

A new strategy consulting firm with ties to Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. aims to help bridge the gap between online social engagement and real-world action. SocialxDesign is starting off with one of the biggest brand name clients in the world: The White House.

It’s no coincidence the firm’s principals already had been working with President Barack Obama’s White House before the company’s official launch today. CEO Giovanni Rodriguez and Chief Strategy Officer Toby Chaudhuri came together while working for the White House Initiative for Hispanics, which featured a series of events across the country fostering civic engagement among Hispanics.

In conjunction with the White House program, Rodriguez and a small panel of advisors helped guide development of a community platform intended to turn good intentions into action. The result was LaPlaza.net, a platform built by Dextro and used by the education-centric initiative to connect Hispanics to resources such as jobs, as well as to one another. At White House affiliated events, people could use the platform to connect with federal officials and record their plans to take specific actions back home in their own communities.

“The real innovation was in the design of the experience,” said Rodriguez. “The White House actually went to 20 cities and empowered [attendees] to do work and then to record it.”

Chaudhuri and Rodriguez have been operating in stealth mode for about six weeks. While the company will continue serving the White House and plans to work with public affairs, government, and non-government organizations, it has also been working with three technology clients and talking to other potential commercial clients.

SocialxDesign aims to apply behavior design and social engagement to marketing and business strategies for clients. For now, the two principals are the only people on staff, but they have content and app developers, strategists, and others on board as contractors.

Though SocialxDesign (read “Social by Design”) is working with the Obama White House, Chaudhuri and Rodriguez said they will take a non-partisan approach to choosing clients with political leanings. “We’re not drawing any lines when it comes to parties…At the base of what we’re doing is civic engagement,” said Chaudhuri.

Rodriguez, a contributor to ClickZ’s Marketing to Latinos section, is also an original member of Latinos in Social Media, a social media-based group that takes an online-to-offline approach to influencing politics. Along with fellow Marketing to Latinos author Gustavo Razzetti, Rodriguez co-wrote ClickZ’s just-launched ebook “Latinosphere: Marketing with Latinos in the Age of Digital.”

Silicon Valley-based tech communications agency Eastwick is backing the new consultancy with a strategic investment. “We saw that there was sort of a white space there,” said Barbara Bates, Eastwick’s CEO and co-founder, recognizing the need for services that bring technology, social media, and public affairs-related practices together. “It’s not just the audiences and the markets we’re looking to bridge; it’s other disciplines like social and communications,” she said.

“If you can actually bring the world of online and social engagement…and pair it with the world of offline experience…you have to think it’s pretty powerful,” said Rodriguez.

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