Alex Kurnow is the keeper of secrets. He just calls them “whispers.”
The 26-year-old editorial campaign manager works at Whisper, the fast-growing location-based app that lets people confess anonymously what they’re feeling. His role is to sift through the tens of thousands of “Whispers” that come through the app every day and then work with big brands that see how those companies can use Whispers for their own marketing campaigns.
It’s a role that perfectly encapsulates the big blurring of lines between platform, content and editorial. Kurnow is also a journalist, he says, in that he uses Whispers to spark what he calls “user stories” that both live on the site and provide fodder for publishers like BuzzFeed to write their own stories. And on the brand side, he is part of a larger trend of brands turning to user-generated content to appear more “authentic.” Whisper has so far worked with Coke, Disney, MTV and many others on brand campaigns, said Kurnow.
“I’m a human experience guy, so it’s cool how we’re taking regular conversations happening on the Internet and really turning them into a product,” he said. We asked Kurnow to share a day in his life.
7:00 a.m.: Wake up, check the surfline wave forecast. The waves are looking up, so I hit up one of Whisper’s iOS developers on Slack to go surf on Venice Beach (right outside of Whisper HQ). We keep all of our boards at the office.
8:30 a.m.: I check Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Whisper every morning. Whisper just integrated GIFs via Giphy in our chat, so I have a full-blown Whisper conversation with somebody this morning using only pizza GIFs.
9:30 a.m.: I drive to Whisper HQ. Toast with fresh avocado and Tapatio sauce is my everyday breakfast ritual. I run into one of our product managers, Franklin Horn, in the kitchen, and we get the chance to catch up about a change we are planning to make to our admin tool that directly affects how we produce stories in the editorial department.
9:45 a.m.: A big part of my role is overseeing the execution of brand campaigns on Whisper, and I’m also heavily involved with the creative brainstorming process. A global beauty brand has told us they’re excited to work with Whisper, so I have a meeting with our brand team and we talk through what types of authentic conversations the beauty brand wants to be a part of, and how we can make their experience more emotional and visceral.
10:30 a.m.: This is where the editorial portion of my day starts. I comb through our database to identify some of the highest-performing whispers to find common user trends and see if any spark user story ideas. I want to find the most emotionally charged and compelling content on Whisper — I find a Whisper that I can’t stop thinking about for the rest of the day:
11:00 a.m.: I oversee our nonprofit arm Your Voice’s website and social media presence, so I spend time updating Your Voice’s website with video submissions from people who want to share their stories. I also monitor and update Your Voice’s social channels with uplifting Whisper content; it’s nice to give people a burst of positivity in the morning.
12:00 p.m.: Lunch is one of the greatest parts of the day. I look forward to it a lot because it gives me an opportunity to mix and mingle with people from many different departments throughout the company. Whisper HQ is four stories, so we all aren’t always in the same room together. I ate one of the best lunches I have had yet at Whisper: a fried chicken sandwich with spinach and avocado salad and tater tots.
12:22 p.m.: I sneak back to the kitchen to grab seconds before too many people notice. It’s a true art to grab seconds and go under the radar. Turns out, 13 other people think the same thing and are all sneaking seconds.
1:00 p.m.: Post-lunch means time to do some quality control on our current campaign. We are doing an ongoing series with the Ad Council around anti-bullying, and every month, we feature a whisper on the app that’s Ad Council-branded that aims to raise awareness for the issue of bullying. I chat with our head of content moderation, Lauren Jamar, I sync up with our head of curation, Sarah Doss, and I speak with our Editorial Director, Abbey Goodman, to ensure that the Ad Council post that goes in adheres to our editorial and safety guidelines.
2:00 p.m.: Time for our weekly editorial pitch meeting. Some folks brought Oreos, and I am happy to partake. The edit meeting operates like a newsroom: We all provide a quick pitch of our user story ideas, talk about user trends we’re seeing and go over performance of stories. I pitch a new story, “Reasons Why Short People Win At Life Every Day.” I have noticed there is a sizable amount of content from people on the app celebrating their height, and decide to pitch a collection of whispers on the subject as a story. I’m also 5’5″, so this issue hits quite close to home for me.
3:30 p.m.: Whisper has a program where during the first month of a new employee’s tenure, current team members can take the new employee to coffee or ice cream, courtesy of Whisper. It’s been a great way for people across the company to get to know each other. Today, I take our new QA engineer, Dalton Stout, to coffee across the street. Dalton and I talk about his standup comedy career, and he runs some of his material by me. I get his autograph, just in case he becomes the next Jerry Seinfeld.
4:00 p.m.: I am on a campaign creative call with a popular brand platform as we try to unpack and flesh out the creative that we’ve presented to them. We want to optimize our creative so that we can provide them with the best experience on their platform. When we worked with Disney/Pixar on the Good Dinosaur campaign, this was exactly what I spent a lot of time on. Optimizing creative comes down to the exact letters and even punctuation used on a whisper; that can hugely affect how users interact with the brand campaign.
5:30 p.m.: After my brand call, I head back to the marketing and content floor to record a video with Usbaldo Castellanos, who’s on Whisper’s Spanish editorial team. We just launched a Spanish version of Whisper, and we are experimenting with a neat broadcasting platform, YouNow, to stream videos of our team reading trending whispers in Spanish. Usbaldo also happens to be a popular YouNow influencer.
6:00 p.m.: I check back in on our campaign management system to view the metrics for our Ad Council campaign. For the next hour, I work on Photoshop and build out some creative assets for the popular brand platform to share with them for feedback.
7:15 p.m. I’m starving! I go to the kitchen and scarf down dinner made by Whisper’s chef: fish and chips. Some of us go to the Venice skate park after dinner; I’m teaching our Sys-Ops Engineer and one of our iOS developers how to skate, so we spend some time taking runs at the park. Afterwards, I head straight to band practice. I’m in a band called “Crash Overcast,” and I play guitar and sing.
10:00 p.m. Post-band practice, I head home, check email to see if any follow=up is needed from the global beauty brand. I am on Whisper at the same time and spot a hilarious whisper — can’t wait to incorporate it into editorial or social somehow tomorrow. Feel pretty good about the day. I fall asleep.