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Kelly Flynn – the hero behind CNN Heroes – has quietly changed what media portrays as the “hero” on our TV screens, along with all the other screens we stare at each day.



It is not the most powerful, wealthy, or influential who are the heroes in her story. On the contrary, these heroes come from ordinary places and families, but they are extraordinary in how they give sacrificial love and service to others.



Kelly continues to be a pioneer in the art of story telling, and one staple in her arsenal is her liberal use of celebrities who care.



A few things happen along the way as she begins each powerful tale. First, she invites some of the best-known celebrities in the world to pair-up with incredible people doing work to fight some of the harshest realities – from feeding the hungry to pulling young girls out of the nightmare of sex trafficking.



Then, she asks these celebrities to lend their spotlight to the heroes that often go unnoticed, so the light shines on the “regular person,” and the celebrity step back into the shadows.

This is quite a different picture than most shows or magazines portray of our favorite celebrities. That said, the celebrity is critical to driving viewership and reach – which is precisely where Kelly adds further to the genius of CNN HEROES.


These stories not only serve to dignify the heroes doing great work all around the world, inspiring millions to follow their lead, but they also present an opportunity for brands to join in and benefit from the reach and brand warmth halo.



Brand Warmth is one of the largest levers any brand has to drive overall customer loyalty and advocacy, as it is becoming increasingly more critical to consumers that they feel connected to brands that care.



So as it turns out, Kelly started this program to have a tremendous impact in her community, and ended up creating a platform for top brands to walk along side these heroes as they share their stories in a way that is simultaneously beneficial to the company’s bottom line.

This is a new kind of sustainable media and brand play that finally lifts up our community and pushes us forward. Talk about shared value!


Moral of the story for brands – find the best content that drives brand good and social good. It’s uplifting to your profit, employees, shareholders and every other stakeholder you have.

To nominate someone for CNN Heroes – hosted by Anderson Cooper and celebrating its tenth year – click here.

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