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Filming the Future of Disaster Recovery: Q&A with IBM's George Hammer

Two years after the waters of Hurricane Harvey have subsided, tens of thousands of Texans have yet to rebuild their homes and businesses because of outdated and inefficient systems of recovery. Technologist Chelsey Delaney, personally connected to these events, believes she can help in the aftermath of a disaster to alleviate this burden for survivors.

IBM’s new film Bonds of Trust is an emotional glimpse into several intersecting aftermath stories and how the promise of blockchain technology can unite a response community of insurance providers, governments, and citizens to streamline the flow of information and resources to those who need it most.

Brand Storytelling sat down with IBM Chief Content Officer George Hammer to learn more about the upcoming film:

Coming off of last year’s film “Code and Response”, the “technology for good” theme that runs through the IBM films is apparent. Are there other content themes you might explore in the future?

IBM has been around for over 100 years because clients trust us to help them “get from here to there”. Our relationships are built on trust and so we have taken a stance on tech for good. Technology companies must act ethically, responsibly and with purpose. This is not a new theme for IBM. We have long believed that human plus machine is the right solution to build a smarter business and planet. So, “good” is not a campaign for us but it’s in our DNA.

If there is a sub-theme that you may see come to life more is equality. Last year we did launch an initiative called “Be Equal”. We have been and continue to champion gender equality in STEM.

What was the impetus behind focusing specifically on Hurricane Harvey in this film?

We were in a meeting and someone said that towns in Texas are still devastated years after Hurricane Harvey. We then learned that some IBMers built a solution using blockchain that could have helped the people in these towns recover much faster. Finally, we learned one of the IBMers is from one of those towns hit hard by the hurricane and her family lived through the storm.

We were compelled to tell the story. We didn’t want to just talk about the tech because we need people to care about the problem and demand a solution faster. So we decided to make a documentary and tell a more human-centric story. I hope audiences like it and seek to learn more about how blockchain can bring trust and transparency into any supply chain.

How does the content team fit within the organization? What’s the reporting structure for the team? Are you classified internally as marketing, PR, or something else altogether? Where does your budget fall?

The content team at IBM is in Marketing and reports up to the CMO. We are a discipline within overall marketing and not a silo group like an internal agency. That means we are embedded in every business unit, team and campaign. We have leads within each unit who band together like a guild and report to me. Then, we also have a production company with employees all around the world. All together we have between 400-700 content professionals depending if you are including contractors or not. We might be the biggest but we are tightly connected like a family. We also won over 90 awards for content in 2019 and I believe we have quality people making quality content and delivering upon a quality customer experience.

What comes next for the film? What are your distribution intentions? How will you drive viewership? Is there a paid media strategy for the film?

This is the premier and then it will be available to audiences via digital channels. We are not going to get into the distribution and media strategy but we have one.

What can guests of Brand Storytelling expect when they attend IBM’s screening next month in Deer Valley? Who will they meet at the screening?

You will get to see the film of course. But, our panel will include the people in the film and we are going to spend more time talking about how #TechForGood can make a difference. If you are a brand, come talk to us after about problems or ideas. If you are a media company, come talk with us about anything. If you are a director/producer, come talk with us about ideas related to this film or other ideas we might make together in the future. We look forward to meeting all at the screening or after during the happy hour.


Bonds of Trust will screen on Saturday, January 25th at Brand Storytelling 2020, a Sanctioned Event of Sundance Film Festival.


About George Hammer

George Hammer believes we are in the golden age of content, but face a war for attention. Today's content has to be exceptional; platform agnostic and audience specific.As a data-driven storyteller, George's mission is to unite brands and audiences with content that builds relationships and drives action.George and his team of content experts work together to develop content programs and strategies that connect IBM with its audiences and provides the information and tools they desire.His mission is to build the best content team in the world. He leads Content at tIBM and the award winning IBM Originals.

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