Pushing Boundaries: Burgers, Tweets, and Babies

Paolo Mottola was a bachelor when he started his MCDM degree in 2008. As a self-proclaimed “academically inclined” individual, he had the time and the curiosity to explore the subjects he discovered in his new graduate program. By the time he finished his degree he was married, had bought a house, and was well on his way towards viral popularity online thanks to his amusing videos and tweets. The day he graduated, Paolo walked across the stage with a GoPro affixed to his mortarboard, documenting the day.

Today, Paolo spends his work week at outdoor retailer REI Co-op, the largest consumer cooperative organization in America and a community of more than 6 million active members. As manager of content marketing, Paolo is part of an organization that caught the attention of millions last holiday season with an anti-consumerism campaign — shutting its doors on Black Friday and inviting the nation to #OptOutside. When he’s not busy producing stories for the Co-op, he is snapping photos of his beautiful daughter, or chowing down on the best burger he can find with his wife.

Paolo recently received a high honor at REI – the peer-nominated Leadership Award – one of only 15 in the entire company. But Paolo won’t tell you that. He’s too understated, like a true Pacific Northwesterner. However, don’t let his humble attitude fool you. This guy has quirky energy and a envelope-pushing mentality.

So what’s the best way to get to know Paolo Mottola, your fellow Comm Lead alum? Take a look at the world through his eyes. Below he shares some of favorite pieces of work – personal and professional – and gives us a look behind the scenes with his witty sense of humor.

“I started blogging in 2002 when I was an undergrad at Western Washington. At the time I used it to post party pictures and called the site ‘Paolo’s Pics.’ Really SEO-rich title there. Anyway, the blog evolved with my life stages and its most recent manifestation is hosting letters that I write to my daughter each month. Over the years, I found it harder and harder to make time for blogging, but when we had my daughter Eliza – after a long infertility journey – I committed back to writing and writing to her. It’s been a rewarding experience.”


“Professionally, I’ve had a chance to work on some high caliber, meaningful projects. At REI, I have the privilege of telling stories that reflect the Co-op’s values. I’m particularly excited about a film called ‘Paul’s Boots’ that we’re launching this month. The story is about Paul Evans, a guy who had a dream to hike the Appalachian Trail. He passed away last year before he could step foot on the trail with his size 13 boots. His wife reached out to the outdoor community to see if they’d hike the trail on his husband’s behalf. We partnered with a company called Duct Tape Then Beer, based in the U-District, to document the strangers who volunteered to hike his boots the length of the trail and complete the dream.”



“Around the time I was in the Comm Lead program, we had some decent winters when the city got pounded with snow. On one occasion, I got stuck on I-5 for 10.5 hours with my wife on a commute home. To keep my sanity and sense of humor, I started tweeting frantically about the experience. This was at a time when Twitter still had a sense of novelty. The local media was obviously tracking the event and started picking up my content. On another occasion, there was a meme already going around called ‘Shit Girls Say’ and I used the moment to create ‘Shit Seattle People Say When It Snows.’ The first video got a quarter million views and some press pick-up, too. Monica Guzman featured me on Geekwire. In hindsight, Part 2 was probably my favorite.”



“I take a lot of great photos in my Northwest adventures, but it’s always important to turn around and get the detail shot, too. This one came in handy when we published a story on ‘A Backcountry Guide to Toilet Paper‘ on the REI Co-op Journal.”


“What do you do when your wife is super pregnant and hungry all the time? Make her talent in a video about the best burger in Tacoma.”

paolo-wp-feature-imagePaolo Mottola, Jr., is the self-proclaimed Rick Rubin of Digital Marketing and completed his MCDM degree in 2011. He currently applies that knowledge in his role of Content Marketing Manager at REI where he is accountable for all things related to editorial brand content. Always one to push the boundaries, Paolo established REI’s Pinterest and Instragram accounts and the Co-op Journal. A Northwest Native, Paolo lives in Tacoma with his wife, daughter, and dog.

Follow Paolo at @paolojr on twitter or message him on Facebook.


View other articles from the Comm Lead Alumni Newsletter, Fall 2016:
Vital Signs
Of Course!
The Download
Storytelling from Safeco Tower
Our Future in a Toothbrush: Making Meaning in IoT

MollyPushing Boundaries: Burgers, Tweets, and Babies
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