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Why Now is the Time for Common Sense Media’s Digital Transformation

By November 17, 2021

Keeping up with the fast-changing world of media and technology is hard for anyone. For parents, figuring out what it all means for their kids can be a major challenge. Fortunately, they can turn to Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that serves as the leading source of entertainment and technology recommendations for families and schools.

When parents want to know if a movie or TV show is appropriate for their kids, they visit Common Sense Media’s site to get an expert opinion. But Common Sense is more than a ratings and review site; it’s a robust set of resources to help parents feel empowered to raise kids in the digital age. Colby Zintl, Common Sense’s chief marketing officer, wants more people to take advantage of all that the organization has to offer parents and educators. She’s focused on enhancing Common Sense Media’s user experience — which is why she asked the Digital Transformation & Business Value team for help.

Our team led Common Sense through a series of activities designed to uncover opportunities to elevate their user experience. Guided discovery, a facilitated workshop, and design thinking frameworks led the Common Sense team to think differently about how the organization can support parents and educators.

Parents and young child watching TV worked with Common Sense Media on a digital transformation that included guided discovery, a facilitated workshop, and design thinking frameworks to help the team think differently about how they can better support parents and educators.

Greg Perlstein (GP): Why was it important for Common Sense Media to rethink its user experience?

Colby Zintl (CZ): User expectations are constantly evolving, and while Common Sense Media may be a 20-year-old nonprofit organization, our website serves the same people who interact with cutting edge technology and brand experiences in their everyday lives. These users expect us to have the same seamless digital experiences as leading lifestyle brands like Netflix, Peloton, and Amazon. So it’s critical that we deliver on our users’ expectations, to remain a relevant and impactful brand.

GP: How did our work together help you do that?

CZ: The process that the digital transformation team at took us through helped everyone on our team shift our thinking about how we serve our users at every stage of the member lifecycle. Millions of parents transact with Common Sense Media every month, meaning that they come to the site, get what they need — usually an age rating for a movie or TV show — and leave. And while that transaction is an important part of our impact goals, we have something richer for those users who want it. So we worked with to identify ways to deepen user engagement and shift the paradigm from transactional to engaging.

GP: Has our partnership led you to think differently about digital transformation?

CZ: Our work together reminded me that when we talk about digital transformation, the technology itself is a tactic. It’s not the beginning or the end of the conversation. Our partnership focused on identifying the goals of transformation: what’s the vision for what we’re trying to do? What is the ideal user experience? What are the outcomes we want for the people we’re serving? We have some great minds on our team and I’m confident we will figure out the “how” of making changes happen. Getting the “what” and the “why” needs to come first.

GP: What comes next in Common Sense’s transformation?

CZ: The team delivered to us a targeted vision and some exciting, strategic recommendations for how we get there. Now it’s up to our team to prioritize, plan, and commit to making change happen. The challenge, of course, is transforming while also keeping our other workstreams in motion. But as a nonprofit, we’re used to being creative and agile.

GP: What other initiatives are top of mind at Common Sense right now?

CZ: Engagement is the 2022 word of the year for us at Common Sense. We are looking forward to putting our plans into action, to transform and deepen the user experience for teachers and parents, and ultimately have a positive impact on both our users and on the media and tech ecosystem as a whole.

For more information to help you guide your own organization’s digital transformation, check out our 3-part digital transformation playbook. Read more from Greg about digital transformation: 3 myths of digital transformation and 3 questions to assess your digital transformation.

About the Author

Greg Perlstein, Digital Transformation Lead for
Greg Perlstein
Digital Transformation Lead for
Greg Perlstein is a digital transformation lead for, working with customers to chart their paths to greater social impact. Prior to joining four years ago, Greg was a senior director at, the world’s largest nonprofit for young people and social change. Greg holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and has over a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector.