Thursday, January 21, 2016

A New Term for Bosses: "Employee Empowerment Advocates"

While we all read countless blog posts on a daily basis, how many stand out? What makes a particular post stand out? I read an excellent post quite some time ago, and not only the title but the message have remained with me.

The question posed by the post was, should we banish the word "boss" from our business vocabulary? There are so many negative connotations with the word boss stemming from how a boss supervises his or her employees to how he or she interacts with them in casual situations. However, since the boss oversees departments and teams, assigns projects, and conducts performance reviews, it is clear why the individual known as the boss is in charge. (Recall all the Dilbert cartoons?)

We've all seen people change overnight when they assume the title of boss. It's as if a light bulb goes on in the individual's head, and he or she is no longer able to communicate or empathize with employees. This does not create a positive working environment – and the boss is the reason.

So, what can be done? The memorable blog post recommended shifting from the term boss toward a more educational term of mentor. But that really doesn’t go far enough. Titles are not the only thing that must change in order for workplaces to become more productive and positive.

Corporate cultures must change, and in the process, anyone who has the privilege of supervising employees, teams, and departments must evolve. These supervisors, managers or leaders must be genuine advocates for their employees. They must provide their employees with the tools to do their jobs as well as the authority to make decisions to improve customer experiences.

In the words of leadership expert Mark Herbert, "Leadership is a gift, not a position. It doesn’t require you to be the smartest person in the room…It requires you to block and tackle for others."

So, would you use my term for your boss: Employee Empowerment Advocate? If it improves your workplace culture, I invite you to adopt my term.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Marketing Highlights from 2015

With 2015 now history, it's time for my annual "Top 10" marketing highlights post. What campaigns were great? Which were duds? What stood out as marketing innovation, and what will go down in history as memorable as Apple's 1984 Super Bowl ad? 

What do you remember from the 2015 marketing reel?

With a quick nod to David Letterman for the format, here's my list:

Number 10:
Google changed its corporate name to Alphabet. While the search engine did not become Alphabet, the name change came as a surprise, especially since the term or infinitive, "to google something" has become part of everyone's life when conducting online research.

Number 9:
Volkswagen endured a scandal with diesel-powered vehicles that significantly tarnished its brand equity and impacted sales. Audi, an affiliated brand, recently cut its ad dollars - so the scandal was not short-lived or something that only impacted VW.

Number 8:
The movie "Furious 7" drove into movie theaters following a memorable ad campaign that honored the memory of actor Paul Walker, who played a large part in the movie franchise but died before the movie was completed. Large billboards depicted the group of actors gazing toward an image of Walker.

Number 7:
Two technology powerhouse brands, Adobe and Microsoft, announced a strategic partnership to provide brands with customer intelligence by connecting data from sales, marketing, and customer service. According to Mark Zablan, president of Adobe EMEA, "Together, Adobe and Microsoft are joining forces to create the industry’s first large-scale solution for connecting the customer experience across all customer touch points and helping companies communicate much more effectively regardless of where customers are in the lifecycle."

Number 6:
Caitlyn (formerly, Bruce) Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair magazine following a life change that brought the transgender issue into the mainstream. Following a life of Olympic medals, this transition was shared on TV and in print, and in the process, created a new personal brand.

Number 5:
Following the birth of their first child, a daughter named Maxima Chan Zuckerberg, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan announced that they would donate 99 percent of their Facebook stock worth an estimated $45 billion through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a newly formed group that will initially focus on education and health.

Number 4:
Sesame Street introduced a character with Autism to help children on the spectrum learn life skills and also teach awareness about autism. The new character named Julia was part of Sesame Workshop's "See Amazing in All Children" Initiative.

Number 3:
Starbucks ended the year with a controversy termed "Red Cup Gate" when it launched its holiday cups with solid red and green logo but without any holiday-themed designs. According to the company's VP of design and content, "This year, we wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories." Social media was full of noise, but most fans ignored the controversy and simply purchased their favorite holiday drinks: gingerbread latte, pumpkin spice latte, eggnog latte, etc.

Number 2:
With the long-awaited arrival of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in theaters, fans of this nearly 40-year-old movie franchise had much to celebrate. But on the marketing front, the subtitle should actually be: The Brands Awaken. Co-branding opportunities that promoted the movie popped up everywhere: Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, General Mills, Kraft, Costco, Verizon, Subway, Duck Tape and more.

And Number 1 on the 2015 Marketing Highlights List:
Donald Trump evolved from business tycoon and TV host to Presidential candidate. While some may question his viability for this position, there is not doubt that he can teach everyone a thing or two about building a powerful personal brand.

What would you add to this list? Here's to 2016 and another year of marketing highlights. Happy New Year!

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Sunday, December 20, 2015

16 Social Media Tips for 2016

With the start of 2016 on the horizon, marketing and media experts are making a variety of predictions about the future of social media. Will Facebook take over Google or vice versa? Will Twitter still be in existence at the end of 2016? What will be the next trendsetting platform? No matter which social platforms your business prefers, there is no denying that social media marketing is a key component of all brand building. Therefore, here are 16 tips from social media experts to improve your social media activity throughout 2016.

[1] Jim Joseph (@JimJosephExp)
Find your social media voice, and be consistent in not only what you post but the tone you take in your posts. Are you serious, comical, witty, or snarky? You should decide this up front and make it a part of your social media brand.

[2] Kathi Kruse (@kathikruse)
Brands must do a better job of generating employee engagement and participation in content marketing. Employees, especially salespeople, are the fountain of quality information that your customers crave. Start with a social media policy, provide training, make content submission easy, establish WIIFM (what’s in it for me), and encourage growth of employees’ personal brands. Employee expertise = quality content!

[3] Paul Biedermann (@PaulBiedermann)
Social media is now a part of our every day and so ingrained within our society that simply “doing social media” is not enough. Carving your own niche is becoming increasingly important but ever more difficult to do. Establishing a truly unique, personal brand and sharing content of only the highest caliber will continue to set you apart and build trust – your only hope for deepening those relationships most important to your business.

[4] Rich Gallagher (@gallagherPOC)
Set response standards and stick with them. Social media is now a routine, legitimate communications channel just like the telephone, and your responsiveness brands you in every channel. If you wouldn’t ignore a voice mail or email, don’t let Tweets or Facebook posts sit in limbo either.

[5] Heather Coleman Voss (@HeatherEColeman)
Social media, ultimately, is about building strong professional relationships through the use of various platforms. It’s about engaging, working together, and building something greater than we can individually.

[6] Elaine Fogel (@Elaine_Fogel)
It doesn’t matter how many people follow you on social media. What matters is how many of them fall within your target audiences, respond to your call to action or content, and become sharers, business leads, and customers.

[7] Phil Gerbyshak (@PhilGerb)
Do short videos that address one problem your customers have or offer one insightful story and then use the recording of the video as the basis for longer form content (i.e., blog posts, email newsletters, Tweets, Facebook posts, or LinkedIn posts) and more. A short video with full energy shot on your mobile phone will go further than just text any day. Bonus points if you experiment with Blab or Periscope to get your customers and prospects involved in your video.

[8] Neen James (@neenjames)
Invest 15 minutes each day paying attention to others and share their brilliance. Give people a virtual hug by focusing on what’s important to them, recognize their success, give shout-outs, make recommendations, write testimonials, and promote their content.

[9] Mike Kunkle (@Mike_Kunkle)
As social media becomes more mainstream for business professionals, and especially for sales professionals, we’re seeing much more bad behavior spill over from other media such as email and telephone. In 2016, ease up, remember your manners, and if you’re in sales, stop pouncing on buyers immediately after you connect with them. The power of social networks is the ability to build relationships, support others, earn trust, and nurture interest – before asking for a commitment or a sale.

[10] Amy McCloskey Tobin (@amymcctobin)
Turn back to LinkedIn and reassess its value as a networking and distribution tool. As much as we like to complain about the spam fest that is LinkedIn Groups, there is still nothing like this network for professional networking.

[11] Gina Schreck (@GinaSchreck)
Plan out your potential client journey from social media initial contact to qualified lead. Most people use social media to broadcast information about their company without giving much thought as to how they will convert LIKES into LEADS. Create “value offers” such as whitepapers, special video tips, and tip sheets that people would be willing to exchange for their email address. Now create a landing page to capture the emails and a great graphic that has your “Download our free whitepaper on (add an expertise of your business here).” Once you have these in place, use the graphic call-to-action at the bottom of blog posts and strategic spots on your website. You then use social media to send people to each blog post or even use the graphic as a social post. NOW, you will see a greater return on your social investment.

[12] Jenn Herman (@jenns_trends)
2016 will be the year to put your “face” in front of your audience. Whether through videos or live streaming, you will be expected to interact more personally and authentically with your customers and audience through video methods.

[13] David Schwartz (@1ad_dad)
We have entered a point when we need to start to look at social media in conjunction with our media plans. We can no longer silo social media and media. Facebook, for all intents and purposes, is a paid medium for brands. The other networks will be sure to follow. What this means is you need to include paid social dollars as part of your media plan, so consider greater segmentation and targeting on the new found mediums.

[14] Lyn Boyer (@Lyn_boyer)
Pin your most recent work to the top of your site/social pages so your network can help to promote your latest work.

[15] Peter Hillard (@Mr_hillard)
Just because you have 20,000 followers does not make them customers or clients.  It is imperative to engage like-minded people and keep them engaged. So 2,000 real followers can turn into 20,000 real customers/clients with time and effort.

[16] Amanda Brazel (@AmandaBrazel)
Focus on your business goals and the development of your brand’s message. Then execute with action and energy.

If you don’t follow these experts on Twitter, check out their handles as noted above following their names. They add incredible value to the Twitterverse and also on other social platforms. I thank these amazing social media experts for appearing on my blog and wish everyone a happy and successful 2016!

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Monday, November 30, 2015

The #GivingTuesday Brand in 2015


Since 2012, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving has been known as #GivingTuesday, a day dedicated to online philanthropy. What began as a partnership between the United Nations Foundation and the 92Y in New York City, a cultural center that connects people to the worlds of education, arts, health, and wellness, has grown into a global movement that has engaged over 30,000 nonprofit organizations in more than 65 countries.

According to the #GivingTuesday website: "Just think of a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more – it can be time, knowledge, love, or donations of food, clothes, or money. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving...Be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity."

As Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, explained, "Long associated with millionaires, philanthropy now belongs to everyone. Through technology and digital communications, people of all ages and all backgrounds can get involved in an issue, whether it’s making an online donation to a group on the other side of the planet or starting a petition to mobilize a community of advocates to push for change. The belief that anyone can make a difference is at the core of the United Nations Foundation’s work. Ted Turner created the UN Foundation because he believes that everyone – not just governments – can play a role in supporting the work of the United Nations, the organization with the global reach to drive big change. This community is about more than charity; it’s about change. People understand that resources are important, but they also want to be deeply engaged, learning about the issues and donating their time, ideas, and voices to help the UN save and change lives."

In the words of philanthropist Ted Turner, “You do not have to be a world leader – or even a billionaire – to make an impact. If we are going to turn things around, we all need to do our part to make it happen. Change starts with you.”

Some in the nonprofit sector might think that year-long outreach consisting of direct mail letters or cards, newsletters, emails, and annual reports have a bigger impact than a single day with a focus on philanthropy. But let's not forget the impact of publicity – and everyone will be talking about their favorite nonprofits on December 1st. The other important reminder is that social media will be on fire with the hashtag #GivingTuesday – and millennials, big social networkers, are future philanthropists. The "know your audience" mantra of marketing 101 demands that all nonprofits participate in #GivingTuesday with some type of campaign to target their existing and future donors.

So, tomorrow, December 1st, share your favorite cause on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #GivingTuesday and #MakeADifference – and make a donation to one or more charities.

Learn more at

Image Credit:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Be Inspired by the "Bill Gates Brand"

Thanks to Bill Gates’ original mission of providing "a computer on every desk and in every home," he has become an important philanthropist with global impact. He founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose primary aims are, globally, to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and in the United States, to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology. Based in Seattle, Washington, the Foundation is controlled by its three trustees: Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

Already a trendsetter due to its support of a myriad of issues and significant funding provided around the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also a leader when for something truly unique in the nonprofit sector, when it comes to Foundations. The Gates Foundation has a visitor center. 

The Gates Foundation's Visitor Center is located in Seattle across the street from the Seattle Center, which is the home of the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum, and Pacific Science Center. Admission is free, and the hours are 10am to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday. The Visitor Center presents an array of programs and community events, including family days, educator workshops, and student workshops.

Many nonprofits in the education and preservation sectors have visitor centers so that they can create positive and memorable experiences for their visitors. Where did you go the first time you visited your college or university? What about your favorite museum, presidential library, or national park? When you enter New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, California's Reagan or Nixon Presidential Libraries, or any of the official entrances to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, you encounter a large desk, a designated area, or a building with docents who will welcome visitors, provide maps, and even provide tours. But why would large corporate foundations that provide funds to these and countless other nonprofits need visitor centers?

What makes the Gates Foundation's Visitor Center different from other nonprofits' visitor centers? According to a description by Jim Dever of King 5, a Washington-based NBC affiliate, "If you're looking to explore the world and learn how to make a difference, you can start by exploring the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Visitor Center." Charlotte Beall, Gates Foundation Visitor Center senior manager, explained why the Gates Foundation's Visitor Center is one-of-a-kind, "This whole gallery is about the fact that we can't do this alone, and we need collaboration with others to be successful and solve some of these big problems [that the world faces]."

According to the FAQ page on the website, "The Gates Foundation built the Visitor Center to motivate and inspire people to take action – in their own unique ways – to improve the lives of others. Through displays, interactive exhibits, and programs, we work to spark conversation about global and local issues and highlight the important progress being made in Seattle and around the world. We designed the Visitor Center as a place where people can share ideas, explore their interests, and experience the power of optimism about the world’s future."

While the Gates family history and their efforts to improve the world are shared at the Visitor Center, visitors also realize, as the history unfolds, that the story is theirs too. For instance, one interactive computer program will tell you where your strengths lie and suggest ways that you can change the world on your own. According to the Gates Foundation's Visitor Center website, "Explore inventions like a life-saving mosquito net, an ingenious personal water filter, and a storage device that can keep vaccines cool for 30 days or more. Learn about the unprecedented effort to eradicate polio in our lifetime. Immerse yourself in debates about education, health and poverty – and decide your own priorities. Tell the world what YOUR FOUNDATION would do."

Perhaps, the reason why the Gates Foundation's Visitor Center works so well is because it makes philanthropy accessible for all visitors, no matter one’s ethnicity, socio-economic status, or political persuasion. For example, the Gates Foundation itself does not dig wells in Africa, but it may fund a local organization that does. At the Visitor Center, children see this "one world" concept come to life in the interactive stations located throughout, and they are able to build their own devices to help others. The Visitor Center works because visitors of all ages quickly become engaged, for example, upon entering and seeing the photo wall, visitors can add their own photos. And best of all, visitors can draw a picture of their own cause on the "Share Your Cause Tree."

While the initial concept for the visitor center may have been to promote the Gates Foundation's community involvement and philanthropic impact, at its core, it is a physical representation of the Bill Gates brand – just recall the initial Microsoft mission mentioned at the beginning of this post, and see the parallel with the tagline for the Gates Foundation's Visitor Center: "Arrive Curious. Leave Inspired."

How has Bill Gates or his brand inspired you?

For more about the Gates Foundation Visitor Center:

For more about the Gates Foundation:

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Monday, September 28, 2015

Have You Conducted A Brand Audit Lately?

While you may hope that your customers embrace your brand, the truth is, most consumers make purchases without even thinking about your brand. Of course, everyone recognizes the famous brand names, such as, Coca-Cola, Nike, Amazon, etc., but they aren’t your corner five and dime. They aren’t even most midsize businesses. So what can YOU do? You, as the business leader, marketing team, and yes, even the human resources team, must conduct a brand audit on a regular basis.

A brand audit “describes and evaluates the current state of a brand and its effectiveness in achieving a company’s business objectives. This assessment is the first step in brand strategy development and is used as a diagnostic tool for determining where the brand strengths lie and for identifying its potential vulnerabilities or shortcomings. It is the foundation on which the other steps depend,” as defined by Brandamplitude.

Here are my "Top 10" questions to include in your brand audit:

[1] Does your brand currently have a brand promise? If yes, what is it?
[2] What differentiates your product or service from the competition?
[3] How do you offer superior value to your customers?
[4] What words, phrases, or feelings come to mind when you think of your brand?
[5] Who are your brand’s current and future customers?
[6] What is the brand’s positioning statement?
[7] Where does the company fit among the competition?
[8] How is the brand perceived among the competition?
[9] How is the company perceived by employees?
[10] How would you like to see the company perceived?

There are many benefits from conducting a brand audit:

[1] Creating a consistent marketing message across all media.
[2] Strengthening your brand’s positioning vs. the competition.
[3] Improving the communication vehicles between customers and your brand.
[4] Clarifying the core attributes of the brand.
[5] Refocusing internal brand advocates (remember, all employees are brand ambassadors).

Above all, a brand audit allows you to evaluate your marketing strategy. Is it working? Does it need to be refined? Does everyone from the CEO on down to the marketing, public relations, website, IT, finance, and HR teams understand the nuances and key strengths of your brand?

Memorize these two timeless quotes as you re-energize your brand marketing efforts. “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” from customer engagement expert Vala Afshar. And “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind,” from advertising guru Walter Landor.

Don't you think it’s time to learn exactly what customers are thinking about your brand?

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Floating Art Exhibit Awakens Interest in Philanthropy and Restores Brand Awareness to a Los Angeles Park

Near Downtown Los Angeles, there’s a park called MacArthur Park with an eight-acre lake. Built in the 1880’s, the park became a vacation destination surrounded by luxury hotels. In the early part of the 20th century, the MacArthur park area became known as the Champs-Élysées of Los Angeles. While not as large as one of Michigan’s Great Lakes, MacArthur Park’s lake recently became famous due to a unique floating art exhibit.

An estimated 2,500 vinyl colorful spheres were hand-painted by roughly 10,000 volunteers around the Los Angeles area and placed in the lake at MacArthur Park. Each inflatable sphere was hand-painted in floral or aquatic designs, and measured between four and six feet in diameter.

This unique art exhibition was orchestrated by the Los Angeles-based arts nonprofit Portraits of Hope, known for conceiving and developing one-of-a-kind motivational art projects. Portraits of Hope projects have transformed airplanes, buildings, and the New York City taxi fleet to blimps, tugboats, and NASCAR race cars. More than 800 hospitals, schools, after-school programs, and social service agencies have participated in Portraits of Hope projects and programmatic activities in addition to an array of adult community groups.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti attended the exhibit’s opening ceremony and remarked, “This project involves everything that’s good about Los Angeles…Great weather, open space, creativity, and social conscience.”

The founders of Portraits of Hope are brothers who were raised near MacArthur Park. One explained that the park was once a destination with its lake and paddle boats. The two brothers, Ed and Bernie Massey, wanted to revitalize the park and recreate its “Wow” factor. The “Spheres of MacArthur Park” will be on display for four weeks, and then, the spheres will be donated to local schools and hospitals.

The larger-than-life, multi-colored spheres were produced by volunteers from around Los Angeles – many of them schoolchildren and youth from the Braille Institute, Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, and the Shriners Hospital for Children, among others. In addition, a variety of businesses supplied all materials and transportation free of charge. Portraits of Hope co-founder Bernie Massey explained that the cost of the project would have been around $1.5 million if the community had not mobilized together.

There is no doubt that the art exhibit is colorful, memorable, and unique, but the most important take-away is that “through [children’s] participation, the youngsters learn about important social and community issues, the power of teamwork, and their ability to achieve.”

As a Los Angeles native, thanks to everyone who contributed to this amazing project because it truly gave MacArthur Park the Wow Factor and restored some much-needed brand awareness to MacArthur Park!

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Originally Posted on Nonprofit Quarterly. Reprinted with Permission.