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.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How Does Your Brand Stand Out?

Do your customers know what makes your brand stand apart from the rest of your industry, or in other words, what makes your brand stand out in a crowd? Often, marketing experts refer to this as your competitive advantage, competitive positioning, or even a positioning statement.

How often do you remind your customers about your competitive advantage? In order to remain top of mind with both your existing customers, repeat customers, and prospective customers, it’s a good idea to add what I call a "reminder component" to your overall marketing strategy.


Here are five ways your brand can stand out in a crowd:

[1] Mission

Explain what your brand stands for. You may have a tagline, but it may not be as easy to remember or embrace as Nike’s “Just Do It,” or Apple’s “Think Different,” or AmericanExpress’ “Don’t Leave Home Without It.” A brand’s mission tells a story and creates an experience. Since it makes a customer into a brand loyal ambassador, don’t lose the opportunity to transform what might be a one-time buyer into a lifelong brand advocate or ambassador.

[2] Service

Provide customer service with every tool possible. In addition to a traditional call center, this may include a Twitter account with “your brand name cares” or “service” in the account name, for example, “XYZCares” or “XYZService” – so that you can react and reply in real time. This may also include a live chat option on your website. But take the time to analyze if a 24/7 online chat option is worthwhile. If you have international customers, the 24/7 component may be important.

[3] Delivery

If you’re an online or bricks-and-mortar brand, provide free delivery, or at a minimum, offer delivery options so that customers can choose how quickly they want their products to arrive. It’s always a good idea to exceed customer expectations, and as an example,’s products usually arrive ahead of their expected arrival date, which results in satisfied customers.

[4] Ingredients

If you’re a food or restaurant brand, consider the emphasis on healthy ingredients and trends toward organic ingredients. It’s always a good idea to list ingredients and explain where your item was grown. Some products cost more based on their ingredients, so if you charge more, your customers will want to know why.

[5] Manufacturing

If you’re a furniture or toy brand, explain where your item was built. Some products cost more based on their materials or weight, so if you charge more, your customers deserve to know why.

Do you have other favorite ways that a brand can stand out? Please chime in.

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tips to Promote Your Breakthrough Idea and STAND OUT!

Other than going on TV’s “Shark Tank” to pitch a product or service idea to Mark Cuban and friends, do you know how to promote that amazing idea you thought of in the middle of the night? Don’t just forget it. Read Dorie Clark’s new book, “Stand Out, How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It.”

In today’s crowded market, it’s necessary to stand out. Whether you work in a small mom-and-pop restaurant, a midsize financial services firm, or a Fortune 1000 manufacturing business, every employee has something unique to offer – and should stand out.

Dorie Clark, a marketing and strategy consultant and adjunct business professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, offers countless tips in her new book. “Thought leadership is about solving real problems and making a difference in a way that creates value for yourself and for others. True thought leadership is a gift. It’s a willingness to be brave, open up, and share yourself. It’s a willingness to risk having your ideas shot down, because you genuinely believe they can help others.”

To become a thought leader, Dorie suggests you ask yourself:
* What are others overlooking?
* What are the assumptions underlying your field? Have they been tested? If so, have circumstances changed in the interim?
* What questions do newbies in your field often ask that get shot down or dismissed?
* What’s the conventional wisdom about how to do things “the right way” in your field? What if it were the opposite? What would that look like?
* What do most people in your field think would be impossible? Is it really, or is it just difficult?

To find your breakthrough idea and define your niche, Dories suggests you ask yourself:
* What personal experience have you had that’s changed your view of the world?
* What experiences have you had that others in your field most likely have not?
* How does that difference shape your view of your industry?
* What is the traditional background of influential players in your field? Is there a way to leverage being the opposite of this?
* What weakness can become your strength?

To learn how to adapt to a new situation, Dorie suggests you ask yourself:
* How have other industries solved this problem?
* Can these strategies be imported into your company or field, and what would that look like?
* What would be easy or hard to fit into the existing culture?
* How could you tweak the ideas so they become even more effective?

A memorable example was shared. In preparation for Tom Peters’ timeless treatise In Search of Excellence, he visited HP headquarters. He was surprised that he was not provided with a visitor’s badge, but instead, given access throughout the company. He saw that the president worked in a small cubicle rather than a huge corner office – a foreign concept during the 1980’s but typical today. But most importantly, Peters was introduced to the concept of “Managing by Walking Around (MBWA),” a business practice that has become standard operating procedure for effective presidents/CEOs today. The example was included to show that to stand out, people really need to think outside the box and not follow established rules.

And another example may spark you to action. Angela Lussier, a career coach, spent most of her time while working at a recruiting firm providing resume advice. Her bosses were upset that she spent too much time giving away free advice, so she quit her job to start her own career coaching company. With only $2,000 and no clients, she realized she had jumped ship before creating a business plan and raising necessary capital. First, she called college career centers and offered to provide free career tips, but none said yes. Then, she called nearly 30 libraries and offered career planning workshops. She was rejected by all of them until one said yes. Thanks to that one library, she booked 32 workshops over the next two months – and as a result, began a successful business doing what she has a passion to do.

To learn more about how to stand out, add Dorie to your "must follow" list on Twitter @dorieclark and visit her website.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What Happens When PR and Social Media Intersect?

I would like to introduce Jayme Soulati to my blog. Jayme is president of Soulati Media, Inc., and a message mapping master. She offers blended public relations marketing with content, social, digital, and internet marketing. Recently, she launched a podcast, The Heart of Marketing, on iTunes and Stitcher Radio, and since 2010, she’s been an award-winning blogger. She’s also a past president of the Publicity Club of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @Soulati and on her website ( We recently talked about the intersection of social media and PR, and highlights of our conversation follow below.

QUESTION: As a social media strategist, how do you integrate social media into an overall marketing plan to create consistent messaging?
JAYME SOULATI: Social media marketing is hunkering down as just another tool. The excitement has dulled with the intense evolution of Facebook as a publicly-traded entity, monetization demands across the channels, and the expected demise of Google Plus. That’s not to say we can ignore social media! It needs to be included in the blended marketing plan as a method of amplifying messages consistently and sharing owned media. Regardless of how you’re pushing messages and where, it is critical that social media marketers use approved brand messages across all media for accuracy, clarity, and consistency.

QUESTION: What are the five ways PR can benefit from social media, and why?
JAYME SOULATI: As a seasoned PR professional, I understand the value of writing across media. You need to become a change artist as social media writing is an art form! Showcase writing talent with tweets. IMHO, tweets provide the toughest writing opportunity as the message gets portrayed succinctly.

Every PR person has to develop a personal brand. Back in the day, that was a buzz phrase, and today it remains important. Developing a professionally strong identity via social media is an opportunity – seize it!

Networking has always been the core of business and professional development. Do use social media to engage with others you’d like to meet, from whom you’d like to learn, and make the ask! Most of us are always interested in helping others in our profession.

Knowledge immersion can be overwhelming and social media provides astonishing opportunity to get free knowledge from the best sites. If there’s time to dive in deeply from the A-listers and the sites with specialty topics, seize it! More carpe diem!

Career advancement is probably the least used avenue in social media for PR peeps. It’s pretty rare that I get someone to nicely stalk me in social channels or ask my help looking for a position. I love that! People should be more aware of finding their peers because genuine connections can be made.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite social media platform, and why?
JAYME SOULATI: Twitter remains my favorite channel by far. I guess it’s the immediacy of the connectivity, the speed conversations occur, the global reach, and the ‘raderie I’ve built on this channel. It’s where I earned my social media mojo in early 2009, and it truly saved my life from a dismal relocation to a new city where I knew no one. Back in the day during the great recession, we partied on Twitter every night. It was a banterfest, and that’s where I made my earliest and deepest connections with peeps around the world. I relish the early days and miss them, too.

QUESTION: There was a post last year indicating that the most important word in marketing is relevance. How did that post impact your marketing? 

JAYME SOULATI: I’d argue that relevance is directly aligned with authenticity. If you present your brand authentically, you build trust. The relevance quotient goes up a notch when you realize that people are reading you, engaging with you, and sharing your content because you’re being smart and relevant.

People need to learn how to cut the clutter and differentiate. Relevance is learned behavior, and for folks to stand out in the social media circus, they need to continually innovate and change with the technology disruption. Pretty soon humans will be irrelevant; I’m seeing the signs all over from driverless cars to watches that pay your bills. We need to work hard at being authoritative so customers regard us as relevant.

QUESTION: Lastly, in today’s social era, it’s critical to create personal brands. You have branded yourself as a “message mapping master.” How do you describe this, and how do you use it as a tool to stand out?
JAYME SOULATI: When you reach the point in your professional development with a breadth of ticked-off accomplishments on the checklist, then it’s time to explore specialty services. People have a difficult time knowing how to open the door to work with an accomplished professional.

By rebranding as a message mapping master, I’ve been able to pinpoint a service most companies need. With the leadership team together, we hash out a huge free think about the company. Every detail is explored, and using the conversation as inspiration, I can craft a messaging suite that better clarifies the company’s services, products, people, mission, customers, and more. The simple and clarified messaging is used to write a website, case studies, social media, blogging, thought leadership, and more.

My gratitude to Jayme for sharing how her concept of “message mapping” can create more memorable brands when the worlds of PR and social media intersect.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lead and Then Get Out of the Way

Allow me to re-introduce Ron Thomas. Ron appeared on my blog and shared some leadership insights back in April 2011, so it’s time for a repeat appearance. Click here for the original post. Back in 2011, the world of social media was quite different. Facebook and Twitter were not as widespread as today, Instagram and Pinterest were not as popular, and we did not depend on our mobile devices in the same manner as we do today. That said, Ron and I met through social media (Twitter) and spoke by phone when he was based in New York. I witnessed his move to the Middle East for a company that found him via social media, and we stayed in touch across the miles. Ron's new role is CEO, Great Place to Work - Gulf Region, based in Dubai, and formerly, he was the CHRO for a defense contractor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Follow Ron on Twitter @ronald_thomas and read his posts on  and We recently discussed some timeless leadership tips, and highlights of our conversation follow.

QUESTION: When we first connected, you were based in New York City. You now work in the Middle East. What are some of the leadership and management differences you have encountered since working outside the USA?
RON THOMAS: The culture of doing business is different in the Middle East. It's more about building relationships than the hard charging way of getting it done. When in a meeting, you will spend a lot of time talking about things that have nothing to do with the business at hand. In the final stages, we will revert back to the topic and close it. If not, we will meet again after those points are cleared. The relationship side is important because it is about getting to know the actual person, not just about the business person.

QUESTION: When President Obama nominated Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve Chair, he said, “Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus…the kind of person who makes everybody around her better.” As a leadership expert, what three tips can you provide to create this type of leader? (Click here for my blog post referencing this quote.)
RON THOMAS: Such a powerful quote. To me, that means hire competent people and let them run it. This type of leader is not a manager but more of a coach. She coaches her team to greatness.
* If you hire them for a job, get out of the way and let them do it.
* Your role is to coach your people, not manage them. Managing is an old and fading concept of organizational dynamics.
* Look at the people you manage as peers. Forget about the dotted line concept. These are your partners. 

QUESTION: Every CEO/President has his or her own style for achieving success. But if that individual is not a people-person, how can he/she create a positive corporate culture? (For example, management by walking around won’t cut it in this scenario.)
RON THOMAS: I agree, MBWA works for the people person, but if that is not your style, the bottom line is fostering some type of collaboration with your team. Act more like a trusted advisor and leave the manager's title on the coat rack. Get to know your people, their wants, desires, career plans, family, etc. The more you know them as a person, the better you know them as an employee.

QUESTION: One of the things we both agree is necessary for all new employees to be successful is the implementation of an effective onboarding strategy. What are your four must-have tips to all businesses when it comes to creating effective onboarding strategies?

RON THOMAS: The most important question a new employee is asked on day one comes not from the organization. It comes from a new employee's significant other, friend, or family. That question comes at the end of day one throughout the end of the first week. How do you like your new job? The best way to ensure that the response is positive is to have an onboarding strategy.
* It's a celebration. This new arrival has “chosen” your company to say yes to her talent. Design your program around that celebration.
* Develop your plan into two parts: part 1 is the orientation into the organization, and part 2 is the orientation into their department.
* Follow up at the end of the first week and throughout the next 3-6 months.
* At the 6-month interval, bring back all the new employees hired during that time period for a “New Employee Luncheon."

QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant 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 trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?

RON THOMAS: Lots of times people who are in charge of others tend to feel that they must show how smart they are. This is especially true with newer managers. NEVER EVER go down that road. The worst description that you want tagged to you is being or thinking you are the smartest person in the room. I call it SPIR syndrome. This type of attitude smothers your creative people for they know that whatever they do, you are over their shoulders showing them how “you would do it." If this is the case, why did you hire them in the first place? In order for your people to grow, you have to let them go out and run. Sometimes they will make mistakes, but if you hire right, they will, for the most part begin to develop their own style. And that is where the creativity and resourcefulness creep in.

My gratitude to Ron for sharing his thoughts from across the miles.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Social Media Conversation

I would like to introduce Keri Jaehnig to my blog. As a social media expert, Keri's quotes have appeared several times here in group posts when I've featured social media tips over the last several years. We met through social media, and while we're on different sides of the country, our regular communications are an example of the benefits of social media. 

Keri is the Founder and CMO of Idea Girl Media, a Social Media Marketing Agency that works with business brands, public figures, and nonprofits to achieve social media success and positive online reputations. She has received a commendation for Outstanding Attainment in Social Media from the Senate of the State of Ohio and is also featured on Social Media Today, SteamFeed, Search Engine People, AOL Small Business, Forbes, and Business Insider. We recently talked about the state of social media and changes for 2015, and highlights of our conversation follow.

QUESTION: In today’s era of immediacy, all businesses need a digital footprint to reach the largest audience. As a result, what three things do you consider critical as part of a social media marketing strategy?
KERI JAEHNIG: The footprint must come first before the social media: The top three things should be: quality, consistent branding; a well designed, mobile responsive website; and a blog offering at least some brand content that serves as the hub of social media. Once these elements are established as the foundation, brands can begin social media with success. Also, I recommend using a variety of content to share on social channels: images, audio, video, links, and text.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite social platform, and why?
KERI JAEHNIG: Each social platform serves a different purpose to achieve a separate and unique goal. So I like a select few for different reasons. But if you make me choose one, right now I would choose Instagram because it's fun and always with us. It began, and has stayed, a mobile platform. So, because we always have our mobile phones, it's always accessible in our pockets or purses. Instagram is also easy and has cool features! The filters and apps to make cool graphics make even the worst photographer (myself) look like a semi-pro.

Also consider that people absorb and react more quickly to images than to other forms of media, and it is almost destined to be uber-successful. You can very easily syndicate photos to other popular social networks, which I love. And, hashtags are the key to connections. Posts are not limited to amount of text, and you can use up to 30 hashtags per post. In short, having a presence on Instagram is almost a recipe for sure success!

QUESTION: Many CEO’s and leadership teams question how to track ROI when the topic of social media is raised and marketing teams pitch moving forward with the implementation of a social media marketing strategy. What social metrics do you measure - why, and how often?
KERI JAEHNIG: I'm afraid I'm not going to make some CEOs very happy here. Tracking reach, clicks, and shares is a good idea to know what your audience reacts to - and where website traffic is coming from. But a good social media manager knows when things aren't going well - so they adjust. That same good social media manager will also be tracking results and trends ALL THE TIME. Some all day, some once a day, some once a week, and then totaling when reports are due.

The bottom line is....the bottom line:
* Are more people served?
* Are there less service failures?
* Are there more products or services sold?
* Are there more subscriptions or downloads?
* Were there cost savings?

All will be indicators of success. None of those will come immediately. "Traction" takes time, and that time is different for each brand, as well as each strategy for each brand.

QUESTION: Many people remember the famous OREO tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl. With that in mind, what's your favorite social campaign?
KERI JAEHNIG: OREO did a great job with a strategy using new techniques. They nailed it partly because the formula had not been done yet. That same approach today may or may not be as successful mainly because we've all set it with that campaign. Hashtags are now mainstream. Many of us make our own YouTube videos. So, they were good at using technology AND timing with lovely color and tune. Bravo!

Do I have a favorite social campaign? No. But an organization that did well spreading its message through social channels was The ALS Association with The Bucket Challenge. Whether or not they reached their fundraising goals, that message traveled far and wide! They earn bonus points for getting celebrities involved who committed to actually doing it. Other memorable campaigns: Old Spice, Go Granny, and the Budweiser puppies. Those were mainly advertising, but they all "went viral" via social media.

QUESTION: Blogs are easy and inexpensive marketing tools to promote experts and expertise. What five ways do you recommend generating content on a regular basis?
KERI JAEHNIG: They key word is regular, or consistent. Creating good blog content on a regular basis can be challenging for entrepreneurs. Medium-sized businesses and larger brands with designated employees and teams to do this have an advantage. Following an editorial calendar is also key.

Here are some ideas for generating content - there are surely more options, but these may be the easiest for busy teams to execute.
* Feature a few writers from your team so no one person is responsible for all content.
* Answer questions from your customers and clients.
* Accept guest posts from respected professionals in niches complimentary to yours.
* Embed videos, infographics, or SlideShare presentations in blog posts for variety and to re-purpose good content.
* Feature collaborative posts, i.e., accept answers to important industry questions from several team members or industry professionals. These are often bookmarked as resources for readers.

QUESTION: Pundits recommend that you should add one new social platform each year. Which one will you add to your marketing arsenal this year, and why?
KERI JAEHNIG: My first question is: Who is recommending this for every business or entrepreneur? There is no "one size fits all" strategy, and to assume every organization should be building by one social platform each year is a bit presumptuous. Of course, if you've started with Facebook, your next steps might include Twitter or Google+. Maybe a Company LinkedIn Page, depending on your industry. Or you might consider if YouTube is a good fit. It all depends on what is most fitting for your business niche, and what platform could deliver the desired result. It ALL boils down to: Where does your target market hang out online, and when?

I maintain a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Quora. For a few of those, I have a personal and business account. When the new Ello and Tsu platforms were introduced, I created profiles to experiment and become familiar. I felt it was my responsibility to know and see where they would go. 

Will I be adding another social platform this year? Absolutely not! Because more consistent blogging is the best answer for me and my business, knowing what I know about changes that are coming. I suspect the same is true for many: they should be blogging more consistently. But if a miracle occurred, and I magically had eight more hours in every day, I would be compelled to experiment with podcasting.

Learn more on Keri's website and follow her regularly on Twitter @ideagirlmedia and @kerijeahnig.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Top 10 Brand Tips for 2015

Early last year, I presented some brand tips for 2014. As the new year begins, it's a good time to analyze your branding strategies so that you can reach the largest audience possible, stand out from the competition, and create the most buzz.

Brand Tip #1:
Be mobile accessible. Does your website look good on mobile devices? Does it scale appropriately? If not, spend the time to make sure your site looks good and is easily accessible from smartphones and tablets. Many people access the Internet while on the go, so you don't want to lose customers or prospective customers because your site looks like it was designed during the last century. This goes for making emails mobile accessible too.

Brand Tip #2:
Does your brand store data in the cloud? With all the data breaches in the mainstream news, make sure to spend the time to protect your customer data. Just because you store data in the cloud does not mean your data is safe. Implement complex password practices for all employees who will access your data, which means that all passwords should be at least 10 characters in length and integrate lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid passwords of "12345678" and "password" like the plague.

Brand Tip #3:
On this same note, think about security from your customers' point of view. If your brand has suffered a data breach, implement procedures to alert customers and the mainstream media immediately. Don't wait for someone in the media to tell your story - your brand and business may not survive the negative publicity.

Brand Tip #4:
While the Internet of Things is a hot topic, not every industry and brand are affected. Your brand may have nothing to do with an app that can remotely control a refrigerator, but there may be some unique ways to integrate the Internet of Things into your marketing strategies. The theme here is: Think outside the box.

Brand Tip #5:
How often do you request feedback from customers? Do you send electronic surveys? Do you thank customers for completing the surveys? And what do you do once you receive the feedback? As with any other part of your overall marketing strategy, have a strategy from start to finish for the feedback project.

Brand Tip #6:
Don't let the number one brand in your industry scare you. Remember the famous tagline from Avis, "We're #2, We Try Harder?" Sometimes, brands that aren't industry leaders turn out to be the trendsetters. Apple was a small company when it ran its famous 1984 Super Bowl ad.

Brand Tip #7:
While the concept of customer experience marketing is not new, the implementation of providing consistency across multiple touchpoints may be new for your brand. How often does someone within your company call the toll-free number, visit a retail store, make an online purchase, participate in an online chat - all with the intention of checking out the consistency of the customer experience? If these situations don't happen on a regular basis, there's work to be done because you don't want to provide different experiences and confuse your customers.

Brand Tip #8:
What social media platform are you most comfortable using? During 2015, try reaching a new audience with a new social site. You may be surprised by the results.

Brand Tip #9:
This tip is timeless: Since all employees are ambassadors for your brand, train employees on a regular basis so that they can talk about your brand when out in the community and interacting at industry events, etc.

Brand Tip #10:
This tip is also timeless and is the core of branding: Implement consistency. No matter what marketing tool you use - printed collateral, websites, emails, advertisements, brochures, annual reports, flyers, presentation templates, business cards, stationery, folders, tradeshow booths, or social media - make sure your brand identity (logo, tagline, and color palette) is CONSISTENT!

What do you think will appear on my list of branding tips for 2016? Check back next January.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Leadership Insights from the Nonprofit Sector

I would like to introduce Scott Bowling, Psy.D., to my blog. Since 1999, Scott has been President and CEO of the Exceptional Children's Foundation (ECF), a nonprofit based in Culver City (California) with 15 service sites throughout Los Angeles County. ECF provides services for young children, students, and adults with special needs. Scott leads a staff of over 350 employees, a budget of $25 million, and for the last year, I’m honored to say I've been a member of Scott's team as Marketing Director. Recently, Scott and I discussed leadership, and highlights from our conversation follow.

QUESTION: How is the process of leading different when leading a nonprofit versus a for-profit business?
SCOTT BOWLING: The leadership process and principles applied to nonprofit vs. for-profit businesses are more alike than dissimilar. The employees of any business must be prioritized as the organization's greatest asset. Motivating staff to the mission of the business and ensuring each employee understands his/her role and value to achieving desired outcomes are paramount. Acknowledging performance excellence while keeping everyone invested in the company's direction is what achieves the best (mission and financial) results.

QUESTION: What three qualities are most important for employees to be successful in the nonprofit sector?
SCOTT BOWLING: I believe in these three: shared company values, communication flow, and positive attitude/energy. 

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO set the direction for his/her company's or nonprofit's culture?
SCOTT BOWLING: The CEO sets the tone for the company's day-to-day operations and therefore creates its culture through consistency of actions, applied policy, and communications. S/He must live and breathe the company's values (integrity, service excellence, fiscal responsibility, people first, for instance), and attract and retain the human resources (staff) who share these values and facilitate the tone (culture) established by the CEO.

QUESTION: In the nonprofit sector, employees wear many hats, so how can an individual gain respect without a leadership title?
SCOTT BOWLING: Respect is earned by individuals with and without a leadership title. When individuals maintain a positive attitude, perform duties with consistent quality, and can be relied upon to reflect the company's values, trust and respect will follow.

QUESTION: How can a leader inspire his/her employees to become brand ambassadors?
SCOTT BOWLING: Once a clear branding plan is established and communicated, follow the plan – consistently. Branding is seen in the way leaders dress, how s/he speaks to others inside and outside the business, the messages sent in writing and orally (how s/he represents the company), and in actions taken.

With Scott Bowling at ECF Event.
QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant 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 trust and be trusted – and block and tackle for others.” What does this quote mean to you?
SCOTT BOWLING: It means that everyone has the opportunity to lead. Seize the opportunities that inevitably become available to demonstrate your belief in the whole, and those who comprise the oneness of the company. Defend what's right (through consistent actions and words), and stand firm in the values that advance the company forward.

My thanks to Scott Bowling for sharing his leadership insights. Learn more about ECF at and on Facebook at

Image Credit (Leadership): Stuart Miles via