Monday, December 5, 2016

Coaching, Mentors, and #LeadershipTips, Oh My!

A prominent aspect of the 2016 Presidential Election was the glass ceiling. To quote Hillary Clinton, “We still have not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling. But some day, someone will.” Following the election on November 10, I discovered a chat on Twitter, also referred to as a TweetChat, that featured the hashtag #InnovateWomen, and I decided to check it out. 

As an active member of the Twitterverse, I’m a big fan of TweetChats and regularly participate in #DThink (sponsored by @DisneyInstitute), #NCMNchat (sponsored by @NCMNetworkSoCal), #DBIchat (sponsored by @DBIweb), and #NPMC (sponsored by @NPMarCommunity), to name just a few. Upon the conclusion of the #InnovateWomen chat, I connected with the chat’s moderator, Valerie Martinelli, and highlights of our discussion follow below.

First, a few words of introduction…Valerie Martinelli is the CEO & Owner of Valerie Martinelli Consulting, LLC, and she provides career, life, and leadership coaching for women and human resources and management consulting for organizations. She is also the founder of Innovate 50/50, a mentorship program for young women and the host of #InnovateWomen, a monthly Twitter chat that discusses issues women face at work, in business, and in life. Links to Valerie’s digital footprint are provided at the end.

QUESTION: Some have said that the reason few women get ahead in corporate America is that they are denied entry into the "pro-bro" culture. When men are assertive, they are respected, but when women are assertive, they are not taken seriously. How can we move forward as a society and achieve gender equality?

VALERIE MARTINELLI: By working together. This is not a task that can be accomplished alone or just by one gender. We need to find a plethora of solutions to achieve gender equality. To move forward together, we need to learn how to work together first. Gender equality needs to be separated from partisan politics because it is too closely associated with the liberal agenda. Gender equality will bring us closer to an inclusive, whole, thriving society in which politics should not be playing a role. By empowering women and providing the space and means to be successful, our economy and society can flourish.


To move forward together, we need to learn how to work together first. -@AskVMC via @DebbieLaskeyMBA’s Blog #NoCeilings

QUESTION: According to McKinsey, women change jobs for the following reasons: Lack of role models, exclusion from informal networks, and not having an advocate in upper management to create opportunities. How can we improve these scenarios?

VALERIE MARTINELLI: I am an advocate of coaching for women. It is very discouraging for women to lack role models in or out of the work environment. We need to have that network of professional women not only to look up to but also to teach us the things that we need to learn to grow and be successful. Mentors and coaches can be life-changing for those have been lucky to have one or more. Mentors and coaches have the know-how to get women into the appropriate networks and act as advocates to upper management. Formal coaching programs inside of an organization can also make a difference because they can provide female employees with what they need to be successful.

QUESTION: According to a recent article on LinkedIn, "A Trump Presidency could actually be good for women in business." What do you think?

VALERIE MARTINELLI: I think that Sallie Krawcheck made plenty of excellent points. While we are ready to “be there” and have attained equality, this shows us that we absolutely cannot rely on anyone else but ourselves. This has quickly become an inside job.  With each setback, we learn something new. Trump’s Presidential win shows us that as women that we need to continue to work together and do what we can to advance ourselves and each other. I have never fully believed in relying on someone else, which is why I created a business with such a strong mission to empower women toward their purpose, achievements, and success as well as each of us toward gender equality.

QUESTION: Mentors are especially important for women. Who do you consider as your mentor and what have you learned from him or her?

VALERIE MARTINELLI: I have been fortunate to have strong male mentors in my life. I think we need to learn from each other and not just exclusively from one gender. My mentor and friend, Allen Ellison, taught me a lot as I was transitioning from one career to another. He supported me through a tough time and encouraged me to start my business. I learned to stop fearing failure and just to allow myself to grow. My other mentor, Michael Mapes, has been very supportive through the first few months of being a business owner and a coach. I have also heard plenty of male point of views to balance out my female ones. They also have taught me plenty about how men advance themselves in the workplace and how we hold ourselves back. These are things that I have been able to apply in my coaching for other women.

QUESTION: On November 10, you hosted a chat on Twitter, also known as a TweetChat, using the hashtag #InnovateWomen. What were three goals for the hour-long chat, and what do you think were three key take-aways for participants?

VALERIE MARTINELLI: As the initial #InnovateWomen chat, we had many goals. One goal is to create a community of men and women that can engage in these monthly discussions regarding issues that women face at work, in business, and in life. We need to work together on these issues. My second goal is to for us to continue to work together toward positive change on these issues. My third goal is for #InnovateWomen to become the brand that is synonymous with these topics, and I think we’re well on our way. I would say that three take-aways for each participant is that diversity and inclusion belong in the workplace, we need to continue to advance ourselves and each other, and social media can be a powerful tool for women in leadership.

A big thank-you to Valerie for sharing her thoughts on my blog! #InnovateWomen will be on hiatus during the holiday season and will return on January 26, 2017, at 1PM PST/4PM EST. The topic will be announced soon, but in the meantime, connect on Twitter using the hashtag #InnovateWomen. I urge you to save the date and participate in the January chat.

Connect with Valerie on LinkedIn (, Twitter (, Facebook (, and Instagram (

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Six Branding Tips from the LA Auto Show

If you're a car fan and ever find yourself in the Southern California area during November, make a detour and head directly to the Los Angeles Convention Center to attend the LA Auto Show. Whatever make or model you think you'll like, you're sure to be surprised by the latest technological advances by your favorite brand's competitors. And just wait until you see the concept cars! I got a sneak peek at this year's show and immediately associated brand marketing with my observations. Check out these six branding tips that any brand can apply in any industry.

The hashtag for the event was featured on a large sign at the entrance (#LAAutoShow) - inviting attendees to use it and/or take a photo for easy sharing - and easy promotion.
BRAND TIP: In today's social era, choose your hashtags strategically and invite your audiences, customers, and stakeholders to embrace and use them.

Audi's full line-up of vehicles was presented mostly in red. In previous years, all Audi vehicles were silver.
BRAND TIP: Shake things up if you consistently use the same colors in your promotions. Use different color palettes for your brand storytelling.

Nissan launched its new Rogue One with storm troopers. Created in partnership with George Lucas' next Star Wars movie (a Nissan rep said that there are 131 million Star Wars fans in the USA), 5,000 limited edition vehicles will be available. Each buyer will also get a replica storm trooper helmet, a perk that will not be sold separately.
BRAND TIP: If your brand can tie itself to a pop culture phenomenon, do it!


Hyundai launched a new sub-brand named Genesis. Three sedans were featured, and by 2020, the Genesis line will include six vehicles including two SUV's.
BRAND TIP: Sub-brands or brand extensions allow your brand to reach out to new audiences.

Volvo offered access to its online newsroom via a business card with a QR code. While many influencers in social media have long said that QR codes are dead, this one, when scanned, linked to a special website featuring press releases, vehicle images, videos, and media kits.
BRAND TIP: Don't discount technology if it helps to promote your brand - and even better, use it if it provides the right information to the right people.

On the eve of the LA Auto Show, Edmunds, the leading car information and shopping network, posted a Tweet that highlighted a feature of the Lincoln MKX while simultaneously addressing a timely news story. See the Tweet below.
BRAND TIP: Follow the news and align your social media with stories that everyone is talking about. You never know when something you post will go viral. Remember Oreo's Tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl?

Image Credit: Twitter

Many trade shows and special events offer excellent branding tips that can be applied in different industries than they were intended, so be on the look-out. In the meantime, if you'd like to see more about the LA Auto Show, visit the website at

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Five #LeadershipTips from the 2016 Presidential Campaign

Today is the 58th Presidential Election. Without a doubt, this election is the pinnacle of one of the most tumultuous campaigns in American history. Hopefully, our new leader can unite the country - Democrats and Republicans, old and young, members of all ethnicities, and followers of all beliefs - so that we can begin to heal from the campaign and solve our nation's very serious economic, health, climate, and global challenges.

So let's put politics aside because, with the campaign now history, leadership abilities take center stage. Since Inauguration Day is still 10 weeks away, here are five leadership tips that stood out during Campaign 2016.

Watch your behavior in the workplace. Don't orchestrate dissatisfaction among your employees because they will model their behavior on yours.

Watch your words. Always be courteous and professional. Don't use curse words or ethnic slurs. Your employees will model their lingo on yours - and they will also quote you.

Don't use social media as a tool to be negative about an employee or his or her work. Don't ever post information that you know isn't true or could possibly be false. Remember, anything posted on social media can be online forever, so make sure it is suitable for your board of directors and employees to see.

Clearly define your goals. Don't use a tagline in lieu of actionable strategies. Explain your goals to your employees, be transparent, and answer questions yourself. Don't use a surrogate who may use short phrases rather than answering questions.

Surround yourself with the best and the brightest. Avoid people with an excess of negative publicity and lack of knowledge. You are only as talented as the team around you.

What leadership tips stood out to you during the campaign? Please chime in.

To learn more about the history of Presidential Elections, click here.

Image Credit: HypeOrlando

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Five Social Media Secrets That Never Go Out of Style

Anyone who spends time in social media has one or two favorite platforms. Some may prefer using Twitter, some may prefer using Facebook, and some may prefer an obscure site or one that fits a specific industry. Many of us who use social media as a marketing tool to build our employer's brand or our personal brand have also developed a secret or two along the way. Here are my five social media secrets that never go out of style.

Maintain a consistent name for all social media platforms. If a brand name is not available, use a familiar tagline. If "Nike" had been unavailable, the company could have used "JustDoIt," and everyone would immediately have recognized that any account with that name belonged to Nike. With all the social sites available to your brand, take some time to conduct a social media audit and re-evaluate the names of all your accounts. 

When blogging, feature pull quotes in large bold font. This will allow your readers to quickly and easily share your content on Twitter with your name and Twitter handle. 

Despite Visa's tagline of being "everywhere you want to be," acknowledge that your brand can't be everywhere. Do your research and see which social platform your key stakeholders and/or customers use and develop a strategy or strategies to make the biggest bang. Don't waste time building a presence on every new platform just because your son or daughter thinks the platform is a fun alternative to homework. (Think back a few years...everyone went Ga-Ga over Quora, and you don't hear anything about it today.) 


Capitalize on hashtags. Create and use hashtags with your brand name, your company name, key employees if they are industry influencers, and more. And use these hashtags on all your social platforms. You may even use them on traditional marketing collateral, such as, business cards, letterhead, brochures, etc.

Set up alerts for your brand, company name, industry, and more. This will let you know when others are talking about your brand or brands and allow you to chime in when appropriate. You will also be quickly informed if someone says something negative or untrue about your brand so you can comment or chose to remain silent. You may also wish to set up alerts about your competition and key influencers in your industry. The sites to use are Google Alerts ( and Talkwalker (

On a final note and to celebrate the spirit of social media, here's my fave Tweet of all time from Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar), “Don't do social, be SOCIAL: sincere, open, collaborative, interested, authentic, and likeable.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Three Branding Lessons from Binge Watching

Recently, I had some time to catch up on what, for me, was a new TV show. Since I’ve seen every LAW AND ORDER marathon, this chunk of time was dedicated to watching the first three seasons of HOMELAND. With talented actors and a plot filled with twists and turns, I was immediately drawn into the action. Afterward, this experience left me pondering the impact of binge watching on branding, brand experiences, and customer experience marketing.


According to the BBC, "Collins English Dictionary has chosen binge-watch as its 2015 Word of the Year. Meaning to watch a large number of television programs (especially all the shows from one series) in succession, it reflects a marked change in viewing habits, due to subscription services like Netflix. Lexicographers noticed that its usage was up 200% on 2014. Helen Newstead, Head of Language Content at Collins, said, ‘The rise in usage of binge-watch is clearly linked to the biggest sea change in our viewing habits since the advent of the video recorder nearly 40 years ago. It's not uncommon for viewers to binge-watch a whole season of programs such as House of Cards or Breaking Bad in just a couple of evenings - something that, in the past, would have taken months - then discuss their binge-watching on social media.’"

Here are three branding lessons any brand can learn from binge watching:

If a TV series has an unexpected plot twist, viewers may get so upset that they stop watching the series completely. This not only impacts ratings and ad dollars, but it also damages the TV show’s brand equity. I won’t include any spoilers here, but suffice it say, the end of series three of HOMELAND featured an unexpected surprise. Some fans may have wondered if the series would be the same in series four and beyond, and some may have stopped watching. In January 2017, series six begins if you’d like to see how the series has evolved.

Before you make any change to your brand, whether it’s a logo change (recall The Gap and Instagram) or a change in the product’s taste (recall New Coke), it’s critical to consider both positive and negative “what if” scenarios. And, if the negative scenarios could result in going out of business (or in the case of a TV show, getting cancelled), by all means, don’t make the change.

On the other side of the coin, think back to the TV show DALLAS and the third season finale, its “Who Shot JR?” episode, that aired in March 1980. That episode’s mystery lasted throughout the summer of 1980, and the shooter was not revealed until the following season’s fourth episode in November 1980. Everyone had an opinion about JR’s shooter. And, actor Larry Hagman as JR Ewing even turned up on the cover of TIME magazine in August 1980.

In the event that your plot twist or brand change becomes big news, make sure that you have the bandwidth to be inclusive. One major reason that this show’s mystery was such a success was that there were so many possible shooters. Everyone had an opinion and could participate in the discussion.

Back to binge watching, what drew me to the particular show? The plot? The actors? A large chunk of available time? I chose to watch HOMELAND for all of those reasons, but there could have been others.

Understand that your viewers, fans, or new customers can encounter your brand with no previous knowledge about your competitive advantage. With that in mind, provide some basic information about your brand at the outset as a form of introduction.

Have you ever binge watched? What TV show? Please chime in.

If you’d like to read about all seasons of HOMELAND, check out the recaps here:

Oh, and does anyone know where I can get the first and second seasons of the Canadian police drama MOTIVE? Currently, each episode can be purchased separately on Amazon, which is not a user-friendly option.

Image Credits: Exstreamist and Time Magazine

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Brand Experiences, Brand Ambassadors and Brand Advocates, Oh My!

The subset of marketing known as branding, brand-building, brand engagement, brand experiences, and brand equity is my passion, so when I run into someone who shares this passion, I like to talk shop. Years ago, I had the pleasure to meet Elaine Fogel as a result of our social media activity, and over the years, I've enjoyed her blog and insights on Twitter. Recently, I invited Elaine to participate as a featured guest in a TweetChat for a nonprofit organization for communications and PR pros for whom I serve as a Board Member, and her Tweets provided much value to the chat. In case you don't know Elaine, a brief bio appears at the end of this post, which contains highlights from our recent discussion about branding.

How do you define a brand experience?
ELAINE FOGEL: A brand experience is any interaction one has with a brand. Brand experiences include a range of touchpoints including transactions (sales), website visits, inbound inquiries, communications, product or service usage, customer service, and more.

What makes a successful brand experience, and please provide three examples of your favorite brand experiences.
ELAINE FOGEL: A successful brand experience is when one’s interaction with a brand is easy, friendly, customer-oriented, and produces a positive result for the individual. As I wrote in my book, “Your brand is more than its logo, look, and colors. It emanates from the mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors of anyone and everyone involved in it. And, since success depends on its brand reputation, it’s critical that you do everything possible to ensure that your customers’ experiences are amazing.” No matter what we call it, anytime we interact with a brand, it is an experience.

Here are my faves:
I am an Amazon brand loyalist. Every time I purchase products, the experience is consistently positive. Once when I ordered a marble bathroom accessory set (tumbler and toothbrush holder), the tumbler arrived in pieces. I contacted the seller company and advised it of the situation. I assumed that I would have to return the set with the broken pieces to prove the damage. I was surprised when the customer service rep apologized and told me that it wasn’t necessary. She would credit my credit card for the full amount, and I could keep the toothbrush holder. Now, that experience went beyond my expectations.

Jet Blue Airlines is another example of a successful brand. I will always remember the flight attendants’ style on a flight several years ago. They were jovial and welcoming, making wisecracks and jokes in their announcements. Every seat was comfortable (and leather) and seat backs had individual TVs on which we could watch FREE movies or TV. No nickel and diming here. (That was before it became a common feature.) The flight departure was delayed quite a bit from its original time, and as compensation for our patience, the airline awarded passengers a few thousand miles to our frequent flyer accounts. This proactive approach delighted everyone and made the delay a distant memory.

This last brand experience was shared with me when I was conducting a customer service presentation for internal staff. Once you read it, you’ll know why I never forgot it. A man and woman checked into a luxury hotel. As with many luxury properties, the service was impeccable. After they checked out, the housekeeper noticed the woman’s nightgown hanging behind the bathroom door. So, one of the staff members called the male guest’s phone number to ask how the hotel could return the nightgown. When the woman answered, he explained that she had forgotten her nightgown in the room and he wanted to make arrangements to return it to her. Turns out the woman who answered the phone was NOT the woman her husband was with at the hotel! So, was it a successful brand experience when the intention was to offer 5-star service? What do you think?

How would you define the difference between a brand ambassador and a brand advocate?
ELAINE FOGEL: Brand ambassadors may or may not be compensated to serve as spokespeople for a brand. For example, in the corporate world, brand ambassadors can be experts related to the brand’s products or services. They may have access to "insider" information and be part of an external product team.

Paid celebrity spokespeople are another type of ambassador such as when a professional athlete does a TV spot for a local car dealership. An example of unpaid brand ambassadorship is when a charity’s board members and volunteers toot its horn and help it fulfill its mission.

Brand advocates are the people who absolutely love the brand and engage with it, talk about it, and share their passion.

With all the buzz surrounding social ROI, what metrics are important to you in the social space, and why?
ELAINE FOGEL: This is an interesting question because several studies I’ve read indicate that determining social ROI has been very difficult. In enterprises, there are teams devoted to social media in which they use top analytical tools to evaluate their tactics. For those of us without big budgets, there are many free and cheap tools available.

As a Hootsuite user (and affiliate), I have access to all my social media accounts in one dashboard. It’s much easier to engage with my connections and post links to my blog posts simultaneously. I have access to reports on my Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ engagement, clicks by region, direct referrers, and which are my popular links.

I also measure how many people follow my calls to action through social media. This is even more important to me as it’s how I capture email subscribers and sell my book.

What do you think will be the central focus of our social media marketing discussions a year from now?
ELAINE FOGEL: I think the discussion will still focus on the ROI for the time and effort we devote to social media marketing. Even though I participate in it wholeheartedly, I admit that I have been somewhat skeptical all along. Is it producing results equivalent or close to what we put in? Could we be better off spending some of that time and money on more traditional channels? Multi-channel marketing based on a sound marketing plan can be much more effective than relying on one channel like social media marketing.

Much gratitude to Elaine for appearing here on my blog and applause for sharing my passion for branding!

Here's Elaine's Bio:
Elaine is a professional speaker, marketer, brand and customer experience evangelist, educator, and consultant. She has been a contributing writer to The Business Journal, and contributes to MarketingProfs, SmallBizClub (founded by NFL Hall of Famer and author, Fran Tarkenton), Business2Community, and People in 100+ countries have read her blog, Totally Uncorked on Marketing (, and her articles have appeared in many print and digital publications. She is also the author of the award-winning book, Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most For Small Business Success ( I highly recommend that you follow Elaine on Twitter at @Elaine_Fogel (

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Five #PersonalBranding Tips from Vin Scully

As all baseball fans from Los Angeles, all of America, and all over the world, know, the time has come for a classic to retire. Vin Scully, the voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers for 67 years has announced his final home game for the LA Dodgers. While he will announce three additional games next weekend, the final three games of the Dodgers’ season, he will broadcast those games from San Francisco. There are countless articles online and in print publications recognizing Vin for his spirit, his humility, and his humanity, but as a brand marketer, I believe that everyone can learn five personal branding tips from this inspiring ambassador of baseball.

As Vin’s story goes, he grew up as a New York Giants fan (the baseball team that would eventually move to San Francisco). However, once he joined the Dodgers broadcast team, he could no longer publicly root for the Giants. That said, he dedicated himself to his job and became a rock of Gibraltar to his fans. They knew that whenever they turned on the radio or later, the television, he and his familiar voice would be broadcasting the game.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Vin Scully was the voice of the @Dodgers for 67 years. What can you learn from him? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

Vin always had a story to tell about the ballplayers, both the Dodgers and all visiting team players. He made his broadcasts come to life, because listeners didn’t just hear about walks, strike-outs, and runs. Instead, he painted pictures with his words and the unique cadence of his voice. Sometimes, he even let the roar of the crowd tell the story. After Kurt Gibson hit a jaw-dropping home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, Vin said, “She is gone.” Nearly 70 seconds after listening to the roar of the crowd, he uttered a statement that has gone down in history, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” (A fun fact: My dad and I were sitting in the right field pavilion just a few rows up from where that home run was hit, so we didn't hear Vin's remarks until later that night on the TV newscast.)

SHARE ON TWITTER: Everyone has a story to tell, how do you tell yours? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

Vin’s signature greeting was “Hello or good evening wherever you may be,” and to most, this seemed like a greeting from one family member to another. Since many of Vin’s fans never got the chance to meet face-to-face, his easy-going demeanor and friendly style transformed the connection of broadcaster and listener to two friends or relatives.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Do you have a signature tagline? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

Once Vin joined the Dodgers broadcast team, he displayed no bias. Clearly, he was a lifelong Dodgers fan, but for the sake of other other teams and competing players, he never used the collective “We” that so many other famous broadcasters used, like Harry Carey of Chicago or Mel Allen of the Yankees. All teams embraced Vin because they knew he was impartial in his broadcasts.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Are you impartial in the workplace? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

Vin always welcomed newcomers to the broadcast booth. From Jerry Doggett to Ross Porter to Rick Monday, and many, many more, he shared the booth and the microphone – and the fans knew it.

SHARE ON TWITTER: How do you collaborate with others? -@DebbieLaskeyMBA #personalbranding

From a personal standpoint, my father, who passed away last year, became a Dodgers fan at the age of seven. As a result, he listened to Vin Scully for nearly all of Scully’s years at the microphone and heard many Dodgers highlights from Vin including the 1955 World Series, Sandy Koufax’s perfect game, and the many victories in Los Angeles following the move from Brooklyn. According to my dad, Vin often became the 10th man on the field, because he translated the action for fans who weren’t at the ballpark.

On behalf of my dad, thanks for the memories, Vin!

Check out Vin’s letter to his fans: 

Check out Bill Plaschke’s article in the LA Times, “Vin Scully is a voice for the ages.”

Click to watch Gibson’s 1988 World Series home run and listen to Vin:

Image Credit: Pinterest

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ten Inspirational #Leadership Quotes

Everyone has read a book that inspires, whether it was a book during youth, college, or adulthood. If you’re lucky, you’ve also been inspired by a parent, a mentor, or a boss. But if not, don’t despair. Inspiration is omnipresent if you take the time to look. 

When it comes to leadership inspiration, I have ten favorite quotes. Check them out below, and I guarantee that you’ll be inspired.

Leadership is not 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. –Mark Herbert (Twitter: @NewParadigmer)

A proven leader knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around him or her better. –President Obama in his introduction of Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. –Tom Peters

The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails. –John Maxwell

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. –John Quincy Adams

A community is like a ship, everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm. –Henrik Ibsen in “An Enemy of the People”

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. –Harold R. McAlindon

Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine. –David Ogilvy

Trust is deepened by supporting the team, sharing credit with them, and even sacrificing for their welfare. –John Baldoni (Twitter: @JohnBaldoni)

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. –Maya Angelou

What words of wisdom inspire you about leaders and leadership? I invite you to chime in.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Instagram’s Logo Change – A Look Back

Back in May, you may recall that Instagram changed its logo. With the buzz now history, let's take a look back at how the logo change was viewed by some members of the media as well as the reasons behind the design change.

According to Instagram's blog, "You’ll see an updated icon and app design for Instagram. Inspired by the previous app icon, the new one represents a simpler camera and the rainbow lives on in gradient form. The Instagram community has evolved over the past five years from a place to share filtered photos to so much more — a global community of interests sharing more than 80 million photos and videos every day. Our updated look reflects how vibrant and diverse your storytelling has become. Thank you for giving this community (of 400 million users) its life and color. You make Instagram a place to discover the wonder in the world."

Instagram's logo, a retro-looking camera, was one of the most recognizable logos in the entire tech sector. That logo was replaced by a background swirl of sunset colors (orange, yellow, pink, purple) and a white outline of a camera. According to Hannah Jane Parkinson of the Guardian, "As if the camera was murdered - chalk was drawn around its body. Murdered at sundown."

Ian Spalter, Instagram's head of design, said everything correctly in this statement: “Brands, logos and products develop deep connections and associations with people...and we thought we could make it better."

However, Lauren Keating reported in Tech Times, "Instagram lost its mind when it decided to do away with its iconic logo and replace it with the most colorful and vibrant icon we could imagine. It is almost like the purple/pink-fading-to-yellow icon is a metaphor for the end of an era for the app. Sure, it was supposed to signify the changes and evolution of the popular photo-sharing app, but all it does is remind us that the sun has set on its reign as apps like Snapchat continue to rise in popularity. While some may like the colors instead of thinking they stick out like a sore thumb, you have probably noticed how hard it now is to find Instagram by its icon."

There was a different point of view expressed by Lesya Liu in Entrepreneur, "The most recent update is only skin-deep - it did not affect navigation - so it’s very likely people will get over it in a few days, just like they got over the recent algorithm change. After all, Instagram is a very popular platform these days. For a lot of businesses, this is the way to reach millennial demographics, the generation that currently holds the largest buying power. Overall, there are people who really love it and really hate it, which is understandable when one of the respected apps changes something. Yet, the updates are only cosmetic and do not affect the meaning and the value behind the network."

But isn't that the point of a memorable logo? Don't people gravitate toward a logo due to its design? And don't some designs appeal more than others? Think of Nike - its logo appeals and connects more with athletes and runners than those who needlepoint and knit. Think of BMW - its logo appeals and connects more with race car drivers than swimmers. And think of Apple - its logo appeals and connects with techies more than farmers.

Four months after the logo change, do you like the new logo or do you hate it? More importantly, has it stopped you from using the app to share your fave pics and videos? If you're like me, the answer is a big fat NO.

[Images courtesy of Instagram]

Sunday, August 14, 2016

This Online Customer Experience Was Anything But Sweet

I visited an online store recently to make a purchase. The store sells sweets: brownies, cakes, and cookies. The store is also part of a large group of online stores where you can purchase everything except the moon: fruit, flowers, popcorn, muffins, steaks, cheese, caramel apples, and more. 

On this occasion, I simply wanted to purchase something called a Cookie Card, a buttercream cookie and a greeting card. I made the online purchase and provided my friend's address where I wanted the cookie card to be delivered and assumed everything was done.

About three weeks later, when I wondered if the cookie was as delicious as advertised, I asked my friend about the cookie and was surprised to learn that it had never arrived. Disappointed, since I had thought the gift was a great idea and wanted it to arrive in a timely manner, I called the online store.

The first customer service rep I spoke with was extremely rude. You would have thought I was bothering her by calling her during HER WORK DAY. She asked me to repeat my order number several times, because she was clearly not paying attention to me, the customer. Finally, she said that my order was lost. Then, she said that the specific cookie and card that I had ordered were no longer available. She asked me what I wanted to do. I had to go online while I was on the phone (I had not been near my computer or an Internet connection when I made the call) and search through other Cookie Card options. Why couldn’t the rep offer any suggestions? Additionally, even if the company had not been responsible for losing the item, where was the apology, or even better, the statement equivalent to "Let me make this right because we value your business."

I asked to speak to a supervisor and was told, “You will be given the same information.” What information? The rep had not offered to do anything to resolve the lost cookie situation. Since the standard “this call may be monitored for training purposes” had been heard before the customer service rep initially came on the line, I hoped someone would hear my request for a supervisor – that I made three times! At long last, I was transferred to another rep. I explained that my order was lost and asked for another order to be placed immediately.

Once the discussion was over, the new Cookie Card chosen, and the order was placed, I voiced my concern about the first rep, and the second rep apologized and offered to send me a $20 gift card via email. I thanked her but was uncertain if I would ever use it.

Two weeks passed, and I did not receive the gift card. While I may not have used it, the fact that it was promised and did not arrive provided further proof that this company doesn’t care about its customers and repeat business.

So I called customer service again and asked about the status of the gift card. The day after I called, I received an email with a $15 gift discount code, however, it had a date that had already expired – not exactly how I would create repeat business.

I wondered what this company’s leadership team thinks about the importance of repeat business. Upon review of its website, I learned that its mission is to "provide the finest freshly-baked gifts and desserts for all of life’s moments, delivered with warmth and backed by our guarantee of excellence."

It would seem that the marketing/PR team and the leadership team are definitely NOT on the same page. All the proof you need is to read a little more: the company states its promises to customers:
•    Delicious cookies and freshly-baked goods
•    Only the highest quality standards
•    Friendly service focused on excellence
•    Trustworthy, dependable products and services
•    Unique gift ideas and exclusive packaging
•    The strongest guarantee in the business

If I experienced "friendly service focused on excellence" and the “strongest guarantee in the business,” then certainly there’s work to be done!

Can you guess the company? Tweet me @DebbieLaskeyMBA with the hashtag #servicefail.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Why Branding and Storytelling Are Linked

While many in the marketing arena believe that storytelling is the latest buzz, the truth is, storytelling has been around since the invention of brands. You just have to look at memorable taglines. Think about Wheaties' "Breakfast of Champions," or BMW's "The Ultimate Driving Machine," or "Bags Fly Free" from Southwest Airlines.

According to Wikipedia, “A tagline is a small amount of text which serves to clarify a thought for, or designed with a form of, dramatic effect. Many tagline slogans are reiterated phrases associated with an individual, social group, or product. As a variant of a branding slogan, taglines can be used in marketing materials and advertising. The idea behind the concept is to create a memorable dramatic phrase that will sum up the tone and premise of an audio/visual product or to reinforce and strengthen the audience’s memory of a literary product. Some taglines are successful enough to warrant inclusion in popular culture.”

Therefore, taglines are the seeds that create stories, and they introduce brands to new customers and solidify them into the lives of long-term customers. When your executive team conducts the "should our brand have a tagline" discussion, ask these five questions:

[1] Would a tagline clarify the brand’s competitive strength or strengths?
[2] Would a tagline speak to the target audience or audiences?
[3] Would a tagline easily align with the visual representation of the brand's logo?
[4] Would a tagline reflect the personality of the brand?
[5] Would a tagline be easily associated with the brand (and be memorable)?

If you can answer all of these questions with a resounding yes, then you're ready for a tagline. Always remember, though, the key for a successful tagline is to integrate it into all aspects of your marketing strategy from online marketing to in-store displays, from email marketing to advertising, from public relations to social media, etc. The tagline has to become an appendage to all of your communications and promotions - and if done effectively, it will become the core of your brand story, thus making your overall storytelling easy.

So, as you contemplate the importance of storytelling for your brand, consider these questions:

[1] How do you decide on a compelling story?
[2] What elements do you include and which do you leave out?
[3] What is an appropriate length for your story?
[4] Do you feature a person (for example, your founder) in your story?
[5] What is the key take-away from your brand’s story, and is it easy to grasp or embrace?

While the publishing industry is undergoing a transition from print to digital, there is one newspaper that embodies its city, The New York Times. While you may not know that the newspaper began in the mid-1800’s, there is no doubt that you've heard of The New York Times Crossword Puzzle, Art and Theater sections, and its Opinion section. Whenever someone wants to be heard, he or she comments in The New York Times. (Remember Angelina Jolie's editorial when she announced her breast cancer?) The newspaper’s motto was “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” but on its website, the motto was changed to, “All the News That’s Fit to Click.”

According to Southwest Airlines Chairman/President and CEO Gary Kelly, “Southwest was conceived on a cocktail napkin when San Antonio businessman Rollin King and his attorney, Herb Kelleher, met at the St. Anthony Club and etched out what would become the “Texas Triangle,” charting a path for low-fare travel between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. The vision was simple: offer business professionals a faster, more efficient way to travel at a lower cost and do it with warm, personable service and a smile.” 

Kelleher knew that in order for his employees to do a good job, they had to have fun. So Southwest allowed flight attendants to wear shorts instead of uncomfortable uniforms and tell silly jokes to passengers over the intercoms. The airline continues to provide peanuts, soft drinks, and juice – when competitors charge or don’t offer any food or drinks. Southwest also invites passengers to travel with their baggage without a fee because according to their ads, “Bags fly free.”

And no discussion about storytelling would be complete without a reference to the master storyteller Walt Disney. There were Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and they were just the beginning. From animated movies to theme park rides to feature films, everything that is part of the Disney brand tells a memorable story.

So take a page from your favorite brand's play book - whether it's from movies, sports, or consumer products - and think long and hard as to why it's your favorite brand. I guarantee that you'll see a story lurking somewhere within the tagline.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tips for #EmployerBranding

On June 29, 2016, I was honored to be the featured guest of Digital Branding Institute's TweetChat or #DBIchat. The chat topic was, "Who Would Be Excited to Work for You? How to Brand Yourself As an Employer." The hour-long chat took place on Twitter, and some customer service and marketing experts chimed in. My special thanks to Shep Hyken, Elaine Fogel, and Ron Thomas.

Here were the eight questions asked during the chat:

Q1: What is employer branding?

Q2: Why should employers care about employer branding?

Q3: What is onboarding?

Q4: What part does onboarding play in employer branding?

Q5: What is a brand ambassador?

Q6: How can a leader inspire his/her employees to become brand ambassadors?

Q7: Is employee engagement just a term or can businesses really create it?

Q8: What are some employer brands that stand out for their cultures?

Big thanks to Juntae DeLane for the invitation to lead the chat. If you missed the chat, check out the full recap below via Storify.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Five Brand Tips for Second Half of 2016

With 2016 nearing the halfway point, it’s time to review your brand strategies and see how effective your overall marketing initiatives have been. But wait. Before you review the email marketing metrics, website traffic metrics, and other key performance indicators, you can learn a lot about your overall marketing impact by reviewing your brand equity. According to Wikipedia, “Brand equity refers to the marketing effects or outcomes that accrue to a product with its brand name compared with those that would accrue if the same product did not have the brand name. “ So if you don’t like what you see, consider implementing these five brand tips for the remainder of 2016.

Build a more engaging Instagram presence and profile. While social media and social networking platforms come and go, Instagram has solidified its popularity with more than 300 million users. Since Facebook purchased it back in 2012, Instagram has become “the home for visual storytelling for everyone from celebrities, newsrooms and brands, to teens, musicians, and anyone with a creative passion.” So, does your brand have an Instagram profile? Some brands that effectively use the site to tell their stories include Tiffany & Co., Sherwin-Williams, M&Ms, Oreo, and the San Diego Zoo.

Build a top-notch mobile experience for your brand. Since most interactions between your brand and prospective customers result by a visit to your website, without a doubt, you want an amazing state-of-the-art website. But upon further thought, many people access the web from their smartphones and mobile devices – on a staggering rate. So that amazing website just might not be amazing on a small screen. Therefore, it’s critical that your site be responsive so that the important information can be seen, read, and acted upon. According to Wikipedia, “Responsive web design is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience, easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling, across a wide range of devices from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones.”

Conduct a brand audit. If you haven’t conducted a comprehensive brand audit in the past two years, it’s long overdue. This means everything that reflects your brand – all printed collateral, signage, main website and sub-sites, all social platforms, logo, tagline, color palette, press releases, corporate communications, overall brand voice – must be reviewed for consistency and relevancy. If they don
’t align, you have work to do.

SHARE ON TWITTER: If everything that reflects your brand doesn’t align, you have work to do. ~@DebbieLaskeyMBA

Review and update your brand promise. Is it still relevant? Is it still supported by customers? In addition, is your brand story easy to understand? Is it easy to tell? Edit, tweak, and edit again. Make sure everything is up-to-date, relevant, and easy to understand and share.

Engage your employees so that they are enthusiastic about their most important job: being ambassadors for your brand. When employees are happy, customers feel the excitement and want to be part of the brand experience. Educate employees, inform employees, and reward employees. All employees are brand advocates whether they think they are or not.

And one final reminder as you look toward the second half of 2016, to quote Michael Eisner, former CEO of the Walt Disney Company, “A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.” Don’t mess up your thousand small gestures!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Customer Service Is Not Something to Drive Around

Many business experts have stated time and again in the mainstream press that the way to stand out from the competition is to offer exceptional customer service. This is not rocket science, and those in the customer experience sector have been singing this song for years. But the reality is, most companies ignore this recommendation, and instead, listen to a crazy song where the lyrics are “Ignore the customer, treat the customer poorly, and don’t give a hoot about repeat customers.” 

Why does this reality exist when it’s so easy to train employees to provide a positive and memorable customer experience?

Last year, I received an email from an automotive company seeking my business. At the time, I was not in the market for a new car, but since I attend the Los Angeles Auto Show on an annual basis and have visited a number of car museums in the United States and Germany, I’m always eager to test-drive new vehicles – especially those with a lot of horsepower! The email promotion advertised “Date Night” with a vehicle of my choosing. Here’s what the email said:

Dear Debbie,
On behalf of the Lincoln Motor Company, I would like to offer you an
opportunity to experience Lincoln through an exclusive, test-drive program,
Lincoln Date Night. Whether you’re looking for a stylish sedan or full-size
luxury SUV, this is the best way to get better acquainted with our exciting
2015 lineup. No strings, no obligation. The details are simple. Start by
choosing a vehicle from our 2015 lineup. On your scheduled Date Night,
drive away and enjoy the vehicle for a full 24 hours. Email or call to set
up your Date Night.

You may be thinking, what a great promotion. Who wouldn’t want to participate? I contacted Lincoln and after several back and forth emails, I learned that no vehicle was available in my area for any weekend. Naturally, I wanted my 24-hours to take place during a weekend, or I wouldn’t get much time to drive the vehicle. Alas, my Date Night with Lincoln never happened, but I hoped I would get another chance.

Fast forward a year. Last month, I received an email from Lincoln that referenced the 2016 lineup. After I responded to the email, I was told that there were no available SUV’s to test-drive and no dealerships within a 50-mile radius of my home that were participating in this campaign. To make matters worse, I could only get a car during the week. So, to recap, I was disappointed that I had not participated last year and then learned that I would have to drive 50 miles away from my home DURING THE WEEK to drive a car that I had no interest in purchasing. Some date night!

Let’s return to the concept of providing a positive customer experience presented at the beginning of this post. I was already a prospective customer with an interest in this event, since I indicated in my email last month that I had been disappointed in not being able to participate last year. So, it would have made sense for the Lincoln rep to have tried to accommodate my preferences – in any way possible!

According to Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director of Disney Institute in Florida, “The words ‘'I’ll need to speak with my manager’ probably sound familiar to most of us, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with involving one’s manager in helping to make decisions. However, when a service failure occurs, it’s essential to resolve the issue quickly. With tens of thousands of visitors each day to Walt Disney Parks and Resorts around the world, we recognize that issues will occasionally come up. Therefore, it’s essential that employees are equipped with the tools to enable them to quickly resolve as many issues as possible on their own. At Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, customers discover that everyone is the right person when it comes to providing speedy service recovery.” Clearly, no one who interacted with me at Lincoln spoke with a supervisor – to find me an SUV in my local area – not was anyone equipped with the tools to resolve this epic service fail.

According to Annette Franz, a fellow customer experience consultant, Annette Franz (@annettefranz and @cxjourney on Twitter), “Achieving customer delight is paramount to the success of a business. Customer satisfaction is no longer enough – at least for businesses that want to thrive instead of just survive. But creating a delightful customer experience can be difficult, especially if you’re focusing solely on the customer.”

In addition, Annette writes about customer journey maps, a framework that allows you to walk in your customers’ shoes by traveling with them as they interact with your business. Customer journey maps enable you to improve your customer experience by helping to best understand how customers are interacting with you now and what areas to invest in moving forward.

Annette recommends that customer journey maps should be used to:
•    Understand the customer and his/her interactions with your business.
•    Build empathy for the customer and what he’s/she’s going through during all interactions with your business.
•    Provide a clear line of sight for employees to the target: customers.
•    Train and coach employees about the customer experience.
•    Speak a universal language (customer).

When asked about my recent “Date Night” experience and the fact that it didn’t happen for the second year in a row, Annette said, “The experience for prospective customers is as critical, if not more so, than that of customers. Ultimately, if you can’t hit a home run while you’re courting potential customers, then you won’t have any customers to have a relationship with going forward. You need to ensure that you deliver a great experience at all stages of the customer lifecycle.”

So, with all this knowledge about customer experience marketing and customer journey maps, why did Lincoln do such an incredible job with its Date Night PROMOTION but such a lousy job with the EXECUTION of its campaign? Tune in next year to see what happens.

Image Credit: Digitalart via

Monday, May 16, 2016

Secrets to Get Your Brand in Lights!

As Walter Landor once said, "Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind." So how much effort does your business or nonprofit allocate toward branding? If you don't spend time and effort building your brand, you won't be the Nike, Disney, or Coca-Cola in your industry.

I recently met Bill Ellis on Twitter, and since we share a passion for branding, we had an interesting discussion. Here's a brief introduction before the highlights below: Bill works with business owners and professionals who want to increase their value to better serve others and achieve stratospheric success. His experience, perspective, and insights drive powerful results including clarity of purpose, executable strategies, business growth, and personal fulfillment. As the principal of Branding for Results, Bill works as a coach, speaker, and thought partner and is a certified Go-Giver speaker and coach. Connect on Twitter @WCEllis, Instagram @wcellis, LinkedIn, and visit his website Branding for Results. 

What is a fearless brand, and why should a brand desire to be one?
BILL ELLIS: Let me start by defining a brand. First, it’s important to understand that the meaning is the same for a personal brand, a company brand, a product, or a service. Your brand, a brand, is the value that you offer. A brand is the value proposition which is defined by the combination of purpose/passion, skills/assets/attributes, and relevance.

A fearless brand is built on a base of authenticity and is one which has complete conviction in its value and relevance. A fearless brand accepts both its strengths and shortcomings at face value, is committed to growing its value, and keeps its focus on the needs of the people it serves.

It's very important for brands to conduct audits on a regular basis. How do you define the three stages of a brand audit?
BILL ELLIS: The purpose of a brand audit is to obtain an impartial and expert assessment of your brand. Think of it similar to an accounting audit where an independent CPA is brought in to review your books, to verify and validate your financial situation, and to identify areas of improvement or concern. Your brand is your most valuable asset so it’s important to treat it as such. My brand audit has three overlying stages – the 3D’s of my brand audit:
* Discovery – This phase is comprised of learning, investigating, inquiring and seeking. Speaking with the business owner, key stakeholders to understand how they define their brand and its current messaging.
* Development – Phase II begins with a deeper dive into the brand via interviews across a broader slice of stakeholders – including employees and customers both past and present.
* Deliverable – The final phase of my brand audit is defined by my assessing all of the information, connecting the dots and then providing recommended actions which fall under one of three headings – Start, Stop or Continue. Discussions then take place to address any questions or strategic needs the client may have.

You've established something called the "Seven C's of Branding," what are they?
BILL ELLIS: I developed my Seven C’s of Branding as the result of my transformation from a marketing executive at Anheuser-Busch to a solo provider of business services. I present the C’s in a linear fashion, yet all seven of them interact and occur simultaneously.
*Control – Determine what can and cannot be controlled in order to make the most from one’s efforts – and to avoid wasting energy and time on those things which will not yield tangible results.
*Clarity – Perhaps the single most important “C,” clarity is where the work is done to identify purpose and passion and then talents, assets, and skills in order to identify the most effective value proposition. It is here that the work is done to validate what is the brand’s relevance and to whom.
*Conviction – It is at this stage that a brand knows that it is optimized – that it has become a fearless brand.
*Conversion – The intangibles of the first three C’s need to be converted to tangibles which define and communicate the brand’s essence.
*Communication – Determining what the correct message is, how to best package it and which delivery channel(s) are most effective.
*Connections – Creating connections with customers, prospects, and brand advocates.
*Consistency – A critical “C.” Consistency does several things, notably, it reinforces the brand’s value and message at every single touch point and it builds trust. Trust leads to more repeat customers, more referrals, and an expectation that the value sought from your brand will always be delivered.

You spent many years at one of the most well-known brands in the beverage industry. What three brand tips can every brand learn from Anheuser-Busch?
BILL ELLIS: I learned a great deal during my 25+ years in brand management at Anheuser-Busch so narrowing it down to three is a challenge.
*Know how your brand meets the needs of those you will serve.
*Be flexible in your strategy as the market dictates.
*Avoid change for the sake of change.

What's your favorite brand and why?
BILL ELLIS: I’ve reviewed and written about and worked on so many brands I can’t select just one. I’ll just point out the two most ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ brands I’ve featured on my Building Fearless Brands blog. Those are Judge Judy and Jack Daniel’s…draw your own conclusions.

What's your least favorite brand and why?
BILL ELLIS: Any brand which is disingenuous, deceptive, or has just awful marketing – sadly there are far too many to list.

Most businesses have added to their C-level suite with a Chief Talent Officer, Chief Digital Officer, and even a Chief Customer Officer. When will businesses create Chief Branding Officers?
BILL ELLIS: I don’t foresee the majority of companies creating the position of Chief Branding Officer…nor should they. What I would rather them do is adopt a philosophy of providing the greatest value possible to their customers, vendors, and most importantly, their employees. I would hope they learn to focus more on the human brands that are at the core of their success.

A big thank you to Bill for appearing on my blog!

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Leadership Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Whenever I think about leadership, I think about Eric Jacobson. Today, I would like to welcome Eric back to my blog. We met through our work with MicroMentor in 2009, and since then, Eric has appeared on my blog twice as a featured guest and countless other times with quotes. Eric has more than a quarter-century of experience in successfully leading employees and teams through periods of revenue growth, new product development, and re-engineering. He is an experienced mentor and coach and holds an MBA Degree from Keller Graduate School. Eric’s passion is helping individuals to become effective leaders at work, within organizations, and wherever they are called upon to lead and inspire. Recently, Eric and I had a conversation about the changing nature of leadership, and highlights follow below. For more about Eric, visit his Blog and follow him on Twitter.

QUESTION: I had a discussion with a fellow customer experience colleague (@AnnetteFranz) and she mentioned that heads of businesses should refer to themselves as executives rather than leaders. This comment has remained with me. Why do you believe there is such a lack of quality leadership today?
ERIC: There is a lack of quality leadership for a couple different reasons. Often, people who excel at a technical level within an organization are promoted to a management position only to discover that they either have no desire to be a leader and/or lack the skills to effectively lead. They hold the “executive” title but aren’t effective leaders. At other times, individuals who start out as effective leaders become less effective when they focus their attention on meeting the needs of Boards and investment bankers rather than their employees. These often conflicting situations keep these executives from truly LEADING their businesses.

QUESTION: There's a new book entitled "Superbosses" by Sydney Finkelstein. The book received the following praise from Millard Drexler, Chairman and CEO of J. Crew Group: "A smart leader surrounds himself with smart people. Through the book, Finkelstein showed the surprising ways leaders actually find, develop, and grow a team of curious, talented individuals." What are three ways YOU think a super boss grows a team of talented employees?
ERIC: Here are my three:
1. Ensure that each team member clearly understands his or her role on the team and understand the team’s mission. Discourage any one team member from “being a hero.”
2. View disagreement as a good thing and allow team members to constructively express their viewpoints. Encourage the team to steer away from groupthink.
3. Ideally seek to allow each team member's success dependent on another team member's to foster collaboration across all functions.

QUESTION: One of my favorite quotes about leadership is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer): “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?
ERIC: This is a great quote and such important advice for leaders. To me, it means trust your employees and get out of their way so they can do their jobs. Don’t sidetrack them from getting their most important work done by injecting tasks that don’t support the primary task at hand. Allow them to take risks and to fail. Then, use those situations as learning opportunities. It also means to me, remove obstacles within the organization. Remove outdated and no longer needed policies or processes. And when it comes to being trusted as a leader, do what you say you will do. Deliver on your commitments. And, don’t promise something you aren’t going to provide.

QUESTION: When President Obama introduced Janet Yellen as the new Federal Reserve Chair in October 2013, he said, “Janet Yellen is a proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better.” What three tips can YOU provide to create this type of leader?
(Here's the link to my post about this news:
ERIC: Here are my three:
1.  Listen to all sides of an issue and provide individuals with a safe environment to express their opinions.
2.   Help educate and inform those you work with so that they, too, can understand the fullest spectrum of the collective viewpoints.
3.   Share and explain how coming to a consensus nearly always wins out over making no decision.

QUESTION: How can a CEO/President define or set the direction for his or her company's culture?
ERIC: Explain it. Believe it. Be it. Live it. In other words, walk the talk. Lead by example. Clearly demonstrate your support of the culture.  Fully support the employees who, and the actions that, contribute to the desired company culture.

QUESTION: What have you learned from your three favorite leaders?
ERIC: From my favorite workplace leader, I learned to listen to both sides of an issue because the truth is likely in the middle of the two sides. From a fellow Rotarian, I learned to lead with a “can-do” attitude. That positivity and enthusiasm is contagious. It drives success. From all leaders who do this, I learned to be decisive. Make decisions. Don’t stalemate yourself or your employees by being indecisive.

My sincere gratitude to Eric for sharing his leadership insights again on my blog. Check out his two previous appearances at the links below:

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

Friday, April 29, 2016

Five #PR Lessons from the Kelly and Michael Drama

Recently, the on-air talent for the morning television show “Live! With Kelly and Michael” experienced some unwanted publicity. A change in personnel was announced, and very unexpectedly, the two stars BECAME the news. ABC apparently informed Kelly about Michael’s departure from the show just minutes before the public announcement. Naturally, Kelly was upset and angry and opted out of appearing on the daytime talk show for four days. Upon her return, the two presented a united public face, but there may be tension behind-the-scenes. As a result of this public drama, we can all learn some valuable lessons about public relations.


Think about Kelly’s complaint about being blind sighted by the news announcement. Whether you work in a mom-and-pop store, a small business, or a nonprofit, how news is communicated can be just as important as the news that is being communicated. Therefore, assemble the people who will be most impacted by the announcement and share the news one-on-one. Let people digest the news and answer all questions at that time before announcing the news to the entire company – or to the public.


Was ABC’s announcement made at the best possible time? When you plan a significant announcement for your business, consider the day, the time, and the month. It might be best to make an announcement at the end of a month or the end of a quarter. Perhaps, your business has reached a financial milestone, so an announcement makes sense at that time. But whatever decision you make, implement a timing strategy for your announcement.


Think about the content of ABC’s announcement
a change in personnel hasn’t happened too often over the years, so it was bound to attract media coverage but certainly not the HOW and WHEN of the announcement. When a new announcement is made, employees and the outside community often look at the announcement by placing it in context with your company’s past news announcements and/or product/service launches. Therefore, does the latest announcement seem in line with the direction of the company, or does it seem like it came out of left field? Don’t confuse your audiences or stakeholders.

Think about how Kelly took a few days off to think about her reaction. She then returned to the show with a smile on her face. If unexpected things happen upon making a public announcement, your executive or leadership team must be prepared to admit a lack of judgment or erroneous information. They need to be comfortable in front of a camera and dealing with members of the media. Your company’s future could be at stake, so your media preparation is critical.

Immediately upon hearing the announcement, many social media channels lit up with the hashtag #KellyandMichael with all types of comments. Upon hearing unexpected news, don’t immediately rush to your favorite social media platforms. Remember that once something is posted to the Internet, it takes on a life of its own, and you cannot take it back or delete it. Therefore, keep your comments to yourself. If you have to tell someone, tell yourself in a mirror at home – not to the receptionist at your workplace – and definitely not on Twitter or Facebook.

Lastly, remember that everything your business does is in some way reflected outside your workplace walls. Even if you run a small business or small nonprofit, you have an audience, customers, constituents, and stakeholders. Since you want your news announcements to be met with a positive reaction, think strategically before publicizing your news to avoid as many surprising reactions as possible.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Poor Customer Service Can Seriously Damage a Brand's Reputation

Recently, I visited a restaurant in Southern California that's part of a national chain. While the restaurant has linen napkins, it doesn't have table cloths. So it's somewhere between a McDonald's and a restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel.

After my friend and I were seated, the waitress walked by our table a few times without acknowledging us. When she finally stopped at the table, I asked what the soup of the day was. Unfortunately, my question served as a distraction and stopped her from being able to deliver her standard script, "Hello, I'm (her name), and I will be your server. Can I offer you something to drink while you look at the menu?"

I ordered a cappuccino, but she said that she thought the espresso machine was not working. This seemed odd, especially since it was a sunny Sunday in Southern California, which meant that everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine. How could there not be a repair person working on the restaurant's espresso machine?

The waitress said she would check on the espresso machine and let me know. I had to stop the waitress twice as she walked by my table to inquire about the machine. No surprise, it was not working. As the customer, though, I should not have had to ask for this information. The right thing to do in this instance was to apologize on behalf of the restaurant for a non-functioning espresso machine and then offer something comparable to drink. Perhaps, she could have said, "We've got these delicious fruit smoothies, we'll provide one on the house if you'd like to try one." But the server didn't think outside the box at all.

And this was not the end of my poor customer experience. The food was delivered, but I had asked for butter and jelly to accompany my English muffin when I ordered - not a crazy request. No butter and jelly arrived with my scrambled eggs. I asked the person who delivered the food. A minute passed. Then another, and another, and finally my eggs were gone. The English muffin remained and was now cold. Since no one ever returned to the table, I walked over to the food prep area and requested butter and jelly. When the waitress finally returned to the table, she said, "I have other tables you know."

While everyone has a bad day now and then, when you work with people - and depend on people for your business in the hospitality industry - you cannot afford to treat customers rudely. It will come as no surprise that I spoke to the manager following this experience. He agreed that the level of service was sub-par, and he paid for my meal and my friend's meal. But, as many of us in the customer experience marketing sector say on a regular basis, I would be much happier to pay for a meal that accompanies quality service than receive a free meal as a result of an awful experience. How about you? And as you can imagine, this restaurant has lost a customer.

Friday, April 1, 2016

When Creating a Product Name, ONE WORD Can Make a Difference

On International Women’s Day in March 2016, a famous company known around the world for one of its products became THE NEWS as a result of a new product launch announced earlier this year. The company is Mattel, the product known around the world is Barbie – and the new product’s name is “Interim CEO Barbie.” From a marketing perspective, why would a company made famous by its adult woman doll launch a professional businesswoman doll and add the word “Interim?” This product name seems rather odd.

Before we analyze the reasons for this move, we need to take a walk back through history. In 1945, Ruth and Elliot Handler started their company, Mattel, combining Elliot's name with the last name of their partner, Harold Matson. In 1956, the Handlers took their two teenage children, Barbara and Ken, on a trip to Europe, and during the trip, they saw a doll that looked like an adult woman. This doll was much different from the baby dolls that most little girls played with back in America.

Ruth was inspired, and three years later, Mattel’s version of the adult doll, which she named after her daughter, debuted and became a big success. The Barbie doll also had a wardrobe of outfits that could be purchased separately. In 1960, the Handlers took Mattel public, and Barbie quickly became an icon, with a wardrobe and career options that mirrored women’s changing goals.

Ruth Handler said in a 1977 interview with The New York Times, “Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future. If she was going to do role-playing of what she would be like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll that had a flat chest. So I gave the doll beautiful breasts. And Barbie kept pace with the times. During Camelot, she sported a Jacqueline Kennedy hairdo. During the 1970’s, her career choices and outfits begin to change to include a doctor, astronaut and veterinarian, among others. My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, a girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”

According to the BBC News, “Barbie was one of the first toys to have a marketing strategy based extensively on television advertising, which has been copied widely by other toys. It is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries, with Mattel claiming that three Barbie dolls are sold every second.”

So, with all the emphasis on career options and women’s choices, why would Mattel create a new Barbie with the name of INTERIM CEO? According to Heidrick and Struggles, a recruiting firm, women now hold 20 percent of corporate board seats among Fortune 500 companies, up from 19 percent in 2013 and 17 percent in 2009. If those numbers are correct, it will take 28 years before women comprise 50 percent of corporate board seats. While the percentage of female Fortune 500 board leaders is still staggeringly low, it's nearly twice that of female CEOs, who make up just 4.6 percent of those companies (as of June 29, 2015).

Back to Mattel’s decision for this new doll’s name. Who wants to grow up to become an INTERIM CEO? How does that title motivate a young girl or teenager who sees the new doll on the Target or Walmart shelf or on More importantly, how would a parent explain the title to his or her child so that the child understands this individual’s role and value in a business? Above all, why would a young adult want to grow up and become an INTERIM CEO?

Renee Chanon, former President of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles and a retired public affairs consultant, explained, “Mattel may want us to believe that the new Barbie is empowering girls, but it’s really telling them to settle for second best.”

But wait a minute! Have you checked your calendar today? Yes, that’s right, it’s April 1st, and that means it’s April Fool’s Day. So, if you had doubts that this story about a new doll from Mattel with the name “Interim CEO” was fake, you would be correct. While Barbie has been a football coach, dentist, yoga teacher, veterinarian, United States Air Force jet pilot, UNICEF summit diplomat, firefighter, police officer, architect, chef, astronaut, architect, film director, and ballerina, she has never been an “Interim CEO.”

However, on March 8, 2016, this story was reported in the Los Angeles media by a well known and very respected business reporter. After learning that this story was fake, I reached out to the reporter, the radio station’s news desk, and Mattel. Unfortunately, I did not receive any email or letter from the reporter, the radio station, nor Mattel – and I sent a letter to the CEO, the President, and the media inquiry office.

This Barbie story caused me to reflect how businesses respond to crisis communications. Do most businesses have crisis communications plans in place? Do they respond in social media? Or do they disappear under a rock with the hope that a bad news story quickly disappears? Certainly, a bigger news story will push fake stories away from reporters’ desks, such as, international terror attacks or plane crashes, but reporters should take ownership for their goofs and admit when they get a story wrong.

Reporters are brands – just as products and services are brands – and they must realize that their reports are representations of their personal brands. So the next time I hear a report that sounds odd, I probably won’t even question it, but will instead, go with my gut and know it’s too odd to be true. If I had been able to discuss this story with Ruth Handler, she would have known immediately that the Los Angeles reporter had been wrong – because of one word in the product’s name!

Original Report:   

Obituary of Ruth Handler in The New York Times:

List of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies 

Image Credit: Photo of Dr. Barbie by Debbie Laskey.