Thursday, April 15, 2021

Tips for Excellent Customer Experiences, Interactions & Feedback


When I have either positive or negative customer experiences, I often hear someone’s voice in my ear. This person talks and writes about customer touch points, customer journey maps, and customer experience (CX) marketing. Since I’m always in the mood to discuss customer experiences and ways for brands to improve the way they treat their customers, fans, and stakeholders, it’s always a good time for my friend and CX promoter Annette Franz to appear here on my Blog.

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, keynote speaker, and author. With almost 30 years in the customer experience profession, Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She started her career at J.D. Power and Associates and spent much of the next 25 years before founding CX Journey Inc. leading consulting services for the major voice of the customer (VOC) platforms, helping clients in a variety of industries. She has also worked on client-side CX strategy for Mattel, Fidelity Investments, and Compellon. You can find Annette online at her website at, on Twitter @CXJourney and @AnnetteFranz, and on LinkedIn at

QUESTION: Since March 2020, which brands have stood out by providing excellent customer service during the covid pandemic?

ANNETTE FRANZ: Oddly enough, the first brand that comes to mind is Delta Airlines, and I haven’t flown since March 2020, but they were the last airline I flew. The brands that have won during the pandemic have done what Delta does and has always done: people first, timely and relevant communication, and doing what’s right.

Delta was one of the first airlines to show (not just say) how they were cleaning their planes, and they are one of the only airlines that still keep the middle seat empty in a three-seat row and the aisle seat empty in planes with no middle seat. They’re still allowing passengers to change or cancel flights without a fee. And they are one of a few airlines who offer at-home covid tests to help passengers comply with requirements of proof of a negative test. They also provide passengers with a care kit that includes a mask and hand sanitizer.

Their communications are always informative and on point; updates about travel requirements, their policies, how they’re keeping passengers and employees safe, and more, are always well- received.

QUESTION: Which social platform is the best tool for creating a positive customer experience, and why? If different, which platform is the most effective for addressing customer complaints or issues in a timely manner, and why?

ANNETTE FRANZ: I’m not sold on the fact that social media (most probably think of Twitter for this) is a tool for creating a positive customer experience. Yes, it’s a communication medium, and that’s it. Otherwise, customers tend to use it as a last resort to get a brand’s attention (and everyone else’s).

Here’s what creates a great experience: take the time to listen to your customers; understand who they are as well as their needs, pain points, and problems to solve; and learn how well you’re helping them and meeting their expectations today – then take all of that and design an experience that meets their needs. A positive experience is deliberately designed to be that way. Once people are on social media to talk to a brand, it’s too late; something has already gone wrong, most of the time.

TWEET THIS: Once people are on social media to talk to a brand, it’s too late. Something has already gone wrong. –@AnnetteFranz #CX #brandexperience

QUESTION: What three things must a brand do to create a consistently exceptional customer experience?

ANNETTE FRANZ: They’ve got to ensure that the foundation is in place within their organizations to do that, so they’ve got to ensure that the culture is customer-centric. That only happens when there’s a commitment from – and alignment across – the executive team. So, number one is culture and leadership.

If customers are first, employees are more first. Brands must focus on employees and take care of them, since the employee experience drives the customer experience. Happy employees are creative, innovative, and productive, and that bleeds into the experience that customers have.

And finally, customer understanding. It’s the cornerstone of customer-centricity. It’s all about taking the time to get into your customers’ hearts and minds to learn more about them, their needs, their pain points, and the problems they are trying to solve.

QUESTION: Bill Gates has a famous quote, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” What does that quote mean to you?

ANNETTE FRANZ: Unhappy customers share feedback about their experiences. Brands must listen and take to heart what they hear. They need to fix it. Unhappy customers share this feedback because they want brands to succeed, and with that success must come a better experience, or they’ll walk. Feedback really is the greatest gift that a brand can get.

TWEET THIS: Feedback really is the greatest gift that a brand can get. –@AnnetteFranz #CX #brandexperience

QUESTION: Jeff Bezos has a famous quote, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” What does that quote mean to you?

ANNETTE FRANZ: I’ll quote the closing paragraph of my book to answer this question. The last chapter is an open letter to CEOs. It closes like this:

I've got news for you, and it's really the bottom line: It's all about the customer! It's all for the customer. Everything you do. Everything you create. Every process. Every product or service. If you don't infuse the customer into your business and into everything you do, then I don't know why you're in business. It's not to maximize shareholder value. That's an outcome. But the means to get there is to relentlessly focus on the customer, day in and day out. When a great experience with your company becomes the customer's new normal, everyone, including your shareholders, will be happy. If you need a little reality check, pause for a moment, and imagine your business with no customers.

QUESTION: Which five customer experience books should everyone read while staying safe inside during the pandemic?

ANNETTE FRANZ: Well, of course, it goes without saying that one of those books has to be mine, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business). Others that I would recommend include Hal Rosentbluth’s The Customer Comes Second; Bob Chapman’s Everybody Matters; Dave Gray’s Gamestorming; and an oldie but goodie: Heskett & Sasser’s The Service Profit Chain.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite brand, and does customer experience make it stand out?

ANNETTE FRANZ: One of my favorite brands is Starbucks. The experience really is what makes it stand out. Every interaction, every channel – it’s just easy. The baristas are always friendly, cheerful, patient, and happy to help. The product and the selection are good. It’s an all-around “this is how it should be done” type of brand.

My thanks to Annette for appearing here on my Blog and for sharing useful take-aways for all brands to improve their customer experiences.

Check out Annette’s Previous Appearances on my Blog:

Fall Back to Reading with 12 Thought-Provoking Business Books - Including a Review of Annette's Book

Sharing Secrets about Customer Experience Marketing

Customer Service Is Not Something to Drive Around

Image Credit:

Monday, April 12, 2021

How Can Leaders Become Architects of Unbeatable Brands?

Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing leadership experts. One of these experts is Julie Winkle Giulioni, who I met several years ago after I read her book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go. We recently had a discussion about leadership and its connection to the employee experience and the overall brand experience. Highlights of our conversation follow Julie's introduction.

Julie Winkle Giulioni is a guardian of growth, defender of development, and promoter of potential in today’s workplace. She’s the co-author of the international bestseller, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 speakers, Julie offers memorable and actionable live and virtual keynotes and presentations and is a regular contributor to numerous business publications and is working on her second book (to be released in 2022 by ATD Press.) Visit her website at and her LinkedIn profile at, and connect on Twitter at @Julie_WG.

QUESTION: What traits are most important to be a good leader, and why?
JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: Here are six traits:
(1) Humility: The most effective leaders I know are the most humble. They don’t demonstrate bravado, or demand attention, or insist upon being the smartest person in the room. They value, appreciate and spotlight the gifts of others, allowing the team to get the credit and shine.
(2) Emotional intelligence: Leadership is built upon a foundation of relationships. The ability to practice self- and other- awareness, navigate the emotional contours of the workplace, and demonstrate empathy are core competencies.
(3) Perspective: In today’s world where long-term might be next quarter or even next week, it’s easy to get caught up sort-term thinking. But highly effective leaders can hold a bigger picture view which allows them to
(4) Understand how today’s mistakes (when we learn from them) can produce tomorrow’s results.
(5) View relationships as a longer-term strategy – and invest in them accordingly.
(6) Practice patience, knowing that some things simply take time.

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?
JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: This is a very timely question. My team and I are working on a training project for a client. It’s focused on the skills needed within the organization to elevate the customer experience. Someone recently asked me, ‘I thought you were all about leadership… so why would you take on a project like this?’ The is a very thin line between the customer experience and the employee experience. When employees are respected, motivated, and satisfied, they engage with customers in a way that leaves them feeling respected, motivated, and satisfied – which leads to loyalty. Executive leaders who understand this – and who prioritize an exceptional employee experience – become the architects of an unbeatable brand.

TWEET THIS: Executive leaders who prioritize an exceptional employee experience become the architects of an unbeatable brand. –@Julie_WG #HelpThemGrowOrWatchThemGo #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: In a post on my Blog, I shared six amazing brand experiences. Do you have any to add?

(Blog post referenced: Want Your Brand to Soar Above the Competition? Learn from 6 Amazing #BrandExperiences

JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: Here’s one: Imperfect Foods. Who wouldn’t resonate with the mission of reducing food waste? This organization has found a way to make sure of overages and ugly produce with weekly home deliveries. During the height of the pandemic, they not only figured out how to continue to predictably serve a growing customer base… they expanded into more items, reducing the need for traditional grocery shopping at a time when this was challenging for many. Their marketing is fun, friendly, and genuinely helpful with a bit of a Trader Joe’s vibe. I love the routine reporting in which they calculate how my purchases have made a difference in terms of carbon, water use, and waste. And if there’s ever an issue, it’s immediately and effortlessly addressed. All of which make Imperfect Foods a pretty perfect brand in my book.

QUESTION: In one of your posts on your Blog, you wrote about employee resignation. "Given the investment made in employee development, many leaders are beginning to re-think how they help people exit. A warmer departure, friendlier handshake, and positive post-exit contact builds a better employment brand/employer brand. But it also leaves the door open for good talent to return." How can employers understand that having an exit strategy should be part of the onboarding process and that employer branding is important?

(Blog post referenced: Rethinking Your Response When an Employee Resigns

JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: Increasingly, there an understanding that we must attend to and be intentional around the entire employee lifecycle. Employee expectations are high; and competition for top talent is always fierce. So, structuring the relationship from day one based upon transparency, respect, clarity, candid communication, and growth creates an employee experience that encourages retention, distinguishes an employment brand, and establishes a network of alumni (employees who left but who take with them positive feelings.) And the possibilities associated with that are enormous.

Here are three take-aways for employers:
(1) Get to know employees – really know them. Understand their motivation, aspirations, and what really matters to them. This is the only way to ensure an experience that will engage and retain them.
(2) Make a commitment to ongoing learning and development. ‘Lack of growth’ is the #1 reason employees give for leaving a role or organization. Take that reason off the table by ensuring that learning is ever-present. This doesn’t require workshops or courses (although they’re good too). Some of the most relevant and powerful development comes from in-role challenges, assignments, and activities.
(3) Offer meaningful work. People want to feel like they are making a contribution and a difference.  Even mundane tasks can be infused with a sense of purpose when you take the time to help employees understand how their work connects with the customer, mission, and big picture.

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that mean to you? 

JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI: That’s a great line. And it relates back to an earlier answer. The most effective leaders I know are the ones who enable excellence. Sometimes, that looks like blocking and tackling. Other times, it means standing back while others step forward. But in all cases, the team’s win is a leader’s greatest success.

TWEET THIS: The team’s win is a leader’s greatest success. –@Julie_WG #HelpThemGrowOrWatchThemGo #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

My gratitude and appreciation to Julie for sharing her inspiring perspective about leadership and its impact on the employee experience. 

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Leaders: Do You Have Different Skill Sets Than Your Team?


Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing and inspiring leadership and marketing experts. A new connection with a shared passion for leadership from New York is Coach Jim Johnson, and I'm thrilled to welcome him to my blog in a Q&A. Jim’s website is; and his handles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are @coachjimjohnson. Highlights of our conversation about leadership follow a brief introduction.

Based on what transpired in a few short moments in early 2006, Coach Jim Johnson is now an authority on the subject of realizing your dreams. In his many public-speaking appearances, the New York resident relates his role in a basketball game that got Hollywood calling. He also emphasizes the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship, delivering his talks with a heartfelt style that has brought audiences to their feet.

Coach Johnson has developed winning high-school basketball teams for 30 years, taking over three losing varsity programs and turning them into winners in short periods of time. Of his 407 career victories, one in particular will surely never be duplicated. On Feb. 15, 2006, Coach Johnson made the kindhearted gesture of inserting his autistic manager, Jason McElwain, now known to the world as J-Mac into Greece Athena High School’s final home game, which the Trojans won 79-43. J-Mac scored 20 points in just over four minutes, including six three-point baskets, to become an instant national celebrity. Coach Johnson, also, was featured in major news outlets around the country.

QUESTION: What three traits are most important to be a good leader, and why? 

COACH JIM JOHNSON: Here are my three:
(1) Know your who and why. Effective leaders know who they are and their why. They are clear about their personal mission statement and live it consistently. My personal mission is: To be an outstanding role model who makes a positive difference in the world by helping others make their dreams come true. People will follow leaders that have clarity of their personal mission and live it consistently.

(2) Great leaders build trust with their team. I believe effective leaders have a plan on how to build trust with their team members. In our trust plan: the leader must tell the truth, be authentic and admit when they are wrong, and consistently catch team members doing things right and praising them.

(3) Good leaders are servant leaders. They lead by example, consistently growing themselves and serving their team by developing team members to become great leaders.

TWEET THIS: People will follow leaders that have clarity of their personal mission and live it consistently. –@coachjimjohnson #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: How can a President/CEO become an organization's number one brand ambassador?

COACH JIM JOHNSON: To be the number one brand ambassador: the leader must share the team mission consistently. The leader must consistently live the mission and communicate clearly and often to his/her team members so they know the mission and buy into it.

QUESTION: I love your list of what to tell your younger self. Your advice included: hire coaches, regularly meet with like-minded people, find your "Why" right now, develop a personal financial plan, adopt a cause, develop a service mindset, and educate yourself for your family's interests and hobbies. Which of these do you consider to be the most important, and why?

(Here’s the blog title and link: What Would I Tell My Younger Self?  

COACH JIM JOHNSON: What I believe is most important is to continue to grow and improve yourself so that you can effectively serve other people well. (Effective leaders have an intentional personal growth plan.) My personal growth plan is to feed my mind through various ways for at least 70 minutes each day. A few examples: I read for at least 15-30 minutes every day (My goal is to read a book per week), listen to audio programs when I drive and go for a walk, attend conferences, and be part of mastermind groups.

QUESTION: You wrote an excellent post about leading during times of crisis (something every leader should read during the Covid-19 pandemic). Of the many pieces of advice you included, which do you consider the most important, and why?

(Here’s the blog title and link: During a Crisis, Leaders Need to Step Up

COACH JIM JOHNSON: I believe the most important advice during a time of crisis is that you must be authentic, so you keep the trust high among your team. Your team will suffer if trust fades.

QUESTION: You wrote about an interesting role with the title of a Chief Reminding Officer (CRO). Can you elaborate on the importance of this role?

(Here’s the blog title and link: Do Your Team Members Know Where They Stand?

COACH JIM JOHNSON: Outstanding leaders are great communicators. They are consistently reminding their team members about the mission and their core values. Great leaders also are terrific listeners. They are curious and ask many questions of their team. As Ken Blanchard said: Feedback is the breakfast of champions. I would also include lunch and dinner!

QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does that mean to you?

COACH JIM JOHNSON: Effective leaders hire team members that are smarter and have different skill sets from the leader. Great leaders build trust with their team and learn from their team. They empower their team members to excel in their roles without micromanaging.

TWEET THIS: Effective leaders hire team members that are smarter and have different skill sets from the leader. –@coachjimjohnson #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

My gratitude and appreciation to Jim for sharing his inspiring perspective about leadership and the employee experience.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Does Your Brand Recognize April Fool’s Day?


While you never want to speak condescendingly to your customers, stakeholders, and fans in marketing campaigns or advertising, April Fool’s Day presents a unique marketing opportunity to have some unexpected fun.

Think back to the early morning of April first of the year 2010. Search engine giant Google replaced its multi-colored “Google” logo on its homepage with the word “Topeka” of Topeka, Kansas fame.

On that day, instead of saying “Google It” in order to search for desired information, users were forced to say “Topeka It.” Upon first glance, users were stunned, but they soon realized that the change was a joke – once they remembered what the date was: April Fool’s Day!

In case you forget the details surrounding that incident, the Kansas capital city unofficially changed its name to Google as part of an effort to convince the search engine giant to select it as a test site for its planned super-fast, fiber-optic network.

So, what about your brand? Does your brand name have a similar sounding food, vegetable, fruit, dessert, bug, city, or another word that you could add to a clever marketing campaign to surprise your customers on April Fool’s Day?

Is there a restaurant or retail or digital storefront that presents a compelling partnership opportunity for April Fool’s Day?

Is there a sports team that shares the same mascot or animal as your brand that you could integrate into your marketing on April Fool’s Day?

Whatever you do, don’t let April Fool’s Day pass by without creating a clever marketing campaign. Especially during the current covid era, a little brand humor can go a long way – and may even be remembered for many years just like the Google-Topeka joke.

Image Credit: Keep Calm app.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Tips to Become the Type of Leader People Respect


Over the last decade, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing leadership experts. One of these experts is Liz Weber, who I met on Twitter in 2011. We recently had a discussion about leadership, and highlights follow below Liz's bio.

Liz was named a Top HR Influencer to Watch in 2020 by both BambooHR and HR Exchange Network, and was included in Engagedly’s Top 100 HR Influencers of 2020. She provides strategic and succession planning, executive coaching, and leadership development programs to leadership teams and boards of directors. She is one of fewer than 100 people in the U.S. to hold the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designations; the highest earned designations in two different professions. Liz has consulted in over 20 countries, supervised business activities in 129 countries, and has written nine books.

QUESTION: Back in 2011, I was inspired by your book Something Needs to Change Around Here: The Five Stages to Leveraging Your Leadership. My take-away nearly ten years ago - and still recalled today due to its relevancy - was this quote: “Being a manager or a leader is a privilege. It’s an honor to have others respect your abilities enough to allow you to lead them. It’s an honor to have others trust you to guide them and support them as you work together.” What does this quote mean to you today?
LIZ WEBER: It's still a privilege and an honor to manage or lead others. However, that privilege doesn't mean you automatically have their respect. Now more than ever, simply having the title isn't enough. And it shouldn't be enough. Now our team members expect us to have the expertise to have earned and to hold the job and title. They expect us to not just 'show up' but to 'be there' and focus on them, their pressures, needs, and roadblocks, and anticipate what's coming next so we can clear a path for them. Now more than ever, our teams expect more of us, and they should.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Now, more than ever, our teams expect more of us (leaders), and they should. ~@LizWeberCMC #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: What three traits define a good leader?
LIZ WEBER: There are many, but the immediate three I think of given the times we're in are:
(1) Can articulate and maintain a clear purpose.
(2) Focuses on and strengthens the team.
(3) Refines the path forward.

To clarify further:
(1) Can articulate and maintain a clear purpose: With so many businesses struggling for survival, leaders who are able to clarify, articulate, and maintain a clear focus on what core service(s) or product(s) they can best provide now and in the near term, are able to keep their businesses from crashing and burning, or they are able to help their businesses rise like phoenixes from the ashes with revised products or delivery models. We've seen this with the many restaurant, food service, and other hospitality-industry businesses that have been able to survive, if not thrive by moving to creative delivery models, changing products, or redefining space utilization. Also, for those businesses that have experienced no or positive impacts because of COVID, articulating a clear purpose has helped keep overworked teams focused and performing their best. Our healthcare, grocery store, transportation/delivery, and other essential services industries have proven this time and again this past year. Leaders need to remind every team member why they're doing what they're doing and the difference each team member makes every day. Every person matters and the work they do is important and needed now.

(2) Focuses on and strengthens the team: I saw this firsthand last year when the lock downs started. My clients who were actively reaching out to their employees - individually - every few days, then acknowledged and acted upon the stresses work-from-home created for many team members, experienced far fewer intra and inter-team clashes as the new virtual or hybrid work format took hold. Other leaders who didn't actively engage with their teams couldn't keep a pulse-check on stress levels, performance challenges, or home/work scheduling clashes. As a result, they experienced elevated team clashes and performance glitches as the months ground on. Those leaders who chose to spend the time, and the dollars when needed, to ensure they could connect via video with their team members saw greater team commitment and loyalty. Those who didn't invest the time or money, didn't. It's not surprising. What would you think of your employer if they wouldn't spend $50 to buy an external camera for your laptop so you could be seen on screen during team meetings?

(3) Refines the path forward: In typical strategic planning, no one could ever predict exactly what the future would hold. However, we typically didn't have to plan for a pandemic limiting the way our workforce worked, how our customers bought products, racial injustice, or a potential economic or political collapse. We typically worried most about shifting customer desires and our competitors' actions. Ah, the good old days. Things have changed to say the least. Because of that, most strategic plans were tossed out the window with new plans focused on the next 12 to 18 months. Priorities have shifted and rightfully so. Strong leaders now need to clarify and communicate the new priorities and outline how they help keep the purpose in play.

QUESTION: How do you recommend people who aren’t in a leadership position, or don’t have a leadership title, make a difference?
LIZ WEBER: I've said for years, 'Management is a position; leadership is a mindset.' You do not need to be in a management position or have a specific title to be a leader. You simply need to have the courage to take on responsibilities, try things you've never done, admit when you're wrong, try again, and communicate with those who need to know and can help you achieve the results desired. Leaders are deemed leaders by others. They are deemed leaders when they get things done and those with whom they've worked want to work with them again and again.

SHARE ON TWITTER: Leaders are deemed leaders by others. ~@LizWeberCMC #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding

QUESTION: What is one mistake you find that leaders make the most often?
LIZ WEBER: Leaders who face unexpected team failures do so because the leader has typically done a poor job articulating what the expected outcome needed to be. They didn't state the vision, goal, deliverable, objective or whatever you want to call it clearly. Because of this, the team guessed, and they guessed incorrectly. As a result, the team, customers, stakeholders, or others were negatively impacted. All because of a lack of leadership clarity and poor communication.

QUESTION: What is our least favorite leadership buzzword, and why?
LIZ WEBER: Mindfulness. It just doesn't resonate with me. I prefer simple 'Meditation.'

QUESTION: One of Walt Disney’s leadership tips was, “Never stop asking questions.” What are your three timeless leadership tips?
LIZ WEBER: Here are my three:
(1) Follow through and do what you say you were going to do.
(2) Have the courage to do what others know they should do but don't.
(3) Be the type of leader you would want to work with and learn from.

My gratitude and appreciation to Liz for appearing on my Blog and for sharing her inspiring leadership insights!

Review of Liz's book on @NewParadigmer Blog referenced in Question #1 above:

Learn more about Liz and connect with her on the following social platforms:
Twitter: @LizWeberCMC
Facebook: /LizWeberCMC

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey featuring Liz Weber's quote.

Monday, March 8, 2021

In Celebration of International Women’s Day


Today is a special day. On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day around the world. 

According to the United Nations, “Women of the world want and deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes and violence, a future that’s sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights, and opportunities for all. To get there, the world needs women at every table where decisions are being made.”

International Women’s Day grew out of the labor moment to become a recognized annual day by the United Nations. The seeds were planted in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, better pay, and the right to vote. 

The idea for the day to become internationally recognized was suggested in 1910 by Clara Zetkin. First celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, the United Nations made the day official in 1975. Each year, the President of the United States issues an official proclamation.

To quote Sheryl Sandberg, “We stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us, women who had to fight for the rights that we now take for granted.”

From President Joe Biden's Proclamation dated March 1, 2021, “During Women’s History Month, let us honor the accomplished and visionary women who have helped build our country, including those whose contributions have not been adequately recognized and celebrated. And let us pay tribute to the trailblazers from the recent and distant past for daring to envision a future for which no past precedent existed, and for building a Nation of endless possibilities for all of its women and girls.”

I wish to recognize my great-grandmother on this important day. Bertie Green was a civic leader and philanthropist in New York. She was married for 47 years, raised two children, and enjoyed the antics of her four granddaughters.

But what stands out as inspiring today is that she was an active member of the women’s suffrage movement in the years leading up to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. She was also a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization.

Many people are afraid to speak up and take a stand in today’s era, so this type of bold action a little over a century ago is incredibly impressive. So, today, on International Women’s Day, I applaud my great-grandmother and thank her and those she marched with to make today a little bit easier for women to stand up and make their voices heard.


Read President Joe Biden’s Proclamation in full:

Read “2020 Was the Year of Women!”

Read “That’s What She Said: Wise Words from Influential Women” by Kimothy Joy

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey and UN Women.

Friday, March 5, 2021

How Important Is Brand Storytelling?


Last year while the covid pandemic raged, there were other raging fires. The #BlackLivesMatter movement took to the streets to start a dialogue that will not easily be resolved overnight. Thankfully, many brands took notice.

Some brands with lengthy histories had names, product imagery, and taglines that reflected different eras. It was definitely time to change.

The most recent brand that listened to current events and made a change is Quaker Oats. Its “Aunt Jemima” product line of pancake mixes and syrups presented a racist stereotype on its packaging.

According to CNN, “The name Aunt Jemima long criticized as a racist caricature of a Black woman stemming from slavery, will be replaced with the Pearl Milling Company name and logo on the former brand’s new packaging, according to the parent company PepsiCo.”

According to PepsiCo, “The Pearl Milling Company was the 19th century business that created the original ready-made pancake mix. It was founded in 1888 by Chris L. Rutt. He named the original company after “Old Aunt Jemima,” an 1875 song from a minstral show that featured performers in blackface who wore aprons and bandana headbands. The new Pearl Milling Company brand logo replaces the Aunt Jemima image with what appears to be a 19th century watermill, where flour was ground at the time. The new logo’s red, white, and yellow color scheme matches the colors that were used on Aunt Jemima’s packaging.”

According to Laura Holloway, Founder and Chief of The Storyteller Agency, “Storytelling is our obligation to the next generation. If all we are doing is marketing, we are doing a disservice, and not only to our profession, but to our children, and their children. Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling.”

While brand history is important, brand legacies and cultural sensitivity are also critical to long-term brand success. The brands that listen to cultural shifts and integrate those shifts into their storytelling are the ones that will survive.

TWEET THIS: Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling. ~@StorytellerAgcy #brandtip #brandstorytelling

Image Credit: Quaker Oats/PepsiCo.