John Cloonan is a marketing and branding strategist who creates measurable growth for both companies and people. He's created brand and marketing strategies for companies ranging from startups to $2B plus, and has talked about those experiences as a speaker. John's held roles as a marketing consultant, an agency owner, a corporate marketing executive, and an adjunct professor. You can follow John on Twitter at @JohnCloonan and visit his website at www.johncloonan.com.
QUESTION: On your blog, you described the difference between a boss and a leader (link provided at end of this Q&A). Can you provide some examples from your work experience?
JOHN CLOONAN: In a recent role, I was brought in to manage a team of early career professionals and to reduce turnover. A typical marketing team member on this team would stay for a year or two and then bail out for greener pastures. When I got there, the reasons became pretty clear to me why they were leaving. They were being managed, mainly because of their relative youth. They had no decision autonomy on how work would get done. The person managing them was remote and treated them like children. In fact, one of the first things I had to end was other leaders calling them "the kids."
One of the first things we did as a team when we started was figure out what goals we had to accomplish to be successful in the organization. We then determined, as a team, how we were going to accomplish those goals. I provided guidance to the goals, acted as an advocate with the rest of the leadership team, and removed roadblocks. Mainly, though, I was there with them in the trenches. As an example, we found ourselves needing to edit hundreds of job descriptions on our employment site. I sat with the team for several nights, working right alongside them. We accomplished in a week what the rest of the company thought would take forever.
In a short period, the turnover stopped. The team overcame many challenges together, and both productivity and quality increased.
TWEET THIS: A boss directs and manages the activities of a group. A leader motivates a group to a common goal. ~@JohnCloonan #LeadershipTip
QUESTION: How can leaders be educated to understand that an amazing culture will yield a positive employee experience that will ultimately spill over into a positive customer experience?
JOHN CLOONAN: Begin by explaining to leaders that HR and marketing have the same job. The only difference is segmentation. Think about it. A brand represents the promise you make to your customers, and how you fulfill that promise. Your employees are a customer segment for whom you need to provide value in order to attract and retain them. You increase your customer lifetime value by providing a positive experience. That positive experience is your culture.
Beginning with that framework makes the rest simple. If you're happy, you're more likely to provide good service to your customers. If you're delighted, you're going to be an advocate for the organization and go above and beyond to improve the overall experience.
QUESTION: As a result of the current COVID19 situation, how would you recommend that leaders connect with their employees - when most businesses are closed?
JOHN CLOONAN: Be creative. Meet your team where they are. Give them the opportunity to reach out to you in the channel they want. Also, make an effort to be where they are. If you have a team member who is active on social media, engage with them there. Comment, like, and reshare their posts. If you have team members who prefer text messages, give them your mobile number and respond there. A personal favorite of mine that tends to surprise people is the occasional handwritten note in the mail. I've had former colleagues tell me they still have notes from me from years ago. Don't assume that everyone wants an online video call.
No matter what channel you choose, what you have to do is connect regularly, and continue to motivate and advocate.
QUESTION: As a result of the current COVID19 situation, how would you recommend that brands communicate with their customers and fans - when most businesses are closed?
JOHN CLOONAN: If you have customers and fans, you should already be communicating to them in a preferred set of channels beyond in-person interfaces. What changes is the message. My personal belief is that the only acceptable messages right now are "How can we help you through this?" and "Here are ways we are trying to help. Is this valuable to you?"
Notice that both of these are questions. Spend a lot of time listening. Find out what your customers and fans need or want from you right now and figure out how to deliver it.
TWEET THIS: During #COVID19, brands need to spend a lot of time listening. ~@JohnCloonan #BrandTip #BrandExperience
QUESTION: What is your favorite brand, and why?
JOHN CLOONAN: I always struggle with this question. I'm not terribly brand loyal, in fact, I'm more brand DISLOYAL - as in there are certain brands I know I'll never use. If I had to pick one, though, I'd have to say Southwest Airlines. I make a point of always flying with them, which is almost anathema here in Atlanta. I've never had a truly awful experience with them, as I have with a couple other of the major airlines.
My gratitude and appreciation to John for appearing on my Blog and for sharing his inspiring insights.
Link to John's blog post referenced in first question:
"Boss vs. Leader"
Image Credit: Medium.