Monday, June 20, 2022

A Tale of Marketing, Storytelling, and Community


To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for almost 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Christine Johnson and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Christine is a strategist who helps young marketers get comfortable promoting themselves by creating marketing portfolios that supercharge their careers. As a marketing leader, she's rebranded companies, launched new SaaS products, written sales copy, and developed long-term strategies. She loves sharing insights that help people open new doors and showcase who they are.  

QUESTION: In your pinned Tweet on Twitter, you provide a great thread of nine things to include in a marketing portfolio. Can you provide a quick recap?

(Check out the full thread on Twitter:

CHRISTINE JOHNSON: In 2015, I met someone during a layover at an airport and was offered a job at a marketing agency because I had a marketing portfolio published/ready to go. Early in my career, building my portfolio was really difficult because I didn't know how to position myself or my accomplishments. There were no guides to help me navigate. Flash forward a few years/career moves, and I'm now confident on what I need to showcase for clients to want to hire me.

In early 2021 (with an audience of 500-ish), I shared a Twitter thread with tips on what to include in a marketing portfolio and realized that other people are struggling with the same problems I struggled with (this thread has been viewed 250k+ times). I want to be able to offer them support/guidance on how to create a great portfolio to make it easier to land an interview and find new clients because this is an industry-wide problem that both hiring managers and celebrities struggle with.
We're all taught to keep a win folder, but no one is really taught WHY they need to continue to build their portfolio. I see this as an industry gap and want to help change things so that it's easier for people to find their next opportunity.

QUESTION: What exactly is a WIN FOLDER?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: A win folder is where you keep emails or snippets of work that showcase success from your projects. This could be a nice accolade from a client or someone in a different department. Or, it could be a screenshot of analytics data that shows what kind of results you generated (page views from Google analytics, click-through data from Twitter analytics, etc.). It's nice if you have something visual, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a piece of creative such as a graphic, video, poster, etc.

You want to keep this current and continue to look for things to add to it over time (you're trying to showcase your own growth.) Having this info on hand can help leverage new positions or brighten a bad day.
To create a folder for your wins, start by going through your inbox and message history (anywhere you can find notes/feedback on your work), and take screenshots. Write down any compliments you remember. Go back and look through projects you are proud of. It can feel a bit intimidating to get start,ed but once you get going, it's a fun project that pushes you to reflect and think more about where you'd like to go.

QUESTION: What's your favorite aspect of marketing?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: My favorite aspect of marketing is storytelling. I love finding new ways to capture people's interests and showcase their passions.

QUESTION: What three marketing books should every marketer read, and why?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: Here are three:

(1) Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger: There's something about the storytelling that really draws me to this book over and over again. I loved reading about the restaurant in New York called 'Please Don't Tell.' I can't bring myself to find out just how much their secret location was rumor or real for customers, because I like the whimsy of the whole thing.

(2) Marketing Outrageously by Jon Spoelstra: This book was recently recommended to me by Brett Rudy (@BKRUDY on Twitter). The lessons are both memorable and simple. I'm not a sports marketing guy, but I can't stop thinking about how the author gave out jock straps as part of a guerilla marketing campaign and the way he shaped sports marketing in general. The lessons are great for any and all types of marketers. Even the packaging of the book stands out. I mean, how can you forget the cover when you see a sumo wrestler slam dunking a basketball mid jump?!

(3) Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead In Advertising by Thomas Kemeny: This is a copywriting book that is one part story, one part lesson, and (if you're brave enough), one part writing exercise. It pushed me to rethink how I approach writing.

QUESTION: What's your fave marketing buzzword or term, and why?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: Community. It feels like we're moving in the right direction by focusing on community and how to bring people together around a common problem/goal. The olden days of marketing, where everything was exaggerated or gimmicky, seem to be falling behind us (thankfully). I still like guerilla marketing campaigns that capture your attention, but can see that focusing on the audience and how to build a community is what will have more impact long term. The Internet is evolving (some are calling it WEB3) and that means our expectations are getting higher for when and how information is delivered to us as consumers.

TWEET THIS: Focusing on the audience and how to build a community is what will have more impact long term. ~@CJ_250marketing #MarketingTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What's THE marketing buzzword or term that annoys you the most, and why?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: Growth hack. There are no shortcuts. You have to do the work.

QUESTION: Who do you admire in the marketing arena, and why?
CHRISTINE JOHNSON: Seth Godin is a great writer and I admire that he's consistently putting out daily blog posts; and Christina Garnett revived a hashtag on Twitter, and over the past year, has helped me learn about the value of community (and how that can shape your entire marketing strategy).

My thanks to Christine for sharing her marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credits: Debbie Laskey and Twitter.

Check out Christine's links:
Article referenced in first question:

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Best Leaders Remove Roadblocks

To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for nearly 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Michelle Gibbings from Melbourne, Australia, and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Michelle Gibbings is the workplace expert. Internationally recognized, she is the award-winning author of three books and is welcomed on stages globally to help inspire leaders, teams, and organizations to create successful workplaces. Her mantra is simple: help people thrive, and progress is accelerated. Visit her website ( and connect on LinkedIn (, Instagram (@michellegibbings), and on Twitter @michellegibbing.

QUESTION: You wrote a book entitled, "Bad Boss, What to Do If You Work for One, Manage One or Are One." According to the book's description, "Regardless of your role – be it an employee, a boss or leader, the boss's boss or a leader of leaders – this award-winning book encourages you to play your part. It challenges you to examine your role in the dynamic and to own what you CAN do to make relationships work." What are the three most important take-aways from the book?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: We've all worked for a bad boss and perhaps, at times, been a bad boss. Consequently, your approach to the situation depends on your role – be it employee, boss or boss' boss. Whatever your role, the book encourages you to critically examine the context, challenge your perspective, and outline what you can do to shift the situation.

Firstly, you assess what is going on, your impact, and the potential cause. Next, you consider the options given the circumstances and your role in the relationship. After that, you implement your approach while living your values and ensuring you take care of your well-being. In the final phase, you reflect on your progress (or lack, thereof) and determine any next steps, especially if it's not going according to plan.

QUESTION: Years ago, one of my bosses told me that I should "lower my expectations" regarding the work product completed by one of the employees I supervised. How would you have responded?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: Context matters, so it's never a simple answer. There are many variables to consider. I would want to understand your team member's level of experience, capability to do the role, and aptitude to learn. Is their performance a competency or capability gap, or is it behavioral? How much time has been devoted to upskilling, and how long have they been in the role? It's also essential to challenge yourself regarding the expectations you set on performance and outcomes based on the level of resourcing in the team, other priorities and workload pressures.

All of this doesn't mean you set the bar low for your team, but it does mean you are realistic about what's possible given the context in which the team members are working. If there's a gap between your expectations and your boss' expectations about performance, I would want to understand why. If they are downgrading their expectations, what's driving that shift, and what does that mean for the team's overall performance and objectives? So, I would start by getting curious and asking lots of questions.

QUESTION: What is the most memorable thing you've learned from a boss, and how has that lesson shaped your career?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: I've been fortunate to have worked with some fantastic leaders throughout my career. One of the best bosses from early in my corporate career said to me one day: "Michelle, I get that you're ambitious and that you want to do a good job. The work's important, but no one will remember the work you did when you move on. The only thing they'll remember is how you made them feel."

Those comments shifted my focus. The more I connected with my team, the more I understood them and their needs, and vice versa. Our working relationship improved; we got more done as a team and were collectively more successful because I put them first. It was a reminder that being a great leader takes work, but above all else, it takes a desire to want to do better.

TWEET THIS: Being a great leader takes work, but above all else, it takes a desire to want to do better. ~@michellegibbing #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Which leaders (from history or business) inspire you, and why?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: I am an avid history buff, so it's challenging to narrow down to three because there is so much we learn from seeing how leaders of the past have confronted challenges and embraced opportunities. What I am often reminded of when I read biographies and autobiographies is the complexity of humans. Leaders are not one-dimensional, and some of the character traits that made them successful in a specific context also meant they were difficult to work for in a different context. On a practical level, the leaders who have most inspired me and most changed how I lead are the leaders I worked with during my career.

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 message mean to you?
MICHELLE GIBBINGS: I often say, "If you think you're the smartest person in the room, you need to find another room." My comment is about encouraging leaders to accept they don't hold the licence on being right, and it's essential to recognise the impact their positional power has on how they make decisions. While I get the intent behind the concept of 'blocking or tackling', I find the language problematic because it has undercurrents of an adversarial approach to relationship building. For me, the best leaders help their team members navigate organizational challenges and remove roadblocks. They play a crucial role in assisting their understanding of organizational power structures and help them determine the best approach to building relationships with challenging stakeholders.

TWEET THIS: The best leaders help their team members navigate organizational challenges and remove roadblocks. ~@michellegibbing #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude to Michelle for sharing her inspiring leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Pixabay via Wordswag.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

My Amazing Dinner Party of 15


With Queen Elizabeth II’s unique accomplishment of a 70-year reign and the Platinum Jubilee celebrations now a part of history, I wondered what it would be like to enjoy afternoon tea with Her Royal Highness. Then I began wondering about having dinner with her, which led me to think about the question some ask during an interview, “If you could dine with five people, who would you choose, and why?” Upon much thought, my dinner table would include 15 seats plus me, so here are the 15 people in my dinner party.

Queen Elizabeth II: No words are really needed as to why she would be a guest at my table, but I would definitely ask her about all the Prime Ministers she has worked with – especially Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. I would also ask her about her many international travels and ask which was her favorite trip during her 70-year reign.

Bertie Green: Born in the 1870’s, my great-grandmother passed away 16 years before I was born, but my middle name was given to me in her memory. In an era when women remained in the background, she was a passionate supporter for women’s equality, who, in the early years of the 20th century, fought for women’s suffrage. She met with groups of women and advocated for women’s right to vote.

Sandra Day O’Connor: As the first female Supreme Court Justice, O’Connor is a hero in the fight for equality for women. She graduated in the top ten percent in her law school class at Stanford University but was unable to be hired for any law firm job due to her gender. She found employment as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California, after she agreed to work for no salary and no office and shared space with a secretary. I was lucky to see her in person in a Q&A many years after she retired, but the ability to speak with her about her experiences on a one-on-one basis would be priceless.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: As the second female Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg was an inspiring advocate for women’s equality. While her politics were diametrically opposed to Justice O’Connor’s, the two demonstrated how two people with different perspectives could work together harmoniously. Later in life, Ginsburg became a cultural icon known simply by her initials, RBG, yet her ability to inspire never wavered.

Susan B. Anthony:
According to the National Women’s History Museum, “Champion of temperance, abolition, the rights of labor, and equal pay for equal work, Susan Brownell Anthony became one of the most visible leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. Along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she traveled around the country delivering speeches in favor of women’s suffrage…In 1872, she was arrested for voting. She was fined $100 for her “crime.” This made many people angry and brought national attention to the suffrage movement.” I would ask her to talk about her inspiration for the amazing work she did.

Eleanor Roosevelt: While she was the longest-serving first lady of the United States during her husband Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms, she was also a diplomat (appointed by President Truman to the United Nations). Beginning in 1936, she wrote a daily syndicated newspaper column called “My Day.” She was a sought-after speaker and advocated for child welfare, housing reform, and equal rights for women and racial minorities. I would ask her to talk about her inspiration for the amazing work she did.

Jackie Robinson: Since I come from a family of Dodgers fans (both Brooklyn and Los Angeles), Robinson is known as a hero for his baseball abilities as well as his off-field personality and composure. He was the first black player in major league baseball and, while the Dodgers family supported him in the late 1940’s, others in the baseball world did not. I would ask him about how the world of baseball changed from 1947 to when he retired in 1956 – as well as his thoughts about the annual Jackie Robinson Day, when all major league baseball players celebrate the date of his debut every April 15.

Shirley Chisholm: I have always held Chisholm in high regard. She was the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress and represented New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. Her quote, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” has been front and center in my life as I have taken risks, “leaned in” as Sheryl Sandberg suggests, and given 110 percent. There have been times when the risks paid off as well as times when they have not – and I would discuss both with her.

Hillary Clinton: As the first female presidential candidate for a major American political party, Clinton’s experience cannot and will not be repeated. She set the stage for all who follow – and for the woman who eventually becomes the first woman president. Since much of her experiences were documented in her book entitled, What Happened, I would ask her to pick any highlights she wished to share. My questions would follow.

Meryl Streep: Her film career has spanned decades and shows no sign of slowing down. From her depiction of a divorced mom in “Kramer vs. Kramer” to a mother with an impossible choice in “Sophie’s Choice” to a terrible boss in “The Devil Wears Prada” to famous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in “Suffragette,” Streep has demonstrated why she’s the actress every director wants. I would want to discuss these roles and more and ask which she’s enjoyed most.

Eero Saarinen: A fan of architecture, I would want to discuss some of Saarinen’s most unique works, such as, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport in New York, and Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. Saarinen’s life was cut much too short, so he did not see everything he designed come to fruition, but I would want to discuss his entire body of work with him.

Claude Monet: A fan of art, and especially Impressionist art, I would want to compliment Monet on his collection of art. I would tell him that I visited his home in Giverny in the rain but could almost see him there painting. I would also tell him that I visited many museums in France to see his work. I would want to discuss his technique and favorite pieces with him.

Barry Manilow: This singer-songwriter and entertainer has been around for decades. Sitting at a piano, he would add some music to the dinner party – all tunes that everyone would recognize and possibly sing along to. I’d want to discuss his favorite songs with him.

Lucille Ball: One of the first female comedians to make her mark in Hollywood, Lucille Ball has become an icon. Her sense of timing was flawless, and she never cared who got the laugh, as long as the audience laughed. Her show “I Love Lucy” has become timeless, as have many storylines from the show. I’d want to discuss her thoughts when the episodes featuring the little chicks and burning nose were filmed before LIVE audiences - and many more.

Walt Disney: Developer of the modern American theme park, Walt Disney branded family entertainment in a way that no one before or after has improved upon. When you walk through the entrance of a Disney park, you have a special feeling of happiness that you experience nowhere else. Sure, there are numerous other Disney creations, such as, animated cartoons, movies, retail stores, clothing, etc., but it is the theme parks that most people associate with Walt Disney. I’d want to discuss the evolution of the theme parks with him.

Would you want to be a waiter, chef, or sommelier at my dinner party? Who would you choose to dine with if you could choose anyone from history or the modern era?

Image Credit: Haley Lawrence via Unsplash.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Social Media Is a Way to Lift Up Others


To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for nearly 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Noel Davila from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A format. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Noel Dávila has been writing for online publications since 2008. Before moving over to editorial, Noel had a decade-long career in the advertising industry. Currently, Noel is finishing up work on his first novel. Visit his website at and connect on Twitter @noeldavila.

QUESTION: You describe your strengths in your Twitter bio as "copywriting, content, storytelling, and professional growth." What are your favorite things to tweet and why?
NOEL DAVILA: I love to tweet anything that will resonate with my audience. That may seem simplistic, but it’s a constant challenge. After finding my niche, I’ve stuck mostly to copywriting insights, stories from agency life, and platitudes about growth and development. Threads are also a big part of my content strategy, and they’ve served me well. I also love to include photos I’ve taken with some of my tweets; I find that adding a visual component makes the content stand out in people's timelines.

QUESTION: Your pinned tweet on Twitter is "Lift up others around you. Their success is your success." Who inspired that quote? A boss? A family member? Please elaborate on the inspiration for that amazing quote.
NOEL DAVILA: The inspiration for that thought came from legendary ad man, David Ogilvy and his quote: “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.” I feel that by helping other people, I grow in the process as well. Also, since I’ve had help from mentors through the years, it’s incumbent upon me to pay it forward.

TWEET THIS: Lift up others around you. Their success is your success. ~@noeldavila #SMTips #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What’s your favorite social platform, and why?
NOEL DAVILA: Twitter! Without a doubt. I’ve been tweeting since 2009, and during that time, I’ve made great friends on Twitter. I’ve also learned so much because the platform gives me access to some extraordinary thinkers and writers. Fortunately, I’ve been able to leverage my social media presence to further my career, so it’s been a win-win.

QUESTION: Many CEOs and leadership teams question how to track ROI when the topic of social media is raised and marketing teams pitch moving forward with the implementation of a social media marketing strategy. What social metrics do you measure - why, and how often?
NOEL DAVILA: I measure impressions and engagement. With impressions, I see how many people were exposed to my content and whether I’m leveraging the algorithm successfully to my advantage. With engagement, I can gauge the quality of the content. If the engagement rate drops off, I know that kind of content is not resonating. Once I find something that works, I double down on it. I’m still learning, so it’s essentially a work in progress.

QUESTION: Many people remember the famous OREO tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl. With that in mind, what's your favorite social campaign?
NOEL DAVILA: I’m a big fan of Apple, mostly because they’ve transcended the brand designation and become a lovemark. Also, I just love their products. With that said, I’ve always been in awe of their advertising, a lot of it spearheaded by Lee Clow. Their ‘Shot on iPhone’ campaign was beyond brilliant, mostly because it empowered consumers and gave them a sense of belonging. If you manage to do one of those things, it’s extraordinary. But to do both? That’s phenomenal advertising right there.

Read more about Lovemarks here:

My thanks to Noel for sharing his inspiring social media insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Five Personal Branding Tips from Queen Elizabeth II

As the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth countries, and the entire world celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee from June 2 to June 5, there are five personal branding tips we can all learn from Her Majesty.

First, a little context and history. According to JM Bullion, “Queen Elizabeth II was born April 21, 1926, in England. Her parents were Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. When her uncle Edward abdicated the throne, her father became King George, and Elizabeth, who had no plans of ascension, was heir to the throne. By 1951, her father’s health began a sharp decline, and in 1952, he died. On February 6, 1952, the 25-year-old Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor acceded to the throne. Her reign has become the longest reign in history, spanning two centuries, ensuring a link between generations that see her as an enduring symbol of stability and tradition.”

According to Forbes, “Under the gold and the pomp, behind the palaces, the brooches, tiaras and the hats, everyone feels that Elizabeth is a woman almost like the others, loving country life more than anything, with her old scarves, her dogs, and her family, even if a little dysfunctional. Like everyone else, she has faced ups and downs, joys, and dramas, approaching the vicissitudes with exemplary self-control. Her Platinum Jubilee celebrations will be, given her frailty, her last big show of pomp, pageantry, lavishness and ceremony.”

So, what can we learn about personal branding from, perhaps, the most famous woman on the planet? Check out these five tips.

The meaning behind the slogan is why it is loved. “Keep Calm” means to remain level-headed in times of crisis. “Carry On” means to act normal and rise above the bad times. Originally featured in posters created by the British government during World War II, the phrase has been embraced since it was rediscovered in the early 2000’s.

Queen Elizabeth maintains a confident exterior. She does not show fear or uncertainty. Wherever she goes, whether to a charity function in London or on an international journey, she presents an appearance of professionalism and dedication to her role.

The Queen leads a Commonwealth of 54 nations. She has a ceremonial seat in Parliament. She meets with the British Prime Minister on a regular basis. And she has met with countless international leaders including 12 American Presidents. She has set an exemplary example of teamwork and collaboration.

The Queen always wears bright colors and memorable hats. In this way, she stands out in a crowd. While this is done for security purposes, it also allows fans and constituents to easily see her to wave and show their support.

The Queen champions the same causes and patronages and attends the same events every year. People know that they can count on her support, her kind words, her appearances, and her in-person smiles.


The Queen knows how she wants to tell her story. Over the last 70 years, she has controlled her narrative. There have been black marks on the Royal Family including the breakup of Prince Charles’ and Prince Andrew’s marriages, but there have also been highlights, such as, four generations alive at one time representing the line of succession (Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince George). While she has a “Royal Palace” that provides statements to the press/media (and many of us do not have this public relations luxury), we can still control our own narrative.

What other personal branding tips can we learn from this inspiring leader?

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey via Keep Calm app.