Monday, November 28, 2022

Digital Engagement Tips to Attract Customers and Fans

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 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently re-connected with Susan Friesen from British Columbia, Canada, and invited her to appear a second time here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about digital marketing and engagement. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Susan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media. In her capacity in that role, she recognizes that many business owners waste too much valuable time, money, and energy either hiring the wrong people to do their website and online marketing or trying to do it all themselves...and getting nowhere as a result. When working with clients, she has a proven, personalized, multi-pronged strategy that covers all of the critical aspects that must be done correctly to avoid these costly lessons. Susan can be found online at; on Instagram at; on Facebook at; and on Twitter @eVisionMedia.

QUESTION: What is your favorite marketing buzzword, and why?

SUSAN FRIESEN: Right now it's brand positioning. Positioning a business brand in the marketplace is increasingly becoming an absolute necessity. The competition is fierce and the best way to be "The" choice is to work hard at creating a positive and memorable brand.

QUESTION: What marketing buzzword do you find most annoying, and why?

SUSAN FRIESEN: I'd have to say guerilla marketing. It's just so 2000. The old model of push marketing is long dead, but a lot of "Gurus" still preach it. Yes, there could be some immediate results, but it's not a sustainable business model and leaves an overall negative impression, especially when done badly.

QUESTION: One way to continue engagement with customers and fans is email marketing. How do you do this successfully, and what are some e-newsletter tips?

SUSAN FRIESEN: For the past several years, we have consistently sent out a value-based newsletter every Thursday. Without exception! And it's paid off in spades. Our newsletters include a new blog article written specifically for our target audience (Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners) that they find relevant and informative on their business-building journey. As a result, we have a very low unsubscribe rate.

But not only that, we stay top of mind with our existing clients who often are reminded of an update or promotion they need to do and reach out to have us take care of it. We also get new clients who may have been on our list for years and are ready to have us help them. My biggest tips are to be consistent with weekly send outs and make content about your reader and provide value. Don't make it a sales pitch!

TWEET THIS: Make content about your reader and provide value. ~@eVisionMedia #MarketingTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What are some websites you admire, and why?

SUSAN FRIESEN: Ours of course! ( Aside from that, I enjoy and the mission they are on to make the world a better place, one human at a time.

In my line of work, I come across hundreds of sites, and sadly, way too many are not designed or built in a way that positions them favourably with their ideal target audience.

QUESTION: What are some brands whose social pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) you admire, and why — in other words, why are they effective with customers and/or fans?

SUSAN FRIESEN: I tend to follow more small businesses rather than big corporations. Melody Beattie has a very inspirational and motivational social presence. Dr. Berg offers a plethora of informative videos on health. Mari Smith, a Facebook expert, is always charming, informative, and entertaining. Same with Social Media Examiner - very informative and very clear on their brand positioning.

Here are the links mentioned above:

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

Image Credit: Georgie Cobbs via Unsplash.

Check out Susan's previous appearance here on my blog from November 2021:
"The Importance of Brand Identity"

Thursday, November 24, 2022

What Brand Stands Out on Thanksgiving?


What brand represents Thanksgiving? I challenge you to pick a single brand.

For me, it's a toss-up between these three.

Whether you live in New York City or anywhere else, there is a particular parade that, since 1924, has become a family ritual to watch in person or on television. The three-hour parade is held from 9am to 12noon Eastern time on Thanksgiving Day, and it has been televised nationally on NBC since 1952. A unique aspect of working at Macy’s is that Macy’s employees have the option of marching in the parade. Would you march?
Have you ever tried to cook a 15-pound or 25-pound turkey and run into trouble? Have no fear, if the turkey is a Butterball. This brand has a help center called the "Turkey Talk Line." This help center began in 1981 when six home economists worked the phones that holiday season to answer 11,000 turkey-cooking questions. Since then, the Turkey Talk Line has grown in both the number of calls answered and the number of experts who respond. The Turkey Talk Line is open November and December each year and is staffed with 50 experts who answer more than 100,000 questions, for thousands of households in the United States and Canada. And in today’s social era, cooks can connect with the Turkey Talk Line via social media, live chat, texting, and even Amazon Alexa.

Thanksgiving is all about traditions, and after the Macy's parade and the turkey meal, the final tradition is to sit on the comfortable couch in the den or living room with family and watch a football game. According to Wikipedia, "Since its inception in 1920, the National Football League has played games on Thanksgiving Day, patterned upon the historic playing of college football games on and around the Thanksgiving holiday."

Here are the games for this Thanksgiving:

***The Buffalo Bills play at the Detroit Lions.
***The New York Giants play at the Dallas Cowboys.
***The New England Patriots play at the Minnesota Vikings.

According to the NFL's website, "The NFL on Thanksgiving is a longstanding tradition led by the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys having annual games. This will be the Lions' 83rd Thanksgiving game and the Cowboys' 55th."

So, whatever tradition you and your family enjoy, and whatever brands stand out to you, here's wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Image Credits: Saturday Evening Post, Butterball Turkey, the NFL, and Inspira Health Network.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Brands Must ALWAYS Listen to Customers!


As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." Recently, I connected with Jeremy Watkin from San Diego, California, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about customer service and customer experience marketing. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Jeremy Watkin is Director of Customer Experience and Support at NumberBarn and cofounder of the CustomerServiceLife blog. He has more than 20 years of experience as a customer service and contact center professional leading high-performing teams. He has been recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service), product marketing, social media, and more. When not working, he can be found spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.

QUESTION: You wrote a very interesting post on your blog entitled, “Striking the Right Balance as a Customer Service Leader.” Can you provide brief highlights?

(Read the post here:

JEREMY WATKIN: This was a fun article to write. In it, I compare and contrast the leadership styles of General George Armstrong Custer and General Ulysses S. Grant. Custer was loved by his troops because he was there with them, fighting on the front lines.

By contrast, Grant was removed from the front lines, constantly focused on strategy and looking at the bigger picture. Personally, I tend to be more of a Custer than a Grant when it comes to work in the contact center. And we know that for all of his successes, Custer is most remembered for his Last Stand — a failure that led to his death.

I can remember a conversation with a boss many years ago. I was frustrated because I constantly helped on the front lines in our contact center, but we never seemed to get ahead. I felt like it was my responsibility as the manager to be there for my team.

My boss helped me understand that I was doing my team a disservice by not thinking about the big picture and making a plan for our team to more efficiently serve customers. Since that time, I’ve worked to strike a healthy balance between Custer and Grant leadership styles in my work. Have I achieved perfection? NO! But, I improve a little more each day.

QUESTION: There are so many terms and abbreviations in the customer service and customer experience arena. Which do you like, and why? And which annoy you, and why?
JEREMY WATKIN: There sure are a lot of terms, abbreviations, and acronyms in the customer experience arena — and it gets even worse when you work in the telecom space. From a customer service standpoint, I hate any insider term or acronym that isn’t well defined, requiring my customers to decode messages.

As far as specific terms go, “customer experience” ranks pretty high on my list of favorite and least favorite terms. I love customer experience, or CX, as a means of uniting a company around a customer-centric mission. I get annoyed, however when customer experience is used as a buzz word but doesn’t make any material difference in the way we treat our customers. And the annoyance continues when we start rebranding our customer service teams as “customer experience teams.” Customer service is but one small piece of a customer’s entire experience with your company.

We must be intentional about how we speak of customer experience, otherwise it’s just lip service.

TWEET THIS: We must be intentional about how we speak of customer experience, otherwise it’s just lip service. ~@jtwatkin #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Dennis Snow (@DennisSnow on Twitter) wrote, "A customer-focused culture is one in which everything is designed with the “lens of the customer” in mind." What does this quote mean to you?
JEREMY WATKIN: What a fantastic quote! As someone who routinely interacts with customers, there’s no better way to see through the lens of the customer than to hear their voice. How do we listen to customers? Some ways include reading and listening to their interactions with customer support, speaking with them directly, and paying close attention to their responses on customer satisfaction surveys. Once you become attuned to what customers are saying, thinking, and feeling, you will make great strides toward a more customer-focused culture.

And by the way, this is an ongoing process and must stay that way. The moment you think you’re customer-focused and you no longer need to listen to customers, you’re headed for trouble.

TWEET THIS: The moment you think you’re customer-focused and you no longer need to listen to customers, you’re headed for trouble. ~@jtwatkin #CX #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: Those of us who live in the marketing and customer experience worlds have heard the Jeff Bezos empty chair story many times. What does this mean to you?

(Read the post here:

JEREMY WATKIN: Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever left a chair empty during a meeting to represent the customer and their viewpoint. But I definitely think it’s a wonderful sentiment and reminder to always consider how our actions impact our customers.

Lately I’ve been spending time improving our self-service options and have even dabbled in chatbots. Self-service is a wonderful opportunity to help customers find accurate solutions to their issues without having to wait for a human response — and this is a terrific area of focus. But, the moment we introduce self-service options with the chief goal of making it more difficult for customers to contact support and driving down support costs, we’ve at least partly missed the point. If the customer was in the room, they would tell us the same thing.

QUESTION: What three brands stand out as experts in customer experience marketing, and why?
JEREMY WATKIN: I definitely follow a lot of different brands, but there are three that immediately come to mind:
(1) SafeSplash Swim School ( offers swimming lessons across the United States using the swimming pools at health clubs. We originally found SafeSplash during the pandemic when there was absolutely no other option for swimming lessons for our children. On their website, they state, “We are committed to making every lesson the start of a lifetime love of the water.” As I witness the pure joy from the instructors as my kids reach new milestones in swimming, I am convinced that SafeSplash believes wholeheartedly in their mission.

(2) In full disclosure, I’ve never stayed at a Ritz Carlton but I have read Excellence Wins by Horst Schulze (, former President of the Ritz Carlton Company. In the book, Schulze shares his 24 service standards which are regularly discussed and lived out by every member of the organization. This standard of excellence has been instrumental in building the Ritz Carlton into the customer experience legend that they are today.

(3) Being a lover of camping, hiking, and fly fishing, I absolutely love Patagonia. I have several of their products, with my puffy jacket, backpack, and fishing hat being among my favorites. I’d own more if not for the higher cost of their products. The cost is, however, justified, because their products are made to last and created with sustainability in mind. I tested this philosophy last year when a buckle broke on my backpack, and their friendly support team sent me the perfect replacement part. I’ve used that backpack for 8 years and fully intend to use it for many more. Patagonia is proof that many customers are willing to pay more for excellent service and exemplary quality.  

QUESTION: What is your favorite customer service story?
JEREMY WATKIN: I want to give a huge shout out to my local True Value Hardware store. On one particular occasion, I was headed out of town on a trip to the Grand Canyon and needed to get some hardware to build a DIY bike rack for my tent trailer.

Immediately, when I walked into the store, a helpful employee asked, “Is there anything I can help you find today?” Having a pretty good idea of what I needed, I said “No thanks” and headed back to the hardware section — you know, the area of the store with all of the nuts and bolts.

After lingering in that section for a bit, the employee checked in with me to see how it was going. It was at that point that I explained my vision for this bike rack. He proceeded to find the perfect combination of eye bolts, nuts, and lock washers and even explained why certain washers would be better than others for my particular application.

Why do I mention a trip to the local hardware store? Unlike those big box home improvement warehouses, I know that every time I go to True Value, the employees are consistently available and exceedingly helpful. Though I might pay a bit more for their products, the expert help almost always ensures that I walk out of that store with exactly what I need.

Shep Hyken (@hyken on Twitter) defines Amazing Customer Service as being consistently above average every time. Since hearing that quote, I’ve learned to value those companies that achieve this level of consistency, and True Value is a shining example.

My thanks to Jeremy for sharing his customer experience insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Patrick Fore via Unsplash.

Connect with Jeremy at these links:

Monday, November 14, 2022

Lead by Removing Obstacles


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 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Jay Hidalgo from Michigan, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about leadership and the employee experience. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Jay Hidalgo serves as a business and leadership coach, helping executives at businesses, non-profit organizations, and ministries grow their organizations, improve operational efficiency, and reach their target markets. His approach is straightforward: Define the current state; identify goals and objectives; then create and implement the right strategic process and framework to get there.

QUESTION: You do something different when it comes to coaching, something called Life Planning. Can you please explain?
JAY HIDALGO: Years ago, I was introduced to a strategic planning process for companies to help them determine where they were, where they wanted to go, and how to get there. Life Planning is the same approach, but for one’s own life. Through a series of conversations, I lead participants through the process of self-assessment, determination of passion and purpose, plans for achieving a more fulfilling life, and accountabilities to make sure the plan keeps moving forward.

QUESTION: You wrote a thought-provoking post on your blog entitled "The Power of Pause." Can you please elaborate?

(Read the full post here:

JAY HIDALGO: The post was motivated by a client of mine, one who saw the value in stopping once a quarter to review, reflect, and reset. In his case, we do this company wide. We take the leadership team off-site, I lead them through a series of conversations to assess where the company has been, where it is, and where it’s going next. This practice of reflection has transformed the entire organization. But it’s not just for companies. I have encouraged all my clients to schedule the same kind of reflection time for their lives, to take the time to assess where they are, to identify what needs to change moving forward. Those that have taken me up on this have found tremendous clarity, insight, and effectiveness, both personally and professionally.

QUESTION: On your website, you feature a very interesting diagram to identify team member strengths. How does this work?

(The diagram can be found here:

JAY HIDALGO: I believe you are referring to the strengths wheel. This diagram illustrates how a person receives, processes, and acts on information. The orange bar represents a person’s natural strengths, how they’re hardwired. The red represents their "strengths movement," how they think they need to adapt to survive in their current environment.

Often, we find people working against themselves, trying to be something they're not. When we can identify that, then we can work on ways to get them working more in line with how they are naturally gifted. Doing so brings increased efficiency and job satisfaction.

QUESTION: You state that you've "been leading companies through #StratOp (The Paterson Process) for the last 5 years. The average company has experienced 23% growth per year with this process." Can you please explain the process?
JAY HIDALGO: Sure. StratOp stands for STRATEGIC and OPERATIONS. It’s a system for working ON your business that governs how you work IN your business. It’s made up of 6 components:
(1) Perspective: Getting detailed understanding of where the organization currently stands.
(2) Planning: Creating a detailed roadmap for where the organization is currently headed.
(3) Action: Determining the steps that need to be taken in the next 90 days.
(4) Structure: Determining the people, processes, and systems needed to effectively execute the plan.
(5) Management: Quarterly coming together to assess performance in implementing the plan.
(6) Renewal: Annually coming together to see what parts of the plan need to change.

This is all tied together by looking at the strategic (the future of the business), the operational (managing today’s business), and the financial (funding both the strategic and the operational).

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 this quote mean to you?
JAY HIDALGO: I have a similar quote that I share with leaders: A leader's job is to do two things: give your team everything you can to help them succeed, and remove every obstacle that keeps them from succeeding.

TWEET THIS: A leader's job is to do 2 things: give your team everything to help them succeed & remove every obstacle that keeps them from succeeding. ~@jayhidalgo #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Jay for sharing his leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credits: Michael Dziedzic via Unsplash and Jay Hidalgo.

Connect with Jay using these links:
Twitter: @jayhidalgo

Monday, November 7, 2022

An X-Ray of Healthcare Marketing


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 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Michael Krivich from Illinois, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about marketing. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, LFACHE, is a retired healthcare business and marketing executive with over 40 years of leadership experience in healthcare providers and vendors and is a Life Fellow American College of Healthcare Executives. He continues to write two blogs that are read daily in 52 countries, with a combined viewership exceeding 22,000 views monthly.

QUESTION: You’re currently retired, but if you knew years ago what you know now about life and the covid pandemic, what would you have chosen for a career path if you could have a do-over?
MICHAEL KRIVICH: I would stay in healthcare but choose to be a hospital CEO based on what I have learned over the years and the pandemic. If you think about it, because of the pandemic, you learned that you only need a hospital for three things: acute complex medical care, emergency room, and ICU. If you have a family, you may need a provider with a NICU or PICU.

Other than that, consumers can get all the care they need in an ambulatory care setting that is far more convenient, higher quality, and cost-effective than in a hospital. Patient engagement and experience is critically important to differentiate and survive in a retail, medical environment.
With all the primary market research I have done over the years, changes in hospital market share are more related to physician admitting behavior. Doctors move patients around to hospitals that have less of a hassle factor in their ability to practice medicine. Nothing is done in a hospital unless you have a physician’s order. A hospital is a building full of stuff that can’t be used unless the doctor says so. We can’t walk into a hospital and say give me an MRI because my shoulder hurts.
The engagement of the physician and their experience in practicing medicine at the hospital keep the hospital open. Physicians admit patients, not hospitals. Hospitals don’t close because of reimbursement levels; hospitals close because physicians lose confidence in the hospital and admit their patients elsewhere. The hospital can’t bill insurance or the government if there are no “heads in the beds” or outpatient service use: no patient bill, no money.

The last item is an unrelenting patient care focus. It’s not just saying we are patient-focused; it’s creating the culture, care, and operational processes by providing the necessary resources to BE patient-focused. It’s not a saying or a brand tagline. It’s the DNA of the hospital and a recognition that we serve patients, not the patient who serves us.

These three items are not separate activities as they create synergy and guide everything that a hospital does: how it plans, operates, and engages the patient, employee, and physician. If the hospital wants cost-effective care and margin to grow, it’s about delivering on the Triple Aim: the right care, at the right cost, in the right setting.

QUESTION: You wrote a post on your blog entitled, “What is the Patient Hospital and Brand Experience Like When You’re a Patient?” Can you please share highlights?

(Read the full post here:

MICHAEL KRIVICH: What triggered this post was being a patient at two different hospitals in the same hospital system. I had the opportunity to compare the patient experience at various times, and experiences were very different and at opposite ends of the experience continuum from great to terrible.
It led to my three questions for the basis of the post.

(1) Based on your marketing messages internally and externally, was the patient experience based on your messaging (we care, convenient, focused on you, etc.) delivered consistently throughout your experience?
(2) Was your brand promise fulfilled?
(3) Was the patient experience at every step of the care process delivered consistently and on message?

How the hospital or system delivers the brand promise in the patient experience is not an either-or proposition. In a hospital system where patients can receive care at multiple locations, the patient experience must be delivered consistently across all the system sites of care.

There is a vast chasm between what marketers say the experience is to the reality of what the patient experiences. Until a hospital marketer experiences care as a patient and sees firsthand the disconnects, I don’t think they fully understand what’s going on. That creates brand dissonance in the patient’s mind and is essentially marketing to senior management. Personal experience is the best teacher for marketers in healthcare.

TWEET THIS: Personal experience is the best teacher for marketers in healthcare. ~@mkrivich #MarketingTip #HealthcareMarketing #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You wrote another awesome post on your blog entitled, “Lessons from the Field – What is Your Hospital’s Story?” Can you please share highlights?

(Read the full post here:

MICHAEL KRIVICH: Across other industries, patients see and are familiar with brand content that tells a story. Those brands write compelling content that weaves a story giving the reader the answers to the “why us” reasons.

As an industry, hospitals must develop compelling content that engages and frames the patient’s experience. And that means storytelling assumes greater importance. After all, when one looks at the hospital and health system advertising, it’s still the shiny new building, panoramic views from the rooftop terrace of the lounge, smiling doctors, award logos, trophies, and modern equipment. But does that meet the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient looking for information?
Consider these important facts:
(1) Forty-one percent of the time, people look for information on the healthcare provider online. Looking for information is the key here.
(2) Hospitals have little differentiation regarding buildings, technology, medical services, etc. Hospitals all do essentially the same thing.
(3) Telling the hospital’s story can answer the patient's why choose us questions and is far more effective than being a “me too” who showcases all the hard things that all hospitals do.

Most medical care in a hospital can be provided in a more convenient, higher quality, and cost-effective setting. Since this is the case, the story becomes the reason why you should choose us.

QUESTION: This post from your blog was in response to the covid pandemic. It was entitled, “Why the Hospital or Health System Needs a Chief Engagement Officer.” While many industries may think this role is essential, please explain why the healthcare industry may be overlooked but should not be.

(Read the full post here:

MICHAEL KRIVICH: What is the hospital's or health system's plan to maintain patient and community engagement during the pandemic? As soon as the pandemic lessened, hospitals could not wait to get back to doing things the way they always did, especially around meaningful community and patient engagement, which was predominantly an afterthought before the pandemic.

Healthcare is not a one-off episode that hospital leadership likes to believe it is. Hospitals also “navel gaze” too much, focusing on what they need and want to do as opposed to what the patient needs or wants. There is a limited universe of new patients to fill beds, but all the marketing efforts focus on capturing “new patients.” Until hospital leadership understands what meaningful patient engagement is, it will be a never-ending chase for the new patient while their existing patient base finds other providers. Think of it this way, how are you engaged by the hospital or other healthcare providers you use regularly? Chances are you’re not. That is where the position of Chief Engagement Officer comes into being in order to create and unify the organization with a single focus on engaging in a meaningful way to keep the patient 24/7.

QUESTION: What are your three favorite brands, and why?
MICHAEL KRIVICH: Here are my three:
(1) BMW: Yes, I own a BMW, and I tell you what, the brand tagline should not be just "The ultimate driving experience." It should be "the ultimate driving and customer experience." I have owned a lot of different autos over the years, but I have never experienced customer service as I do with BMW. As a marketer, I am consistently amazed at the high level of service, the use of technology in that service delivery, a personal acknowledgment in the process, and it’s delivered exceptionally every single time. Besides, the car is a lot of fun to drive too. And they have Starbucks available while I wait for my vehicle during service visits.

(2) Proctor & Gamble: How they have created a recognizable corporate brand while doing it as a house of brands speaks volumes to their understanding of the consumer and market. I use several P&G brands, which consistently deliver on the brand promise and perform as advertised.

(3) Starbucks: This brand understands that it's all about the experience because, in reality, you can get a cup of coffee anywhere. It is about the experience, atmosphere when I go inside, service, and options. It’s the way that the coffee is delivered by a friendly staff that attracts me. It helps a lot with their convenient, accessible location and menu offerings too. Again, it’s another brand that no matter what location I go to, the experience will be the same. I wish those who work in healthcare would take a few pages from the Starbucks playbook about experience and engagement.

My thanks to Michael for sharing his marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Kristine Wook via Unsplash.

Connect with Michael using these links:

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Good Leaders Empower 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 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Diane Najm from Seattle, Washington, and invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about leadership and the employee experience. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Diane Najm, who previously worked in social work, is the CEO/Founder of two tech platforms in the photo and digital content marketing space (PhotoPad, a consumer photo app on Facebook in 2010; and PhotoPad for Business in 2016). She is also a keynote speaker, an advocate for women, a mentor in the startup community, and advisor to youth groups and women's organizations. She is the recipient of Women of The Year and Mom in Business Awards; and has also received nominations for Innovative Startup and Startup of the Year. She was named Top 101 Marketing Startups In Seattle, Philanthropist with Nonprofits for Foster Kids, and Educational and Scholarship Nonprofits Benefiting Women. She regularly speaks about entrepreneurship and leadership.

QUESTION: You are a CEO and founder of your own company. How did that happen?
DIANE NAJM: Being Greek, I am a lifelong storyteller and loved taking photos. I accidentally fell into the entrepreneurial world after launching a photo sharing app on Facebook and grew it to over 250K users while being a Social Worker. As photos and storytelling became popular on social media, I moved our software to the web to reach a larger audience as I forecasted small businesses would need to use storytelling as a way to increase engagement and trust with their audiences, which would drive sales. As a small business owner myself, I knew we didn't have the budget and resources like big companies did, and this is why PhotoPad is a turnkey solution, so small businesses could have digital presence on all social media and marketing platforms without breaking the bank or taking too much of their time.

QUESTION: Janet Yellen, the current and first female Secretary of the Treasury, has been described as, "A proven leader who knows how to build consensus, the kind of person who makes everybody around her better." What three characteristics are necessary to create a consensus-builder?
DIANE NAJM: As a leader, it's important to have listening, empathy, and authentic skills to build a culture of trust and openness. In addition, I strongly believe in empowering everyone around me to be a part of the team and that THEIR contribution is important to the success of the company.

QUESTION: You are an advocate for women in leadership roles, so on a related topic, what is your favorite RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg) quote, and why?
DIANE NAJM: This is my favorite RBG quote: "I am a very strong believer in listening and learning from others."

I believe that nothing is absolute without change, there is no growth! Listening and learning advocates for change and growth. I am a lifelong learner personally and professionally and want to evolve in my knowledge as a leader and encourage this with those around me. In addition, we become more creative, innovative, competitive, productive, and empower others by fostering a culture for everyone to reach their full potential. We all benefit from this.

Furthemore, when I demonstrate the value of learning as a leader to others on my team, in my circle or people around me, I conveying that learning is valuable and will encourage people whether its my team or those around me to share their ideas. They understand the importance of diversity and different
perspectives, and we all gain from this.

Finally, with the challenges of COVID in the past couple of years, effective leaders who continue to listen and learn throughout the pandemic were able to adapt to the crisis and lead more effectively.

TWEET THIS: We become more creative, innovative, fostering a culture for everyone to reach their full potential. ~@dianenajm #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with any three people from history or the current era, who would you choose, and why?
DIANE NAJM: This was a hard question to answer, there are so many people that I would want to have dinner with from historical figures, fashion icons, musical geniuses, women leaders, and more. The three people I find truly inspiring all have contributed to change in our world, pushed the limits, in our thought process to be better leaders, started the crack in the ceiling for women like me today to be who we want, follow our passion and be advocates for change. I would be curious how they see the world today.

(1) Ruth Bader Ginsburg represented change and showed all of us how her leadership by entering into an outdated industry would bring the change needed in an outdated system. As a social worker, I wanted to be about change, to make change in the world, and Ginsburg strived for justice despite what others said or thought and showed how how it was done. Even in her last few days, she was listening and learning.

(2) Marie Curie was a scientist and won the Nobel Prize twice! This was a time when women were not respected, and science was not a place for women. I think she is amazing and an inspiration to all women.

(3) Mother Teresa also received the Nobel Prize, and devoted her life to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums with dying children. I admire her work as it relates to my background in social work and philanthropy to help children heal from abuse, advocate for change, and give back so children can have a better life.

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 this quote mean to you?
DIANE NAJM: I always believed that if you feel like you are the smartest person in the room, then you
are not a good leader. I believe that when you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, then you learn, grow, and become a better leader, and your team feels empowered to become leaders themselves. In addition, your employees understand that their input and strategies are important. When people around you have that sense, then you are an effective leader. Fostering a culture that everyone is a part of and equally important is a great morale booster for everyone; and it maintains longevity and loyalty with your team.

TWEET THIS: When you surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, then you learn, grow, and become a better leader. ~@dianenajm #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to Diane for sharing her leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Hannah Busing via Unsplash.

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