Monday, May 15, 2023

PR Is Finding and Telling Compelling Stories

As a member of the Twitterverse for 14 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. One of my new connections is Bridgette Borst Ombres from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A about public relations and brand messaging. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

A former TV news reporter turned PR and marketing professional with 15-plus years’ experience, Bridgette Borst Ombres left Corporate America during the pandemic and turned her side hustle into her main gig. Founder of The Commsultant, a boutique PR agency, Bridgette explains that B2B tech leaders and larger PR firms around the world hire her to consult on media strategy, thought leadership, and communications plans. Bridgette has media-trained more than 350 spokespeople and spearheaded communications efforts for a variety of companies from early-stage startups to large, multinational corporations. In addition, she is passionate about professional development, and over the years, has worked to place hundreds of students and young professionals in internships and jobs around the country.

QUESTION: According to Daniel J. Boorstin, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.” As a PR professional, how do you interpret that quote?
BRIDGETTE BORST OMBRES: Every business leader and brand have a unique collection of experiences, distinct values, and attributes.

Savvy PR pros are naturally curious and skilled at peeling back layers to uncover the beauty, marvel, authentic, and relatable experiences in executives and brands. They’re gifted storytellers who can paint your true picture with words.

To me, PR isn’t about "dressing up" the mediocre or crafting an ingenuine message. It’s about sniffing out the compelling, untold stories or brand attributes and knowing which parts resonate most with which specific audience.

SHARE THIS: Savvy PR pros are gifted storytellers who can paint your true picture with words. ~@BridgetteBorst #PR #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What first attracted you to the field of public relations?
BRIDGETTE BORST OMBRES: I stumbled into a career in public relations and marketing while I was still working as a TV news reporter. I wanted more flexibility and creativity in my job, but still had a strong desire to keep my finger on the pulse of news, information, and storytelling. Through my network, I discovered I could earn my master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications online from West Virginia University. That terrific program introduced me to a wide range of marketing communications and job opportunities, including traditional public relations.

QUESTION: You were featured in an article for Business Insider entitled, “I cut my weekly work hours down from 70 to 20 after realizing the impact it had on my kid, and it's put me on a better career path.” Can you please share highlights?
BRIDGETTE BORST OMBRES: Leaving Corporate America six months into the pandemic to prioritize family and more flexibility has been one of the best decisions of my life.

The turning point for me to re-evaluate my priorities was when my toddler started imitating me on back-to-back Zoom calls. At that moment, I realized I wasn’t giving her the best version of myself and needed to make some changes. After transforming my side hustle in PR consulting into my primary source of income, I’ve maintained a much better work-life balance.

(Full article can be found here:

QUESTION: Please share your three favorite PR campaigns with reasons why.
BRIDGETTE BORST OMBRES:’s Ukraine campaign was a great example of how brands stepped up to support refugees. Airbnb partnered with international and regional nonprofits and governments to secure housing for up to 100,000 refugees free of charge.

As a female founder and mother to a little girl, Mattel’s New Career campaign for Barbie and Dove’s Real Beauty campaign were both so powerful in spreading positive messages, fighting toxic beauty standards, and celebrating women.

QUESTION: How do you think public relations aligns with branding and social media?
BRIDGETTE BORST OMBRES: PR, branding, and social media all help shape the PERCEPTION of the business and share some of the same foundations such as research and writing. But, while PR and social are about managing key relationships, branding is centered on identity.

The lines between traditional PR and various areas of marketing have grown thinner and thinner. Today, communicators need to think more holistically to ensure that all promotional activities across the marketing mix are aligned.

QUESTION: What are your favorite brands, and why?
BRIDGETTE BORST OMBRES: I’ve been hard-pressed to find brands that deliver more consistent, quality products and service than Costco and Cover Girl.

My gratitude to Bridgette for sharing her public relations, brand storytelling, and messaging insights.

Connect with Bridgette at these links:

Image Credit:  OnyxRain.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

King for a Day - and a Lifetime!

Today was the long-awaited Coronation for King Charles III.

Since today's event was the first British Coronation in 70 years, it was a unique event. All types of music were part of the service, and British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber (famous for CATS, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and EVITA) wrote an anthem specifically for the service.

Following the Coronation service at Westminster Abbey, highlights of the Coronation weekend include a star-studded concert at Windsor Castle, a nationwide series of street parties nicknamed "The Coronation Big Lunch," and a national volunteering campaign scheduled for Monday branded as "The Big Help Out."

According to the New York Times, "On Monday, when many Britons will take advantage of a one-off May 8 holiday, Buckingham Palace hopes that some will undertake volunteer work, Charles, as Prince of Wales, emphasized volunteer service through his charities and views that as a major legacy of his Coronation."

King Charles's face will appear on more than coins and stamps. There were souvenirs galore created for the Coronation featuring the likenesses of both King Charles and Queen Camilla...everything from a stuffed teddy bear wearing a crown and other royal attire from British retailer John Lewis to plates, mugs, tea tins, flags, and more.

With all the pomp and pageantry, is the monarchy something the regular Brit cares about? Only time will tell, based in large part on what King Charles III actually accomplishes during his lifetime as King.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Is LOVE Part of Leadership? You Bet!

Do you know what today is? It’s GLOBAL LOVE DAY, and according to The Love Foundation, “We honor each May First as a symbolic day of unconditional love and call upon all people and nations to come together in the wisdom of peace and love.”

With this theme in mind, I recalled an incredible post by my friend and leadership/employee experience colleague Julie Winkle Giulioni and wanted to share highlights.

In January 2023, Julie wrote a post entitled, “All You Need Is Love,” as an early Valentine’s Day gift for leaders. She wrote, “Leaders who want to make a positive impact on their employees and their organizations will benefit from showing their love through these four strategies.”

Julie wrote: “Information is the lifeblood of productivity and achievement. And connections with others nourish employees, contributing to qualitative outcomes like happiness, and quantitative outcomes like loyalty, retention, and customer satisfaction.”

Julie wrote: “Ensure that people have the equipment and materials they need to succeed. Make training available so they have the necessary skills and knowledge. Remove the roadblocks – systems, processes, rules, and limitations – that undermine employees’ ability to do their best work. Then step back and see results follow.”

Julie wrote: “Allow people to explore different tasks, learn different skills, play in different sandboxes. The expanded perspective that becomes available as a result of these opportunities enriches one’s current role, opens doors to possible new roles, and keeps everyone fresh, engaged, and growing.”

Julie wrote: “Employees crave inspirational leadership. Be the leader your people need and want. Earn trust and respect through your day-to-day behavior, interactions, and decisions.”

So, today, on Global Love Day, how will you show love to your employees? Remember, for your employees to love your customers, you must love your employees first.

My gratitude and applause to Julie for inspiring me to share her post on this most appropriate day!


Check out Julie's Q&A appearances on my Blog:

Feedback and Talent in the Post-Covid Era

How Can Leaders Become Architects of Unbeatable Brands?

Connect with Julie at these links:
Twitter: @Julie_WG
Facebook: /JulieWinkleGiulioni.Author

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

How Magic and Happiness Impact Leadership


Today is National Tell A Story Day, and we’re celebrating an amazing storyteller and leadership expert, but first, a little background. According to National Today, “National Tell A Story Day was first celebrated in 2009 by George Rafeedie, who runs a creative marketing agency called Tell Your Story, Inc. His business relies on promoting and marketing a brand through storytelling techniques. By creating a story with the product as the main character, the product is central to the plot and is viewed as important in continuing the storyline. Storytelling, at its most basic form, thus, contributes to highlighting certain themes, be it for moral purposes, and/or entertainment.”

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Erika Andersen for many years, and she first appeared in a Q&A on my blog back in 2011. If you aren’t familiar with her books, blog posts, guest posts, Twitter feed, podcasts, or websites, get ready to be inspired. Highlights of our recent discussion about leadership and workplace culture follow a brief introduction.

Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, where she and her colleagues support leaders at all levels to get ready and stay ready to meet the future. Erika advises senior executives, and she also shares her insights through her books, speaking engagements, and social media. In addition to her latest book, Change from the Inside Out, she is the author of four previous best-selling books: Be Bad First, Leading So People Will Follow, Being Strategic and Growing Great Employees. Erika is also a popular leadership blogger at, and the creator and host of the Proteus Leader Show podcast.

QUESTION: In a post for Forbes entitled, "In This New Era Of Hybrid Work, What Makes A Great Team?" you described five key elements for success. What were the highlights?

(Read the full post here:

ERIKA ANDERSEN: I had written a post for Forbes in 2015 explaining the five high-performance team attributes that we use as framework to help leaders improve their teams. Last fall, my partner Jeff, pointed out that since we’ve found those same five attributes are key to success in hybrid and long-distance teams, it could be helpful to write a new article to share that truth – and thus, this post!

Our observation is that the most effective teams have these five things: clear goals that are meaningful to everyone on the team; agreed-upon, simple measures of progress toward those goals; well-defined roles that are aligned with the goals; consistent, efficient team processes – ways of working together; and high trust among the members.

It turns out that these things are even MORE important in hybrid and distance teams. When people are all in the same physical location, there tends to be a good deal of informal, ongoing communication and interaction that can make up – to a certain extent – for a lack of clarity around these elements.

But when people spend most of their time not being face-to-face with their teammates, it’s all too easy to get out of sync and operate at cross-purposes without those good “stakes in the ground” of goals, measures, roles, process, and trust.

Making sure that you and your hybrid or distance team clarify and then rely on these five elements will help assure that you can still get great results and enjoy your colleagues while operating in this changed world of work that we all live in today.   

QUESTION: In a post on your blog entitled, "Practical Magic," you wrote: "Next time someone in your personal or professional life suggests a way to move forward or solve a problem that you don’t understand, or can’t quite see, before you say no, take a moment and ask yourself, 'Do we believe in each others’ magic?'" Please explain.

(Read the full post here:

ERIKA ANDERSEN: As I noted in the post, I learned this phrase from my son. He is a deeply intuitive leader and collaborator – and people of all kinds love working with him.

What “believing in someone’s magic” means is having faith that that person – based on who you know them to be and the experiences you’ve had together – can imagine and do things that you aren’t capable of – and that you may not even understand.

Believing in someone’s magic is that moment when your spouse or colleague or friend, who you love and trust, says “I want to do this and I can make it happen” … and even if you can’t see it, even if you’re not quite sure what they’re talking about, you support their effort with full energy and hope.

Believing in the magic of those around you is a powerful way to let go of your own limitations, and it’s a powerful way for groups and teams of all kinds to be able to achieve new, exciting things that are beyond the capabilities of any single member of the team.

SHARE THIS: Believing in the magic of those around you is a powerful way to let go of your own limitations. ~@ErikaAndersen #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: There is a relatively new title in the C-Suite: Chief Happiness Officer. What do you make of this, and can it, or should it, become standard in all organizations? And if so, how could it impact the overall employee experience?

ERIKA ANDERSEN: I’m a big fan of this if it’s real. That is, if it’s not just “the flavor of the month,” but signals an actual, practical effort to increase employees’ joy and satisfaction at work, then I think it’s great.

There’s so much research now showing a correlation between at-work happiness and productivity, retention, overall health, and even happiness at home. And that same data shows that younger workers have a much higher expectation that they’ll find happiness at work than their older counterparts – and that their expectations are increasing all workers’ hopes about happiness at work.

So, it seems to me that organizations do need to focus on how to create a work environment that nurtures their employees’ happiness, if they want to be able to hire and retain the best workers and support them to do their best work.

QUESTION: You've written an array of inspiring leadership books (THANK YOU!). What leadership books inspire YOU?

ERIKA ANDERSEN: My favorite business book of all time is Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Even now, more than two decades after it was first published, I find the insights valid and tremendously valuable. (Note from Debbie: I read this book during graduate school in 1995, and I often refer back to it for its timeless lessons!)

The two other business/leadership books that have had the greatest impact on me, I believe, are Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, and Stephen M. R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust. Both books clarified for me important ideas that I was wrestling with but hadn’t yet nailed down. I had that wonderful experience, on first reading each of them, of thinking:“Yes – that’s it. That’s what I’ve been seeing, but I didn’t know how to capture it!”     

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with three leaders from history or the modern era, who would you choose and why?

ERIKA ANDERSEN: I love questions like this. Sorry, though, I have to cheat, and choose four: Llewelyn Fawr, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela.  

Llewelyn Fawr (Llewelyn the Great) was a Welsh prince who lived in the early 1200’s, and held Wales together for almost 45 years through a combination of diplomacy and warfare. Before him, Wales was not a single kingdom, but merely a collection of loosely affiliated fiefdoms. He had amazing vision and seemed far ahead of his time in many ways.

I’d choose Lincoln for his ability to navigate through such a fraught time in American history and his ability to self-reflect and change.

Eleanor Roosevelt is fascinating to me as an extraordinarily wise person and as a woman leader who had a powerful impact within the constraints of a very male-dominated society.

Nelson Mandela is hugely inspiring as an example of a leader having absolute fidelity to a cause and the ability to manage his own mindset through decades of unimaginable personal hardship.

Assuming all four could speak the same languages (or we could have a Star Trek-style universal translator), I’d love to just sit back and listen to these four very different people from very different periods in history discuss their understanding of human beings, their motivations, and how best to lead others. What an amazing conversation that would be!

My gratitude to Erika for once again spending some of her precious time to provide inspiration about leadership and workplace culture.

Image Credit: VectorStock.

Research that Erika mentioned in the question about the Chief Happiness Officer:

Connect with Erika at these links:
Twitter: @erikaandersen
Learn more at or

For more inspiration, check out Erika’s previous appearances on my Blog:

Tips to Become “Change-Capable (May 2022)

Three Leadership Secrets: Build Consensus, Be Open to Challengers, and Delegate (May 2021)

Review of: Leading So People Will Follow by Erika Andersen (October 2019)

Leadership + Strategy = Amazing Employee Experience (November 2018)

Review of: Be Bad First by Erika Andersen (October 2018)

Are You the Type of Manager or Leader YOU Would Follow? (January 2014)

Want to be Nicknamed Strategy Guru? (July 2011)

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Marketing News of the Week: Partnerships, Brand Identity, and More

This past week, there were many news stories that reflected marketing strategies, branding campaigns, and brand storytelling.

Fashion brand The Gap partnered with toy brand Mattel for a series of collaborations inspired by Mattel's portfolio of brands including Hot Wheels, American Girl, Thomas & Friends, Masters of the Universe, and others.

The first will be an apparel collection for "Barbie" that will be available for the launch of the film in late May, available on Gap's website and in select stores globally. The "Gap x Barbie" collection will feature T-shirts, skirts, logo hoodies, denim, button-downs, and accessories as well as pet apparel - retailing for $24 to $69 and featuring Barbie branding and Gap's typeface.

According to Christopher Goble, Gap's head of merchandising, "Gap's partnership with Mattel presents two iconic brands collaborating on products that customers can wear as a family, pets included, and have fun."

Netflix partnered with fashion brand Lacoste for a new collection inspired by some of the streaming service's most popular shows. Polo shirts, tracksuits, and sweatshirts inspired by shows "Stranger Things," "Bridgerton," and "The Witcher," will also feature the Lacoste crocodile. The new items will be available online at and as well as in select Lacoste stores.

According to Josh Simon, VP of Consumer Products for Netflix, "We think products can be a powerful medium for storytelling, and partnering with Lacoste presents a unique opportunity to blend the worlds of fashion and entertainment."

Color brand Pantone announced its "Mrs. Maisel Pink" color in honor of the AmazonPrime television series' fifth and final season. According to Pantone, "From her first full look in Season One, glowing in a baby pink coat amid a crowd of New Yorkers wearing the 1950's corporate palette of cool grays and neutrals, to taking her last bow in Season Five. Midge's sartorial color choices meticulously depict her as the wise-cracking, unapologetic, and self-possessed woman she is."

According to the show's costume designer, Donna Sakowska, "Every color is another country, and every color choice another adventure in Wonderland." According to Pantone, "And what adventures they've had. [The clothing's colors] transported its characters from the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side, from Paris to the Catskills, and from the late 1950's to the early 1960's, with countless personal revelations and reinventions along the way."

The Oakland A's finalized a deal to buy a 49-acre site to build a retractable-roof ballpark close to the Las Vegas Strip with a seating capacity of 30,000 to 35,000. The team hopes to break ground by 2024 with the plan to move to the new home by 2027. The team's lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, and the team has struggled for years to draw fans.

With an NFL team, the Raiders, and a NHL team, the Golden Knights, and a WNBA team, the Aces, baseball was the only major sport missing a presence in Las Vegas.

After six seasons as a co-host of the popular ABC morning talk-show made famous by Regis Philbin and his many hosts over the years, Ryan Seacrest said goodbye. Kelly Ripa welcomed her husband, Mark Consuelos, to join the show. The promotional tagline became "From Co-Stars in Life to Co-Hosts on Live." The show's name changed from "Live with Kelly and Ryan" to "Live with Kelly and Mark." Time will tell if viewers tire of the married couple's stories.

According to ABC, "Facebook users who had an active Facebook account at any point between May 2007 and December 2022 can now apply to receive a piece of parent company Meta's $725 million settlement related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal...The legal battle began four years ago, following an international outcry from the company's disclosure that the private information of as many as 87 million Facebook users was obtained by Cambridge Analytica."

However, while Facebook users can complete a claim form by August 25, 2023, to be included in the group to receive the settlement, the claim form requires information that the company never had before including a mailing address and additional email addresses. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't want to provide MORE personal info to Meta, so count me out for what may turn out to be pennies.

This past week, retail stores David's Bridals and Bed, Bath & Beyond filed for bankruptcy protection. David's Bridal, the leading bridal and special occasion authority, expects to continue operations. But if you're a bride, this news will definitely make you into a Bridezilla!

Bed Bath & Beyond sent an email to shoppers: "We appreciate that customers have trusted us through the most important milestones in their lives - from going to college, to getting married, to settling into a new home, to having a baby. We have initiated a process to wind down operations." The 360 stores will shutter over time.

While stamps featuring King Charles III's face are now officially on sale to the British public, the new stamps feature a significant break from the past: None of the stamps include a crown. According to royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams, "His preference for a simple image is more contemporary. The Queen wore a diadem and the image of her was internationally recognized. In a different age, the King has wisely chosen a more human image."

Less than four months after experiencing an unexpected cardiac arrest during a Monday Night Football game on January 2nd, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has been "fully cleared" to return to play. Three medical specialists unanimously agreed that Hamlin can resume full activities on the field. All football fans became Buffalo Bills fans during that January game, and everyone wishes Damar a long and healthy career.

During Damar's recovery in March, he visited Congress to advocate for better access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in schools. His survival is widely credited to the rapid use of CPR and a defibrillator on the field.

Damar told Members of Congress, "For schools that have AEDs, the survival rate for children from sudden cardiac arrest is seven times higher. The Access to AEDs Act will help ensure that schools are just as prepared and trained to respond in a time of crisis as those on the sidelines on an NFL game."

While many in the comedy world will mourn the passing of Barry Humphries, most mainstream folks will miss Barry's alter ego known as Dame Edna. Who can forget the hilarious antics of Dame Edna? Truly one-of-a-kind! RIP Barry Humphries.

What other marketing news stood out to you this past week?

What will be the marketing buzz next week? Tune in to read all about it.

Image Credits: Live with Kelly and Mark and the Buffalo Bills.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Covid Brand Pivots, Marketing and Twitter

While many users left Twitter since Elon Musk took over, I chose to remain to continue to participate in discussions about brand marketing, leadership, and customer experience marketing as well as other interesting topics – and also to learn from fellow marketers and business leaders. And of course, there’s no better place to discuss Super Bowl ads in real time!

Do you recall what happened on this date in 2009? If you’re a Twitter fan, you’ll recall the race between actor Ashton Kutcher and CNN to be the first to reach a million followers. Ashton Kutcher became the King of Twitter by reaching that milestone on this date in 2009. Today, he has over 17 million followers.

Last year, I connected with Suzanne Huber from Toronto, Canada, and we had a Q&A about branding, marketing, and reading. The link is provided at the end of this post, and recently, we continued our discussion. Highlights follow a brief introduction.

Suzanne Huber is an award-winning digital strategist who has helped hundreds of companies and nonprofits attract new customers while growing brand awareness. She's a trusted advisor to entrepreneurs and executives growing their companies with a proven track record. Today, her company creates marketing strategies and provides outsourced digital marketing solutions that drive fast client acquisition. Suzanne also works with and trains small and medium-sized companies to launch their own innovative marketing campaigns that take their organizations to new heights. Her passion for driving results has made her sought after by business leaders actively growing their organizations.

QUESTION: You appeared here on my Blog in September 2022. I asked you then to share your three favorite brands with reasons why. Now, three years into the Covid pandemic, which three brands have pivoted during the pandemic and stand out from their competitors?

SUZANNE HUBER: This Is a hard question to answer. I will refer to industries and categories that are coming out on the other side since I am stumped on specific brand pivots. There are certainly some winners and comebacks that seem to be apparent.

Cruises in general have seemed to be bouncing back, likely not to where they were, but people are traveling on them again, which I personally think is wild given that they could not port in many countries, and this isn't technically over yet.

Baby formula is top of mind as well. As a new mom of twins, it's unbelievable how difficult it has been to source the last few months. There is high demand out there from all of the new babies that came to be during the pandemic.

QR codes are a winner too. Mass adoption for menus would not have happened without the pandemic – now users are asked to scan the QR codes to read menus.

The last category would be related to fitness/workouts. You can really source just about any kind now virtually. The pandemic forced the industry to go digital, and that can become a permanent fixture/revenue stream even though people are going back to gyms and studios in person now. Personally, I finally was able to work out consistently in my home (because I had to!) and will favour this approach moving ahead to save time going to and from the gym.

QUESTION: What are your favorite aspects of marketing?

SUZANNE HUBER: My favorite aspects would be starting and maintaining relationships with an audience of potential buyers by creating engagement with good content. This really allows you to scale yourself from a sales perspective. This is especially the case if you can generate interest and intrigue from an audience. It's technically selling at scale. Some sales professionals may disagree, but marketing really facilitates the sales process, and if your content isn't helping to bring buyers further down the funnel, then it isn't working for you. Marketing also provides the opportunity to stand out and be different with your positioning. Who you serve and how you connect with them. I love the creativity and ways to resonate with your ideal buyers through content.

SHARE THIS: Marketing provides the opportunity to stand out and be different with your positioning. ~SuzyHuber #Marketing #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You Tweeted, "Is it normal to prefer some of your Twitter friends to your real-life ones?" Seriously, based on the chaos surrounding Elon Musk and Twitter, is Twitter still an important part of your digital footprint and social media marketing?

SUZANNE HUBER: It is. I still get decent engagement on my content and find new people to connect with. That said, the changes to the algorithm definitely have impacted the content on my feed, and I certainly miss the people who I am used to engaging with on the platform.

It is different now. I do periodically see some of my people stream, and I engage on their content, so I can see them hopefully again. I am not going to change my profile to private though, and I consume less news on there these days. I miss the good old days for sure, but I am also not leaving just yet either.

I have noticed, as well, that the people that Twitter suggests I should follow aren't really aligned with my interests, and they already have huge followings so not sure what props up that feature as the networking seemed to be more organic/authentic in the past versus growing existing large accounts by recommending them. Harder to reach people where you are at.

That said, I love my existing followers and people I follow, so I will stay in touch there for now and hope the algorithm gets some more tweaks in the days ahead.

QUESTION: What does this quote from @StorytellerAgcy mean to you? "Give something of meaning to your audience by inspiring, engaging, and educating them with story. Stop marketing. Start storytelling."

SUZANNE HUBER: People connect with stories as it is a way to absorb information by connecting with emotions, someone's perspective, and experiences. Stories help the reader to understand the underlying message more clearly as well. It is a great way to establish rapport and transmit valuable information to potential buyers by being engaging. The hero's journey, the challenge, the villains, can all be relatable to anyone reading, and it also allows the reader to get to know the brand on a deeper level. Personally, I am not the best storyteller, but I recognize their value and importance. Social proof really helps to influence and persuade as well as it is about customers sharing their personal experiences with products and services.

QUESTION: What do you think will be the central focus of our marketing discussions a year from now in early 2024?

SUZANNE HUBER: Artificial Intelligence has definitely hit the mainstream this year and will continue to integrate in how we live and work in the days ahead. We will be talking about how to use it as a tool while still maintaining creativity and personalization. Given the nature of how disruptive these changes are, there is currently a lag for regulations and the ethics of using AI. Personally, I believe in using tools and market innovations to get ahead and not be left behind. We are in the wild, wild west and like crypto, we will see how this new paradigm will be structured in the days ahead.

Also, another area that is still attracting a lot of attention is the changes in the workforce. With all of the layoffs taking place right now in tech and other sectors, more people will turn to self-employment. Viewing themselves as a personal brand/solopreneur. Companies conducting layoffs and how they are handled will impact their overall brand’s public perception in the days ahead, so it will be interesting to see how the concept of profits versus people evolves.

My gratitude to Suzy for sharing her marketing and business insights.

Image Credit: Rupert Britton via Unsplash.

Q&A featuring Suzy on September 12, 2022:
“Branding and Marketing Build Businesses”

Connect with Suzy at these links:

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Marketing News of the Week: Mrs. Maisel, an Emoji, and More


This past week, there were many news stories that reflected effective marketing strategies, branding campaigns, and brand storytelling.

The fifth and final season of this exceptional show returned on April 14 on AmazonPrime. As part of publicity for the show’s return, the cast rang the opening bell for the New York Stock Exchange, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams proclaimed the day as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Day” to celebrate the show’s creative and economic contributions to New York City.

According to NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, “Emmy-winner The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel created thousands of jobs for NYers, supported small businesses, boosted the local economy, and showcased the beauty of NYC over five seasons. The hires included:
*344 dancers
*580 musicians
*981 dayplayers
*35,619 background actors
*366 NYC locations shot.”

How many other shows have received such publicity?

With the coronation of King Charles III less than three weeks away, tradition met the modern age of communication. Buckingham Palace released the official “Coronation Emoji” for use with the hashtags #Coronation, #CoronationWeekend, #CoronationConcert, #TheBigHelpOut, and #CoronationBigLunch. According to the Coronation News and Updates account on Twitter, the emoji was based on “St. Edward’s Crown, recreated in 1661 for King Charles II and based on the ancient crown used for centuries before.”

Also, in Coronation news, after months of speculation, Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Harry would attend the Coronation, while Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, would remain in California with their two children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet.

Eric Schiffer, Chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, said, “The impact to Meghan on a global scale in not attending is negligible and won’t damage her [personal] brand outside of the UK. Within the UK, there is a contingent that is anti-Meghan, and this becomes a further log thrown to the fire to power additional comments that are going to be unfavorable.”

The “Phantom of the Opera” musical took its final bow on Broadway today on April 16, after 35 years and nearly 14,000 performances – making it the longest-running show in Broadway history. This was more than Cats, A Chorus Line, Chicago, The Lion King, Wicked, Hamilton, and Les Mis√©rables.

The show lays claim to the title of biggest job producer in U.S. theatrical history, according to CNBC: “During its run, Phantom created an estimated 6,500 jobs, including those of 400 actors, in New York City, and some have been with the musical since it opened in 1988.”

Tickets for the final weekend performances in New York City were as high as $4,000 each. But don’t worry…if you absolutely, positively, must see Phantom, you can still buy a ticket for the show in London.

The new LG logo comes to life in an animation that turns it into a winking emoji-like face to appeal to a younger audience. The new LG logo is expressive and animated and nods, smiles, and winks. The tagline of “Life’s Good” will remain and will be used more widely in branding and product packaging in a new typeface.

According to William Cho, CEO, “Having a strong, consistent brand strategy enables us to better communicate our value proposition and unique identity, which harmonically blends innovation and warmth.”

This week, the streaming service that offers a variety of award-winning TV shows, movies, documentaries, and more on thousands of Internet-connected devices, celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Remember the 280-character limit on Twitter? This small limit forced users to consider their thoughts before writing concise tweets. However, since Musk took over the platform late last year, much has changed. Most recently, as part of the Twitter Blue option with a cost of $7.99 a month, users can write tweets with as many as 10,000 characters, which could be between 1,500 to 2,500 words.

According to tech expert Lance Ulanoff, “Twitter’s primary purpose is to be a fast, steady steam of news. It’s not the place for massive articles.”

This definitely changes the scope of the platform’s content – who wants to read that much content on Twitter? I definitely don’t!

First, the platform labeled NPR’s account as “state-affiliated media,” and then changed it to “Government-funded Media,” the same term it applies to propaganda outlets in Russia, China, and other autocratic countries. The news organization says that the label is inaccurate and misleading, since NPR is a private, nonprofit company with editorial independence. Further, it receives less than one percent of its $300 million annual budget from the federally-funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

NPR’s CEO John Lansing said in an interview that NPR will no longer post fresh content to its 52 official Twitter feeds, becoming the first major news organization to go silent on Twitter. In an email to staff, Lansing explained his decision, “It would be a disservice to the serious work you all do here to continue to share it on a platform that is associating the federal charter for public media with an abandoning of editorial independence or standards.” In an email to readers and fans, Lansing wrote, “Now, more than ever, public access to factual, non-biased journalism is crucial.”

After NPR’s exit on Twitter, Boston-based WBUR announced that it would also stop posting on Twitter “in solidarity with NPR,” according to a statement from its CEO, Margaret Low.

Mary Quant died on April 13. She was a British fashion designer who pioneered the swinging style of the 1960’s and was often credited with creating the now-iconic mini skirt. Some compared her impact on the fashion world with the Beatles’ impact on pop music.

According to Huffington Post, “The look she created was sexy and fun, a sharp break with the predictable floral dresses commonly worn in the conservative, austere years after World War II. Quant introduced miniskirts with hemlines up to 8 inches above the knee to the London scene in 1966, and they were an instant hit with young people, in part, because they shocked and offended their elders…She named the skirt after her favorite make of car, the Mini, recalled how it offered a feeling of freedom and liberation…She soon diversified her interests, developing a popular makeup line and also moving into kitchenware and household accessories.”

A few items missed the last marketing update but are worth mentioning:

According to CNN, “The barcode, the rectangle of thick and thin parallel lines seen on nearly every grocery product, package, piece of luggage, and prescription bottle is turning 50 years old. Since its inception, the Universal Product Code (UPC) has become the most prevalent tracking tool for products around the world. Billions of items are scanned everyday around the world, and the laser-powered technology behind UPCs has changed the retail industry in particular.”

The birthdate of the barcode is celebrated April 3 (1973) because that’s the day the IBM version created by senior engineer George Laurer was approved as the industry standard. Laurer received no royalties. The first item scanned with a barcode was a package of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum for $1.39. Years later, the Smithsonian added a replica of the gum to its exhibition on the history of the barcode.

Finland became the 31st member of the NATO alliance on April 4. Previously, Finland had no plans to join NATO due to its close ties to Russia, but due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland changed its mind.

Fanta’s new visual identity aims “to inspire people to find the fun in life and make the plain playful, with a look that remains unmistakably Fanta.” In addition, the orange color is gone.

According to Sue Murphy, senior director of design at The Coca-Cola Company, “Fanta’s identity, and particularly the logo, has evolved significantly from the 1940’s to today. With this refresh, we aimed to crystalize each element of the brand to be bold and iconic so that we could ensure it would stand the test of time and be recognized around the world.”

What other marketing news stood out to you this past week?

What will be the marketing buzz next week? Tune in to read all about it.

Image Credits: AmazonPrime and Buckingham Palace.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Secrets to Create Better Leaders and Productive Workplaces

Do you know what today marks? On this date in 1743, Thomas Jefferson was born. Known as a Founding Father of the United States, he was also a diplomat, a lawyer, an architect, and a philosopher. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and served as the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He spoke six languages including English, French, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish; and he graduated from the University of William and Mary two years after he enrolled. He was the designer of several buildings, and as a result, his influential style has become known as “Jeffersonian Architecture.”

So, today, as we celebrate leadership, I’d like to introduce you to Ros Cardinal from Australia. We recently discussed leadership and workplace culture, and highlights follow a brief introduction.

When she was growing up, Ros could not decide if she wanted to be an astronaut, a librarian, or the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. She achieved none of those goals, but a fascination with human behaviour and neuroscience led her to a career in Organisational Development, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams, and organisations. After more than 20 years in corporate human resources and organisational development roles, a successful battle with cancer gave Ros the nudge to take her passion for transforming leaders and improving how individuals and organisations cope with change, in a new direction. Leaving her senior corporate role in 2012, Ros established her consulting business, Shaping Change, which allows her to be a solutions and results-oriented facilitator with expertise spanning strategic planning, leadership development, organisational culture, change management, emotional intelligence, and employee engagement.

QUESTION: You describe yourself as being "in the business of making a difference by creating better workplaces, great leaders, and inspired teams." Can you please elaborate?

ROS CARDINAL: Our work is creating great leaders: Leaders who are mindful, connected, emotionally intelligent, values-driven, and purposeful. The leaders who work with us want to create a better, sustainable world of work, both for our generation and for the future. They say to us, "There must be a better way to lead," and we help them find their authentic leadership voice. We create leaders who strive toward personal and organisational transformation, and as contributors to a more effective society.

As we support the growth of these leaders, we see their commitment to sustainable organisations become integrated as a personal value, and their leadership identity, rather than just "the right thing to do."

Leaders affect change in our world. When we equip individuals with the resources and tools that they need to reach their potential, they have a revolutionising impact on their organisations and within their sectors. We enable people and businesses to do the work they’ve been called to do and to bring more of it into the world.

QUESTION: We met when I read one of your articles, a post on the website of The People Development Magazine entitled, "Boss or A Leader - Which One Are You?" What are the key differences?

(Read the full post here:

ROS CARDINAL: I covered three points in that article: Goal setting, Support, and Influence. The key differences though are that a boss gets things done, they set goals, they manage performance, and they insist on respect. A true leader though achieves results (and usually much better results) through engaging and inspiring people.

Being a boss and being a leader are not the same thing, even though they may seem similar on paper. There are key differences between managing a team and truly leading a team. A leader involves the team in goal-setting and ensures everyone has a common goal. A boss may set unrealistic goals without involving the team. A leader supports their team and finds ways to improve them, while a boss may use fear and criticism to control the team. A leader inspires and encourages growth, while a boss may intimidate and be overly critical. A leader develops healthy relationships with their team, while a boss may have a negative impact on the workplace. By understanding these differences, you can become a better leader of your team.

There are two key reasons why someone may be a boss rather than a leader:
The first is about skills and ability. If you are not a good communicator, or if you haven’t learned how to delegate. If you've had a boss-type as a role model in your early career, it's really easy to follow that lead. If you don’t have natural emotional intelligence and empathy, it can be hard to connect and inspire people.

The second is about ego and fear. If you are insecure in your management position, it can show up as micromanaging and controlling people. If you tend to be egotistical, you might believe that nobody else has the ability to make good decisions, and you have to make them yourself. You might even enjoy the ego boost that being in control gives you.

And of course, being a leader is the converse of that. Not only the skills to lead effectively, but the lack of ego is key. If you are a leader, you are non-defensive, open to other's ideas. You love to brainstorm with people rather than tell them what to do. You empower people and support them to be successful and are not threatened by their successes.

SHARE THIS: Being a boss and being a leader are not the same thing, even though they may seem similar on paper. ~@CardinalRos #DebbieLaskeysBlog

SHARE THIS: There are key differences between managing a team and truly leading a team. ~@CardinalRos #DebbieLaskeysBlog

SHARE THIS: If you are a leader, you empower people and support them to be successful and are not threatened by their successes. ~@CardinalRos #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You wrote a post on your blog entitled, "Navigating the Challenges of Leading Remote or Hybrid Teams: 14 Leadership Strategies." What are some of the key strategies?

(Read the full post here:

ROS CARDINAL: Leading a remote or hybrid team comes with its own set of challenges, such as, maintaining effective communication, fostering a sense of teamwork, managing remote workers, ensuring productivity, providing support and resources, dealing with time zone differences, and managing work-life balance. However, with the right strategies and support, these challenges can be overcome and lead to a successful team.

Some of the key strategies are:

Ensure that everyone is really clear about the goals and outcomes expected of them. When you are not co-located with other people, it can be hard to stay on track and motivated. Having clear expectations is important to keep everyone on track.

Have regular check-ins with the team. Along with regularly-scheduled team catchups on Zoom or Teams, make time to call team members for a chat regularly. Working remotely can be isolating. In addition to creating connection, it's an opportunity for your team member to ask questions, get your thoughts, and to share their ideas. This problem-solving chit chat happens easily when people are in the same room but isn't available to remote workers.

Encourage work/life balance. One of the things that research shows about remote workers is that they feel the pressure to be more productive than when they were in the office, almost trying to prove that they are working just as hard. This can lead to long hours. For workers at home, with a laptop and phone close by all the time, it can be tempting to work on weekends, or after hours. Make sure that your conversations with your remote workers include encouraging them to switch off.

Create connection and teamwork. When workers are remote, they can feel disconnected and isolated. Create time for not just work-related team meetings, but opportunities to connect as humans. You might organise a team games night or a team lunch, where everyone joins a Zoom or Teams session just to hang out together.

QUESTION: The onboarding experience is essential for long-term employees. In a post on your blog entitled, "10 Easy HR Video Ideas to Engage With Employees," you shared a wonderful list of video ideas. What are some of your favorites, and why?

(Read the full post here:

ROS CARDINAL: Video is a great way to connect with people if you can't meet with them face to face. As we get more accustomed to technology at home and in the workplace, everyone is more comfortable with watching videos.

My favourite uses for video in the workplace are:

Employee training: We run a number of our programs as blended learning. The participants get a video training per week, to watch or listen at a time that suits them, and we catch up as a group at the end of the week for questions, deeper dives, and case studies.

Onboarding: When I was the Organisational Development Manager in my last job before starting my business, onboarding was in my portfolio. We had a large and geographically dispersed business, with very diverse roles. I commissioned a "day in the life of" video where we had a film crew follow people around at work and get an introduction to what they did during the day. This video gave new employees an overview of what all the different functions did and also put a real employee face to the different parts of the business.

Employee and Team Introduction: These are a great way for people to get to know a new hire, and for teams to get to know each other. Some of the negative silo behaviour we see in organisations is simply caused by teams not understanding what the other teams do. In the past, I've suggested that teams invite members of other teams to visit and explain what they do, but a video can do the job too.

Workplace Guidelines and Policies: Particularly for those dry, but important policies that everyone needs to understand. Some people are not inclined to read lengthy documents, so an engaging video that explains the policy can be a great way to go.

SHARE THIS: Some of the negative silo behaviour we see in organisations is simply caused by teams not understanding what the other teams do. ~@CardinalRos #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What are some key take-aways you hope all readers have upon finishing your book entitled, THE RESILIENT EMPLOYEE?

ROS CARDINAL: The key takeaways would be these:

Change is a normal part of life, and our emotional reactions to change are normal too. Whenever I run my program that the book is based on, one of the most common pieces of feedback I get from participants is the relief of knowing that how they feel is normal and expected. They are also pleasantly surprised to find that most people in the room feel the same emotions, anger, grief, disappointment, excitement, and so on. The feeling of not being the only one is a great help.

Resilience is something you can build. Some people are naturally more resilient, but we can all exercise our resilience muscles and get better at it. Having a sense of purpose, having a good social support network, having a growth mindset, and learning from experiences, are things we can all do.

If you are a leader in the workplace, leading change is hard. Planning for change, thinking about how people will respond, creating a vision for the change, and supporting people through it are things that you need to do in addition to your normal day job. Where it goes wrong is when leaders ignore those things because they are too busy doing the day job. Sometimes leaders disappear during change, because they are struggling too, or they are worried that people will ask questions they can't answer, or people might be angry or upset and they don’t know how to handle it. It is better to be visible and imperfect than invisible.

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with three leaders from history or the modern era, who would you choose and why?

ROS CARDINAL: My three would be Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Winston Churchill.

Richard Branson: I'd love to talk business with him. He's got such an interesting story and has disrupted industries. He's had a lot of failures as well, so he's a great role model for resilience.

Arianna Huffington: I've seen her speak at a conference and really admire how she completely changed her life after a health scare. Selling the Huffington Post, starting Thrive Global, and resetting everything, is such an inspiration.

Winston Churchill: My grandfather worked with him, and he was very funny and entertaining. He also had some epic inspirational speeches, and I'd really like to understand what it was like to lead a country at war.

My gratitude and appreciation to Ros for sharing her inspiring perspective about leadership, corporate culture, and the employee experience.

Image Credit: Swati B via Unsplash.

Connect with Ros at these links:
Twitter: @CardinalRos

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Marketing News of the Week: Brand Names, Logos, and More


This past week, there were many news stories that reflected effective brand marketing, brand positioning, and brand storytelling.


With the coronation of King Charles III less than a month away, Buckingham Palace shared the invitation with the media and public. The invitation, printed on recycled paper with gold foil features symbolic flora, fauna, and coats of arms, and will be sent to over 2,000 guests.

Something interesting was noted: the King’s wife was referred to as “Queen Camilla” for the first time – officially dropping the word “Consort” from her title.

According to Nicoletta Gullace, associate professor of British history at the University of New Hampshire, “Like everyone else, I was surprised to see Camilla announced as Queen Camilla, as opposed to Queen Consort Camilla, which Queen Elizabeth had indicated was how she expected Camilla to be addressed once she became the monarch.”

Gullace added, “The consort label seemed to symbolize all of the things that made Camilla seem illegitimate in the eyes of the public and the royal family, including the fact that she was divorced. And Charles’ insistence on removing it is really an attempt to move forward and assert his legitimacy and hers in the face of all the criticisms they have had.”

Some clarification: “Queen Regnant” refers to a reigning female monarch, equivalent in rank and title to a king – that described Queen Elizabeth II. “Queen Consort” refers to the wife of a reigning king, but still holds the title and the crown but doesn’t have the same political or military powers as a king – that describes Camilla, who will be crowned alongside Charles at the May 6 ceremony. “Consort” means you’re a monarch but not entitled to rule.

Gullace explained, “So Prince Philip and male spouses of reigning queens are called Prince Consort because nobody wants to create any confusion of who is in the seat of power, because kings generally take precedence over queens.”

Lastly, Gullace said, “Above all, the biggest unknown is how the monarchy will fare without Queen Elizabeth, who reigned over seven turbulent decades and had something special about her. It remains to be seen whether Charles and Camilla have it too, and how that might influence public opinion about the institution itself, which is already low among younger generations. So, I think it is going to be the big question that we’re left with. We’ll see how well the coronation is received, how widely watched it is, and how Charles’ monarchy fares after that.”

Pepsi unveiled a new logo and branding campaign that will roll out in North America this fall and globally in 2024. The changes were designed to better align with people’s recollection of the logo and to also draw attention to Pepsi’s zero sugar line, because, according to Pepsi CEO Ramon Laguarta, “Zero is going to be the center of the strategy for the Pepsi brand.”

The new logo features a punchy, upper-case “PEPSI” in the middle of the circle, emblazoned across the white stripe undulating between the red and blue waves. According to the brand’s chief marketing officer, the new logo is bold and confident.

Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the “Keep It Fresh” marketing campaign for the state of Michigan, whose goal is to show that her state offers businesses an opportunity for growth, visitors a “fresh take” on life, and people a home to build a rewarding life and career. The ads will be shown on national television during the summer and will appear on the following networks: Discovery, Food Network, HGTV, and Magnolia Network. The marketing campaign will also run on digital, print, social media, radio, and streaming audio services.

According to Governor Whitmer, “Michigan is a place that will drive the world forward through grit, our world-class workforce, and stunning natural resources. We will work together to show the world what makes Michigan the best place to invest, innovate, live, and explore. We will continue competing with anyone to bring manufacturing jobs and supply chains home and become known as a state with a strong business climate and unparalleled economic opportunity for workers…We invite everyone to be a part of what we’re building in Pure Michigan. Let’s keep getting it done.”

The Boston Marathon has agreed to a 10-year sponsorship deal with Bank of America that organizers hope will allow the world’s oldest and most prestigious 26.2-mile road race to grow over the next decade while maintaining its legacy. BofA already has a presence in the distance running arena as the sponsor of the Chicago Marathon, but unlike that race, which is officially named the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, the Boston Marathon will keep its name and add a new tagline “presented by Bank of America.”

Jack Fleming, CEO and President of the Boston Athletic Association, explained, “At some level, we realized that Bank of American saw this differently. They saw us as a different opportunity and maybe didn’t need to have that title and wanted to preserve it for everyone else, and for Boston.” BofA also has a large presence in Boston. The course runs past 11 BofA branches or ATMs of which two are on the final sprint down Boylston Street to the Copley Square finish line. The new deal takes effect with the 2024 race.

According to WBUR, “First run in 1897 by 15 men who were inspired by the marathon race at the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens the previous spring, the Boston Marathon has grown into a weekend-long running festival and the signature event of the Massachusetts holiday known as Patriots’ Day. For 30,000 recreational runners who have to qualify just to line up in Hopkinton on the third Monday in April, it is a bucket-list event.”

Ninety years ago (1933), the film “King Kong” premiered in theaters. This past week, New York’s City’s Empire State Building celebrated with special treats. The film was the first of many iconic roles that the building would go on to play on the silver screen.

What other marketing news stood out to you this past week?

What will be the marketing buzz next week? Tune in to read all about it.

Image Credits: Royal Family and Pepsi.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Leaders, Employees, and Spotlights

Today is Step in the Spotlight Day, which is the perfect segue to today’s Q&A. Step in the Spotlight Day was first celebrated in 2008, and its aim is to encourage people to sharpen their skills to attract attention and grow their businesses. Recently, I connected with James Schofield from Nova Scotia, Canada, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about leadership, onboarding, and the employee experience. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

James Schofield is an experienced business coach with a specialization in Human Resource Management, specifically in the areas of Talent Attraction and Retention. He is a Partner at Roman 3 Solutions, Inc., where he leads Roman 3’s implementation team, helping organizations identify and develop a productive, profitable, and inclusive workplace culture.

QUESTION: How do you explain the importance of creating a positive EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE to leaders who sit too high atop the C-Suite to understand?
JAMES SCHOFIELD: This is a common struggle in most workplaces, and we are asked this all the time. How do you connect organizational culture and the employee experience to business performance and outcomes?

One of the ways that we articulate that connection is something we call Productivity Insulation, which is the idea that organizational productivity and performance is only as efficient as how well you have insulated it. Like insulation in your home, if you do not invest in the things that will keep it well insulated, then your heat seeps out through your windows, doors, roof, and foundation. The key with poor insulation is that the expensive problems it causes do not show up as an item on your household budget. They are hidden expenses that make everything else so much more costly.

With productivity, the costs that come with poor insulation are things like slow and unreliable work, opportunity costs of not having the talent you need to take on new projects, customer loss when dissatisfied employees provide unsatisfactory customer service, replacement and on-boarding costs of high turnover, over budget and over deadline change management, etc. Just like the issues with home insulation, the problems caused by Productivity Insulation don’t show up on your balance sheet.

A business lives and dies by the people in it. Anything that requires people is dependent on the employee experience to be productive and efficient. This is something that the C-Suite knows, but sometimes they need to be reminded of how important the connections are.

TWEET THIS: A business lives and dies by the people in it. ~@JamesFromRoman3 #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What elements do you think are critical to create a successful ONBOARDING program?
JAMES SCHOFIELD: Clear expectations and belonging.

One of the most important parts of starting a new job is to clearly know what is expected of you, and how success is measured. A common mistake that many workplaces make is expecting employees to figure out for themselves where the boundaries are, and how their coworkers and supervisors will measure their efforts. There is a lot of anxiety that comes with unknown expectations and a lack of transparency of how your efforts will be measured and assessed.

As for belonging, part of onboarding should be about the organization getting to know you, as much as your getting to know the organization. Encouraging people to share their thoughts and ideas, allowing for their unique perspectives, a chance to show their skills, and an authentic respect of someone’s true self. Too many organizations expect assimilation. The idea that “To ‘fit in,’ you need to look like us and sound like us. You can have different thoughts and perspectives, as long as you keep them to yourself.” This can be support thorough clear and transparent commitment, followed by authentic actions that actively encourage psychological safety.

QUESTION: How can a CEO/President be an effective brand ambassador?
JAMES SCHOFIELD: By demonstrating Authenticity, Integrity, and Transparency.

[1] When a CEO is authentic and sincere, it makes them more trustworthy and relatable.
[2] When a CEO is willing to not sacrifice what is right for what is easy or what is popular, it allows people to trust and respect the CEO. Consistently making the right choice, especially when it is the tough choice, builds respect and even those who may disagree on what constitutes the “right choice” can respect your ability to act with integrity.
[3] When a CEO is willing to be transparent and encourage others to do the same, it makes the general public more accepting of their organization, warts and all.
[4] When we see a CEO or brand ambassador who consistently acts with integrity, is being authentic, and is transparent, they naturally create a pull, a desire to be a part of what they’re doing. People are far more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt because we can trust that they are telling us the truth.

QUESTION: There is a new title in the C-Suite: Chief Happiness Officer. What do you make of this, and can it, or should it, become standard in all organizations? Or is this just marketing buzz?

(Here's the article:

JAMES SCHOFIELD: There is a lot of great research that links happiness to better productivity and work. The work by Shawn Achor comes to mind. But the mistake that companies often make is that happiness is the complete equal to motivation, enthusiasm, and productivity. When the harsh truth is, it’s not. Happiness is a natural by-product of workplaces where people feel included and engaged in their work. But happiness alone is not the same thing. You can be happy and complacent. Or happy and unmotivated. Happiness cannot be the final goal, but a milestone along the way.

So, my opinion is that the focus on Chief Happiness Officers is benign at best. My concern is that it is emblematic of how poorly we understand how a workplace culture is built. I will admit that it is a step in the right direction, showing the importance of the employee experience and that it is valued by senior leadership, but I’m concerned that it is style over substance.

QUESTION: Which leaders inspire you, from business or history, and why?
JAMES SCHOFIELD: If I’m being honest, I am not inspired by business leaders, celebrities, athletes, or personalities. I have been very fortunate to have many people in my life who have had a substantial impact on who I am, and living up to the faith they have placed in me is a source of inspiration.

I know that’s a bit of a non-answer, but actions, not people, inspire (me at least). That being said, there’s a great, recent example, of one person whose actions I admire, and that is author Brandon Sanderson. He is a fantasy author and recently had his popularity skyrocket after launching the most successful Kickstarter ever, when he raised something like $40 million.  

Due to his immense success, he has been approached by many companies wanting to gain the rights to distribute his works (I believe it was specific to audio book format) and offered him 100% of the proceeds in order to draw more people to their platforms (where industry average would be around 40% or something ridiculous). He used his influence not to negotiate a good deal just for himself, but instead, he negotiated that all authors who used the platform would get a higher percentage, effectively increasing potential earnings for hundreds if not thousands of aspiring authors.

This I respect, and these types of actions do inspire me to operate my business in a way that does good for others.

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?
JAMES SCHOFIELD: To me, it means that you don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to pretend to be infallible. Your job is to empower others. A good leader does not demand the spotlight, they shine the spotlight on others.

TWEET THIS: A good leader does not demand the spotlight, they shine the spotlight on others. ~@JamesFromRoman3 #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My thanks to James for sharing his employee experience and leadership insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Connect with James at these links:
Company on LinkedIn:
James on Twitter:
James on Linkedin

Image Credit: Daniel van den Berg via Unsplash.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Don't Fool Your Customers TOO Much on April Fools' Day

Sure, everyone likes a good joke, but if you're a brand and want to build brand loyalty that leads to repeat business, don't make your customers feel like fools especially on April Fools' Day.

Remember back in 2010 when Google played a trick on its users? When people visited the Google homepage to conduct a search, they did not see the familiar Google logo and search box. Instead, Google was replaced with the word Topeka. So instead of saying "Google it" when wanting to find an answer that day, users were forced to say "Topeka it."

Here's a reminder in case you forgot the reason why this happened...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.

In 2019, automaker BMW announced "Lunar Paint," a car paint that could charge electric vehicles by moonlight. According to the company, "Lunar Paint uses revolutionary photovoltaic technology to passively recharge your battery in the hours of darkness." The brand later thanked its fans with this message: "We hope you enjoyed this year's April Fools' Day. Whilst Lunar Paint may not be of this world yet, BMW does have an innovative range of existing technologies for you to discover - including solar and digital."

And then, in 2021, global jewelry company Tiffany & Company changed its iconic blue color to yellow. The company announced the change on Instagram with a new hashtag #TiffanyYellow, but many followers were quick to point out a key detail: the announcement was made on April First, April Fools' Day.

Also in 2021, automaker Volkswagen announced that it had a new name for its American division: Voltswagen of America with the goal to raise awareness about the company's all-electric SUV model. However, it turned out that the announcement was part of an elaborate April Fools' Day joke. And even the Wall Street Journal reported the prank.

So how will your brand celebrate April Fools' Day? And will you create a clever joke or prank, or will you celebrate the day without tricking your customers and fans?

Image Credits: Google, Tiffany & Co., and BMW.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

What's In a Name When It Comes to Brands?

Recently, King Charles III granted a title that belonged to his father to his youngest brother, Prince Edward.

According to Town and Country, "Upon marriage, royal princes often receive a dukedom from the monarch; however, on Edward's wedding day, he was given the title of Earl of Wessex. On March 10, 2023, King Charles conferred the title of Duke of Edinburgh upon his brother."

The official royal press release stated, "His Majesty The King has been pleased to confer the Dukedom of Edinburgh upon The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Forfar, on the occasion of His Royal Highness's 59th birthday. The title will be held by Prince Edward for His Royal Highness's lifetime. The Dukedom was last created for Prince Philip in 1947, upon his marriage to Princess Elizabeth, who held the title of Duchess of Edinburgh before acceding to the throne in 1952. The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh are proud to continue Prince Philip's legacy of promoting opportunities for young people of all backgrounds to reach their full potential."

While this new title was not a surprise, it creates more exposure for Prince Edward and his wife combined with the ability to expand their philanthropic reach.

Also, the dukedom, which in the past was hereditary, will not pass down to Prince Edward's son, James, when Edward dies. It will revert to the Crown and paves the way for one of the Prince and Princess of Wales's children to potentially be given the title in the future, possibly Prince Louis.

So, can new titles, name changes, and new taglines improve brands? Can they help tell a brand's story? Or, can the change damage brands, their story, and positioning?

Perhaps, the answer can best be explained by this quote from Dave Buck, CEO of CoachVille:

"Your brand is a gateway to your true work. You know you are here to do something — to create something or help others in some way. The question is, how can you set up your life and work so that you can do it? The answer lies in your brand. When you create a compelling brand, you attract people who want the promise of your brand — which you deliver."

Image Credit: Ae2s communications.

Monday, March 27, 2023

How to Craft a Message That Resonates

As a member of the Twitterverse for 14 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. However, due to the chaos resulting from Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, I joined the Twitter exodus for a short time and joined Mastodon. One of my new connections on Mastodon is Martijn Baarda from the Netherlands, and I invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A about marketing, branding, and social networks. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Martijn Baarda’s first job was as a marketer at Apple Computer. There, he started to realize that almost all marketing insights and books were biased fairy tales – mostly based on share of voice and reach. After working at BBDO, he changed course and became an entrepreneur with one vision: The marketing and sales efforts are inversely proportional to a brand's relevance, and therefore, making brands more relevant became his goal.

QUESTION: We met on Mastodon, as a result of the Twitter migration. How will you use Mastodon differently than Twitter?

MARTIJN BAARDA: I hope to create a more positive and productive online experience, free from the distractions and noise of a global commercial social network (which is Twitter). Additionally, Mastodon's decentralized architecture means that users have more control over their data and privacy, which aligns with my personal values.

QUESTION: What first attracted you to marketing and branding?

MARTIJN BAARDA: The thought of being able to craft a message that resonates with an audience and evokes an emotional response is truly fascinating.

I was drawn to the creative and strategic aspects of marketing and branding, the ability to analyze data and use that information to develop campaigns that are not only effective, but also visually stunning and memorable. The ability to tell a story through a brand and create a lasting impression on people is something that I find truly captivating.

Marketing and branding are a specialty that allows me to use my analytical and creative skills, and to make a real impact in the world by helping businesses, organizations, and people to reach their full potential.

QUESTION: On LinkedIn, you provide the following description of your professional expertise:
"Bridging the gap between business strategy and marketing strategy. Love to validate ideas by testing. The stronger your brand, the smaller your sales effort. Strong advice: Don't play in the middle. Be relevant." Please explain.

MARTIJN BAARDA: To me, the creative industry is too focused on winning creative prizes instead of being effective and growing a client's business. So, we are always using testing models and techniques to overcome biases. And we are participating in the results by getting paid based on performance. So, we need to be sure we have eliminated all thinkable pitfalls.

Our motto 'Strong brands talk less but say more' is based on the relevancy of a brand. Make choices so that people either hate or love your brand. But don't get stuck in the middle.

QUESTION: Many businesses have added to their C-Suite with a Chief Talent Officer, Chief Digital Officer, and even a Chief Customer Officer. When will businesses create Chief Branding Officers?

MARTIJN BAARDA: We work for private equity and family businesses. Especially the last group is very committed to the long-term success of their business and understand the impact of a strong brand. So, I would say in these cases, the CEO is also the CBO.

For the rest, it's hard to say. I experience a correlation between business success and having a brand officer in charge at the highest level. Smart organizations will have this CBO in place soon.

QUESTION: You're based in the Netherlands, and I'm based in the United States. However, some branding is universal, so what's your favorite brand, and why?

MARTIJN BAARDA: One of my favorite brands is Volkswagen. They are into smart advertising. They don't just buy share of voice, but they commit to a clear and outspoken strategy. They walk the way they talk. And the language they use is implicit.

Remember this one? They had a recall campaign for 1972 Volkswagens in 2002 (!) because the glove box could spontaneously pop open after 30 years.

My gratitude and appreciation to Martijn for sharing his brand marketing and messaging insights.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Connect with Martijn at these links:

Monday, March 20, 2023

PR, Storytelling and Brand Messaging

As a member of the Twitterverse for 14 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. However, due to the chaos resulting from Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, I joined the Twitter exodus for a short time and joined Mastodon. One of my new connections on Mastodon is Christina Ferraz from Houston, Texas, and I invited her to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A about public relations and brand messaging. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Christina Ferraz is a high performance, flexible communication strategist, and adjunct professor with 20 years of experience. After matriculating with honors from Temple University with a Master of Science in Communication Management and awarded scholarships to present her research at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association, Christina grew her business, Thirty6five, with networks in New York City, Philadelphia, and Houston working with non-profits, small businesses, and public figures. Hispanic Public Relations Association awarded Christina with the Best Non-Profit Campaign for her work with Houston Ballet in 2022, and PRNEWS recognized Christina's work by awarding her Honorable Mention for the Pioneer Award in the CSR and Diversity Awards 2021. She has been quoted by The Washington Post, NPR, CNN, Houston Chronicle and has spoken on panels for to discuss the role of public relations in corporate social responsibility, marketing, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. She was also quoted in my post about 2022’s Brand Identity Changes – a link is provided at the end of this Q&A.

QUESTION: What three brands are handling their public relations campaigns exceptionally well during the Covid pandemic, and why?

CHRISTINA FERRAZ: TikTok is handling their public relations campaigns exceptionally well considering how US lawmakers view the platform as a security threat, because their parent company is based in China and want to ban the platform. TikTok’s popularity exploded during the Covid pandemic due to its videos depicting everyday life and replicable dance challenges. TikTok continues to grow and attract users as well as influence culture, so it will be interesting to see how they handle crises this year, and what they will do to remain dominant in social media if they are banned in the US.
I’m also impressed by Roc Nation and the NFL public relations campaigns in how they are using their strategic partnership to highlight Black artists and target Millennials. Last year, the Super Bowl Halftime Show featured Mary J, Blige, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent and Eminem. The NFL was creative with how they had artists perform away from dancers on the field to respect social distancing among the Omicron wave in January. This year, the Super Bowl Halftime Show will feature Rihanna, an artist who once said that she would never perform for the NFL. Collectively, Roc Nation and the NFL show the importance of strategic partnerships and how keeping brands relevant by tapping into their target audience’s nostalgia is a clever strategy for success.
Walgreens is also a brand that handled public relations well during the Covid pandemic. In addition to managing marketing communications for vaccinations and testing, Walgreens was simultaneously managing crisis communications for its association with Theranos. Owned and founded by Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos was a privately-held health technology corporation that falsely claimed to own technology that could run several diagnostic tests using very little blood. They formed a partnership with Walgreens for these machines to be in their stores so they could expedite testing at a cheaper cost providing more access to the public. By focusing more on the marketing communications for vaccinations and testing, Walgreens was able to minimize blowback for their participation in what has now been called fraud by the SEC.

QUESTION: Due to all the chaos resulting in Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter, we met on Mastodon. How do you envision your use of Mastodon will be different than your use of Twitter?
CHRISTINA FERRAZ: I anticipate my presence on Mastodon to be much more about connecting with like-minded individuals where we can discuss numerous topics without the threat of violence or the proliferation of disinformation. I do not foresee Mastodon becoming part of my marketing funnel for my company, Thirty6five, so I believe that Mastodon will allow me to be more observant and supportive of other creatives while sharing/boosting their thoughts to my followers. I think the biggest difference between my use of Mastodon and Twitter will be the amount of writing I will do when speaking on PR crises. Twitter did not have enough characters to write extensively about any topic without linking to another website or social platform to read more.

QUESTION: What inspired you to join the field of public relations?

CHRISTINA FERRAZ: I’m a former journalist, so I’ve always been drawn to telling stories – it’s my passion. I found that public relations allowed me to focus more on writing and provided me with a variety of experiences I wasn’t privy to working in radio and TV. I realized I enjoyed bringing attention to brands and entrepreneurs making a difference in their communities and improving the lives of others. It’s incredibly rewarding to support these leaders and help them reach their targeted audiences to get the attention they deserve. I also love managing crises. Creating crisis communication responses that both inform the public and protect brands is thrilling!

SHARE THIS: I’ve always been drawn to telling stories. ~Christina Ferraz #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: In an article for NPR, you said, "Trust with [a] brand is what's going to make [consumers] invest in the brand." With that said, how do you align public relations with brand marketing?

CHRISTINA FERRAZ: Building trust with consumers requires a consistent approach to public relations such that media placements, crisis responses, and strategic partnerships build an identity that aligns with brand marketing. What you say is just as important as what you do -- and what you say you’ll do -- and in that way, public relations and marketing need to be in lock-step in the formation of brand identity and tone when it comes to media mapping and marketing campaigns.

Additionally, corporate social responsibility has become more important in recent years, most especially with Gen Z consumers, and responding accordingly to crises lends to the importance of brand reputation. Social media allows for both the documentation of a brand’s history and instantaneous reactions that can immediately reach millions of people.

A thoughtful approach to public relations and brand marketing is important in building trust by maintaining a positive brand reputation that convinces consumers to invest in that brand.

SHARE THIS: Building trust with consumers requires a consistent approach to public relations. ~Christina Ferraz #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: According to Laura Holloway, Founder and Chief of The Storyteller Agency (@StorytellerAgcy on Twitter), “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.” What does this quote mean to you?
CHRISTINA FERRAZ: I appreciate this quote by Laura Holloway because it is the same approach I take with public relations. The difference between marketing and storytelling lies in the way a brand values its consumers. If you only see consumers as a sale to make instead of human beings connecting to hear the difference/sameness in our stories, you will be talking AT people instead of TO people – and people hate being sold. To me, this quote means that storytelling is greater than marketing, and to be successful in communications is to ENGAGE WITH your audience instead of JUST SELLING TO your audience.

QUESTION: What are your three favorite brands, and why?

CHRISTINA FERRAZ: Here are my three:

I am a fan of Coca-Cola because of their approach to branding – from design to marketing to strategic partnerships. Coca-Cola demonstrates a level of consistency and global reach most brands will never achieve. Their brand identity revolves around family which is a universal theme by which any culture can relate.
I also support Lush Cosmetics because of its commitment to recycling, fair trade practices, advocacy, and philanthropy, refusal to test on animals, and global presence that influences them to create products reflective of the local culture in addition to their evergreen campaigns and products. I especially like their brand consistency because no matter where you are in the world you can recognize a Lush Cosmetics store with its black packaging, white script, and tongue-in-cheek marketing.
Lastly, I have a great deal of respect for Nike and its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. From groundbreaking campaigns with celebrities like Michael Jordan to creating adaptive clothing for people with disabilities, Nike is a case-study on the ways in which consumer feedback influences branding. Social listening can be incredibly helpful in helping a brand to remain relevant, and Nike demonstrates how social listening can contribute to the longevity and success of a brand.

My gratitude and appreciation to Christina for sharing her public relations and messaging insights.

Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.

Quote featured on Debbie Laskey’s Blog:
“2022 Was the Year of #BrandIdentity Changes”

Article referenced in first question’s response:
“Lawmakers are trying to ban TikTok. That won’t be easy – it’s part of our culture now”

Article referenced in final question’s response:
“Nike launches hands-free shoes inspired by man with cerebral palsy”

Connect with Christina at these links:
Instagram: @theprprofessor