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Category Archive: Communication

How To Use the CEO Mindset For Smarter Communication

Small to mid-sized business owners, executives, smarter communicationWhile driving one day last week, I stopped to make a left turn. There was oncoming traffic (we drive on the right in the US)  so I was ready to wait. One of the drivers gestured that I could take my turn. That seems considerate enough but there was a problem. He hadn’t stopped rolling. His idea was that I should take my turn while his car was still moving. As you might imagine, I hesitated. Was he really letting me go? And if I did make the turn, what were the possible consequences?

Sometimes we say one thing while we’re sending a completely different message

It was interesting to note my emotional response. I wasn’t sure which message was the true one. This happens in the workplace as well. Take one of my clients, Barry (not his real name) who had a clear vision for how his company could grow nationally. Unfortunately, he also had a habit of over-analyzing trends, opportunities and the performance of his company to such an extent that it muddied how he expressed his vision and expectations to his team. Another client, Rachel (not her real name) would assign tasks to one of her staff but then do the task herself  because “I know how to do better and quicker.” For both of these clients and for others, the bottom line was that they claimed to value the skills and input of their staff but their actions said otherwise.

What you do carries more weight than what you say

Since small to mid-sized organizations are much more intimate, the decision-makers have greater influence on corporate culture. The words you use (including swears and pejoratives), the volume at which you speak and when you speak send a strong message to your staff how to treat one another. Another potential trap is to assume that everyone looks at the world through your eyes and your sensibilities. Let’s say you spend long hours in the office because you believe that is essential to success but tell your employees that they can have flex time and vacations. Which part of your message are they going to listen to the most? I’ve even had a business owner tell me that he limits suggestions and recommendations because he doesn’t want to hear bad news.

There is a smarter way to communicate

In past blog posts, I’ve written about how the CEO Mindset supports the business owner/ executive to be more effective.  But what does this really mean? For a leader to truly use the CEO Mindset, he/she must pay attention to what is going on internally and externally as well as the other aspects of leading and managing a business. To effectively communicate, you have to use many of the same things.

The intersection between the CEO Mindset and communication uses both the internal and external awareness of the business owner/ executive:

  • Builds trust- Consistency in verbal and nonverbal message goes a long way
  • Lets people know where the boundaries are- Ineffective communication styles give contradictory signals so people aren’t sure what is acceptable
  • Charisma is over-rated-  Be yourself and give a complete message. Motivational speeches do have their place but substance is what your team is looking for.
  • Paying attention for better listening- It is remarkable what stopping and paying attention, even for 15 seconds, can do to prevent misunderstandings and unnecessary clarifications
  • Know clearly what your message is- There is a time and place for chitchat. When you want people to know where the business is going next, how to solve or prevent problems or get tasks done, state clearly what you want people to hear.
  • Flexibility-  You may need to vary your words or the pacing of how you say things. Sometimes flexibility includes fully listening first before you say anything.
  • Pay attention to the emotions- Someone can say what you want to hear but if you don’t hear what they are really feeling, the issue will come up again and again.

When business owners/ executives develop their skills and are comfortable in their own skin, communication tends to go more smoothly. Sure, there are days when everyone makes mistakes but good communication builds good will. Are you like the driver in the story and giving mixed signals to you team? Using the CEO Mindset encourages you to monitor your communication style and self-awareness to foster stronger communication with your team.



Managing Change: What Neuroscience Teaches Us About Burning Platforms

neuroscience, change management, burning platformIn 1988 in the North Sea, an Occidental Oil rig exploded killing 167 men. This disaster is possibly the worst offshore oil rig accidents in history (see more of the story here). Those that survived the inferno did so by jumping into the ocean waters despite the great height and frigid waters below. One survivor, Andy Mochan was quoted, “It was either fry or jump, so I jumped.”

Daryl Connor was inspired by Mochan’s story and commitment to survival led Connor to create the change management term of “burning platform.” Since Connor’s introduction, it’s become common in change management to create a sense of heightened urgency so organizational changes are adopted more readily.

The morphing of an idea Click here to read more »


Collaboration in a Multi-cultural Environment

*I’m delighted to introduce you to guest blogger, Ritu Raj of  ORCHESTRATORMAIL . He is a senior executive, entrepreneur, consultant. Founder and CEO of Avasta, Wag Hotels and OrchestratorMail. Executive at TMP Worldwide, Partner at Accenture and prior to that different positions in the outsourcing market out of India. He will be our guest host on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog this Friday at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT. This is his guest post for this week’s topic.

First, let’s define collaboration-people working together on something. They could be collaborating in real-time in a meeting or using tools like Webex, or even micro-blogging. Or they could be collaborating asynchronously (not real-time) using email.

Collaboration, as we are using it, includes working together, brain storming, creating a common vision, bringing people on the same page or coordinating with each other to fulfill an objective; a mission where tasks are interdependent, or, the last category, that they are all cooperating. This sounds easy until you add each person’s understanding of the world as informed by his or her culture.

Culture is more than simply your nationality or ethnicity.

Culture, in this conversation,  is not limited to different ethnicity or different countries but also the culture of east coast vs. west coast, people working in engineering firms to people working in a design firm…all of them different cultures. Even if they all speak English, they have different interpretations of what they hear.

Moving beyond the Industrial Age mindset

In the US, we have been moving from an industrial economy where it was all about personal productivity (how fast can you make a widget or bolt a nut) to a very collaborative economy. In this collaborative economy, to fulfill an outcome, you have to work with others (knowledge workers). Your personal productivity cannot fulfill the outcome and you need to learn and develop skills in collaborating with others.

Collaboration has its stumbling blocks.

In most cases, the “others” that you “have” to collaborate with are a mixture of different cultures. You cannot depend upon being a great communicator but have to start recognizing and learning how others interpret what you are saying and what are their cultural differences. I have seen many examples of this coming from India 15 years ago and working in the San Francisco Bay Area where everyone is nice and polite. Consider this scenario: Sally and Ram work for the same organization.  Sally is in the Bay Area, Ram is in Bangalore, India. Sally says “Can you please send me the report as soon as possible”, Ram interprets the request as “oh, Sally is not really in a hurry for the Report.” This is an example of classic mis-coordination. The use of language carries importance.

So, the big question is how do we close the gap between the speaker’s intention and the listener’s interpretation in a multi-cultural collaborative economy?

*Consider yourself invited to discuss this topic of “Collaborating In a Multi-Cultural Environment” on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, September 30th at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT so I hope you can join us. If not, please add your thoughts below.


Has Social Media Killed the Art Of Conversation-#kaizenblog recap

You hear a lot of complaining about how people’s writing skills have been ruined by texting or tweeting. But what about the art ofSocial Media and Art of Conversation conversation? What is the effect of social media on our ability to actually converse and connect with one another verbally?

Essentially the art of conversation is simply and easily talking with anyone about anything while projecting confidence and friendliness. Someone who is adept at the art of conversation also uses active listening skills so the conversation follows an arc as subjects are introduced and talked about.

The three stages to the Art of Conversation are:

1. Small talk-weather, location, event..basically anything that joins two or more people into the actual conversation

2. Subject matter-this is the business part of the conversation. There is more depth here as people explore a topic or the purpose of the conversation

3. Closure-the topic is wrapped up and people end the conversation in a smooth way that could include thanking one another for the conversation and even a goodbye

Since the #kaizenblog chat happens on Twitter, social media plays an important role for all of us who participate. In past conversations, participants have talked about developing relationships which would imply that conversations are taking place. But…what kind of conversations? Have we interrupted the process with limited space or speed or what?  You can read the transcript here Transcript for #kaizenblog – HasSocMedKilledArtofConvo

Ironically, during the chat, we noticed that Twitter and other applications (e.g. HootSuite, Tweetchat) were acting strangely so there were aborted tweets that somehow got published or simply had to be re-typed until they were successfully sent.

As our usual wont, we opened with a basic question so we could use a common definition. How would you describe the art of conversation? There are concerns that we’re less civil, more informal or even more likely to skip the first stage. Any of these are possible due to the thought that they are not important. And, possibly the biggest challenge to a conversation is feeling like there is enough time to fully engage in the topic together.

  • Laura Crum “A1: the art of conversation used to be fluid, pretty and intricate”
  • Parissa Behnia “A1: The art is understanding that there are many textures. sometimes it’s in listening & sometimes in 2 way exchange”
  • Richard Winter “A1: Being able to convey a message or position people see in their minds through the words you use”
  • Bruno Coehlo “A1 The art of Conversation is about listening, understanding and sharing. Hint: the order matters”
  • Michael Benidt “A1: Conversation has to include respect – someone has to be as interested in you, as you are in them”

Given the concerns about how conversation has become truncated, where does social media fit in? What is the intersection between social media and conversation?

  • Parissa Behnia “A2: SM is enhancement so I don’t see it as intersection so much as wonderful support to the right behaviors we should be doing”
  • Torrey McGraw “A2: Success lies in adding value. Thus more will be willing to drive down your street”
  • ASQ Baton Rouge 1521 “Q2: SM intersects w/ conversation when relationships are built. Genuine thought and opinion vs. announcements”
  • Ken Rosen “I think Ppl DO value artful comments & elevate those who are capable. But aesthetic changing. W/ SM as a force of change no doubt”
  • Suzanna Stinnett “A2 The intersection of SM and conversation is your brain. You choose who you follow and how you interact”
  • Amber Cleveland “A2. The intersection is us…people. Social media, traditional media, phone calls, emails, tweets…all intersect at people”

The conversation has some interested side threads about spelling, grammar and how people use social media in a way that would be very obnoxious if we were in-person. One thread even touched on how words are used and whether or not poetry can exist on sites like Twitter. Perhaps, at times, the conversation got a little myopic and the comments were centered more on Twitter use.

This seemed to open the conversation for the next question. How would you describe the effects of social media on conversation?

  • Amy Canada “…#SocialMedia is only a conversation for those who use it to converse (2 ways). Broadcasting is not conversation”
  • ASQ Baton Rouge 1251 “Many companies fail to engage. They think since the tools are free, strategic thought is not required.”
  • Bruno Coehlo “One of the major effects that  SM made on conversation is reducing our attention span and time perception”

The responses seemed all over the place during this question. Some people felt that social media has augmented conversations offline. It seems likely that the truth is not one thing or another as social media has so many faces. It would be interesting to see how the effects play over time.

What is the future of the art of conversation given that social media will exist in one form or another?

  • Parissa Behnia “insistence on keeping the trad’l ways of engaging while embracing new technology. symbiotic”
  • Bruno Coeholo “Q4 Conversations will continue to evolve across different channels because of our need to to share and learn”
  • Christine Dowers “Q4: I see more and more people realizing the importance of Twitter. Many people don’t know how to use it or why it is here.”

While most people were quite positive about social media, there were a number of side threads and comments that pointed out the drawbacks or limitations. If we are embracing a tool for our businesses, are we thinking critically about how it affects our organizations and ourselves? Social media can be a shiny toy. It is also a way for us to meet more people who are looking for what we provide. Consider this, nearly every week on #kaizenblog, we have participants from Europe, Canada and the United States. Occasionally we have participants from other parts of the world as well. This means that we have the opportunity to broaden how we understand our expertise and how others in the world engage in similar work. Maybe the art of conversation isn’t lost but has morphed into its next manifestation.

What do you believe about the art of conversation in social media? Is it really dead or something else?


Has Social Media Removed Our Ability to Converse?

Conversation: 1.  Oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas. or ideas 2. an instance of such exchange

“It was difficult to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much” -Yogi Berra

Don’t get me wrong. I do love the opportunities that engaging in social media can bring. I get to blog with some cool business owners and professionals on Bloggertone. And I’m the host of the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog (every Friday at 12pm ET/5pm GMT) which brings me in touch with some special thinkers and fascinating people.


It sometimes makes me wonder if we’re too busy making noise so our small businesses (and ourselves) get noticed. Social media has given small business opportunities to compete against comConversation, Social Media and Small Businesspanies that are far larger and with greater resources. Customers can interact with us in multiple ways on our blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook. Even on LinkedIn, you can get recommendations about the quality of your expertise.

For some sites, there are limits on how many characters you can use. On our blogs, people aren’t always encouraged or allowed to comment on posts. So, is the art of conversation killed by this? If we can talk about any topic and at any length, are we just making noise or really exchanging ideas? There are people out there who look for opportunities to send out messages that are hateful or sales pitches. Are we really sharing our observations or just spewing our frustration and alienation?

Sure, the definition of conversation doesn’t say anything about being civil or polite. This is where the art of conversation comes in. There are business benefits to being adept at conversing with one another. It brings us opportunities to learn about who the person is that we are associating with. And…the origin of the word, conversation actually comes from the Latin conversari which means “to associate with” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). What makes them tick? What similarities do you share with them? What can you learn?

Are we just shouting at each other? Has social media killed the art of conversation?

Join us for the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog this Friday where we take up this topic and strive to have a conversation with one another. You can find us on Twitter every Friday at 12pm ET/5pm GMT/9am PT. Please consider yourself invited!




Someone You Should Know

There is a lot of talk about what Twitter can do for us. Maybe it can make us money. Maybe it can make us famous. Maybe it’s just fun. Maybe it’s about the people…

Valeria Maltoni, Conversation AgentI’d like to introduce you to someone who deserves to be considered an influencer of the best kind. Everyone, meet Valeria Maltoni.

I met Valeria on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog when I used to participate in the conversation. Actually, it was Caroline Di Diego who was kind enough to send me reminders about the chat as she knew how much I enjoy exploring ideas and seeing how they apply in real life. So, I joined in and became intrigued by the host, Valeria. At that point, I only knew her as @ConversationAge but she seemed to truly care that the chat, #kaizenblog and that the participants did more than just enjoy a conversation. This passion was refreshing and I wanted to know more.

Passion, intellect, curiosity and a thirst to connect with others are all characteristics of Valeria that are easy to see. She brings her whole self to everything. Perhaps this is because she is Italian but it’s probably more true that this is just how she is. Sure you can learn about her on her site but to truly get to know her, have a conversation. My first full-blown offline conversation with her contained references to Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno, social media and other philosophers. Nice and light, just like any “how to get to know you” kind of conversation should be.

 She is a Connector. Valeria thrives on getting to know others and hearing them think. There are two things that I delight in and deeply appreciate since we partnered up to be co-hosts on #kaizenblog. The first is that she has introduced me to interesting people like Tom Asacker , Taylor Davidson , Aliza Sherman and, of course, the core group of tweeps who come every Friday to explore “kaizen” and business. Her passion for connection isn’t simply for her own gain but to make the world more cozy and ready for a good conversation (with or without espresso).

The second thing that delights me is her reminders every now and then that I “should” do something. Having someone who gives an occasional nudge (or shove) to go beyond my regular way of operating is such a gift! She inspires me to see the world even more broadly, to explore other possibilities and to act according my grander vision. Since she is a marketing strategist, she can see what is coming two or three steps ahead. As someone who doesn’t inhabit that world primarily, her perspective fuels my imagination and my tendency to test how an idea can work in real life. It’s a cliche, I know, but Valeria does inspire me to bring my A game.

She nudges people on a regular basis. This is not a gift she has given just to me. When she founded #kaizenblog, it wasn’t good enough to explore an idea. Valeria wanted people to grapple with an idea, take it home with them and find a way to implement it in their work and lives. She continues to do this in her work with her colleagues, her clients, her blog, her Facebook page and on Twitter. As she reminded us in her last time on #kaizenblog, she’s not going anywhere!

Take some time to check out her Twitter stream, her Facebook page or her blog. Engage with her. It’s something that will be illuminating and valuable! Have a conversation with the Conversation Agent. After all, her message is “connecting ideas and people-how talk can change our lives.”



Stories That Work #kaizenblog recap

While telling stories is as old as human history, the craft of telling a good story is repeatedly re-discovered. Currently, there is a lot of discussion about telling stories in business. Tell about your brand in a story. Explain your corporate culture to new hires in a story. Encourage your customers to tell stories about your products. In this week’s #kaizenblog chat on Twitter, we decided to take a closer look at stories and how they’re told. As Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge) pointed out, “Stories also work because our brains use narrative as shortcut to remember things.”

If you missed the chat, there are a number of links to books, blogs, and other stories that are well worth your attention. To catch up on the conversation and these links, here is the transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – StoriesThatWorkPt1

Why do stories work? Seems like a basic question but a foundation can be a good place to start. Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum) explained, “from vStorytellingery young, we’re taught to appreciate stories (we read to babies) and having things framed as stories is a throwback.”

  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “Stories work because people can relate to them ~ life is story”
  • Paul Pruneau (@PaulPruneau) “Stories connect all of us and our experiences together. They inspire, inform and influence ideas and action”
  • Rob Petersen (@robpetersen) “Q1. Stories work because , if we relate to them,  we can see/believe they can be replicated to work over and over”
  • Sarah Montague (@sarahmontague) “Q1 Stories work because they are a way for ppl to share experiences; makes it tangible + personal”
  • EJ Ellis (@EJEllisTweets) “Stories work because they engage a listener’s attention, imagination & anticipation”

There is a simplicity in what makes stories work. We can process them with our ears and eyes. There are themes and archetypes for us to connect with and use as we tell stories to others. As Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) S tweeted, “Q1 Joseph Campbell says stories give us ‘the experience of life’ McKee says  stories are ‘stories are equipment for living.’ “

What are the elements of a good story? Stories are framed by ingredients that are repeated throughout time orally and in print.

  • Chanelle Schneider (@WriterChanelle) “Conflict, character, growth, change”
  • Stephen Denny “Q2: Key element of a good story is a “dark side” – what happens to our hero (us, usually) when everything goes wrong”
  • Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) “Q2: Key elements? Protagonist, Conflict, steps to resolving conflict. Key twists to plot”
  • David Spinks (@DavidSpinks) “Q2: It’s relatable”
  • Meg Fowler (@megfowler) “A2: Elements of a good story: fully realized characters, a universal challenge, w/ personal twist  & an unmistakable perspective”
  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “A2 element of a good story – the listener/reader can see themselves in the story”
  • Catherine Connors (@tipperary_lass) “Q2 – a perfect balance between theme, plot, story structure. Characters and settings”

When we can put ourselves in the story or can react in sympathy or empathy, stories are much more engaging. Emotion seems to be a key ingredient as well. For many of the participants in the chat, they talked about journeys and transformation. Cathy Larkin (@CathyWebSavvyPR) remarked on the telling of a story,”Q2-elements of a gd story-knowing your audience, who you’re writing for. & yr goal – what reaction/action do U want.”

To make it more concrete, Valeria Maltoni asked, What are some examples of great stories?

  • Chris Paulsen (@chris_paulsen) “Examples-Winston Churchill saving Europe; Reagan surviving an  assassination attempt.”
  • Laura Crum “Others: Bill Gates as a dropout and now unbelievably successful. Obama’s story that got him elected.”
  • Jeff Gibbard (@jgibbard) “Example of a great story: Kurt Vonnegut’s: A Long Walk to Forever, part of Welcome to the Monkey House”
  • Rich Becker (@RickBecker) “Apple. Zappos. Papa John’s. All of them had great stories at the start. They invited you to become part of their story.”
  • EJEllis “6th Sense: great because your perception of the story is greatly altered when the status of Willis’ character is revealed.”

Maybe great stories can rise up and be told but storytellers are a key piece of what gives a story life. John Reddish (@GetResults) pointed out the enduring power of stories as lessons, “Great teachers have always used stories 2 spread their words – Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Joseph Campbell a good resource.” There was a lot of back and forth about branding and the stories that go with this. Does using social media make it more or less important to tell stories? Joe Sanchez (@sanchezjb) observed, “the increased importnce of storytelling reflects importnce of communication-all driven by social media.”

The elements and examples of great stories certainly echo why stories work for all of us so well. Developing the craft of telling stories becomes more essential with so much use of social media in branding and marketing ideas as well as the products and services of businesses large and small. How does your story connect?

  • Thomas Kuplic (@tbkuplic) “Q3: There must be a way to invite audience to participate. Do something, take action, live the 3rd act with you.”
  • John Reddish “Q3 – in speaking world our “signature” stories (unique 2 us) are our bread and butter – tailored to each speech”
  • Eric Tsai (@designdamage) “A3: ur story connect when u meet audience where they’re at, feeling related, they get that u get them”
  • Patrick Prothe “Re Q3 – IMO for story to connect, must strike a nerve, hit an emotion w/ aud. therefore u must understand them first”
  • Linda Naiman (@alchemize) “A3: I use arts in groups as crucible for storytelling –people connect thru imagination trust, + thru embodied learning”
  • Matt Fox (@persuasionfox) “depends on purpose of the story. How do I want to influence the person determine the type of story”
  • Rob Petersen “Q3: Great stories connect when audience sees themselves in it, taking the same journey & achieving the same results”

Really there were so many tweets about how stories connect (and links to illustrate points), it became clear that developing one’s craft as a storyteller had to include how you engaged with your audience. It was striking that there were very few references to customers or clients. Does this mean that stories of our businesses are entertainment?

Since it is clearly a craft that has to be learned and practiced, Valeria Maltoni suggested that we have another conversationa about storytelling so look for Part 2 of “Stories That Work”

What does make stories work and why?

*#kQ4-This is a special one-off conversation that came out of  “Year In Review (So Far)”  that will include a simultaneous Skype converation and Twitter chat. The focus will be on your goals and the actions you want to take to achieve these goals. Look for announcements on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and in this blog space. 




Saving Your Company’s Face When the Doors Blow Off-#kaizenblog recap

For any business owner or leader (and their PR person), a PR crisis is not something you want to deal with! With lots of crises in the newsBusiness PR Crisis lately, there are many examples of how these things can take on a life of their own. Certainly, BP got lots of black eyes during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. #kaizenblog’s co-host, Valeria Maltoni shared in her post, Live Crisis in Digital a few other situations that need some PR finesse.

But the spotlight really goes on Danny Brown, our guest host for #kaizenblog, this past Friday. His post, Saving Face When Your Company’s Doors Are Blown Off, began the conversation that was lively and full of resources and advice of what to do when things go haywire publicly for your business. You can find all of the tweets and links here in the transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – SavingCoWhenDoorsBlowOffpdf

We jumped into the conversation with our first question…How does social media really change the playing field during a PR crisis?

Brown explained, “It helps immensely. Folks look at negatives, but SM offers huge scope to “correct” crisis.” Perhaps this answer was not what most people expected as one thinks how stories can go viral online. However, it can give you an opportunity to connect with people in real time. He also added, “It allows you to address negativity head-on, and on the “complainers” turf – great pacifier”

Other perspectives that were offered:

  • Same Day Repair (@samedayrepair) “It’s vitally important that solid relationships are built before a crisis happens.”
  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “Q1 gives fast, responsive way to state position and fast track cos PR during crisis”
  • Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) “Social media gives a crisis a human face with immediacy. A 1 to 1 opp to have a dialog in the midst of the noise”
  • Heidi Cool (@hacool) “SM also lets biz speak directly to customers/public not just to (and through) media”
  • Mitchell Schecter (@MSchecter) “As a brand, I think it can help to tell your side of the story if you are already there and have a relationship.”
  • Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) “SM offers immediacy of response, but it also requires one to stay on top of it; you must engage or others will take the floor”

These seemed to really resonate based on the number of retweets and comments that went back and forth. Amy Fowler (@amyfowler) added this caution, “Social media spreads crisis info like wildfire — but in “telephone game” way. What’s being spread isn’t necessarily true. But fortunately, you can monitor all those “telephone game” messages and respond, instead of just wondering.” Go Media Center (@goprotools) added “SM is having a conversation with the consumer not at the consumer…two way conversation! Listening is required”

With the frequency of messages focusing on relevancy of messages and listening to consumers, it seemed to make sense to ask the next discusssion question. What can you do while you evaluate the situation? Responding with too little information or from an angle that leaves people feeling unheard or disrespected tends to provide fuel for a difficult siuation to get magnified. So responding properly is important but frequently information is needed to make the best choices. Brown recommended that you “Be open as to what you’re doing (as far as you can legally) and show progress all the way through” Not being sure if he was referring to a specific area of legality, I asked him to elaborate. He reminded us that there may be “people’s privacy and livelihoods” as well as intellectual property issues.

This was echoed by others in the chat:

  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “listen first. understand second. respond third”
  • Meg Fowler “Monitor key voices, gauge tone, check where messages spread fastest, and then start there.”
  • Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum) “A2 – don’t stop communicating. traditionally it’s looking down upon to be weak, to be wrong, but SM should be more open”
  • Heidi Cool “1st thing is to publicly state you are evaluating the situation. Keep folks updated step by step. “
  • Amber Cleveland “Let people know you are assessing, that you are trying to get to the bottom of a given situation (then figure it out FAST)
  • Deb Morello (@debmorello) “Ah, listen, listen, communicate internally – Respond, listen again, respond again. Repeat”

Danny Brown summed up this way, “I’d rather be dealing with a company that screws up but acknowledges and talks to me where I am (where poss) and collaborate with the key “complainers” and work with them, their audience, to work and resolve.”  

Some of the tweets were starting to trend towards what is happening internally within the company with the crisis. Kristin Judd (@kwjudd) noted, “Co’s seem to feel it’s not okay to say, ‘We don’t know but we’re committed to finding the answer.’ ” A sub-question of the second discussion question sought to illuminate what’s going on. What are the beliefs/thinking hazards when your company when your company experiences a crisis?

  • Amber Cleveland “1 limiting belief is that in an emergency everyone needs to be running around screaming. Focus and calm are key.”
  • Stephen Denny “Co’s need more than acknowledgement of crisis. Need to provide movement, accountability + commitment to fixing”
  • Heidi Cool “A2 – make sure to involve more than top execs in response strat. cust svc., sales and others may have better feel for audience
  • Cathy Larkin PR (@CathyWebSavvyPR) “Q2a – beliefs/hazards – If co gets to defensive, “lawyers up” too early = equals suspicion from other side”

It seems that it is important to not let emotions run your decision making and send out the wrong message. This goes for non-profits as much as for-profits. Cathy Larkin tweeted an interesting situation she was involved with when she worked for a non-profit. Also, keeping flexibility in the plan makes a difference as well. Crises don’t really lend themselves to cookie-cutter responses so listening to your market audience helps you engage them in a conversation that leads to solutions.

It’s a given that companies don’t always get it right when interacting publicly during a PR crisis. How do you recover from a botched reaction? Danny Brown advised, “First, allay fears that you are taking seriously and looking into it, and if it *is* your fault, own up”

There were a lot of tweets that suggested that a botched reaction could be salvaged:

  • Stephen Denny “The public has the attention of a fruit fly. If your 1st response is wrong, make your 2nd and 3rd right. Learn from it”
  • Meg Fowler “You admit your mistake to  the depth of your mistake. Don’t self flagellate on your customer’s behalf”
  • Patrick Prothe “RE: Q3 – apologize, admit the botch & move on-helpfully, authentically. But never w/ more spin. The cover up=what gets you”

At the end of the chat, Brown reminded us that we can “…feel safe that in knowledge that you’re not first, you won’t be last. See how others dealt and act accordingly.” Taking the time to review the process after the crisis has passed seems like a practice that would make sense. If you’re interested in being in business for a long while, you’re bound to encounter a crisis. It could be small or large. The question is, how do you want to handle it?

How do you answer the discusssion questions?

What would you do if an A-lister blogger or media person talks about your situation?



Make Your Brand Self-Defining #kaizenblog recap

One of the great things about co-hosting #kaizenblog is how much I get to learn! This week’s Twitter chat was no different! What do you think about branding for your business? Can you say if your brand is self-defining? Stephen Dennywas our guest host for this week. He had written an intriguing post about Eigen Values and branding, “This Sentence has 5ive Words”. According to Denny, Eigen Values are “a concept from the field of cybernetics that describes a thing that is self-defining.” In fact, Eigen is a German word for innate.

This has relevance for business as well. Denny explained in his post that “Eigen Values are what we, as businesspeople, do when we’re doing our best work.  We produce work that is synonymous with our brand values, our mission and our strategy. Always. In everything we do.” But how do we share that with our customers or even the world? And is this beneficial?

So we asked the #kaizenblog folks to explore “Make Your Brand Self-Defining.” There were a lot of interesting ideas exchanged during the conversation so it’s a good idea to check out theTranscript for #kaizenblog – SelfDefiningBrand_! Also throughout the chat, people offered examples of brands the do and do not self-define like Apple, Southwest Airlines, 3M, and many others.

How does creating a self-defining truism help/hurt your brand’s process of creating outputs? Stephen Denny began the conversation by explaining, “Self-defining outputs-websites, logos, etc.-that are absolutely unique/like fngerprint solidify a brand’s ID.”

  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “A self-defining truism like logo/slogan can help distinguish your brand from all others ~ like biometrics”
  • John Reddish (@GetResults) “the more effort committed to brand clarity thru self-defining stmts the easier 2 remember brand’s central focus”
  • Joe Sanchez (@sanchezjb) “Self-defining ‘truisms’ communicated externally, will be judged on authenticity and consistency. That can help/hurt”
  • Eric Tsai (@designdamage) “branding=communication & meaning of ur communication is the response u get, visuals r subjective, words/actions mean more.”
  • Chris Fife (@chrisfife) “With different medium limitations, selfdefining gets tricky. Like personalized license plates/handles are often misunderstood.”

Stephen Denny reminded us that “Truth is, we’re (as consumers) very busy. We don’t care much abt “brands” So consistency/Eigen behaviors R critical.”

There are often side threads that deepen the conversation about a topic. This follow up post by Stephen Denny picked up some interesting thoughts, “Three Keys On Creating Self-Defining Brands-Kaizenblog, Eigen Values, + the Crucible of Public Debate”       

To make this conversation clearer, it seemed that examples would help. Which brands are so consistent that their stuff is identifiable even when you don’t know it’s theirs? Apple came up several times as was previously mentioned. Other brands that were mentioned were Tiffany’s, Target, Rolex, Starbucks, Mercedes, BMW, Google, and Beano.  On the other hand, Lois Martin (@LoisMarketing) and John Reddish noted that brands like Xerox and Kleenex have lost their ability to be identified in a unique way because we use the brand names as a generic reference to like products.

When is it okay to break away from from your core brand elements? This seems to be a process that has to be thought out as it can disconnect companies from their markets. There were a lot of thoughts about whether breaking away was a productive or destructive act for your brand.

  • Amy Blake (@BlakeGroup) “Q3 Must have dedicated users, huge branding identity. Your brand is like “seal of approval” when extend products/services”
  • Mary Ann Halford (@MaryAnnHalford) “Innovation and market changes make it ok to break away – e.g. IBM from mainframe to enterprise solutions”
  • Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear) “A3: When what you are or what you do is no longer relevant. A good brand is an evolving brand.”
  • Chris Houchens (@shotgunconcepts) “When you break away from core brand elements, you have broke the brand.”
  • John Reddish “Launching new brand is often function of perceived market permissions – if + =brand extension, if – =new brand”
  • Tom Asacker @tomasacker) “Brands are evolving, living ideas that add meaning and value to people’s lives. Nokia started in boots, paper.”
  • Sametz (@Sametz) “Core elements aren’t a  brand prison. They are a brand foundation. You can pretty much build anything on a solid foundation.”

It was clear that everyone agreed that a brand reflected the organization. Becoming self-defining depends on interaction with one’s target market so you are distinguished from others like you. Your Eigen value depends on what happens internally as much as how you interact with the customer. Disconnects can happen with how you provide customer service as well as when you break away from your core brand elements. Stronger brands are consistent with their Eigen values because you know what you get when you interact with the business from pre-purchase to customer support.

Where can you make your Eigen Value stronger in your organization?

If your brand is really defined by you and your customers, how is your organization identifiable?

What’s your opinion about breaking away from your core brand elements?

iStockphoto VCTStyle


What Defines Influence In Business #kaizenblog recap

Influence gives you a megaphoneInfluence is an interesting thing. You can shape behavior when you make a recommendation. In some places, age gave one influence. Sometimes social status (financial and/or class) bestowed A automatic must-listen environment.  A carefully built reputation of solid results could give you a megaphone. I still remember the old E. F. Hutton ad, “When E.F . Hutton talks, people listen.”

The effect social media has had on how one builds and maintains influence is simply tremendous. Small to big businesses are trying to figure out how to get influencea and how to use it. So, influence is greatly sought after and is probably one of the least understood aspects of how one is perceived online. We try to measure our influence by the numbers of followers (or friends or connections) or with sites like Klout. But is this it? Does this define all of our influence?

Influence has been a topic of recent conversation due to events like Fast Company “The Influencer Project”. Between Valeria Maltoni (@ConversationAge as well as founder and co-host of #kaizenblog) and myself, we have read a number of posts about influence. I guess you could say we’re influenced by our friends and colleagues as we read a lot of different blogs. For framing posts, Valeria wrote “Connecting With Real Influence” and “Like It Or Not, You Want Influence”. When I tweeted an invitation to my friend, Danny (@DannyBrown) to chime in on this topic, he pointed me towards a post by Susan Murphy (@SuzeMuse) which really fit into our theme like a glove, “Why Are We So Hung Up On Influence?” We did notice that this was a topic people had a lot of thoughts and opinions about as we had 627 tweets and 81 contributors by the end of the conversation. Here is the transcript: Transcript for #kaizenblog – Influence

With the stage set, we began talking about “What Defines Influence in Business” in our latest #kaizenblog chat with our first question, What is deeper purpose of influence? While there were some answers, there were also a lot of questions that referenced popularity, targeting an audience, and how our numbers do play a role.

  • Sean Williams (@CommAMMO) “Q1 Influence is the ability to gain a hearing for your perspectives, when then changes someone’s thinking or actions.”
  • Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) “A1 Deeper purpose of influence? Compliance? (Cynical?)  We want influence so we can direct the actions of others?”
  • Caroline Di Diego (@CASUDI) “A1 Influence bringing about action cos people are inspired to do it ~ (not forced to)”
  • WDYWFT (@WDYWFT) “So hopefully it’s compliance and significance.”
  • Joel Foner (@JoelFoner) “Q1-“So what is the deeper purpose of influence?” | Many mention actions. Influence key results  changes opinions and beliefs too.”
  • Scott McWilliams (@macengr) “Deeper purpose varies according to the individual and goal of same. Could be good or bad.”

There was some back and forth between several participants about whether or not influence is limited to changing beliefs and opinions or includes action. By the end of this thread, there seemed to be agreement that changing how someone thinks about something could lead to action or inaction, depending on the message. Alfonso Guerra (@huperniketes) reminded us of that the “Whuffie Factor discusses the importance of influence in social capital, how to earn it and spend it.” This certainly would play a role in how effective an influencer might be to inspire action or refrain from action.

I also posed the question if influence could be more than something used for marketing. Diane Court (@dc2fla) suggested mentoring and it was pointed out that there are people in our immediate circcle that we influence and are influenced by (e.g. parents).

There was also a fascinating theme about popularity and influence. Are they synonymous? Does being popular lead to greater influence? This discussion threaded its way throughout the entire chat. There seemed to be some who outright rejected popularity as having any part in influence. Others didn’t completely reject influence. As John Reddish (@GetResults) pointed out, “Celebrity and/or popularity does impact influence, in varying degrees & among different groups – it’s selective.” However two names came up as effective influencers in their spheres, Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey. But…aren’t influencers effective in their particular spheres? Joe Crockett (@JoeCrockett) tweeted, “But if you put popularity and influential together in 1 spot you have a powerhouse”

So, we returned to the discussion of influence and business with our next discussion question, What is the bridge between your business vision and becoming an influencer?

Tom Asacker (@tomasacker) pointed out that “influence more subtle process today. Experts disagree, so people don’t trust experts.” If the process is more subtle, that could make things very challenging for accepted influencers to maintain their positions while up and coming influencers may find a skeptical crowd saying, “show me.” What does it mean to be an expert now? Do you need different strategies to create a critical mass so people start to talk about your core message? Stephen Denny offered Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Company as an example, “Bridge between biz vision and influence. Jim Koch/Boston Beer Co. ‘Want to change how AmericanBridge in Paris public thinks of beer.’ “

Other thoughts about the bridge between one’s business vision and becoming an influencer:

  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “Q2 The bridge between business vision and becoming an influencer is the mission of the biz and the vision of leadership.”
  • Caroline Di Diego “Doing excellently or in our design business ~ one of a kind design/leader/influencer of new”
  • Alfonso Guerra “Building on your relationships, inspiring confidence in your values and decision, building trust”

For the #kaizenblog participants, ethics and mission seemed to be important to influence whether the mission was to change how American public thinks about beer or some great humanitarian cause. Influence is less about ego and more about urging minds to change and actions to follow. Meg Fowler (@megfowler) cautioned, “many think influence=a lot of people paying attention…but trainwrecks attract attention too.”

Finally, we ended the conversation with this question, What has worked for you to build influence?

  • Scott Williams “Developing personal relationships (trust is key) and demonstrating competence”
  • Marketwire (@marketwire) “To build influence=provide interesting, relevant content, be authentic, build relationships first’
  • Stephen Denny “What has worked for me to build influence? Building relationships, 1 at a time.”
  • Tom Asacker “Passion and other focus at the expense of self”
  • Derek Edmond (@derekedmond) “Demonstrate expertise and successes while being available to help, coach, and/or provide assistance”
  • Diane Court “Worked for me? learning from being a parent – learning to listen to my children (seriously)”

It’s clear that relationships are important. It would have been interesting to learn why relationships build influence specifically but we ran out of time. Knowing your specialty fully seemed to also add credence to messages you send out to your audience/customer base.

This is one of those chats that had so many interesting side threads that it would be well worth your time to read through the transcript.

How would you have answered the discussion questions?

What is specifically important about building relationships that adds to one’s influence?