Specializing in social marketing and business communications training

How Leaders Communicate Their Vision

YOU editedIf you’ve ever had your pupils dilated during an eye exam, you know the frustration of the distorted vision that lingers for hours.

People in all walks of life and occupations deal with blurred distorted vision every day.

  • There are eye doctors who have no vision. No, they don’t need drops to dilate their pupils. They are bright, educated professionals with tunnel vision and closed minds.
  •  There are graceful and poised dancers and actors who can make all the right moves on stage. Yet they can’t seem to get out of their own way.
  •  Ever spend leisure time with teachers who know everything?
  •  Have you talked to truck drivers who have no sense of direction in life?


Leaders must have clear vision, the right moves, the willingness to learn, and the discipline of direction to be successful.

The ‘Ralph Kramden’ big idea moment

There is actually nothing mystical about vision, states a post on Bates-Communications.com, an executive leadership consulting firm.

“A vision is a picture of what an organization could and should be. A hallmark of great leaders is that their vision includes big ideas. Big ideas get people excited. Nobody wants to do something small. Leaders want to feel motivated about coming to work, because what they do matters. Some examples of big ideas that most of us are familiar with are Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and President John F. Kennedy’s vision for the space program, ‘We choose to go to the moon . . . not because it is easy, but because it is hard.’”

The post goes on to say that great business leaders also know how to paint a vivid picture of the future. They make it look easy. However, most of them have worked hard to develop and articulate their powerful thoughts.

Steeped in value and structure

Matthew Richter is a global management performance consultant who says leadership requires a vision that isn’t just a picture in someone’s head. It has to be a complete understanding for the big picture of where the leader wants to be.

“Leadership guru Stan Slap says that the vision should be a better place than where we are today. It should be a clearly communicable picture of the future, steeped in value, and philosophy, as well as structure,” writes Richter. “A clear vision provides direction and establishes purpose. For example, a training department may have a clear vision for curriculum development. They know what it will look like three years from now. When a problem arises, their vision facilitates them toward a solution. When their vision is challenged by outside forces, they have the structural strength to defend it.” Richter points out that not everyone has to agree on the vision, as it belongs to the leader.

The followers work with the leader to find the best way to get to it, he says.

“Great visionary thinking utilizes a symbiotic relationship between the leader and the follower, fostering collaboration, innovation, and camaraderie,” notes Richter.

Speaking of vision

Leaders also know when to speak about their companies and articulate their visions.

Stanislav Shekshnia is anaffiliate professor of entrepreneurship and family enterprise at INSEAD. He has interviewed many Fortune 500 leaders, and concludes:

“Not only did we feel the sheer passion of these individuals, but saw that their personal ambition is merged into the goals of their organizations. They appeared to be on a self-defined mission, rather than on a job.”

What do you envision?  Is it clear?


5 Ways to Add Immense Value to Clients

Sunrise ocean editedThe word immense is an adjective that’s defined as vast, huge, immeasurable, boundless.

This is the level of work and commitment that’s required of all professionals who want to be successful. Whether you own a business or work for someone else, you must show up big every single day. Or you risk being replaced. It’s that simple.

Here are five ways for you to show up big, and add immeasurable value to those who pay your wages.

1. Anticipate, don’t react. Adding value to client relationships is obsolete. You must consistently add IMMENSE value to clients. This requires you to study, distill, learn, and have a deep understanding of your client’s niche, industry, and team. When you know their business inside and out, you can head off problems in advance of disaster. Anticipate their challenges and offer creative solutions BEFORE problems arise. Don’t have clients coming to you fretting about a problem they heard in a webcast. Today’s business climate demands that you share solid and quantifiable information long before the buzz begins.

Hint: This strategy goes well beyond reading trade pubs and dropping in on a LinkedIn group every few weeks. It’s hard work, too.

2. Hit the accountability jackpot. Own everything you say and do. Author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) says she used to wake up and think, “Who can I blame today?” In order to experience the growth she yearned for, Gilbert says she had to take absolute responsibility for all of her choices and behaviors. Period.

Hint: Reframe the blame game. It’s a new day.

3. Focus on focusing. This one act of paying attention will completely change every single one of your professional and personal relationships. Your willingness and ability to fight mental distractions and enter into the deep, “in the moment sphere” of listening is rare in today’s world. But it is so desperately needed.

Hint: Be patient because this requires awareness and discipline.

4. Sell a vision before discussing details. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream’ speech in Washington, D.C. Simon Sinek writes in Start with Why that Dr. King didn’t say he had a plan, but rather he talked of a dream and a vision. People bought into the heart and emotion of Dr. King’s message. The details and logic came later.

Hint: Relevance resonates.

 5. Convert chaos into order. The human mind craves patterns and organization. We need order. Somewhere amid the voluminous irrelevant material that crosses our collective radar every minute is a chance to deconstruct the crap and make sense of things. Be the person who stops the confusion and brings order to relationships and conversations.

Hint: Tie it up in a neatly wrapped box with a bow on top. Give the gift of order.


Are You Applying Agility in Sales?

3 Texans Bandera editedOrganizations—not people—have typically been recognized as agile, based on technology and business processes.

However, as communicators and professionals who market and sell, we must focus on human beings and the roles that people play within agile organizations.

At a recent training program I led for an inside sales team in the financial industry, we covered agility. How could the team improve collaboration and competency when working with their business-to-business clients and prospects?

On the Dime

When executives and analysts talk about agility in business, the word pivot is almost always in the conversation.

Being able to pivot means that you can strike the balance between what your plan is/was, AND still assess new opportunities with a high level of flexibility.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Obey the spur of the moment.”

To apply agility to your communication and sales, it’s imperative that you have a 360-degree view of your relationships, partnerships, prospects, clients, products, services, and self.

This is not a one-time analysis or critique that’s done periodically.

Your 360-degree view is ongoing because change is constant. To keep up with the twists, turns, and trends in your industry, you must always be reading, studying, learning…and applying your newly acquired knowledge.

Intensity Counts

Agile professionals are thoughtful, deliberate, and decisive. Their time zone is real-time.

This is what differentiates agile thinkers from the as-soon-as-possible thinkers.

If you want to be the go-to person—the agile professional—you have to:

Immerse yourself in your industry. Your daily formula for success: Study. Simplify. Apply.

Help clients reduce inefficiencies.

Think from the customer’s perspective.

Pay attention in a way that is smart, creative, curious, and proactive.

Contact clients and prospects to share new information, updates, and relevant news. Translation: Don’t check in, follow up, or touch base. Bring value.

Uncover problems BEFORE they occur. Don’t wait for customers to contact you when they have a problem or challenge. That’s too commonplace, and mediocre. Agile communicators and marketing and sales professionals contact their clients FIRST, explaining that a problem is looming and offering a recommendation or insight.

Agile professionals solve problems before they arise, making consistent and invaluable contributions to their client’s success.


Saving Face at the NFL: What’s the Cost?

Cluttered windowI’d like to thank the NFL for bringing the horrific issue of domestic violence to the forefront of our social conversations and values. Maybe lives will be saved.

I’d also like to vomit on the NFL for downplaying (actually ignoring) this horrific issue of domestic violence. Maybe the NFL’s face can be saved.

But at what expense? 

Thankfully, there is outrage from the public who has taken to social media and other communication channels to ensure their voices rise above Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.

Meredith Vieira, thank you for having the courage to stand tall and proud against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s deafening silence in the cases of Rice and Peterson.

I realize neither Rice nor Peterson have been convicted. Please don’t whine about ‘innocent until proven guilty’ because you can refer to Rice’s video and press conference with his wife, the woman he knocked unconscious in a casino elevator in New Jersey before they were married.

And Peterson, the towering, powerful NFL player who thinks it’s OK to hit his four-year-old and call it discipline.

Has anyone checked this person (I wouldn’t call him a man at this point) for a concussion?

Peterson, who is also accused of hitting another one of his young children, says this form of discipline is what he knows. After all, his father used physical beatings, and he (Adrian) is just fine.


Was Peterson’s father a professional football player with a similar physical prowess and power? No, he wasn’t. Clearly, Adrian Peterson is confusing the use of the word ‘discipline.’

For Peterson to make it to the NFL, didn’t he need discipline and mental fortitude to compete and succeed?  If he could apply his mental prowess to the game, why couldn’t he apply it to his child, and choose a different form of ‘discipline’ without beating the boy?

Did Adrian Peterson not realize that he is taller and bigger than his son, which makes him the grown-up?

And where has Commissioner Goodell been hiding these days?

Goodell is hiding from women who are using their voices to express outrage over his acceptance of this repugnant behavior.

In New Jersey and California, women who serve in state government are calling for the Commissioner’s resignation.

“When someone sucker punches an innocent woman or takes a switch to his son, something is terribly wrong,” all 10 Assembly Republican women from New Jersey said in a statement. “The league either delays disciplinary action or issues a slap on the wrist of the offender. The victims are vulnerable to the power of these men. Commissioner Goodell is unsuccessfully trying to appease the fans and advertisers that the league takes these actions seriously.”

And there it is.

Why is Goodell as quiet as a church mouse?

Because football is big business first and money is speaking louder than the victims of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.


Food Trucks Heat Up Networking Opportunities

Mr Softee truck editedThere’s power in food.

The growing popularity of food trucks is playing a curious role in workplace communication and networking. These mobile munch mobiles are helping break down barriers and boost comradery. And there’s fun along the way.

Employers are taking advantage of the food truck trend, which makes Ross Resnick happy.

Resnick is CEO and founder of Roaming Hunger, an online catering hub and dispatch for mobile food. He has 4,500 food trucks in his network, and says the majority of requests they receive are from businesses.

A New Form of Networking

Food trucks often set up in business parks across the U.S. and serve workers from many different companies that are based in the complex. “We consider it a new form of networking.  The barriers come down, everyone’s looking at the menu, and sharing a common experience.  And the cost is relatively low,” says Resnick.

“The activity of getting in line with other people from your workplace, waiting to order, and mingling for 10 minutes or so while food is prepared creates great opportunities for employees who may not have touch points during the regular day,” explains Resnick. “It’s a tremendous way for employers to get people outside and talking to each other in a different way.”

Resnick points out that it’s the kind of experience that inspires comraderies across all levels of an organization. “Senior executives are with the rank-and-file and everyone’s in the same boat. It’s very democratic and everyone is on a level playing field.”

Adding Flavor

Another intriguing business dynamic is that employers are getting creative when hiring food trucks. They are bypassing old favorites like hamburgers, hotdogs, and pizza, and opting for diverse ethnic foods. Experimenting with new foods can help spark conversation and educate people at the same time.

“We’re bringing out Indian, Greek, and Thai foods, things people aren’t eating every day. It gives people a window into other cultures and I think that goes a long way. If an employer can play a role in the cultural education of their employees through food, it’s a wonderful benefit,” explains Resnick.




The Agony of Delete: 3 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Content

scales of justice edited

Here’s an unscientific poll about content that I want to share with you.

More than 80% of people who write press releases, blog posts, bylined articles, and white papers admit they struggle with how to edit content.

I’m happy to offer a few suggestions on how to approach the editing process:

1. Write the main purpose on the back of a business card. In one or two sentences, summarize the reason you are writing. This brings clarity, which (usually) leads to brevity. If your purpose is too long for the business card, rip it up and start again. It must be clear in your mind before you begin to write.

2. Dissect your words and sentences. Slowly read each sentence, one at a time. Then read the next one. If you removed one of the sentences, would your story change? Each sentence must build off of the previous one, adding value to your story. This practice can significantly shorten your content and change the flow of your message. Translation: Cut the crap.

3. Consider your reader. Your word count will drop when you remove self-serving information that will be irrelevant–or annoying–to your audience. And don’t bother with jargon or rhetoric. Write to offer solutions to your reader’s challenges. Solve, don’t sell.

Finally, the words ‘very’ and ‘that’ should be used sparingly, if at all.

4 Key Aspects of Today’s Content Strategy

itsy bitsy spiderWhat’s the future of content marketing? It depends who you ask, I suppose.

When I joined one my favorite online places to learn –Sunday night’s #blogchat on Twitter–I knew there would be plenty of takeaways on content strategy and marketing.

The guest expert was author and entrepreneur Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute.

Pulizzi shared tips on the importance of building an audience for your blog, and converting loyal followers. He also covered the future of content marketing.

On the purpose of your blog:

Once we know the why, we need to clearly focus on who the audience is for our blog.

There are three reasons to create a blog: to generate sales, to save costs, or to create more loyal customers.

Your blog needs to create an audience. We can’t do much good if we don’t have an audience.

The blog can be the center of our entire content marketing strategy. Think of it as home base.

On building loyalty with readers:

The blog is the place where we should be creating passionate subscribers…subscribers are key.

The most valuable part of your blog is the audience you have opt-in permission from to communicate with.

Remember, 80% of your web traffic will never come back again. We need to work very hard to get them to subscribe.

Think like a media company. The value of a media company is in their list (the audience). Convert traffic to subscribers.

On the six important aspects of your blog:

Your content must fill a need in the marketplace that is not being met.

You must be consistent. Blog at the same time and frequency every week (just like a newspaper would).

You need to tell stories like a human being would. Get rid of corporate speak.

You need to have a point of view. What is your take? Why are you the expert? Show it with your content.

Remove the sale. Never sell anything directly in the content of your blog.

Your goal should be best of breed. Strive to be the leading content creator for your content niche.

On the future of content marketing:

Podcasts are going to really break out very shortly. They will be more easily available and there is a lack of content now.

Sure, everyone is talking video. But I see opportunity in audio, print, and in-person events.

Google+ Hangouts are another way to market. I like that you can create a podcast out of a hangout.

Longer form content is making a comeback. We are seeing 1000+ word posts perform WAY better than shorter posts.

The founder and host of #Blogchat, @MackCollier, has a stellar lineup of guest experts for the coming weeks.

It’s a smart and most enjoyable group!

7 Reasons Not to Pitch Your Story This Week

RR crossing lights flashing editedThe July 4th holiday typically throws newsrooms and reporters into a ‘scramble for something other than pools, camping, and gas price stories…PUH-LEEZE!’

Monday’s are usually slow news days. But as the hours passed yesterday, it became glaringly obvious that the upcoming holiday would be far from the norm.

Online news sites, bloggers, and reporters entrenched in digital had plenty of content and breaking news to last through Labor Day.

Unless PR and marketing pros can newsjack a story from the sorted headlines and tweets below, don’t even think about pitching your story or press release. It will likely appear mediocre at best. At worst, you’ll ruin your credibility.

Newsjacking has been around for decades, but with social media it’s now been given a spiffy new name.

When I was working as a broadcast news director and reporter, we called it ‘piggybacking on a story’, meaning we could find the local connection to a bigger story that was making news at the moment.

The goal was to beat the competing media outlets to the punch with a fresh angle and fabulous quote or sound bite. Get creative. And hurry.

Pitch your story only if you have a new and relevant angle that clearly connects to the big news:

  • Contraception and Hobby Lobby
  • Immigration reform
  • BNP Paribas $8.8 billion fine
  • New GM recalls
  • Israeli teens found dead
  • World Cup
  • Facebook study


Oh, and there’s apparently a tropical storm heading for the East Coast, just in time for the holiday weekend.

Maybe there’s a silver lining in this news cloud. Was this busy and frightening day the only way to bump the baby bumps and Kardashian escapades that masquerade as interesting or newsworthy from the headlines?

Once again, this former reporter is left scratching her head and going for the news from Nutella.


3 Reasons to Use Metaphors in Business Communication

crushed AW can editedThe rapid pace of technology and the world makes it more challenging than ever to connect with people, especially those with whom we want to build consensus and influence.

While words are powerful, the human brain is wired to think in pictures and images.

For example, if someone said the word ‘car’ to you, your mind will instantly pull up an image of a car, not the letters C-A-R. You may picture your dream car, your first car, or the car you currently drive.

Consider these three reasons for using metaphors in business:

1. Metaphors help us capture attention. The year 2014 has been dubbed ‘The Year of the Visual’ on social media. Infographics, slide decks, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo, and Vine snippets garner more attention than basic text. Therefore, it makes sense that we weave metaphors—which pull up mental pictures—into our business conversations and presentations. Metaphors help our messages resonate with others.

2. Metaphors create emotional connections to other humans. Metaphors—also referred to as comparisons, analogies, or relationships—speak from and to the right side of the brain. This portion of the brain handles emotion and imagination. When discussing a logical matter (left brain), such as systems and processes, consider this suggestion by corporate trainer and author Anne Miller.

Metaphors in Biz communication Pullout box Anne Miller 6-2014












3. Metaphors help simplify complex thoughts and ideas. Have you ever watched or listened to a newscast where the announcer says, “The water main break pushed 15,000 gallons of water into the streets of our city. 15,000 gallons. That’s enough to fill Yankee Stadium three times.” We may not grasp what 15,000 gallons of water looks like, but most people have an image of a professional baseball stadium to help them better understand the size and scope of 15,000 gallons of water, three times over.

As Miller says, this subtle power of language helps us to persuade, explain, sell, and inspire others to get the results we want.

20 Surprising Ways to Recharge Your Career

Power lines at beach editedSlowing down for the lazy, hazy days of summer?

While others are complaining that business is tapering off and everyone is on vacation, use this time to recharge your battery and kick-start your success.

Here are 20 things you can do to prepare for a triumphant rest of the year. These small tasks can make your life less stressful and easier to manage day-to-day. You may even develop a new habit.

1. Clean up your database.

2. Sort through your Favorites and Bookmarks. Categorize them and delete the ones that are no longer relevant.

3. Go paperless when possible. Shred or toss old papers you don’t need.

4. Read the magazines you’ve been saving for the past three months.

5. Get rid of the magazines you’ve been saving for the past three months.

6. Contact someone you admire and invite them to coffee or lunch.

7. Volunteer with a local nonprofit that can benefit from your business expertise.

8. Update your social media profiles and headshot.

9. Register for a webinar or course you’ve been meaning to sign up for but haven’t had the time.

10. Read the biography of leaders such as Gandhi, Ronald Reagan, or Florence Nightingale.

11. Schedule time to think.

12. Identify a few online chats that can help you grow professionally or personally. Mark your calendar and start participating.

13. Pay attention to self-talk soundtrack that plays in your head. Replace the negative with positive, more compassionate language.

14. Back up your blog, website and computer—every day!

15. Write a thank-you note to a former boss or mentor, expressing gratitude for what they have taught you.

16. Unsubscribe from all the e-mails, newsletters, and other junk you receive but never read.

17. Research awards or contests in your industry that you may be eligible for and note the deadlines in your calendar.

18. Write down five things you are afraid of doing. Do one of them. Repeat.

19. Subscribe to the blogs of five leaders in your field—or your competition.

20. Make a list of 10 reasons you went into your profession and why you are still passionate about it.

Come September, you’ll be glad you worked on this checklist. Surf’s up!