Corporate Branding Digest, Dec. 12, 2014

Health Care Needs Less Innovation and More Imitation
(Harvard Business Review, 19.11.14)

Health care is infatuated with innovation. We’re awash in innovation conferences, organizations proclaiming innovation as a core value, newly minted Chief Innovation Officers, prizes for best innovation. We think innovation is great, but there’s a downside. When organizations overemphasize innovation, they can miss out on the power of imitation – copying existing approaches that actually work. Providers need to actively seek out good ideas that have been tried and refined, bring those ideas home, and adapt them for local use.

What All Companies Can Learn from Google’s Insightful Approach to Talent
(Forbes, 12.11.14)

A recent tweet from the U.K.-based @hrmagazine caught my eye: “When Google hires, it deliberately looks for learners—favour the ability to learn new things over past experience.”

3 Things to Know to Lead from the Bottom
(Entrepreneur, 24.10.14)

Common wisdom holds that individuals can’t be leaders or bring change to an organization unless they’re at the top of the corporate hierarchy. But it’s possible to be a leader even if someone is at the bottom.

9 Steps to Being a Better Boss (Video)
(Fast Company)

Stop reminding everyone who “the boss” is around here—but know when to fire effectively. These tips will make you a better leader.

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.” —Dalai Lama

Corporate Branding Digest, Oct. 16, 2014

6 Buddhist Principles that Will Help You Be a Better Boss
(Fast Company, 13.10.14)

Think of your top inspirations for building a company and leading your team: Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Richard Branson are sure to make the cut. Probably not Buddha.

6 Critical Experiences Are Essential to Most Effectively Lead
(Forbes, 29.09.14)

To be an effective leader in the 21st century you have to do a lot more than just deliver results (that much is expected). Effective leadership requires certain critical experiences to deliver clarity of thought, along with the ability to embrace differences and broaden observations to see beyond the obvious. Leadership can no longer live in a highly structured, overly defined box of silos, but rather must move into an interconnected, boundary-less ecosystem of diverse minds, ideas and ideals.

Be the Boss People Love to Work for
(The Globe and Mail, 27.08.14)

In Gallup’s most recent State of the American Workplace study, 70 percent of workers admitted they neither enjoyed their boss nor were engaged in their work.

4 Bulletproof Productivity Secrets Gleaned from the World’s Great Achievers
(Entrepreneur, 13.08.14)

What defines an elite performer isn’t how they perform when everything is going well but the way they deliver when their well-laid plans are falling apart.

“I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” —Steve Jobs

Corporate Branding Digest, Oct. 7, 2014

Engage Your Employees or Lose Billions
(Forbes, 29.09.14)

Most employers are failing to engage employees, and it’s costing billions of dollars. According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workplace survey, just 13 percent of worldwide employees say they are engaged at work. In the U.S., where engagement is at 30%, Gallup estimates that active disengagement (18% of the workforce) costs the economy $450 billion to $550 billion per year.

What Are Brands For?
(The Economist, 30.08.14)

Brands are the most valuable assets many companies possess. But no one agrees on how much they are worth or why.

Should Leaders Be Heroes or Relationship Builders?
(Strategy+Business, 29.07.14)

As I walked through the airport recently, a quick scan of the magazine rack showed a preponderance of glossy covers featuring photographs of single individuals: a CEO, a celebrity, a politician. This focus on the individual is an extension of a narrative tradition that goes back at least as far as Homer. We like stories about heroes, villains, and victims, and those stories are brought to life through compelling characters.

Could Moving Your Desk Make You a Better Boss?
(The Muse, 01.07.14)

The open office concept has been around for a while, but lately has come under fire. Apparently the setup—no walls, no doors, shared workspaces—undermines what the concept was designed to achieve: communication and flow of ideas among employees. According to some research, the open concept decreases employees’ job satisfaction and decreases privacy, which also affects productivity.

“Innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.” —Michael Porter

Corporate Branding Digest, Sept. 24, 2014

Leading into the Unknown Future
(LinkedIn, 06.09.14)

The reality of the speed of changes that occur in today’s world presents us with the problem that many of our old ideas no longer benefit us or keep us on the cutting edge in our fields.

Why Today’s Leaders Should Take a Cue from Cliff Divers
(Fast Company, 28.08.14)

The days of control and conformity are over, and it’s within our power to bring today’s workplace up to speed. All it takes is some guts.

The Coach Behind the Longest Winning Streak in Sports History Shows How to Build a Champion Business Team
(Forbes, 19.08.14)

In 12 seasons the De La Salle Spartans amassed one of the greatest winning streaks in sports history—151 consecutive games. The story of the streak under coach Bob Ladouceur is now a major motion picture based on the book, When The Game Stands Tall. But as I discovered in conversations with the book’s author as well as former players, the story behind the streak holds the secret for building and leading a winning team that will take your business to the next level.

Teams Can’t Innovate If They’re Too Comfortable
(Harvard Business Review, 14.08.14)

On a warm afternoon in June, a few dozen people gathered on a sun-dappled spot of lawn in Cambridge to discuss the very broad topic of modern leadership. The head of a famous museum debated a senior exec from Google about what constitutes great design. A Broadway choreographer shared his hiring process with the mayor of a Midwestern city. A philanthropist and a magazine editor discussed new business models for publishing.

“I’m as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done. Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.” —Steve Jobs

Corporate Branding Digest, Sept. 17, 2014

Leading by Following (Sort of)
(LinkedIn, 09.09.14)

I’ve always been fascinated by the Iditarod dog sled races. For a man or woman and a few dogs to trek hundreds of miles over the frozen arctic tundra of North America is truly remarkable. I admire anyone who has the guts to do it. There are truly some formidable obstacles to overcome. There’s the cold temperatures, the snowy and icy terrain, the gloomy skies, the limited rations, the threat of becoming lost, the danger of possible injury, and the list goes on and on. Only men and women of great personal courage and fortitude would even attempt such a venture.

How Effective Is It to Have a 5,000-Year Vision for a Company, as Jack Dorsey Is Said to Have for Square?
(Forbes, 19.08.14)

Any “5,000 year vision” will be functionally worthless as a planning document; the rate of change businesses contend with makes it hard to imagine market and technology contexts in two years, let alone ten, and never mind millennia; think of how a business owner 1,000 years ago would have planned for his next centuries. Projecting roadmaps or milestones into a future whose contexts are unknowable won’t help with decisions or prioritization or anything operational.

A Fairer Way of Giving Credit Where It’s Due
(Harvard Business Review, 07.08.14)

People have a deep need to feel that their contributions to the group are acknowledged—even celebrated. Financial compensation alone cannot satisfy that requirement. Fairly assigning credit, however, is difficult. In a knowledge economy, the intellectual origin of a given idea is very hard to document. Where new concepts are often conceived collaboratively, how do we know where credit is due? If one employee insists that he or she made more of an effort or contributed more to an outcome than another, how can we verify that? Getting employees to even discuss the topic can be difficult given that many feel conflicted about it: They want to be acknowledged but are embarrassed by their desire for external recognition.

5 Essentials for Leadership Excellence Gleaned from Champions
(Entrepreneur, 28.07.14)

As a communications strategist for more than five decades and founder of the Vocal Awareness Institute, I have been privileged to teach champions from all walks of life. I have taught Olympic gold medalists, Hall of Famers, Tony and Academy Award winners, chairmen of boards. The common theme among the greatest, no matter the platform, is “a champion does it differently.”

“Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.” —Seth Godin

Corporate Branding Digest, Aug. 12, 2014

4 Ways to Embrace Adaptability
(Forbes, 21.07.14)

To survive in today’s constantly changing business landscape requires being comfortable in uncertainty. Adaptability is what allows organisms, people and businesses to solve problems, overcome challenges and move back from the edge of attrition to the more stable ground of relevance. Adaptability is everything.

End Abusive Behavior on Your Team
(Harvard Business Review, 18.07.14)

Managers aim their abuse at those who are least likely to defend themselves. That is the finding of a disturbing new study by Pedro Neves (published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology), which looked at 193 supervisor/employee pairings in a variety of different industries.

7 Leadership Qualities You May Not Know You Have
(Inc., 26.06.14)

These are things you don’t need to learn in books or B-schools. Build on these personal traits to become a more effective leader.

The Cold, Hard Proof that More Women Means Better Business
(The Muse, 08.04.14)

Really, companies shouldn’t need any convincing about why they should hire more women onto their staffs. The gender gap in American leadership is abysmal, diversity breeds better ideas—you know all of this. But as you also know, executives like seeing the numbers when it comes to their business decisions.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.” —Vince Lombardi

Corporate Branding Digest, April 15, 2014

10 Reasons Change Efforts Fail
(, 09.04.14)

Growth may be optional but change is inevitable. Unfortunately, most efforts to make organizational changes fail, and the reasons are predictable. Since change will happen in your business, keep these 10 reasons handy to boost your chances of a successful change effort—and business growth.

Empowered Employees: Five Tips for Giving Your Staff a Sense of Purpose
(Forbes, 08.04.14)

When you’re in control, you feel invigorated, energized, enthusiastic. You take pride in your achievements and put in the extra effort to get the job done right. Every leader lives this, but exceptional leaders inspire it in their employees. So empower yours to reap higher productivity, fresh ideas, and enduring loyalty.

The Top Five Expectations for the New CMO
(Bulldog Reporter, 07.04.14)

More than half of global marketing leaders surveyed say they have greater responsibility for revenue growth, and 61 percent say data acquisition is a top priority for 2014, according to new research by Deloitte and the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, from

A Shared Purpose Drives Collaboration
(Harvard Business Review, 02.04.14)

Imagine coming back home from work, calling the family into the living room, and urging everyone to collaborate more. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? Ever wondered what makes collaboration seem so natural at home but unnatural at work?

“Leadership is service, not position.” —Tim Fargo

Corporate Branding Digest, Feb. 27, 2014

Leadership Tips from an Acting Coach
(Forbes, 24.02.14)

You have probably never heard of it, but one of the best leadership books I’ve read recently is “Acting: Face to Face” by John Sudol. Although written for the television and motion picture actors that John coaches, his advice is surprisingly applicable for business leaders. So I was delighted when John agreed to this interview.

What Executives Really Need to Know About the ‘Emerging Markets Crisis’
(Harvard Business Review, 20.02.14)

As currencies and stock markets have tumbled in emerging markets, the business media has been dominated by cries of an “Emerging-Markets Crisis.” Corporate executives would be well served to turn off the television. Multinational companies do have their work cut out for them, and should take a second look at their 2014 plans—but this requires separating the signal from the noise to focus on their most important management challenges.

Analyzing the Anatomy of the Modern Marketer
(1to1 Media, 10.02.14)

Because emerging channels have brought forth new avenues for communication and engagement, today’s marketer must make strides to adapt and integrate such platforms in order to remain relevant and competitive.

Giving Your Ideas the Best Chance of Success
(, 10.02.14)

In recent years, innovation has increasingly been seen as a prerequisite to business survival, let alone success, but now it has gone mainstream. According to a global survey of 246 CEOs carried out by PwC last year, more than two thirds (64 percent) believe innovation and operational effectiveness are equally important to the success of their business. So why is it still so difficult to get buy-in for innovation and to transform big ideas into real change in businesses?

“There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.” —Joseph Barber Lightfoot

Corporate Branding Digest, Jan. 9, 2014

Don’t Abandon Innovation—Simplify It
(Harvard Business Review, 06.01.14)

My fellow HBR blogger Bill Taylor recently made a pitch for all of us to stop using the word “innovation” in 2014. Despite his plea, I suspect this word isn’t going anywhere. It’s too important as a driver of growth and renewal. What can be done, in the spirit of Bill’s admonishment, is to stop getting tangled up in all of the variations, nuances, tools, techniques, models, frameworks and paradigms of innovation. Somehow we’ve taken a simple concept—the idea of systematically finding, encouraging, and implementing new ideas for growth—and we’ve made it horribly complex. And of course, by complexifying innovation, we’ve probably started to kill it.

Why All-Hands Meetings Are Worth Every Penny
(Entrepreneur, 02.01.14)

Depending on the size of your company, an all-hands meeting can cost tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars. It is worth every penny.

Corporate Leadership: The Experts Pose Key Questions for Leading CEOs
(The Wall Street Journal, 27.11.13)

At The Wall Street Journal’s 2013 CEO Council Conference, leading corporate executives from a range of industries gathered to discuss some of today’s most pressing issues.

Chapter 12: The Art of Strategic Influence
(The Build Network, 02.08.13)

Your individual talents and abilities are a given. To perform at the highest level, you should also strengthen your ties to executive peers, coworkers, and external stakeholders. Nurture key relationships to the point where you have true strategic influence.

“Complacency is the enemy of progress.” —Dave Stutman

Corporate Branding Digest, Oct. 30, 2013

What Are Your Ideas Trying to Tell You?
(Forbes, 30.10.13)

The Nobel Prize–winning chemist Linus Pauling has been credited with saying: “If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas.” Companies of all sizes have embraced that advice, investing considerable time and energy into innovation projects, amassing vast storehouses of ideas along the way. If we take Pauling’s definition of ‘good’ to mean ‘breakthrough’—having the potential to create dramatically higher level of value than current solutions—then these vast databases seem to be a positive sign.

How to Change the Way Businesses Relate to People
(Fortune, 30.10.13)

To build a business that’s fit for the 21st century, leaders need to figure out how to nurture and reward contributions from employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Organizations must focus both on unleashing individuals’ capacity—designing environments that inspire people to contribute their full imagination, initiative, and passion—and on aggregating people’s capabilities—making use of social, mobile and digital technologies to enlist and organize talent across boundaries to do actual, meaningful work with each other.

5 Social Media Metrics Businesses Should Be Tracking
(The Next Web, 29.10.13)

Publishing content on the Internet generates reams (or, rather, spreadsheets) of data. Creators like you have access to unprecedented information about how your content is received and acted upon.

Stagnant Social: Have Brands Taken the Fun Out of Social Media?
(The Drum, 11.10.13)

Social media was supposed to be the exciting one. The new marketing frontier with no boundaries, no rules, immense opportunity and scary repercussions if you got it wrong. How times have changed. For brands it’s become the norm.

“Set me a task in which I can put something of my very self, and it is a task no longer; it is joy; it is art.” —Bliss Carman

Ideas Conferences as Brand Builders

[Originally posted on]

We’re in an age of ideas conferences—not just such stalwarts as Davos and TED but also upstarts like All Things Digital’s D conferences (D11 is next, in May)—and attendance is increasingly seen as a mark of legitimacy. They’re the ultimate see-and-be-seen gatherings. Smart talk is today’s hot commodity, whether you’re speaking, listening or, perhaps most important, hobnobbing after the formal sessions.

“It’s easy to think that money is the currency of the world,” TED staffer Duncan Davidson told New York earlier this year, “but there are other currencies.” Davidson was being interviewed because three years earlier, a well-dressed mugger had tried to steal his all-access TED badge in Long Beach, Calif. That’s the significance these confabs have taken on.

But what do they say about your personal brand? Are Davos people different from TED people different from SXSW people? What about the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and Renaissance Weekend? Is there a big half-dozen in conference-going that lets you borrow for your brand (today’s equivalent of name-dropping) and build it up? And if there is, do you have to attend all of them (who has time?), or do you need to decide what each stands for and how it helps make a person a brand? Does your choice of conference send a message about what generation you see yourself in?

That same New York article includes a helpful history lesson:

“At least since the early seventies, when Davos was founded, there have been exclusive gatherings that mix fizzy ideas with major-league networking. The eighties gave rise to Renaissance Weekend, for a largely political crowd; Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley retreat, for media machers; and an early version of TED, for the titans of the converging worlds of (as the organizers had it) Technology, Entertainment and Design. But recent years have seen a furious proliferation of these status events. There’s PopTech, FOO Camp, the Clinton Global Initiative, Solve for X (Google’s conference for ‘moonshot thinking’). And beyond the higher-profile events, a lengthening tail of gatherings you’ve never heard of like the Feast, Do Lectures, the 99% Conference and Techonomy. All promise much the same thing: a velvet rope to keep out the attitudinally unwashed, serendipitous interaction, quirky content and at least the illusion of egalitarian elbow-rubbing.”

But I’d argue that some conferences are becoming so ubiquitous and trendy that their velvet ropes are being pulled back. TED has gotten so democratic—not just in making its 18-minute edited TEDTalks available online for all the world to see, but also in its increasingly frequent TEDx gatherings (270 events in 58 countries last month, according to the TEDx website)—that it’s more the brand of might-bes than überachievers.

Production company executive and Atlantic contributing editor for tech and media Michael Hirschorn coined the memorable term “clusterfuckoisie” to describe the tribes that pile on in hopes of proving or improving their social rank. A blogger at the Jane Dough asks if all the conferences have lost their mojo, simply because there are too many of them.

I don’t think they have, but it’s increasingly hard to know which conferences are really relevant to you. A forum on Quora about which conferences someone “needs to attend to meet world and industry leaders” has a few recurring answers—Davos, TED, CGI—but not much consensus overall.

And so, like Deadheads 40 years before them (but with espresso as their drug of choice), a new tribe has formed to follow the route from Sun Valley to Aspen to Austin to Switzerland. But following the knowledge takes its toll, and these conferences are eating alive the would-be thought leaders who join the circuit, traipsing around the world in search of ego food and new smarts, one quick bite at a time.

If they’re getting anything from this, it’s primarily that they’re strengthening their networks. Davos still seems to make careers—the others, mostly connections.

When you are managing your brand, it’s unbelievably important to remember that co-branding is vital: You are the company you keep, and that also means the conferences and events where you are seen and seeing. Unfortunately, in our reality-TV world, perception is reality and reality can be insanely demanding.

[photo: markovski]

PR and Innovation: It’s Complicated

[Originally posted on]

This is the third in a series of three posts that will discuss what I see as a PR émigré managing in a world where evolution meets revolution.

It is in our hands, we read about it daily, it is going to define the current decade, and each of us (if we’re smart) strives for it every day.

I’m talking about innovation. This year in a global Adobe study, Americans viewed the U.S. as the most creative country in the world. President Barack Obama has said that “maintaining our role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation” is “absolutely essential to our future.” With our rich lineage of inventors, from Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs, it’s no surprise that we recognize innovation as key to progress.

There seems to be a notable exception, though: For all the creativity that goes into PR, it’s pretty surprising that the mentality for new perspective and change is about as lively as that for insurance appraisers. We work with the expanding technologies of the digital age but manage to do so without truly updating our processes. We introduce bits and bytes, like the new discipline we’ve trendspotted at Havas PR: newscrafting (shaping news for clients).

As for the big idea? Whereas an innovator would ask, “Why do we do it this way?” then figure out if there’s a better way, today’s PR professional would hear that question and say, “Because this is the way it is done.”

It’s a pretty dire portrait of the field I love, but it leads to a deeper point: What brings about this innovative mindset that PR lacks? First, innovation needs a problem to solve. When Howard Schultz retook the reins at Starbucks, he closed every North American store for three peak hours to reteach servers how to properly prepare the product. His unheard-of approach not only increased the coffee’s quality but also inspired new confidence from within the corporation and among the public. Innovation isn’t just a side effect, though; an environment that rewards creativity can stimulate innovation.

Public relations, so far, hasn’t faced a major crisis. There aren’t true revolutionary rewards. People don’t feel the need to challenge a good thing. So we’re living this: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix (or question or even look too long at) it.

For now, that’s OK; clients expect consistency from PR, not the occasional sparks they pay ad agencies for. But here’s a prediction: Sometime soon, one rebellious soul with no reward as motivation will do something completely out of the ordinary. The idea will begin to show stellar results that no one will be able to deny. Suddenly, the way PR operates will be forever changed. We’ve seen this in scores of other fields, and it will happen in ours as well. (Here’s hoping this someone will be associated with our newly branded Havas PR, with our commitment to the future first, but my trendspotting skills only go so far.)

So for now, we wait, silently going about our business the same way our bosses did before us. Some days if you listen closely, you can almost hear someone on the verge of asking, “Why?”

[photo: Chuck Coker]

Powerful Social Expressions: One Young World

“Powerful Social Expressions” is a series showcasing some of ERWW PR’s most successful uses of social media in the past year.

One Young World

Young people have the passion and desire to confront world issues. But they lack a platform. One Young World, co-founded by Global CEO David Jones and U.K. Group Chairman Kate Robertson, aimed to give them a global megaphone.

And it did. Euro RSCG organized a summit in London attended by luminaries from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to U.S. Sen. John Kerry—thanks to a good cause and Euro RSCG’s recruiting expertise—and youth delegates from 110 countries. Our massive blogging campaign yielded a global ripple effect, living on long after the summit’s end: one blog post per minute, driving coverage from CNN, BBC and The Economist, among others.

Powerful Social Expressions: Headstrong

“Powerful Social Expressions” is a series showcasing some of ERWW PR’s most successful uses of social media in the past year.

Headstrong: A Four-Part Series

Since agency president Marian Salzman’s successful brain tumor removal in July 2007, she has donated her time and PR expertise to Massachusetts General—the hospital where she had the operation—and to several organizations that assist soldiers who’ve endured brain injury.

She also commemorated the milestone in a personal and moving multipart blog series, entitled “Headstrong” and featured on the Huffington Post. In the articles, Salzman frankly discusses the ordeal of living through a life-threatening condition and explores how it changed her. Her candor and insights raise the level of discourse above the usual din to matters of life and death.