Corporate Branding Digest, November 30, 2015

Our Company Needs You: The Rise of Employer Branding
(The Business of Fashion, 30.11.15)

With limited growth prospects on the horizon the industry’s battle for talent is intensifying — and companies are investing in employer brands in a bid to attract the best of the best.

Employee Happiness Is Key Predictor of Loyalty
(Bloomberg BNA, 23.11.15)

Tracking employee happiness can help employers determine which workers are most likely to leave the organization and how to get them to change their minds, according to a report released by Swedish-based employer branding firm Universum.

Enhance the Candidate Experience with Employer Branding
(Business2Community, 16.11.15)

The latest buzzword in human resources and talent acquisition is the candidate experience. The candidate experience refers to the process a job applicant goes through to become an employee. The reason this is so important right now is that once the economy improved, it became a job applicant’s market. The days when a company could get someone way overqualified for relatively cheap are over. Now, candidates are in control and they’re flocking to the job market in record numbers. Many companies are finding it difficult to keep employees and to fill new positions. With candidates in control, they now demand more information to make a decision on whether to join a company or not.

The CEO of Jamba Juice on How to Create an Engaging Corporate Culture of Health and Wellness
(Forbes, 05.10.15)

The corporate culture at Jamba Juice is centered on their core values. Health and well-being runs through Jamba Juice’s veins. If you can actively engage individuals inside of a company to build a culture they want to live in, you have a much higher chance of being successful. Personal investment of the individuals of your company, helps move the culture and performance of the company as a whole ahead. There is a large shift in people who want to work for a company that they feel connected to. Using feedback to source your information first hand, you can capture the spirit of each employee, creating the benefits that not only provide a passion to their work, but a corporate culture that drives a happy and productive workforce.

“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person, not just an employee, are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.” —Anne Mulcahy

10 Power Women Brands

Southbank Centre

[Originally posted on]

As I get ready to travel to Istanbul to talk about women and their future—very bright—for the Turkish Ad Age Women to Watch event sponsored by MediaCat, and as I notice more and more conversation around the women whose personal brands keep trending, I have tried to devise a list of those I must keep studying. In compiling this group below (listed alphabetically) through my selectively objective lens, I have admittedly missed tens of tens of those moving mountains when it comes to gender equality. Continue Reading →

Lifestyle/Consumer Branding Digest, August 5, 2015

Connecting with America’s Growing Multicultural Consumer Will Require an Authentic Approach
(Forbes, 03.08.15)

“A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” Albert Einstein said that, but we don’t need to be geniuses to implement new thinking in business. We only need real leadership that’s innovative and courageous enough to evolve and take action now. That’s how we close the growing opportunity gaps within the three pillars of workplace/workforce, external partnerships and the marketplace/consumer. We must see these opportunities everywhere every day and anticipate the unexpected, sow those opportunities and unleash our passionate pursuits, grow those opportunities with a strategic focus and entrepreneurial spirit, and share opportunities with a generous purpose.

Forget Omnichannel: The New Goal Is Omniexperience
(, 30.07.15)

Every retail business in the world is on the hunt for solutions to help ease the growing pains caused by digital disruption. Omnichannel strategies that provide a seamless experience for the consumer across multiple platforms–online, mobile, in-store–have been an evolution for a lot of brands, but for some companies it’s not enough.

Can Subway Freshen Up Its Image After Jared?
(NPR, 08.07.15)

For 15 years, Fogle has been known as the “Subway guy.” His story of dramatic weight loss became the centerpiece of Subway’s marketing campaign. Now, the chain has suspended its relationship with Fogle after law enforcement searched his home in connection with a criminal investigation.

Why Don’t More Big Brands Realise the Importance of Personalised Attention?
(Marketing Week, 20.05.15)

Why are most brands unable to convey a feeling of personalised attention? Are big brands just lazy, expecting customers to fall into their laps?

“I did everything in my power to give my brokers brand identity and clout in the market. I saw my job as parent to build them up and if I took care of them, then they would take care of their customer.” —Barbara Corcoran

Corporate Branding Digest, Feb. 20, 2015

What Defines a Digitally Mature Organization? Ask Millennials
(, 19.02.15)

As the Millennial generation—often defined as those born from the early 80s to the early 00s—plays a larger role in defining and working within the digital ecosystem, we wanted to explore this group’s unique perspectives on what makes up a digitally mature organization.

Balancing Engagement and Marketing: Cut Clutter and Start Crowdsourcing
(HubSpot, 06.02.15)

The trend for organizations worldwide is to let customers do the talking, and it works! Customer reviews are trusted 12 times more than a marketing piece from an organization. So they’re bidding farewell to the days of static brochure-ware websites. From Coca-Cola to the American Institute of Architects, organizations realize that a community of educated and passionate members is an incredible source of trusted, user-generated content and opinions.

Why Are Most Brands Calling Their Content Marketing ‘Ineffective’?
(My Customer, 05.02.15)

Whether videos, blogs, infographics or ebooks, content is now being consumed on an unprecedented scale. And in our multichannel, multi-device, always-on world that means content represents an exciting opportunity for brands to make an impression on the customer during the product purchasing process. Little wonder, then, that content marketing has become such big news.

The 3 Best Measures of True Branding Success Are Tough to Quantify
(Entrepreneur, 05.11.14)

In recent years, it has become more and more common for startups and corporations to adopt the lean principles to running their business: start small, experiment constantly, and learn from the market.

“Don’t play games that you don’t understand, even if you see lots of other people making money from them.” —Tony Hsieh

Corporate Branding Digest, Oct. 13, 2014

The Secrets to Pulling Off a Real-People Marketing Campaign
(Fast Company, 11.10.14)

Paul D’Arcy, SVP of marketing for Indeed, explains why a recent campaign worked for them and how it could pay off for your brand.

5 Personal Branding Tips for CEOs with Dan Schawbel
(Forbes, 29.09.14)

The best CEOs are able to leverage their authentic personality in order to attract attention to their company. For instance, Steve Jobs was known as being harsh on employees, having dynamic presentations and was a perfectionist. Those describe who he is and he doesn’t fake it or apologize for it. A brand personality delights consumers and makes them more interested in what your company sells.

How Not to Handle a Crisis, Courtesy of the NFL’s Roger Goodell
(The Globe and Mail, 24.09.14)

As a long-time NFL fan, I have been disheartened by the recent spate of domestic abuse cases that have arisen in recent months. But my distaste for the actions of players like Ray Rice and Greg Hardy has been matched by my disgust at National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell’s lack of leadership in responding to those actions.

The 4 Leadership Skills that Really Matter
(The Muse, 01.08.14)

The fundamental techniques that drive your success never change. Think about how many free throws Michael Jordan must have practiced, or how many jabs Mike Tyson threw. Top athletes like them never stop practicing their basic building blocks even after rising to the top of the professional ranks. So why do people believe leaders at different levels need to focus and develop different core skills?

“There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions—in a way that serves the world and you.” —Richard Branson

Corporate Branding Digest, July 29, 2014

Reinventing the Chief Marketing Officer: An Interview with Unilever CMO Keith Weed
(Harvard Business Review, 21.07.14)

A marketing revolution is under way and nowhere is that more visible than in the CMO’s transforming role. Unilever CMO Keith Weed embodies this new order as an architect and leader of the firm’s plan to double revenue while halving its environmental impact. In this edited interview, Weed describes a new breed of marketing organization, and the CMO’s increasingly strategic role.

5 Questions to Help You Define Your Leadership Brand
(Forbes, 18.07.14)

If you ask someone to describe a person with a compelling leadership brand, they will often struggle initially to explain exactly why that person is so effective. Maybe this is because everything that we do, say, and embody at work creates the brand for which we become known. For some, this is just too heady a realization to bear… People in this camp may feel powerless about their reputation—thinking, “Others are going to make their minds up about me. I can’t control their views.”

The 7 Keys to Inspiring Millennials
(Entrepreneur, 17.06.14)

The corporate world shaped by Baby Boomers is fast-changing as they retire in droves, and the new generation will not accept Office Space as a workplace reality. Few were in the workforce when the cult movie premiered 15 years ago. What motivates the Millennials? The Millennial generation that grew up on Google, MTV Total Request Live and the Spice Girls now makes up a third of the workforce—and will account for one of every two workers by 2020.

3 Steps to Become a Better Leader (Video)
(Inc., 15.06.14)

LearnVest founder Alexa von Tobel and Samuel Bacharach, co-founder of Bacharach Leadership Group, demystify the essential skills of leaders and reveal how to instill them in yourself and your employees.

“Without passion, you don’t have any energy, and without energy, you simply have nothing.” —Donald Trump

Corporate Branding Digest, May 28, 2014

Why More CMOs Are Wanted as Board Directors
(Ad Age, 20.05.14)

Boards of directors at the country’s largest companies are in dire need of digital and mobile expertise, consumer insights and diversity—and they’re looking to top marketers to fill those gaps. Executives sitting on boards overwhelmingly are white males over 60 who are either current or former CEOs and chief financial officers. Increasingly, say recruiters, those boards are realizing they need to diversify both in terms of skill sets and demographics. According to Spencer Stuart, just 38 of the more than 9,800 board seats available at Fortune 1000 companies are filled by a chief marketing officer.

How to Lead Like Zuck
(Inc., 14.035.14)

Over the past 10 years, as Mark Zuckerberg was building the largest global social network, Zuck has had a lot of supporters, as well as critics. Whether you love him or you hate him, the fact remains that this college dropout has built something that only a few on the planet had the privilege to build. But what’s most fascinating is how he did it. Here are just some of the lessons that Zuckerberg can teach us about building and growing a strong and vibrant business.

Here’s How to Foster Leadership on All Levels
(Entrepreneur, 15.05.14)

Many companies center around one leader or visionary. But is that always the smartest move? While a passionate, reliable and knowledgeable CEO or founder is necessary, some businesses overlook the importance of nurturing mid-level leadership. Whether this means investing in management training for mid-level employees or assigning a group leader for an internship program, fostering a culture of leadership throughout all levels of an organization can be the key to creating happy employees and a stable company.

Brain Science and 12 Steps to Employee Loyalty
(Forbes, 25.04.14)

Loyal employees can bring some BIG benefits. First and foremost, loyal employees satisfy customers. And, satisfied customers become loyal customers (a/k/a repeat business) who generate new business referrals and are less price-sensitive. Additionally, loyal employees who tend to stay put, help keep recruiting and training costs down. However, don’t confuse longevity with loyalty. Just because someone is there long-term doesn’t mean that he is loyal.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” —Alan Kay

Corporate Branding Digest, March 17, 2014

Gender Parity Is a Leadership Issue
(Bloomberg Businessweek, 07.03.14)

If acknowledging a problem is the first step toward finding a solution, the events commemorating International Women’s Day on March 8 at least show that global business leaders are working toward greater gender parity in both the C-suite and the boardroom. To date, more than 670 business leaders have signed the CEO Statement of support for the United Nations Women Empowerment Principles.

3 Powerful (and Ethical) Leadership Lessons from ‘House of Cards’
(Inc., 05.03.14)

“House of Cards” has been called power-trip porn—and with good reason. Its main character, Frank Underwood, is the king of two-faced trickery. He’ll give you a vigorous greeting with one hand and stab you in the back with the other. Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, is the guy who will somehow convince anyone to do anything, no matter the cost. And perhaps that is why he reminds so many people of the worst PR professionals they’ve ever known.

How to Find the Millennials Who Will Lead Your Company
(Forbes, 02.03.14)

Their days are jam-packed but their doors are open. Here’s how four leaders of our Most Innovative Companies value their employees like family.

7 Ways to Run Your Business Like a Successful NFL Team
(Work, 03.01.14)

If you’re a fan of football, then you can appreciate the comparison of sports and business. After all, teams are companies, and the most successful among them have unique corporate cultures and passionate customer bases that allow them to succeed even during tough times. Take the New Orleans Saints, who are once again in the National Football League (NFL) playoffs this year following an 11-5 regular season record. How did they build this culture?

“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” —James Cash Penney

How Using My Brain Has Helped It Heal

[Originally posted on the Huffington Post.]

As we approached Brain Tumor Awareness Month (it’s every May), I had coincidentally been posting about my own repeated misadventures in and recent return visit to brain tumor land. Some of what I wrote or tweeted about might have sounded a bit crotchety (the stress of having to negotiate with insurance companies and my confusion about mankind in general, for instance) or odd (admitting that I was coping with stress and lack of control by watching videos of brain surgeries on a questionable Indian hospital website), but it could have been worse.

Just as I found out, strangely, that dealing with surgery to remove a meningioma and the subsequent recovery is harder for me with a family than when I was on my own, I’ve also become grateful that I can use my brain during this period instead of simply resting. The National Brain Tumor Society notes that for people who do choose to return to work, “the challenges … can help you move ahead on the road to recovery.”

Work gives me a focus, a framework, a welcome distraction—especially the work that feels good. One of the main projects helping me heal after my second craniotomy (the first was nearly six years ago) is to bring some healing to the families of the Sandy Hook tragedy. More than that: I credit this work with inspiring my recovery.

My agency, Havas PR North America, has gotten involved with the Emilie Parker Art Connection, founded by the family of one of the young victims. Newtown struck close to home—my partner, Jim, and I also live in a supposedly safe Connecticut community—and it’s a cause I would have been glad to wholeheartedly support under any circumstances. But with everything going on in my head this winter and spring, I threw myself into it as deeply as possible.

The Parker family and others needed my skill set and connections to the media, and I needed them: The still-active aftermath of Sandy Hook galvanized me to push myself to recover faster to help them, and I gave them the redoubled efforts of a PR pro who was extra determined not to let a personal setback stand in her way. I even persuaded Jim to stop at Havas’s Wilton, Conn., office on the way home from Massachusetts General Hospital two days after surgery so that I could see the team building the new Emilie Parker Art Connection website.

To be sure, I could have thrown myself into any number of projects at work or at home: I’ve always been an overachiever—a type A-plus (and as Jim will attest, I am understating my intensity)—and have always had trouble sitting still. I don’t know what to do with a hammock. More likely, show me a hammock on a Thursday and by Tuesday I’ll be importing hammocks and selling them to raise money for a Latin American village.

So taking a break from work just didn’t make sense. What would I do? Who would I be if I did nothing, even for a day? For me, clock watching isn’t being. I had done that for 19 hours in the ICU, and even there I monitored my BlackBerrys (yes, plural) relentlessly, provided unsolicited commentary to the Roman Catholic Church on its choice of a new leader and obsessed on the state of news coverage. Staying home and resting would have meant, well, just more time to watch those gruesome Indian videos.

Even though my surgery was a little over two months ago and I’m still technically on medical leave (I’m feeling much better, but the headaches can be paralyzing), I’m working as hard as ever. And thank heavens for that. Although the tumor has zapped my organizational skills, like the last time my entrepreneurial skills today (in addition to my hair) are intact and my media relations and negotiating skills are superlative.

A lifelong catnapper increasingly afflicted with insomnia, I pass the early morning hours thinking about new-business proposals, which relaxes me. When it was time to get the 50 sutures removed from my scalp, a procedure that could have been uncomfortable (to use one of the medical profession’s favorite euphemisms), I was so distracted by client emails and budget proposals that I didn’t even realize when the doctor was done.

About a week after surgery, in a moment of subtle levity (and clarity), I told Jim, who had by then returned to his classroom obligations at the University of Arizona, about an excursion I was making. I might have let him hear “CVS” instead of “CBS.” So while he thought I was headed to the drugstore, I was instead at an inspiring CBS shoot with the amazing Parker family in Newtown as they told the story of their 100-day journey since the tragedy. (I bribed Jim’s son to chauffeur me.)

And as with the Parkers and their eye on the future—on creating a legacy for Emilie and working toward a goal of stopping more senseless tragedies—my post-surgery clarity has led me to want to advocate for a better story for others. I was vigilant about getting regular scans after my first meningioma was successfully removed, so when my symptoms returned and then worsened, I dismissed them because my radiologists had given me the all clear. Three times. But they were obviously wrong. So I am here to passionately encourage listening to what your brain is saying and feeling, and to get a second opinion if you want to be sure.

No matter the trauma you face—and we all will, because life is never trauma-free—never underestimate the power of hard work, or working hard at your passion, to heal.

[photo: Electronica]

The 12 Days of Havas

On Dec. 12, Havas PR will launch its new publishing wing, 120M Books, with its first e-book, What’s Next? What to Expect in 2013. To celebrate, Havas PR is launching the 12 Days of Havas, an initiative for which staff will donate time to a different charitable organization every day for 12 straight days leading up to the launch. Jay Williams, vice president at Havas PR and the creative genius behind the 12 Days of Havas, sat down to talk about his inspiration for the program, what he hopes it will accomplish and the true meaning of the holiday season.

Q: What exactly is the 12 Days of Havas?
Jay Williams:
The program is a fun play on the Christmas song “The 12 Days of Christmas.” During the 12 Days of Havas, we are working with a new charitable organization each day and donating our time and industry skills to assist them with whatever they need. It’s great because it allows us to give back during the holiday season—which is all about giving—and ramps up anticipation for the launch of 120M Books, a huge step for Havas PR.

It’s also an opportunity for us as an agency to show our creative thinking and our capabilities from a corporate social responsibility perspective. It aligns well with #GivingTuesday, too, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, which the agency has really jumped behind. We even used that as our kickoff day for this initiative. Plus, we’ve recently rebranded, so it’s a great way to highlight the ingenuity and collaborative nature of our agency while doing something good for those around us.

Q: What was your inspiration?
December is a time for giving; the year is winding down and I think a lot of us reflect on how lucky we’ve been and what the year has looked like. I was thinking about how we can all give back and show the world the caliber of people we have at this agency. There is a lot of need out there, and I know I stop and think about ways in which I can ease some of that need, even just a little. So my thought process was, Why don’t we do a PR marathon that really gives back? Leading up to the launch of the e-book, I want to remind people that we are the kind of agency that cares about those around us who need a little help. We’re also the kind of agency that has creative ideas like this. And we are all part of the thought process behind 120M Books, so why not do something that truly demonstrates who we are in the lead-up to that?

So I was sitting at my desk and thinking about the time of the year, and the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” jumped into my head. Then I thought about 12/12/12, the launch date of 120M Books. After a tangent about astronomy (don’t ask), I came back to the idea of the song and realized how appropriate it is, because it is about giving. A spin on that works so well, because our creative thinking is our gift.

Q: What do you hope the 12 Days of Havas will accomplish?
I just hope that it helps. The charities we’re working with have just been so appreciative you wouldn’t even believe it. These are great organizations, but they don’t always have the Madison Avenue level of communications support. In general, most charitable groups need better media resources and strategic planning. Our role in this is to be able to help the organizations we’ve chosen with some real communications expertise and backing, and we’re ready to jump in where they need us most.

We have a track record with some of these organizations already, so we already understand some of their needs and it’s clear from our conversations with them that they really need the help. They have amazing news and amazing goals, but they don’t always have the capabilities to go about spreading the news and getting their message heard. As a New York PR agency, we sometimes take for granted everything we’re able to accomplish, whether it’s putting together a social media campaign on the fly or getting our clients on national talk shows. Working with these groups really puts it all into perspective.

Q: How will Havas PR assist these organizations?
We’ll do everything from volunteer work on the ground, like local support for Hurricane Sandy relief, to strategic programming for events, social media strategy and training, brainstorming, and campaign ideation. We’re going to help these groups secure donations, come up with long-term strategies and do media outreach for any events they are having in the near future.

Q: The mix of charities is so diverse. Why were these 12 groups selected?
The best part of the initiative is that these charities ring true to Havas PR’s value of Future First, because doing good helps create a better future. There are some that we’ve had relationships with in the past, mixed with some new ones that are near and dear to the hearts of staff members. So it’s cool, because we’re throwing a whole personal dimension into this project. The list of charities ranges from Ronald McDonald House (helping needy children) to City Harvest (working to solve hunger) to GMHC (disease education and prevention). A great thing about working with 12 charities is that we can cover a lot of different causes, and we’ve done a very good job of that.

Q: How has the 12 Days of Havas affected the agency?
Everyone has gotten really into it and is very excited about being able to use their professional talents in such an amazing way. It has also been a great opportunity for us to work with members of the agency whom we don’t always get to collaborate with. We’re seeing different sides of our colleagues that we haven’t before, and we get to see what some of their outside-of-work interests are and what causes they are passionate about. We’ve also made connections with new organizations that hopefully will blossom into strong relationships down the line.

There are so many charities out there that need us, and we can help. It’s not every day that a company volunteers its individual services. Anyone can go give a few dollars to charity, but really taking the time and donating your strengths—I think that makes the biggest difference. In the end, the 12 Days of Havas is how our agency volunteers with our hearts and our minds.

[photo: Green aka atoach]

Sticky Notes: An Intern’s Guide to Prioritizing Life

In anything we do, I believe we begin as the underdog until we work hard to prove ourselves. To prove myself, over the past few years I have worked hard to maintain a consistent work schedule and use every second of time toward the success of my future. As I have come to my last stretch of higher education, however, I’ve questioned that decision.

How you choose to spend your time reflects what’s truly important to you. Summer classes, congested monthly planners and time sheets have defined college for me and sculpted my professional résumé into a true work of art, but what does it mean? While I believe it is important to complete projects on time in school or during an internship, I think it’s just as dire to make time to embrace friends and cherish family.

Ask yourself these questions to frame your life in perspective:

  1. When is the last time I connected with someone face to face?
  2. In five years, will I be proud of what I am doing right now?
  3. When did I feel loved?
  4. When is the last time I really laughed?
  5. Am I working toward the greater good of myself or my job?

Remember to keep working and propelling yourself toward goals but ensure time for yourself and the passions dear to you. I, too, struggle with the thought of breaking up with years of set schedules and declined invitations, but, reader, our happiness is absolutely essential to personal salvation. Break away from the chains of distraction, and I encourage you to reintroduce yourself to life.

Let us know on Twitter (@OYWPittsburgh #OYWHouse with hashtag #taketheleap) how you will focus your new freedom.


[photo: Stock Exchange]

What I’ve Learned from Wyclef Jean

Originally posted on the Huffington Post.

When Wyclef Jean hired my agency about six months ago, I knew that our mission would be to help him pursue his mission: tirelessly working toward Haiti’s recovery. I and my team were to take care of the details so Wyclef could look to the bigger picture—that of making Haiti top of mind for people who can make a difference and, ultimately, turning Haiti around.

We had a first lunch meeting and it all made sense to me, including the venue, a diner next to his wife’s warehouse, which now functions as a space for the NGO that Wyclef co-founded called Yéle Haiti, where she accepts and processes in-kind donations. That meal was as un-Hollywood and un-hip-hop as it gets: Wyclef’s wife, Claudinette, and their daughter, Angelina, then age 4, attended (OK, Angelina mostly played), and so did a bunch of my team. It was about chemistry, and we all meshed. Wyclef is contagious. I met him on a Friday and found myself dragging a friend and three teenagers to Carnegie Hall on Sunday night, because he was scheduled to perform for a few minutes. (He won us all over when we went backstage to say hi and he made time to take pictures with each of the kids, much more hipster dad than presidential candidate-to-be.)

That night, Wyclef said something to me that has been running through my head ever since: “Don’t worry; when I’m in, it isn’t ever boring.” No quick, disposable words were ever more true.

Back in March, when I was getting quickly tutored in the Fugees and Wyclef’s musical history, I couldn’t have imagined then the extent of his vision and that it would lead us to where we are now: Wyclef transformed, from hip-hop star to presidential hopeful cum front-runner. Regardless of what transpires with his contesting of the election board’s ruling that he’s ineligible to run, I don’t believe such a radical transformation has ever taken place in such a short time—and Wyclef, and the media, share in the credit for that.

Wyclef knew a bid for the presidency of Haiti wouldn’t be an easy way to make a difference for the nation; of course, he also knew there is no easy way to help the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. He has, after all, been working for Haiti in some capacity for far longer than the five years since he co-founded Yéle Haiti, which is based on the ground there. But he made the difficult decision to pursue that path, anyway, knowing in his heart that his candidacy would be the best way to keep the plight of his country in headlines around the globe. Witness what Time magazine said online on Aug. 21: “Jean’s brightly lit plunge into Haiti’s political waters has turned the world’s attention to the country again, which will be critical to prompting the international donor community to deliver the billions of dollars it’s pledged to the recovery effort.”

Since the start of our journey with Wyclef, we’ve been impressed and inspired by his tireless devotion to the people and country he loves. I’m grateful to the media for presenting the passion that underlies his efforts to put Haiti in the spotlight. On the announcement of his candidacy, the story angle that might have seemed the most sensational—a celebrity feud between Wyclef and Sean Penn (who lambasted the announcement via satellite)—never took hold. Partly, that’s because we continued to emphasize the positive messages from Wyclef about helping Haiti, and partly it’s because the media understood that that narrative would have been a cheap distraction from the real issues: improving Haiti’s conditions and Wyclef’s genuine efforts to make a difference.

Wyclef has also taught me a few things in the short time I’ve been working with him. (And that’s saying a lot, considering I’m a 20-plus-year vet of the marketing industry—i.e., I’ve seen it all.) Here are five things I’ve learned, in no particular order, from the singer/activist/politician-in-the-making:

  1. The power of positive thinking. Wyclef really believes anything (and everything) is possible, and it’s infectious. So many of the stories we’ve seen about Clef, in such outlets as, The Miami Herald and Rolling Stone—and the gifted journalists who have covered him—have picked up on his optimistic spirit. I credit his quick ascent to potential president, at least in part, to the powerful sway of “yes.” Whatever you throw at the man, he’s a smile and a swing…
  2. Simpler is often better. In our crazily scheduled, overloaded, overconnected world, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the best way from here to there is often just A to B. Wyclef’s unswerving determination and single-minded eye to his goal reminded us quite a few times that sometimes less complicated can be more effective. I joke that I’m learning Haiti two hours a day, but in watching him absorb complex briefings in digestible bites, I can’t help but notice that his lack of hubris makes “getting it” and building on it a smooth sail.
  3. Admitting mistakes and flaws make them much less sensational. Of course, there’s no doubt that David Letterman taught me this, too. But with Wyclef, the stakes were even higher, and his frankness and transparency with the press were refreshing and instructive. He hasn’t run from mistakes but instead has apologized and moved forward. I was never happier than to hear him take responsibility for Yéle’s past, so we can move forward wiser now with new CEO Derek Johnson.
  4. Friends can be like family, and some people collect families everywhere, across all classes and ethnicities. Those of us working with Wyclef have witnessed that the intense affection and concern he feels for the Haitian people is sincere. I’ve no doubt that he considers the entire nation part of his extended family. And for that seemingly endless capacity to love his country and countrymen, I salute him. I also find myself laughing about the new families he creates. Tonight I find myself chasing up a journalist I introduced him to last week, because she’s now in command of details about a press event tomorrow—in Haiti—and calling his “cousin” because that’s where the know-how about getting his work done lives. And I’m on with Wyclef’s brother Sam so often, I feel like I know him, too. After watching him on TV, I describe him as the statesman-like brother, the yin to Wyclef’s yang—the hip-hop diplomat I’ve been representing all these months.
  5. Everyone at all levels learns in real time. Wyclef has been learning as he goes, but quickly. Among his first interviews was with NPR, where he already knew the presidential language of policy and people: “When you have a population that can’t read, can’t write, 80 percent living on less than a dollar a day and 90 percent of the population has to pay for their schooling…it’s a façade unless we start to put some policy in place that can get these people back in schools.” And our team has learned so much in our work so far with Clef. As we collaborate and as the story keeps unfolding, I continue to be surprised at all I’ve taken away from this experience and the things I’ve learned about passion, teamwork—and a place called Haiti.