Corporate Branding Digest, April 18, 2016

‘Pure Michigan’ Campaign Under Fire as Water Crisis Worsens
(Ragan’s PR Daily, 11.04.16)

As scrutiny surrounding the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, increased this week, PR pros took to social media to express dismay at the state’s seemingly tone-deaf continuation of its “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign.

Communications Teams Must Plan for Crisis, Former American Airlines Executive Andrea Huguely Urges
(Tulsa World, 31.03.16)

Failing to plan is planning to fail, crisis communications consultant Andrea Huguely said during her presentation at the Tulsa Chapter of The Association for Women in Communications’ workshop Wednesday morning.

Crisis of the Week: Valeant Effort at Communication Under Microscope
(The Wall Street Journal, 28.03.16)

Valeant Pharmaceuticals is in the crisis spotlight this week, after announcing it was starting a search for a new chief executive, naming activist investor William Ackman to its board and blaming some of its problems on its former chief financial officer, Howard Schiller, who then responded to the company’s allegations against him. The company admitted “tone at the top of the organization” may have been a factor in its “improper revenue recognition.”

Engaging and Informing Employees During a Crisis
(Fei Daily, 23.03.16)

Most crisis communication plans depend at least somewhat on the ability and willingness of employees to come to work – but that assumption may not be valid.

“If it’s going to come out eventually, better have it come out immediately.” —Henry A. Kissinger

PR: The Evolution of “Spin”

Andreanna Moya Photography

Originally posted on

PR sometimes gets a bad rap for being a spin cycle. I like to look at it a different way. Public relations, like all communications disciplines, has been marked by standards, strategies and tactics that roll along and change over time. Sometimes they even spin full circle, taking us on circuitous detours on the way to ending up back where we were.

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Personal Branding Digest, June 19, 2015

We Are All Donald Trump Now
(Bloomberg, 16.06.15)

A presidential campaign is America’s ultimate personal branding opportunity—which is why candidate Trump makes sense.

6 Secrets Nobody Tells You About Personal Branding
(Entrepreneur, 02.06.15)

Personal branding is one of the most effective strategies available for modern businesses. Because consumers generally distrust corporate brands, personal brands offer a unique way to build trust, facilitate customer loyalty and ultimately increase revenue. In addition to being a novel marketing strategy, it can also help your business with recruiting and put you in a better position for a career change down the road.

How to Avoid the Five Worst Personal Branding Mistakes
(Forbes, 23.05.15)

It’s hard to talk or write about yourself. We don’t know where to start. On top of that, articles and books and webinars for years have been teaching people the most heinous personal branding ideas imaginable. We’ve been taught to bury our personalities under piles of bureaucratic sludge. No wonder people are confused about how to describe themselves in writing!

Find the Right Meme that Fits Your Personal Brand
(Business2Community, 04.05.15)

Creating graphic memes with quotes is a good way to encourage conversation and shares on social media. Having a standout visual marketing strategy is an important part of building your personal brand’s visibility; and, it’s important that you have a message match.

“Study the unusually successful people you know, and you will find them imbued with enthusiasm for their work which is contagious. Not only are they themselves excited about what they are doing, but they also get you excited.” —Paul W. Ivey

Personal Branding Digest, June 12, 2015

6 Secrets Nobody Tells You About Personal Branding
(Entrepreneur, 02.06.15)

Personal branding is one of the most effective strategies available for modern businesses. Because consumers generally distrust corporate brands, personal brands offer a unique way to build trust, facilitate customer loyalty and ultimately increase revenue. In addition to being a novel marketing strategy, it can also help your business with recruiting and put you in a better position for a career change down the road.

Your Personal Brand Matters
(The Barrie Examiner, 18.05.15)

What about personal branding? How important is it in regard to your personal success? In my opinion, it is critical. You only need to take a look around to see the different personal brands that surround you every day. A quick scan of the office or workplace will give you a kaleidoscope of personal brands. Each has its own merits (and liabilities, for that matter). Choosing how you define and project your personal brand can be very important in regard to how you are perceived in the business world.

Shaping a Professional Personal Brand
(, 05.05.15)

Individuals looking for an edge in today’s connected and fast-paced working environment can use personal branding strategies to market themselves more effectively to prospective employers and clients.

10 Ways to Use Video for Vibrant Personal Branding
(Forbes, 20.01.15)

Video is the future. And the future begins now. To get ahead of your peers, make video a part of your communications strategy—today. You will stand out, make an emotional impact and develop important new skills in this increasingly vital medium.

A personal brand is “what others say about you when you’re not in the room.” —Jeff Bezos

Corporate Branding Digest, Sept. 5, 2014

Lead by Asking
(Strategy + Business, 25.08.14)

Having interviewed many leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, I’m often asked, “What makes a great leader?” Specific characteristics may vary by industry and context, but one that consistently shines through is the ability to pose meaningful—and sometimes deceptively simple—questions. Here are six that apply to anyone hoping to hone his or her leadership acumen and impact.

A CMO’s Tale
(Business2Community, 23.08.14)

CEOs of today’s B2B organizations are becoming laser focused on profit, execution of strategy and top-line revenue growth and they expect every department in the organization to be aligned with these key goals. For many, the area that gives them the most heartburn—based on budget and non-goal alignment—is marketing.

Five Customer-centric Marketing Lessons from Apple to Zappos
(Forbes, 18.08.14)

Traditional marketing is on life support. The rules of the game have changed. Tell and sell marketing no longer works. Today’s consumer is empowered. Empowered to find their own information, empowered to share their opinions and empowered to avoid marketing. Brands need to find ways to leverage their most important asset: current customers. More than ever, referrals and word of mouth are keys to future growth.

The Skills Leaders Need at Every Level
(Harvard Business Review, 30.07.14)

A few weeks ago, we were asked to analyze a competency model for leadership development that a client had created. It was based on the idea that at different points in their development, potential leaders need to focus on excelling at different skills. For example, in their model they proposed that a lower level manager should focus on driving for results while top executives should focus on developing a strategic perspective.

“Our bravest and best lessons are not learned through success, but through misadventure.” —Amos Bronson Alcott

Corporate Branding Digest, Dec. 20, 2013

Leadership: 8 Archetypes Explained
(Inc., 20.12.13)

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, the author of The Hedgehog Effect: The Secrets of Building High Performance Teams, says that many leaders fail because they do not have a team of top executives who complement their weaknesses.

Getting in with the Crowd: How Brands Are Using Blogger Engagement to Build Advocacy …
(The Drum, 17.12.13)

Engaging with bloggers is becoming an ever more essential aspect of brands’ online strategies – not just from an SEO perspective, but for brand advocacy, social visibility and opportunities to increase revenue. Katie McQuater takes a look.

6 Unconventional Tools for Quicker Creativity
(Fast Company, 12.12.13)

All grand inventions, theories, and creatives ideas are composed of small ideas. Smart folks like naturalist Stephen Jay Gould call this combinatorial creativity, which proposes that all you need to be creative is to find connections between things that previously laid hidden: chocolate and peanut butter were amazing on their own, but taken together: woah.

Leadership Is Like Basketball, the CEO of Converse Says
(Forbes, 28.10.13)

Leadership advice from Jim Calhoun, CEO of Converse.

“As long as the day lasts, let’s give it all we got.” —David O. McKay

Why Are Entrepreneurs Nearly Always Sexier Than CEOs?

[Originally posted on]

It used to be that receiving a CEO title—and the corner office and tufted-leather sofa that came with it—was the acme of professional success. It was the recognition of a lifetime of hard work, of moving up the ranks, of following the path to its pinnacle. Once you’d arrived there, where else could you possibly go?

But now, in these topsy-turvy times—when “dropout of” seems to open more doors than “graduate of,” when getting a Thiel Fellowship might be more prestigious than getting a Stanford degree—that CEO title smacks of conformity, of drudgery, of playing by the rules and maybe playing it too safe. The CEO is The Man, plodding along the expected routes, expecting the same of his subordinates, becoming the figurehead of corporate oppression. It’s a big life, but it could have been so much bigger.

What’s much more appealing now is entrepreneurship. It connotes adventure, fearlessness, rule breaking and rebellion. Entrepreneurs are mavericks and innovators. It’s much sexier than winning the C-prize after a lifetime of corporate service. And it’s accessible to anyone, anytime: Think of Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard dorm, Richard Branson on his private islands (the first of which he bought when he was just 24) or Bill Gates in his garage.

The entrepreneur is the person who was smart enough to sidestep the system. A list on the Strategic Business Team blog of 55 dropout billionaire entrepreneurs is enough to make anyone feel like a sucker for sticking with the traditional professional paths and corporate ladders. Along with Branson and Gates, the top 10 also include Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison.

Not only are they game changers, but they also seem to be the businesspeople with sexy hobbies: Think of Branson’s kite-surfing escapades and Ellison’s America’s Cup sailing races. Now name one famous billionaire CEO who came up through the corporate ranks and relaxes with similarly adventurous hobbies.

That spirit of thrill seeking and risk taking is not coincidental. Especially now that failure is a badge of honor (better to have tried and not succeeded than to have never tried at all) or even “an opportunity for spiritual growth,” taking bold leaps is seen in many circles as better than mincing along with baby steps. CEOs work to keep their shareholders happy. Entrepreneurs go for it. Their brands are built on being daredevils.

Sadly, it’s hard to think of a woman entrepreneur who fits this image. Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, who infamously put an end to the company’s telecommuting policy last month, is definitely a CEO. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, who has written a controversial new book about work, motherhood and leadership for women, is a C-suite executive. As recently as 2010, women owned only 21 percent of startups that were seeking funding from angel investors, according to the Center for Venture Research.

One very notable exception here is Lauren Zalaznick, chairman of entertainment and digital networks and integrated media at NBC Universal. I think of her as a corporate chair who worked her way up the ranks starting in 2004 but acts much more like an entrepreneur: She until recently oversaw Bravo, Oxygen, Style, Telemundo, mun2 and the joint ventures Sprout and TV One; ran the digital properties Daily Candy, Fandango, iVillage and Television Without Pity; and lad companywide initiatives such as Green Is Universal, Healthy at NBCU, Hispanics at NBCU and Women at NBCU. Each of her businesses saw record-setting ratings and revenue growth, and she has forged new media and marketing partnerships, and won numerous awards for digital, mobile, social and ad sales innovations. But in a shakeup last month, Zalaznick was named EVP, lost most of her cable TV responsibilities, and was charged with focusing on innovation, digital, monetization and emerging technology across the company—a nod to her early and successful embrace of digital.

Yet she’s not nearly as famous as a lot of the boys in this game, and we’re still at a point where there hasn’t yet been a female Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. That’s partly because women continue to be dismally underrepresented in the industry that’s minting the most millions and turning the most people into household names: tech.

Huffington Post Executive Tech Editor Bianca Bosker looked at this phenomenon a little while ago when she interviewed Arielle Patrice Scott, an as-yet-unsung female entrepreneur who aspires to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. Like the Facebook founder, she started her first venture while still in college—but hers, called InternshipIn, failed. At the time of the interview, she was on her second, GenJuice, a project born out of her senior thesis that she sees as the “next MTV,” by providing a platform for 20-something artists, writers and tastemakers to present and promote their work.

Bosker asked Scott why there isn’t yet a female Zuckerberg or Gates, and her answer was insightful:

“Women don’t think big enough. I hate to overgeneralize, because I’ve met some incredible women lately, especially in Silicon Valley, but there’s typically this sense of, ‘Let’s just start off small and see where it goes.’ I think men tend to think in bigger terms, and women don’t allow themselves to.”

That’s not just a commentary about why we’re still waiting for a real woman maverick of an entrepreneur. That’s a call to arms for anyone thinking of launching a venture—and a central reason that an entrepreneurial personal brand is sexier than a corporate CEO one: Entrepreneurs think bigger.