A Simpler Time

In a September New York Times article titled “Seeking a Simple Respite” writer Anita Patil claims, ”It seems we’re taking a collective deep breath, stepping back and reassessing our complicated lives.”

The latest marketing buzzwords, the article points out, are ”simple,” ”simply,” ”simplicity,” ”easy,” etc.

In the UK, one of the most ubiquitous — and annoying — advertisements on air (see the embedded video below) involves promoting how simple doing business with that particular insurance company can be. The end of the commercial, a meercat stands up and shouts ”Simples!” and clicks its teeth.

So even animals are catching the spirit–the Zeitgeist–of our time. Are you? Are you finding effective ways to simplify your communication, your organizational structure, etc.? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Management Coach vs. Message Coach

choosing the right message

A communications coach helps leaders clarify their message and focus messaging strategy.
Illustration by

One question I’m asked frequently is how does what I normally do differ from what a traditional management coach does. It’s difficult to explain because a management coach and a communications coach actually are similar.

Both types of coaches help managers lead better, so I would certainly call myself a management coach. We both help CEOs and senior leaders clarify and then make choices.

But my unique service offering is that of being a so-called message coach. I channel rather than challenge management choices leaders make, and then I in turn challenge the leaders’ choices for communicating such decisions.

In other words, a communications coach helps leaders choose the right strategies, tactics and approaches for communicating their management choices. These types of message coaches not only help leaders choreograph their communication choices, they also help craft the best messages for a particular situation and audience.

Communicating well up, down and sideways in an organization, as well as communicating appropriately to a wide range of external audiences, requires making the right choices for the immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term horizons.

Are you at an inflection point in your career and getting ready to make some management choices? Are you prepared to make the right communications choices at the same time? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

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Senior-Level Social Strategy: Building a Virtual ‘Brand You’

social media usage statistics infographicA solid social media strategy can help a thought leader build a reputation within an industry and among a wider public. You can also gain traction for your ideas and get real-time feedback. And if you are skillful, your virtual presence can reinforce a positive image of an up-to-date “brand you.”

But what channels do you need to use to get your message out beyond the walls of your company? Any and all of them…as long as they are used by your target audiences and are appropriate to the messages you want to convey.

There’s no need to limit yourself by anything but time. A wide range of options exist depending on your purpose.

According to Edison Research’s report “The Social Habit 2012,” Facebook is the dominant social media channel, with 54% of respondents saying they have a profile page on it. LinkedIn came in second at 13%, Twitter third at 10% and Google+ at 8%. The telephone survey of 2,020 people in the U.S. was the 20th in the series, begun in 1998.

Nearly 80% of respondents said that Facebook is the networking service or site they use the most to connect with brands and services, with Twitter in a distant second place with 9%. More than half of Facebook users are accessing sites on their mobile devices, and a quarter of respondents are on the site five or more times per day.

Researchers also found that compared with 2011, increases in social networking were greatest among those 45 and older although over half of social media users are still under 34.

Among other interesting findings, about 10% of respondents are Twitter users; but of those people, about a third check it several times every day. About half of social networkers shared YouTube videos in the previous month.

Clearly, you have choices, but what’s best for you as a thought leader? Do you need guidance and advice as you choreograph those communications choices? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help.

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Pompeii and Circumstance – Planning for Crisis in Today’s Organization

view of mount vesuvius from pompeii ruins

Vesuvius (seen at left in the background) has erupted around 30 times since it caught the people of Pompeii totally unprepared in 79 A.D.

A friend of mine was taking a tour of Pompeii when her husband asked the tour guide, ”What would happen to Naples if Mount Vesuvius erupted again?”

The tour guide replied, ”We are certainly concerned about that! In fact, a few years ago we practiced all emergency procedures in case that would ever happen.”

”How did that practice go?” he asked.

”Oh, it was chaos! It all fell apart, and nobody did what they’d been instructed to do,” the tour guide replied.

”So what did you do to solve that problem?”

”We stopped practicing,” she said with a wink.

Your company may not be facing a Pompeii-type disaster at this time, but are you prepared for the time when circumstances become ripe for a ”volcano” erupting inside your organization because of an unfortunate event or a bad decision or a rapidly worsening business environment?

Do you have plans in place for such crises? Do you practice them on a regular basis to make sure they work? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Related post:
10 Questions to Answer Before a Communications Crisis Hits your Organization


Writing – but not Rewriting – Your Professional History

file cabinet have you documented your professional history”History will be kind to me because I wrote it,” Winston Churchill once said. If you are a thought leader in your industry, then you are writing your own history every day. But are you fully documenting that career path as you take the journey?

Each company or position is another chapter in your history book. Take time soon, if you haven’t already, to capture sample pieces of documentation or videos or articles about you that belong to each chapter of your work life.

Beyond the CV: Items that help fully document your career and professional history

  • Articles or papers or presentations you have published
  • Articles written about you
  • Resumes, CVs or short biographies while you were in each role
  • Reference letters
  • Photos of you and your team in action
  • Videos of interviews
  • Short descriptions of each company and position
  • List of trade or industry associations you belonged to in each role

Sounds a bit like a comprehensive personnel file, doesn’t it?

Be a tough editor of your professional history book. Edit out any unnecessary pieces; but resist the temptation to rewrite history by only including complimentary articles or video clips, for example.

One last tip: keep these items in a safe, dry, accessible place.

Are you the historian of your own career? Are you keeping copies of clippings and videos and presentations that document your full career path and demonstrate your thought-leadership journey? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Where’s Your Company’s Newsroom?

Our newsroom Swiss National Railway advertThe Swiss National Railway is running an ad campaign right now that shows a comfortably crowded train carriage filled with smiling commuters.  Now I’m not going to comment on the truth displayed in that picture of people happily standing on a busy train during rush hour ”en route home”. But I do want to point out that the ad’s caption seems appropriate: ”Our Newsroom.”

In this virtual newsroom, commuters appear to be multitasking rather than focusing on what they’re reading. They’re reading news from their iPads, mobile phones, magazines and newspapers, like 20 Minutes.

That particular newspaper features prominently in the Swiss commuters daily consumption of news, as evidenced by the number distributed (circulation 700,000). Five Swiss cities have their own ”freebie papers” given out to commuters in the morning (20 Minutes) and the evening (Blick am Abend). The content is generally the same in all editions, with some tailored stories, specialized ads and local weather reports added in. All of these papers have short, lively content and colorful photos that attract readers.

Despite the already-frenetic pace, media consumption is growing. The Swiss Media Association recently published a surprising statistic about how Swiss are ”media hounds.” The average Swiss household spent 3150 CHF in 2011, about 8% more than the previous year.

And that brings us to the point of this blog: Today your employees are getting their information on a wide range of topics, on a wide range of devices, in a wide range of settings, tailored to their interests and needs.

Are you offering that wide range of options for them? Are you offering short, readable pieces that are attractive to your ”distracted” employees?  Are you meeting them where they are…in their ”newsroom”? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Communications planning for the CEO’s First 100 Days – Part 2

In my last blog, you learned about the importance of choosing the right keywords to help potential client and customers find you online. As an example to illustrate that point, I used the term ”CEO first 100 days” as the blog title because those keywords have a low competition score: 0.09 out of 1.00.

But the topic of CEO transition planning is an important one for any company. Most corporate communications teams have a general plan in place that can be tailored and then implemented when the need arises. That helps them be better prepared for the ”expected” and the ”unexpected” when the company’s leader changes.

generic ceo transition communications plan

Click here or on the page above for a generic transition communications plan for a CEO’s first 100 days in office. Do you need help designing or implementing it? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

See related post:
Part 1: Key actions for the CEO’s First 100 Days (Part 1)



Key actions for the CEO’s First 100 Days (Part 1)

search for ceo first 100 daysA friend gave me a birthday gift of a small computer accessory bag with a drawing on it of a vampy 1950’s gal batting her eyes and saying, “The key word is … alleged.”

In this century, the term ”keyword” has a different meaning and is intended to draw eyes to a website or other online platform. There’s a science developing that helps predict the most effective combination of words you should use to get your site noticed.

The website offers you a free tool to analyze and design the terms to best attract readers to look at a particular page. It evens tells you how many people are searching for those terms and how great the competition is for those keywords. Competition is defined as how many people are bidding on those adwords.

So the ”sweet spot” is finding the terminology that many people are searching for but few websites are providing. Then you can place those words in prominent positions on your own page and capture more eyes.

Here are some examples:

  • The keywords ”leadership skills,” with a competition score of 0.63 out of 1.00, appears on a large number of sites; but each month, 246,000 people globally are searching for that term.
  • On the other hand, ”chief executive” has few competitors with a score of 0.11 and 301,000 global monthly searches.

Those two examples were more clear cut than this next one:

  • The term ”CEO first 100 days” has low competition with 0.09 and only 260 monthly global searches. But if you’re a thought leader in, say, CEO transition planning, one of those 260 people might be your next client.

In fact, that’s why I chose that those terms as the title for this blog — planning for a CEO’s first 100 days is one of the services that Thought Leader Zone offers. So hopefully someone searching for help with that challenge will find me.

To summarize, it’s not just a matter of getting a large number of eyes but of getting the right eyes. Using keywords and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques will help you find ”the riches in the niches.”

Are you optimizing your social media platforms? Are you helping potential clients and customers find your needle in the haystack? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Related Post: Communications Planning for the CEO’s first 100 Days (Part 2)

Being a Social CEO–At Least Virtually (Part 2)

think about the impact thought leaders can make with social media

In Part 1–”Being a Social CEO–Literally”– I discussed the perils of being a shy, introverted “un-social” senior executive and mentioned that Thought Leader Zone offers guidance for maximizing your impact in a range of face-to-face social situations.

But it’s also important to be a “social CEO” virtually…and we can help you with that, too. You need to be able to connect and interact comfortably in the virtual world, as well as in the real world. As the “face” of your company, you need to be able to interface effectively even when you’re not face-to-face.

Some of the do’s and don’ts for virtual interactions are similar to those for face-to-face interfaces:

  • Don’t shout (with all capitalized words)
  • Do use words people can understand
  • Do find and use your authentic voice
  • Don’t talk (blog or Twitter, etc.) unless you have something meaningful to say
  • Do listen to what others have to say
  • Etc., etc., etc.
Basically, just follow the rules of social politeness and good manners your mom taught you…

But to be a great communicator on social media you need to follow a few more tailored guidelines:

  • Communicate on a regular basis — more often when you have something to say and less often if you don’t. Don’t be a slave to a schedule.
  • Adopt a tone that reflects your personality, not just conveys content.
  • Use diction more suited to a chat room than a boardroom.
  • Make sure you have a point to make and make sure it isn’t self-serving.
  • Use personal stories to illustrate key ideas.
  • Have an opinion.
  • Be brief and concise.
  • Respond respectively to legitimate positive and negative feedback as quickly as possible.
  • Show rather than tell. Offer advice rather than issue orders or tell people what to do.
Finally, a recent article, Are You a Social Executive? The CEO’s New Role in Social Media by Margery Myers of Bates Communications explains that CEOs who have mastered social media do the following things right:
  • “understand that to anyone outside their immediate family and friends, they are the company;
  • stay close to public sentiment;
  • build strong relationships before they need them;
  • don’t ‘wing’ it.”
Are you ”doing things right” when it comes to social media? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

See related posts:
Part 1: Being a Social CEO–Literally
Part 3: Do Keep Up!

Being a Social CEO–Literally (Part 1)

Leadership demands many social obligations. In my experience, senior executives can sometimes be, well, not exactly anti-social but perhaps uncomfortable in business social settings, like conference receptions or cocktail parties or industry events.

CEO and executive social obligationsThey know they have an important obligations, roles and duties in these situations — representing the company, meeting as many people as possible, remembering names and faces, impressing people with their charm and authenticity, oh, and not spilling anything while ”gripping and grinning.”

Some leaders are able to handle all of this better than others. It’s more difficult for those who moved up the ranks from being a technical expert to join management and lead people if they aren’t naturally adept in social situations. You’ve probably heard this old joke before, but I’ll tailor it here:

“How do you tell an outgoing thought leader from an introverted one? They stare at your shoes during a party.”

Are you maximizing your personal impact in different social situations by being extroverted–and that does not imply you should be wearing a lampshade as a party hat– or is your natural shyness a hindrance to getting the most out of every event? Do you need some guidance and tips to help you maneuver around social obstacles outside the office?

Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

See related posts:
Part 2: Being a Social CEO–At Least Virtually
Part 3: Do Keep Up!

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