Prompting Participants’ Performance

large audience awaiting an apprehensive speakerSo how is a town hall meeting like a theater production or a church service? That’s not a clever riddle, but an actual comparison that came to mind during a sermon by a Zürich preacher who pointed out how a church service and a theater production were alike.

Similarly, in the business world, a town hall meeting or an all-hands meeting or some other staged event for employees is also like a theater production.

It’s easy to draw parallels with the two types of venues; there are stages with microphones, some kind of backdrop and perhaps some props.

Leaders can ask questions and facilitate a dialogue of sorts, with the role of the person on stage as a prompter for that discussion.
But another analogy is that in both cases the people on stage should be the prompters and the audience in employee meetings should be the performers. That role reversal may sound counterintuitive as usually the actors are active and the audience is passive.

Employee events, on the other hand, should engage the audience and encourage them to participate, prompted by the company’s leaders on stage. Instead of just presiding over the meeting and presenting to the audience, the leaders can ask questions and facilitate a dialogue of sorts, with the role of the person on stage as a prompter for that discussion.

Do you need guidance on how to orchestrate an employee event where the audience is less passive and more participatory? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Illustration credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig via Flickr

Tagged , , , , , ,

A Peek at the Secret Sauce of a Brand Campaign

Stirring the secret sauce of a brand campaignRecently I developed a communications plan for a Company X that was changing to become both a commodity brand and a solutions brand. In designing the campaign, I pulled together a sample campaign theme that emphasized what was the same and what was different after the change.

At the end of this post is a link that leads you to a presentation with some sample themes and tactics and tools for running a rebranding campaign internally and externally. Another resource, also linked below, is a communications plan template for designing your own brand campaign.

Are you ready to launch a rebranding campaign? Do you need help with themes and tactics and tools and templates? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

ThoughtLeaderZone Company X Brand Presentation (pptx)

Company X Brand Communications Plan Template (docx)

Photo by Theresa Carle-Sanders

Tagged , , , , , ,

Lies, Damn Lies and Sticky, Tricky Truths – Part 2

facebook smear buttonThe first article in this series recounted some ways to determine whether a speaker is lying to you.

But what happens when physical and non-verbal clues aren’t available for interpretation? How do you spot a liar online? And what should happen when you do, especially when the lies are about you or your beloved or your beloved company?

Let’s focus on the third situation, where your company’s brand is being disparaged online.

Dissent and debate can be healthy, and as Mark Twain once said, ”It’s the difference of opinions that makes a horse race.”

You may be having a disagreement with a customer or a group of consumers. But before you even realize you have a problem, suddenly you have a PROBLEM! Let’s look at a case in point.

promoted tweet screenshotA disgruntled passenger on a British Airways flight bought a promoted tweet to complain about his father’s lost luggage. The tweet went viral, drawing the attention of BA’s competitors, too.

When news — whether true or false or misleading — spreads through cyberspace without any monitoring or appropriate intervention, you can lose control of your brand conversation and those bad messages can stick…and that’s certainly not good.

One popular ”complaint site” is taking steps to ensure companies have a forum to respond publicly to complaints. The petition platform/website, , has just begun offering the targets of an online campaign an opportunity to address any inaccuracies online. Companies that want to be extremely transparent are able to create their own pages that will show all petitions and their status.

Are you ready to take steps to protect your brand in virtual or ”real” life? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help (and that’s the truth)!

Photo Credits: Smear Button, Todd Barnard
Tweet screenshot via

Tagged , , ,

Chief Truth Teller – The Risks and Rewards of Full Disclosure – Part 1

Pinnochio puppet

“Where are the gold pieces now?’ the Fairy asked.
‘I lost them,’ answered Pinocchio, but he told a lie, for he had them in his pocket. .” ― Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio

In a popular TED talk online, Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, asks whether we are living in a ”post-truth” society. She cites some surprising statistics about how often we lie and are lied to every day and then points out how early lying behavior begins. The trick, she said, is to recognize when we’re being lied to before we accept something as truth. If we don’t question the veracity of a statement, we’re enabling the liar and participating in the lie.

As a cultural anthropologist, she introduced several lesser-known ways of spotting the tell-tale non-verbal signs of lying, such as the liar’s feet often point toward the exit or the liar often places pens or other objects on the desk across from the interviewer like physical barriers. A video clip of a murderer illustrated what she called ”duping delight,” a proud, wicked grin that can’t be suppressed.

What liars say, not just how they say something, also can give clues to the fact that they’re hedging the truth. We need to listen for overly formal language, distancing language, qualifying language, fact recitation only in strict chronological order and an abundance of unnecessary, irrelevant information.

I’m no expert on lying, but I do know that white lies are a common convention in daily personal conversation. Similarly, in the business world, avoiding the truth — particularly when the truth hurts – can sometimes be seen as an art form.

In an age of open information, full disclosure now – to the extent possible – may prevent worse problems later. 
Communications professionals, in particular, have to be adept at making sure the messages they disseminate are as close to the truth as the situation (and the legal department) will allow. In an age of open information, full disclosure – to the extent possible – now may prevent worse problems later.

The Chief Truth Teller in a company, however, has to be the person at the top of a company, who sets the standard for honesty and integrity in business dealings and communication and then enforces the expectation of truth among the company’s employees.

Are you the type of thought leader who demands that your followers face even the toughest truths?

Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help (and that’s the truth)!

Photo credit: Favio Rava

Tagged , , , ,

How to Paint a Thousand Words Without Using Any

the art of social media

“The Art of Social Media” Photo Credit

As a thought leader, it’s important to build your brand and tell your story in pictures, not just words. The images you use on your social media sites speak volumes about who you are and how you do what you do.

For a handy guide to all the sizes and shapes and measurement requirements for a wide range of social media sites, go here.

Do you need help creating impact with your online presence as a thought leader? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Tagged , , ,

Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghost Writer!

hire a ghost writerIf the only thing holding you back from being a more active thought leader is time to write, Thought Leader Zone can offer you an effective solution.

Maybe you need a ghost writer …or a ghost blogger or a ghost tweeter. Managing your online presence can be challenging while you’re also trying to maintain high visibility as a spokesperson or a speechmaker or author of technical-, trade- or business-related articles.

During peak times, you may need a writing service to keep up the momentum necessary to maintain your virtual and your real presence as a thought leader. Ghost writers can support you with extra pairs of hands and ghost thinkers can help you clarify thought and meaning.

Do you need to multiply the output and the impact of your thought leadership strategy?Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo: Carney Lentz

Tagged , ,

Five Steps for Rolling out Employee Survey Results

graph comparing actual versus normal

How will you translate aggregated employee survey results into authentic, meaningful communications?

Your employee survey results have just landed on your desk. Remain calm.

Here are five steps to follow when you as a leader communicate the results internally, and even externally:

  1. Categorize the results into a four-square grid with ”urgent” on the x axis and ”important” on the y axis.
  2. Work with your communications team to develop a message architecture that provides clear context, consistent messages and careful action plans for rolling out the results.
  3. In these communications, ask for leaders and employees in different levels or roles inside the organization to volunteer to guide the change program based on the survey results.
  4. Set up a ”rapid roundtable” work session with those volunteers to determine the specific issues underlying the worst scores in the urgent/important grid, to identify the impact of those prioritized issues and to offer ideas for amelioration.
  5. Ask the volunteer work group to identify interesting, noteworthy results that might attract media attention, if appropriate, and then task the communications team to create an external communications plan.

Internal and external audiences alike demand ”authentic” communication pieces that celebrate the successes revealed by the data but still recognize the shortcomings your company needs to improve.

Do you need help rolling out the results of your latest employee survey? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Tagged , ,

What’s in a Name?

alphorn playersOn Swiss National Day, 1 August, villages put on events with food and drink, music and dancing. Affoltern, our village near Zurich, sponsored a small festival with Alphorns and a local steel drum band. One of their songs, they announced in English and then explained in thick Swiss German, was called ”No Name Song.”

So what’s in a name? More than you might expect, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman in his highly respected book, Thinking Fast and Slow. Swiss researchers found that companies with easy to pronounce names, like Emmi or Swissfirst, fare better in the stock market than those with names like Ypsomed.

Another publication, this time a recent Financial Times article by business humorist Lucy Kellaway, pokes fun at the nomenclature of an organization’s top leaders.

For an example, she points out that the Bank of England no longer has only a governor and deputy governors, but it now has appointed a chief operating officer. She goes on to decry the hyperinflation and ”creativity” of titles like chief agility officer or chief visionary officer and calls it a fad.

But what isn’t a fad is the fact that the head of an organization, whether called a CEO or President or Managing Director or head honcho, must exhibit leadership characteristics, have a high emotional intelligence and demonstrate mastery of the skills that fall under the umbrella of social capital.

Those core capabilities are often misleadingly labeled as soft skills, but the hard fact is that they are critical to a leader’s success. Despite the sound of their name, they are basic competencies associated with the term ”felt leadership.”

Would you name your thought leadership style ”felt leadership”? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Tagged , ,

Sharing the Know-How to Know How

When explaining complex topics, thought leaders make a clear distinction between two key terms: ”knowledge of” and ”knowledge how.”

Let’s say, for example, that you want to shape your industry to be more agile and responsive to changing demands of the economy. You shouldn’t only show colleagues what that future will look like so that they have ”knowledge of” that vision. It’s important also to show them the way to reach that goal — to give them ”knowledge how” to get there.

to define and articulate change, use knowledge of and knowledge howSimilarly, if you want to change the culture of your organization, it’s important not only to give them ”knowledge of” what the changes look like and the advantages the new culture will bring. You must impart to them ”knowledge how.” Articulate clearly the steps each employee — no matter where in the organization they sit — will need to take to move toward the defined future.

Cultural change is a journey, not a destination. Employees need ”knowledge of” the destination and ”knowledge how” to navigate the path ahead.

Do you need help defining and articulating the roadmap to change internally or externally? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Tagged , ,

Are You Loco for Logos?

collection of many logos

Swimming in a sea of logos: it takes more than guidelines and graphic identity to develop effective brand strategies. Photo credit

My sister and I were enjoying a coffee and a chat about marketing her insurance business when her 5-year-old granddaughter interrupted us to ask what a logo was. I showed her the green logo on our coffee cups and sent her and her brother off on a mission to find other logos in the coffee shop.

They brought back several items with examples of known logos, as well as some random things like a piece of wood being used as a doorstop–things that made me question how clear my explanation actually was.

How do you explain logos and brands to your employees? Do you define these terms and show them examples like you do with a 5-year-old? Do you present the brand guidelines and templates for presentations, letters and email auto-signatures?

These approaches are good ways to start a dialogue about brand, but a memorable way to reinforce the true meaning of brand is to:

  1. Print out a paper copy of the cover of your brand guidelines or some of the rules themselves.
  2. Tear the paper into small pieces and throw it in the trash.

That’s a dramatic way to lead into a meaty discussion of how your brand is not just a set of rules about fonts and colors and sizes of your logo. It’s the total marketing proposal that your company is making to clients, potential clients and non-clients. Business guru Seth Godin defines brand more fully as

the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Do you need to communicate your brand better internally and externally? Ask, assess, then ask. We’re here to help!

Tagged ,
Page 1 of 41234