Do You Have a Handle on It?

how to avoid a kit kat kerfuffle nestle social media team”It” is your social media reputation and ”it” deserves a few minutes of discussion about how to handle ”it” particularly during times of crisis.

Obviously the best metaphorical medicine for managing reputational risks is a healthy dose of preventative medication. But sometimes a crisis flares up and you need to do triage and respond as quickly as possible. A team that is constantly monitoring your online reputation can take swift measures if a crisis develops. Continue Reading…

What’s Coloring Your Decisions? Color’s Critical Role in Branding

Last summer a series of blogs on this site focused on a color theme and looked at pink matters and gray matters and even the varied colors of the Olympic rings. But is there a color connected to thought leadership?

color increases brand recognition by up to 80%

Over the last few months, a new communications group I belong to has been considering that question as we put together our consultancy website. More about that in the future; but in the meantime, I invite you to review some of the interesting articles I’ve found on using color to market products…products like ”brand YOU.” Continue Reading…

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Extolling the Virtues of Action-Oriented Email Subject Lines

email subject lines remember doo be doo be dooEfficiency and productivity are two watchwords for the busy thought leader. Here is a quick tip for making your emails have more impact and helping you get the results you want from them.

Every word should count when you write an email, and that includes the words in the subject line.

The chorus of the Frank Sinatra song ”Strangers in the Night” goes like this: ”Do, be, do, be, do…” That’s an important phrase to keep in mind when you write your next email. Tell your reader in the subject line what you want them to ”do” or ”be” after reading the email. Continue Reading…

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The Ins and Outs of Communication in 2013

Silence signStill using business jargon? That’s so last year! (Don’t miss the taboo words and phrases covered in my recent post The Most Annoying Words and Phrases of 2012 as well as the earlier post 50 Tired Management Buzzwords and Communication Killers.)

As a thought leader, it’s crucial that you communicate meaning clearly and concisely. But communicating well often means not saying something.

It may mean listening more instead of talking. Particularly during negotiations, silence is golden.

It may mean slowing down the rhythm of communication and saying less before it’s time to say more or make a big announcement. You’ll likely get more attention if there’s a quiet before the storm.

Two recent, noteworthy articles posted in my Thought Leader ScoopIt e-zine focus on the good communication habit of saying nothing. The first article, 10 Communication Practices to Stop, talks about what’s in and what’s out in communications practices in 2013. The second article, Communication’s Biggest Secret: Knowing When To Keep Your Mouth Closed, discusses the surprisingly smart strategy of silence.

Resolve to improve your communications style in 2013! Are you willing to learn something new in the new year? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Photo: by Rev Stan on Flickr

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The Most Annoying Words and Phrases of 2012: Do You, Like, Wanna Comment? Whatever…

Poison warning sign using annoying terms and languageOne of the most popular blogs on this site in 2012 was this post on avoiding buzz words and jargon in business communication. That’s why I thought I’d launch 2013 with a year-end wrapup of what researchers say are the most annoying terms of 2012 and then ask you to add yours to the list.

The researchers from the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York,  questioned 1,246 U.S. adults in a Nationwide telephone survey. They learned that ”whatever” is, for the fourth consecutive year, the most annoying word for 32% of respondents and that 21% just don’t like ”like.” Runners-up for the most grating terms are ”you know” and ”just sayin’,” followed by “Twitterverse” and “gotcha’.”

Those words irk many people in casual conversation; but according to a recent article in PR News online,  if you particularly want to annoy journalists, add the following terms to your new releases:

  1. Engagement
  2. Fastest-growing
  3. High-performance
  4. Incredible
  5. Leading
  6. Powerful
  7. Solutions
  8. Unparalleled
  9. Utilize
  10. “We are excited…” quote about product/service/executive appointment/whatever

Highway exit sign illustrating annoying business buzzwordsDo you have any additional words to add to these lists of repellant rhetorical choices? Share them with others in the comments below or by contacting us here.

Is your business communication conversational yet cliche-free? 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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Views with a Viewpoint on a Busy Commute

Two buildings in Zurich ”speak to me” – not literally, of course, and not in the architectural aesthetic sense either. They both present business lessons and life lessons for my edification during my daily commute.

On the side of one Zurich high-rise building belonging to Migros , the main nationwide grocery chain, is a neon sign proclaiming: ”Everything is going to be alright!” These soothing words at the end of a long day at work reflect the values of the firm, which has a strong reputation for good business practices.

Fischli & Weiss, How to Work Better

Fischli & Weiss, How to Work Better (1991) Hüttisstrasse 6, 8050 Zurich, Switzerland; Photo by rytc on Flickr

Through a tunnel and past the historic Oerlikon building  that was moved this summer, another building reminds me to think more deeply about the meaning of success. The sign on the side of this office building lists the following rules for “How to Work Better”:

• Do one thing at a time
• Know the problem
• Learn to listen
• Learn to ask questions
• Distinguish sense from nonsense
• Accept change as inevitable
• Admit mistakes
• Say it simple
• Be calm
• Smile

Despite the first rule, I’m compelled to do more than one thing on my commuter train – I’m prompted daily to think about these mini-lessons and apply them to the day just ending, even though I probably would rather not think at all and just read the paper!

If your company were to put its own “rules for working” on the side of its headquarters building, would those values come as a surprise to the public? Are the values you yourself display clearly reflecting the firm’s values? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

Never-Ending Stories–The Green Screen, Walt Disney, and Your Own Organization’s Cultural Lore

Walt Disney Storyteller Statue

The beginnings of a legendary company: the “Storytellers” statue at Disney California Adventure Park tells millions of visitors the story of young Walt Disney’s humble arrival to California in 1923.
Photos by: Loren Javier on Flickr

Once upon a time, in the early 1990s, long before Harry Potter was even a twinkle in the mind’s eye of J.K. Rowling, there was a popular children’s fantasy film called “The Never-Ending Story.”  My then pre-teen nieces were huge fans of the movie; so I took them and their mom to see the studio where the film had been made in Munich, my home at that time.

I vividly remember their bewilderment and disappointment when they found that the star of the film, a furry beast, couldn’t really fly; but that the illusion was created with special effects on a green screen. It was somewhat a “coming of age” moment when they learned that appearances are often deceiving and reality may actually be camouflaged by “smoke and mirrors.”

In my family, that chapter in my nieces’ youth is a “never-ending story,” one that is oft repeated and part of our family lore. It’s part of the rich tapestry of our shared family experiences. Now that they’ve grown up, the details of that trip have faded; but the lesson learned will be passed on to the next generation. Aunt Connie will make sure that happens.

In your ”business family,” are there stories that are often retold because they capture the so-called Zeitgeist of a particular time? As with The Walt Disney Company, do these stories demonstrate truths that your people have discovered or reflect clearly your company’s culture and spirit? Are you–or your communications teams or your company historian or archivist–recording these stories and legends for posterity? Ask, assess, then act. We’re here to help!

What’s your local-social strategy for client intimacy?

A recent article on ‘How Walmart Is Localizing Its Stores With Facebook’ by Clara Shih discussed how the big-box retailer is developing what’s called a ‘local-social’ strategy to make their stores more relevant to the communities they serve.

Click to view full size

A corporate-wide brand presence on social media sites is a given, the author says, but the more effective channels are being built around local stores. She explains the authentic feeling of belonging those types of sites can engender:

‘Having 20 million fans secures bragging rights for a brand, but from the perspective of the fan, it’s far more engaging and rewarding to be part of a smaller, more intimate community.’

Even large multi-national companies need to create an authentic local experience in order to engage clients in their brand. A tailored communication approach — whether through traditional or social media channels — can enlarge the number of loyal members within the community without losing the ‘local feel’ of the brand.

Are you using traditional or social media channels to enrich the experience of your customers and make it more intimate and authentic? Ask, assess, then act.

Photo Credit: Giulia Forsythe on Flickr 

Business Jargon and Gibberish: 50 Tired Management Buzzwords and Communication Killers

If the following mock CEO memo makes you grin or groan, you’ve probably read something like it before. But let’s hope you’ve never written or said anything quite so appallingly filled with jargon and buzzwords:

I am confident that, at the end of the day, we will gain some quick wins through onboarding then socialising the concept of eliminating jargon. Going forward, we will all be on the same page – indeed singing from the same song sheet – and be thinking out of the box when it comes to the language we utilise in the C-suite. Initially, it will be similar to herding cats, and the process will identify the square pegs in the round holes, but we will achieve some upside and a paradigm shift as we reach out and break the silos through the use of intelligible language.”

That priceless gem of gobbledygook was submitted by someone named Helen Slater to a LinkedIn group I follow. The discussion thread has lasted for more than three months, with new submissions of the ”most-overused business buzzwords” appearing regularly.

Included here is a list of a few of the favorite words that they submitted. I’m sure you’ll love to hate them, too. If you have any ”worst words” to add, share them in the comments, or submit them here and we’ll add them to our collection.

As a thought leader, do you speak the same way at work as you do at home? Are you communicating clearly and distinctly, not relying on tired cliches and ambiguous words? Ask, assess, then act.

50 Over-used Business Buzzwords and Phrases We Love to Hate

Collected from three months of comments in a LinkedIn discussion thread, I’ve chosen to highlight the 50 buzz words I think are the most common, most egregious, or in some cases the most absurd.

  1. Utilize
  2. At the end of the day
  3. Low hanging fruit
  4. We’ll get there
  5. Let’s hold a calibration meeting
  6. As you are aware
  7. Invite as a noun
  8. Task as a verb
  9. Tin cupping
  10. Impacted as a verb
  11. Let’s suck the marrow out of it
  12. Tension in the system
  13. What’s your workload like?
  14. Do you have capacity?
  15. I need a single belly button as a go-to on this project
  16. On a go-forward basis
  17. High-level
  18. Harness the power of
  19. Socialise
  20. Leverage
  21. Level the playing field
  22. Playing on the same team
  23. Drinking from the fire hose
  24. Walk the walk, Talk the talk, Walk the talk and Talk the walk
  25. Get on the same page
  26. Get our arms around it
  27. My bad
  28. I’m going to have to noodle over this idea
  29. Deep dive
  30. Thinking outside the box
  31. Paradigm shift
  32. Blue sky
  33. Blue ocean
  34. Drop the kimono
  35. Game changer
  36. Deep dive
  37. My ask
  38. Let’s marinate on this one
  39. Sweet spot
  40. Provide air cover
  41. Peel back the onion
  42. Touch base
  43. Synergy
  44. Take it offline
  45. Go back to Square 1
  46. Run it up the flagpole
  47. Pushing the envelope
  48. Deep dive
  49. Circle the wagons
  50. Mission critical
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