Tag Archives: technology

The CEO in 2016: Five things you can do for your brand

Agility and customer centricity are primary themes today. Mapping the customer journey. Launching products and features quickly to adjust them — or pivot — just as quickly. All kinds of new technologies for analyzing reach.

Yet companies must still satisfy the classic marketing requirements of producing good stories and inspiring the loyal purchase.

CEOs, pressed for time and focus, often relegate marketing to a lower level of attention. It’s a habit left over from the days of slower message cycles, broadcasting and a lot of assumption about buyer values. Plus CEOs have to think about everything by the quarter. So with an at-best preoccupied and at-worst absent chief ambassador, the marketing investment — even when powered by the most powerful tools and visionary messages — suffers from not reaching its full potential. Because the CEO is the leader for a reason. She provides the direction and the inspiration. He keeps every stakeholder front-and-center.

The purpose of a business
Peter Drucker on the purpose of a business

Here are five ideas for CEOs who want to manage distraction and be on the ground while breaking new ground for their brands in 2016.

Demonstrate your devotion to the customer. If you must, think of it as taking a coffee break from the typical responsibilities of running a company. Not only does this pull you into the marketing effort, it sets a company standard for looking outward.
Quarterly: Call a customer. Or better yet, visit one.
Monthly: Share a customer story — good, bad, ugly — with your employees. Cover the key learning points the company should absorb and address.
Weekly: Ask a manager to communicate one key customer or competitor insight to the entire organization.
Daily: Pick one item from your daily non-company reading [you’re doing that, right?] to share with the company. Make it about the market, buying trends, innovation — anything that will align your brand with the marketplace and maybe equip people to amplify the brand’s values.

Test your own assumptions. About your people, your competitors and your customers.
Quarterly: Ask your marketing team to give you a short briefing on what is being said about your brand.
Monthly: Visit competitors’ websites and social media accounts to see if you want to add any insights to what your teams tell you about competitors’ products, services and customers.
Weekly: Check what industry influencers are saying about trends and shifts in your marketplace.
Daily: Ensure that what customer says — good, bad, ugly — gets addressed by marketing messages and literally turned into marketing copy.

Tell an elegant story. Uncomplicated, drama-free, yet compelling. Invite customers and influencers to align with you, not just to buy your products.
Quarterly: Write something to share with customers and employees — something that demonstrates your company’s connection with the marketplace. Use an editor.
Monthly: For employees, share an anecdote about an employee who has done something to exemplify the brand’s reach and impact on customers.
Weekly: Schedule five minutes to talk with an employee about what is working on the street — and what is not.
Daily: Look at your marketing outreach, particularly social media, to offer guidance and to make sure the team is on message.

Surround your brand with leaders who have talents you do not. Whether it’s your marketing team or an event you are sponsoring, spare no time or expense in bringing the fresh air of new perspectives to your company. At the same time, vet attitudes as well as capabilities. For example, make sure every speaker your team invites to your company events is someone you can respect. You don’t have to agree with everyone, but let’s say the team finds someone who is billed as an expert in diversity. And it turns out they attack people on Twitter. Your invitations to people like this — as advisors, speakers or employees — say volumes about the brand. And no amount of clever marketing will correct the mistake of people who wound your brand through a thousand little cuts.
Quarterly: Ask for an audit of the content and experts your team is using to burnish or represent your brand. The marketing team should be doing independent research, not just looking at the experts’ or agencies’ marketing material.
Monthly: Go to a professional event that’s featuring a speaker or a panel. Remember what you liked and pass it on to your marketing team.
Weekly: Keep and update a file of quotations or essays you like. Having this on hand when you’re approving an event agenda will help you ensure content relevant to your brand.
Daily: Check the editorial page of a publication you like.

Reward actors, not bystanders. One of the great consumer frustrations today is the inability of customer service reps to go off-script — to actually come up with a solution on one’s own to a customer’s problem. The advent of social media has had a positive effect on the robo-response tendency — but we have a long way to go. Rote answers to customers’ concerns are the province of the bystander employee. As Cate Huston wrote in this excellent essay on the problem with corporate bystanders who don’t nip sexism in the bud, “it starts with refusing to be a bystander by calling things out”. Same phenomenon at work in branding: all the beautiful design and expensive messaging in the world won’t compensate for front-line employees asked to divert customers from what bothers them.
Quarterly: Listen to or read how a customer rep handled a problem. See if it resonates with your brand strategy.
Monthly: Ask direct reports to give an example of a problem solved that improved on customer service practice.
Weekly: Ask for a memo on the top five customer comments on social media.
Daily: Show your internal teams that you are confident enough to go off-script, too.

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Transcending coarseness

It's been a few weeks since my last post.  Work and life have made it pretty impossible to do any thinking, much less writing, about the path to the beautiful brand.

Tonight I can take a moment, at least, to reflect on what I've absorbed in these weeks.

I'm thinking about launching another blog, devoted just to the goings-on here at Technology Mission Control.  The Bay Area.  Silicon Valley.

For example.  Never have I seen so many brilliant people resort to skulduggery just out of sheer competitiveness.  We've got some things going on here that rival the Kremlin
under Brezhnev.  And this is on a volunteer project! 

The only thing I've been able to tell myself is, when I was the same age as these engineers [in their twenties], I had the benefit of reporting to a bunch of what were perceived as old guys who had a heart attack if there was a typo in a slide.  That was a major professional slip — almost an insult to the audience. 

Lucky devils.  They're out on some golf course.

Well, they deserve it.  They taught us a lot.  I learned that even the little things warrant your respect.  Not to mention the big things, like other people.  I cannot imagine what they would be saying about what gets posted on blogs and said in Twitter tweets by people about people with whom they say they're collaborating.

Fairness is a really big deal to me, and I'm getting some wacky emails about the upcoming election.  Which I can address in this blog.  It is about the American brand, afterall. 

I fully expected to see some really funny stuff flying around about the three senators chasing the Presidency.  I didn't expect to learn what names people are willing to call them, just out of fear of the unknown.  How can we have a woman?  How could we have an African American?  How could we have an aging man who might have post traumatic stress disorder?  Forget the sexism and the ageism — that stuff is mild compared to what's going around that is racist.  And the worst part is, when the senders are called on it, they don't even realize they're doing it.  It's unbelievable.

So, on to transcendence.  Out, damned coarseness.  Starting with myself.  Listening.  Breathing deeply, trying not to shock or be shocked.  Hypnosis?  Slow food?  Yoga is too distracting.  Watching an old movie.  Looking at the Golden Gate bridge.  Learning.

One step at a time.

She’s geeky, not angry

You know, Mike Swift of the MERCURY NEWS did some work yesterday talking with participants in the unconference.  He was here almost all day, so I don’t understand how he got the impression that the spirit of this gathering is anti-male.

THEREFORE:  I’m repeating here what I shared with Mike yesterday.  As an alum of a women’s college, I can tell you that the last thing women are thinking at all-women gatherings is that we don’t like men.  What we are doing at She’s Geeky is talking about work.  How to develop products, what we think of the Web 2.0 and now 3.0 labels, trends in Open ID, running a Linux server, how to work with the government, user interface design.

Here’s the real scoop, guys:  this unconference is not about you.  IT’S ABOUT THE WORK.  People like me — and by the way, venture capitalists and scientists — do not have the time to get together and sing your praises or kvetch about how you distract us.  We are launching startups, writing books, inventing.

AND:  I would not attend anything aimed at men.  Critical or supportive.  On principle.  I happen to like men.  Some of you, anyway.

One week until She’s Geeky

I’m looking forward to She’s Geeky.  It’s an "unconference" — which means a few scheduled talks, informal breakout sessions and an opportunity to hear and digest the perspectives of just about anyone who comes.  This year it’s for women only. 

If the stars align, I’m going to livecast some conversations from the site, using Ustream.tv.  This way, those who can’t come this year can have a quick look into the subjects that bubble to the surface. 

If you can break away, She’s Geeky begins Monday afternoon and ends Tuesday afternoon.  This will be a good way to gather data on the technology experience to the benefit of all.

She’s geeky — are you?

I’m excited about a brand-new gathering scheduled for late October:  She’s Geeky.  The plan is for women who are geeky, think they might be geeky or want to be geeky to get together outside the traditional conference box.

There are lots of interesting events planned for geeks these day — so many that we lose count.  The ones that are focused on attracting more women into the industry are certainly worthy of notice — but this one is going to be different.

First, it’s an un-conference

If this is the first time you’ve seen this term, it simply means that the detailed agenda will form at the event with the attendees contributing topics, participating actively in discussion and leading sessions.  This makes it possible to be flexible around emerging developments as well as help the cream of thought and experience rise to the top.

Second, for the first year at least, it’s going to be only women in attendance.

Normally, a lot of people, yours truly included, shy away from this protocol.  If the guys did a conference and said men only, we’d be up in arms, right?  But the fact is, without anyone even wanting it that way, it’s pretty much what is happening these days in technology.  And even though it’s not a conspiracy, until this day and age, a lot of girls never even thought to study engineering or computer science — or to consider going into a business that’s technology centric.  It’s been a man’s world because that’s who is mostly there.

This has an impact on how ideas are floated as well.  Which is why I’m looking forward to She’s Geeky

Today, many conferences follow established forms of communication — speaker to audience — and content determined by a few people.  It’s the command-and-control model.  Many of us are used to it and accept it as the best way to go. 

The women-only thing of She’s Geeky will expose and leverage another way of brainstorming and learning — something at which women excel:  conversation.  Insights and strategies will emerge organically, out of conversations that to the naked ear may seem random.  In the ensuing moments, however, attendees capture specific results and practices — and tailor them to their goals and vision.

So:  if you’re in or interested in technology and you’re female, come to She’s Geeky.  Join the conversation that is technology.