leadership dot #2831: clearly

The movie Just Mercy highlights the injustice of one particular case set in the context of multiple failures throughout the criminal justice system. As lawyer Bryan Stevenson fights for the re-trial and release of innocent Walter McMillian, he turns to 60 Minutes to make his case with the public.

In 1987 when the movie takes place, 60 Minutes was the gold standard for investigative news. If there was an issue to be explored, the majority of people counted on the fair reporting of Morley Safer, Mike Wallace and Ed Bradley to ask the tough questions and cause people to think.

While the show is still aired, it no longer represents the final word on a subject. Now no one has ubiquitous coverage and the ability to instill confidence across the masses. Our news is transmitted in niche segments, one contradicting the next until there is confusion, dissent and doubt.

While you are not able to control the information disseminated on a national scale, you can orchestrate the messaging out of your organization. Use the original 60 Minutes as your model. Be timely, share the facts without hype, answer the tough questions and position someone to be the central source that people believe.

In this time of uncertainty, clearly communicating the good, bad and ugly is just what the doctor ordered.

leadership dot #2830: fluent

Too often we default to thinking that to do more, we need to acquire more but a local store showed that is not always the case. Best Buy leveraged its existing resources by identifying the languages spoken by its employees and making a simple poster that lets people know this diversity was available.

Photos of the staff included information about which languages they were fluent in and others that they understood. It also included a “hello, my name is…” in those languages.

Even in our small town in the Heartland, that day there were associates who could communicate in Hindi, Arabic, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French. How welcoming for customers who also spoke those languages, especially when trying to communicate a problem to the Geek Squad.

Think about what resources you have in your organization that you could more intentionally share. Est-ce que tu parles français?


leadership dot #2829: Memorex

A famous commercial from back in the day touted the benefits of Memorex cassettes by asking “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” Apparently, the quality was so good that it was hard to tell the difference.

Today’s music fans may be asking “Is it live or is it a hologram?” For it is this technology that is making it possible for Whitney Houston to go on tour again – yes, Whitney, who has been dead since 2012. “An Evening with Whitney” is scheduled to tour England utilizing CGI technology and holograms of the late singer, coupled with live music and dance.

For the press members who were treated to a preview, it seemed to be enjoyable — which could lead to an entirely new genre of entertainment. Maybe the Beatles or Frank Sinatra will start to tour. New audiences could experience the blues of BB King; Elvis may be back in the building, and perhaps the music didn’t have to die with Buddy Holly. Or other figures could come to life: Martin Luther King could once again “lead” the civil rights movement with his speeches or Maya Angelou could inspire us with her poems.

The hologram technology isn’t cheap or easy so it won’t be practical for you to create an image of your founder or your grandmother to impart their wisdom – yet. Stay tuned for what marvels are on the horizon.

leadership dot #2811: end of the story

I frequently receive calls from colleagues wanting advice on how to handle a crisis, prepare for an interview, address a sticky staff problem, etc. I am happy to counsel them and share any words of wisdom I have accumulated over the years…

…and, it would be nice to know the end of the story. I get the calls in distress and I hear about the urgent situation, but never the resolution. Did you get the job? Did you have to fire the staff member? How did your boss react when she learned of your mistake?

Yes, there is a part of me that is curious, but I also see it as a learning opportunity that can improve my advice in the future. What portion of what I told you did you use? What worked? What backfired?

Time is precious, so if you ask someone to share theirs with you, help them benefit as well.


leadership dot #2809: caution

The Dominican Republic is known for its gorgeous beaches, luxury resorts and abundant sunshine. My trip to Punta Cana from years ago was dreamy and I can see why it’s a destination for thousands of U.S. travelers, brides and tour groups.

But after a series of well-publicized deaths and mysterious ailments, the new Punta Cana ads focus on something besides the ocean: safety.

The Punta Cana Promise proclaims “Safe Dominican Republic Hotels” – saying that they strive to ensure safety and service standards are not only met but exceeded.

Safety is a precarious claim to make – I’m sure that the hotels where the illnesses occurred would have also said that they tried to ensure it. So much about safety is out of the hotel owners’ hands, such as weather calamities, terror, coronavirus, or theft. Hotels fall down, catch fire or become home base for active shooters – none of which were easily preventable.

The more you promise, the higher the expectations are that you will deliver. I think the Dominican would be safer sticking with its beautiful ocean message and your organization should use caution before promising things you cannot control.

leadership dot #2808: obfuscate

Printed on the bottom of my two-foot long receipt from Best Buy was the following:

Cell phones, cellular tablets, and cellular wearables have a 14-day return policy year-round for all customers. Major appliances have a 15-day return policy year-round for all customers. 15-day return policy on almost everything else.

 I wonder if the person who wrote that was paid by the word!

Wouldn’t it have been much clearer for everyone if they said: “Best Buy has a 15-day return policy.”?

Don’t obfuscate the message when it can be said with elegant simplicity.


leadership dot #2806: overlooked

At the end of my marketing communication class, a student asked me to share the one thing I would want them to remember from this term. My answer: the target market drives everything.

I reminded them of the case study about Dove. Cosmetic and personal products had been almost exclusively marketed featuring beautiful models until market research revealed that 98% of women did not characterize themselves as beautiful. As a result, Unilever launched the Real Beauty Campaign featuring ordinary women, targeting those who did not see themselves as beautiful. The viral video Evolution – debunking the beauty myths – was viewed 20 million times and sales of the beauty bars jumped from $2.5 billion to $4 billion in the campaign’s first ten years.

McDonald’s research revealed that their primary customer was blue-collar males who ate at the restaurant several times a week. Have you seen that demographic featured in McDonald’s ads? No, because instead, they chose to target children (who were not eating there at the time), knowing that kids, in turn, would bring in parents and open up a lucrative new market for them.

Bernie Sanders’ popularity is due in large part because he focused on the younger generations in ways no other candidate has by targeting them hard via social media with messages that appeal to their demographic.

The secret sauce of marketing is appealing to those who have been overlooked by others. Instead of spending all of your time chasing after the customers everyone else is, think about who is not currently your client and figure out what message may resonate with them.