The Best Leaders Tip #12 – Lead holistically

This is my final of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #12        Lead holistically.  The academic field of leadership is evolving to this, more holistic view of leadership. – where although we understand and acknowledge the various types and styles of leadership and when to use them, we lead as whole people, embracing our teams with all their differences, demonstrating values-based behaviors, setting a clear vision and motivating our people to achieve it, communicating authentically and powerfully, and making sure our organizations are aligned with their entire systems.  This is also known as integrative leadership

To me, this sums up all the steps to being the best leader.


The Best Leaders Tip #11 – There is no direct line between working around the clock and success

This is my 11th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #11        Take care of yourself.  The most effective leaders know that there is no straight line between success and working around the clock.  Not having a social life, never exercising, eating poorly, and letting your body and mind get out of balance, however, IS a direct path to feeling bad and even illness.  Take care of yourself while you work hard.  Be super organized with your time and you’ll find room for all your priorities, which must include your physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental health.

The Best Leaders Tip #8 – Get Smart: There is no one best leadership style

This is my 8th of 12 posts about how to be among the Best Leaders.  In these, I provide inspiration for everyone seeking professional and personal growth as a leader of people, projects, groups, teams and organizations. I welcome your comments and feedback.  Visit my website for more information.


Best Leader Tip #8          Be flexible.  There are situational, transformational, transactional leaders.  There are servant leaders, authoritarians, democratic leaders, laissez-faire, visionary, charismatics, paternalistic, collaborative, consensus-driven, participative, coaching, commanding, pace-setting… We know about most of these, and many of us have identified with one or more of these styles. While scholars differ in how they type leadership practices and behaviors, they agree that the most effective leaders know how to effectively use multiple styles to meet various needs at different times in their organizations. (Read about types of leaders here).

There are many types of leaders, and many tools to help us understand our own styles based on personality and temperament.  I believe these are helpful only to a point, because the best leaders know how they must adapt their leadership styles to be effective in specific situations.  So we have to become proficient in many leadership behaviors, no matter what our natural styles or preferences might be. Read more about leadership theories here.

For example, leading in a crisis requires a more commanding or directive style, and during a strategy or brainstorming session, a collaborative or more hands-off style works better.  Leading through long-term strategy shift, a merger or acquisition, scandal, or economic hardship also require different skills and behaviors.  The best leaders know these differences and when to use them.  Read more here.

Read a New York Times article about leadership styles here.

Today’s Thought: Remove obstacles – with your mind


In running cross country, there are hills, valleys, and plateaus, twists, turns, uneven ground, shady spots, sunny patches… spots that are easy to navigate and those that make muscles ache and lungs gasp.  Just like life.  When I face a steep hill, I can inwardly groan and panic, wondering how or if I’ll make it up the hill, remembering how hard it was last time and dreading every second.  Or I can remove the hill.  I can tell myself it’s not that difficult, not that steep, the downhill is just ahead, remember that the incline is easier on the knees and gives my calf muscles a stretch.  The hill – or any challenge or obstacle – is only an obstacle if you tell yourself it is.

What’s your hill today?  Big meeting, unpaid bills, long commute, important interview, difficult conversation… those “obstacles” can be  difficult, challenging, troublesome, laborious.   Or they can be nothing but the wind in your hair. You choose.

Social media means a new mindset for PR

This is a time of big mental adjustment for communication professionals. We’re used to controlling the message, writing the news releases and the quotes, approving all materials and controlling the delivery channels to every single audience. For us, it’s all about control, lest our precious brands be misunderstood or maligned.

It’s time to let it go, folks.

Social media means we have to give up control and channel our professional expertise to educate and empower others in our organizations to do what we do – to represent our brands publicly. It’s not all bad. We have an opportunity to expand our work, our resources and our scope by engaging our workforce beyond communications teams. We can create brand ambassadors.

But should just anyone in your organization be a brand ambassador? I don’t believe so. A good brand ambassador should have most of the following qualities:

  1. Specialized expertise in areas important to your company
  2. Credibility in their profession and in their role in your organization
  3. Some existing visibility and reputation in their/your industry
  4. Unique or provocative point of view
  5. Ability to let their personality shine through
  6. Will take guidance (about strategy, message areas, themes, needs) from communications team
  7. Time and willingness to participate as part of a team effort

Once you’ve thought about people in your organization with those qualities (and more you might add depending on the culture of your organization), how do you engage and utilize them? Stay tuned for my next post, which will continue this series and move you closer to a great program.

Rewarding and Motivating Your Brand Ambassadors

So now you have your brand ambassadors nicely organized and trained. Let’s remember that they have their “day jobs,”
 and might need a bit of encouragement to remain at your branding beck and call! Here are some ways you can keep their loyalty:
  • Send regular updates to all your brand ambassadors about the status and successes of your various organizational social media platforms. Include contest results, crises averted, issues managed, meaningful comments from audiences, examples of how your overall strategy is being met – whatever you think will resonate best, in short soundbites and interesting visuals.
  • Meet with your ambassadors regularly, as we discussed in a previous post. In between meetings, send small tips and techniques emails as you come across them.
  • Ask for ambassadors’ advice as you face new audience or messaging challenges.
  • Thank them often and publicly for their help and time in moving forward such an important organizational set of initiatives.
  • Call on a subset of your ambassadors (a group of 5-8 people) to be your go-to experts in specific subject areas that come up often, are particularly troublesome or strategic for your organization. Ask these to monitor the social media landscape to see who’s writing about the topic and who’s responding and in general, the tone and intensity around the topics. Also ask this group to respond to outside blogs and other social media platforms on behalf of the organization. This group should also expect to be alerted in case of an organizational crisis so they can help you and your team respond.
  • Consider a “Brand Ambassador of the Year” award and give it to an employee or group of employees who have engaged with you and your team with the highest level of commitment and perhaps have shared a lot of their time and expertise in helping the organization meet goals via social media. (Hint: the first year, you might want to give a collective award to all your Ambassadors and in subsequent years, to individuals.) Make it as big a deal as your company will support – maybe find a time to present it in conjunction with other human resources awards or at a meeting of company leaders. This will serve the dual purpose of elevating the importance of branding programs overall, to your company.
  • You also can consider smaller, tangible rewards for one-off special help any Ambassadors provide – such as gift cards, treating them to lunch, things like that.
  • Develop a comprehensive rewards system that awards points at different levels for contributing content for blog posts, Facebook posts, tweets and other items important to your program. Ambassadors can collect prizes once they gain enough points. This has to be managed so content is high quality and not just spewed out in order to gain the points, obviously – but this type of system has worked for many other employee programs!
  • Remember to copy Ambassadors’ supervisors on all thank you or recognition messages – this could serve their overall career goals well, and earn unending goodwill toward you!

I’m sure many of you have other ideas to add here – let’s hear them! Thanks and let me know how it goes!

All the best,


Ambassadors – Two Tracks

Now that you’ve thought about who to tap as your “social media ambassadors,” let’s get them organized. I recommend two levels, if you will.

1. A smallish (no more than 20 people) core group of influencers in your organization and among key stakeholder groups, all of whom possess the qualities listed in my last blog (at least most of them). These people typically are higher level managers in the organization/

2. A broad-based group of employees from across your enterprise. This group doesn’t have to be limited in number.

Here’s how you could engage each group:

Level 1 Ambassadors (Core influencers)

  • Contribute content to company blogs
  • “Assign” each to a company social media site for monitoring and contribution
  • Use influence to gain further buy-in within the company
  • Contribute content to external social media sites relevant to audiences
  • Share effectiveness of social media work with stakeholders
  • Help to align social media use with overall communication strategy
Level 2 Ambassadors (broad group)
  • Add company social media platforms as their bookmarks
  • Ask co-workers, professional colleagues and network, friends and family to read and contribute to company social media
  • Read and comment on company blogs
  • Alert communications if organization is mentioned online in other platforms and blogs
  • Contribute to external blogs
  • Become members of online communities relevant to organization
  • Follow and engage with influencers in the organization’s industry
  • Display organizational alliance in all personal online interactions
All ambassadors will need to be trained about how to do all of this well, within company and legal parameters and according to communication strategy and standards.  In my next post, I’ll give some ideas about how to do this kind of training and what it should include.
I hope this is helping you so far – would love to get your comments!

Empower, don’t control: employee use of social media

Just when we thought we had reputation management figured out, here comes a new twist. We’ve spent years crafting and approving talking points for activism, have the template news releases ready in case of corporate scandal; have a prepared distribution list of journalists in case stock prices drop… we’ve got it covered and we can rest peacefully in our beds at night.

That’s the way it was. Along comes social media and all those peaceful easy feelings have gone away. In their place, panic because the threats that used to be outside our organizations are now right in our own buildings, eating lunch alongside us in our carefully guarded corporate cafeterias. These new threats? Our employees!!

That’s because they’re using Facebook, Twitter, FlickR, LinkedIn and starting their own blogs. Sometimes they do it a home, sometimes at work. Sometimes for personal reasons, sometimes professionally. Often, they talk about where they work and what they do. That’s the threat. Because one day, inadvertently, they could say something they shouldn’t online – about a co-worker, an executive, a company product, a research project, a competitor – and you’ll all be in trouble. That’s the risk management threat. The threat to your brand is also important – and that is, with so many people giving your brand an online presence, chances are, it’s not a consistent set of messages nor image and that makes your brand muddy. And remember… a muddy brand is no brand at all.

Also, it appears that social media use, even for approved business purposes, goes on in many different departments by many different people who might or might not talk to each other, coordinate with communication teams or know that much about branding or communication. Recruiters reach directly to college students, marketing folks create Facebook promotions, sales teams contribute to client blogs… again, it adds up to uncoordinated efforts and a muddy brand.

With millions of people on social media properties, the exposure created by these activities is serious enough that our legal, HR, information security and IT teams are getting alarmed, and involved. Corporate communicators are taking charge of this situation as a media relations, reputation management and customer relations task area. But you still want to empower, not control, employees’ use of social media. In spirit of the internet, speech is free, and individual expression encouraged. Studies show that the world’s best-known brands also have the largest numbers of employees using social media.

In my next few blogs, I’ll give you some programs and techniques I’ve found effective to address this. Welcome to my series “Engaging Employees as Brand Ambassadors via Social Media.”

Mike Wallace: the PR pro’s nemesis and teacher

[SB10001424052702303772904577331921838185312 ]Crisis communicators honed their skills and established their reputations by how well they could handle a Mike Wallace type of media ambush. The iconic newsman, who died on April 7 at the age of 93, helped to give his CBS show 60 Minutes leadership status among investigative news programming. He also gave public relations professionals a reason to create and practice crisis communication plans, media train executives, perfect the interview arts of deflection, not saying too much, staying calm and on message, and develop nerves of steel.

Journalism has changed in so many ways on so many levels during Mr. Wallace’s lifetime and career, and change is good. As long as news professionals (whether broadcast, print, bloggers or anything else) aspire to and maintain the stringent standards of great reporting, ethics and service demonstrated by Mr. Wallace and his peers.

The world keeps changing…

Read more about Mike Wallace, his life as a news person, and the PR profession.

Occupy Wall Street and CSR – a new era

DW Simon Survey Results

DS Simon Releases The Occupy Wall Street Survey
“Occupy Wall Street” has dramatically increased the importance of corporate social
responsibility (CSR) in reputation management. More than two in three corporate
communicators said the Occupy movement affected their communication plans for
2012 and 55% identified CSR as an area of their communication program that has
already been addressed. Those are among the key findings of a C-Suite survey of
communication professionals conducted for D S Simon Productions, an Integrated
Video Marketing and public relations firm, by
These findings were driven by the overwhelming media coverage of “Occupy Wall
Street” during the last part of 2011. Social media kick started the Occupy movement
with the viral video of a New York City police officer pepper-spraying a non-violent
protestor and continues to be a driving force. For organizations, social media is playing
a vital role as they adjust their communication plans because of the movement.
An analysis of broadcast coverage of OWS BY D S Simon during this period found that
OWS was mentioned more than 17,300 per week from October, 2011 through
Thanksgiving. A survey of the media conducted by the firm found 71% of media
outlets expect to continue covering the Occupy story in 2012.
The most compelling finding is that “Corporate Social Responsibility” was at or near
the top of the surveys as an area of focus for both businesses and the media. Half of
the media surveyed indicated the possible effects of the Occupy Movement on
corporate social responsibility would be part of their coverage in 2012.
We see there is going to be a significant effort by organizations to expand CSR efforts
and to make sure they align with and support business goals. We see a significant
increase in spending not only on CSR programs but to promote them across a variety
of platforms to media that will be looking more closely at these efforts.

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