Just Being OK isn’t OK

Recently, a colleague of mine said “That’s how it is everywhere” when I mentioned something I thought was a weakness.

This got me thinking of how we rationalize challenging situations and stifle productivity with phrases like:

“That’s just how it is.”
“It’s like that everywhere.”
“That’s the way we’ve always done it.”


And my personal favorite because it simultaneously avoids the issue and places accountability on someone else:

“I’m not sure why they do it that way.”

Whether due to apathy, impulsiveness or issue avoidance, hiding behind these phrases feeds our instinctive desire to maintain the status quo. Productivity suffers. Personal growth is stalled.

Instead of thinking or blurting phrases like those above, remember these ones:

“Just being OK isn’t OK.”
“If you aren’t offering solutions to the problem, you are part of it.”
“There might be a new and better way than the way you’ve always done it.”

And my personal favorite because it simultaneously addresses the issue and accepts joint responsibility for the outcome:

“Why don’t we try (insert new idea) because (insert rationale for new idea)?”

You might be thinking that you’re tapped out. You have no more bandwidth. You already multitask every waking hour. I understand. I’m not suggesting you add work hours or take on dramatic new responsibilities. I’m also not saying there’s always a clearcut answer or that coming up with creative ideas is easy.

I’m suggesting you take the time to think about potential solutions rather than just spending time pointing out flaws, or worse, doing nothing and accepting the status quo.

It doesn’t have to be a Herculean effort towards process improvement. Just take a common sense approach to the challenges you notice or hear about:

  • Engage co-workers and friends.
  • Ask both: “Why?” and “Why not?”
  • Brainstorm on potential solutions.
  • Write down specifics and build an action plan.
  • Present your ideas and findings to others.

You might be surprised when it recharges your batteries and doesn’t take as much time as you thought.

You have ideas that could make a difference. Have the courage to articulate them. If more people do, we might even be able to say: “That’s how it is everywhere.”

5 NFL Strategies to Make You an Integrated Marketing & PR Champion

The NFL Kickoff Game officially opens the new season Thursday. This annual event is typically hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion. This year, due to a scheduling conflict with baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, the reigning champ Ravens travel to Denver.

The NFL has done its usual “in your face” marketing approach with signs of Joe Flacco around the stadium and city of Denver. Broncos fans aren’t happy to see the face of the quarterback who’s team ended their season last year.Milano photo

The Flacco Face controversy is just one of many surrounding the NFL as the 2013 campaign begins:

  • The NFL has agreed to a $765 million settlement deal with thousands of former players who sued the league, accusing it of hiding the dangers of brain injury while profiting from the sport’s violence.
  • PBS will make a major promotional push for its documentary “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis.” ESPN, a major broadcast partner of the NFL, is distancing itself from the documentary after initially partnering with PBS to make the film. ESPN recently paid $1.1 billion to air Monday Night Football and wants to stay on the good side of the league.
  • The NFL announced that purses and bags larger than a hand would not be permitted at games. Clear plastic bags can be purchased for $8.

Yet the NFL remains the most popular sports league partly because it is the rare product that can be enjoyed by just about everyone. But also because the NFL’s 5 Key Strategies have made it sports Integrated Marketing & PR Champion:

  1. Market Research Drives Decisions–In recent years, the league has seen women grow to become over 44 percent of its fan base, with 60 percent of females over the age of 12 saying they are NFL fans. The NFL moved to reach women by overhauling its women’s apparel strategy from the cliched “pink it and shrink it” approach to featuring Victoria’s Secret and Nike items in team colors made to fit women’s bodies. The collection also includes boots, watches and other accessories. The NFL’s research and subsequent approach have proven to be successful.
  2. Aggressive Market Expansion–In addition to increasing the women fan base, the NFL has expanded into other countries with preseason games held across Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico, where the largest crowd in NFL history (112,376) attended a 1994 game between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers. Every game played in London’s Wembley Stadium has been a sellout. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said he hopes to eventually put an NFL franchise in London.
  3. Year Long Content Calendar Creates a Buzz–Promotion of the NFL combine, draft, training camp, preseason, playoffs and the Super Bowl makes for a never ending marketing season.
  4. Message Discipline–The NFL is committed to a united messaging front. From the United Way partnership, the NFL Network, ESPN, current and former players, owners and coaches, message discipline is consistently strong. When the league makes a decision, they announce it, live with it and move on to the next one.
  5. The Art & Science of Marketing-The NFL understands marketing is both an art and science. Contrast in advertising: Big image of Flacco, small logo in lower right corner. Quick video shots and unique background music. Use of multiple marketing vehicles like Social Media, broadcast and cable TV, web, radio and print. The NFL combines strategy and creativity to make it memorable.

You and your company might not have the resources the NFL does. But you can still become an Integrated Marketing & PR Champion by following the league’s key strategies.


5 Ways Reality TV Can Improve Your Messaging

I watch the Real Housewives of New Jersey. There. I said it.

I stumbled on the show when I zapped to Teresa Guidice overturning a table during an argument at a restaurant.


Thinking this might be interesting, I pulled Darlene, my wife, in on it. Years later, I’m no longer embarrassed to admit watching the show. Apparently the 2.8 million other viewers of the most watched show in its time slot aren’t either.

Some consider reality TV a guilty pleasure. Others criticize it as the lowest form of culture. Andy Denhart, journalist and TV critic, says Reality TV is important because it forces us to think of how we’d respond to what we’re watching.

Whatever your view, you can benefit from applying Reality TV story telling techniques.

When you watch any of the Real Housewives series, you quickly realize the cast members, houses, clothes, cars and toys are actually far from the “reality” most of us know. Much of what the “real people” featured in these shows do isn’t all that real.

Yet people still tune in. Why?  Reality TV leverages these five fundamentals of story telling:

1. Focus on The Big Idea. Succinct messaging conveys the essence of the show. For example, Survivor: Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.

2. Engage Your Audience. American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice and other shows encourage the audience to vote. Viewers become attached to contestants in the way we used to connect with sitcom stars.

3. Touch Emotions. Teresa Guidice and other villains like Vienna Girardi from the Bachelor, The Apprentice’s Omarosa and Scott Disick of Keeping Up With the Kardashians generate controversy to keep us interested and create a buzz.

4. Concentrate on Key Target Markets. Ever notice the shows feature a cross section of characters from multiple market segments that can buy stuff from sponsors? We relate to one or more of the characters and compare others to people we know. It leads to emotional buy-in among loyal viewers and allows sponsors to pitch us on their products and services.

5. Make it Memorable. The introductions, music, quick video cuts and editing combine to make a lasting impact. We remember the meltdowns and the dumb things people say or do. We feel bad for the jilted and those sent home. Even when someone loses, they often win from their “almost” celebrity status.

Enjoy your favorite show and improve your messaging by using the story telling techniques of Reality TV.

Vote Now: Who’s your favorite Reality TV Villain?



Four Ways To Stop Misusing “Reply To All” and “cc:”


When I complain about the misuse of “Reply To All” or “cc:” in emails, heads nod in agreement and glaring examples are provided. It happens regularly because we don’t answer some basic but key questions.

Four Questions to Answer Before Responding To Emails:

1. Do I need to respond?

You don’t need to respond all the time. Sometimes you are just being updated or “kept in the loop.” Use judgment when deciding whether or not to respond. I’m not saying you can ignore emails. Simply use discretion to save everyone time.

2. What happens if I don’t include each person?

When you are writing an initial email, decide how each person will use the information. If it’s not obvious that they need the email, don’t cc: them.

When responding, you also don’t need to hit “Reply to All” if your response isn’t useful to  each person on the email string. If you have a quick clarification or constructive feedback that involves only the sender, you probably shouldn’t cc: everyone.

I realize some readers might feel the need to cover themselves by including more people on emails. But you’re also wasting people’s time by unnecessarily creating cluttered email strings.

3. How would you handle it if you were having a face-to-face conversation?

When multiple people are emailed via the “To” box, you should “Reply to All” unless something is confidential to only the original sender. Think of what you would do in a real conversation. If someone said something to you and another person at lunch, would you respond by whispering in that person’s ear? Probably not. You’d likely talk to both people. Do the same thing in an email.

4. Does everyone on this email need the information to do their job?

When three or four people are working on a project and your response impacts them, remember to hit “Reply to All.” Forgetting to do so frustrates everyone who is left out and stifles productivity. The converse is also true. Don’t add people to the recipient list unless you’re sure they need the information to do their job.

You might think these tips are obvious or common sense. Take a quick look through your Inbox and Sent folder. You’ll realize it’s not as obvious or common as you think.

Do what you can to change things. Start asking and answering these four questions and improving your email communications.

Email me  your favorite or should I say least favorite examples of people misusing the “cc:” or “Reply to All” and I’ll send you more tips on making the most of your email communications.

It’s Not Complicated. More Communication is Better.

I love AT&T’s “It’s Not Complicated” commercial where an elementary school girl tries to explain why more is better than less. After struggling to make her point, she finally just says: “We want more. More. When we really like it we want more.”


It’s memorable and makes an emotional impact. The ad also rings true for most of us when we buy. We tend to want more for less more often than not. And if we had to explain why, we might stumble as much as the girl in the ad too.

But what happens when we’re on the other end of the spectrum? We grow frustrated when our own customers or clients push back about price, scope, offerings or perceived value. It’s natural to do so and to think that the price or scope or something must be wrong.

How you respond to internal and external customers who seem to keep asking for more will dictate your level of productivity, profitability and personal growth.

The next time you think your customers are crazy, unreasonable or flat out asking for too much, remember:

  • It could mean more about their buying mindset than your price, quality or scope of services.
  • You tend to do the same thing when you’re the buyer.
  • They might not be convinced of or completely understand the value of what you bring to the table.
  • Sometimes you do need to change the scope, improve your offerings or adjust the price. But in many instances you need to help your internal or external customers realize what’s in it for them. 

Ask open ended questions. Listen. Clarify. If their concerns are clear and legitimate, show them how you will improve. When they misperceive the situation, communicate your value in their terms.

And next time you start acting like the girl in the commercial, remember it won’t be long until you’re on the other end of that conversation.

Remember: Everybody Wants More For Less

Sometimes I forget that we all want more for less pretty much all the time.

It’s natural to grow frustrated when we think we’re doing good work for clients and they push back on price or scope.

We need to remember that it’s not totally about our scope or pricing. It’s more about how we as buyers think and feel.

The next time you think your client is crazy or asking for too much, remember:

•It’s more about their buying mindset than your pricing or scope of services.

•You (and I) do the same thing when we’re the buyer.

•Our jobs exist because of our customers.

Now if I could only practice what I preach!

What are your least favorite stories about customers asking for more?

Brochures and Websites Don’t Sell. People Do.

New technology leads to better data and more sophisticated analysis.

Sales processes evolve with an increased focus on understanding customers and prospects.

Universities offer majors in sales and sales management.

Yet far too many so called sales people, particularly those in healthcare referral source marketing positions, still think that brochures, websites and other marketing items are what sell their products or services. Or they don’t realize that buying someone food is not marketing.

How can this be? It seems obvious to true sales practitioners that customers buy solutions from people. They don’t buy based on a brochure  or a website. I’m not talking about purchasing a piece of furniture, item of clothing or grill set from Amazon.com. We can buy things like that with a couple of clicks online. But when someone has a pain point and needs a solution, they aren’t going to buy based on a leave behind or from a website.

I’m not minimizing the importance of marketing collaterals, websites, mobile marketing, social media or traditional media vehicles. Each can be important to a true integrated marketing strategy. I’m talking about selling to prospects and up-selling existing customers.

Marketers trying to close business need to build and maintain quality relationships. They need to make it about them–their prospects and customers. Ask open ended, fact and emotion based questions. Shut up and listen. Needs match. Deliver what they promise. They need to show that they are there for customers and prospects, not just trying to hit their numbers.

Brochures and websites can be part of the process. But without real Pre Call Prep, ongoing relationship building, asking questions, actively listening and matching needs, those “nice” and “cool” brochures, websites and other marketing tools won’t make much of an impact on the bottom line.



Leadership and Communication Lessons from the NBA

The San Antonio Spurs are headed to the NBA Finals and it looks like Lebron James and the Miami Heat will be joining them.

If that ends up being the case in a week or so, the teams’ supposed contrasting styles will be discussed. I think the similarities in  how they prepare, lead and communicate are more significant than the differences.

The Spurs Tim Duncan and Miami’s Lebron James are the cornerstones of their franchises. Both take a disciplined approach to just about everything on and off the court. Both are known for their deliberate practice towards continuous improvement during and after the season. Duncan and James are also disciplined when it comes to messaging. The  Spurs standout avoids interviews as much as possible while Lebron keeps his PR team happy by staying on message again and again.

Gregg Popovich has been San Antonio’s head coach for 16 seasons. The team has made the playoffs every year and won 4 NBA titles. Popovich also avoids the camera and can be a reporter’s nightmare. During this year’s conference finals, he answered two different questions with the same one word answer: “Turnovers.” Popovich is demanding yet loyal. He makes an impact on his players’ lives beyond basketball.


Miami’s head coach is Erik Spoelstra. If the defending champions close out Indiana, this would be his third straight NBA Finals appearance. Spoelstra will talk about his players a lot, making a point of praising role players and defending his stars. When he’s asked to talk about himself, he doesn’t say all that much. Like Popovich, he understands his role is to privately push and pull the players to get the most out of them. When the team wins, it’s because of Lebron and the guys. When they lose, maybe it’s the coach’s fault. He doesn’t care.


Two winning organizations. Two franchise players. Two coaches who get it. Only one will bring home the NBA championship but both provide leadership and communication lessons that can help us all.

Your 3 Step Plan to Healthy Communication


Photo courtesy of http://blog.arkadin.com/
Photo courtesy of http://blog.arkadin.com/

A recent Kaiser survey asked Americans how they thought the Affordable Care Act would impact them. 57% said they didn’t know enough about the law to say.

In an eHealthinsurance.com poll of small businesses with less than fifty employees, 56 percent believe they are required to provide insurance for employees under the Affordable Care Act beginning in January of 2014. Yet these businesses are exempt from the new healthcare program.

Reaching and influencing individuals across the country is certainly a challenge. On the other hand, the story is so big that an array of mediums exist to tell it and we are ready to talk about it.

Small businesses are one of the key target markets of the Affordable Care Act’s communication efforts. Yet it appears many small business owners do not understand how the act impacts their companies.

This blog post isn’t really about the Affordable Care Act. It’s about the importance of strategic messaging and planning for healthy communication.

Whether you need to reach millions, thousands, hundreds or just your own family members, you can improve your communication with this 3 Step Plan:

  1. Plan, plan and then plan. Spend as much time planning for the communication of the idea, event, product or service as you do in planning to create, develop or produce it.
  2. Accept that how you think it should be isn’t how it really is. Just telling someone something a few times doesn’t work. Using only a couple of mediums—“We have it on our website and we tweeted it” or “We sent a press release and some emails plus bought some TV ads”—doesn’t cut it. Repeat your message in multiple mediums.
  3. Pick your favorite cliche and live by it. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Less is More. Make It About Them. Unfortunately, people often don’t adhere to these principles. Some say they do but then can’t help themselves. Clarity. Brevity. Focus on your audience and what they can take away, not on your jargon or corporate speak.

Follow your 3 Step Plan for Healthy Communication. Be disciplined. Start now.