Why Lack of Empathy Will Destroy Your Brand

You’ve probably heard all the outrage over how United Airlines forcibly removed a doctor from his seat, injuring him, simply because they needed his seat to accommodate a crew transfer.

This is straight out of PR brand crisis hell. David Dao, the victim, is a doctor, grandparent, and Asian-American. The police dragged him from his seat when he refused to get up, broke his nose and caused a “severe concussion,” according to Dao’s lawyer.

United’s CEO Oscar Munoz has apologized profusely and publicly, taking full responsibility for the airline’s behavior. They are reviewing and changing policies to earn back customer trust.

The brand damage is bad. But like any virtual monopoly, we’ll probably have little choice but to have to fly United again. Their stock price took a devastating hit but has since rebounded (as of this blog post writing).

The good news is that there have been Congressional hearings about the airline’s behavior and air passenger rights. Other airlines like Southwest and Alaska are proactively reviewing their own policies to avoid any issues in the future. Dr. Dao has received a hefty settlement for his pain and suffering (good for him, I say, poor man.)

@United showed us how lack of empathy destroys your #brand via @redslice #PR #values Share on X

If you make policies that only serve your interests and do not think about how they impact your customers, you will lose. United put their own needs above a paying passenger with no thought to this person’s schedule, convenience or feelings.

All United had to do was create a fair, compassionate policy to accommodate their customers and crew. I’ve always thought overbooking as a practice was nonsense (but admittedly, I don’t understand the financials). But then, to add fuel to the fire, you had airline personnel on the front lines making all of these bad decisions instead of being empowered and inspired to come up with a more empathetic, creative solution.

My own family has issues with United recently, flying home from London Heathrow. My husband has airline status which gives him access to their worldwide lounges. He and I tried to get into the lounge at Heathrow with our three year-old but were told he was only allowed one guest with his current status.  Even though our son was only three, he’d have to pay full price for an extra pass. Really? What are we supposed to do, leave our kid outside? Maybe they don’t want whole families coming in on one pass, but I doubt many parents with six kids were trying to “game the system.” We were livid. Did they not understand how often my husband flies their airline, away from his own family? Why can’t you create a policy that says any child is only charged $10 or something?

Absolutely no empathy.

CEO Oscar Munoz has said, “This is a turning point for United. For the last three weeks, I have spent every day thinking about how we got here.”

Really? You don’t know how you got here? I’m calling BS. Have you even flown a commercial airline as a paying passenger in the last decade? We got here through consolidation, lack of competition, squeezing customers for more money and fees while offering them less, shrinking their legroom and generally making the flying experience horrific.

I know. I fly a lot. And back in the mid-nineties, I flew United weekly in my management consulting job – and loved how they treated me with kindness and respect. Wow, how far they’ve fallen.

Empathy has to be baked into the brand values and DNA of a company. 

If you're not using company values as useful tools to RUN your company, you've failed @redslice #United #brand Share on X

Values shape what policies to put in place and which people to hire.

Until companies figure out that brand starts from the inside out and that it all has to start with customer empathy, they will never learn.

Money is Not a Dirty Word

Please run, don’t walk and see the film Equity if you can. It’s on limited release, fresh off of Sundance Film Festival. The writer is a dear friend of a dear friend but that’s not why it’s a great movie. It’s a financial thriller billed as “the first female-driven Wall Street film.”

The movie opens on our successful investment banker heroine, speaking on a panel to ambitious young women. She’s asked, “What makes you get up in the morning?” Smiling, she says, “I think the simplest answer is, I like money.”

She goes on to say, ”I am so glad that it’s finally acceptable for women to talk about success.”


But whether you’re female or male, the point here is that you run a business. Ergo it needs to make money, or it’s just a hobby. Hobbies are totally awesome. Just stop calling them businesses.

And it’s acceptable to want to make a living doing what you love.

Passion and profit (or as I like to always say, cash flow and creativity, are not mutually exclusive (Tweet this!)

In almost 9 years (eek!) of consulting, I have seen too many brilliant and passionate entrepreneurs completely fall apart when the M-word comes up. They set their prices too low. They don’t know what metrics to track or how to set budgets. They lose money on projects, just to be nice and serve others. They have no idea what cash flow means.

Now, this is all from the gal who HATES numbers, ran up over $30K in credit card debt in my late 20’s and who pays big money every year to let my accountant worry about taxes because the IRS terrifies me.

But what I know as a brand strategist is that one of the most important brand decisions you can make is price. It creates a value impression,  defines who you will attract and symbolizes where you play in the market.

Money is not a dirty word! It enables you to do more good in the world and have more impact. 

Whether you’re a coach, consultant, boutique owner or massage therapist, pricing right is the key to financial success. But how do you decide? Where do you start? How do you know if you’ll meet your financial goals? What metrics should you care about?

Well, I’m so glad you asked….this topic is so important, I’m hosting a FREE teleseminar on November 16 with my good friend,  cash flow efficiency expert and business coach Debbie Page Whitlock.

How to Price Right + Conquer Cash Flow

A FREE teleseminar to help you with pricing, budgeting, cash flow…and all the other financial stuff you hate!

Wednesday November 16, 2016

11 am to Noon Pacific Time/2 to 3 pm Eastern Time


During this free (+ fun) jam session, you will finally discover:

  • Why brand success and pricing go hand-in-hand
  • How to set prices for your offerings to attract the right people
  • How to set realistic budgets and yearly financial goals
  • What are the Five Financial Factors you need to increase revenue and profit in your business. HINT: Focusing on small adjustments here can have a big impact!
  • How to understand cash flow and make it easy

Debbie is equally as feisty and tough-love as me, so you KNOW this is going to be a great training.

Register now and reserve your spot. Can’t wait to “see” you on the line!

Image Credit via Flickr

How to Spread the Word About Your Business

You open that coffee shop you’ve been dreaming about for ten years.

You start that consulting business based on your long, successful career in Corporate America.

You start writing that blog you’ve been told to start a thousand times.

But where is everybody?????!!! (cry-face emoji)

They are living their lives, that’s where they are!

We can talk about marketing, brand strategy, social media, blah, blah, blah all day long. In fact, we do quite a bit around here. But at the end of the day, what any entrepreneur, author, or artist really wants to know is:

How do I spread the word about my business, project or big idea?

Of course, that’s why marketing exists. You need a clear brand strategy that outlines who you target, what value you offer them and how you want to present yourself to the world. From there, you build a marketing plan to reach the right people with the right message at the right time.

But what can you do right now, today?

Here are six Macgyver-style tips to spread the word about what your business. Doesn’t mean you get to skip the strategy and planning part! Just some creative ideas to get your juices flowing:

  1. Start building your email list: Like, now, today. You can’t do all this awareness-building on your own. You need an army. Create an audience of raving fans who support you and share some goodies with them every now and then. Until you get your ongoing content marketing plan together, just START BUILDING THE TRIBE! Install a simple MailChimp, Constant Contact or other email platform widget on your website and start building that list. For now, just offer them a one-time incentive for signing up: a tip sheet, a discount coupon, a free eBook. Whatever you can quickly and easily create to stop delaying doing this important step! You can always change it later.
  2. Notify everyone you know about what you’re doing. Seriously. Everyone. Every friend, relative, past or present colleague, your Moms club, your poker buddies, your Facebook friends. EVE-RY-ONE. People know people. I’m always shocked when I find out friends of mine have published a book or started a business and they never bothered to tell me! If you’ve been going for a while, then send them a personalized, “Here’s what’s new in my world” email and let them know what’s going on. This may seem “Duh!” to you, but 90% of my clients completely miss this step. Oh, and while you’re at it, if they are the right customers for you, invite them to join your email list (#1) so they can stay in the loop on more goodies and events.
  3. Host a Party: Interpret this however you want, but live events are powerful things. Nothing fancy, nothing super expensive. Hold a holiday shopping party at your boutique and promote it in the local paper, or post flyers in coffee shops and community centers around town and by telling all your friends to tell their friends. Invite a group of ideal clients over to your office for a wine and cheese social with a discussion topic and a guest speaker. Partner up with a few other colleagues who do something complementary and host a free workshop. For example, if you’re a marketing consultant, invite a web designer, a copywriter and a stylist to hold a “Build the Perfect Image” seminar for new business owners. You all promote the event, you all get great leads and, yes, you start spreading the word.
  4. Network: You have to get out there. Sorry introverts!  You don’t have to join every group but find two or three that fit your style and attract the right audience for you. If you’re a life coach, find a business owners group or coaching mastermind in your area so people now about you. Networking with peer groups puts you in the mix to get referrals. But also join groups that attract your target buyer: clubs, meetups or professional associations. You can even search online on LinkedIn or Facebook and get into the conversations. Not just to push your stuff, but to connect and genuinely add value. Nothing spreads the word faster than building a personal reputation as a knowledgeable, generous resource! People will want to support you and know what you’re up to.
  5. Sponsor Community Events: Is there an appropriate local event that you can sponsor which aligns with your brand and attracts the right people you seek? A new coffee shop could sponsor the neighborhood fair. An online baby-clothing company and mom blog could sponsor a Moms Club event. A fitness coach could sponsor the city marathon. Make sure if you go this route, the event really and truly attracts your ideal customer or you’re just wasting your time and money. This is a great way to get the word out on a mass scale.
  6. Get Social: Social media is wonderful for getting your name out there, IF you use it correctly. If you’re just starting out, try picking one social network you enjoy using and building an audience base there. Post consistently. Don’t just “sell” but provide useful or interesting information. Interact with your fans and followers.

For all of these quick-hit tactics, you want to make sure you give people a reason to reach out to OTHER people to tell the world about you. Offer a coupon or incentive that rewards them and one that requires them to share it with a friend. If you’re a service business, create a referral program and give them 10% of whatever their contacts book with you. Hold a series of events or workshops that enable them to invite other people the next time.

If you’re a local brick and mortar business, you’ve got to pound the pavement a bit.  Post flyers. Make friends with local press and pitch them article ideas that relate to your business but are of interest to their readers.  Invite the community to your location in some way, shape or form. Hold creative events such as “Free Coffee for Police Day” or “Halloween Costume Party: Get 15% off if you dress up!” or “Mom’s Spa Day: $25 credit on any massage or facial.” And then make sure to promote those specials or events to the right groups of people via email, a personalized letter or even a phone call!

You can’t just build it and expect people to come. You’ve got to reach out and tell them about it! (Tweet this!)

Image credit via Flickr

4 Clever Ways to Make it Easy for Others to Promote You

2.3.15 help others promote you (blog)Whether you’re launching your website, promoting a special deal or simply sharing with the world your newest creation, one of the best ways to exponentially reach more people with the news is to partner up.

We’ve all done it: You create this gorgeous new 6 week course or value-packed free webinar and you send an email to your friends, family and colleagues asking them nicely to “Please share this!”

But too often I see everyone from entrepreneurs to authors standing in their own way when it comes to rallying others to spread the word. They put all the burden on the person they are asking. They expect them to take time out of their busy day to look up the information, come up with the copy for the post, find the email link to the sales page or – in some cases – even leave out the ACTUAL name of the thing they want promoted!

We’re all busy, folks. Your big launch is not even a blip on someone else’s radar. They have their own stuff to deal with. I mean, seriously, they have work to do, kids to raise and binge episodes of House of Cards to catch up on. Respect their time.

You have to make it as easy as possible for someone to promote you so they don’t even think twice about it. (Tweet this!)

Here are 4 clever ways to make it super easy for people to promote you:

1. Be Brief and Use Bullets: Don’t simply make them link to a page they’ll be forced to sift through. Or worse send them 9 paragraphs painfully detailing the ins and outs. Instead, give them the highlights in the email: Name of (whatever it is), dates, cost, target audience, and WHY that person’s own tribe will or should care. People are often reading this on the go, so respect that. Bulleting out the main points can help.


Hi Trish! Would you mind sharing the news of my latest coaching program with your community of working women? It’s right up their alley as they work to save money and fund their dreams!

  • 6 Weeks to Solvency: A 6 week virtual coaching program
  • 10 am to 11 am Pacific Time Wednesdays starting August x ending on September Y
  • It’s perfect for anyone in your tribe who is struggling to pay off loans or credit card debt to help them fund their future.
  • Registration and Details: xxx.com
  • Cost: $250

2. Write the Copy for Them: If you are asking someone to Tweet, post or send info in their next email newsletter, don’t just say, “Would you please promote this thing for me? Thanks!” Instead take the time to craft the actual tweets, posts or copy so they can easily cut and paste. Give them some options so they can choose the platform that works best for them. When you ask someone a favor, you have to make it a no-brainer because even if they really, truly do want to help, they’ve got stuff to do.

Please don’t forget to SHORTEN THE LINK and embed it for them! It’s crazy to make them cut and paste the link, embed it and then share it…..and add your own social media handle so they don’t have to find you and tag you.

PS: This is the part where you can link them to a promotional page that specifically has all the copy/posts ready to cut and paste. I see this with book promotions all the time. It’s useful if you are offering a lot of options yet you want to keep the email itself short and sweet. Just depends on how much you’re offering them for the promotion.


Here’s are some snappy tweets, Facebook posts or some newsletter copy you can use which I crafted for you to save you some time – but please feel free to edit and add your own flair!

Tweet: In debt? Check out this new course from my gal @twitterID to get footloose and fancy free: bit.ly/6weekssolvency

FB: We all know being in debt sucks. It’s sucks your money, energy and even health. Make this the year you stop the madness! My good pal, @JaneDoe is a money expert and wise woman who can help you get from stressed to solvent in no time. 6 Weeks to Solvency starts on August x so sign up now and grab your spot! Details: bit.ly/6weekssolvency

Newsletter Copy: (You get the idea….!)

3. Make images available: Images help our social media posts stand out so why not offer them an option to share some cool ones? Especially if they use Pinterest or Instagram. You may want to send them to a page where they can download images of various sizes to use (unless you think your images are small enough to not clog up their email server), Not sure of how to size the images for each platform? Check out this image size cheat sheet.

4. Offer an incentive that helps their brand: Why not make this opportunity one in which they can earn brownie points with their peeps? Create a special discount code just for their community or throw in a little something extra that can boost their brand as well. And PS, Depending on how exclusive you want the offer to be (i.e., not for all their Twitter fans, let’s say, but just their email subscribers), you can add this code straight into the pre-written posts– again, to make it super easy for them to share.


If you’d like to offer them some extra love, please accept this unique discount code just for your people. Just have them type the code SAVVY at checkout and they will automatically get $50 off!


And let’s do something special for your community: if you’re game. I’m willing to put together a free webcast and co-host it with you (I’ll do all the work!) that we can promote exclusively to your list. This way, we can promote the course and code, but you can also talk to them about what you’ve got cooking, too!

The bottom line: when you ask for promotional help, you have to make it as easy as possible for the person to say yes and take immediate action.

Ready to share your brilliant work? Get your FREE action guide, 4 Clever Ways to Make it Easy for Others to Promote You by clicking the button below.  🙂


Image Credit: Ben Grey via Flickr

How to Use a Press Release

1.20.15 press release (blog)

Ah, the poor press release. It’s been abused, distorted, asked to work miracles and is one of the biggest marketing and brand awareness misconceptions I’ve ever encountered in my 20+ year career.

Most business owners (and frankly, large company CEO’s) just don’t understand what a press release can – and cannot – do for your business and how to use it most effectively. Some people think everything they do is newsworthy; others treat it like a sales page or pump one out every week. Still others think you can produce one press release and – BAM! You’re on the cover of Fast Company.

Never fear. Help is on the way….

Use a press release the RIGHT way if you actually want press! (Tweet this!)

Nicole Francois is a marketing communication expert and runs MarketWell, an agency focused on health-related business.   She and I collaborate often and I love her practical, tough-love approach to getting press exposure. She even served as publicist for my memoir, Rebooting My Brain. Nicole majored in Journalism, produced news for major television networks and cut her teeth on press releases.  While the bulk of Nicole’s career has been focused on marketing, Nicole pulls from her six years of journalistic experience almost everyday.

I asked Nicole to weigh in on the ever-popular press release and how it really works for your business.

RS: OK, give us the straight scoop: what is a press release and how is it actually used or seen by the media?

NF: A press release can be many different things.  That stated it should always be a fact-based, and fact-focused document that is written in terms the media understands.  That means typically not leading with a quote from your CEO (unless he just media bombed at a women in tech conference, but I digress) but instead, start with a compelling ‘lead’ with the important components like: Who? What? When? Why? Where? How?  At least three of these questions should be answered in your first two sentences — and those sentences should be concise and easy to read. And if you expect to be taken seriously you must use AP-Style guidelines.

The media uses press releases to gather information.  About 90% of the releases I received as a journalist were trashed (and PR people considered me a nice / warm contact). If there is interest, however, the media will consider how it might use the information.  If the media decides to pursue the information put forth in the release you or your media contact will likely hear from them — that’s when we ask follow up questions to vet the ‘news’ in the release and find out if the information fits our angles.  Then, the reporter/media host/editor usually has some options:

  • Follow up immediately and cover the story
  • Take the story idea to the editorial meeting where a bunch of journalists weight in on its value and a decision for coverage is rendered
  • Shrink the story into a quick write-up or reader (for broadcast)
  • Turn it down
  • Or – rarely – enlarge the story with the information offered because it’s so rich it deserves a lot of journalistic research and developed story-telling.  These coveted stories are held for big editions, or ratings period broadcast.

What journalists hate most of all is the advertising -release.  This, in our eyes, lowers your credibility and in journalism, credibility is everything.  So if you hammer a news department with faux-news, wannabe ad releases you, your business, and all of your clients are pretty much dirt.

While follow-up is important, we also hate publicist-types who keep trying once we’ve given a firm ‘no’.  We know if you’ve undermined us and you might even get away with it once or twice, but keep it up and you’ll be a target for vengeance.

RS: What won’t a press release do for you or your business?

NF: It won’t get you a free ad, it won’t get your domain or phone number automatically listed.  It will definitely not make you famous, unless it’s for all the wrong reasons.  It won’t get you a million new customers.  It won’t earn you media attention just because it’s a press release.  It might help your SEO standing — but be very careful with this side of press releases.  It will most likely make your mama proud.

RS: What should a business owner do before sending that next press release?

NF: Ask these 3 questions first and ensure the answer is “yes” before you hit SEND:

  • Is this information timely and relevant to the community-at-large?
  • Have I emphasized facts that are important to the targeted media’s audience?
  • Are their visual opportunities for coverage that I have pointed out in this release?

Image Credit: Surreal Name Given via Flickr

3 Ways to Build Your Thought Leader Brand

9.30 building thought leadership brand (blog)

If you’re a consultant of any persuasion, you have probably heard this ad naseum:

You have to establish yourself as a thought leader.

Let’s break down what this really means, why thought leadership matters and how you can build a thought leader brand.

Thought Leadership Defined

Thought leadership is simply establishing yourself as the expert on your chosen profession, not just on the products or services you sell. It means people come to you for your thoughts or take on things that happen in your industry. If you’re a dog training expert, you might be asked to comment on a recent dog fighting bust and how those dogs will be rehabilitated. If you’re a health and wellness thought leader, reporters might seek you out for your opinion on the latest Hollywood fitness craze. If you’re a financial expert, people may clamor to hear how you interpret the proposed changes to international tax laws.

A brand built around thought leadership has lots of legs. (Tweet this!)

Why Does Thought Leadership Matter?

People want to hear from thought leaders. You can score lots of brand awareness by being quoted in the press, speaking at conferences or authoring a book. Maybe your particular service or product will grow stale or fall out of fashion: if you’re a thought leader in your overall area of expertise, you can constantly evolve, create ancillary products or services, and build longevity.

When brand news breaks, I am honored to be asked for my opinion. People have come to me and asked for my perspectives on news such as the Susan Komen debacle or the Lance Armstrong brand wreck. But things didn’t start out that way…

How to Build Your Thought Leadership Street Cred

If you want to be a thought leader, you first need to consider what you want to be known for – and if you truly have expertise in that arena. Hmmm..that sounds an awful lot like your brand strategy, doesn’t it?

(I’m going to assume here that you want to establish yourself as a thought leader in an area in which you truly have experience, wisdom and value to share. If you’re trying to establish thought leadership as a marketing gimmick to “get rich quick” – and believe me, there are many people out there who will try to take your money to show you how you can present yourself as an expert in ANY area you like – I think you might be reading the wrong blog.)
OK, so you can totally position yourself as a thought leader in customer service/innovation/money management/wellness. Fab. Now how do you go about building up that brand?

Here are 4 ways to brand yourself as a thought leader:

  1. Create Insightful Content, Not Just Sales Pages: Maintaining a valuable and consistent blog, starting a podcast interview series, creating sassy videos or even writing industry insight white papers on a regular basis allow you to present your point of view. It’s like being the editor of your own magazine or TV show without the pesky gatekeepers. Plus, creating all this useful content gives you something interesting to share in social media. PLUS, it provides constantly updated content on your site so you show up well in organic search. Meaning, when reporters are looking for people; to interview on your chosen topic or clients are looking for the best of the best in an area they need, your content will be fresh, timely and relevant. Thought leaders always have their finger on the pulse and if you are never putting new, rich content out into the world, no one will remember your name.
  2. Write Contributed Articles: Approach the online and offline publications in your space and offer to write a contributed article on a specific topic. Media outlets are starving for good, free content right now and as long as you don’t pitch but provide insightful content, they are happy to run expert work. Having press clips you can promote on your site – and media logos you can cite in an “As seen in…” section are vital for a thought leadership brand. Side benefit: If you do Tip #1, you can repurpose blog posts or other content to use as a media pitch. Time saver!
  3.  Book Speaking Engagements: I know, I know…”Easier said than done, Maria!” Well, we all gotta start somewhere. I started out offering to speak everywhere to everyone with no expectation of pay. While this is not something I particularly agree with on an ongoing basis (organizations making money off of events should pay the people providing the content and creating the draw for said events), you do have to build thought leadership slowly. Get people talking. Make connections. Weigh the benefits you’ll get. While I don’t often do free speaking engagements anymore, I do make exceptions if the exposure is huge or the potential for paid work is REAL and present. One free speaking engagement I did last year gave me amazing exposure AND led to someone in the audience hiring me to speak for my regular fee. Fine-tune your perspective and presentations during these “freebie” engagements. Once you establish the thought leadership, you will not only be able to command speaker fees, but you’ll have presentations already created that you can simply tweak and reuse.

TIP: You don’t have to advertise that you don’t charge a fee at first. Come up with a fair fee you would like to get paid, invoice the organization for that amount but zero it out so they understand the value of what they are getting for your brilliance. Then, if they recommend you elsewhere they can say, “Well, her fee is x but she’s willing to negotiate.” And pretty soon, organizations will expect to start paying that fee and you can begging charging for your time.

What is your area of thought leadership? What has worked for you in building that thought leadership? Please share in the Comments below.

Photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography on Flickr

Is accountability dead?

Sometimes, it feels like our world has turned into a giant game of tag. People and organizations are constantly pointing fingers to blame mistakes, gaffes and actions on someone else. The ink barely dry on headlines, and people are shouting, “Not it!” in an effort to get the spotlight off themselves.


  • GM uncovers ignition flaws on their Cobalt years ago, but instead of fixing the problem at the time (too much money and time) or recalling the vehicles immediately (or even now, doing a full recall to ease public concern, they blame the drivers:  “… the Cobalt and other recalled small cars were safe to drive as long as drivers used only a key and not a heavy key chain.” (WSJ)
  • Retailer West Elm backorders my table by over 2 months without notifying me. When I email to complain after checking my order status, there is no apology or offer to rectify – it’s simply “the manufacturer’s fault.”
  • An overnight dog boarding facility skips my dog’s dinner which I discover due to food being left over upon pick up. While they investigated the cause, the response? “We’re sure he was fed but it was probably another dog’s food.” Which is also not a good thing. No apology, no mea culpa, no offer to make it up to us, compensate us a free stay, etc.
  • An intern fails to report status of the work she’s doing. When asked to correct this going forward and work on improving her communication skills, she responds with, “But it’s not my fault. You never asked for a status update.”

Is apology a dirty word? When did accountability go out of style? Whatever happened to “The situation is what it is, for whatever reason. How can we now make it right?”

When it comes to your brand, how you respond to crisis says more about you in a louder fashion than the thousand heroic acts you may do when things are going right.

Explanation is not a substitute for accountability. Make things right to protect your brand. (Tweet this!)

It may indeed be factual to blame someone or something else for why you’ve disappointed your audience, client, or customer. Traffic, lost shipments, sudden illness a personal emergency that distracts you. All valid, all believable, all true.

But that doesn’t give you or your brand a free pass to disappoint and go back on your word. I can’t even count how many virtual assistants or interns I tried to hire who had something interfere with doing what they said they were going to do, leaving me and my business hanging.

Responsibility is defined as: the state of being the person who caused something to happen. Accountability is defined as: the quality or state of being accountable, especially :  an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

Simply put, you may not be responsible, but you need to be accountable.

Hey, I get it. Life happens. Believe me, I know this better than anyone. I was in the middle of a client project when I had a brain aneurysm.  The firm under which I was subcontracted immediately sent in one of the principal partners to replace me so the client would not be left in the lurch.

I once gave an overseas client back a non-refundable deposit and lost money on the deal – after delivering all the work promised in the contract that she (allegedly) read and signed-  simply because she abusively claimed it was not at all what she needed or asked for. English was her second language, so I think there may have been a major communication gap. But at the end of the day, in her mind, she did not get what she asked for and it was not worth it to me to argue with a crazy person. So I took a loss: I still had to pay my subcontractor who did her part. I wished the client well and told her to use the work we’d delivered if she wanted.

You can be creative. You can find solutions. You can ask for patience as you honor your commitments. You can offer an alternative or line up a replacement. Or like a dedicated writer I know, you can go a night without sleep to deliver what you said you would if someone is counting on you.

What can you do to make things right? What can you do to turn disappointment into delight? What can you say to make the person feel heard and appreciated? It’s not enough to say, “Well, this is why it happened. So deal with it.” It’s YOUR responsibility to turn the situation around as best you can.

Epilogue: After a tweet, West Elm told me to contact elevated support, the woman personally located a comparable item from a sister company, credited me back the difference and added a 15% discount on top of it all to boot. Nice. I told her my biggest frustration was the cavalier attitude conveyed in the initial email exchanges. True, I didn’t get this service level until I took to Twitter to complain (that should not be the case) but in the end, she turned around my negative experience. It was not “Judith’s” fault this happened. It was not even West Elm’s. But they are the face of the transaction and they (finally) took care of it. Nice.

When have you bravely taken accountability for disappointing a client or customer even when it was “not your fault?” Would love to hear your heroic story in the Comments below!

Combining football, business & money into an expert personal brand: A chat with Kristi Dosh

Fall is almost here in my part of the world. Warm sweaters. Pumpkin Spice lattes.  And of course…football season! If you know me, you know I’m a huge football fan, both college and pro. I would never call myself an advanced expert, but I know the game, can recognize many ref calls, and, when my husband wants to wind me up for an amusing rant, he’ll bring up the Wildcat formation (while exciting to watch, people can’t just go around playing any position they want to, IMHO)

Whether you, too, are a football fan like me or not, you will love today’s post. It’s about sports, yes, but it’s also about how to create an expert personal brand to launch blogs, books and speaking opportunities. We’re talking with Kristi Dosh, ESPN’s sports business reporter, an attorney, public speaker and author. Kristi is the founder of BusinessofCollegeofSports.com, a website dedicated to the financial side of collegiate athletics. Kristi’s latest book on the business of college football, Saturday Millionaires: How College Football Builds Winning Colleges launched this week.  She also has another book due out next year: Balancing Baseball: How Collective Bargaining Has Changed the Major Leagues. Kristi is a frequent guest lecturer in sports management and law programs.

We crossed paths through HARO for a freelance article she wrote. And I’m so glad we did, as she combines two things I love: business and sports. Read on to see why she wrote a book about the business of college football, and for your own brand and business, how she not only became an expert on this topic after being an attorney for many years, but how she promotes this personal brand effectively (hint: targeting is key!) 

RS: Welcome Kristi! What made you decide to write a book about the business of college football?

KD: In the early days of my sports media career – the ones where I wrote for free for Forbes and anyone who would have me on their blog while simultaneously practicing law full-time – I became fascinated by financial statements for college athletic departments. Math was never my favorite subject, but I found out pretty early on while covering the sports business that numbers can tell a story. And the story I was reading between the lines of athletic department financials was nothing like what I knew about college football from years of being a fan. In early 2011, I wrote a six-part series for SportsMoney on Forbes about the finances of every public school in the six “automatic-qualifying” conferences. Those posts received more views and feedback than any other posts I’d ever written, and I knew something was there. At that time, no one was writing about the business side of college sports on a consistent basis, and fans were becoming interested in what was going on off the field in these athletic departments earning millions from television contracts. Seeing the interest and realizing there was a gap in coverage by the sports media, I began to seek out more stories about the business side of college athletics, particularly football. It wasn’t long before I realized all I was learning from my research and visits to college campuses for facilities tours and sit-downs with athletic directors was changing the way I viewed college athletics. I knew not every fan would have that opportunity, so I wrote the book as a way of sharing everything I’ve learned with fans.

RS: How do you become an expert on a topic like this?

KD: First, I think it helped that I chose a topic where there was a gap in the coverage by traditional media. It’s sort of like when you’re developing a new product – you want something that fills the white space.

Next, you have to commit 100 percent. I made learning everything I could about the business side of athletic departments, and writing on what I learned, a part-time job in addition to my full-time job that was paying my mortgage and student loans. I started a blog called BusinessofCollegeSports.com so that all my writing on this subject would be in one easy-to-find place. Then I committed to writing on that site every single weekday. Between the launch of the site and the day I quit writing for the site to join ESPN, I posted 133 blogs in 175 days. In fact, I believe one of the reasons I ended up at ESPN was because their college football writers were linking to my blog on a weekly basis. On top of that, I was promoting myself to radio stations around the country as an expert on the matter by sending them blog posts pertinent to their market.

RS: How do you market yourself as an expert?

KD: I think self-promotion comes more naturally for some than others – for better or for worse, it comes pretty naturally to me. That being said, I think anyone can learn how to do it. Most importantly, you have to create something you can show to people to prove you’re an expert, whether it’s a blog, a book, a podcast – anything that illustrates your knowledge. Then you have to present that knowledge to the right people. This is where I see many young bloggers get off track. They inundate more senior writers on Twitter, LinkedIn and email with every post they write. My strategy was to carefully select who I targeted so as to give myself the best chance of having that person look at my work. For example, if I wrote about the finances of FSU’s athletic department, I was going to try and get it in the hands of beat writers who cover FSU and local radio hosts and producers. It didn’t make sense to me to send it to a national writer when it’s more of a local interest story, or to send it to someone who doesn’t cover the team regularly. Obviously getting a national writer to tweet out your story or reference it in his/her own piece is amazing exposure, but you can’t just send those people everything you write. Instead, I’d watch for them to write a piece that something of mine tied into – then I’d send them my piece. In the end, I found the most effective way to get other people to help you is to find a way to help them do their job better.

About  Saturday Millionaires:

Saturday-MIllionaires-BookLast year Football Bowl Subdivision college football programs produced over $1 billion in net revenue. Record-breaking television contracts were announced.  Despite the enormous revenue, college football is in upheaval. Schools are accused of throwing their academic mission aside to fund their football teams. The media and fans are beating the drum for athletes to be paid. And the conferences are being radically revised as schools search for TV money. Saturday Millionaires shows that schools are right to fund their football teams first; that athletes will never be paid like employees; how the media skews the financial facts; and why the TV deals are so important. It follows the money to the heart of college football and shows the real game being played, including debunking 6 myths most people have about college football programs, such as: Myth #2: Supporting Football Means Degrading Academics and Myth #5: A Playoff Will Bring Equality to College Football

Check out Kristi’s great new book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble (print & digital editions for both). Follow her on Twitter for more insights and news.

Your turn: What area of expertise do you promote in your brand? Why did you choose that area: skill, passion or something else? Please share in the Comments below. Or just let me know your favorite football team you’ll be cheering in this fall!


12 best (and worst) viral brand videos

What makes something get shared or go viral? This seems to be the Holy Grail of brand bliss. Everyone wants their day in the Internet sun. Recently at a Content Marketing Conference at which I did a keynote presentation, another presenter talked about taking her non-profit’s blog from a ghost town to shared by thousands. One of her nuggets of wisdom? Make people laugh, cry or fume.

Here are 12 great examples of brand videos that went viral – and a few are big misses in my opinion. See if you can determine each one’s “secret sauce” and why you think it got shared. How can you apply some of that magic to your own content marketing efforts?

Dollar Shave Club, Our Blades are F**ing Great by Paulilu Productions
10+ million views

Combine a funny, charismatic and good-looking founder like Mike Dubin (he wrote the script) with snappy jokes and quirky scenes, and you get viral video gold. This video makes you laugh out loud while still doing its job of explaining what the heck Dollar Shave Club does for its members. There is no mistaking the brand voice and vibe this company is going after. They make this the cool tribe of which you want to be part. One of my all-time fave brand videos.

Dove, Real Beauty Sketches  by Ogilvy Mather   
54+ million views

Dove uses a forensic artist to compare people’s perceptions of themselves with how others perceive them. Powerful, moving and hopeful. You may choke back a sob. The music and lighting really adds to this piece.

Kmart, Ship My Pants by Draftfcb
17+ million views

You may have seen this ad on TV. Customers use lewd wordplay to talk up Kmart’s free shipping service. It’s clever, fun and a little shocking. Wonder how many outtakes they had on this one that they couldn’t use.

Audi, The Challenge by Paulilu   
5+ million views

Actors Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek (new and old Spocks) square off in a race to the golf club in competing luxury performance cars. While from a true effective marketing perspective, the video is not quite clear on the benefits that make the Audi S7 superior to the Mercedes (except the clear point on trunk space), the video positions Audi as the new kid, replacing the old guard.

Red Bull, Red Bull Stratos by In-house
Almost 3 million views

World record free fall sponsored by Red Bull. Exciting, tension-filled and it captures our imaginations about what is possible. Choice of music is perfect.

Pepsi, Test Drive by TBWA\Chiat\Day
36+ million views

Racer Jeff Gordon takes an unsuspecting car salesman out for a high-speed test drive. This one is a miss in my view, as it’s clearly staged and the man is clearly an actor. Not sure what the main message or takeaway on this should be, but wanted to include it to show you that sometimes shock value is just pure fluff.

Metro Trains, Dumb Ways to Die byMcCann Melbourne
46 million views +

A song listing stupid ways to die, promoting safety around trains. I love this one. It’s clever, quirky, quiet and effective. The use of animation is perfect (I love crazy little monster characters like these so I’m a little biased). And they clearly get their point across with humor rather than by preaching.

H&M, David Beckham Bodywear by Marc Atlan Design
Almost 10 million views

Filmmaker Guy Ritchie directs a short featuring David Beckham running around in his underwear. I’ll let you decide if you think this is an effective video or not. It’s definitely on brand for H&M, though.

Old Spice, The Man Your Man Could Smell Like by Wieden + Kennedy
45+ million views

An idealized man using Old Spice convince the “ladies” to get your man to smell like him, featuring absurd and well-choreographed situations. This entire campaign did wonders for turning around the idea we all had of Old Spice being associated with our dads back in the 70’s.  It’s funny, crazy, well-paced and worth sharing.

Microsoft, Child of the 90s by In-house
33+ million views

“You grew up. So did we. Reconnect with the new Internet Explorer.” Nostalgia targeted toward people who grew up in the 90s. Not sure about the point, except that they are trying to equate those warm nostalgic feelings of youth (within a targeted demographic) with the IE browser. Not sure this one works, as this seems like tugging at emotion for emotion’s sake, not because it advances the brand message.

Expedia, Find Your Understanding by 180 Los Angeles   
2.5+ million views

An elderly father narrates his experience accepting his lesbian daughter’s marriage. Part of Expedia’s “Find Yours” campaign. It’s incredibly moving and may bring you to tears – but as seen in the Comments, it also produced some rage, too, which led to more controversy, views and sharing.

TNT, A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square by Duval Guillaume Modem
45+ million views

A dramatic scene is staged in a public square after unsuspecting people press a red button. Classic staged event technique and it’s pretty clever in touting TNT’s expertise in drama. Not sure what the people who were there, however, made of all of this!

Which one is your favorite? Did I miss a juicy one that you adore? Please share in the Comments!


You love PR: Do your employees know how important it is?

Had to share this gem with full credit to Steve Harrison at Reporter Connection. If you don’t subscribe to it, sign up today – it’s free press queries delivered right to your inbox so you can pitch the media and get your story heard. Here was his juicy advice:

Here’s another PR don’t from a journalist friend of mine. Researching a story for a major magazine, she called a store and asked to speak to the owner. The person who answered told the journalist that the owner was out of the store. The journalist asked to leave a message. After a big sigh, the employee said, "Can you just call back tomorrow?" Not surprisingly, the journalist never called that store again. Think about that. Who answers your phone? Have you told them that if a journalist calls, they should not only take a message, but make sure that they get that message to you immediately? If you haven’t told your employees how to handle media calls, do so today.

YOU may care about your brand and your marketing goals – but do your employees or partners know what most matters to you? Don’t assume they do….communicate with them often so everything is going in the right direction.