Risk Mitigation in the Age of Sanctions

Richard S. Levick, Esq, Chairman and CEO of LEVICK

“I cannot fathom why any of these companies are remaining in Russia helping the evil empire. It is indefensible and gravely troubling.”

—General David Petraeus

We have now, all of us, looked into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s eyes and we are troubled by what we see. As U.S. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah put it, he is a “man who is trying to shape the world in the image where once again Russia would be an empire.”

Like so many things today, the battlefield has changed. International diplomacy is no longer the purview of just the Madeleine Albrights, Henry Kissingers, Dean Achesons and Ralph Bunches. If you lead a company, you have long been an ambassador but now you are a diplomat too. As Eleanor Roosevelt said to Vice President Harry Truman four hours after President Roosevelt’s passing, “Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now.” 

For the past 50 years, we have more or less followed the Milton Friedman Doctrine – “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.” Historically, when faced with a delicate public problem, we could issue a statement talking about our responsibility to our customers and our shareholders. Crisis averted. Today, that won’t even buy a news cycle. 

Another signpost we have sped past is the age of the Lexus and the Olive Tree. Tom Friedman’s theory may no longer apply. Countries with a middle class strong enough to support a McDonald’s network do go to war with each other. There were 850 McDonald’s in Russia and 81 in Ukraine. The calculus between trade, investment, prosperity and freedom has been broken.  

A half century ago, I was a young social activist and cut my political teeth on the nascent environmental and anti-Vietnam War movements and spent my first career as a grassroots organizer and lobbyist, extensively trained in Saul Alinsky methods. I dreamt of the day when a corporate brand would have a social purpose. But like so many aspects of youth, I am not so sure anymore. 

How ironic that I now increasingly long for the day when, as Sigmund Freud would say, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” The new reality, for the foreseeable future, is that brands are increasingly defined by where they stand on some topical social issues as much as they are on price or quality. 

The most oft-asked question I get from C-suite executives and board members is, “How do we navigate these rocky political shoals?” We have studied and consulted on mercantile activism for years and while we have identified many rules, we also find that the rules change rapidly with so many exceptions that it requires extremely honest internal and ongoing 360 degree discussions to apply them effectively.  

If the rise of the Internet has done nothing else, it has blurred boundaries. The nation’s second online bookstore – Amazon – is now the world’s largest grocery retailer. Accounting, consulting and law firms no longer have entirely separate lanes. World War II-era Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s old adage that “Politics stops at the water’s edge” is, tragically, now not always true. Politics is no longer the third rail of business. It is a part of your brand.  

Companies are being forced to navigate issues publicly that impose upon them political decisions whether they seek them out our not. Sanctions not only being the latest but the fastest.

The SEC has newly issued proposed climate disclosure rules, which promise to be highly complex and challenging. In response to restrictive new abortion laws in multiple states, companies are having to choose if their health insurance includes travel reimbursement for abortions. Anti-LGBTQ laws in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and other states are forcing companies to take a stand. Add to that the questions of whether you leave Russia, how, to what extent and if and how you would manage reentry?

But You Said…

A case in point about how difficult all of this is, are the tales of Delta and Disney. One company was excoriated for saying something and the other for staying silent. In the case of Delta, they were heavily criticized for appearing to support Georgia legislation to restrict voting access when in fact, they had tried to make the legislation less onerous and had written an internal memo highlighting the changes. Delta, as the largest employer in the state of Georgia, regularly comments internally on much of what happens at the statehouse without necessarily lobbying for a particular change. None-the-less, they appeared to the public to be supporting the legislation. You break the glass, you own it.

Contrast that with Disney who initially remained silent on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation and was denounced for it by their own employees and others and has since changed its position (though it continues to remain silent in most other states where it does business and similar legislation is on the books). Darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

The bottom line here is that none of the rules, including the ones below, are written in stone. Work with “a cabinet of rivals” — lawyers, lobbyists, brand experts, HR, communicators and more so that you holistically understand the forthcoming issues. Know and trust each other now, so that in the moments that count you have license for difficult conversations and constructive disagreement. 

Nothing Stays in Vegas

Since the invasion of Ukraine began, over 400 companies have announced their withdrawal from Russia while others have stayed. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and his team at the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute have recorded these activities, categorizing them by their level of commitment to departure and excoriating over 30 companies that have stayed in their “Hall of Shame.” The first day the list went public many of the Hall of Shame companies saw their stock drop 15% to 30% when the key market indexes fell by one tenth that. 

As Sonnenfeld points out, those companies that have stayed risk becoming tarred as a number of American companies did three quarters of a century ago for their “constructive engagement” with Hitler’s Germany in the run up to World War II. Beware, this is a scarlet letter that lasts for decades.  

Unless you are planning on making this your corporate-defining moment, the best strategy for most companies leaving Russia is to be neither first nor last.  

 Is it Hegelian Dialectic time?

The seemingly boundless arcs of history are ultimately constrained by Hegelian moments which eventually define peaks and nadirs. World wars, plagues, depressions and other significant events tend to get people and governments to do extensive soul searching, re-evaluate and realign. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which threatens to escalate into a World War II-like conflict, feels like one of those moments, which cuts through our differences and may offer unity as a silver lining. Once Vladimir Putin “makes you feel uncomfortable” it has the ability to change a lot of attitudes. 

If we are indeed at one of those moments, expect fundamental attitudes to change very quickly. 

Start with the Why

All great companies struggle to go from a product to a brand to a theology. Nike, Apple, Starbucks, Marriott, the NFL – these aren’t just brands. They take on theological importance which creates its own significant buffer. When Nike or Apple does something wrong, the first instinct is to trust them and give them the benefit of the doubt. A luxury enjoyed by few companies.

Simon Sinek’s Start with Why asks an essential question — why are you in business? Maximizing profits for shareholders and servicing your customers are no longer enough. Understand your tribe.

Nike’s advertising campaign embracing Colin Kaepernick was no accident. Nike understood exactly where their market was going and decided to embrace an icon who, as a controversial figure, was Kryptonite for most other advertisers. 

NIKE took on the NFL – the second most powerful sports league in the world and one of their key customers — and won. The results weren’t even close. Nike increased its market cap by billions and the NFL did a 180 degree turn and, at least publicly, embraced diversity. 

Does your company have the certainty to know where its market is going? Do you have patience to wait out ten days of online vitriol and calls for boycotts, including online burning of your product? Nike did because they knew their customers, knew the place they held not just in their heads but in their hearts and, most critically, knew which direction the market was moving.  

Your Customers No Longer Define You

Since Foxconn and Takata there is no such thing as a Business-to-Business company. We are all consumer brands now and have earned the “success tax.” Any company can be the target of calls for boycotts, protests, online shaming, employee and shareholder revolts, etc., not just consumer brands. While this may feel obvious, most historically B-to-B companies are largely untested under the clique lights and prefer to think “it can’t happen here.” Yet Sonnenfeld’s Hall of Shame has more than its share of B-to-B companies.  

It’s Not Easy Being Green

I’ve had a number of conversations with DEI, HR and ESG officers over the years which is often accompanied by a certainty that they are wearing the white hat. Not so fast. Public narratives change quickly. Already diversity issues are splitting normally supportive and allied communities. The definition of green is changing as more Americans come to realize the supply chain for “renewables” goes straight through mines, indigenous lands and national security risks (Russia and China). 

Nothing stays the same forever or even for very long. Our ideas on diversity will (and need to) significantly expand. Coal, nuclear, natural gas and other energy sources will have a period of greater acceptance due to economics and domestic production. The “S” in ESG will only mean more things in the coming months and years.

The critical take away is to always remain humble and recognize that the goal line is constantly moving. Facebook went from one of the most popular companies to the least trusted digital company in an inordinately short period of time. The brand trust you have earned is fleeting unless you re-earn it every day internally and externally. Marketing ESG and DEI is a lot different that living and evolving with it. 

Use Your Peacetime Wisely

Our best decisions are not made when we feel the anxiety induced by inquiring reporters on deadline. Use your peacetime wisely. Test your interdisciplinary teams multiple times a year. Reverse engineer what other companies do in difficult public situations. Look forward to tomorrow’s issues – such as Taiwan – and game it out. Know and have relationships today with third party allies and NGOs. 

There are two moments when an issue goes from a one day story to a negative viral sensation. The first is the moment a decision considered a mistake goes public. The second, is when reporters ask other experts. If they pile on, you risk becoming a poster child of what not to do. Know your potential allies before you need them. There are few who will jump in the quicksand once accusations are made.

Scrub Your Political Donations

One of the unintended consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United and its progeny decisions is that while companies gained First Amendment rights they also acquired First Amendment responsibilities. 

Already challenging prior to the January 6th insurrection, political donations are now a minefield. Heretofore opaque PAC, 527 and association donations and alliances are now largely transparent and draw heavy and sustained critical fire from the media, social critics, employees and even shareholders. In this age of divisiveness and heightened public criticism and when the old tropes about equal donations and not agreeing with everything a politician or group stands for falling on deaf ears, it raises the question for corporations about the increased risks and reduced rewards of political donations. 

Is there a politician who won’t take a meeting with a large company, certainly one with jobs in their district? Companies have to increasingly ask the question if playing the political donation game is worth the cost. 

To help companies navigate the risk of corporate political spending, the Center for Political Accountability provides multiple resources including a model code of conduct, Navigating the Risks of Corporate Political Spending.

Canaries in the Coal Mine

We are in love with the “new shiny.” For a while, “Big Data” was just that, the new shiny object. But big data alone is just math if it is not analyzed in context. It takes a team that understands social trends, interest groups, history, influencers, legal and business issues and more.

Most of the time, a single tweet is not alertive yet the early warning on the Saudi-Emirati blockade of Qatar was uncovered through a single, suspicious tweet. If we do not understand the context then the power to predict the future is lost in a pile of pixels. 

It Gets Faster and Faster

The blinding speed and unanimity with which the U.S. and NATO applied sanctions is historic and remarkable. Governments, working in unison, worked at a speed few could imagine. If this is now the speed of the possible, never has it been more important to anticipate and plan for a world that is much different than it was yesterday.

(A shorter version of this article originally ran in BRINK)

Richard LevickAbout the Author: Richard S. Levick, Esq, is the Chairman and CEO of LEVICK, an international crisis, litigation and public affairs communications firm which handles the highest profile and most sensitive matters globally. 


How to Turn Your Company into a Visionary One by Setting Clear, Big Goals? Roman Kumar Vyas Explains

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Here is how to choose one of the four types of Big Hairy Audacious Goals and the reasons why a business needs one. Here is the checklist and best practices from Refocus, an EdTech company providing career development training.

All that remains is to lay out your milestones for success and to move forward with building your ambitious Google-like project. That’s exactly what delivers Roman Kumar Vyas, the founder of Refocus, an EdTech company, that is focused on career developing and broader education.

  • BHAG Explained

The Big Hairy Audacious Goal term was introduced by American experts Jim Collins and Jerry Porter. They studied the cases of 18 prominent brands and discovered the secrets of their success. The BHAGs of 14 out of 18 organizations helped them become visionary companies. 

BHAGS are quite ambitious and somewhat unrealistic goals for the next 10-25 years. They are intended to motivate employees and fuel company growth. 

For example, Microsoft’s BHAG is “to put a computer on every desk in every home”, while SpaceX’s is “to enable human exploration and settlement of Mars.”

“Obviously, a big audacious goal should be big, compelling, and audacious. But what does this actually mean?” – says Roman Kumar Vyas, and explains it further.

Let’s examine the goal “to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth” set by NASA and John F. Kennedy in 1960 as a BHAG.

Big Hairy Audacious Goal
  • The goal is so big that people don’t even imagine it’s possible.
  • In 1960, the Americans took Kennedy’s statement as ambitious nonsense.   
  • It solves an extremely complicated problem, so it requires a multi-stage approach.
  • NASA’s space technologies couldn’t send a man to the Moon at that time. 
  • The project is so audacious that there is approx.a 30% failure rate.
  • Kennedy didn’t even have a step-by-step plan for implementing the BHAG when he introduced it.
  • It outlines clear criteria for reaching the goal.
  • “In ten years, an American will land on the Moon and get back to the Earth.” That’s a pretty clear milestone. 
  • Is a Big Goal Really Necessary?

A BHAG is essential if you are looking to grow into a visionary company with immense popularity and vast profits. Just one perfect sentence can attract fellow-thinkers, accelerate a company’s development, and support your employees during hard times. Moreover, it can catch the attention of investors who are interested in startups with a global-scale mission. If you’ve thought through your BHAG, adds Roman, your company will stand out from thousands of others to investors.

The Big Audacious Goal:

  • Boosts your company’s performance

Bring your BHAG to the public – your employees, competitors, and customers are all waiting for you to act decisively. Some will bet on your success, while others will crave your failure. It will take 110% effort to become a person of doings, not sayings. Streamlining processes, introducing new technologies, and finding non-trivial solutions are ways to achieve your goal in a short and safe manner.

  • Helps businesses make complex decisions

Ask yourself if each step will lead you to your BHAG before taking it. Consequently, you will manage your funds wisely and choose the right development pathways.

Specifically, Refocus is dedicated to providing educational opportunities, helping people find work, and getting them into in-demand jobs. We based this decision on our BHAG and chose to launch the project in India, Philippines, and Indonesia, where poverty and unemployment are particularly prevalent.

As well, we have set up a career center where we will offer consultations and webinars. So, students can master new skills faster, find a job, and have a more fulfilling life. Such solutions will get us closer to our BHAG, which is our primary objective.

  • Attracts qualified specialists with similar values  

You can gather up a team of strong fighters who can digest the immensity of your BHAG. If someone on your team doesn’t believe in it, then you won’t be on the same page. You will be able to attract C-Level executives with impressive experience and skills. They often get interested in ambitious global projects.

When we interview candidates at Refocus, we ask about their personal big goal. That way, we can identify top talent who share our attitude.

  • Motivates during times of crisis  

It could be a ton of tasks, the launch or a demanding client – BHAG enables you to find the reason and get motivated. “Why do I do this?” Answering this question can lift your spirits during difficult times and prevent burnout.

“When I struggle to complete a routine task, or I cannot control the outside forces, I ask myself: “Do I have the right to give up when an Indian child is now selling something in a slum to survive?” Roman Kumar Vyas says. It sets everything in motion immediately and works for both CEOs and employees.

  • Role Model or Rival Fighter? 4 types of BHAG

All four are equally effective – choose the one that’s right for your company.

1. Competitive 

You can create a cohesive team to take on the big fish in the industry. With such a goal, your staff will be motivated to outpace the competition.
It is an ideal goal for outsiders and newcomers to an industry. This goal is not for you if you are equal to your rival, because it is easily attainable. Honda’s BHAG in the 1970s:  “Beat Yamaha!”

Although both companies made bikes, Honda was a newcomer in the 1970s while Yamaha had a well-established position.

Nike’s BHAG in the 1960s: “Defeat Adidas!”

Nike was just beginning its journey, but Adidas had been around since 1949 and was a serious competitor to Puma.

2. Role Model 

A good way to set such a goal is to take inspiration from a successful company and try to emulate it. Don’t copy every step, instead define one aspect that is relevant to your company and adapt it for your needs.

This option can suit those who have already scored some success and attracted initial investors. You should choose another BHAG type if you are simply testing an idea with a simple MVP.

In 1986, Giro Sport Design set a BHAG to become the Nike of the biking industry. The company was founded in 1985, and after getting the feel of the market it set Nike as the success benchmark.

In 2022, Refocus set a BHAG to become an EdTech version of Facebook. Refocus has a team of talented experts. It has successfully launched and sold the Qmarketing Academy startup in Russia before going international.

3. Internal Transformation 

This isn’t about esotericism or positive affirmations. This BHAG type can help you prioritize your company’s internal development, motivate your staff, and restart processes.

The company may benefit from this goal if it lacks progress, or if it already has one BHAG and needs a new one.

Rockwell’s BHAG in 1995 was to evolve from a military contractor into the best multi-industry high tech company. The company had been manufacturing military aircraft since 1903. In 1995, it decided to expand into new markets.   

Merck’s BHAG in the 1930s was to turn a chemicals factory into one of the best pharma companies. The company was established in 1891 but in the 1930s, the drugs and chemicals market changed. Merck had to adapt to the new reality. 

4. Target Oriented 

This type of BHAG implies that you need to set deadlines, revenue levels or any similar quantitative thresholds.

This goal is for a company that has no big rival and plans to develop in its own way rather than copy someone’s success. If none of the above types seemed suitable to you, choose this one.

Google’s BHAG in 1996 was “to organize the world’s information”. The corporation set this goal because other search engines proved ineffective in this task and could not provide users with the necessary information. 

Wal-Mart’s BHAG in 1990 was to become a $125 billion company by 2000. That’s a compelling and long-term goal, as it should be. 

  • Setting a BHAG: A Step-by-Step Guide from Roman Kumar Vyas
  • Analyze your company’s development strategy. Pick one large-scale direction that you and your team will find compelling.
  • If possible, define a socially significant goal. “To provide all people around the globe with educational opportunities” sounds better than “to earn a million dollars for a company”. It is statistically proven that 75% of millennials are willing to sacrifice salary for a socially responsible company.
  • Decide where you want to be in 10 or 20 years.
  • Identify the suitable BHAG type.
  • Give the wording of one inspiring sentence.

Each BHAG type has its formula:

1. Competitive goal = verbs “beat / destroy / outpace” + the name of a market leader.
2. Role model goal = verb “become” + the name of a brand you’re aiming to emulate + your industry.
3. Internal transformation goal = verbs “do / change” + description of your current position + the target you are heading to.
4. Target-oriented goal

– Explain how your company’s activities can have a positive impact on people’s lives.

Here are some inspiring examples.
Evernote’s “Let Evernote remember it all for you”
    SpaceX’s “To enable human exploration and settlement of Mars” 
Facebook’s “To make the world connected” 

“increase revenue” + the company’s name + to Х $ by Y year.

  • Tell your friends about your BHAG. Did they make a “cuckoo” sign and called you crazy? Good job! You’re on the right track.
  • When you set your BHAG, tell the world about it! Incorporate it into your company’s manifest, speak about it at meetings, workshops, and presentations.
  • Learn from others’ best practices. Refocus staff discussed what their roles would be in 10 years. A lot of thought was put into the future of content, products, technologies, and expertise. While having fun, we also updated our global and strategic mindsets and refreshed our core purpose.

The Communications Department is a Revenue Generator. Here’s Why.

Ragan CEO Diane Schwartz breaks down how communications is one of the most powerful — and unacknowledged — revenue drivers for a company.

Diane Schwartz, CEO, Ragan Communications

Communications is often a misunderstood discipline. It seems to have loose ties to a company’s bottom line, and it’s apparently far from the corridors of corporate decision-making.

But in the last two years, during a trifecta of crises (public health, social, political), the communications department has been placed front and center, deftly handling essential stakeholder information and prioritizing employee well-being and engagement.

Yet, most communications and PR departments are not tied to revenue. Often seen as a cost center, they tend to float in the organizational chart under Marketing or HR.

The time has come for a change.

Communications is one of the most powerful revenue generators for a company.

And communicators are the architects of a brand’s story, the messengers of critical information, and the stewards of an organization’s reputation and community relations.

The communications department does generate revenue through its campaigns and initiatives. You just don’t hear much about it.

No longer a nice-to-have, a communications department is a must-have for organizations that understand the dynamics between employee and brand, between customer and corporate purpose, and behind trust, transparency, and mission.

Although the chief marketing officer is a common title in most midsize to large organizations, the chief communications officer is a unique find. The lack of CCOs on org charts is reflective of short-sighted organizational thinking and strategy permeating corporate America.

Continue reading here…


Ruder Finn Acquires Integrated Communications Firm, Peppercomm


CommPRO Editorial Staff

Ruder Finn announced today that it has acquired Peppercomm, a leading integrated communications and marketing firm that uses the science of humor to think differently, inspire people and solve complex problems. An agent-of-change communications agency, Peppercomm combines forward-thinking new service offerings and the agility of a startup to help clients anticipate the future and build unbreakable relationships with stakeholders. 

Founded in 1995 by industry veteran and CEO Steve Cody, Peppercomm has established a portfolio of blue-chip clients such as Dole Sunshine Company, MINI, Xero, and trivago, with work spanning across earned, owned and paid media, employee engagement, crisis and issues management, influencer programs, executive visibility and social and digital campaigns. Over the past 27 years, the firm has developed a number of innovative new service offerings, notably its signature Change Agent humor-led training programs. The breakthrough offering leverages the tenets of humor to bring joy and imagination back into the workplace and connect and catalyze stakeholders across the change journey. Additional propriety services include sentiment mapping tool Mindset.ai, Content I.Quity creative engine and CrisisRX crisis preparedness training. 

“Peppercomm’s unique Change Agent approach creates powerful synergies with Ruder Finn’s what’s next vision,” said Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO, Ruder Finn. “Their combination of powerful emotional mindset and sentiment analytics, combined with breakthrough creative, expands on and deepens our core capabilities, while their unique understanding of how to leverage humor in business gives us a new competitive edge in our ability to break down communications barriers, stimulate thinking and drive change. Peppercomm represents a significant milestone in our ongoing strategy to fuel strong organic growth with transformative, future-focused acquisitions.” 

As part of the acquisition, Peppercomm employees across New York, San Francisco and London will continue to work under the firm’s brand name and be led by Cody, who will maintain his title as CEO of Peppercomm and report to Ruder Finn CEO Bloomgarden. There will be no redundancies or layoffs as a result of this acquisition. 

“We’re thrilled to become a key addition to one of the world’s largest and most respected public relations firms,” said Cody. “It was critical we join an organization that values the strategic importance of being an independent agency. At the same time, we were intent on assuring that our two companies share similar values and a greater purpose. Peppercomm now has access to unrivalled services for our clients, as well as new and expanded career opportunities for our employees. This is the perfect move at the perfect inflection point in Peppercomm’s 27-year history.” 

The acquisition is the latest in a series of recent strategic moves by Ruder Finn to further build on its core leadership offerings in healthcare, technology, creative and change management. Other acquisitions include UK-based health tech firm Mantis (2021), award-winning creative & production studio Osmosis Films (2020), healthcare agency jacobstahl (2020), change management and internal communications agency SPI Group (2019), and digital marketing firm RLA Collective (2018). 

The deal follows three consecutive years of strong revenue growth for Ruder Finn, with 28% growth in 2021 and growth of more than 45% since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

From Hidden to Holistic: B2B Communications Come of Age

Pattie Sullivan, Senior Vice President, B2B Practice Head, North America, Red Havas

It’s true. I once gave a lecture at my alma mater titled “B2B: The Hidden World of Public Relations.” At that time business-to-business communications was, indeed, hidden away — invisible to the average consumer. Practical and transactional in tone and purpose, these comms were tucked away and separate from the other internal and external communications streams. 

It’s safe to say B2B communications has finally come of age. 

My colleagues and I described the transformation in the B2B space roughly a year ago in a white paper — “Rethinking B2B and B2C: A Case for Person-to-Person (P2P) Communications.” The premise is straightforward: Engage with your audiences as people, not as job descriptions — e.g., procurement, sales manager, account executive, and so on. This shift in approach provides new opportunities for brands (particularly B2B) to enter a more human and relatable territory to engage a wider audience.

And my conviction of the value of P2P has been reinforced by an article in MITSloan Management Review, advocating that businesses reframe their mindset from B2B to B4B. It’s similar and complementary to P2P, calling on businesses to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. This holistic approach requires moving from purely transactional interactions to truly understanding the customers’ needs and working collaboratively to solve their challenges. Doing so not only promotes business growth for both parties, but also can create more sustainable businesses by “delivering value for all—other businesses, our customers, and our communities.”

On the surface, the concept of P2P or B4B, or however you prefer to describe it, seems deceptively simple. But like most things, the devil’s in the details, and the path is more serpentine than straightforward.

Taking an outside-in approach

The first hurdle is often internal — particularly in complex, global organizations. Here, we often find the communications function split … corporate, marcom, social, internal, and so on. And while there is typically recognition that these segments should complement each other to tell a holistic brand story, the actual day-to-day realities of busy communications pros means this does not always happen, despite the best of intentions. 

It’s the story, stupid 

At Red Havas, we believe the way to solve for that is by adopting an approach that we like to call One Story, Many Shapes. This redefined communications model starts with the story rather than the channel, which maximizes storytelling opportunities and limits silos by design. By connecting the dots between stories and channels, we’re shaping one cohesive experience for the (human) audience. 

 Breaking out of the B2Box

Organizations also need to look at the entire brand experience from a holistic perspective — everything from product design to customer experience and all other touchpoints. After all, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, how we interact with everyone in our personal and professional lives has changed. Very quickly, we adapted to the new ways in which we communicate. And, we’ve set the bar high. We no longer silo our expectations; we expect the same, seamless experience across the board.

The rules of engagement are changing, which provides new opportunities for brands (particularly those that would describe themselves as B2B) to engage a wider audience and, ultimately transform their business. And for communicators, the purpose of everything we do is no longer hidden. We’ve brought it into the light where it belongs. Our purpose is humankind — understanding and meeting their needs, speaking their language, and anticipating what’s next for them, and for us. 

Pattie WhiteAbout the Author: Pattie is a  strategy, PR and communications specialist. She has 20+ years of experience working primarily with global B2B brands in materials, life science, infrastructure and other vital industries. A storyteller at heart, she applies her background as a business reporter and technical editor to ensure her clients’ communications resonate and are relevant. You can find her here on LinkedIn.

How Technology Can Bridge The Gender Divide (ON DEMAND VIDEO)

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On Demand Video


Women-led startups received just 2.3% of VC funding in 2020. Furthermore, only about 12 % of decision makers at VC firms are women. Despite the seismic challenges women face in participating in new value creation, there are female trailblazers who continue to put cracks into the glass ceiling to equal the business playing field.

CommPRO  and FINTECH.TV in collaboration with the Armenian International Women’s Association (“AIWA”) are pleased to present this livestream event that will bring together dynamic women who will share their personal journeys and the skills they deployed to successfully navigate the nexus of technology, entrepreneurship, and gender equity. They will also share how they are paying forward by investing in the future generation of female leaders in growth industries such as fintech, martech and commstech.

We’ll tackle key challenges and opportunities women working in tech face today, including:

—What does it take to be a female tech entrepreneur? What are the essential skills needed for success?
—Why are women falling behind in the VC world? What steps can be taken to bridge the gap?
—How can women better support each other on their journeys in the rapidly evolving tech world?



Jane King

Host of Daily Download on FINTECH.TV

Jane King is a graduate of Purdue University, with a degree in Communications. Jane began her television career at WLFI-TV in Lafayette where she was an anchor and reporter. During that time, Jane also taught a few classes at Purdue in broadcast journalism. After WLFI, Jane began to specialize in financial and business reporting and went on to cover consumer issues at WPVI-TV in Philadelphia, and the stock market for both CNN and Bloomberg Television. In January 2014, Jane started her own company with a business partner, LilaMax Media LLC, where she provides financial news content from the NASDAQ in Times Square for local television stations around the country including WISH in Indianapolis, KRON TV in San Francisco, KING in Seattle. LilaMax Media recently launched a weekly, 30 minute show that airs on both KRON’s broadcast and streaming. Services. The show focuses on technology and entreprenership. During her career, Jane has covered the dot com bust, the 2008/2009 financial crisis and provided live reports for CNN and local TV stations from the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th, 2001.

LilaMax Media was created in January 2014. It’s a multimedia content company delivering consumer/business news to television and internet news organizations. Jane King, along with long time TV syndicator Robert Morris, started LilaMax Media and have grown the company from 12 TV stations to now 72 TV station and 2 internet entities.  LilaMax Media content originates from the NASDAQ Marketsite in Times Square and is provided and updated daily.

Jane also executive produces and hosts a weekly show on KRON-TV in San Francisco called “Innovators”. The show features innovative companies in technology, energy, biopharmaceuticals and education. During this show, Jane developed a deep interest in blockchain technology and how it can transform the world’s economy and society.

Jane also hosts “New to the Street” weekly show featuring companies on NewsMax TV and hosts the Fintech.TV Daily Download report on blockchain and crypto news.

Jane has also hosted and moderated panels for the Global Blockchain Business Council, Blockdown Conference, Malta Artificial Intelligence/Blockchain Conference, TheStreet.com and others.


Ying Cao


Work in Fintech

Ying Cao is co-founder of Work in Fintech, a blockchain-based professional development platform with a mission to bridge the talent gap in the fast growing Fintech and Web3 world. Prior to starting her own company, Ying spent the last 15 years on wall street and was Head of Digital Product at Barclays in charge of digital transformation and Fintech investments. Being an entrepreneur herself, a founding partner of a EdTech firm which has now successfully raised $300mm for Series C funding, she is a mentor and ambassador for Barclays Open Innovation Platform (Rise) to coach and mentor start-ups for business growth. She is also a SteerCo member in Barclays Diversity and Culture networks and services on the board of Women in Derivatives (WIND), a non-profit organization, driving diversity and inclusion efforts. Ying holds a Master’s Degree in Economics at Yale University and a B.A. in Economics at Peking University in China and was recognized as Inspiring Women of the year by NYC Fintech Women and Excellence in FinTech by Markets Media Group.


Houry Geudelekian


NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY)

Houry Geudelekian was the previous Gender Program Coordinator at NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY and the UN Coordinator of Unchained At Last, an ECOSOC accredited US based organizations that fights to stop early marriage in the US. She recently ended her term as Co-Chair of Working Group on Girls and Co-Chair of NYC4CEDAW. Born in Beirut, Lebanon into an Armenian family, she moved to New York City in the late 70’s with her husband and together they started a business that grew to over 30 employees and 2000 clientele in the competitive market of Manhattan. Her professional expertise is in Project Management, Marketing and Public Relations with a passion for Human Rights. Houry has been involved with many non-profits and academic institutions, chaired major events and fundraised for special events. In her capacity as UN Coordinator for Armenian Relief Society (2011-2016), she served as Executive Committee member of NGO CSW NY for two terms, Co-Chaired NGO CSW Forum Planning Committee, MC’d two Consultation Days and Chaired Women of Distinction Award for CSW57/58. As a board member of NGO CSW NY she was a founding member of the Cities for CEDAW campaign as well as Beijing Platform for Action+20, working closely with UN Women. She is always actively looking to partner with international organizations to bring gender equality to global attention while mentoring young adults to be inspired and care about Human Rights. She has also facilitated and partnered with UN Member States, UN Women, UNDP to bring about positive change globally through panel discussions and projects.


Marie Lou Papazian

Founding CEO

TUMO Center for Creative Technologies

As TUMO’s founding CEO, Marie Lou Papazian developed the center’s educational program and led the design and construction of its flagship facility. Prior to TUMO, Marie Lou led the Education for Development Foundation linking Armenian students to their global peers through online educational activities. Previously, she was lead construction manager on prominent high-rise buildings in New York City. Marie Lou holds a Master’s Degree in Computing in Education from the Teachers College at Columbia University, as well as degrees in engineering and construction management. In 2019, she received the Ordre des Palmes académiques — a national order bestowed by the French Republic on distinguished academics and figures in the world of culture and education.


Laurel Touby

Managing Partner

Supernode Ventures

Laurel Touby is a former business journalist, exited tech CEO and the founding partner at Supernode Ventures. 

Supernode Ventures is focused on pre-seed/seed stage tech startups across sectors ranging from FinTech and Healthcare to eCommerce and Supply Chain tech. With 15,000+ network connections, Laurel and her team source promising companies on the cusp of hyper-growth. Supernode’s portfolio companies include: Braze (IPOd in 2021), Electric.ai, Credijusto, DeepScribe.ai, Habi.co, Levels Health, New Age Meats and others.

Prior to Supernode Ventures, Laurel founded mediabistro.com, an online pioneer that revolutionized the way people in the media industry do business, connect and communicate. A former business journalist, Laurel remains actively engaged with the media via her popular Tech Media Dinner & Discussion events. She is a sought-after public speaker and hosted her own tech show, “Secrets of Successful Startups“ on CBS Interactive. Following the sale of mediabistro.com, Laurel began angel investing before starting her fund. 

No founder can question the value add of being a Supernode Ventures portfolio company. An inveterate connector, Laurel dips into the network daily to connect portfolio CEOs with potential customers, co-investors and media. 

Knowing Laurel also means being connected to your peers in new and interesting ways, whether you are a Tech CEO (Cereal Entrepreneurs breakfasts), investor (VC Potluck Deal Dinners), tech journalist (Tech Media Dinners), or a potential customer for Supernode’s portfolio companies (CMO/CTO/CIO Dinner events). In this way, Supernode Ventures remains always tapped into amazing deal flow. 

Laurel lives in a loft in the heart of Silicon Alley and is married to Jon Fine, book author and former Editor in Chief of Inc. Magazine.


5 Ways to Optimize Your Marketing Approach in 2022

5 Ways to Optimize Your Marketing Approach in 2022 (2)


Samantha Higgins, Freelancer

Keeping abreast of emerging trends is a fundamental obligation of marketers and efficient use of their time. Equally beneficial is the appraisal of those trends for the target audience. Therefore, before modifying your marketing approach to include the current craze, research and confirm that a sizable section of your target audience supports you.

Unsurprisingly, content marketing continues to reign supreme, with video content and influencer marketing close behind as marketing trends to watch for this year.

There are still unanswered issues, and marketing trends are anticipated to ebb and flow like they do each year. If you’re already in full marketing mode this year and want more marketing insights and statistics from professionals, we’ve got you covered.

1. Marketing Using Social Media

Social media is the largest and will continue to grow in importance as more companies learn to live online in 2020. By cultivating an engaged community and loyal clientele via proper social media to voice broadcast, you may create a wide platform for promoting discounts, promotions, and new releases.

Authenticity, as well as brand cohesiveness, are critical. Assure that your postings are a good balance of engaging and sales-oriented content, and customize your approach for each platform. For instance, on Instagram, prioritize visual aesthetics and relevant hashtags while devoting more emphasis to lengthy descriptions and group participation on Facebook.

2. Make Use of Social Media Listening Tools

Imagine a room full of marketing execs speculating what pushes their consumers to spend more money or react to marketing activities. On the other side, businesses that participate in social listening are more likely to understand their consumers’ wants and preferences and to have a greater awareness of their brand.

Social listening can be as straightforward as using social media as a two-way communication channel, encouraging followers to send direct messages or comments, including a line in each email conversation inviting readers to respond with feedback and creating interactive surveys or forms to gauge interest in new ideas, products, or services.

By incorporating consumer feedback into your marketing plan, you demonstrate to your audience that you are listening and are just as concerned with their satisfaction as you are with your profits.

3. Personalize It

Another potential outcome of social separation is that customers worry more about brands seeing, hearing, and appreciating them. It’s no longer a one-way street – your consumer wants to feel like they have a voice and are a part of something bigger.

These clients want individualized product suggestions, hyper-targeted information, and promotions and discounts specifically suited to them. The same boilerplate email and advertisement material will not suffice.

This year marketing will place a premium on personalization. Create customized content, emails, and landing pages for your ideal segments and personalities. Segment your information if necessary and delve into your buyer personas to provide relevant messages.

Consider your writing and material from the perspective of a person, not a faceless brand.

4. Place a Premium on Consumer Privacy

While online privacy protections are a thorn in the side of companies, they are what customers desire. Brands will need to adapt and develop new methods for forecasting consumer behavior without gathering personally-identifying information.

It will be critical to zero in on first-party data. Another method is contextual targeting (display advertising directly related to the product being sold). Additionally, try giving discounts to clients in exchange for their data – but be aware that they will likely want a greater level of customer care in return.

5. Conduct an Audit of the Results of Last Year’s Strategy

Before optimizing your marketing strategy for 2022 and capitalizing on emerging digital marketing trends, it’s critical to analyze how your 2021 plan worked and where adjustments should be made for the following year.

Regrettably, marketers often neglect this phase since it is neither visually appealing nor interesting. However, moving forward might result in making the same errors year after year. It is critical to create plans before determining what worked.

To assess your previous year’s techniques and determine which ones are the most successful, compare the results of each marketing campaign or strategy to the objectives you established. For instance, if your aim for the year is to grow website traffic by fifteen percent, perform a Google Analytics analysis comparing your site traffic data of the last two years. Then, go further to assess the strategies that aided in achieving the marketing objective or may have missed the objective.

Wrapping Up

While it is admirable to celebrate accomplishments, it is much more admirable to comprehend why they were successful. Again, this emphasizes the need to be particular while developing your plan. You’ll want to have the required data and methods on hand to conduct an analysis when performance falls short of expectations.

ASamantha Higginsbout the Author: Samantha Higgins is a professional writer with a passion for research, observation, and innovation. She is nurturing a growing family of twin boys in Portland, Oregon with her husband. She loves kayaking and reading creative non-fiction.       


5 Ways Company Culture Drives Performance

People Metrics - Tracking Employee Satisfaction

In any managerial position, employee performance is something that is closely looked at as a metric for the success of the company. When team members are doing good work, productivity is at high level, morale is bubbling, deadlines are being met with ease, and customer satisfaction is five stars, you can be sure that the business is doing well. 

A straight line can be drawn from the success of a company to the performance of the employees in a company. Similarly, that line can be drawn directly to the company culture. 

Company culture is something that covers the everyday behaviors, attitudes, and policies that affect a workplace environment. A company builds a top-notch team culture through choices that empower employees to work at their best. And when the collective is at their best — naturally, the group is too. 

Culture is the key though. It is the solid ground that the work environment is built upon. The right cultural foundation and the right priorities can help your organization rise to levels of significant performance improvements. In addition, it can create some of the strongest value propositions that can lift you head-and-shoulders above your competition.

It should then be noted that a culture which drives performance is one worth nurturing. Here are some ideas to cultivate such a culture in your workplace. 


While communication as a general subject could be discussed at length, workplace communication is the area of focus here. The exchanging of information and ideas within an organization is vital for anything to get done. Effective workplace communication is when this information is sent and received accurately and is central to all business goals. 97 percent of workers believe that communication impacts tasks every day. Poor communication can lead to missed project deadlines, lower employee engagement, and a lack of confidence across the organization.

It is essential to create a positive communication strategy that will help to grow an organization by making employees feel valued, informed, and comfortable to speak openly and to connect with one another and with management.

Poor workplace communication leads to inefficiency and mistakes. 28 percent of employees cite poor communication as the reason for not being able to deliver work on time. Therefore, having a policy of clear and effective communication in an office naturally leads to better productivity. Once a communication policy is in place, instructions and expectations can be defined clearly and important information can be shared with ease, leading to better results and an improved company culture.


Figuring out the core values of your organization should have happened long before you hired your first employee. These values articulate, determine, and monitor the mission of your business. But as a side effect, they determine the quality of your company culture since they act as your moral compass in business. 

Your core values should be clearly stated, and your team should all be well informed and aligned. It isn’t enough to just have a set of core business values on the company website. It needs to be a shared value system that permeates the hearts of all team members. Anything short of that, and you’re not reaping the benefits of a group which is truly should-to-shoulder in the pursuit of the same purpose.

Simply put, purpose is the reason something is done. It is the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

It is the “why.” Why are we doing this? What is the reason our company does what it does? It must be clearly stated – with simple words everyone can understand. If a 10-year-old can understand it, then it is simple enough. Critically important in understanding what purpose is — is also understanding that purpose must be something you can measure or “prove” you are accomplishing. 

For example, if your purpose is to build houses — then do you have customers telling you that you built their houses somehow? Or do you have physical evidence (photos perhaps) of those houses being built? This is an obvious example, but you get the point here. Your purpose must be something you can prove to your employees by showing them the “proof.” It is a way of saying, “Hey look! We’re doing the thing we set out to do!” And that gives everyone a boost in morale, having accomplished something or having contributed to that accomplishment.

By outlining your initiatives and core values you can attract talent to your organization that think the way you do, and this can lead to better teams, better decision making, and a crew of individuals willing to go the extra mile for something they believe in. There is a higher rate of staff retention, and you can attract top talent that may have decided to go elsewhere if they believe you stand for the same values. 

Teamwork is bred by sharing the same values and goals. You work together to get projects done. You share time and passion with your fellow professionals and are rewarded for it. By clearly defining your values you will figure out ways to build accountability into them. This helps you and your team live the values rather than just look at a list of nice ideas on a wall. By truly adhering to a core value system, you can start to build a culture of integrity and honesty. And this, in turn, will lead to trust and better business results.

Team building

Building your team takes time and attention. Working together needn’t be a worrisome problem. Rather it can be joyous and feel like you are supported and valued, up and down the administrative ladder. This is what makes a great team. A common goal and set of values are one thing, but when you are all in the same mindset and striving to achieve greatness together it becomes an amazing place to work rather than just a job.

Sometimes you inherit people from other teams and that requires its own set of skills to work out dynamics fast and figure out how to get the best out of them.

Building a team takes time and effort. 

Once built, the team needs to be nurtured. It cannot be taken for granted that individual team members will work well together — and nowadays, remote teams present even more variables. Trying to keep employee engagement high and use teamwork to get things done is all well and good but without a culture of trust, you won’t be able to access the true potential of your team. A lack of trust can be fatal for a team, as well as an organization as a whole. Leaving a team to wallow in its mediocrity is not the role of a team leader. 

As a leader, it is a reliable policy to lead by example. Be the type of team member you want. Setting a great example every day through thick and thin is your priority as a leader. This means your community will be built through communication. Be sure to be always open and honest. Your job is to increase trust between the team members. It is also to build trust from your team members towards you as the leader. Trust is earned through shared experience. Don’t let your team down and they won’t let you down in return. 

Focus on your people

Culture refers to the way people in a company act, work or behave. It is a group of individual characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors shared by those within a group. It’s the commonly accepted way that professionals act and behave within a business. Note that a group is made up of individuals. That can’t be overlooked. It is your people — the individuals who are the human capital of your business. 

Truth is that the part of culture that people miss is the part that mentions “characteristics or behaviors.” It really is that simple. Create a list of characteristics or behaviors you want for your company. Share it with everyone in your company. This is your culture – this is the culture that you have decided to create and work towards. Culture is a journey. You use the characteristics and behaviors as the map for that journey. It isn’t a destination – you are never done working on culture or training on culture or talking about it daily. Culture should be tied into your company purpose and everything you do as a company.

Culture requires a top-down look, and a bottom-up engagement. It takes constant attention, care, and compassion from leadership as a priority to improve, support and preserve the well-being of a company’s most significant asset — its people. 


Productivity levels are always a concern for managers. Do you track keystrokes and timecards? When it comes to your team productivity and the measurement of how successfully your individual employees are contributing to the success of the company, there are several ways to measure and track performance. 

One of the most reliable ways is the use of statistics. Measurement by statistics is an accurate barometer of performance when done right. Essentially you need to know what is being measured first, and then you can track or graph those metrics over time. A brick layer placed 10 bricks today, as opposed to 12 yesterday. The number of bricks went down, so that gives you an insight into an area that could use some improvement. A salesperson made 20 more sales this month compared to last month. Maybe the number of calls to potential clients was way up, or maybe a better sales pitch was used. Gross income for the company is up by $100,000 this year compared with last year. That is cause for some celebration — and so you start to see how measuring using statistics over time can be a useful tool. 

It would be wise to take stock of overall productivity on regular evaluations, using productivity metrics that provide insights you can use to not only measure total output but also the achievement of company goals. 

The driving of performance and productivity alone is not enough. It goes hand in hand with the creation and nurturing of a company culture that encourages higher levels of performance, but also treats its employees with respect, kindness and decency in a workplace culture that results in the professionals there wanting to work for better results because of their passion, rather than their paycheck. 


Why Ethical Data Practices are the New Marketing Standard

John Story, General Counsel and Chief Data Ethics Officer, Acoustic  

As we continue to grapple with the pandemic, one lesson many marketers are relearning is that nothing is ever permanent – including the pandemic itself. Over the past two years, many regions have gone from lockdown to reopening and then back to mask mandates and social distancing requirements as the Delta and Omicron variants have taken hold.   

These shifts have had a deep impact on consumer behaviors and motivations. Accenture surveyed over 25,000 consumers globally and found that 50% have revised their personal purpose and what’s important to them in life due to the pandemic. This “Reimagined” consumer group represents a major shift for marketers – half of their potential audience has shifted their mindsets and if brands haven’t adapted their engagement strategies to keep up, they could lose out.  

As marketers look to engage with consumers, their data strategies will play a major role in understanding what makes consumers tick. Amid our new normal, it will be critical to use data ethically to not only adapt to new buying habits and behaviors, but to build consumer trust that leads to long-term customer loyalty.   

The playing field has changed  

The pandemic has impacted people in varying ways, shifting their priorities and focuses. Even more so today, as consumers prioritize different things when considering purchases, brands cannot treat all consumers the same; personalization is crucial.  

In order to personalize the customer journey, though, brands must have a deep understanding of who they’re targeting and speaking to. This requires data that can inform marketing campaigns: what interests consumers, what channels they engage with most, what their previous purchases have been, and a host of other details.   

Traditionally, brands have relied on third-party data like internet browsing and email open or click-through rates to source some of this information (i.e., what’s getting people to click). However, these third-party data sources don’t give consumers control of the types of data that’s collected – perhaps that’s why in 2019 79% of U.S. adults said they are very or somewhat concerned about how companies use the data they collect. This pressure from consumers to have more transparency has led to the upcoming end to third-party cookies and Apple iOS 15 blocking the ability for marketers to view traditional email metrics. Now, a new approach to collecting and leveraging consumer data is needed.  

Focusing on first- and zero-party data can help give a deeper understanding of your audience while simultaneously positioning your brand as one that values privacy and ethics. Because this data is information that consumers actively provide and therefore expect or want you to leverage, your brand would be following the “Platinum Rule.” In other words, rather than treating consumers’ data how you would want your data treated (the “Golden Rule”), you’re removing your perspective as a marketer from the equation and treating consumer data how they want it to be treated.   

While marketers understand the value of providing data so marketing messages are relevant, not everyone is willing to provide information that could help personalize the messages they receive. By sticking to the Platinum Rule and being transparent about the data you leverage, you’ll help position your company as ethical – a company that can be trusted with how it collects, stores, uses, and deletes data. And when 90% of consumers are willing to pay more for something that comes from a brand they trust, you’ll set your brand up for success, too.  

Data ethics as a competitive advantage  

Marketers responded to the pandemic – when they could – by vastly dialing up their digital and mobile efforts. One opportunity this created is an increase in the level of personalization that can be achieved, based on the deeper and richer interactions that are now possible in the digital world.  

Agility and flexibility have been required to keep businesses going. Brands must cope with the latest COVID realities and restrictions that can seemingly change daily. In the face of this, marketers need to be agile while keeping data ethics top-of-mind. The good news is that a well-run privacy and data ethics program shouldn’t prevent agility. In fact, it should aid agility because you know exactly what data you’ve collected, the specific purpose it was collected for, and how and where to use it. Conversely, agility suffers when data is collected in an unethical or illegal way, and then marketing and the legal department need to sort through what data usage could get the business fined. Asking the compliance question after the fact – “Can we do this?” – takes extra time. Why create that headache for your business and potentially open it up to risk?  

 Ideally, every business will have a Chief Data Ethics Officer and established, in-depth data ethics principles, but this isn’t the norm just yet. You can get ahead of the curve by implementing a data ethics framework that each person in your company is aware of and must adhere to. With data ethics engrained in every employee at every level, you’ll create a culture where trust and transparency are paramount.   

As marketing programs are developed, go back to your data ethics policy, see what it says, and ensure you’re complying with it. When collecting data, obtain the appropriate consents. When utilizing this data, do so within the parameters consumers have provided. But most importantly, don’t forget to remove your own perspective. Think: Does the consumer want this done with their data? The Platinum Rule of Data. That should help center your ethical standards and differentiate you to consumers. 

About the Author: John Story is General Counsel and Chief Data Ethics Officer at Acoustic, where he leads the global legal and data stewardship functions for the company. A dual-qualified (California and U.K.) attorney with extensive experience in complex, multi-national commercial and technology transactions, John helps guide companies’ data practices and legal policies. Prior to joining Acoustic, John served as Director of Commercial Operations and AGC at PAX Labs, Inc. and Associate General Counsel, International at GoPro, among other legal advisory roles. 

What Coaches & HR  Professionals Need to  Know  To Attract More Women Leaders Back to the Workplace

Insights Revealed at Upcoming Online Workshop

Leslie GrossmanLeslie Grossman, Founder, Her Circle Leadership, and faculty director, Women’s Leadership, GWU-Center for Excellence in Public Leadership

After years of research and coaching executive women and entrepreneurs alike, I discovered that almost every woman who is looking to grow her career or business all share the same BARRIER. The repercussions from this one barrier create stop signs, slow driving, wrong turns and fender benders along the route to get to their desired destination. Sometimes women just stop driving, which is why many women are opting out during the time of the Great Resignation. A new program created by Her Circle Leadership for coaches and HR training managers is designed to address women’s challenges.

So what is this barrier? The barrier women is habits —  habits that women were taught when they were little girls.  Habits for which they were rewarded throughout their childhood. These very habits stop or slow them down from reaching their aspirational goals.  These habits include such good girl behaviors as being quiet vs. speaking up, modesty vs confidence, being overly polite, being grateful for what they get, rather than being ambitious, and much more. 

Once I realized what the barrier was, I went on a professional quest to develop the antidote to these poisonous habits, and now as an executive coach to women leaders – both executives and entrepreneurs, I teach them to my clients, companies, entrepreneurs and women enrolled in my Executive Women’s Leadership Program at The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership.  

But this is not a pitch for women to enroll in my courses, but rather this is an invitation to coaches, consultants, HR trainers and DE&I professionals to learn how they to attract women back to the workplace and move more women up to higher leadership positions in organizations, by training and coaching them to create a shift to new leadership habits that  will benefit their careers.  This is  not only good for women.  It is vital for the health of all organizations.  

This is proven by new data compiled by global consulting firm Potential Project.  It shows that employee disengagement translates into significant organizational expense. And that there is huge difference in how this shows up in women led teams versus teams led by men.  The research shows that organizations save $1.43 million for every 1,000 employees when teams are led by women.   

These new habits which Her Circle Leadership calls the 7 Tenets of Highly Effective Women Leaders, will be revealed at a workshop to be held on Tuesday, March 29th, 12 noon and repeated on Wednesday, March 30th, at 6pm.  This complimentary workshop has been specifically developed for coaches, HR and DE&I professionals to learn how to train and coach women into creating a shift into establishing specific behaviors as new habits. These tenets or habits are already demonstrated by those women who rise up more quickly to senior positions, including the C-Suite,  and grow their own businesses exponentially.

The complimentary workshops will also share information about a new women’s leadership coaching certification from Her Circle Leadership   and how coaches, consultants and HR/DE&I management and training officers can enroll in the Her Circle Leadership Women’s Leadership Coaching Certification program.  Based on  continuing results from those participating the training, practicing this program not only causes a seismic shift in clients’ lives, but also, in the life of those who do the training.

Register here for one of the two workshops on March 29th at 12 noon or Wednesday, March 30th at 6 pm. 

To learn more about details for the Certification program, click here.  

Specialized Support: How to Reach Employees Amid the Ukraine Crisis

How to Reach Employees Amid the Ukraine Crisis


As Russia’s invasion of the European country continues, companies based elsewhere are finding new ways to aid workers still living in Ukraine.

Emma Atkinson, Ragan Communications

According to the United Nations, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia began its invasion in late February.

Many of those people, now refugees, are also members of the workforce. While the Russia-Ukraine conflict has prompted a humanitarian crisis, organizations that employ the people affected by the war now also have a role to play in rendering aid to their workers.

[FREE WEBINAR: How to empower and inform your workforce anywhere and everywhere]

Your team’s engagement with employees during geopolitical events is something that can, and should, be included in your crisis communication plan. If you haven’t already, be sure to implement a proactive, empathetic and always-on messaging approach when reaching out to affected workers.

Here are four ways organizations can support their employees affected by the Ukraine crisis.

1. Promote safety & security with messaging.

Continue reading here…

Navigating Risk

Navigating Risk - Richard Levick


“Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines.”
– George C. Scott as Gen. ‘Buck’ Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove

I have always been amazed at the confident abandon with which we use words like “due diligence,” as if we can accurately and fully read and understand every risk — past, present and future. The more information we have, the more surprised we seem to become by endless eventualities.

Who would have thought that the very country that unleased its destructive impulses on America and the West with the Gerasimov Doctrine—radically accelerating the demolition of our faith and confidence in government, courts, the media and each other—would also be the same country unifying us throughout Europe and America by invading Ukraine?

Up until very recently, we seemed ready to go to civil war over masks and pronouns, but in just a few short weeks appear to have realized that a nuclear and chemically equipped autocrat engaged in the greatest threat to democracy since World War II deserves our utmost attention.

What level of cyber warfare should we anticipate from an antagonistic Russia? What preparations should we be making in our offices and homes? High profile and High Net Worth Individuals require special prophylaxis, but it also turns out that small and medium sized businesses are considered “low hanging fruit” by Russian cyber warriors. Now is not the time to rest on our cyber laurels.

How do companies navigate their brand and marketing position at a time when a new cold and hot war has started while the struggle at home teeters between an “off with their heads” French revolutionary narcissism (all judgment, no listening) and the late World War II Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s belief that “politics stops at the water’s edge?” What will tomorrow bring?

To help us anticipate, navigate and prepare for the lightning fast and radically altering foreign and domestic risks, we recorded five shows this past week on In House Warrior, the daily podcast I host for the Corporate Counsel Business Journal that is carried globally by multiple media partners such as CommPRO and Air Asia, to help guide us through this period of danger and uncertainty.

As William Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even the past.” The future is seldom as we predicted or anticipated, and unintended consequences seem to always catch us by surprise.

A Paper Cyber Tiger? The Russian Cyberwar That Isn’t…Yet

Brandon Valeriano, Ph.D., a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Marine Corps University and formerly a Senior Advisor to the Cyberspace Solarium Commission joined me to discuss his latest articles, including A Russian Cyber War in Ukraine Was a Fantasy and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine didn’t rely on cyberwarfare. Here’s why. He outlined the clues earlier Russian cyber operations can provide, why Russia’s current cyber efforts have had little impact, their ineffectiveness on the battlefield but their effectiveness at disrupting peaceful societies, how hacktivists are engaging and why cyberwarfare is not yet decisive.

Cyber Risks In the Age of Geopolitical Disruption

Dr. Chris Pierson, Founder and CEO of BlackCloak, a pioneer of personal digital protection, spoke on air about the increased risks to CEOs, C-suite executives, High Net Worth Individuals and Ultra High Net Worth Individuals during this geopolitically tense time. He outlined particularly threatened industries, including energy, finance, aerospace and defense, and also highlighted how personal Gmail accounts are now a target, especially for those working with the federal government in some capacity.

There Are No Borders In The Digital Wars

Peter Cavrell, Vice President of Business Development & Marketing and Chuck Mackey, Director of Cybersecurity Consulting at Fortress Security Risk Management, discussed existing cyber threats and how they will only grow with the likely forthcoming Russian cyber warfare. Expect more insider threats, supply chain risks and attacks on the small and middle market firms. They also discussed how to insulate and protect your assets, including 6-Steps to Cyber Safety and an accompanying infographic.

Navigating the Risk of Corporate Political Spending

Bruce Freed, President and Co-Founder of the Center for Political Accountability, spoke on how corporations can navigate the increasingly transparent and highly challenging world of political donations. Already demanding prior to the January 6th insurrection, it is now a minefield, with PAC, 527 and association donations and alliances drawing heavy critical fire from the media, social critics, employees and even shareholders. In this age of divisiveness and heightened public criticism when the old tropes about ‘equal donations’ and ‘not agreeing with everything a politician or group stands for’ increasingly on deaf ears, corporations must interrogate the increased risks and reduced rewards of their political donations. The Center provides multiple resources for companies, including a model code of conduct, Navigating the Risks of Corporate Political Spending.

Erin Essenmacher, a long time board member, award winning film maker, strategist and journalist captured a number of my thoughts on the subject in a recent article in Directors and Boards magazine entitled How to Respond to Social and Political Issues.

The SEC and Securities-Related Regulatory and Enforcement Matters

Kristin Snyder, former Deputy Director of the Division of Examinations at the SEC and current member of the White Collar & Regulatory Defense Group at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in the firm’s San Francisco office, joined me for a show. She discussed securities-related regulatory and enforcement matters, particularly for private investment firms and other asset managers; ESG enforcement for investment managers and private funds; a look forward at 2022 SEC trends; and more.

For those of us who wondered what it was like for our grandparents and great grandparents in the leadup to World War II, we can wonder no more. We now have a fractional sense of the risks and tumult, the courage and the entire populations reduced to proxies by an autocrat trying to establish superpower leverage. Already, it has put into perspective what it is really like when someone “makes us feel uncomfortable.”

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!”

– Winston Churchill speaking before the House of Commons, June 4, 1940, following the evacuation of British and French armies from Dunkirk.

Enjoy the shows.

Richard Levick

China, Russia & Ukraine: Communicators Need to Pay Attention

China, Russia & Ukraine


Simon Locke, CEO of CommunicationsMatch™ and Vice President of the Foreign Press Association of the U.S.

China’s alliance with Russia is not a marriage of convenience without consequence. It is the bedrock of Russia’s ability to wage war in Ukraine and the ideological alignment of two nuclear armed world powers. 

President Xi clearly knew Russia’s intentions, gave it the reassurances needed to move military forces from the Chinese border to be used against Ukraine, continues to provide propaganda support for the war, and according to reports, asked for the invasion to be delayed until after the Olympics’ closing ceremony.  

China’s actions are subject to growing scrutiny in Washington. 

China will not be alone in the spotlight. Given Russia’s flagrant attack on a sovereign country and democracy, it is disheartening that not all of the world largest ‘democracies’ are forcefully standing against Russia and China’s complicity. India, Brazil, Nigeria and Indonesia, are just some of the countries, that are no shows.          

Xi’s ‘belt and road’ policy is paying dividends right now in exactly the way it was planned. China’s “belt” is a whip. And, its roads are taking countries to nowhere other than submission. 

Chickens are coming home to roost. As the West is learning the hard way, the long slippery slope of appeasement, looking the other way when money, oil or sport are involved, selective engagement with the world, and the failure to address the disinformation and propaganda spread through social media, all have consequences.           

It may well be that there’s a certain sang-froid in some countries. A sense that Europe may be deserving of what it gets. While some of this may be deserved, the real takeaway should be that, for the most part, the West has thrown off its timidity and is confronting not just a bully, but a global threat willing to destroy Ukraine, its infrastructure, its men, women and children to re-build an empire. 

Americans are taking action and this matters. I wrote about this last week. Not only are we supporting Ukraine on social media, we are raising money, creating care packages and boycotting Russian goods. American corporations have taken notice and have taken unprecedented steps to rapidly close down operations in Russia, exit partnerships and express solidarity with Ukraine.       

Just when we might have believed the threat of global conflict was dead, we are reminded that it is very much alive. In Russia’s case, Putin has taken the brazen strong-man approach of Hitler’s Nazi Germany: Invasion. Its assault of democracy is being met by unified resistance in Ukraine and in the U.S.      

Xi’s China has hitherto taken a different approach, one that is now all too apparent – the hammer of economic subservience. If your economy is dependent on China, you are expected to toe China’s line. As we are seeing, the Russia-China axis now means countries with relationships with China need to toe the Russia line, too – no matter how unwilling or uncomfortable.    

With the images of the bombing of hospitals and civilians reminding us everyday of Russia’s aggression, China may be hoping that it will not be called to account and that public opinion will not start to focus on its role in this existential crisis. Like Russia, China too is likely to find that it has miscalculated. Unless it decides to play a role in stopping the war, the attention given to its culpability will grow.       

The West has learned a very hard lesson from its own complicity and failures with Putin’s Russia. Xi’s continued support of Russia is ideological, but also based on the lack of willingness to call out China by those, including the U.S., that have become its economic dependents. This is unlikely to remain the case.  

In fact, it is highly likely that China will start to see a significant backlash, along with other countries that have so far proved unwilling to stand up for what is right against might. While the response to China’s actions may not be as strong or as immediate as they have been with Russia, over time, they will be consequential.  

Discussions will already be taking place in boardrooms as they are in government about what to do about China. Changing public opinion is likely to force this issue. Xi has shown his true color. Imperial red.   

Given the size of its economy and power, the decisions facing companies and consumers when it comes to China will potentially be far more challenging than for Russia. But at this moment of the rapid realignment of the global order, choices will have to be made. Companies and communicators need to be laser-focused on how they will respond.                     

Europe and America have been reminded that when you make a deal with the devil, you risk losing your souls.                     



Need a Killer Upfront Presentation? Try these 5 Pro Tips from the Storytelling Experts

With more commercial television being launched than ever before, how do you break from the pack and meaningfully connect with advertisers this planning season? Storytelling.

Janine Kurnoff and Lee LazarusLee Lazarus & Janine Kurnoff – The Presentation Company

After two years of virtual presentations, major TV entertainment companies will be returning to NYC this Upfront season with in-person events. And while television audiences grew overall as the nation retreated to their homes during the pandemic, the media landscape has changed dramatically. Not only is there more content than ever (559 original scripted series in 2021 according to FX Research), the number of ad-supported options for marketers continues to proliferate. It’s left brand marketers and their agencies scratching their heads trying to make sense of it all while TV brands big and small battle it out for a share of the $20 billion in advertising commitments projected to be spent during the 2022/23 season. With so much riding on the line for many media companies, this may be the most important ad sales presentation they’ve had to give… ever.

Before you panic, realize that the same fundamentals of great storytelling in film and television can also be applied to business presentations. Following a few simple rules can transform your Upfront Keynote slides and clip reels into a memorable AND impactful story that connects with advertisers to help break through the noise and put your TV offerings on the buyer’s plans.

TIP #1: It’s Not About You

As much as you want to razzle-dazzle potential buyers with slick sizzle reels and celebrity walk-ons, at the end of the day, often what’s keeping marketers up at night has nothing to do with your latest hit show. Brands in every industry are emerging from two years of retail chaos, frozen marketing budgets, supply-chain issues, and dramatic shifts in consumer behavior (not to mention media consumption). Finding and connecting with that consumer is their daily challenge, and as much as it’s hard to hear… your programming is only as good as its ability to deliver that consumer to them through ad spots, integrations, and increasingly branded content. So when delivering your presentation, remember to walk in your Upfront audience’s shoes and put their needs at the center of your narrative.

TIP #2: Conflict is a Good Thing

Think of business presentations you’ve had to sit through that were mind-numbing. Chances are they lacked narrative tension. All great stories have conflict. Conflict is a major differentiator between super-exciting and utterly forgettable. Conflict gives your audience a reason to care – a reason to lean in and listen. Without it, not only is it boring, it’s a giant, pointless waste of time. It’s why every year marketers trudge from one Upfront to another wondering: Why are we here? What problem are we trying to solve?

Before you get anxious, know that conflict in business storytelling is not only interesting, it’s reassuring. Your audience can see that you understand a meaningful problem (remember Tip #1). Better yet, they can see that your facts, data, and ideas show that you understand their problem (and are a path to resolving it). Revealing conflict in your story lets you be a hero twice – first when you identify a problem, and then again when you propose a way to fix it. It puts them in a mentally comfortable place that makes them receptive to everything else you want to say next.

Everyday business storytelling.TIP #3: Have a BIG Idea

Think of the companies you admire the most… chances are you can describe them in a few words. How would you describe yours? Sometimes in our efforts to maintain and grow a business, we forget the core focus of our own story—the WHAT in the storyline that helps buyers understand WHY and HOW they should spend money with you. The BIG Idea is the one thing you want your Upfront audience to remember. But in a world where we want to convey everything, communicating just one thing is sometimes easier said than done, right?

The key to developing your singular BIG Idea is to… again… walk in your buyer’s shoes. Understanding what makes your advertisers tick, their challenges, and what they’re possibly looking for from a TV platform like yours holds the secret to finding this relevance and connection. Maybe you’re all about innovative viewer engagement. Or you’re a no-brainer when it comes to programmatic and efficiency. Or you have the broadest audience, a super niche cutting-edge audience, or the lowest prices (remember all those pandemic frozen marketing budgets out there). Discovering and communicating your WHAT becomes the mental bridge your Upfront audiences need to help them navigate through the paradox of choice and choose you.

TIP #4: Tame the Data Dump

Ah… the research we love to show at an Upfront. We often rely upon slide after slide of data, numbers, statistics, and analytics to make our case. It’s the proof we are eager to convey to skeptical buyers. And unfortunately, this is also the part of the presentation where everyone in the audience starts to zone out. But it doesn’t have to be this way if we wrap the data in a story that triggers both right-and-left brain thinking.

Why is that important? If you wrap your data in a story, you’ll have a much better chance at making your audience feel something. Science has shown that when we hear and see a story visually, we are constantly ping-ponging back and forth between our left and right brain hemispheres. The right side of our brain is more creative and imaginative; the left side processes logic and maps to learned patterns. Both sides influence our choices, but emotion – powered by effective story-driven visuals and a compelling narrative – ultimately drives our decisions.

So break out of the data-slide-o-mania and combine your facts and data with a compelling story to awaken both the left and right brain of your audience. This will ensure your ideas are going to stick and be memorable.

TIP #5: Your Resolution must be Earned

Salespeople love a great resolution… It’s all the features and benefits that solve a customer’s problem. But, in our eagerness to solve that problem quickly, the danger is moving too fast and starting with the resolution at the beginning of the story. In fact, starting with resolution is the opposite of good business storytelling. 

Can you imagine if The Wizard of Oz started with “there’s no place like home?” We lose all the setting, characters, and conflict that got us engaged with the story. We care because we went on a journey with Dorothy. The resolution was earned.

In business communication, we are so quick to talk about ourselves (typically our solutions/product/company) that we skip the whole part about building context. We forget to tell anyone why it matters. You must always build context for your audience – including some healthy tension – so they have a reason to care. Otherwise, like many an Upfront that is all sizzle and no steak, your audience will not be motivated to hear the details of your resolution (what you’re ultimately selling).

Stories create purpose and drive action 

Today, it’s difficult to find a successful brand that doesn’t have a good story behind it. Stories provide meaning, create context, and communicate a sense of purpose. So as we gear up for the new post-pandemic economy, use storytelling as your secret weapon at the Upfronts to help connect and build trust with marketers looking for real solutions on how to use the power of television to reach and engage with today’s consumers.

About: Want more advice on how to use storytelling to help you cut through the noise? Check out our best-selling book Everyday Business Storytelling for practical tips and real-world examples designed to help anyone learn the art of crafting persuasive communications.



Five Tips for Attention-Grabbing Visual Storytelling 

Axelle Vanquaillie, Visual Storyteller and Founder, Drawify 

Attention. Attention. Attention. As every PR professional can attest, it’s a precious resource, hard to wrangle, and sought-after commodity. (We’re waving at you, Editor). If you sat through a press event with boring bullet points or bad PowerPoint presentations, you already know how conveying key messages requires interest and everyone’s favorite buzzword: engagement.

But if there was ever a time to consider how to accommodate the brain and make sustaining attention easier: it is now. If capturing eyeballs and interest was hard before the pandemic, take a look at it in the age of Zoom, remote work, and chronic worry about infection. Burnout and the Great Resignation attest to the sense of overwhelm and anxiety, major workplace stressors1 and attention killers. 

Visual storytelling is a useful approach to keep the neurons firing. It is not hard to imagine why. If nearly half the brain is devoted to visual processing, using drawings or illustrations to go with written or spoken messaging allocates more gray matter to your ideas. More brain real estate means ideas are more likely to root.

Another reason visual storytelling is effective is it helps remove some of the anxiety and complexity. Noted visual storyteller Dan Roam said in a recent webinar, “drawing through ideas simplifies concepts and makes them easier to understand. In a complex and uncertain world–which let’s face it, our world certainly has become these last few years–visual storytelling is very clear…” 

One major misconception about visual storytelling is the need for drawing talent. Your preschooler skills are just fine. Stick figures, basic shapes like stars and arrows, even circled words can help navigate the eye to the core message. You don’t need to get bogged down in perspective, shading, or pine for Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro. Quick sketches nearly always suffice. 

To help you add visual storytelling to your repertoire, here are five tips to get started: 


  1. Don’t overlook the words! What’s the one thing you want your audience to remember? Why is it important and urgent? People often forget to have a catchy title to serve as an umbrella for the story. Both the title and select highlighted words guide your audience through the story. When some smaller words/sentences act as easy-to-scan subtitles, your audience can cruise through your message more easily.
  1. Define a main character for your story. What’s his/her mission? Make sure his/her emotions are captured in the illustrations, too. Every story contains drama. (Without drama, no story). Consider which feelings you want to evoke before you start and incorporate them in your visual storytelling. 
  1. Include the story’s context. Where does the story take place? And when? Adding elements that locate the story in time or place gives more meaning (and urgency) to the message. It helps your audience guess what the story is about even without words (which is not to say that you shouldn’t use words; the combination of words and illustrations is gold).
  1. Help your audience find their way. Indicate the story’s flow. Which path does your audience need to follow to get to the end? Leave some visual breadcrumbs with arrows, numbers, or lines to help their eyes get to the happily ever after (your key message). 
  1. Separate your story’s key ideas. Use frames or colors to break the story into manageable chunks. Our brain is efficient. It will always look for patterns to make its way through dense content. The more consistent you are in using frames, color, cursive/print … the more brain-friendly your story will be.

Brain-friendly is the entire modus operandi behind visual storytelling. The world–as any busy public relations professional knows all too well–is riddled with distractions and pressing to do lists. In the first place, visual storytelling clarifies complexity making information easier to swallow whole. 

Visual storytelling allows you to spoon-feed information. This sparks a natural rhythm which steers your audience focus. Sketches, illustrations, and drawings funnel information to create a natural momentum. Information is not too overwhelming. Not too boring. It’s just right. 

Breaking down content to easy-to-digest bits ensures your ideas will be stored, recalled, and remembered—getting the platinum-level attention they deserve! 

1 Kaushik, Meenakshi, and Neha Guleria. “The impact of pandemic COVID-19 in workplace.” European Journal of Business and Management 12.15 (2020): 1-10.

Reputation Management Changes and Trends

Reputation Management _ Mike Pauffman


Mike Paffman, CEO, VIRGO PR

As the digital age continues, companies are more in need of digital reputation management than ever. We’re living in a time when people can be judged by the posts they make on social media, or even by the number of followers they have on those platforms. Everyone’s identity is tied to their online presence, which means a company’s brand reputation is incredibly important to manage in the digital space. 

Customer Engagement

Since many consumers are becoming less trusting of brands, and are looking for additional social proof before they make a purchase, companies have to invest in new ways to positively engage with those consumers. Many buyers use search engines to look up information about products, services, or even companies they’re interested in purchasing from. A business can have an ideal product or service and invest countless hours into perfecting it, but at some point, that business has to acquire new customers and make them fall in love with the solution. One way to attract consumers is to create a community group on a social media platform, where buyers can interact and help each other with the solutions from a business. This strategy creates a safe space where consumers can share positive content, talk to others, and develop a positive relationship with a business. 

Artificial Intelligence

With the help of artificial intelligence (AI), companies can monitor what their consumers are saying on social media or review forums. Since social sharing is improving across all platforms, companies have been facing a challenge when it comes to understanding what their consumers are experiencing or thinking. However, with the help of AI, companies can protect their brand reputation and get ahead of potentially bad news or even misinformation that’s being spread on those platforms. 

User-Generated Content (UGC)

To ensure a positive reputation, many companies use ads as their primary tool of promotion However, the top brands actually use content that their consumers have created to support their promotional efforts. In fact, most consumers trust content created by other consumers a lot more than content that’s created by brands themselves. o Consumers tend to create a lot of content, such as that which shares positive experiences with products or services, reviews, or attention-grabbing stories. Thus businesses can greatly benefit from utilizing a UGC platform. These types of platforms can auto-generate and share any positive reviews and social media content created by consumers. 


When it comes to making everyday decisions, many consumers tend to rely on search engines and social media. Companies have to get into the digital sphere to meet the changing needs of their consumers since that’s where consumers are congregating. Those digital efforts provide buyers with a better customer experience since companies can stay on top of what consumers are saying, and remain in constant communication with them.

Mike PauffmanAbout the Author: Mike Paffmann is CEO of Virgo PR, a leading PR agency.

How To Build Trust in Teams

How to Build Trust in Teams

Corporate culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the entrepreneur. Develop a strong corporate culture first and foremost.” David Cummings, Co-founder of Pardot, a marketing automation platform acquired by Salesforce. 

Building a truly exceptional culture depends upon trust within the organization. Trust is defined as a “firm belief in the reliability of truth, or the ability of someone or something”. 

Trust builds solid relationships and means that you can depend upon the rest of your team, no matter what. To achieve a high level of operation with a team that feels like they are a part of an amazing workplace should be the goal of any team leader. 

You will never be able to increase levels of productivity and effectiveness without high levels of trust. It provides a sense of safety for everyone in the team and encourages reliable productivity in the team. A lack of trust erodes the well-being of the group. Hard work mixed with integrity leads to collaboration. 

Why is building trust in teams important for leaders?

Remote teams and hybrid work arrangements are here to stay. Working together in a team isn’t what it used to be. Some teams have never even met face to face. Some teams are spread all over multiple time zones, which can cause fractious or broken communication lines. 

Poor communication can result in unresolved conflicts between your virtual team members. Without a culture of trust, your employee engagement is lower than it should be, and your organization’s output will be negatively affected.

Google’s research shows that top-performing virtual teams report higher levels of trust than less successful teams. They found that only 49 percent of full-time workers believed that they felt like there was “a great deal of trust” in those working above and alongside them. That leaves over half of all full-time workers without trust in their workplace. 

What causes team trust to decline?

Team trust needs to remain high, or your team members’ vulnerabilities begin to show. Production will start to slip and the whole team will suffer. These factors can contribute to eroding trust:

Lack of communication 

Without clear communication, your team will not be in close contact. 

Misunderstandings and miscommunications become commonplace when you don’t have clear correspondence. Getting tasks handled fast and correctly requires being able to listen to what is being said by your team, both verbally and non-verbally. It also includes written instructions and requests that can be easily duplicated and understood. 

Not responding to messages or ignoring communication or comments can be disastrous when it comes to building team trust. Team culture takes time to create, and trust-building can only be achieved with transparency and honesty. 

When you overcome obstacles together use it as a team-building exercise. Praise can go a lot further than disciplinary actions. Open communication in a team builds trust and collaboration. 


Decision-making is one thing. Executing those decisions means you have to have a strong team in place that trusts each other to do their part. “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” is an old saying but holds true when it comes to teamwork. 

Dependability builds trust. When you can consistently rely on someone, or a group within your team, to get something done on time with little or no errors, and they continually do their best work, you have people you can trust. And they trust that you will keep up your side of the relationship. Support and job satisfaction on a personal level for all concerned are also built upon dependability. When you can’t depend on your team productivity slows or grinds to a halt. Disagreements begin to be aired and blame can quickly follow. This is especially true when it comes to virtual and remote teams. 

Psychological safety

Being able to take risks on the team without feeling insecure or embarrassed is an important part of psychological safety. However, because of the global Covid-19 pandemic, more people are working remotely seriously affecting work-life balance.

Remote teams have other distractions, and they may even set their own hours. On top of the challenges of dealing with normal issues in teams in the workplace, as a team leader or manager, you will have to consider the team member’s personal life and work-life balance as well. 

Psychological safety is essential to feeling like you can trust the team. Open communication means you have the door open if it’s necessary. Your team should feel they can volunteer information about themselves and their situation if it affects production and this type of communication should be encouraged.

For example, if a team member has a loved one who is ill and needs to be cared for, or a child needs something, they need to be able to discuss how they can get their work done and take care of their family issues.


Building trust in virtual teams is part of being a good leader. Teamwork can’t exist if there is no trust. You must support each other from the top-down as well as having the support from the foundation of your team. It works both ways. You trust them and they trust you. Without this reciprocal relationship, trust falls away. It is something that needs to be continually nurtured and fostered. With trust, you and your team will have a tight-knit community within the organization that supports itself and each other. 


Celebrating the Women of Ukraine on #IWD2022

Celebrating the Women of Ukraine on #IWD2022


Patrice Tanaka, Founder & Chief Joy Officer,  Joyful Planet LLC

On International Women’s Day 2022, I celebrate the Women of Ukraine, who are fiercely fighting for their country alongside Ukrainian men as Russia tries to bomb it into oblivion.  Ukrainian women not engaged in combat are caring for their children in a war zone or as they flee across the border to a scary, unknown future.  

Today, nearly 10 percent of Ukraine’s military is comprised of women, and it is only because Russian attacks on the Donbas region of Ukraine in 2014 attracted women civilians to fight alongside soldiers and then to push for equal opportunities among their ranks.  The 2014 war in Donbas forced the Ukrainian military to confront a reality it faces, again, today – it can’t afford to discriminate against women.

In 2016, Ukrainian women won the right to serve in combat positions. 

I hope that once Russia’s war on Ukraine ends Ukrainian women will be invited to help rebuild and run the country as Rwandan women were given the opportunity to do, following the country’s Genocide in 1994 when one million people were slaughtered.

Today, Rwanda enjoys the highest percentage of women appointed to government, accounting for more than 60 percent of its parliament. Rwanda achieved this stunning feat in less than three decades after the 1994 Genocide.  Women were enlisted to help rebuild and heal the country.  In 2003, the involvement of women in local and national government was made permanent by a 30 percent quota of women prescribed by Rwanda’s new post-Genocide constitution.  

Today, Rwanda is acknowledged as one of the most stable nations in Africa and nearly corruption-free.  Life expectancy has risen from 48 to 58 years.  Deaths of children under five have been cut in half.  A compulsory education program has boys and girls in primary and secondary schools in equal numbers.  And national mandates and programs are reducing violence, including violence against women. 

I think we should take a page from Rwanda because, today in the U.S.:

Only 23.5 percent of all corporate board seats on the Russell 3000, which tracks the largest public U.S. companies, are held by women.  And in 2021, women still earned only 80 percent of what men earned; this is down from 84 percent in 2020.  Women, it seems, have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic.

Although, the current 117th U.S. Congress is comprised of a record-breaking, 27 percent women, this is still far below our share of the overall U.S. population.  

Today, March 8, 2022, International Women’s Day celebrates its 111th anniversary.  

More than a century later, it’s painful to see how excruciatingly slow achieving gender equity is in the U.S. and globally.  Like racism, gender inequity is “systemic” and changing the patriarchal system that produces gender inequity is a painstakingly slow and arduous process. 

Will it take another 111 years for women to finally achieve gender equity?

Only when we achieve gender equity in the boardroom and in legislative rights and in courtrooms, including the U.S. Supreme Court, can we hope to begin dismantling “systemic,” gender inequity.

How can we accelerate this process?  

Silicon Valley and the business world are always focused on accelerating the rate of innovation, change and progress.  Why can’t we as a nation focus on “accelerating gender equity” – and diversity, in general – to unleash greater innovation, change and progress in business, government and society?  Significant research already abounds, revealing how diverse organizations achieve greater performance, productivity and profitability than non-diverse ones.

Let’s #BreakTheBias – the theme of International Women’s Day 2022 – by accelerating gender equity – and diversity, in general – to unleash greater innovation, change and progress in U.S. business, government and society and, in doing so, truly set an example, for the rest of the world.

Patrice TanakaAbout the Author: After an award-winning PR & Marketing career and co-founding three agencies, Patrice Tanaka started Joyful Planet, where she works with individuals and organizations to discover and actively “live” or “operationalize” their purpose and unleash greater success, fulfillment and joy in their personal lives, workplaces, and communities. Joyful Planet is Patrice’s vision of 7.9 billion people living their purpose and leveraging their talent, expertise and passion in service of others. Life and organizational purpose are the subjects of Patrice’s best-selling books, Beat the Curve and Performance360. She has been honored by PRWeek (Hall of Fame inductee), PRSA Foundation (Paladin Award), PRSA (Paul M. Lund Award for Public Service), New York Women in Communications (Matrix Award), among others. Patrice is Immediate Past Co-Chair of the Diversity Action Alliance, a PR industry-wide coalition of 15 influential organizations committed to action on diversity, equity and inclusion. She has also served as a trustee for many organizations focused on girl- and women’s leadership development and economic empowerment. Born and raised in Hawaii, Patrice lives in New York City and is committed to living her life with the “Aloha Spirit.”

Reach Patrice via LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.


A Website to Inspire: How to Build That One Business Website

Ken Rogers, SEO Specialist

If you wish to expand your business and boost your sales, you should invest in an inspiring website. Whether your business is into product sales or service rendering, a website is critical for branding and generating more income. Hence, you should take the right steps to build one.

Regardless of whether you sell goods or render services, building an inspiring, engaging, and profitable website shouldn’t be a complicated process. Your business website only needs to convey the solutions you offer. Also, you should take the necessary steps to drive traffic there. 

This article will talk about the nitty-gritty of building an inspiring business website.

How to Build That One Business Website

Here are five ways to build an inspiring website for your business.

1. Create Appealing Content

The content on your website is a significant traffic drive. Your product or service description must be appealing to the potential customers while stating the specific things you offer. You may also include information that can help customers learn more through blog posts, infographics, video tutorials, or FAQs. Just ensure that the information is related to what your business entails.

Similarly, incorporate the right keywords into your website content. Ensure your domain name correlates with your business name and what you offer. Likewise, include your logo and other brand symbols. You can build your website with a content management system for easy use.

2. Create a User-Friendly Site

Your website must be easy to understand, especially if it is dynamic. Your potential customers should not have a complicated experience navigating your site. Ensure that the information placed upfront on your homepage is the average potential customer’s intent for visiting your website. A good rule of thumb to follow is that it shouldn’t take more than three clicks for your website visitors to find out what they want.

In addition, having a user-friendly site includes best design practices. It would help if you were consistent with colors and fonts. It must be readable, and the site must be responsive for every device.

3. Create a Fast-Loading Site

According to Google research, the probability of potential customers leaving your web page increases by 90% if the load time goes from one second to five seconds. Therefore, you should take every necessary step not to have a slow-loading website. One significant way to optimize site speed is to compress large media files into smaller sizes.

Although, site loading time is also dependent on several other factors such as one’s location, the device used, and the network connection. Like keywords, compressed large media files are a great SEO optimization practice.

4. Engage and Retain Customers

With the right marketing strategy and SEO, you can drive traffic to your website. But this is just the first step. There should be a way to engage your visitors and retain them. Thus, it would be best to incorporate social media buttons on your web pages. This will enable people to share your content, yielding more followers for your brand.

Additionally, you can add a main subscriber form, a button for your newsletter, or an email list to your site. They are great methods for capturing visitors for continuous communication and retaining them as long-term customers.

5. Partner With a Website Design Firm

It is preferable to collaborate with a website design firm for efficiency and effectiveness. Their area of expertise would help you create an inspiring business website. With their many years of experience, they will improve your website design using the best practices. You will have little or nothing to worry about because your website creation is in the best hands. Similarly, a website design firm will give you the best ideas to incorporate into your business site.


To be more competitive in today’s market, you need a website your audience can visit to see what you offer. Not only that, the site must be a place that your customers enjoy visiting. Hence, it would be best if you took advantage of the tips we have outlined to create an inspiring business website that will engage and retain potential customers. Ensure you build an easy to manage, attractive, SEO optimized, and user-friendly site. Achieving this by yourself can seem daunting and that’s why you need a website design firm to create great web pages to drive traffic and boost sales.

About the Author: Ken is an experienced SEO professional. He assists businesses in improving their search engine results by optimizing copy and landing pages, as well as conducting continual keyword research. He is also very skilled in researching and implementing content recommendations for organic SEO success.

A.I. Won’t Replace Writers — It Will Maximize Their Storytelling Potential

Aaron KwittkenAaron Kwittken, Founder and CEO of PRophet

Historically, writing has been a craft best fulfilled by humans. As personal touch and nuance are often seen as prerequisites for great writing, it can be difficult to imagine robots, or more specifically augmented intelligence (A.I.), capable of doing it convincingly, much less meaningfully.

When it comes to A.I.’s integration into the workforce, much of the public discourse is rooted in fears of job displacement. Because of this, wary workers often overlook the technology’s potential to make their jobs easier. This holds true for writers, too — while A.I. may not be able to write long-form stories just yet, it can still be used as a powerful assistant for writers across disciplines.

In most professions, including communications and journalism, talented workers are weighed down by time-consuming tasks that, when experienced together, add up to “mindless” work. For journalists, this can entail churning out rote coverage that consistently follows the same model, such as monthly earnings reports. For PR professionals, this can include crafting hundreds of similar pitches.

A.I. won’t replace writers — it will maximize their storytelling potentialA.I. tools have the power to simplify these tasks by writing simple stories and streamlining menial tasks, allowing professionals to seamlessly develop content and take on more complex, higher-value tasks. In the field of PR, A.I. can analyze past reporter behavior to determine what specific outlets and reporters are likely to find a story interesting. A.I. can even predict a pitch’s potential to land. Before this kind of technology, PR professionals had to assess whether a reporter would write a story by relying on a combination of professional experience, instinct and labor-intensive research – all without performance-based data. Technology can also serve as an important resource for crisis and issues mitigation, as it can forecast how likely reporters are to engage with sensitive news, as well.

When drafting a longer-form story, A.I. can help jumpstart the writing process – freeing up time for tasks best suited for humans, such as storytelling. Something A.I. doesn’t yet have is a sense of narrative – the latent meaning beyond the data that resonates with an audience. With A.I. in the picture, the value of the human skills becomes more valuable, much in the same way that mass-produced cars have made handcrafted luxury cars more valuable. Thus, handcrafted, skilled writing will become increasingly more valuable, granting the writers who possess it the recognition they deserve.

PRophet is the first-ever A.I.-driven platform, built by and for PR professionals, to use a proprietary combination of natural language processing and machine learning to predict media interest and story sentiment before you ever send a pitch.

Portions of this article were informed by a previously published article by Coruzant Technologies (authored by Aaron Kwittken), which you can read here.