How Not to Suck as a Leader Ross Kimbarovsky | September 28th, 2016
Image Source: American Salon
You are not alone, although it often feels that you are. According to the Small Business Administration, 78.5 percent of the nearly 28 million small businesses in the U.S. are individually owned and run by the owner, without any employees.
Many of you are already leading teams or have employees working for you. Even if you aren’t doing so now, the odds are pretty good that you’ll need to start building your team as your business grows and you find yourself unable to manage the work by yourself. After all, small businesses provide the majority of all jobs and 66% of net new jobs since the 1970s.
There’s much advice online about leadership, not to mention the many thousands of books published on the subject. Unfortunately, too many people confuse leadership and management.
As you build and lead your teams, how can you ensure that you don’t suck as a leader?
I’ve worked for midsize law firms (I practiced law for 13 years before founding crowdSPRING), counseled hundreds of small and large companies around the world, and launched numerous startups (crowdSPRING, Startup Foundry, Respect, Quickly Legal and Curio). I’ve worked with a few remarkable leaders and managers and also worked with many who were average or even worse, mostly ineffective.
Here are 5 tips to help you succeed (based on my own experience). :
1. Understand the difference between being a manager and a leader.
If you’ve been studying how to be a great boss, you’ve probably seen a lot of advice on how to manage people, but little on how to lead them. Unfortunately, many people confuse the two concepts. Seth Godin, in his book Tribes, explains the difference:
Management is about manipulating resources to get a known job done … Managers manage a process they’ve seen before, and they react to the outside world, striving to make that process as fast and as cheap as possible. Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating a change that you believe in.
My thesaurus says the best synonym for leadership is management. Maybe that word used to fit, but no longer. Movements have leaders and movements make things happen.
Leaders have followers. Mananagers have employees.
Managers make widgets. Leaders make change.
Peter Drucker famously summarized this by stating that there’s a difference between doing things right (management) and doing the right things (leadership).
The most successful companies (and leaders) make sure that there’s a balance of good leadership and good management. As I wrote previously, “Strong leadership without strong management can result in chaos and inefficiency. Strong management without strong leadership can result in tunnel vision and paralysis.”
I talk about some of the differences in the short video below.
2. Lead by example, not by title.
The most remarkable leaders share one common and important trait and it isn’t their title. True leadership is earned through respect, admiration and trust from the team. Calling yourself a CEO doesn’t make you an effective leader. Writing a mission statement that you ignore in your hiring and firing decisions doesn’t make you an effective leader.
True leaders lead by example, not by title.
Steve Jobs explained this another way: “you have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy.” Here’s a wonderful short video in which Steve Jobs talks about managing people and his leadership style:
Leadership by example is especially important when you’re hiring the best people who often are smarter than you are at the tasks you’re asking them to do.
In fact, the real leader on a team sometimes isn’t even the person with the title. When most people on a team tend to approach the same person for help and input, when the team quiets down to listen when one person speaks, when it’s clear one person has nearly everyone’s respect – those are all signs of leadership. Ultimately, someone else on your team may have assumed an implicit leadership role and it’s up to you to decide whether to formalize that change. Only the true leader can allow such a change to happen.
Dancing the Political Brand Equity Tango on Social Media Lauren Nelson | September 28th, 2016
This year’s American presidential race has been one of the most contentious in modern history. The level of polarization in the electorate is astounding, and the polls have left her citizens and international spectators alike in a semi-terrified trance of sorts, in disbelief over how close the contest actually is.
And in the middle of the mudslinging and grandstanding are some very, very uncomfortable brands.
It’s important to note that brands are not always neutral in American politics. It’s totally acceptable for an American brand to encourage voters to register or get to the nearest polling station on election day. It’s not uncommon to see brands, like Hotels.com.
And the way the political donor system works in this country, companies also have the ability to donate to candidates and causes of their choosing, and very frequently do. But for the most part, you don’t see a lot of brands carrying political water. The stewards of those brands often will, but the brand itself won’t be used to denigrate or prop up any given candidate.
But when the first female candidate of a major party is running against a former TV reality star known for his inflammatory rhetoric, all bets are off.
Last week, the Trump campaign found itself in hot water over a graphic it distributed on social media comparing the security threat of an increased refugee population on American soil to a bowl of Skittles with three poisoned candies in the mix.
Folks were not pleased, to say the least.
Based on actual odds of getting killed by terrorist refugee, you’d need 10.8 billion skittles to find 3 killers https://t.co/Ba5HNFhvM1
— Mike Rosenberg (@ByRosenberg) September 20, 2016
If I told you I had a basket of deplorables and just three would kill you… pic.twitter.com/8Nez6qscuz
— Chase Mitchell (@ChaseMit) September 20, 2016
“If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you th—”
“Can I elect the bowl of Skittles president instead of your dad?”
— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) September 20, 2016
But as the campaign doubled down on the analogy, Skittles fired back, putting distance between itself and the candidate’s statements.
— Seth Abramovitch (@SethAbramovitch) September 20, 2016
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the offending image has since been removed by the Trump team.
Then came Monday’s debate. As Clinton and Trump squared off between their respective podiums, one of Trump’s big talking points related to trade and the loss of jobs as companies moved overseas, saying:
So Ford is leaving. You see that, their small car division leaving. Thousands of jobs leaving Michigan, leaving Ohio. They’re all leaving. And we can’t allow it to happen anymore.
Ford was having none of it, tweeting out:
Ford has more hourly employees and produces more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker. pic.twitter.com/k15cqknsvX
— Ford Motor Company (@Ford) September 27, 2016
Inquiring Twitter minds wanted to know about the plants referenced by Trump, and Ford confirmed that while it is opening a plant in Mexico that will take over production duties currently carried out in a Michigan plant, the Michigan plant will remain operational with zero job losses, just focusing on other products. They’re expanding, not moving away altogether. This was backed up by tweets from the UAW.
The message was clear: Ford wants their brand far, far away from Trump’s politicking. Which says something, given that Ford vehicles take up 4 of the top 10 models driven by Republicans.
But just because some brands are distancing themselves from Trump doesn’t mean they’re endorsing Clinton outright. If anything, they just want away from the fray. The notable exception Monday night was another car company: Honda.
Just ahead of the debate, the company’s official Twitter account tweeted out a seeming endorsement.
— Aaron Schobel (@AaronSchobel) September 27, 2016
It didn’t take long for the tweet to get taken down, with most speculating that — as was the case with the now infamous KitchenAid Obama tweet — it was a case where a social media manager accidentally tweeted out something meant for their personal account. Honda confirmed as much yesterday.
A personal comment was inadvertently tweeted about the debate on @Honda. It’s Honda’s policy not to endorse any candidates. We apologize.
— Honda (@Honda) September 27, 2016
In other words, brands aren’t really breaking with tradition altogether. If anything, it seems as though they’re working hard to maintain that tradition due to the unique dynamic in today’s race. Trump has been known to repeat things that have been proven factually incorrect despite debunking, so it’s possible that brands are being more direct to ensure they don’t get caught up in the resulting confusion. That’s not necessarily anti-Trump so much as anti-drama, and that’s about as traditional as it gets.
But hey — there’s still 40 days until election day, and given the way this cycle has played out so far, that’s plenty of time for things to change.
Why Your Company Should Be Doing #3FictionalCharacters Lauren Nelson | September 27th, 2016
You know the feeling. You’re scrolling down your Twitter feed or your Facebook timeline, and you see a new hashtag. It’s not a tongue-in-cheek-express-yo’self type of hashtag. It seems to be associated with something. But you’re not sure what it is.
Then you see it again. And again. And again. That’s right — a new trend has emerged on social media.
Once in a very great while, this trend will be directly associated with your brand, or at least directly enough that you can comfortably jump on the bandwagon. But most of the time, it won’t be. And in those cases, it can be tempting to just shrug and turn, convinced that this new fad has nothing to do with you.
But this is where your mistake is made. Part of social media marketing has nothing to do with directly promoting yourself or your company. It’s about humanizing your brand, making it relatable. Folks are a lot more likely to engage with a company with which they identify, and doing something that isn’t explicitly about making money is a way to start that relationship.
Take, for instance, the recent #3fictionalcharacters trend. It’s pretty simple. Those participating simply post pictures of three fictional characters with whom they feel a kinship. Maybe they think they’re just like those characters. Maybe they see bits of themselves in each of the three. Maybe these characters are folks they aspire to emulate. In any case, it good fun.
Why can’t your brand participate? Maybe you pick three fictional characters whose attributes align with the company’s values. Or — even better — maybe you ask your team members to create their own, and share their selections. It’s a great way to showcase the personalities behind the logo and create connection with your audience. Bonus? It’s a fun way for the team to get to know each other better.
For instance, I challenged the ladies at crowdSPRING to pick their #3fictionalcharacters on the condition that I would, too. Here’s what I got:
Keesha Franklin (Magic Schoolbus): Level-headed, sarcastic, inquisitive, and always wanted to know the facts before coming to any conclusions
Rue (Hunger Games): Underestimated initially but constantly full of surprises
Gina Waters-Payne (Martin): Silly, forgiving (to a fault at times), hopeless romantic, but always the voice of reason
The artsy best friend with a sense of humor; the teacher with no tolerance for mean girls or bullies; the mom who unapologetically loves television and take-out.
Lady Edith- not the obvious pick of the litter, but can hold her own as a lady, and not afraid to get her hands dirty.
Tracy Turnblad- The girl who sings and dances through all situations- even time in the slammer (no, I have not been arrested)
And Stefon- An utterly ridiculous and unique person who is sensitive, and a bit rough around the edges.
And as for me…
Fast talking coffee addict single mother? Strategist and advocate with attitude? Hippy dippy creative soul who can be a bit spacey? All three characters are ones I have some things in common with, and who I’d probably like to be more like as time goes on.
(And yes, as I’m sure you’re noticed, we’re all big Gilmore Girls fans.)
What about you? What’s your brand’s #3fictionalcharacters? And how do you stay on top of social trends in your strategy?
Google Rolls Out New Penguin Update to Core Algorithm Lauren Nelson | September 27th, 2016
Image Source: Search Engine Roundtable
Did you see your analytics go haywire earlier this week as a result of Google’s latest algorithm updates?
No? Join the club.
Google confirmed that they rolled out the latest Penguin update to their core algorithm on September 23rd. Those paying close attention saw evidence that the rollout might have come a little bit earlier, but even then, the evidence isn’t necessarily super persuasive.
As Barry Schwartz wrote over at Search Engine Roundtable:
Everyone is asking me, did anyone see a recovery from the September 23, 2016 launch date of Penguin 4.0 and the truthful answer, at least as of what I’ve read through hundreds of forum posts in the past four/five days is that no – no one really saw any significant or even small impact from the Penguin 4.0 update.
Normally with Penguin updates/refreshes, the Black Hat World and other black hat forums go nuts with charts. This one did not, there is a thread with one black hat mocking and trolling everyone, but the charts are fake. No one here is saying they saw a hit on or after the 23rd.
In other words, not too much of a shakeup. At least… not yet.
See, that’s the thing about this update. Google announced that the shift would make Penguin real-time, which means that Google will no longer announce Penguin updates. Pair that with the fact that this Penguin update has probably not taken full effect yet (it’s “rolling out”), and there’s still plenty of time for things to get interesting.
Only time will tell, but it does underscore the volatility of SEO best practices and the most practical advice there is for improving your page rank: create good content. That’s what Google is trying to prioritize in the first place with their algorithm evolution.
How Arnold Palmer Changed the Athlete Influencer Game Lauren Nelson | September 27th, 2016
Image Source: Arnold Palmer Design
Maybe you knew him for his legendary golf game. Maybe you knew him for the deliciously crisp beverage that bears his name. Or maybe you’re a marketing geek like me, and you’re mourning the loss of the original athlete influencer.
The world lost another titan on Sunday with the passing of Arnold Palmer. The pro golfer’s accolades were many, with seven major titles under his belt and scores of other smaller championships to his credit. But while he made over $7 million on his golf career, he brought in more than fifty times that off the course. Why? Because he was a master marketer.
Palmer was the original client of notorious sports marketing agent Mark McCormack, and working with him, Palmer was able to secure countless sponsorships throughout his life. His friendly demeanor and plain-spoken nature were endearing, and brands associated with him were sure to receive a boost. He was so in demand that when a contract ended, competitors would pop up offering to pay him more. For instance, an early deal with Qantas Airlines became a much bigger deal with United Airlines. Everyone wanted a piece of Palmer.
In today’s world, that might not seem surprising. You’re not really an athletic superstar until you have a sponsorship or two to your credit. But what makes Palmer’s career as an influencer remarkable is that he was the first to really make it work. We’re talking 30 years before Michael Jordan was credited with changing the game. Companies were willing to take those risks because Palmer had proven it could pay off.
He also demonstrated that athletes could do more than swing a club and pose for pictures. Take, for instance, the gross miscalculation made by Wilson back in the 1960’s. Palmer was trying to renegotiate a promotional contract with the company. In recognition of the fact that his career could be sidelined in a heartbeat by an injury and out of concern for the security of his family, Palmer asked that Wilson include in the new contract payment for a life insurance policy. It should have been a no-brainer for Wilson given Palmer’s superstar status, but as the Wall Street Journal writes:
James Cooney, the company’s chief executive, decreed that no golfer was going to get something most of his executives didn’t even receive. Cooney was essentially betting that a sensible young father like Palmer wasn’t going to risk the security of his wife and children.
Palmer called his bluff. The life-insurance policy was his line in the sand, the measure of whether this company that supposedly cared so much about him actually respected him as a professional. And so he turned down two decades of guaranteed millions, choosing instead to play out his Wilson contract until he could launch his own company—the Arnold Palmer Golf Co., which began as a club manufacturer, but quickly expanded into clothing, equipment, instructional videos and nearly every other product associated with the sport these days.
In doing so, he became the first modern sports entrepreneur.
Yes, Palmer definitely raised the stakes for athlete influencers. But unlike some athletes today (*cough*cough* lookin’ at you, Lochte *cough*cough*), Palmer always understood the value of a brand, and worked hard to maintain the integrity of his own throughout his life. As a result, the brand equity behind his name never lost its oomph. As recently as 2014, he was able to prove in a court of law that the use of his image on goods sold was an infringement on his brand and rights. Why? Because it still packs a punch to this day.
Palmer only ranks as #6 on the list of all time greatest golfers. He might not be the most successful athlete influencer of all time, and he certainly wasn’t the highest paid. But he started a revolution that has left an indelible mark on the world of marketing, and for that, he will always be the champ.
How $10 and the iPhone 7 Earned This Startup 1.5 Million Visitors in a Day Nick Bowersox | September 26th, 2016
Image credit: Apple
When Apple held their Special Event keynote on September 7th, their live video stream garnered the highest-ever video traffic for an Apple event. In the days following the announcement, almost every technology publication, blogger, and influencer posted some kind of content related to the new iPhone. The phone’s release took over the news cycle again 9 days later, with reviews, guides, and commentary dominating the front page of most news outlets and technology websites.
Apple’s press domination comes as no surprise to anyone. Overwhelming coverage of Apple’s new release has occurred yearly since they announced the first iPhone in 2007, and now some startups are using the inevitable #NewiPhone trending topic as a platform to launch their own media blitzes.
One company, in particular, stood out during this year’s iPhone release by using unconventional tactics for major results.
Fresh from the SPRING: ironmike Audree | September 22nd, 2016
Is Canva the Company That Will Disrupt the Design World? Not Quite Lauren Nelson | September 20th, 2016
Canva, the graphic design platform promoting itself as tool that empowers the world to design, is not new. It launched in 2013 with $3 million in seed money from American and Australian investors, and offers a series of templates intended to make good design easier to execute and more accessible. It’s a nice concept, which is probably why it’s grown astronomically.
Canva, the Sydney, Australia-based online graphic design platform, raised a new $15 million round of funding, the company announced on Wednesday.
The latest funding valued the startup at $345 million, more than double the company’s $165 million valuation a year ago. Canva’s latest round was led by Sydney-based Blackbird Ventures and Silicon Valley-based Felicis Ventures, the same firms that funded Canva’s separate $15 million round a year ago. To date, Canva has raised about $42 million, the company said. Among Canva’s investors are actor Owen Wilson, Google Maps cofounder Lars Rasmussen and 500 Startups founding partner Dave McClure.
Impressive stuff, right? But the question surrounding Canva has been whether or not it has the potential to disrupt the design world in the way it intended. Part of its origin story was that CEO Melanie Perkins was teaching graphic design and realized that her students were struggling to understand basic concepts. This tool was her answer.
But is it really the answer for those seeking to do design on their own? And what kind of answer is it in the end?
How FX Marketing President Stephanie Gibbons Stuck the American Horror Story Promotional Landing Lauren Nelson | September 20th, 2016
You might not be an American Horror Story fan. I wouldn’t blame you. The extravagant horror anthology from Ryan Murphy is at turns decadent, grotesque, and terrifying, and that’s not for everyone. But even if the scary stuff isn’t your thing, you should definitely be a fan of FX President of Marketing Stephanie Gibbons after the way she tackled the show’s most recent marketing campaign.
AHS recently aired its season 6 premiere after spending months confusing its loyal audience. In years prior, each season came with a subtitle that indicated what theme the anthology would follow in the episodes to come, including “Coven,” “Freak Show,” and “Hotel.” But going into season 6, creator Ryan Murphy wanted to do something different, especially given the significance of the number 6 in creepy crawly spaces of inquiry. So this time around, there was no subtitle. What’s more, there were to be no direct hints at the content of the season at all, and no confirmation from FX or the show runners about who had been cast. Viewers were simply going to have to wait.
This certainly created a delicious tension for fans of the show, but presented Gibbons with a unique challenge: how do you promote something without promoting what it is? Marketing is typically an exercise in depicting the value proposition of a commodity, service, or experience, so what happens when you’re not allowed to tell your audience what that value will be? These questions were particularly potent given the rise of horror and pseudo-horror competitors to AHS in the past couple of years.