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Showing posts from July, 2014

Brand Leadership Is Not A Compliance Exercise

So yesterday a question came up about brand guidelines. Does anyone have examples, and if so can they share.
There are about a million examples. But they don't necessarily help you build a brand.

The critical first step, and what most organizations can't really cope with, is to think. Just stop, reflect, stop checking the iPhone for a minute, and make decisions that not everyone is going to like.

These are the questions that need to be asked. They are leadership questions, because where the ship is headed decides what color you paint the ship with and what you name it:
What are we good at? To the point where we are better than anybody else? What are we passionate about and why? Can we narrow that down to a very fine point? Can we make it distinct from anybody "comparable?" Why is our offering relevant to the public?Is it so important that they're willing to pay?Are we a group of decent human beings, with values that support the rest of what we do? Branding is surgery…

Everything Good Is A "Bad Idea"

Love is improbable and often fails. But we seek it out anyway. Over and over again.
Children are love of a different kind; you invest with no serious hope of return. Rather, you do it for the giving.
Careers for passion are low-paying, insecure and can leave you working at two jobs instead of one. But enough of us choose that route because it feels right.
Many people give their lives and limbs for a cause.
Why are we so "irrational?" Economic theory would posit that self-aggrandizement makes more sense.
Because life is just too painful to bear when we death-walk through it, a bunch of fancy zombies in business suits.
The only thing that matters is alive. The only thing that makes alive is inconvenient meaning. 
Everything else - not worth getting up out of bed.
The "zombie" life is so incredibly unappealing. Even when you give it your all, nobody wants to be there.
The meaningful life is inconvenient. It's also real and feels good. It's where normal people want to b…

Personal Branding As A Moral Enterprise

When I started out as a brand consultant one of the most important mantras I heard was "Your brand is your promise." (The other was, "You have a brand whether you like it or not.")

In the commercial world, branding is clearly an activity undertaken for financial gain. Companies portray an image, hope to pay less for the image than what you take away from it, and pocket the difference between the two.

Personal branding is different. It is commonly thought of as your professional image, e.g. that you make yourself seem competent, confident - the kind of person someone would want to hire for their work skills.

That is part of it. But there's also a personal integrity part, and that part is much more important. If your apple is rotten at the core then nobody wants to do business with you.

All of us say that we are moral people. But our actions speak to whether we deliver. The consistency (or lack thereof) determines our brand.

If you look at personal branding as a moral…

Inspiration of the Day: "Joel Osteen #528 - Hit the Delete Button" (Video, full-length)

More than one devoutly religious Jewish person has told me they think Joel Osteen is a holy person who says the word of G-d. I'll be honest - his sermons often make me cry. It is as if G-d is literally speaking through him.

No matter who you are or what your faith, the motivational concepts he shares are universal.

This sermon is a particularly good one, especially if you literally use the computer a lot. In it Osteen talks about literally hitting the "delete" key whenever anyone tells you something that could limit your life's potential.

Turn it off! Turn it off!

Jewish people believe that thoughts follow deeds, hence we are commanded to do positive things whether we believe they make sense or not. Osteen says the reverse, "Our lives follow our thoughts."

Both are true. I know this much is true. When someone tries to block that light that G-d is shining on you, step out of their shadow and erase the memory completely from your mind.

You are blessed and it's …

Brand Leadership: Focus, Focus, Focus - Then Focus Some More

"Without focus, it is impossible to build a brand." - Al Ries

The other day on LinkedIn, Al Ries shared the simple statement above.

Ries, along with David Aaker, David Ogilvy and Walter Landor is one of the "founding fathers" of modern branding. What sets him apart is how accessible and common-sense his writing is. It seemed to me he wouldn't waste words. So it was striking that after so many years he found such a seemingly obvious statement worth repeating.

It struck me to ask Ries and others, what makes brands lose focus? I wanted to hear what others had to say, not only as a semi-academic but also because I've got one particular brand - Israel - on the brain.

Thirty years ago everybody had a certain basic respect for the Jewish homeland. Its image was captured in Raid on Entebbe(1977), a true story on an elite group of commandos who saved a plane full of Jews taken hostage in Uganda.

Israel's brand as portrayed in the movie was highly focused: Jewish surv…

5 Key Points About Government Branding Now

* Originally posted by me on DigitalGov, July 25, 2014
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking (in my own capacity) before the Council for Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency Public Affairs Officers (CIGIE-PAO) task force about branding.

The invitation came by way of a colleague I greatly respect. Bridget Serchak is currently Chief of Public Affairs for the Department of Defense Inspector General and the group’s co-founder. She explained to me that the purpose of the CIGIE PAO is “to try to raise awareness of the role and function of IGs across government so that all federal employees in particular, but also our Hill constituencies and good government groups understand what IGs do and don’t do.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to say to a bunch of inspectors general representatives about branding. Frankly I was a bit worried they would think that branding was essentially useless propaganda and that it didn’t belong in government at all. But they were very kind and we …

How The Jew-Haters Won The War

Disclaimer: The following is a fictional allegory meant to humanize the impossible dilemma that Israel finds itself in. I find it necessary to write this because, unfortunately, the level of Israel- and Jew-hating rhetoric has escalated to such a point that worldwide demonstrators are now saying things like "Kill the Jews." I must speak up against this dangerous spike in anti-Semitism and call it what it really is.  
So please do not read this and say I'm in favor of illegal gun use or vigilante justice - I am not. Like you, I hate violence and bloodshed, though I do support the Constitutional right to bear arms and understand the importance of being able to defend yourself when necessary. And of course, like everyone else I recognize that every country, organization and person is capable of making mistakes - including Israel. I just don't believe the country should pay with its life for doing so, nor do I think that anybody has a good answer to the situation she find…

A Debt of Honor Owed The Arab Peoples

Last night I read an excellent article on Al Jazeera America about the unfortunate phenomenon of rape in America's high schools. Through one victim's story it showed vividly the lifelong trauma of being first, violated and second, punished by a system which sweeps the problem under the rug, ignoring Federal law to enable the attacker and bury the attacked.
I thought about how inspired I have always been by Muslim values and how unfortunate it is that the situation in Israel seems to polarize people by faith.

Way back when in 2003 I began to cover my hair in a traditional Jewish way. I was not inspired by my own faith. No I had seen a Muslim woman praying quietly and devoutly on the Metro in D.C., and I thought to myself, I want to be as spiritual as her.

The idea of "inner jihad" also makes so much sense to me. That the essence of strength is to stop yourself from doing bad things. Not to fight the rest of the world. There's a similar concept in Judaism, in Hebrew: …

10 Real Conditions For Peace In Israel

1. State Endorsement of One G-d: You can live in Israel and be an atheist, but as religion is integral to the state there should be a basic official support for faith in the Divine. If this exists, I truly don't know about it so maybe Israel should talk about it more.

2. Honor the Sacred: Israel can't impose the beliefs of one form of Judaism on everyone. But there are certain things that should be inviolable. Certain symbols (like the Torah), the definition of who a Jew is - these have to be worked out at a reasonable religious level. It cannot always be a "free for all" nor a nation where the ultra-Orthodox have a stranglehold on official expressions of faith.

3. Religious Integrity: Israel is a Jewish nation - a nation where Jews must be able to live freely as Jews. That is the basic precondition of its existence. There cannot be the false message that everyone is exactly equal. They're not and can never be, even as there should be equal protection under the law…

How Israel Has To Fight The Brand War Now

Israel is at war, and a lot of people seem to want the country to simply lay down its arms and drop dead. These people say Israel is somehow just a bad, illegitimate, criminal country:

Global media like The Independent (UK) writes that Israel can't "get away with murder" anymore in the social media age. Mainstream American media like USA Today adds that the country plans to openly subsidizes propaganda, just like China.Jewish-sounding organizations like "Jewish Voice For Peace" show bloody pictures of Palestinian children on Twitter, writing statuses like "Though Israel pounds their homes to rubble, their spirit remains unscathed."Social media is alive with hateful comments such as those on Whisper, calling for Israel to be "nuked."All of the above are magnified by a seemingly endless series of comments, photos and links to each other.
I am Jewish. I believe that Israel is being targeted, should defend herself and has an inherent right to exis…

Finding Strength Inside The Furnace

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I never understood how Jews retained faith after the Holocaust. 
My thinking was: Why would you believe in a G-d that abandons you?
I have made my peace with religion: I know that I don't know what I don't know. 
I accept that bad things come from G-d, who makes us aware when we are off the path. That the Holocaust had to do with that, - and I will never really understand or "know" more than that.
And now the world is exploding in anti-Semitism, again. What do we do? Run and hide? Apologize to the world for existing?
No way. No way, not today, no how. We've had enough of bowing and scraping.
My Facebook feed alone is alive with emotion: anger and fear over anti-Semitism. Sadness at the loss of life. Rage at the injustice of it all, not just events but how Israel and Jews are portrayed. A dogged hope for the life and the State of Israel.
The kids absorb all this. My daughter said today, I won't be hateful. Because if I hate them like they hate us, then they've wo…

Defending Israel On A Sunday

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Daily life and its challenges often take us away from the things that matter most in life. Like G-d, family and friends.
Similarly, the quest to be seen as important can make us focus overly much on career and status symbols.
One of my old friends from high school captured this well the other day on Facebook when she shared a status that said something like, it's not what you do but who you are.
This morning two men were talking loudly in Starbucks about Israel and her obvious right to self-defense, a right which isn't obvious to everybody. Israel-haters are thinly veiled anti-Semites who want to see Israel - and the Jewish people by extension - dead.
The men in Starbucks were Christian. I know this because one also talked about his denomination of the faith and how it had become less anti-Semitic over time. There are others who are not Jewish nor even believers in religion who stand up for Israel relentlessly. 
My daughter said to me, why is it that the non-Jews are standing up fo…

Video Clips from Branding in Government Talk, July 17, 2014

Yesterday I gave a talk on branding in government at the July 2014 Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency Public and Media Communications Council meeting in Washington, DC. Here's a link to the playlist with some clips from the talk. As always, all opinions are my own.


How James Heller Became President

He is not a real President of course. But as I watched the "24" season finale I learned much about what makes a person the kind of leader people would give their lives for.

Heller is not a technical expert. He's not a military guy. He isn't aggressive. In fact he's losing his mind to Alzheimer's. But he has the people's loyalty anyway. Here's why:

1) He delegates.

Heller does not pretend to know Jack Bauer's tradecraft (the ins and outs of being a one-man SWAT team). He isn't military. He doesn't know computers. He trusts people to do their jobs.

2) He doesn't play favorites.

His chief of staff was married to his daughter. But when he confessed to an unforgivable crime, Heller had him arrested for treason.

3) He knows when to cede power.

When Bauer does well he gives him unlimited authority, to the point where he allows Jack to overrule him at one point - it doesn't matter if Heller is the president, Jack knows what to do and must be list…

Aren't We Friends?

One of the most unethical things a person can do is pretend to be friends with another person, just to use them, gain unfair advantage, or even stab them in the back.

But it happens all the time - it's accepted - and it's even considered a career skill: "professional networking," "climbing the ladder," "learning how to play the political game."

I am fascinated and repulsed by this behavior. Fascinated because it's a skill, it works and it's tempting to want to know how to do it. Repulsed because it's morally totally wrong.

Of course manipulating people's emotions is not a new tactic.

In war it is called the "Trojan Horse" strategy, i.e. we come to your city bearing gifts and then once the gates are open, the arsenal of weapons is unleashed."Honeypots" are a tried-and-true espionage strategy involving the use of attractive women to elicit intelligence secrets.
People who should know better are gullible - heck I have a…

Who's Afraid of Performance Management?

I've been in a couple of federal agencies where performance management was a hot topic and every manager was afraid to touch it for fear of a grievance.

I've been in meetings where the discussion focused on "rooting out the dead wood," and I said, what about recognizing the good wood and I got the look like, come on Dannielle, we all know that poor performance is the problem.

And the opposite, there were those meetings where everybody focused on how bad criticism is by nature, how it hurts morale and how bad employees would feel if they got an actual one in their performance evaluation.

This is not one agency this is at least two, three if you count benignly ignoring poor performance and giving virtually everyone performance awards. It's four if you count the one where I inadvertently found out someone did something really bad, reported it and there was no obvious consequence other than I was outed as something of a troublemaker.

And then there's the private sect…

Controlling Your Brand In A World Of Brand Anarchy

Here's an overview of the evolution from brand infancy to sophistication:

Stage 1 - Mark of authenticity - a thing is what it says it is; trusted products and servicesStage 2 - Relevant differentiation - my brand is more relevant than yoursStage 3 - An integrated experience across "touchpoints"Stage 4 - Person = brand; emotional labor is more important than physical labor; and/or you are always self-employed, building your own separate professional imageStage 5 - Social media integrates with branding - the studied effort to appear "authentic"Underpinning the above are the following three disciplines:
Brand architecture - where and how brand names are applied (corporate brand, house of brands, brand endorsement)Brand operationalization - making the brand the center of the business - always asking "how will this affect the brand?"Brand internalization - employees as brand drivers - empowering the staff to act The above presupposes that a brand can be owne…

Praying To G-d For Mercy On Israel

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There are times when time stops, and now is one of those times. My homeland Israel is in imminent danger as terrorists pretending to be statesmen play propaganda games very skillfully. 
I am an ignorant, simple soul when it comes to these games. I know only what my faith, my heart and my soul tell me. There are people who want peace, and those people come from every religion. We must not be afraid of the "bad guys," (and that includes women and men), either because they have guns and can hunt us down, or because they hide behind platitudes of political correctness and will call us names for calling them out for who they are.
I stand humbly before G-d and pray for mercy for those in Israel and the U.S.A. who put themselves out on the front lines to fight radical terrorists, get themselves blown up or killed, and "we sleep soundly in our beds at night" as George Orwell once said.
May we see the end of war in our times, no more young men and women off to die for no reaso…

Seeking Self-Respect On Social Media

For the second week in a row I don't drive on Shabbos (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). Instead we walk and talk, and reflect.

There is an incredible, pervasive sense of peace in my mind. Unlike any other, and I don't feel this during the week.

Out of nowhere my mouth utters, "I just want it to stay like today, all week. But I know that it cannot."

We pass mothers wheeling baby carriages, dads walking little girls in pretty dresses toward the synagogue. Remark that we never stop to look at things, we're so busy driving around all week, and working.

I crane my head up and look right. There is a house with a gigantic satellite dish, and two others clipped to an awning.

The relief of small talk and relaxing conversation.

"What is that?" I say, and we wonder whether this homeowner has some special deal with the NSA.

Then bubbling up as if out of nowhere, the thing that's on my mind, but which I fear to say out loud.

"Shabbos is so peaceful, but I'm not s…

Why Social Media Requires Sophisticated Branding

Be careful who you give your social media to.

This week, American Apparel apologized for an "international" employee who put a photo of the Challenger disaster on its Tumblr page July 3 and tagged it "smoke" and "clouds." The truth is, I don't get it at all. What was the point - July 4? What agenda did that advance? How was that supposed to sell clothes, especially after the company is reeling financially and embroiled in scandal due to ex-CEO Dov Charney?

A couple of months ago, in March, Saturday Night Live aired "Healthcare.gov Meeting Cold Open," spoofing the President's appearance on the very unfiltered web show "Between Two Ferns." The skit emphasized the President's likely embarrassment at having to do such "fluffy stuff, "along with his keen understanding that you must go where they are to make your case.

I can understand why the President would be nervous. Social media requires not only judgment but careful …

The Mark of a Truthful Person

There is a new documentary coming out called "A People Without A Land." It is about the failed peace process in the Middle East and the possibility of an alternative, one-state solution.

The filmmaker makes it look like Israeli Jews are anti-Arab. I'm not there, but it seems to me like there is a lot of hatred on both sides, that could be cleared up by some solid and articulate leadership.

I think a lot about the State of Israel. I have trouble with the concept that it's a democracy and a Jewish state. It should be either one or the other - a democracy implies equality for all people, and a Jewish state implies theocracy that favors those who are Jewish.

It is uncomfortable for me to say this out loud, although I suspect a lot of people think about it. But there it is. I'd rather live in truth and look in the mirror and be proud of myself, than live a politically correct lie and be approved of by others. This must be a sign that I'm getting old.

I am proud that J…

Via Inc. Magazine: How To Work Less & Be A Better Boss

Ever interested in personal & professional improvement I read two great articles in Inc. One was about saving time, and the other about becoming an "amazing boss." Thought to myself, this is definitely a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup situation, where the two go better together and can be combined. This slide is the result. Go to SlideShare to download it and get the legible view. 


* All opinions my own.

Freedom - for What?

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Photo of starving girl via Wikipedia
It's Independence Day in the United States. A time to think about freedom and what we do with the choices that we have.

Jews and Arabs alike mourn the death through despicable killing of innocent teens. 
We are mothers and fathers and these bonds know no nationality.
In the land of my heritage, Israel, three Jewish yeshiva students, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Yifrach, are brutally kidnapped, shot and murdered. 
Screenshot via NCSY
Shortly after their bodies are found, an Arab sixteen-year-old, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, suffers the same fate. 
Screenshot of "undated family handout" via AFP via Haaretz
It's not clear yet who is responsible, but there is enough hatred on all sides that the end product is the same - more and more rage.

Photo via Wikipedia
Curiously some people want to foment an ongoing feud over land the size of New Jersey, seemingly forever and ever. It is holy to multiple faiths - we could peacefully coexist there with…

Everything And The Opposite

People can do what they can do. And so I wonder why we ask them to do everything.
We should let them be, and flop and flounder and flail until they find out what they're good at.
We should hire for attitude and train for technical skill.

Domino's Pizza has a great ad out on TV now. It talks about their various bad ideas, and ends with a little brag about a pretty good one. 
(It's a chicken dish with cheese that kosher folks can't eat and so I will have to trust them.)
Why, in workplace life, do we insist that every venture be an unparalleled success?
That left handed people be ambidextrous, or able to flip to right-handed?
That mistakes are unforgivable and bad?
Why is the subtext of organizational life the irrational expectation that we employ superhumans?
That every person be able to accommodate every whim, every change, every quirk of strategy and workload that the organization sets upon them?
The truth is that great fortune comes from allowing people to breathe, plans to fai…