When The Client Just Won't Listen

A few weeks ago we were walking around the neighborhood and a little girl ran up to us.

"I'm lost!"

She was about six years old and very cute even though she was sobbing. She had these little tears and a little stream of snot near her nose from the crying. She kept wiping her face through her sobs, and talking through the wiping. 

"I'm lost! I'm lost!"

Her little brother stood next to her. If this kid was cute he was even cuter. He had mosquito bites all over his legs. One shoelace was untied. He seemed less unnerved than she was at the situation. He was scratching his head and looking around as though he'd never seen that street before.

"What's your name?" She told me her first name.

"Is that your brother?" "Yes." "What's his name?"

She told me.

"Where do you live?"

"In Brooklyn." (Geographically not close.)

I stood there worrying that we were talking to two very little children absent two grown-up parents. I did not know what we were dealing with. 

But we had to help them. They could get kidnapped or even killed G-d forbid, the way drivers go without even stopping or looking.

"You came from up there," I gestured. "Why don't we walk back up." We started walking. 

There was just one slight problem. Her little brother would not follow along.

She walked next to me - he ran forward, up to the next block.

"Hey!"

"Hey!"

He wouldn't stop. I lost sight of the kid. 

But what could I do? He wasn't mine, right?

I couldn't grab him like a sack of potatoes and hold him. 

So I started running, not all that fast at my age, but running.

Finally we got to the house where they were staying and handed the kids off to Mom, who waved thanks.

I thought of that incident this morning, because somebody asked me about crisis communication the other day.

And I mentioned how very often I can tell when a problem is coming. But more often than not, the person on the receiving end of that information just doesn't want to listen.

This is true whether we're talking about a personal conversation or a work one.

There is just something about the fact of warning another human being that leads them to reflexively say, "No thanks."

One last story. I had to go to the doctor the other day, and I asked a question about natural healing. About a supplement I had seen online and the research showing why it worked.

He took off his glasses and looked at me.

"I'm sitting here with more than 30 years of experience, and you think you can just Google what I know?"

I wasn't surprised as I've had doctors act defensive before, but it was the intensity that sort of shocked me. 

Looking back on it now, I realize that there is a "best way" to tell someone something they don't want to hear.

Don't tell them about it in the first place!

Of course that is normally not possible. Because you'll need their permission to move forward.

So - assuming you're not dealing with a very little kid - just tell them in factual terms what needs fixing, and that you'll need their approval in order to proceed.

Your best is the best you can do.

* All opinions my own.






On The Distinction Between Messaging & Branding

I just thought I would spend a couple of minutes clearing this one up as the terms tend to be used interchangeably. They're related but somewhat different.
  • Messaging = saying something in a very specific way. As in: "We are working with local authorities to ensure citizen safety."
  • Branding = creating an impression in people's minds. As in: When you walk into the fitness center, it's glass and mirrors and every employee looks skinny and 22.

Messaging and branding both need to be consistent:
  • When different people explain an event the same way, they reinforce one another and increase credibility. (Unless of course they are lying.)
  • When all parts of the company, the individual, the product or the service leave you with the same impression, branding can be said to be taking place in an integrated manner. (Doesn't mean it's a good strategy or that it's working.)

The distinction though is how messaging and branding are carried out.
  • Messaging = top down, and from the middle to the center. It's the military paradigm: chain of command.
  • Branding = technically formal and structured, but has to appear spontaneous. It can be top-down but works better bottom-up or outside-in. It's organic and people learn the rules then implement them on their own. You cannot force it.
Every communication shop should know and do both messaging and branding. To do it well it's important to be aware of the distinction.

* All opinions my own.

Control Your Emotions, Control Your Brand

All great comedians have one thing in common. They see the world in a crazy way. And they make you see it their way, temporarily. But they don't lose control of their emotions in the process.

Think of anyone: Howard Stern, Roseanne Barr, Howie Mandel, Joan Rivers, Russell Brand, Jerry Seinfeld, Lucille Ball. They're neurotic. But they've sharpened it to a fine point. You know what's coming, and you laugh.

Laughing with, not at, is the mark of a relevant brand.

Branding is conveyed through a lot of things. We call those "touch points" - how you look, what you say, color, font, a consistency of process.

And yet all of those things can be copied, which is why they are essentially worthless in the end.

The one thing that cannot be copied is your emotion. It's like your fingerprint - it makes you unique and uniquely valuable to the people you touch. Nobody, in the end, can truly be you. Which gives you a tremendous advantage.

So far so good. But the next part is where people often get messed up. Admittedly it's a hard balance to strike.

In your effort to be authentic, you don't want to go overboard. For example, at work, it is wise to avoid displays of rage - even if you're the type to enjoy a good rant.

On the flip-side, you don't want to over-control your self-presentation, to the point where you seem like cardboard.

It's difficult nowadays. The bar on brands is incredibly high. The expectation encompasses all of you, the whole person. Separate parts of one identity, yet all of it is of a piece.

We are entering a new age of branding now. Privacy is dead, and you are always discoverable in some context: Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, LinkedIn. Your family, friends, and employers.

A trail of breadcrumbs tells your tale.

You may as well be yourself.

* All opinions my own.

Is it all just random? No, it isn't random, I say.

So the rabbi says to me that she thinks bad things are "random." (The philosophy of Woody Allen and his very expensive "shrink.") But what do I think?

I say they happen to me because I am bad. It's not that G-d hates me, but I am messing up and I need to learn.

She resists this explanation. I find her blessing comforting though, enough that it elicits heaving sobs.

What is the point of it all? The other day we had a conversation at home. I said the same thing and my husband goes, "No preaching now. Please!"

I get it. I just can't focus on anything other than why.

Sometimes I get the answer in a dream. Other times it comes to me naturally. Most of the time it has to do with a character flaw, with something lousy and stubborn and painful in myself that needs work.

It hurts all the time to face it but it feels better when you grieve the self you wanted to be, but somehow failed at. And come out the other side.

* All opinions my own.

5 Digital Engagement Lessons From The Trenches Of My Personal Life

It's been an interesting weekend. 

Over the past 48 hours I've been on Twitter speaking my mind about Israel. All opinions my own, always.

I've met folks who agreed and others who argued passionately against my point of view.

For the most part the questions aimed at me were harsh. A few were hostile. One guy said I was a "Zionist bitch." 

Another said I should be "thrown into the ovens" like Hitler did to the Jews in the Holocaust.

But there were rays of beautiful too. I believe as Anne Frank said that people are basically good.

One person who said angry things about Israel, and Jews, turned out to be genuinely questioning. We discovered together that he is actually Jewish by birth.

Another prompted a discussion of Jewish law, colonialism, Buddhism, and the religious and philosophical background behind the current Jewish State of Israel.

A third shared a map of his own complex heritage and said he supported #Israel and #Jews.

I learned so many lessons this weekend and just wanted to share a few.

1. You can't take criticism and insults personally. At the same time if someone is abusive you should block them. It's a fine line.

2. Social media is about both facts and heart. It depends who you're talking to. But you must stick with the truth even if it hurts, and you must respect the other person at all times.

3. Digital engagement means engaging, not shouting, monologueing or insulting.

4. You can't know all the facts going in. You will have to do some research, from multiple sources.

5. Don't defend yourself against people who just want to hate on you. Focus on the key point you want to make, drawing on the facts. At the same time, answer genuine questions genuinely.

I do believe that we are all "children of the most high G-d" as Joel Osteen says and that we will end war voluntarily, before armed conflict eats us alive.

Peace can begin with respectful interaction on social media.

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