Saturday, November 28, 2015

Don't Be Afraid, It's Just Social Media

There's lots of mistakes you can make. But fortunately there are ways to avoid them. Check out my most recent post on All Things Brand.

5 Ways To Die - On Social Media

A few years back I used to watch a show called "1000 Ways To Die," which highlighted the unbelievable ways people exit from this world. Social media can be much the same - the list of potential mistakes is endless.
For example, recently I shared that my social media posts, especially on Facebook, give some people the impression that I literally never go offline. And noted that when you're online a lot, it can make people think you aren't focused enough on work.
Truthfully as a workaholic, that hasn't been my problem.
But I've definitely made a lot of other mistakes. And for every one you see here, I'm sure I've made many more. While it's true that social media involves a lot of trial and error, there are some very obvious ones you want to avoid from the get-go. Hopefully these tips will help you through the doozies:
  1. Seeming "self-promotional." When I first started blogging nearly ten years ago, relatively few others were online as much. As a result, to those outside my organization I had assembled an impressive portfolio of work online, but on the inside the reaction was "who does she think she is?" The way out of this conundrum is to keep writing, but focus on helping others - while being honest and human about mistakes made along the path to learning.
  2. Emotional posting: Every day brings with it a tragedy of some kind - a terrorist attack, a travesty of justice, a bad thing that shouldn't have ever happened. It's easy to go online and vent - you will have the world with you - but that doesn't mean losing self-control. For me, personally, this happened most recently when a friend's nephew was murdered in a terrorist attack in Israel. To that I could not help but respond, and my response was very strong - I said that terrorists should "drop dead." It's probably better to wait a little bit when you are overcome, and be more eloquent. And when you post something ill-advised, go back immediately and delete it.
  3. Strong disagreements: Emotional postings involve feelings. But Facebook is a place for strong intellectual beliefs to emerge as well - and often, they are polarizing. In a serious disagreement, unless the other person is rude, try to articulate clearly why you believe the way you do. Allow the other person to have their say as well. But there are some people who are just plain nasty - and unfortunately I have been nasty in response. It's better never to talk to people like that, and if you choose to, never let them visibly get to you.
  4. Confronting the "dark side": Twitter impersonators are annoying, but you really have no choice but to check for them regularly - they directly affect your reputation online - and Twitter is very good about removing them from the service. At first I didn't realize that these spammers target lots of people, and I allowed it to get me very upset, as though someone were personally after me. I've also dealt with Israel-haters and Jew-haters on Twitter, and some of those interactions were astoundingly unproductive. Eventually I learned that many so-called "trolls" are willing to engage in conversation. Which, surprisingly, has mostly ended in protracted debate, followed by "peace" and "have a nice day."
  5. Digital detritus. There is no reason you absolutely must keep your Twitter feed from five years ago live on the Internet, or all your Facebook posts from forever. Again, this is something I did not realize. But the truth is, they're mostly irrelevant. Once every few years, you can wipe your Twitter feed completely; once every few months, you can go through your Facebook feed and prune posts out. (Photos, on the other hand, can last forever.) You want to save only those things that truly add value to the world.
In the end, it's true what the worriers say - social media does have its pitfalls. But it's also a truly wonderful gift. You should be yourself online, you should express yourself, you should allow others to glimpse the real you - the joy, the thinking, and the pain. Just remember the recipe:
  • Caution
  • Common sense
  • Courage
So get out there and have your say.
The world is waiting to hear from you.
All opinions my own. Photo by Martin Taylor via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

5 Brands That Kill The Agony Of Thanksgiving

Let's face it, those large-and-awkward Thanksgiving dinners can give even the most extroverted party girl a panic attack. To soothe the anxious soul, here are five newly mainstream brands for 2015. All of them promise to reduce the pain:
  1. Starbucks Order & Pay: You have to do your duty and come over for the meal. But when you make the Big Escape to the crowded corner Starbucks to which everyone else has fled, it's nice to know that your drink will be sitting there waiting for you.
  2. FitBit: Everybody did their best to make it come out right, but the turkey is dry and gamy; the sweet potato pie is a sugar coma; the green bean casserole is way too dense and salty. What do you do to cope? It's no problem! Just hold up your device and declare, "I need a serious walk around the block. This food was great!"
  3. Instagram: You may be having the worst time ever. But snap a selfie with a willing accomplice, put it through the magic filter and voila! Life is truly, totally grand.
  4. Uber: 2015 was the year that our nation's personal taxi service became a must-have. Stuck at a really bad party? Family arguments getting you down? Tap the app and magically, out of nowhere, someone will appear to take you anywhere....else!
  5. Waze: "What the hell is going on out there?" "Why are things so backed up?" Now you don't have to guess at that kind of thing - you know. And you've got a great excuse for avoiding that party in the first place :-)
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. YOU BE YOU!
Best wishes from us at All Things Brand.
All opinions are the author's own. Photo by Ali Eminov via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Movie Review: "Suffragette"

As an ardent feminist I am tempted to give the movie 5 stars just because I agree with its agenda. But that wouldn't be morally right and it actually wouldn't be feminist either. 

The reality is that the movie is not about art. If it were, then we would be debating whether the characters were riveting, portrayed with depth and complexity; whether the story was told in a skillful way; whether the cinematography furthered the narrative; etc. etc. 

On all of those counts the answer is "meh." The movie is artistically average, the pacing feels rushed, and the emotions we are supposed to feel are predetermined from the start.

But then again, it is not about the art. As someone else has pointed out, "Suffragette" is to feminists what a Holocaust movie is to Jewish people. The criteria are different in evaluating this movie. As follows:

1) Does the movie evoke the reality of the feminist struggle back in the early 1900s?Yes, absolutely and in a way that you learn something you normally wouldn't know before.

2) Does the movie connect the feminist struggle then and now in such a way that feminism seems relevant?'s hard to think of one issue raised by the movie that's actually been resolved. (The whole thing makes you want to vote for Hillary Clinton. It's a great campaign movie.)

3) Does it make you care about feminism, even if you didn't before?
I think so, but then again I'm biased. 

4) Is the movie historically accurate enough to serve as a relevant text?
It seemed that way to me, as though someone had paid attention to accuracy. To be honest, though, I haven't studied the history. 

5) Does the movie play dirty, i.e. by demonizing men?
Not at all. You really see that men are caught up in a sexist system. Some of them do take advantage of it, but definitely not all. Husbands, sons, police chiefs, politicians, and bystanders all struggle with the horror of oppressing half the human race.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Leadership Like Kevin Bacon

On the surface, Footloose was about young love and a small-town bully. But more deeply it showed how a generation of students was hostage to the fear-fueled religious extremism of a town. They took away the dancing, they took away the music, and they even burned the books.

Ren doesn't want to get drawn into this thing, but it happens anyway. Because a system of authority that lives by keeping its members down, eventually chased him down and tackled him, too. (More...)

Friday, November 13, 2015

10 Kosher Ways To Make Shul A Lot Less Boring

1. Start a Facebook group for shul members. Have a parsha discussion discussion start Sunday and run through Friday. The rabbi's sermon can address themes that came up during the week.

2. Let congregants speak instead of the rabbi's speech or in conjunction with it. Rotate guest speeches to include people who don't normally get to speak, particularly women. Bring in outside speakers who are interesting. The most engaging talks are the ones that come from nonprofessionals, speaking from the heart.

3. Hold interdenominational Sunday learning brunches together with other area synagogues. Encourage congregants to visit other shuls and bring back "best practices." Remember, it's not about getting the most money, i.e. members for your shul - it's about getting the most people to shul that we can.

4. Add more no-instrument music to service and/or shul events. Hold a chazzan competition. Make a "house band" and/or choir for Sunday dinner events. Have the kids sing...anything. Because it eliminates the usual judgmentalness and divisions between people, music is a great gateway to spirituality.

5. Guide people through the service in English. "In this part of the davening we..." Have page number clearly visible always, upfront. Have things to read for people who don't or can't follow along closely. Don't treat shul like an SAT exam.

6. Encourage people to dress comfortably (respectfully) not in a monkey suit. There is too much pressure to outdo the next person. Sell a shul-branded button-down or tee so nobody feels left out. Have extras in case somebody needs clothing. Not everyone can afford fancy clothes much less a shul membership. A bonus point is that the brand is a way to unite people in feeling like they are part of a community.

7. Have coffee, tea and pastries out in the hallway to make it relaxed and let people take a break. Have extra for people who are showing up hungry. For some people this is all they'll eat today.

8. Put an electronic slideshow on TV monitors outside the shul. Combine shul information, parsha information, and community news. Not everybody likes to sit in shul, but everybody likes to watch TV.

9. A couple of hours after shul, organize a Shabbos walk for Bikkur Cholim visits. Unfortunately, many people who observe Shabbos don't have much to do, leading to overeating, laying around, and even bickering. And not everyone can study Torah all day, or wants to. This kind of constructive activity not only helps the sick, but it also gives everyone something constructive to do and again, builds community.

10. Give people a chance to talk back to the shul leadership and the rabbi in a collegial setting. Instead of just laying out food for a kiddush once a week, take the opportunity occasionally to hold an open-forum discussion/Q&A session with the rabbi and members of the Shul Board.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Does Starbucks Need The Baristas?

Business Insider notes the dramatic growth of mobile orders at Starbucks company operated stores. In just two years (Q1 2013- Q12015), the percentage of customers using their phone to pay for food and drink more than doubled, from 8% to 18%. (Read more...)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Inventing The Networked, Streamlined Federal Enterprise — a.k.a., “Government 3.0”

I’ve Gotta Wear Shades
The federal government has long made use of vendors to provide everything from equipment to IT support. Today, it is expanding on that reliance and increasingly moving toward a futuristic business model that emphasizes interagency cooperation, shared services, and even shared workspaces:
  • Agencies paying other agencies to do work for them, such as standing up websites or shooting video.
  • Agencies pooling resources to stand up programs that touch on multiple missions.
  • Departments consolidating support functions such as acquisitions and HR.
  • Vendors being tasked with a wide range of not only service assignments — such as IT and communications — but also leadership assignments, such as change management.
  • Open-air, modular workspaces that encourage collaboration and discourage territorial “ownership” by any employee of a single office.
Where did all of this change come from? After all most people still think of government as a lumbering, stove-piped bureaucracy, ill-equipped to meet citizens’ demands. With the advent of the Internet, that is rapidly changing:
  • The first era of government was offline and decentralized. Let’s call it Government 1.0.
  • The second era of government was internet-enabled but uncoordinated. Government 2.0.
  • The new era of government is networked, streamlined, nimble and rapidly responsive. Let’s call it Enterprise Government, or Government 3.0.
So What’s The Problem?
While this trend might be a good thing — it certainly sounds like a good thing in some respects — it is clearly also saddled with risk:
  • Technically Capable But Substantively Unqualified Staff: Permanent loss of employees who have a deep and nuanced understanding of the agency’s history, mission and goals — leading to employees at all levels who may be technically qualified but lack the ability to make informed decisions.
  • A Culture of Expediency: Sacrifice of agency’s long-term goals to quick, convenient decision-making.
  • Push-A-Button Management: Rather than build a skilled cadre of team members who are engaged, motivated and able to handle mission needs, we “bring in the robots” who simply do whatever we tell them, without asking why. There is nobody to challenge bad decisions.
  • Fiefdoms: Consolidation of services means lack of competition for those services, and accordingly the repression of employees who will lack mobility from place to place. For example, if all human capital functions are consolidated into one service office, and there is an abusive supervisor at large, it will be impossible to move out of that office without leaving the government.
  • Overspending: The substitute workforce charges a premium for its work, and the customer agency, preferring expediency and lacking knowledge of how much money a service should cost, accedes readily. The taxpayer is shortchanged.
  • Lack of Transparency: Where is the money going? Who was responsible for making that decision? Did so much have to be spent? Who owns the open data? When the answer can be provided by opening up an agency budget, it’s easier to be transparent. But when responsibility for the books starts to be shared, things get more complicated. Not impossibly so — given that nowadays everything is stored somewhere on a computer — but potentially challenging.
  • The End Of “Inherently Governmental”: As more and more tasks are taken on by outside parties, and seemingly done capably, there is a tendency to simply increase both the number and kinds of tasks. There is no internal negotiation, no scuffling: the contractor handles it. But the entire purpose of having “inherently governmental” work protected is to ensure that the government serves the interest of the people.
Fueled by the adrenaline rush of technology, it is possible that we are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

But We Can’t Stop
Despite all the negatives, Enterprise 3.0 is likely only going to accelerate. For these reasons:
  • Optics: People like it when the government seems to be cutting costs. Consolidation and shared services looks good, especially since the government has a reputation for waste.
  • Technology: With a “save money” metric in hand, Big Data tells us exactly where funds can be redirected more efficiently to get things done. At an enterprise level, that means funding multi-agency initiatives or shared services desks rather than piecemeal programs.
  • Speed: Within a typical agency, the pressure is normally towards inertia, because change is experienced as inherently negative. This is why staff-initiated projects often die on the vine. Outsourcing, shared efforts, and cooperative initiatives move the change factor outside the agency, creating less risk of internal derailment.
Maximizing The Benefit — Mitigating The Risks
There are five things that need to happen in order for Government 3.0 to work:
  • Transparency: It has to be very clear where money is being spent, and why. This can be accomplished through public online dashboards.
  • Accountability: Establishing clear roles and responsibilities is essential to avoid vague utterances and finger-pointing in case decisions go bad.
  • Empowerment: In an environment of rapid and unpredictable change, employee feedback is needed more than ever to keep the ship on a steady course. That means reversing the top-down leadership model and replacing it with small, matrixed organizations where every person has a say.
  • Return of the Civil Service: Having a modular government can actually be quite freeing for the employee who may have otherwise been stuck in a certain job for years at a time without moving.
  • Leadership: Senior executives draw a big salary, and therefore have a lot to lose. Not only that, but if they are let go, the stigma attached is huge. Money plus potential loss of status are a major deterrent to leaders taking the kind of bold actions necessary to transform the government workplace. A better way to handle leadership would be for all senior executives to occupy such spots for a temporary period, then be reassigned to the ranks. This would also create mobility for professionals who have senior leadership potential — and who, given the proper training and experience, might surprise us with what they can achieve.
All opinions my own. Photo by Daniel Iverson via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Analysis: 5 Branding Techniques To Achieve Middle East Peace

1. Name & Positioning 

In branding, you use a name and positioning to establish a unique space for the product or service in the customer's mind, and to ensure that your product will be the first thing the customer thinks of when they're ready to act.

"Middle East peace" is obviously a great name because it intuitively appeals to people and is actually a long-held yet frustrated goal.

As we know, it is impossible to generate a solution from within a problem. Using "Middle East peace" as the brand avoids pitting Israel against Palestinians, or Jews against Muslims, East against West, etc. It is only about the choice of creating peace or living in perpetual war.

Everybody can agree on this. How would you describe it? What is it's "position?" Well, "it's like being able to wake up in the morning, except you're not afraid that someone will blow your head off in the street or stab you to death."

2. Relevance

In branding, you want to show how your product or service is both important to the customer and better than any other choice the customer already has. This is sort of like positioning, except you are explicitly placing a higher value on your product or service.

If "Middle East peace" is the brand, the competition can obviously be articulated as "Middle East conflict." But that would be too simple. The real "alternatives" are essentially:
  • Religion - whether that "holy war" be the property of the Israelis or the Palestinians.
  • Ideology - "Zionism" or "Palestinian Liberation" and their spinoffs, e.g. the BDS (Boycott/Divestiture/Sanctions) movement.
  • "International Law" - which is used as a sword with which to advance the grievances of both sides.
Of course, religion, ideology and international law all matter. But from a branding point of view it can and should be argued that the larger product, which is peace, is a more viable and valuable alternative and needs to be established as having a higher value than either holy war or international law.

The most obvious way to do this is to argue that peace is the foundation upon which all other societal structures are built. Humanity cannot exist in an orderly form otherwise.

3. Vision, Mission and Values

Every decent brand has three things: a vision statement, which articulates the abstract goal it strives for; a mission statement, which states how it plans to get there, and values, which provide the infrastructure for behaviors that support the mission.

In the case of branding Middle East peace, the vision can be encapsulated as "optimal living conditions characterized by the absence of armed conflict." With respect to convincing people of this vision, it can be argued that "saving lives" is a value that unites humanity across religions.

The mission in support of this vision is to do things that save lives.

The values associated with peace include: tolerance, sustainability, compassion, and even justice. It is just both to save lives and to increase quality of life across the board.

4. Audience Research & Segmentation

In branding it is important to establish who you're talking to and what motivates them. When it comes to "Middle East peace" as a brand, we are obviously talking to very different kinds of people at the same time.

Here are three major audience segments that need convincing:

  • Western-educated, progressive liberals
  • Radical Islamic terrorists 
  • Fundamentalist Jews 

One of the mistakes people make when it comes to segmentation is to judge their audience in a positive or negative manner, when the goal is simply to understand the way they think.

Another is to forget to segment the audience, and to talk to one party just the same as you would talk to the other.

Focus on the other party, and you're more likely to succeed at convincing them.

This isn't very complicated: Find out what triggers or motivates the audience and then talk to that. There are several major themes here:

  • Respect
  • Security
  • Access to holy sites
  • Sustainability
  • Money
For example, why would a radical Islamic terrorist be interested in peace? Maybe because they won't get any money if they continue funneling foreign aid to terror tunnels.

How about fundamentalist Jews? Because the international community won't support any stance that fails to adequately consider the long-term sustainability of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples.

5. Mirroring & Motivation

In communication it is well known that when you want to convince someone of something, you would do well to dress like them and talk like them.

In the context of Middle East peace, it is important not only to tailor one's message and language to the audience, but also to customize the method of delivery appropriately.

If you're talking to religious Jews for example, send someone who knows not only policy but halacha (Jewish law).

If you're talking to a Palestinian in Gaza, send someone in respectful (e.g. covered-up) dress who is familiar with the ways in which Palestinians experience life today, including stark poverty, indoctrination, drastic social presand implicit and explicit threats for any sort of "collaboration" with Israel.


All opinions are the author's own.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Where Men Are People & Women, Dolls: A Review Of Ridley Scott's "The Martian"

An otherwise outstanding movie is marred by the pervasive portrayal of men as complicated, three-dimensional beings versus women who exist mostly to nod their heads and smile.

Matt Damon of course is phenomenal. As NASA Astronaut Mark Watley, stranded on Mars after a mission gone bad, he breathes life into the role of a man whose training, ingenuity and attitude wind up saving his life.

Supported by an exceptional cast of men and women alike, Damon captures the soaring spirit upon which NASA itself was founded. On a broader level we can see the vision of President John F. Kennedy at work, one in which all of humankind work together to solve impossible problems, making life on Earth better for all.

Situated as it is in an environment of growing chaos and terror in the real world, “The Martian” offers a world-uniting way. Rather than competing, we can cooperate to solve the kinds of stubborn and pressing problems that keep all of us from realizing our dreams.

Solve one problem after another, one foot in front of the other, using all the skills at our disposal and all the creativity of the team, and we have a chance of making it.

Or as Watley says: “In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option. I'm gonna have to science the s**t out of this.”

Watching Damon’s performance, I couldn’t help but think of Sandra Bullock and her outstanding performance as Ryan Stone in “Gravity.” In both movies, we get to see through a normally impenetrable armor -- the carefully crafted persona of the scientist. We see them human, suffering, crying, racking their brains to survive while also preparing for an imminent death.

Unlike “Gravity,” however, the action in “The Martian” centers as much on the culture of NASA as on the astronaut - or at least that culture as director Ridley Scott imagines it.

And this is where the movie goes off the rails where gender is concerned. For the female characters in this movie, unlike the men, are nothing more than bobble heads, nodding at things the men say while periodically uttering a word or two.

Kristen Wiig as media relations chief Annie Montrose is the most obvious example. Why, oh why would you reduce such a powerful, versatile female character actress to a mannequin? There’s Annie, wearing a black suit without a turtleneck. There she is, with. Now she’s onstage at the press conference. Now she’s saying, “We’re not letting you in front of a microphone ever again.” And in the most degrading sequence, she actually has to stand there as a small object is flicked on her forehead during the course of a meeting with the NASA director.

It is not that the women in the movie occupy traditional female roles, low-level jobs, or are portrayed as crazy or incompetent. Thankfully those old Hollywood stereotypes aren’t here. It is that, unlike the men, the females are not granted the privilege of being human.

The men in this movie are all kinds of interesting. Here’s Jeff Daniels as NASA Director Teddy Sanders, dealing with the President, the media, and the scientists whose creativity make or break the program. He’s got mutiny from the one and genius from the other and has to keep his head on straight throughout.

There’s Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson, the head of the crew, who makes good decisions and bad decisions and is tormented by them all.

There’s Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, in charge of Mars Missions, trying desperately to save one man, confounded by the sheer number of variables involved in accomplishing that task while keeping the space program afloat at the same time.

On and on it goes...there’s Benedict Wong as Bruce Ng, head of the Jet Propulsion Lab, operating on a timeline that grows shorter by the day. As a character we are with him as he scratches his head and labors and sweats to do what is asked, trying not to reveal worry rising to the level of panic.

But the women are so simple, and untroubled, and bland. Jessica Chastain plays Melissa Lewis, head of the Mars crew. She is standard-issue “strong yet feminine” all the way, nothing surprising there and not one word comes out of her mouth that would surprise you. Kate Mara plays Beth Johanssen, “the geek” and the most interesting thing about her is a sexuality that seems unorthodox at first, but by the end is rather unsurprising.

On and on the story goes. It’s well-told, it’s exciting, it made me laugh and lifted my heart and more than once I cried.

But I walked out of the movie theater with a bad taste in my mouth, too. It’s the “woman problem,” that big blob of issues that seems to come up over and over again and just as frequently gets shoved aside.

Ridley Scott is a phenomenal director whose most notable characters inspire feminist dreams. Who can forget Demi Moore as the you-will-never-break-me Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil in “G.I. Jane?” Or Sigourney Weaver as the ultimate warrior hero in “Alien,” Warrant Officer/Lieutenant Ellen Ripley?

“The Martian” suffers from its lack of dimensional women. It’s not about affirmative action for the cast. It is about making art that speaks honestly to the viewer.

For me, the lack of human-ness in the representation of female characters in “The Martian” caused the movie to fall a bit flat.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.
Federal communicator and co-founder, All Things Brand

Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D., is a visionary thought leader, writer, speaker, social networker, federal communicator and co-founder of the best practices portal All Things Brand. She is the author of several books, including 125 Questions & Answers About Branding and Beyond Brand Transparency, and a regular contributor to such industry journals as BrandChannel and Journal of Brand Management. Blumenthal was formerly an executive at the Institute for Brand Leadership and Young & Rubicam’s The Intelligence Factory/Brand Futures Group. Within the federal government, she has spearheaded outreach campaigns and built brands across several agencies. All opinions are her own and do not reflect those of her agency or the federal government as a whole.


Topic: Entertainment

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Today on All Things Brand: Proof That Most Employees Have No Allegiance To Your Brand [Infographic]

Check out the startling stats here.

Proof That Most Employees Have No Allegiance To Your Brand [Infographic]

Still think employee engagement has nothing to do with keeping your brand alive?
Possibly that is true – if your brand can be delivered by robots instead of people. reports on research from employee engagement firm Achievers:
  • Nearly 3 out of 4 employees (71%), don’t know their company’s mission (and 68% say it isn’t motivating to them)
  • Fully 7 out of 10 (70%) don’t know what their company’s values are
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) say they don’t feel recognized for their progress work
  • About half (48%) are unhappy at work
  • Less than half (42%) trust their company’s leaders
  • Only about one-third (37%) said they like their company culture
Is it any wonder that half of the people surveyed believe they will be ex-employees just one year from today?
Check out the full infographic.
All opinions are the author’s own. Photo by Kevin McShane / Flickr (Creative Commons).