What’s in a Name? Four B2B Naming Pitfalls to Avoid

Do you know if your company’s name and identity are holding it back? Too often, a business’ name does not communicate the company’s focus, or a business has settled for name that is cumbersome, hard to remember and difficult to match to URLs.

To create a successful business name, avoid the following pitfalls.

Pitfall No. 1: Wishy-Washy Criteria

Too many naming exercises base success on whether the “right” person likes it or not. But the key to a good name is more than key people liking it — even if those people are the CEO or president. The first step to creating a name that resonates is having a list of criteria it needs to meet. Here’s an example. The name must:

  • Be memorable and evoke the brand feel and aspirations
  • Have an aspirational quality: a certain “bigger than your average business” sound
  • Sound different from other businesses, similar or otherwise, so there’s no confusion when searching for it

Every team member must agree to these and other criteria as a baseline for a successful name. Establishing such criteria mitigates the possibility that “likes” and “don’t likes” will drive decisions. Instead, the stage is set for future discussions in which name choices can be made according to whether they match the criteria.

Pitfall No. 2: Lack of Brainstorming Methodology

Typically, companies often gather the best minds and creative thinkers to brainstorm for a name. They come up with dozens of names – written on white boards, scribbled on pieces of paper, sent around via email and text in rapid-fire succession. They leave lists on each other’s desks, call each other with the excited “what about…?” and kick around the pros and cons of an ever-changing list of favorites.

Many of these tactics make sense and should be part of the creative process. But, unfortunately, brainstorming names without methodology often leads to creative ruts.

Strong methodology harnesses and guides creative powers in a purposeful, productive manner. At Mower, we intentionally steer team members away from looking for final name candidates from the start. The brainstorming journey includes group exercises, individual exercises and a process designed to keep the team from getting hung up. This disciplined approach can lead to a significant list of names that work according to the established criteria.

Pitfall No. 3: Rapid or Random Dissemination

Many strong names die as victims of rapid or random dissemination. The naming team gets excited about its finalists and decides to present the list to one or more decision-makers. Perhaps a meeting is set up or a group email string is started, with language such as: “We have come up with a shortlist of five name candidates. Here they are. Let us know what you think.” A quick response, such as “none of these do it for me,” can send the team back to its starting point after weeks or months of work.

In terms of time and energy, the cost of such failures is astronomical.

“Reference dependence” provides insight into why such approaches don’t work. Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate in economics and author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” writes:

“…reference dependence is ubiquitous in sensation and perception. The same sound will be experienced as very loud or quite faint, depending on whether it was preceded by a whisper or by a roar. …Similarly, you need to know about the background before you can predict whether a gray patch on a page will appear dark or light.”

We understand that when presenting any work, especially something as subjective as a name, we need to anchor each decision-maker’s reference point. It’s important to bring the decision-maker from whatever frame of reference they might have had before looking at a name to a new frame of reference appropriate for evaluation. This includes:

  • Taking them through all the steps of the process
  • Listing the agreed-upon criteria front and center
  • Presenting each name carefully with its interpretations, trademark issues, potential URLs, etc.

With their reference point adjusted, the conversation stays focused on whether a name works based on the established criteria for success rather than simply if they like it.

Pitfall No. 4: Careless Rollout

A careless rollout might look like the following letter or email:

Dear Company,

We have chosen a new name for our geothermal division. We’ll update you soon about what it will look like and any tagline we come up with. We hope you like it.

Jane Doe

CEO

Just as you need to take decision-makers through a journey to help them appreciate and decide among name candidates, you must take internal — and eventually external — audiences through their own journey.

The most important part will be helping employees understand what’s special about a new name and how it advances the company’s goals. This will ensure that the new name will create a surge of enthusiasm among employees who feel a new energy about the organization and its purpose, rather than creating headaches. For many companies, this is tantamount to rebirth. It should be reflected in marketing materials and new outreach to prospects and customers.

For instance, in one renaming and rebranding initiative, we heard that employees were extremely excited about one particular device. It was a single page split into two columns where the left-hand side had bullet points under the heading “We are,” and the right-hand side offered insight into “We aren’t.” This helped employees in numerous ways that they could understand and use — from how they answered the phone to their enthusiasm about collaborating with superiors.

Coming up with a name is never easy. Yet, we’ve learned through experience that a disciplined approach will maximize the chance for success, not only in choosing a name but also in raising energy and enthusiasm with stakeholders at all levels of the business.

 

What’s a Facebook user to do? Acknowledge the reality of a flawed platform that we’re still going to use

By Steve Bell and Allie Friedman

Google [itself a provider of opportunities for intrusion] the phrase “What should people do about Facebook now?” and the first page of responses is all about getting off Facebook.

None are from this month, or recent days, however, when the revelations about Cambridge Analytical stealing your data emerged.

So, don’t say you weren’t warned. It’s called Facebook. Its DNA doesn’t have a privacy gene. And since it first appeared, critics of all persuasions warned it was a deal with the devil.

But, indeed, what do businesses and individuals do now?

Facebook rushed out new options to provide “more” control over privacy, and make it easier to find them. An NPR story from March 28 also notes that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg solemnly promised improved privacy options – in 2010. How’d that work out for you?

Face reality here. No one’s putting the Facebook genie back in the bottle. We may worry about air pollution and global warming, but most of us still drive a car. We know running will lead to injuries, but we still run. We may not love our jobs, but we need the money.

Point is, even if you’re not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and LinkedIn, even if you don’t have a smartphone and stay off the internet, your information is still out there for the plundering.

If you are a company or a non-profit, a school or college, your information is available in public. What can you do? Be smart, careful and thoughtful about what you share.

The lawyer and PR person’s admonition goes like this: “Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink.” And former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer added “never put it in email” – advice he apparently could not follow.

NPR reported that Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan and Deputy General Counsel Ashlie Beringer said: “We’ve heard loud and clear that privacy settings and other important tools are too hard to find and that we must do more to keep people informed.”

The changes make it easier for users to see what information they’ve shared, delete certain personal information and control ads that they see, according to NPR.

In the end, will businesses leave Facebook in any meaningful numbers? Not likely. Nor will individuals. The very currency Facebook prints its billions on is your information. It’s not going to stop mining that data. To expect otherwise is like telling a tobacco company to sell a healthy cigarette. A business or a person can limit access, but it’s counter-intuitive to think for a moment that you could stay private and stay on Facebook.

Or, that if you were to leave Facebook that your information would somehow migrate to a vault only you can open.

Facebook started and spread like the flu with the idea of sharing. We share where and what we eat; what we buy; where we vacation; what our children do; what we think today; what we love and what angers us.

Expecting Facebook not to share this information is like waiting for a subway train with no other passengers. Not going to happen.

In 2015, the Pew Research Center found that 83 percent of mothers and 74 percent of fathers say they agree or strongly agree that they get parenting information from social media. Where is Amazon, Kimberly-Clark, Earth’s Best, Baby Bjorn and Beech-Nut going to seek and find these parents?

What’s the key to the success of Amazon and Google? Data. How did Spotify turn the music business upside down? Data. All of these global companies that attract millions of users leverage the information they get from them, whether it’s the products they buy, the songs they listen to or the places for which they search.

That’s not a secret. And it’s most certainly not stopping people from online shopping. It’s part of what you sign up for when you download an app, create an email account or type “where to eat dinner downtown.” Whether you like or it not, it’s the world we live in today and we can’t place all of the blame on the company.

Even the supposed solution to, or inoculation against, Facebook’s sharing too much information is #deleteFacebook. It’s a hashtag, people. You’re sharing a decision on social media about leaving social media?

We know soft drinks are unhealthy; we know too much beer or wine is dangerous; we know cars crash and household cleaners are fatal if swallowed.

Reforms are needed in Facebook’s operations. Social – there’s that word again – pressure will drive change. The Federal Trade Commission may institute new rules and protections. And, Facebook itself, having lost almost $50 billion in market capitalization on paper in two days last week, will adjust.

Be wary, however, not of Facebook today, but what’s next. You can start your car with a phone app; you have a Google Home or Amazon Alexa at your house or Apple’s Siri on your phone and in your car; you may even have a camera in your refrigerator so you can see from the supermarket aisle if you need milk.

What’s next should be the bigger concern.

For more information:

https://digiday.com/media/facebook-has-a-real-problem-nbcuniversal-ceo-steve-burke/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=digidaydis&utm_source=publishing&utm_content=180328

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/technology/personaltech/social-media-timeline.html

Community Building 101: The Acid Test Every Message, Blog Post, Tweet and Idea Must Pass

If you’re in business, you understand value. You ensure every action adds value to your business goals or bottom line. But do you evaluate your community-building initiatives as stringently?

Why social communities are important

Social communities can make or break your business. Whether you’re in B2B or B2C, there’s no better way to “cut through the clutter” than having a community of customers, prospects and influencers that has your back.

Social communities are valuable and can be your brand’s strongest advocates. They can also be a big driver for bringing in new customers. CrossFit and SoulCycle are both great example of using the social aspect of their brands to differentiate themselves in an otherwise crowded market.

But social communities don’t happen overnight.

First, choose the right audience for your specific cause or topic. This is where customer service is crucial, no matter the business or industry. This is the group that should remain at the center of all your marketing and community initiatives. Some quick, but important, questions to ask include:

  • Is the audience appropriate for your business?
  • Has your audience changed since you first started building a community?

Keep in mind that irrelevant, legacy audiences can be a source of blind headaches when they voice their disappointment in the way the company has changed. On the flip side, relevant legacy audiences can be your best friends – especially in times of trouble.

Once you’ve nailed down your audience, you’re ready to nurture your budding community with these four methods:

Listen

If you’re not engaged in social media listening, you’re missing out on tons of insights about the people who are actively talking about your industry and brand. Keep track of what the top influencers and prospects in your industry are reading and sharing. What hashtags are they using? What types of content are they sharing? What do their bios look like? What are their pain points?

Autonomy

While you want to control every aspect of the community-building efforts, you can’t. Control what you can and act responsibly, but know that at time you need to let your community develop organically. Allow your newfound audience to build its own momentum.

Engagement

Once you’ve kept an eye on the pulse of activity within the community, opportunities to engage will present themselves. Ask and answer questions, comment on their posts, like their activities, share their content and follow them back. Over time, they’ll notice your engagement and appreciate it – and they will likely return the favor.

Reward

People love rewards and they love validation of their actions. Go ahead and thank people for sharing your content. Invite them to company events and webinars. Use your social platforms to maximize brand loyalty by first engaging your social community. Let them be the first to know about your brand’s news, rewards programs and more. This creates an exclusivity that people naturally crave. In turn, you can make your social media platforms the place customers are encouraged to refer your business through different contents, recognition and more.

Great! Now What?

It’s easy to forget that your business is not the center of your customers’ universe. Their lives are filled with experiences, information, relationships and stories that have nothing to do with you.

To them, you are an occasional blip on a crowded radar screen — and if you can maintain some frequency to your blip and some relevance to the audience’s radar screen, you’ve done more than most.

Focus on how well you engage those you attract.

Maintain awareness of your audience and how you want it to change over time as you continue to engage your social community.

To do this, we believe every social initiative, down to each tweet, should pass a quick “acid test” to evaluate its strength.

The Community Acid Test Every Message, Blog Post, Tweet and Idea Must Pass

  • Do we believe it?
  • Will it interest at least 50 percent of our target audience members?
  • Will they believe it?
  • Does it in any way risk making an audience member feel disrespected?
  • Will they feel good passing it along?
  • Does it build on themes our audience has already discussed?
  • Do we mind if the audience runs with it?
  • Can it impact the company in any negative way?
  • Does it add value to our audience’s life?
  • Does it help advance our cause or mission?
  • Does it help audience members feel good about their relationship with us?
  • Does it help build positive bias towards our brand in some way?

Depending on the answers to these questions, teams can easily decide whether to move forward with a specific tactical initiative, such as a particular blog post or tweet.

For example, suppose you sell energy recovery ventilation (ERV) technology for HVAC systems. Over time, you’ve built a social community of salespeople, facilities managers, HVAC equipment suppliers and commercial real-estate owners. For these audiences, you can offer tremendous expertise about HVAC, ERV and a host of associated benefits and opinions. You can start discussions about technology, help your audiences understand the competitive landscape and trade-offs, and opine about a wealth of topics ranging from clean-energy installations to various energy efficiency strategies.

As you can imagine, such an acid test varies from industry to industry. Creating and using your own acid test to evaluate your social content will ensure that you add value to the all-important intersection of your organization and your audiences’ lives.

In return, the community will add value to your business for the long term.

Technology & Disruption: 5 Rules of Engagement


Today, innovations in technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence are poised to disrupt a number industries – content marketing included. As unprecedented as it sounds, we’ve seen this many times before.

In 1985, Adobe launched Pagemaker (now known as InDesign), THE app that led to the disruption of advertising, marketing and publishing. Pundits forecasted the death of the designer and writer, as entrepreneurs and marketers began preparing their own ads, brochures and newsletters.

In fact, many of today’s creative directors, content strategists and senior designers all got their start in desktop publishing.

Here’s the thing: the smart agencies adapted.

They mastered the tools and produced designs, content, video and interactive properties that the untrained could never match. Instead of killing professions, this is one of many examples of new technologies fueling the marketing industry with the power to create what had never been imagined.

Now, most of our day-to-day tasks can be automated. Need a mobile site? Google can create it at the push of a button. Need a new display advertising campaign? Push a button in your AdWords account and eight new ads appear – right-sized, well-designed, and likely well-messaged.

What’s left for the humans to do? First, take your head out of the sand. Ignoring reality never helped anyone keep a job. Second, follow these rules when it comes to marketing automation:

While most of us might not think that marketing technology should rule our world, we can benefit from a few rules of engagement. Here are our top five:

  1. Stop resisting: Regularly explore what’s new and how it might contribute to your business and, more importantly, your clients’ marketing goals.
  2. Understand the technology: If a client mentions a popular marketing technology (Marketo, WordStream, HubSpot, Silverpop, etc.) you should know it and be able to speak to its relevance and effectiveness for that client. Otherwise, you’re not doing your job.
  3. Use the technology: Manage a campaign for yourself using new technology. If you specialize in direct marketing, use HubSpot and Marketo, if only to understand how they work. If you help your clients advertise, then you’d better offer a keen understanding of Google AdWords and the technologies that have sprung up around AdWords.
  4. Figure out how your role is changing: For example, AdWords and search have made a huge impact on media planning and advertising. But managing an AdWords campaign, getting the right clicks and keeping your quality score high (among many considerations) isn’t easy. Master this and doors will open.
  5. Understand what the technology is NOT doing: Technology is mostly fact-fed. It lacks the emotional intelligence and empathy humans have and consumers want in the content they consume. 

The human role will never disappear. Mastering new technology will ensure that agencies stay relevant with clients and comfortable with our new marketing partner: the machine.

B2B Success: Going Beyond What You Already Know

You’re constantly thinking about your potential customers. How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do? How much money do they make? What causes do they support? What are their pains, and what kinds of budgets do they have to address those pains?

Here’s a quick exercise. Look at the following examples and try to come up with the target audience for each:

  1. SolarRetailer sells end-to-end photovoltaic systems to retailers who operate their own buildings.
  2. EarthWindFire sells lobby kiosks to schools and universities, where the kiosk and its screen provide insight into a building’s renewable energy systems and performance.
  3. BizWind sells small wind turbines and associated equipment to building owners and managers who want to add renewable energy to their buildings.

Obviously, the target audiences are:

  1. Retailers with their own buildings/locations
  2. Schools and universities
  3. Building owners and managers

Are these audiences important? Yes. Should their needs and desires determine all the marketing efforts? Probably not, but many companies focus only on a limited view of a target audience. That’s normal.

We’re fairly myopic creatures in many ways, as Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman shows in his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” As he puts it, “familiarity is more important than truth,” and usually your target audience is very familiar to you. In the book, Kahneman coins the term WYSIATI, or “what you see is all there is,” to describe the human tendency to jump to conclusions and be overconfident about those conclusions.

We see this all the time in marketing, and many marketers use the following arguments (excuses) to support their minimally researched conclusions:

  • We already understand our target audience. We’ve been working with these folks for years, and we know exactly how they think.
  • We don’t have time or money to do research that will simply confirm what we already know.

We’ve learned that even when there’s no time or money to do research, we can still devote mental energy to question our assumptions. To do this, ask questions and use simple mechanisms to guide our thinking. One of those mechanisms requires us to frame the notion of “audience” differently in the B2B landscape. Instead of analyzing the target audience, we focus on the audience’s audience(s). In other words, when we work with a client, we spend part of our time thinking how that client’s customers need to impress their own customers. In the B2B world, all our clients’ customers have their own customers.

In the above examples, this means we need to target as follows:

  • For SolarRetailer, we must target people who might favor shopping at a store location that uses renewable energy, not just the retail store who is our client’s customer.
  • For EarthWindFire, we need to focus on students, parents, administrators and municipal stakeholders who might pass through a school or university’s lobby, not just the school or university who will purchase the EarthWindFire kiosk.
  • For BizWind, we need to look at businesses and individuals who favor renting space in buildings that offer clean energy or other “green” features, not just the building managers and owners who will purchase the wind-energy installations.

For example, when considering the customer’s customer, the SolarRetailer marketing team will move away from a strict focus on system cost and ROI for retailers. More importance will be given to the compelling look of SolarRetailer installations as seen from the ground. The marketing team might even develop posters and literature that come with the system, informing consumers about the store’s system and its benefits, such as cutting its carbon footprint. Perhaps EarthWindFire will be brought in to place a kiosk in the retailer’s lobby, showing consumers what the PV system is yielding in real-time with cool graphs and carbon-footprint calculations.

Such marketing and messaging will send a clear signal to the retail store’s decision-maker when it comes to purchasing a PV system: SolarRetailer is thinking on my behalf and giving me something that my own customers will love.

We must avoid limiting ourselves to thinking of audiences as “business-to-business.” Instead, we segment in the following manner:

  • B2B – Our client targets businesses that use its products and services to help run their own business more intelligently and efficiently.
  • B2B2B – Our client targets businesses that sell to other businesses. Our client’s attributes and messages can impact how their customers sell to those businesses.
  • B2B2C – Our
    client targets businesses that sell to consumers. Our client’s attributes and messages can impact how their customers sell to those consumers. (The fictional SolarRetailer fits into this category.)
  • B2Gov – Our client targets local, regional, state or federal governments to influence those bodies with messages that will eventually reach or help end users.
  • B2B2Gov – Our client targets businesses that sell into local, regional, state or federal governments. Our client’s attributes and messages can impact how its customers sell to those bodies.

Knowing that we often create our opinions and make decisions in a WYSIATI way, the above nomenclature provides an easy way to get us out of the “what we see” mindset.

In B2B marketing, your customers must always impress their own customers. Thinking about the latter set will help you message most effectively to your own customers and give them tools beyond your products and services to succeed in their businesses.

Epidemic Models and Your Brand’s Story

Think of the last influential brand story you came in contact with. Got one? Perfect. Need a little help? How about Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the eccentric Old Spice Guy? Now keep those in mind.

The mathematical theory used to predict the spread of diseases is known as epidemic models. The simplest model has two parts, an infection rate (the spread of infection from contagious to non-contagious) and a removal rate (the rate at which those infected become no longer contagious), each with a given value of 0 to 1. After the introduction of one infected individual and a removal rate of 0, the disease follows what is known as a logistics curve.
logistics curveThe infection spreads and slowly gains traction. As more and more become infected, the curve turns upward and eventually reaches a plateau as those who are contagious come in contact with less and less of those who are not.

Now think back to Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty or the The Old Spice Guy. Graph their virality and you will have an outcome very similar to the logistics curve.

The concept is released, the sharing starts and the story begins its ascent as engagement rises. Bouncing from person-to-person, this is the most important stage of engagement. If the removal rate begins to rise, the story never reaches its potential audience and sizzles out to a standstill. With a successful story, it eventually clogs your news feed and maxes out on what’s trending. The story reaches its maximum potential contagious users.

What makes these stories different from the one you told last weekend? The difference is that these stories stick with their audience because they are memorable, vivid and tellable. The Old Spice Guy can be easily communicated to others. The concept is loud, causing a reaction and a connection. With a strong infection rate and a low removal rate, more individuals come in contact with the story and share its message.

A brand’s story is inseparable to its identity. An infectious story will stick with a brand—positive or negative. The Domino’s Pizza Turnaround is a wonderful example of a brand’s identity overcoming negativity through a story their users can connect with. Whether or not you choose to eat Domino’s, the story is crafted to be shared and remembered.

There is no formula for virality, but a memorable story starts at the first infection.

A Year Without Connecting

connecting

I like being known as a connector.

While it’s a term open to various definitions, I see it as that person who develops relationships that bring value to others in one’s network. And yes, sometimes it brings value to the connector directly – maybe it’s a piece of new business or a favor repaid. But that is incidental; those who connect solely for personal gain are merely takers, not givers.

For me, connecting is about being present, being available, being unselfish. It’s hard to maintain all those qualities, and I’ve known many for whom those are unattainable attributes.

The benefits have been wonderful.  I’ve connected clients with similar interests or opportunities to complement each other somehow. I’ve connected friends with groups where I feel they can offer value. I’ve connected colleagues to new opportunities. For a few years, I was even a Connector, a title bestowed upon a group of 200 or so Boston-area professionals as part of Boston World Partnerships, a networking group with a mission to “inform and connect.”

I love connecting.

But for the past year, I stopped connecting. No networking events. No searching LinkedIn to help find matched interests. No speaking or presenting. No creation of content to share with my network. Nothing.

I even played the least amount of basketball in the last 35 years. (Yes, I’ve made a lot of connections on the court.)

It wasn’t intentional, at least not at first. Connecting does not have an off/on switch. It comes naturally, or it doesn’t. It’s in your blood, part of your mojo.

Last year started with a heavy workload at the office, a lot happening at home, and a commitment to my position as chair of The Freedom Trail Foundation. Something had to give.

So first, I (mostly) cut out networking events. I was heads down, moving fast, getting stuff done at work, at home, for the Trail. It felt good to have free time, to know the end of the work day was not the start of the (net)working night. No early morning Chamber events. No late night mentoring activities. A relaxing summer, enjoying nights on my patio or weekends down the Cape.

And then, I started to feel the gap. Fall approached, and with it the usual parade of events and opportunities and activity that fill up one’s calendar. And still I stayed out, though it was getting harder.

And now, a new year. One in which I plan to connect again. Maybe not with the fervor with which I had participated, but finding opportunities high in value and that re-immerse me.

What did I learn, a year away from connecting? Well, that requires a list of course.

Seven Reasons to Keep Connecting

  • Free time is for later – Connectors fill their schedules; it’s their nature. When away from connecting, find an activity to fill your time. I did a few things: I caught up on some television series I had missed (Blacklist, House of Cards, Jessica Jones); I wrote a book of children’s poetry and actually plan to publish it; I coached 7th grade basketball. So I was busy but in different ways. But that sense of professional satisfaction that comes from connecting was still missing.
  • Nurture your network – Without feeding it, a network can wither. Just this week I got a nice LinkedIn endorsement from an old client and friend. It struck me that we’ve had lunch or breakfast three or four times a year for a decade, yet nothing in the past year. I miss that. Sometimes we just talked about kids, other times we helped each other with professional challenges. So stay ready, friend; I’ll be calling soon.
  • Become helpful to your fellow connectors – You hear things when you are plugged in. Maybe it’s a business opportunity for a client or a committee seat for a colleague. But you miss these opportunities when you are absent. Sometimes just being there is critical.
  • Experience the power of social interaction – When you connect with the right group of people, it’s fun. Socializing with a peer group is comforting and rewarding. Why do you think Norm kept going back to Cheers? Or I keep ending up having drinks with Chad O’Connor?
  • It helps to be known – Connecting is one of the greatest ways to raise the visibility of your organization. Being present at events important to you, your network and your business, generates awareness. And it spurs content creation, like this piece about spring break that I wrote after presenting at the first Master Slam.
  • Social media does not cut it – While I’ve by no means abandoned my network, I’ve kept up with it via social media for the most part – I’m pretty sure I’ve read every @HeyRatty tweet. We share Tweets, or post photos on Instagram and we know who our network is and what they are up to, but it does not match the benefit of having a physical presence. Social is fleeting; attending is meaningful.
  • Connecting is global – My agency’s participation in the IPREX network and my role as marketing chair keeps me focused on ways to help partners connect and engage online and off. I can only help make connections within the network better if I am in full connector mode myself.

So I’ll be there, at networking events, mentoring events, reconnecting with old clients, old friends, and will hopefully do it so it has value for my firm and my fellow connectors. See you out there.

Max Power & Calculating Your Confidence

max-power

In Homer to the Max, Homer Simpson stumbles upon a television show character by the same name. After the character goes through a negative transformation, Homer gets ridiculed for being associated with such a person. In an effort to overcome this, Homer legally changes his name to Max Power. Garnished with compliments about his new identity, Homer embraces it. Improving his image by shopping in high-end retail and befriending the affluent Trent Steele, Homer has convinced himself that his new name improved his lifestyle.

Hubris was Homer’s real identity change. Which may not be as negative as it sounds.

Being overly-confident helps you set and achieve goals that were otherwise unthinkable and seemingly unattainable. Being realistic in your challenges can undermine your ability to meet goals. If you realistically viewed your challenges, there is strong possibility you’d never attempt to overcome them. Allowing yourself to overstate your own abilities can be beneficial in taking a risk you may not have even considered.

Jason Zweig, in his book Your Money and Your Brain, writes that 81% of entrepreneurs gave their own businesses a 7 to 10 chance of success. 33% of entrepreneurs say there is zero possibility their business would fail. Zweig goes on to note, “roughly 50% of new businesses fail within their first five years”. This shows a huge dissociation between perceived success and actual success. Being overconfident in their abilities and challenges allows them to deceive themselves of their own probability of success. Without this mindset, we may have been without such unicorns as Uber or Airbnb. Disrupting the taxi monopoly would have been unthinkable without a dash of over-confidence in Uber’s success. Airbnb was a failing startup before rocketing to success. Confidence in these projects success kept them afloat

Using this knowledge in your daily tasks may not be as reckless at it seems. Calculating your overconfidence is the key to avoiding failure. Do this by asking yourself such questions as: When can I take on more risk to push a project to succeed? When can I tell myself this will not fail (and if it does, not be destroyed along with it)? Being overly-confident can push you over the hills of “It won’t work” and “It’s not feasible”.

In the end, Homer eventually goes back to his original name. I’ll attribute this to a necessity of having the episode end where it started, rather than a lack of confidence.

 

5 Ways the Corporate “Ladder” Is More Like Rock Climbing

Written by Katherine Eckenfels and Erin Mooney

We have all heard the phrase “climbing the corporate ladder.” Many believe career advancement looks like clear-cut rungs that lead straight upward. However, sometimes this path can be a wall full of different options and problems at varying levels – kind of like rock climbing.

      • You learn the art of maintaining balance.
        Picture this – you’re 20 feet off the ground, legs spread as far as they can, holding onto little knobby protrusions coming out of the wall. Sounds like life, right? Let me explain. In order to stay on a rock wall and progress upwards, you have to be balanced. Sometimes this means looking like a starfish, other times one leg is balancing out the opposite arm. Clinging to the wall drains your energy and makes it more difficult to make headway. Similarly, it is crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Exercise, family and relaxation rejuvenate your mind and body and enable you to kick butt at all of those areas in life.
      • You embrace the challenge.
        Coming at the wall or your career with a positive attitude is essential. You need confidence that you are going to get to the top, crush that project, or get a promotion from the onset. Starting a climbing route you’ve never done or going into an interview can be daunting. Resolving to get to the top no matter what will wake up your desire to continue when it gets really difficult. Remind yourself how badass you are. Also – it’s totally normal to sweat.

rock_climbing_partners

      • You will fall.
        You’re climbing a route that you’ve been working on for weeks. No amount of chalk can make your hands stop sweating. You’re tired and losing your grip. Then, a poisonous thought enters your mind— “I can’t do it.” Just like that, you fall. Life is full of setbacks and failure. The symbol of a ladder, however, suggests that you start your career from the bottom and work your way up. Easy right? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but this isn’t Utopia. At some point you will fall. Maybe you’ll lose a big pitch, or maybe you’ll accidentally hit the ‘reply all’ button. Whatever the misstep be, learn to embrace the climb and everything that comes with it. Because the real success comes from the moment you get back up.
      • You build trust.
        Climbing isn’t just about you and the wall, there is also the person at the other end of the rope to make sure you don’t die. (Unless you’re climbing solo, then you’re just plain crazy and let’s be honest you probably will die.) The best teams are those that trust each other and believe in their teammates abilities. In most career fields you have to work with other people, and sometimes those people are the ones that help prevent you from falling.
      • You learn to solve problems.
        In rock climbing each route is called a problem. There’s never one easy way to get to the top and it may take a while to figure out a solution. If you’re in the creative field you can probably relate. When you hit a wall, the best thing you can do is take a step back and get a different perspective. Where did you get stuck? What are all the potential next steps? Once you’ve assessed the situation, you will be well on your way to climbing the top!

Erin transferred from the EMA office in Syracuse to join the Boston team. Katherine and Erin quickly discovered they shared an interest in rock climbing. The two joined a climbing gym and learned to belay together. Now the climbing spirit is spreading through the Boston office.

 

Exploring Business Opportunities in Cuba

We’ve launched a new thought leadership series with our IPREX partners called Global Perspectives. Each month we will look at a global issue and share our perspective on the business implications and communications challenges involved with the selected topic.

Our first Global Perspectives tackles the changes in Cuba.

Read below for thoughts on doing business into Cuba from IPREX partners around the world.

IPREXGlobalPerspective_Cuba

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEIJING  “Closer economic ties between Cuba and the U.S. are to be welcomed, especially as global trading patterns are evolving and becoming much more multilateral. Chinese trade with Latin America has grown rapidly in recent years, surpassing US $258 billion in 2014.

“China is the second-largest trading partner of many countries including Argentina and Cuba, and a primary source of credit. That is a massive change from 1990s, when China ranked just 17th on the list of Latin American export destinations.”  Maggie Chan, Director, Greater China, Newell PR

 

BERLIN – “Cuba is a country in transition – that is the impression of two ORCA executives who travelled the country in October and December 2015. A number of small but profound changes are transforming everyday life on the Caribbean island. Small business is gaining ground, Cubans are becoming private employers, and tourism is booming; new resorts are popping up on wonderful beaches. The run on the Cuban market has already begun.

“The German Vice Chancellor recently visited the island, accompanied by a business delegation 60-strong, with the aim to boost economic cooperation. He emphasized that “German firms can offer Cuba very good solutions, particularly in the fields of energy, health, machinery and plant engineering.” As specialists in public diplomacy, we can assist with these development opportunities.  Michael T. Schröder, Managing Director, ORCA Affairs

Cuba1

 

DALLAS  “While U.S. restrictions have eased for certain industries, it is only the first step on a much longer road to normalized U.S.-Cuba relations. There are still strict regulations regarding how U.S. businesses must operate in Cuba.

“It is important that businesses beginning to serve the Cuban marketplace choose a partner that understands the complexities of a market that has been off-limits to Americans for 50 years.” Jody Venturoni, Partner, LDWWgroup

 

FORT LAUDERDALE  “How to do business with Cuba is a major topic of interest in South Florida, where conversations are happening between Cuban and American entrepreneurs.  While the Castro dictatorship understandably remains a source of outrage for Cuban-Americans and others, President Obama’s reopening of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba and allowing certain types of trade has generated tremendous interest in the business community.

“Cuba’s potential for airlines, cruise lines, hotels and other travel-related companies is obvious, but will not be realized until the embargo is lifted. Meanwhile, companies of all sizes should focus on cultural exchange and philanthropic work to build the relationships and brand recognition they will need when trade barriers are removed.” Jane Grant, President, Pierson Grant Public Relations

Cuba2

 

MADRID – “Cuba is still a very special economy with two currencies. A gigantic state apparatus controls the commercial activity with a bureaucracy typical of a country that is not democratic. Therefore, any company that wants to invest there must keep in mind some peculiarities.

“Cuba is a country where market prices are imposed, free competition does not exist and tariffs are not the same for everything, even if the imported product is the same. Additionally, the only source of news is the government. Cuba will be a good country in which to invest, but not yet.” Mayte González-­Gil, CEO, poweraxle and IPREX EMEA President

 

MEXICO CITY  “The relaunch of relations between Mexico and Cuba is related to the deepening project of updating the economic and social model driven by President Raul Castro in his country. During May 2014, a Mexican business mission formed by 68 Mexican businessmen representing 48 companies took place. This is a clear sign that opportunities are coming.”Horacio Loyo Gris, Co-Founder, Dextera Comunicación

Cuba3

 

NEW YORK  “The richness and worldwide popularity of Cuban music begs interesting business opportunities that may be had by activating and empowering the island’s wide array of talent and intellectual property in the field.

“Exploring partnerships with U.S. brands and makers of musical instruments and pro audio equipment, U.S. agencies may be able to enter Cuban markets and in turn capitalize on the opportunities to produce, promote and help develop Cuban artists in a worldwide stage, also using them for marketing, PR campaigns and content, much like Win Wenders and co. did with the Buena Vista Social Club, minus all the trade restriction headaches he endured at the time!”  Raul Gonzalez, Director, RGAA PR, a partially-owned subsidiary of French/West/Vaughan

 

SAN FRANCISCO  “Cuba is a long way from becoming a priority consumer market for U.S. companies. Most Cubans make an average of $20 per month. Other emerging markets with an established middle class offer opportunities to U.S. companies without as much uncertainty. However, one of the biggest opportunities for U.S. companies is in the Cuban travel sector. European and Canadian hotels have been doing business in Cuba for years.

“Given its geographic location, U.S. travel would benefit from entering the Cuban market. U.S. companies entering the Cuban market will have a need in Cuba for public affairs, employee recruitment and employee communications. These U.S. companies will also have a need for issues management here in the U.S., as some opposition remains (among Cuban-Americans) toward U.S. companies doing business in Cuba.”  Juan F. Lezama, Director, Mosaico, the Latino Division of Fineman PR

Read more perspectives in IPREX Voices: http://www.iprex.com/iprexvoices/