Elevate your leadership communication

Communication is important. And if you are a leader even more so. Understanding how to be a great communicator can make all the difference. There are many elements to being a  communicator. Here are just a few highlights:Fireball_XL5

It’s all about personalization
Leadership is no longer about issuing corporate communications. It is about being personal. That is why it is important to develop relationships with the people in your team and organization. Think dialog not monologue. Make sure to ask the right questions and don’t forget to read between the lines. Just by watching and listening you can raise your organizational awareness immensly.

Listen. Really Listen
When we think of communication, we often think of talking. Listening is often overlooked although it is the most important princliple of great communication. You will never have a meaningful conversation if all you do is to broadcast. Even worse if all you do is broadcast the same messages. When you start to stop moving your lips and start to open your ears, you are on the right path to becoming a skilled communicator.

Keep an open mind
When your opinion matters more than anyone else’s then you stop listening. You stop learning. And you are closed off to new opportunities. There is nothing to fear about hearing other people’s opinions even if they may be dissenting to yours. Rather see it as an opportunity to challenge your way of thinking and to grow. At the end of the day it is not the opinion that matters, but the willingness to discuss it with an open mind.

Empathy is the new ego
Ego is not necessarily a bad thing, but if it only brings out the best in you but not in other people you have failed at being a good leader. Good communication is about being authentic and transparent. To do that you need to communicate with empathy and not arrogance.

Communication is so important. I see it every day. If we can get it right, we can build great teams and accelerate our business.

Millenial Activation

Yesterday I had the pleasure to speak at the ISPO Communication Day in Munich — part of ISPO, the world’s largest sports industry trade show. ispoMy topic was on which social media channel fits your story. And while you cannot be on every single social platform out there, you should at try to do at least 2 or 3 well. But more importantly today with so much happening in the social media sphere, the need to engage with millenials is becoming more and more apparent. They are becoming a major influencing factor for brands, trends, and markets. In the US alone they have close to $200 billion purchasing power each year. With social media being the environment they thrive in, time for brands to start building relationships with them there.


Authenticity is key

Ok, we all know that authenticity is key to humanizing your brand. But for millenials it is especially so. Last year, Forbes reported that 43% of millennials rank authenticity over content. The same report found that 62% of millennials are more likely to become a loyal customer if a brand interacts with them on social media. Because of how ingrained social platforms have become in our behaviour, audiences are more informed, aware and empowered than ever before. Social media has made us more cynical and more critical of what brands are doing. We can’t as easily be won over by a glossy ad – particularly digital natives who are increasingly more likely to prefer YouTube content over TV. So brands need to be transparent and honest.

You need to understand “dark social”

Want to market to millenials? Then you need to get acquainted with the term dark social. More and more consumers are conducting their conversations in private and share links away from major social platforms. They are taking to the likes of Snapchat, WhatsApp or other messaging apps. These are becoming new, opportunistic venues where brands could potentially start to engage in conversations that aren’t interruptive. Did you know that there are nearly 4 billion global active users of messaging apps, from WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to WeChat and Kik? In fact, the top five apps in the world in terms of frequency of use are all messaging apps.

Move into unchartered waters

Most of us marketeers know that millenials don’t care for traditional advertising. They’re totally unaffected by it. That’s why social media marketing is such a big deal. The product is almost irrelevant. It’s the brand you have to sell, and social media is one of the best ways to do that. And while Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been (and still are) highly successful when it comes to brand awareness, none of them offer the same level of value and authenticity that Snapchat does. Snapchat has over 200 million users. With over 7 billion video views per day. Of course you cannot deliver large-scale conversations on Snapchat but maybe we need to follow our audience into unchartered marketing waters even if it would be nicer to stick to platforms we are used to and feel safe on. Maybe we do not know exactly the best way to use these one-on-one platforms yet but there are many brands that are already exploring. Content like product launches, behind-the-scenes. all unfiltered and happening in the now. Making the brand totally transparent and authentic with the potential of creating deeper, more personal relationships. And even if right now we may not have the mechanics to easily track these conversations, I am sure they will be coming sometime during 2016.

Influencers have the power

“People buy from people, not brands” – according to findings 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other users even if they may not know them. That is why it is important to understand how your brand is perceived out there. So think influencer marketing. Influencers have thepower when it comes to marketing services and products. Consumers today trust recommendations from family, friends, and social media influencers more than any type of paid marketing. And when someone is happy with your brand, they will share this with their social networks. The effect is unparalleled to any other marketing tool we have.

And don’t forget the IoT

Today’s world is becoming more and more connected. And millenials are expecting brands to be connected and able to offer them seamless person-to-digital experiences and interactions. Brands will need to move away from being interruptive and seeing themselves as a broadcaster to actually offering personalized solutions. Think of something alongside a reminder being sent to order an Uber to pick up your date for that restaurant reservation you have Friday night. Or which SPF cream to use for today’s sunshiny weather.

Nielsen’s ‘Trust In Advertising’ survey results

Even with the advent of digital marketing and big data, we still struggle to see how effective some types of advertising are and how to best allocate our advertising spend. Nielsen has just released their Global Trust in Advertisement survey to see where trust lies when it comes to advertisement and which platforms fare the best.

Very interesting to see that the most credible advertisement still comes from the people we trust most.
8 out of 10 said that they completely or somewhat trusted recommendations made by friends and family. But also consumer opinions posted online were seen as trustworthy by two-thirds of those polled. Branded websites came in second as most-trusted format and millenials were the group that showed the highest trust in most advertisment formats and channels.


Social Media requires integration

Social media has not only had a major influence on society, but also on business, disrupting organizations for the past 10 years. Today, more and more companies have integrated social media into their marketing communications as a means of customer engagement. Now that the basics have been mastered, it no longer is about scaling social engagement but rather about focussing on partnering inwards as well as outwards.

Social media requires leadership

A social media strategy needs to work across the organization, across silos, support the company’s digital vision and requires new levels of employee engagement and advocacy. To be able to do this, strong leadership is needed to move social media beyond marketing communication and to create a true social business vision.

Altimeter has released a new analysis on “The 2015 State of Social Business: Priorities Shift from Scaling to Integrating” based on interviews with thought leaders, brands, technology vendors and a survey of 113 strategists (social, digital and/or heads of social) at companies with more than 250 employees.

Here are the most important findings in one infographic:




“Those who tell the stories rule the world”

amazonAt the end of my last MBA course, my students had to give a presentation for their final grade. Their task was to analyze an existing business and make recommendations on what their next strategic steps should be. Seemed pretty straight forward to me. And yet the results were dismal. The worst part was that I sat there wondering if they had ever given a presentation and if they knew how to structure an argument.

Being able to communicate a strategy, a business model or even just a decision is required in every day business life. Whether you are an employee of a small company or a Fortune 500, whether you are working for your family business or are running your own company. Poor communication and presentation skills can sink your brand and your career.

These are just some of the points I jotted down that day:

  1. Be a good storyteller
    It is in our nature to need stories. Since the beginning of time where we all sat around a campfire, people have been fascinated by stories. And with a compelling story we can sell a product, an idea, a brand. That does not mean that you do not need Power Point. But putting together a good presentation deck gives you the ability to tell the story. It helps you walk your audience through an argument that should lead it to a desired conclusion. Like a good novel or film, it gives you and the listener an arch. Of course, there are people out there who are amazing storytellers. Who can get the message across just by purely having a conversation.  But let’s be honest, most of us are not that type. And free speech easily turns into rambling. And that’s a sure guarantee to miss bringing your point across.
  2. Tick Tock
    Regardless of how much time you are given to present – use it and use it wisely. The most important thing (as mentioned above) is that you get all key points across. Here is where a good deck can help you. It will help you control your tempo and make sure you stick to your structure. You want your arguments to build up in order to come to a strong conclusion. Research shows that people retain structured information up to 40% more reliably and accurately than information that is presented in a more freeform manner (Source: Matt Abrahams).You need to take your audience on a journey with a destination. That’s why you should also never jump around in a deck as it will break your flow. If your audience asks a question that is answered later in the deck, tell them.
  3. Don’t disrespect the process
    If you think you can just wing it, think again. The first version will probably never be great. So take another look at it, get outside feedback and rework it. And of course make sure to have dry runs and to practice. At the end of the day it’s a process. Respect it and get better results.
  4. Learn from the best
    I know that Power Point seems old, boring, bureaucratic and the stuff that Dilbert cartoons are made of.  But do some research and you will see that many of the great CEOs and entrepreneurs out there mostly use a presentation deck to deliver their message – just type in Elon Musk Presentation or Jeff Bezos Presentation and you will see what I mean. Watch some TED Talks and see how the great storytellers go about it. Ensuring that you build up your presentation skills, means to ensure that you leave a good impression on your audience.

There’s a Native American proverb that says, “Those who tell the stories rule the world.” So if we want to be good at our jobs we need to make sure we tell them to the best of our ability.

Time to get inspired again

It has been a busy few weeks for me with lots of travel and deadlines to meet. But now that things are finally returning back to normal  over the summer (hopefully!) it is time to get inspired again by all the great innovation going on the world – and not only from a marketer’s perspective!

New technologies are turning the financial world upside down. The WSJ recently wrote “In five years, the biggest banks in the world won’t be banks, they’ll be tech companies.” And right they are. Big tech players in the internet industry like Google, Facebook or Apple are already working on developing alternative payment systems and other innovations for the financial industry. So time for existing financial institutions to get on the wagon. Barclays is a great example of the few players who are taking this trend seriously. For instance, they recently launched “Code Playground”  a website to teaches young people about coding as part of ongoing plans to increase digital skills among its customers. Ticktock on the clock for those who are not yet looking at the disruptive forces in banking.

And of course the Apple Watch. We all know it will have a big impact on marketing and we are seeing many early brand adopters. Like publishers. The New York Times, CNN and The Economist are all making a run to offer us “wrist sized” content. And right they are – while some of us are still wondering why one needs an Apple watch, others are realizing where the web moves to so must your business.

Want to up your  “customer loyalty”? Then  take a look at Marriott’s Mobile App. They have just launched a new feature where guests can make specific requests (as far as 72 hours in advance). Anything from that additional pillow to make you sleep better to getting an extra bottle of shampoo. There’s even a two-way chat feature in case you have a very “specific” request.

Of course we should not snub tweeting potholes or Google’s fragrance emission’s device (yes it’s a wearable that can tell you when you start to smell a bit in the armpitty region) – so if you want to feel inspired as well, take a look at WeAreSocial “Curiosity Stop” for some new impulses. I really have to give them kudos for having formed an internal Innovation Team who scour the world to spot new disruptive forces and seek out the latest innovations and then put it all into this great, little report.

Drones, Messaging and More: Some Insights from Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Report

Screen-Shot-2015-05-27-at-11.30.33-AMIt’s that time of year again (or another year has flown by more like it).Last week Mary Meeker presented once again her deep dive into tech trends. A whooping 197 slides this year, here are my main takeaways about the state of the internet world in 2015:

  • 39% of the world population (or 2.8 billion people) are now on the internet. Getting the remaining 5 billion people connected is a huge business opportunity. We have seen Facebook ( and Google (Project Loon) make inroads. Of course their hope is by giving people in developing countries access to the web, they will become loyal customers.
  • Not really new news: the top internet companies are actually platforms. Think Apple, Google, Alibaba, Facebook and Amazon.
  • Whereas we have already seen massive transformation in the consumer space, great potential for new business opportunities lie in healthcare, education and government.
  • If you live in the US and are an adult, then you spend over 5.6 hours a day on the internet and that mostly via your mobile device. In Europe we are seeing a similar trend. And of course as our attention span gets shorter, we prefer shorter, bite-sized content.
  • And very important for us marketers: while consumers spend most of their time on mobile, ad spend on this medium is not on par. Another huge revenue opening.
  • Video viewing is growing. 9.9 hours a day in the US. And interesting to see that more people watch video vertically than horizontally (think Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram…) – so for content creators this means rethinking how they shoot their videos.
  • Messaging is KING! 6 of the 10 top apps by usage are messaging apps. Another potential opportunity for businesses by offering additional services like taxi, payment or food delivery services (similar to what WeChat is already doing in China). New messaging apps will have a hard time penetrating the market as it will become hard convincing people to join a new network their friends and family are not on.
  • Generation Z is shifting from text to visual social media. Facebook and Twitter are being used less, Snapchat and Instagram more.
  • With technology we are moving more to “just in time” products and services. Think grocery or food delivery, driver services, package pickups. Traditional businesses will become more and more disrupted unless they can find a way to compete with convenience. But online market places as well as on demand services are creating “part time jobs”. AirBnB, Uber  or Etsy allow for supplemental incomes to people’s “regular” jobs. A trend that will continue to grow no doubt.
  • Drones are the new cameras. Fact: There has been 167% year-over year increase in consumer drone sales. But we also need to consider their commercial use. They have the ability to save money for businesses by replacing planes amongst others and worse case could replace human jobs.
  • And finally – millennials are starting to drive the economy. Not only are they an important consumer group that marketers need to consider in their strategies, but also employers. Millennials have grown up connected to the internet and expect their working experience to offer that same flexibility.

Of course working a lot with clients in the financial industry, what is missing for me is more insight into how the finance and banking sector is and will continue to be affected by the internet. Think peer to peer lending, crowdsourcing, Bitcoin or even just simply how millennials will want to bank in the future.

Maybe Mary Meeker will include a slide in next year’s report.