Category Archives: General Corporate

March 6, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged

International Women’s Day: Lessons in Leadership from the Women of MWW

intl women's day2March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), a holiday that celebrates the achievements of women worldwide and inspires the next generation of women to make their mark on the world. At MWW, we believe in our #fearless female leadership, who continuously make it happen for our clients on a daily basis. In honor of IWD, we asked them for their secrets to success and what they want the next generation of female PR professionals to know as they develop their careers. Here’s what they had to say:

Carreen Winters
Executive Vice President, Corporate Communications
@carreenwl

Remember when doing anything “like a girl” was an insult?  That’s definitely how it was 24 years ago when I started as an entry level coordinator in PR, and particularly so in corporate communications, where men still dominate despite PR being a female-led industry.  But as we see female leaders taking the CEO roles at organizations traditionally dominated by men – manufacturing (GM), technology (Yahoo), and professional services (like our MWW client Deloitte), it seems that this may truly be the year of the woman.

I am proud to have been selected by PR News for its inaugural Top Women in PR awards, and it has gotten me thinking about the topic of women and leadership, both in our profession, and in our clients’ businesses.  Are we at an inflection point when it comes to female leadership?  Are we on the verge of women having the natural (and proverbial) “upper hand?”   Can we truly say that doing business like a girl is a good thing?

Increasingly, leaders need to be great collaborators and consensus builders…characteristics we encourage in girls as a society from a young age.  Emotional intelligence, empathy and effective communications skills are also requirements for Leadership 2.0.   Women are increasingly recognizing that being decisive, and even a little tough, doesn’t make them a “mean girl” – and that men don’t have the market cornered on courage under fire.  (Did you watch Mary Barra’s Congressional testimony?) Having it all doesn’t necessarily mean having it all at the same time.

I look forward to the day when we can stop talking about women leaders, and the year of the woman – and just talk about leaders.  Until then, here is my advice to other women:

  • Don’t apologize for having feelings, or opinions.  Yours are just as valid as anyone else’s.  And the fact that you care more about what you are doing makes you better, not weaker.
  • Let go of the need to be liked.  You aren’t running for prom queen – and if you aren’t getting any dissension, you aren’t making a difference.
  • Forget about finding a mentor, find an advocate.  Mentorship is important, but it isn’t enough to have a supportive person in the background of your career – you need someone who actively helps you create opportunities.
  • Replace your master plan with goals and options.  Life is rarely a straight line, and too often disruptions in your pre-conceived plan become setbacks.  Being opportunistic and flexible, with an eye towards a long term goal will serve you better.  Some of the best opportunities come disguised as a temporary or interim solution.

Remember that nothing is perfect, and the grass is rarely as green as you think it is elsewhere.  This is particularly true in the so-called “Mommy Wars.”  Stay at home mothers don’t have more time than they know what to do with.  Working mothers (a term I really hate – don’t we all work?) don’t have more money than they know what to do with or take long lunches at the gym.  We are all doing the best we can.

Alissa Blate
Executive Vice President, Global Brand Marketing and Communications
@alissablate

There’s a lot written about women and leadership, particularly in the Public Relations field, a very female-dominated profession.  Much of the commentary around this examines leadership traits, trends and public attitudes towards women leaders, but rarely does it touch on life lessons, whether you are just starting out with a career in Public Relations or advancing to an executive position.  Leadership is both an inherited trait and a developed attribute, and requires experience, perspective and motivation.

Four principles guide my personal and professional life:

  • Have ambition.  A strong desire to achieve is a leadership quality that trumps the rest. Interestingly, according to a recent Pew Research Center’s Women and Leadership study, 63 percent of Millennial women and 61 percent of Gen X women consider ambition an essential leadership trait (as compared with 53 percent of Millennial men and only 43 percent of Gen X men).  Achievement comes with hard work and taking a proactive approach to constantly finding ways to grow and develop.
  • Applaud achievements.  Often we are too busy moving from task to task and forget to take a step back and look holistically at our accomplishments.  It’s also important to give a nod to those who have been part of that success.
  • Always trust your instinct. While advice and counsel from others can inform your decisions and help to build consensus, the best decision is almost always instinctual.  Though input from peers, business associates, family and friends helps you weigh your options, trusting your instinct and using intuition when making decisions will lead you down the right path.
  • Work is not a place you go to; rather, it’s something you do.  A successful career requires a mindset that integrates your work with everything else in your life.  But as the lines begin to blur, don’t lose sight of what’s really important.  Take time to get to know people, connect with them, learn what interests them and what makes them special.  The Public Relations business is all about connecting.

Sarah Locke
Global Brand Ambassador
@SarahLockeViews

I have worked in the PR industry for many years and watched how our industry has evolved and adapted as new technologies, new platforms and devices have been introduced.  There has never been a more exciting time for PR, and we have the opportunity, right now, to not just be part of a communications strategy but to sit at the top table with clients and to lead that strategy.

Leadership is a quality you have to nurture and develop, and it does not come naturally to many people. The adage two eyes, two ears and one mouth is an important lesson to remember, and so to be brilliant advisors, we need to be sensitive to the pressures on business leaders and brand marketers and focus on how we can underpin and support their business plans in the most effective way.  The biggest takeaways from my career so far are to:

  • Be nimble and adapt to a client’s business as it changes
  • Always be on the front-foot with how you advise, evolve and keep relevant
  • Be honest and open
  • Work hard to be your client’s trusted advisor

The most important thing for all future PR leaders is knowing your strengths and where you can add the most value to your clients, colleagues and industry as a whole.

Tara Naughton
Executive Vice President, Consumer Lifestyle Marketing
@TaraBNYC

When I think about successful leadership approaches, and what has helped me in my career, the following three things come to mind:

  • Create teams that work. Surround yourself with teams that tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Establish an environment in which employees with different strengths can come together, and make sure they know that their opinion matters – to you, to the team and to the client. If you’re willing to embrace ideas that make sense to reach a given goal, no matter who or where they come from, great achievements are possible. Those closest to the work that is required often have the best insight but are rarely heard.
  • Execution is everything.  Many people can conceptually wow others with thinking and ideas, but strong leadership requires seeing an idea through to reality. This often takes the courage to do things that haven’t been done before, a willingness to iterate to address real world changes and a strong work ethic to do what needs to be done.
  • Use your P.H.D. Passion, Humor and Diplomacy are some of the best characteristics for bringing people together to support a new idea or create a great result. There will never be a desired result that does not involve resistance. If your teams recognize your passion and commitment, you can create widespread support. Humor is the single greatest tool for navigating difficult conversations. It’s pretty hard to beat someone up over something when they take the step to beat themselves up first. It is also pretty hard to be stalled by anger when you’re having a good laugh. If you understand the benefit of diplomacy, people with different skills and values can find common ground that they may never have discovered on their own.

Molly Mulloy
Executive Vice President, Technology Lead, and General Manager – San Francisco
@prmolly

I never had a clear plan or career map; rather, I just took advantage of the opportunities that came my way, from complete industry and company changes, to moving, whether it was a different city, state, or even country. So, what have I learned from my accidental career?

  • Find something you have a genuine interest in, whether planned or stumbled upon, and you will automatically be setting yourself up to do good work. And good work gets noticed.
  • A desire to keep learning, coupled with a strong work ethic, will fuel you in the right direction.
  • It’s a small business world. You will run into clients, colleagues and partners over and over again in your career, so be good and fair to everyone. You also have a lot more in common with every person you meet than you think.
  • Last but not least, embrace fear – push through it and learn from it. You learn so much more from your fears, when confronted with them, than from your comforts. So buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Jennifer Little
Senior Vice President, General Manager – Dallas

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my career is how to receive and give feedback. As a young communicator, I wasn’t open to listening to what others had to say to me until I began working for a company that valued feedback and recognition as part of its culture. I realized that how you accept and respond to feedback says a lot about your character and professionalism, and it’s not intended to bring you down, but rather help build up your integrity and work product. Many times, the behaviors and attitudes being conveyed aren’t intentional, but may be having a negative impact on those around you. It’s important to me to create effective female managers and help others learn from my experience. I coach the women on my team to become the kind of managers who accept guidance from others gracefully and lift people up with their feedback. I challenge them to change the perception of the current situation into the reality they want for their clients and teammates.

Dawn Lauer
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications

Everybody loves a great story. Over the years, I’ve honed a methodology for helping global brands and corporate executives tell the absolute best version of theirs, and arriving at this finished product is never a quick or canned exercise; in fact, it can often be grueling. But I’ve found the magic bullet: the one constant capable of turning a great story into an inspirational one – and that’s the power of aspiration. Aspiration is the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary … the reason employees come to work every day, the reason industries believe in us, the reason innovations happen and the reason consumers choose your brand.

I’ve seen it make all the difference in perception – and not just in the workplace, but in my own career.  As a result, I approach every project and every client engagement by thinking about the end result, and what I want and believe it is capable of being. Very often, this has meant taking the more difficult and detailed route to completion (translation: late nights and weekends, doing whatever it takes to get there), but once you have a vision, it’s much harder to settle for less. I’ve learned not to be afraid of “a little aspiration” because I know it inspires me to produce a better product and be a better version of myself.  And at the end of the day, that’s the best kind of happy ending we can ask for.

March 5, 2015 | admin | Tagged ,

Bully Be Gone

Admin’s Note: This is a guest post from JP Schuerman, EVP and General Manager of MWW’s Western Region.

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet Jane Clementi, the stalwart mother – and now anti-bullying advocate – of Tyler Clementi, the bright-eyed co-ed who was bullied to suicide by his roommate, who deemed it appropriate to broadcast intimate, private moments of Tyler in his dorm room for public spectacle and judgment online. Simply because he was gay.

Bullying is not an issue limited to religious, lifestyle or behavioral judgment. Actually, no one is immune – the recent cyberbullying attacks against Curt Schilling’s daughter simply reinforce the fact that any insecure individual armed with social media will attack anyone and anything. The effects are chilling, and quite frankly, revolting.

We as a society, as consumers, as corporations, have a responsibility in this rapidly growing and spineless movement. As individuals, institutions and industry, we can make a difference. Every day, we make choices to assuage peers and influencers to buy our products, to believe in our brands – to create a movement around an item. We can do the same, if not more powerfully so, to affect change by leveraging this collective strength to move a society towards widespread consideration of others. We have the power to impact how our youth feel about themselves, and in establishing governance in the consequences of bullying actions.

Friends, colleagues, clients and stakeholders – it’s time. Time to harness the powers we wield to dissolve the circular firing squads among our youth and empower a generation to enact real change. Real progress. Real accountability and consequence.

Thank you Jane Clementi. Thank you Curt Schilling, for taking a stance and boldly proclaiming that bullying is not only wrong, but also shameful, and it’s not representative of the society we strive to be.

This isn’t special interest. This isn’t personal. It isn’t corporate, nor is it political. It’s collective. Talk about power.

As an executive, a politico, a brother, son, and a partner, I commit to this change.

February 11, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Is It Time to Stop Talking About Millennials in the Workplace?

millennialsEvery day, we are inundated with news articles, infographics and studies about Millennials in the workplace, and the challenges of managing them.  Millennials are lazy, entitled, disloyal…or a contrarian view that Millennials are more career-driven, more qualified and in some way better than any generation entering the workforce.

Funny, I’ve heard that narrative about the disenfranchised, difficult and lazy generation once before – it was about Generation X – for whom Wynona Ryder in Reality Bites served as the poster child.  I know because I am (technically) a member of Generation X.  But none of those labels applied to me, or anyone I knew or worked with.  We were all working late every night, for low pay; frustrated that our bosses didn’t understand us; interested in being mentored, and in building careers. It was hard to find a job, we were discouraged that we had expensive educations and couldn’t find a job.   Sound familiar?

As careers are stretching longer, the reality is that the multigenerational workforce is here to stay.  Each generation that enters the workforce brings their own life experiences and expectations to the table.  Being an effective multigenerational leader is one of the greatest challenges in business today.

Generation Z is upon us.  Maybe it’s time we stopped talking about Millennials in the workplace, and started focusing on multigenerational management instead.

February 10, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

The 5 Things We Can All Learn From a CEO’s First 100 Days

100-days-as-CEOOne of the things I enjoy the most about my job is working with CEOs as they embark on a new leadership journey.  A new CEO gets a blank page, a fresh start – and the opportunity to decide what he or she wants to stand for as a leader, and to impact an entire organization, and sometimes an entire industry.  This is a business situation where the power of communications is clear – to define goals, to build consensus, to bring a little bit of inspiration to the world.

Much is written about a CEO’s first 100 days, and MWW has its own 100 day protocol for embarking on this journey, and creating the leadership trajectory for the executive and the Company.  But what does a CEO’s approach to the first 100 days teach us about individuals and their careers?  What should everyone do on the first day of a new job?  I was intrigued about advice on this topic coming from Mary Barra, who has spent her entire career at GM, and who reminded me (an MWW lifer) that a new job isn’t just starting at a new company – it is starting a new role or even a new project.  You can find Mary Barra’s advice here, as well as a few takeaways from MWW’s experience in working with new leaders:

  1. You’ve already got the job, so it is OK to listen more than you talk in the early days.  We can all learn from our colleagues, and that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your job.
  2. What you do is more important than what you say – this is a “wait and see” environment.  Your stakeholders will watch and wait – do you walk the talk?
  3. You will inevitably inherit problems.  Be part of the solution.  Responsibility isn’t the same as fault…pick up the baggage and be responsible for making it better.  Talk about the path forward, because you won’t always have all the answers off the bat.
  4. Expect teamwork and collaboration and lead by example.
  5. Be transparent, and be human.   When people know you, it is easier to trust you.

February 9, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

The Connection Between Happiness and Success

happinesssuccessMWW recently held an annual leadership retreat – where we came together for two days to collaborate on priorities, define (and re-define) goals for our company and refresh relationships as a team.  We were fortunate to have support from some experts and facilitators who began with a very simple, but bold statement.  Happy people = happy outcomes/results.

Perhaps it is the power of suggestion, I’ve started to see this premise popping up everywhere since that day, and it seems to be a dominant theme coming from successful female leaders.  Like Ivanka Trump, who says that having a happy family life is the key to her business success, or Palo Alto Software’s CEO who argues that leaning in isn’t the key to success, happiness is.  The economics of happiness, which first caught my eye a few years ago at Davos, has become a “thing” attracting attention from esteemed organizations like the Brookings Institute, TED and HBR.  Cultivation of happiness as a leadership strategy has fawned books and white papers.  But is it a “girl thing”?

Do female leaders have the market cornered on the power of happiness over personal success, and an organization?  Or is it simply more acceptable for a female leader to talk about it?

brian-williams-lie-iraq-4

February 6, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

Has Brian Williams Put the Reputation of News At Risk?

brian-williams-lie-iraq-4Last night at dinner with some colleagues, the topic of Brian Williams and his Paul Bunyan tale of being shot down in the Iraqi desert came up.  Is he a liar?  An embellisher? Or a victim of some sort of false memory syndrome?

No doubt, experts more qualified than me will be filling the airwaves talking about false memory retrieval.  Heck, if you watched any kind of crime drama, you know that humans don’t always recall things in the way that they actually happened, and that memory can be suggestively shaped over time.

For me, the bigger issue is the line between news and entertainment.  We’ve seen politicians exaggerate the level of danger they were in when visiting war zones before, but we expect our news anchors to be truthful purveyors of the facts.

Was it not dramatic enough to be on the front lines in a combat zone?  Was there encouragement (overt or covert) to make the headline sexier?  In an era where it isn’t enough to just report on a story, and talent is encouraged to become part of the story how can we preserve the integrity of news reporting?  No one would have asked Walter Cronkite to get an on air colonoscopy.  David Brinkley would not have tearfully recount the tale of spousal infidelity. (Frank Gifford at one point claimed not to remember his affair – so there’s that memory thing again).

Rumor has it that Tom Brokaw threatened to leave the network when Geraldo Rivera was given a show on CNBC, claiming that Geraldo’s style of journalism discredited the entire industry. Give Brokaw credit for consistency, because he is expressing his disapproval on this issue, too.

The rise in popularity of news anchors as entertainers, and the blurred line between information and entertainment puts those tasked with reporting the news in a difficult position where chasing ratings has replaced the dignity of reporting news that made the original anchors celebrities to begin with.   NBC has invested millions in building the Brian Williams brand.  He is important to the franchise.  It will be interesting to see how NBC responds, and perhaps more importantly, how the industry responds, when the American public is already cynical about the impartiality of the news.

There is more at stake here than just Brian Williams and his future.  The reputation of an entire industry is at risk.

boston2024

February 4, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged ,

Banned in Boston: Anti-Olympic Talk

boston2024I remember early in my career a client told me they were working on a commercial that would get banned in Boston.  He said it gleefully, and I didn’t get it.  And because I was a starry-eyed young pro dazzled by early exposure to a CEO, I simply asked him to explain why he wanted to be banned in Boston.  You see, this company was operating under Chapter 11, cash strapped, and in an era before the Internet, looking for a low cost way to get people excited about their brand.  They didn’t actually have the money for a national TV buy, so they were making a racy ad (which today would not seem racy), attempting to place it in Boston and getting the media to write about the ad. An early lesson in building buzz, when any attention was good attention.

Unfortunately, the same may not be true for the latest ban in Boston – the ban on city employees speaking negatively about an Olympic bid.  It’s likely that there is a law firm already blogging about the legal implications of such a broad restriction, but from a communications perspective, banning discussion and debate seems like a questionable move.

We often tell clients that they need to embrace dialogue and two way conversation.  Employee support of your company’s initiative – even if that “company” is best earned by communicating and working to earn their buy in, not via mandate.

An Olympic bid is a big undertaking, and one that inevitably comes with some level of controversy.  Prohibiting conversation about it doesn’t make it go away.

deflated_football

February 3, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Super Bowl Reveals the NFL’s Broader Issue

deflated_football

It was hard to watch the Super Bowl without thinking that the NFL has had a rough year. And while the pre-Super Bowl scandal of  #DeflateGate is certainly not in the realm of serious issues such as domestic violence and child abuse, it is representative of a pervasive problem in the leagues culture—a lack of character. Pre-game pundits wondered if the aura of cheating would haunt the Patriots even if they won.  Would the crowd, commentators or even the officials, have a decidedly pro-Seattle slant in an effort to put that scandal to bed?

While we can’t say for certain whether or not the Patriots did cheat, we know that they have been accused of it in the past, and that this football culture where the “rules don’t apply to me” is certainly not unique to New England or the NFL. We see the issues with this culture at every level of the sport. It is instilled at a young age, especially in universities and high schools across the country where teachers boost the grades of a star quarterback, where campus scandals like the University of North Carolina’s “sham classes” that get brushed under the rug. When they get to the big league, the issues just get proportionally bigger. And while integrity is no longer required of professional athletes in pretty much any sport, the NFL seems to get more than its share of “bad boy” behavior.  And it seemingly begins at the college level, and even earlier.

I understand on the surface it seems trite to discuss the air within a football against marked regulations that has spanned into a nationwide debate; but this takes on an iceberg effect, especially when the league’s head proclaims it is his job to protect the integrity of the game. Yet we’ve seen little to no action from the league that attracts millions of eyeballs, generates billions of dollars and influences countless numbers of our youth.

The icing on the cake came in the final moments of the game, when the professed “good guys” from Seattle behaved as badly as any of the villains and bad actors we’ve seen. The NFL needs to take a long, hard look at itself this upcoming offseason and develop a serious game plan in working to deflate this bad boy culture. For starters, the league should consider improving its relationship with the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) in developing their conduct policy, which would provide a much-need backbone to reinforcing quality character.

As I’ve said before, “Character is measured by your actions when you think no one is watching,” and in this instance, character stands by your actions when EVERYONE is watching. I must say congratulations to the Patriots organization on taking home their fourth title, but to the NFL—despite your recent progress on image, I must emphasize the need to be better when brandishing “your shield.”

January 30, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , , ,

Something Positive for the NFL

jjwattIf you are a crisis communications enthusiast, the NFL has been a gift that keeps on giving in the past year, with a steady drumbeat of scandals providing ample fodder for commentary.  2014 was not a kind year for the NFL…or should I say, the NFL did its best to skewer itself in 2014? From incidents involving former fan favorites Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson to Commissioner Goodell’s mishandling of each situation, the hits just kept on coming for the league.   In some cases, the bad behavior turned fans off, others like #deflategate became a rallying cry and unifier about the team you love to hate.

With each new headline, you could practically hear loyal fans groaning and public opinion plummeting. As we get ready for the Big Game, and the plethora of marketing stunts that accompany it (Puppy Bowl, anyone?), let’s take a break from the hate, and look at how NFL owners and players have been working to rebuild trust, one player at a time (with perhaps a twinge of hope that some of this would “go viral” – which has replaced “be on Oprah” as the single common wish of any client at any agency today).

Exhibit A:  Carolina Panthers owner, Jerry Richardson, sent a handwritten note to a young boy in Kansas inviting him to be a Panthers fan.  The boy sent letters to all 32 teams explaining that everyone in his family loved football, but he was the only one without loyalty to a specific team, and asked which team should be “his team.” Richardson was the only one who answered, and he promised the boy that the team would make him proud to be a fan by their classy behavior.  Talk about cultivating the next generation of brand enthusiasts!

Exhibit B:  JJ Watt, received a signed jersey from an 7-year-old fan, along with a handwritten note outlining the ways the two were similar – everything from wearing the No. 99 to being labeled the “most feared rusher” in their leagues. He wrote back with this advice: “to stay confident, and keep working hard.” That note, and a signed pair of cleats went a long way.

These two stories feel like the sports icons of a different generation – who took their responsibility to the fans, and to binge a role model seriously.  Two heartwarming stories won’t rehabilitate the reputation of the league.  But the commitment to doing the right things, as individuals, as a team and as a league, will be key to getting the NFL back on track.  Today, the teams and the league are being judged by the worst behavior of an individual – it will take a lot of examples of good behavior to drown out that drumbeat.  But the little things matter.  Perhaps the NFL can win back the affection of the American public, one fan at a time.

January 29, 2015 | cwinters | Tagged , ,

What A Headscarf Tells Us About the Power of Twitter

US President heads high profile delegation to Saudi ArabiaI had a colleague who used to challenge every reporter that he felt was off base with the question, “What is it, a slow news day?”  Back then, reporters would try to uncover stories by calling you on the phone, testing a theory, a rumor and sometimes just fishing for news.  It was pretty easy to identify the rumors about your company before they became pervasive.  And while we didn’t know it at the time, it was a lot easier to contain them.

We’ve observed for years now that social media has fundamentally changed the news cycle.  This is particularly true in a crisis, where social commentary can take on a life of its own.  And while we may long for the days when a response within 60 minutes was considered the gold standard of crisis communications, in the current environment, it is more like 60 seconds.

But the rise of social media and the plethora of easily accessible opinion makers have also fundamentally changed the news business.  Today, it’s better to be first than to be right.  And often, no one will ever know if you are right because the race to join the conversation creates a lot of copycat headlines until the opinion becomes accepted as fact.

The most recent case in point: Michelle Obama’s visit to the Saudi Arabian king without covering her head.  Widely reported as either a snub to Saudi culture or a bold stand to support women in the Arab world, the missing headscarf was actually neither of those things.  It was a continuation of long standing protocol.  Our First Lady wasn’t the first to bare a naked head, and she won’t be the last.

Twitter, once considered a channel, is now a news source.  Couple that with the emerging universe of bogus news outlets – like the fake medical journals with authentic sounding names that agreed to publish a fabricated Harvard medical study entitled Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and the environment becomes complex, indeed.

How can a company protect itself from an attack of “tweeters gone wild?”   It’s important to actively monitor what is being said about your company or brand on social media.  And while active listening is good, all listening is not created equal.  Pay attention to who is talking about you, and how – particularly if those people are highly influential – with large numbers of followers.  Take note of sharing, re-tweeting and other activity that gives the conversation legs.  And most importantly, participate early and often, establish and preserve your role as the primary source of factual information, to the media and to the world.

Because not everyone gets the same opportunity to correct the record as the White House.