Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What’s the one area where you want to see improvement in 2014?

November 19, 2013 Leave a comment

What’s the one area where you want to see your team/staff/organization improve over the coming year? Weigh in on the poll below:


Putting It All Together (originally appeared on Kathy Robinson's Blog:

Putting It All Together (originally appeared on Kathy Robinson’s Blog:

What I learned when the president of Cinnabon bought me coffee at Starbucks

August 19, 2013 1 comment

I had the opportunity to interview Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon, at the ASAE Annual Meeting in Atlanta earlier this month.  I had first become aware of Kat through the CBS show Undercover Boss with the episode featuring her last fall. I was excited to learn a few months ago that Kat would be at this conference and reached out to her through Twitter to arrange this interview.

Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon

Kat Cole, President of Cinnabon

In the interview Kat touches on a number of topics, but the one I find most fascinating is her deft handling of partnerships. She has worked with major brands like Kellogg, Burger King, and Taco Bell to expand the reach of Cinnabon without taking away from the core business of the franchises. Kat also touched on some of this in her presentation. Her perspective certainly challenges association and nonprofit leaders to consider more thoroughly who they might partner with to create win-win situations.

I walked with Kat from our interview to the auditorium where she would present later that afternoon. As we passed a Starbucks, Kat asked if she could buy me a coffee. What do you say when the head of a major food brand asks if they can buy you an iconic product from another major food brand? You say yes.  When you’re also a blogger, you also think, Hey, this could make a really great title for a future blog post! It should be further noted that Kat was impressed with my selection of a tall Java Chip Frappuccino® Blended Beverage… coffee with rich mocha-flavored sauce blended with milk, chocolaty chips and ice. Topped with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate-flavored drizzle. Ah, but I digress. We walked on. I told Kat that I like how playful she can be with the brand on Twitter when people talk about how they can’t resist Cinnabon or how they’ll have to work out more after indulging. Her response: “We’re not building missiles.” 

Some of the takeaways from Kat’s session at ASAE Annual:

  • Protect the core. Reinvest in what makes you great.
  • Leverage something you’re the best at. @Cinnabon did it w/ @Kelloggs_US w/ their cinnamon.
  • Be honest about what you can’t do well. Decide if you’re okay with that.
  • Culture eats strategy for lunch every day.
  • Be humbly bold.
  • What is small enough to change, big enough to matter?
  • The deal you don’t do is never the one that’s going to kill you.
  • What’s the opportunity cost with the limited resources you have?
  • What is the one thing we could do today that everything after it will be more effective?
  • Be there for your community when it really counts. Are you there for your constituents?
  • Be one IN a million … Not one OF a million!
  • Guess what? @Cinnabon is not healthy.
  • The biggest mistakes are people mistakes.

Believe me, there are some thought-provoking gems here, and Kat’s presentation was well-received. I couldn’t do it justice in even a short blog post. Make no mistake- I found Kat to be approachable and personable in the interview, off camera, and in her presentation, but she is also a focused and determined businesswoman who has not lost touch with her values or who she is. Kat purposely cares for and connects with people, and this comes across genuinely.  She furthers her authenticity by being thankful for opportunities, giving credit to others, and admitting mistakes. Many leaders could learn from her approach and her example.

Vine, Instagram, and the Evolving Visual Web

I knew that things were becoming more visual in social media. I even tell that to people frequently. YouTube has been cited as the second largest search engine. Pinterest has grown immensely in popularity in the past two years.

The Shift to Visual Social Media (Image by @SociallySorted)

The Shift to Visual Social Media (Image by @SociallySorted)

But, as I sit here on a Friday afternoon- the last Friday afternoon of June, and the last Friday afternoon in the first half of 2013- I realize how much my own use has changed in this regard just in the past three weeks.

I now have a Vine account where users can create 6-second looping videos. I’ve used the app to capture moments ranging from my younger son’s field day to a monster truck ride to the disappearance of my morning juice which reveals a photo of my sons in the background. While these are merely experimental, it’s amazing to see what really creative minds have done to take advantage of the six seconds and the looping effect. The appeal comes in that it’s a small investment of time (in fact, it’s so small that one may find themselves watching a video over and over), and it provides a richer experience than a static image. I have to give a shout out to Chris Brooks of Hilton Worldwide whose simple video of cycling around New York City caught my attention and prompted me to sign up for Vine.

Then three days ago I read Ernie Smith’s piece on Why Instagram Can’t Be Ignored. Instagram now has 130 million active users and has launched its video functionality as well. Again, I felt the nudge and activated an account. I found myself looking through photos on my iPhone from the past several months for just the right ones to Instagramize. I’m certainly not one with a trained eye in this regard (my wife is the artist), but I couldn’t help looking through framing and filtering options, trying to decide if Amaro or Hefe or Kelvin was just the right look for a given image. I’ve found the platform to be a great way to connect with friends and those from professional circles alike.

So, as we move to a more visual web, it’s also reminder not to be stagnant. The social media landscape is quickly changing and evolving. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may be the primary three platforms for many individuals and organizations, but opportunities may be lost for those who think those are the end game. Take time to dabble and experiment. You might be pleasantly surprised with how a new platform can connect you with your audience.

What trends are you seeing with the evolving visual web and social media? What new platforms or apps have you started experimenting with? What are the lessons for organizations as they seek to connect with and inform their employees, customers, and members?

Engage Your Audience like Dove Does

With over 54 million views in two months, Dove has a winner in this Real Beauty Sketches video series.


I’m not here to argue the merits of the campaign with regard to beauty. In my opinion, however, they’ve struck a chord with the general public. The result is a winning content marketing strategy. They’ve challenged people with how they look at themselves and managed to attach their brand to the process.

I think what they’ve also been able to do is intrigue and the engage the audience. From the moment Gil Zamora announces that he is a forensic artist and that he worked for the San Jose Police Department, the viewer is hooked. From the music selection to the loft gallery feel, there’s a calming and inviting sense about the setting. As participants enter, there’s a mystery surrounding the process and what exactly this has to to do with Dove. As they describe their experience further, one can’t help but think what it would be like to be in their position.

We each have difficulty in seeing ourselves for who we are. We may be too critical with small areas. This exercise allowed some to see themselves in a brief but tangible way through the eyes of a stranger. We each come away wanting to know what that moment of realization must be like.

What are the lessons you see from Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches series? What are the ways your organization can use content to better engage your employees, members, and customers? What are the topics or trends in your industry that your brand could be more effectively associated with?