Ask-the-CMO-Adam-Petrick

Ask the CMO: Adam Petrick On ‘Storydoing’ And The Need To Be Interesting

The importance of the marketing function has risen dramatically inside leading organizations in our experience economy. As the push for emotional engagement rises, brands are pushing themselves to find new and exciting ways of generating meaningful experiences. As a result, storytelling continues to move from the end of the supply chain to the beginning of the invention process, and the idea of “storydoing” vs. “storytelling” has emerged in the foreground. This notion seems to fuse the increasing need for brands to have a grander sense of purpose beyond the bottom-line with the growing appetite from consumers to be emotionally engaged through authentic stories and experiences that matter.

For my latest Ask the CMO column, a series dedicated to analyzing the latest trends and disruptions in the marketing landscape, I had the pleasure of chatting with Adam Petrick, Global Director of Brand + Marketing for Puma. His repositioning of a retro sneaker brand into one of the hottest fashion footwear companies in the world is a terrific example of marketing’s new ability to drive both brand as well as performance through winning experiences that are purposeful and tied to doing interesting things in the world. Following is a recap of our conversation:

Billee: I’ve been talking to leaders about how this period of flux we’re in right now in the marketing space is impacting business. So, can we start with your thoughts on the current landscape?

Adam: When I think about the shift in the landscape with regard to the sneaker business, I see many retailers struggling to accommodate all the various changes that need to be made.  The business environment is getting more and more challenging, regardless of the business you are in, because consumer expectations are getting higher across the board. And those expectations are impacting everything from wide distribution plans to specific retail partners connected with any given campaign.  As a result, we’ve had to change the way that we get messages to consumers. I would say that we have to be less about the about message, and more about general behavior. We need to appeal to our consumer in a different way because at the end of the day saying “hi, please buy my shoe” doesn’t work.

As brands, we have to push ourselves to be interesting . That’s a very different proposition than just a few years ago. I think that’s an exciting shift, and one that might even be better for the brand landscape overall.

Billee: I agree. Almost all of the folks whom I’ve spoken to for this column agree that it is an exciting time because there is a bigger opportunity for marketing to make a difference. So, we are in an experience economy and I think that gets to your point of the need to focus less on the WHAT, if you will, and more on the WHO and the WHY behind it to create emotional experiences that are purposeful. How do you feel about that?

Adam: I thought you were going to say HOW because I think that the how is also very, very important. To me, the how is critical and central to everything that we’re trying to do right now with our brand.  We’re trying to do less “storytelling” and more “storydoing.”  We are trying to DO more period. To broadcast less, and take more action. For example, it’s really interesting when we partner with a star like Rihanna and ask her to develop a collection with us that connects to her Foundation’s cause. Not interesting to us would have been writing a giant check to Rihanna and asking her to be the face of an ad campaign. By being interesting and doing interesting things, we get to take interesting actions that impact our consumers, our culture and also of course our business.

Billee: So, I like the idea of the “storydoing” as opposed to just storytelling. To me it sounds like it connects to a grander purpose that goes beyond just the bottom line. Do you have thoughts on that?

AdamAt the end of the day we are selling goods, but we also have to do it in a way that feels like a service.When I say that, purpose for us is about trying to give us as a brand a reason to exist in the world and to help give people a reason to have us exist in their world. The way we do this is by continuing to create stuff that is cool and fun. We like to take the role of a “co-conspirator” to our audience, our partners and the culture overall.  I think that the idea of being a co-conspirator is what gives us meaning. To do this effectively and authentically, we have to listen more, and we have to pay close attention to what’s going on in the culture to deliver products that connect, resonate and matter.

Billee: That makes a lot of sense. I think that all of what you’re talking ties to this pivot we are seeing from rational engagement to more emotional engagement and connecting through the lens of feeling as opposed to just things. Do you agree?

Adam:  I do agree. I think that rational engagement could be about selling people a product based on a technology or a specific benefit that makes sense from a price standpoint. But I think that emotional connection is now very, very important because when you choose to wear a brand, especially in our business, where the differentiation between the brands is sometimes hard to see, that choice is driven by an emotional connection. You’re either familiar with the brand and you understand what it stands for, or you don’t. And if you aren’t connecting with a brand, then you’re not going to choose that brand. So, it’s extremely important to have emotional depth or meaning in order to be in the top consideration set of your target consumers.

Billee:  That’s a lot of great information, so how do we tie it to the fact that your brand has gone through a significant revitalization in recent years. I believe that I’m correct in saying that you have been at Puma for quite a while, so I guess I’d ask what kind of pivot did you execute to go from where you were when you started at Puma, to where you are now, which I would say is quite an admirable leap?

Adam: I think that we struggled for a long time to figure out what it was that we wanted to represent and what it was that we wanted to mean in the world. I think that there was a lot of discussion to get alignment around what we wanted to be.  Were we a sports brand? A fashion brand? Or a lifestyle brand? I think what happened was three or four years ago we said we have to make some changes and focus, otherwise we are going to disappear. So, we said let’s get back to basics. Let’s get back to sports. Let’s reground ourselves in our history and our authentic connection to sport and view everything we do through the lens of sports.

I think what was critical to this pivot was the realization that sports aren’t just about performance. “Sports” is also about the culture of all the things that are around sports. If you’re only focused on a category within sports, such as performance, that can be quite limiting. But when you start to think about sports as culture or sports as a lifestyle, then things get interesting.

Billee: What you just said leads me to the idea that many brands I speak with when pivoting are looking first at optimizing the experience internally in their own cultures. Was that part of your transformation process?

Adam: Yes, yes, I couldn’t agree more that the transformation of the internal culture was a very important part of the brand’s transformation. Thank you for pointing that out because you’re absolutely right. That is where it began. For us it began with grounding ourselves in the history of the brand and our legacy as a performance driven brand. We also said that we had to behave in a different way as a culture.  We started with a brand mantra – Forever Faster. You know it was something that sounded great and aligned with us as a sports brand, but it also really drove a behavioral shift internally. This happened when we said being Forever Faster is not just about speed necessarily, it also was about always striving to be better. To be better in staying ahead of trends, always striving to make connections faster and always striving to solve problems faster. Forever Faster took on a lot of meaning internally and a rallying cry that marked a significant moment in our brand’s transformation.

Billee: That’s awesome to hear because it sounds like a great example of why brands need to look internally before having positive impact externally. A lot of what people used to think of internal culture as being handled by H.R. people and saw it as a very utilitarian function as opposed to a strategic one. The shift in leadership that I’m noticing is that senior marketers, like yourself, are stepping up to impact the employee experience?

Adam: I would say definitely.  You are asking very good questions (laughs). Yes, I think that in order to have a company perform at a high level, your brand values and the things that your brand stand for in your consumer’s eyes have to align with internal behavior and your brand values. You then have to walk the walk internally and externally. It’s one thing for a marketer, or a brand person, or even an H.R. person, to put a poster on the wall, and entirely another to do the things that we say we stand for. Because of this, senior leadership must be closely involved in internal culture initiatives, and marketing must be among the top leaders driving that train.

Billee: That sounds like an extremely authentic approach to culture building. Tying back to partnerships that you mentioned earlier, it sounds like you’re very deliberate and discerning in selecting the type of partnerships that you do based off what we just discussed, being true to your brand values. Do you want to tell me a little bit about the most recent Rihanna CLF Creeper partnership and how and why it reflects your values?

Adam:  Yes absolutely. Let’s start with Rihanna. I think Rihanna as an individual, or a creative brain or personality is very brave and her choices are determined and always true and authentic to her creative spirit. She was a little bit edgy, and we loved her synergy with our brand values.

Rihanna’s foundation is obviously very important to her and therefore because we are her partner, it’s very important to us. She has an iconic sneaker called the Creeper. It is something that we’ve had in our offering with her for a couple of years now. They are always very highly sought after, always very popular.  So, this year we said, hey let’s make another Creeper, but let’s do it in a way that also can benefit her Clara Lionel Foundation. So, we worked together to generate a unique design that would be unique to the foundation’s activities this Fall. The proceeds from the sale of that product are benefiting the cause. And the product is connecting super well in culture. So, a true win-win that is not only reflective of her but of the Puma brand and values as well.

Billee:  Is there anything that you want to leave us with to recap the past year or more importantly, to address what we might see in 2018

Adam: I think that more and more we are focused on trying to do interesting things with people who have their finger on the pulse of our audience and our customers. We want to create unique partnerships. We want to create new products. We want to generate stuff that’s going to be interesting rather than us looking inward as a brand.We want to be listening to our customers, listening to what’s going on out there in culture and responding to that by behaving in interesting ways. You’re going to see a lot more of that from us and likely other brands in 2018 and 2019 and beyond.

 Note: This article was first published on Billee’s Forbes blog

brand purpose

Optimize Customer Experiences Using Brand Purpose + Data Driven Storytelling

The old rules of business were ruled by what GE dubbed TQM or Total Quality Management. Winning companies would win or lose based on their ability to deliver a quality product, seamlessly and consistently.  In their view, TQM would sustain customer loyalty and assure a category or market leadership position.  For the past decade, we have rapidly left that notion behind in lieu of the age of TEM – Total Experience Management.

As mass commodification has impacted all industries, it’s become harder and harder for a brand to stand out. Consequently, storytelling and the authentic content experiences it creates, has become one of the leading ways brands can engage with customers to drive distinction and competitive advantage.

The big news out of 64th International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, was that the current approach to content development, where storytelling is still pushed to the end of the supply chain, is missing authenticity – a brand voice.  This explains why many customers are moving from big brands to smaller ones as they tell better stories, infused with purpose and authenticity, to create winning experiences.  Simply put, if you want to compete in today’s marketplace you need to embrace TEM through a lens of purpose.

The bright and shiny objects no longer win, unless they are married with insights that make experiences go from good to great through personalized, emotionally engaging moments that set you apart from the pack.  Emotional engagement is based upon the stimulation of the heart.    In today’s experience economy, emotional engagement is proving to be a critical factor in achieving winning results throughout every customer journey, and effective, data-driven storytelling is at the heart of this movement.

With all this in mind, thinking about how to gain competitive advantage in the marketing realm today – inside and outside of the organization – marketers must capture key insights and then apply the principles of needs-based, experience design, combined with an understanding of the levers that impact each experience differently, in order to bring the brand to life for each customer.  No longer can a CMO do this from pure instinct, or in a silo.  They must listen, analyze and interpret data across all customer touchpoints, online and offline, and then use these insights to inform experience development.

brand purpose and storytelling

The formula for success in today’s CMO is simple:

Brand Purpose + Data Driven Storytelling = Optimized Customer Experiences

Note: Take this short survey for a free audit of your brand’s approach to purpose driven storytelling: Free Brand Purpose Storytelling Audit

Organizations that use artful storytelling to create winning experiences are the ones who are leading our new era of collaborative commerce forward – and moving product, improving engagement and retaining employees.  What follows are optimized experience frameworks that help bring this equation to life for each customer – B2B, B2C and B2E – and real-world examples of how purpose-driven thought leaders are bringing such experiences to life today.

1) B2B Experience

Pivoting from a product centric approach to one that is experience-based, B2B companies are harnessing creativity and technology to tell winning stories that will help educate, inform and activate necessary change in this period of business transformation. The following are the spheres of influence shaping an optimized B2B experiences that can be sharpened through an informed purpose-driven thought leadership platform:

Sphere 1:  Economic

Develop products and services stories that demonstrate contribution to positive earnings and to long-term value to shareholders.

Sphere 2:  Innovation 

Deliver innovative content solutions that capitalize on the strategic marriage of creativity + technology.

Sphere 3:  Agility/Transformative Ability 

Demonstrate necessary pivots that deliver competitive advantage and change.

Sphere 4:  Aspirational Motivation

Enable contribution to the world (and business) as much as the bottom-line and create moments that are aspirational and give people a reason to believe + engage.

Sphere 5:  Brand/Engagement

Develop engagement across all key constituencies to optimize the customer journey and improve financial performance.

A B2B Experience:  GE

GE focuses on telling engaging stories that make sense for businesses.  They invite customers in to see ‘Imagination at Work’, and give customers a reason to believe and engage with their innovation that builds, powers, moves & cures the world.  By harnessing storytelling, creativity and technology via content on digital platforms, including Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, GE is delivering on their desired business outcomes:

  1. Increase audience awareness of the scope of what GE does and highlight positive experiences with the brand.
  2. Support pipeline for young engineering and business talent.
  3. Drive interest among the next generation of potential shareholders. The company needs to attract the next generation of shareholders.

2) B2C Experience

Consumers today want to be a part of a brand that does more than give them immediate gratification from a product or service. They want to become a part of a brand that they believe in – a brand voice –  one that can enrich their daily lives in ways that create meaningful and impactful engagement.  Conveying the cornerstone of your company’s purpose-driven thought leadership in ways that bridge to the world at large, beyond the bottom-line, is critical to success in today’s environment. Today’s best B2C experiences are defined by telling informed stories that impact the following spheres of influence and create emotional engagement:

Sphere 1:  Aspirational Motivation

Offer people the opportunity to believe in the brand through meaningful interactions.

Sphere 2:  Trust

Work to build a connection between the customer and the brand by showing that you care about what your consumers care about.

Sphere 3:  Personalization/ Loyalty 

Capitalize on real-time, predictive data, analytics and insights to create the experiences consumers want, before they know they want them, which will enhance consumer loyalty and advocacy.

Sphere:  Empathy

Fortify trust and a reason to believe by humanizing the brand and bringing a purpose-driven Living Brand to life.

Sphere 5:  Education

Build meaningful differentiation from competitors through empathic and
purpose-driven stories that inform, entertain and delight and heighten impact and effectiveness.

A B2C Experience:  Casper

Casper’s founders believed if you’re going to convince consumers to trust you that sleep is a pursuit as worthy of obsession as exercise or eating, you have to approach (the story arcs of empathy and education) differently.  Casper is combining science, design thinking, branding, and a winking sense of humor to redefine the humble mattress into lifestyle stories with a new cohort of evangelists proselytizing that the key to productivity and overall health stems from maximizing the quality of our slumber. Casper also upended some fundamental assumptions about consumer behavior that word-of-mouth sales would be impossible to generate because nobody talks about their mattress, a notion that was shattered by an immediate boom in viral unboxing videos that captured the exciting experience.

3) B2E Experience

According to HBR, 89% of executives surveyed said a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction; 84% said it can affect an organization’s ability to transform; and 80% said it helps increase customer and employee loyalty.  To operationalize your purpose-driven narrative into mantras that bring your brand purpose to life inside your organization, consider how the following spheres of influence can help you create an authentic B2E experience that delights, informs and engages:

Sphere 1: Aspirational Motivation

Work to inculcate storytelling directly into culture through training and a process of
co-creation.

Sphere 2: Leadership + Core Values:  Trust

Develop mantras through a lens of inclusion to be truly authentic and representative of

both brand and employee values.

Sphere 3: Reward + Recognition

Create appropriate reward & recognition strategies to reaffirm purpose-driven behavior.

Sphere 4: Education 

Facilitate workshops and build a Living Brand content hub where all physical content is made digital and showcase employees bringing the mantras to life.

Sphere: Immersion

Create distinct opportunities to “live the brand” for all of your employees such as
hyper-localized community giving programs or branded internal events that celebrate your employees.

A B2E Experience: W.L. Gore

The executive team began to see trends that employees were anxious that slow decision-making and a lack of risk taking might be weighing on Gore’s entrepreneurial endeavors.  At Gore, the risk of an innovation slowdown was particularly serious. Strong leadership, rooted in the company’s core values, worked quickly to streamline decision-making, encouraged the formation of small startup teams that were motivated to explore new ventures and also created an in-house team called the Innovation Center of Expertise to shepherd (and reward) promising employee ideas.

Todd A. Myers is the Chief Strategy Officer at BRANDthropologie Media. He will lead client engagements to directly connect purpose positioning to value creation and content solutions. You can follow him on Twitter at @ToddMyers123 

Note: Take this short survey for a free audit of your brand’s approach to purpose driven storytelling: Free Brand Purpose Storytelling Audit

Future Of Marketing

Creativity + Technology = The Future of Marketing: Why AI Must Become the Partner to Today’s CMO

I have worked with CMOs for the last twenty years in the realm of corporate storytelling and meaningful engagement and I can tell you that there has never been a more challenging environment for marketers, or one that demands the highest levels of collaboration as responsibilities in the marketing department continue to grow.

Last week, on behalf of IBM as a member of their Futurist team, I attended MarTech, a conference dedicated to examining how technology will continue to impact the marketing function at organizations around the world. My fellow futurists and I, Joel Comm and Stan Phelps, two globally renowned marketing influencers, were blown away by the many issues and trends emerging around building the best-in-class marketing stacks of the future.

Whether it is personalization, on demand services, authenticity or removal of friction, the heat is on for marketers to figure out how to create the best customer journeys possible with an eye on defining distinction and competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Beyond all the latest and greatest technologies at the event, the other key topic to emerge was the growing need for a seamless partnership between today’s CMO and CTO, and the arrival of tomorrow’s Chief Marketing Technology Officer. In my book We-Commerce I examine how collaboration must move from mere activity to critical driver of day-to-day business strategy, and this notion could not have been more apparent at MarTech.

In the spirit of collaboration, Catrina Boisson, a Worldwide CMO Evangelist for Watson Customer Engagement and I hosted a session at the conference dedicated to exploring these issues and how creativity and technology must collaborate to imagine the future of marketing. We also took a deep dive into why AI must become the partner to today’s CMO. Below is a recap of our conversation:

Q.: I know that you are always out in the field working with clients. What are you seeing marketers focused on? What are the latest trends you are seeing?

A: You said it yourself – there has never been a more challenging time to be a marketer. And as I talk to marketing teams around the globe, there are a couple of themes that emerge. First is the way that marketers are viewed by the organization and view their own roles. I think historically marketing tended to be viewed by a lot of the organization as “arts and crafts” – creative, hard to measure, not necessarily strategic. Today, the practice of marketing is as much about science as it is about art. And that is giving us greater respect from our C-Suite colleagues, but also greater accountability (66% of CMOs say that the primary measure of their effectiveness today is ROMI, but only 33% believe that they are able to consistently measure ROMI). Second is that the rise of the empowered, omnichannel, consumer has made customer experience the new battlefield for brands. Enlightened CMOs are taking that as an opportunity to extend their reach in the organization (according to Gartner, 89% of organizations say believe that in the future they will differentiate primarily on CX ), but that too is a major area of challenge – there’s huge gap between the experience brands think they deliver/want to deliver and what their customers expect/perceive. Third is the sheer deluge of data. The marketers I speak to are struggling not just to get their arms around it, but actually do something with it (some estimate that 90% of the data organizations collect is not being effectively leveraged due to data silos).

Q: So how can Cognitive or AI help marketers overcome these challenges/succeed in this new environment?

A: I should probably start by defining what we mean by Cognitive. Cognitive systems are systems that understand – ingesting huge volumes of structured and unstructured data and making sense of them in the context of a particular industry or business problem (e.g, a segment means something very different to an oncologist versus a marketer), they reason — forming conclusions or hypotheses or recommendations with varying degrees of certainty or prioritization, and they learn – capturing what happens at every interaction and taking that into account for the next situation. It’s really very similar to what we do as humans every day. For example – pretend you are in a new city and have been tasked with choosing a restaurant for a group of colleagues. You’ll learn by asking others for recommendations, reading YELP, talking to the concierge. And you’ll also weigh what you know about your colleagues – who is vegan or hates spicy food — and you might also consider distance from your hotel or the cost against your pre diem. Based on all that data, you come up with a favorite plus a couple of alternative recommendations and present them to the team. If you go for the favorite and it turns out to be a disaster, that’s a learning that you will store for your next visit. Understand – Reason – Learn.

So, connecting that back to the challenges that marketers are facing today, Cognitive is hugely beneficial when you think about data overload because these systems can help marketers generate, not just insight, but timely, actionable insight from data that goes well beyond the traditional sources of transactional and profile data — think behavioral data, and attitudinal data, unstructured and increasingly dark data, like EMOJIs in a social feed or video content.

Q: Do you have any examples?

A: Well, one example of data that I don’t think most marketers are focused is weather. How many of you knew that IBM bought the Weather Company? And how many know why? It’s all about the data…weather impacts so much of our lives – what we wear, what we eat, whether we take a cab to the office or walk — but it is probably not the first source of data that we think about as marketers, but I have an example of a CPG company that did just that. They were advertising soup and wanted optimize the effectiveness of their online advertising. They collaborated with Watson to figure out what soup weather means to different people. What they found is that it did not have to do with absolute temperature; it was about relative temperature. So the best time to advertise soup in Los Angeles was when it was 55 degress, but in New York it was 32 degrees.

Q: How about an example of how Cognitive helps marketers address the customer experience gap?

A: Sure. North Face is a great example there. When you go into a North Face store, you have an opportunity to chat with a very knowledgeable associate who can talk you through the best jacket to buy if you are doing mountain climbing in January in Banff versus skiing in Whistler. But that is not an experience that you can easily replicate on line with a bunch of drop down boxes and filters. So North Face leveraged Watson and its natural language capabilities to help customers get to the right outwear for what they were doing and where they were doing it, when. Customers can actually talk or type their answers to a series of questions, as if they are having an actuall conversation, and get to a recommendation personalized to them and their circumstances. The click through rates on Watson’s recommendations have been impressive.

Q: I like that example, because it feels like you are blending creativity and technology together seamlessly. Would you agree that to achieve not only optimal customer experiences but also desired business outcomes, creativity must be married with technology?

A: Definitely. Data and tech are huge enablers, but at the end of the day, we still need to be able to make an emotional connection to our customer or prospect. Red Bull is a great example of how Watson and cognitive are actually enhancing the storytelling process. Red Bull used Watson’s Personality Insights to analyze the social posts and video interviews of the athletes who act as brand advocates and social influencers to help them understand how they and the Red Bull brand where being perceived by their fans. Their agency partner Havas leveraged Watson in workshops to provide specific recommendations to the athletes on style, attitude, subject, and form which helped them provide more authentic “social voices” that better connect with their fans, building up their personal brands as well as Red Bull’s results.

Note: Take this short survey for a free audit of your brand’s approach to purpose driven storytelling: Free Brand Purpose Storytelling Audit

Q: With all of the complexities of the marketplace why is collaboration between the CMO and CTO more important than ever before?

A: Before I talk specifically about the CTO and CMO, I think it’s important to just underline how important collaboration is, period. If customer experience really is the new battlefield, then collaboration is an indispensable weapon. Many organizations, and specifically marketing organizations, are guilty of doing business the way they are organized – you have the social team, and the mobile team, and the email guys….the bottom line is that if you are doing business the way you are organized, you have no chance of delivering the seamless experience your customers expect.

And back to your original question — CTOs and CMOs — I think that we, as marketers, have a tendency to race off after the latest and greatest shiny object or silver bullet, but if we are not collaborating with our CTO colleagues, then we run the risk of buying a tool that we can’t fully leverage, or creates a new silo of data, or breaks something else that is in place. When I think about the most successful conversations that we are having about martech there are at least three players involved –the visionary who is setting the organization’s strategy for marketing or customer experience, the practitioner who will be hands on keyboard feeling the pain or delight and the technologist who understands how it all fits together in the larger data and tech schema. I firmly believe that marketing should be developing the business requirements, but IT has to be involved in the selection and implementation of the technology.

Q: In the past year, offerings in the marketing stack have grown by something like 83%. Can you explain how IBM and Watson can do more for marketers than other options?

A: The first important differentiator is that our solutions have been purposely developed to play well in that very complicated martech sandbox. We know that for marketers, time to value is huge, so we have made it very easy for them to integrate and share data across systems and partners, without turning it into an IT project.

But while that is hugely beneficial, of course, the really sexy part is Watson. What we have done with our solutions is actually embed the power of cognitive into key marketing processes. Watson is not just a branding gimmick for us. When you adopt Watson Marketing Solutions, tt’s like having Watson as another member of your marketing team. It’s the perfect example of AI as ASSISTED Intelligence, not ARTIFICAL Intelligence. So what does that mean? Here are just a few examples:

1. Cognitive can scan 100s of 1000s of sessions and detect where and why customers are struggling on your website and alert you to take action

2. Cognitive can alert you to high value customers likely to churn and advise you why they may leave so you can engage them proactively in ways that will be most relevant…it can even suggest the best content/offer/communication for that specific customer or segment

3. Cognitive can optimize your programmatic ad buying by factoring in contextual attributes and won-bid placements for a campaign and evaluating thousands of scenarios in in real time

Billee Howard helps brands use storytelling as a competency that informs business strategy, culture development and growth. She also wrote WeCommerce, a book on collaboration in the new economy.

Note: This article was originally published on Billee’s Huffpost blog

business Storytelling

6 Storytelling Lessons For Any Leader to Use Around Their First 100 Days

As we approach the Trump Presidency’s first 100 day mark, much discussion has ensued over whether the importance of great accomplishment in the days out of the gate is fact or folly. It is no surprise that leading Democrats are calling it fact, while top Republicans, including the President, are crying folly.

In my opinion, what’s most important about the first 100 day milestone of any new leader’s tenure, is establishing a clear and accessible vision for the future that people can trust in and rally around.

While it is impractical to imagine any type of true significant progress in under 100 days, it is reasonable to expect a respected and visionary leader to use the early days of his or her leadership to assess the state of affairs, harness insights from sources inside and out, and then align the go forward vision against those key learnings.

The early days of leadership, whether in the private or public sector, are as much about optics and narrative setting, as they are about charting progress. Consequently, harnessing storytelling as a vital business competency in the early days of any new senior role, with an eye toward creating a steady cadence of interaction with key publics, is vital.

Here are a 6 easy things to keep in mind when framing the communications or storytelling architecture around any first 100 day leadership scenario whether you are an entity on K Street, Wall Street or Main Street:

1) Work with senior leadership to craft a compelling overarching narrative that articulates the new leader’s vision while also being inclusive of a representative sampling of key constituents, inside and out of an organization. The narrative should aim to bridge the best of the past with the best of the future, setting an aspirational, yet authentic tone that people find accessible, purposeful and can believe in. Harness narrative as the through line in all communications to create consistency and singularity of vision around all strategic initiatives.

2) While framing vision, be extremely mindful of landscape you are currently operating in. A strong leadership vision is acutely attuned to the culture both inside and out of an organization if it is to be resonant and effective. Too often leaders take a tone deaf approach created in a vacuum. This establishes a negative spirit from the start and immediately sets the table for dissention and dismay. To be effective, be immediately responsive to the current environment and use it to lay out a prescriptive approach that is measurable and responsive.

3) Clearly articulate what a new leader’s vision is in broad terms to drive aspiration and excitement, while tying to culture to be timely and responsive. However, be sure to be surgically precise in outlining a new leader’s step by step plan of attack. Outlining lofty goals is certainly vital to successful leadership and vision, but failure to put the appropriate roadmap and step by step process in place can derail progress and lead to distrust and dissention.

4) Create editorial sounding board comprised of senior leaders across the enterprise, inside and out, to test messaging and narrative articulation, while also getting feedback on how to structure strategic imperatives and game plans to be as effective as possible. Use editorial board to help keep the vision on course, while also being able to respond to emerging issues and potential hiccups in real time. The hallmark of any successful first 100-day push is to be authoritative and adaptive at the same time.Creating a through line of such an approach in all communications can drive significant momentum, enterprise wide buy in, while also setting a tone of collaboration and a team driven culture.

5) Demonstrate results and showcase value as soon as it is authentically possible to do so. Do not overpromise and under deliver as a result of succumbing to the pressures of progress in the first 100 days, but do build a list of wins to share that are demonstrative of momentum and a positive future. It is important to remember that to gain trust, support and favor, wins do not have to be grandiose to count, they have to be authentic and offer a window into how the CEOs vision will play out. Creating a steady drumbeat of these type of stories, including outside voices, wherever possible, to demonstration inclusion and collaboration is critical.

6) Remember above all else that communicating as much about WHO the leader is and WHY he or she is in charge is even more important than telling stories about what they will do. People, be they employees, consumers, customers or constituents, today are far more inclined to rally around someone who shares their values, inclusive spirit and sense of purpose, then they are to be lured by great promises of what’s to come. Tell stories that demonstrate empathy, elicit emotion and drive connection around your leader as much as a person as a professional.

Billee Howard helps brands use storytelling as a competency that informs business strategy, culture development and growth. She also wrote WeCommerce, a book on collaboration in the new economy.

Note: This article first appeared on Billee Howard’s Forbes blog.