March 2, 2021
Jenn Walker Wall is the founder of Work Wonders Careers where she helps people land new jobs and thrive at work. She’s also co-host of the Making Life Work Podcast. Previously, she worked at the Sloan School of Management at MIT as well as Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, and is currently an Adjunct Instructor of Sociology at Lesley University. Review Jenn’s coaching offerings on the Work Wonders site.
How do you define a personal brand and why can it be hard to identify it?
For job seekers, a personal brand reflects both experience and personal values—which have to be clearly articulated. I think it can be daunting because we look around and branding seems to be the domain of companies, and it seems different when we’re talking about ourselves. We need to give ourselves permission to articulate what we want to be known for, what we’ve done, and what we can deliver.
What advice would you give to job applicants to stand out in a crowded field?
You can stand out by quickly identifying how you can be of help – how your experience and values can help organizations and be a service to others. In looking at a job listing, try to carefully assess what the needs may be and then highlight the skills you bring that might be most relevant.
How can we all enhance our personal brands?
Whether you’re just starting out or have many years of experience, try to determine what you’re good at and where you want to go—then also try to identify any parts of your brand that need refinement. In the last year we’ve all seen a lot of crises and if part of your experience is leading people through times of crisis and helping them align with others, then certainly speak to that and articulate it as part of your personal brand. Many of us are needing to reflect and re-align as a result of these challenging times.
How did you come to be a career strategist?
When I was in graduate school for sociology, my “day job” was hiring faculty. I loved it! I loved talking with people and learning about them. After graduation, I worked at MIT for a few years and my “side hustle” was helping to coach people on job search and resume strategy. I did that part-time for about four years and then went full-time almost three years ago.
What advice would you give to those interested in being an independent practitioner?
It’s very similar to what I tell job seekers: listen and understand what people need. And for everyone—job seekers and those seeking clients—get comfortable with rejection. You have to recognize that it’s part of the process—part of business. Then try to figure out who might say “yes” and look for those ideal clients.
Want to learn more? Save your seat for Communicating Your Value: Personal Branding for PR Pros – Wednesday, March 10th at 5 pm! Free for PRSA members – Register Now!
March 2, 2021
Denise Kaigler is an award-winning communications, marketing and brand strategist, and the founder and principal of MDK Brand Management, LLC. Among her many accomplishments, she is also the author of Forty Dollars and a Brand: How to Overcome Challenges, Defy the Odds, and Live Your Awesomeness. Check her website (http://mdkbrandmanagement.com) to see Denise’s coaching offerings.
How do you define a personal brand?
I like to say it’s what people say about you when you leave the room! And all of us really have the power to frame that narrative. It’s what we’re known for, the impression we give, our compelling story! It’s all that.
So how can you shape your brand?
You have to think about the career you want and then the qualities of someone who has succeeded in that career. Then, do a survey; ask people you trust what they would say about you. What are the traits that stand out? For example, if being successful in your field means being well-connected and organized, is that what people are saying about you? If not, then look at the gaps and start planning your strategy for how to get there—and then execute!
What holds people back in developing their brand?
Sometimes it starts with just not knowing where you want to go. In coaching, I have people pick a timeline, say one year, or two years, or five years and think about where they want to go – to avoid just blindly moving through time. Also, some people really are afraid to ask others about how they come across. What’s important to remember is that once you find out, you can start taking steps to help develop that brand you’re seeking.
What else can help us grow professionally?
I really believe we have the power to change our brand – we’re not stuck! – and knowing that is very helpful. I’ve seen the results from people in many different settings. Pre-COVID-19, I worked with several Massachusetts correctional facilities and helped people there transform their lives. But first, they had to believe they were worthy, and beautiful, and smart. Once they had that belief, they could start creating a road map and begin taking steps.
What has helped you in your own business?
I’ve spent 25 years in corporate settings in senior executive roles. I’ve had many successes and, of course, some failures. I’m very direct, and I like to tell stories about all those situations because they have helped shape who I am today–and people can relate to the situations. I think having that depth of experience and really showcasing it has helped me a lot in connecting with clients. So, for someone interested in really serving clients, I say you need to be who you are and share your stories with others.
Want to learn more? Save your seat for Communicating Your Value: Personal Branding for PR Pros – Wednesday, March 10th at 5 pm! Free for PRSA members – Register Now!
January 6, 2021
Fast Five with Mike Morrison: A Media Deluge, New Ways of Working, and “Amazing Gestures of Support”
Mike Morrison, Director of Media Relations for Massachusetts General Hospital, looks back on 2020 and managing through a pandemic.
When did you know that MGH was facing a public health crisis?
As of late December 2019, leaders from our Center for Disaster Medicine had been closely monitoring news from abroad, as well as updates from domestic and international agencies. The hospital officially launched its Incident Command System at the end of January and ramped up the frequency of its meetings as the pandemic progressed.
How has this crisis changed the way you work?
Within the management structure, the Office of News and Public Affairs plays a key role in communicating crucial information. The big challenge for our department has been moving from working very much “in person” to working remotely. We have a team of 13 – 14 people who are very much used to working closely and collaboratively, so working remotely created some challenges at first.
Also, with the volume of media requests, we’ve had to make sure that the same experts are not being approached by different staff from the same media outlet through different folks on our team. To that end, our department designated a kind of “air traffic controller” who is copied on relevant media requests, so she can provide a bird’s-eye-view of the situation.
Our day-to-day staffing plan includes two members of our team in the office on a rotating basis to cover the phones and escort media, as needed, on campus. And as another change, since most media don’t want to come on campus, we had to quickly shift to Zoom interviews, which have to be coordinated.
Have you had any special challenges?
Especially during the height of the surge, we’ve been deluged with incoming media requests. We’ve needed to balance these with proactive communications around critical public health messages. We had nearly 1100 media placements between early March until the end of May.
Our entire team has been just incredible. During the height of the initial spring surge, our colleagues went above and beyond to keep up with the hospital’s incredible communications needs. Every media request represented a huge opportunity to get important information to the public.
We’ve also wanted to share stories about the amazing gestures of support from the Boston community. We’ve had offers of free parking for our staff and some very smart people with 3-D printers offering to create PPE. Also, people would just come by the hospital with donations of food, hand lotion, PPE, and other items. We’ve responded on social media and on our website, and we continue to work hard to acknowledge and help coordinate all that support and goodwill.
Were there any resources that particularly helped?
While we always have worked closely with other departments, the hospital community has really pulled together. Our colleagues in Marketing have played a key role in helping to generate social media content, as well as a consistent look and feel for Covid-19 communications. Communicators in other departments, such as the Mass General Research Institute, have also volunteered to take on various writing and other projects to help in the effort. It’s really been “all-hands-on-deck,” and we’re fortunate to work in a place with that kind of culture.
Has your focus changed over the year?
At this point, as we gear up for what may be a second surge, we’re really keeping with the practices we began in the spring—but are getting better at it. Now, though, people want to talk about the vaccine, and we’re getting experts and materials ready to provide information.
Also, we are working hard to get images and video to show staff in action and help with communication—and we’ve already captured thousands of images. And for this phase, we’re focusing even more on those photos and videos, both for public communication and also as a chronicle for MGH history.
January 6, 2021
Fast Five with Leah Lesser: Driving Public Information, Communicating the Human Experience, and Staying Focused in a Critical Role
Leah Lesser, Marketing Communications Manager at Emerson Hospital in Concord, describes the focus of community hospital public relations and communications during COVID-19. “It’s been an intense year.”
When did COVID-19 come “front and center” at Emerson Hospital?
In early January, we began hearing the terms Coronavirus and COVID-19. On January 27, we issued our first public message about the virus, which was an infographic about symptoms and prevention. We didn’t know then that the virus would become a harrowing public health emergency.
Looking back, it amazes me how much we have learned and has reinforced how essential communication is in a pandemic. It has also underscored for me as a communicator the impact of sharing the human experience – not just metrics and data and symptoms and protocols – but what people are actually experiencing in real life.
What else did you start doing?
When we shared the infographic, we also put signage up throughout the hospital, asking people to self-identify if they were sick and had traveled from China or Europe. The first week of March, our Emergency Department treated the third patient in the state who was positive. Other patients followed quickly from there. Communication has been non-stop since.
Who do you focus on and how have you been communicating?
Our primary audiences for COVID-19 communications have been:
- Media, including Boston and local media (25+ weekly newspapers)
- Donors and friends of Emerson
We use various digital, social, e-mail, podcasts, videos, and other communications channels to reach these core audiences. We work hard to create content that is compelling and valuable for our community. One example is an article written with an allergist: Covid or Allergies? How to Tell. This article went viral on social with nearly two million page views. Another article we produced this summer after some colleagues became dog owners is: Pandemic Puppies: Health Tips for Their Humans.
In the spring, we worked to garner messages of support from celebrities, including Chris Evans and Steve Carell. These messages boosted staff morale and helped the public know how hard our staff worked to care for patients.
Proactive media relations resulted in more than 100 feature stories in the first six months of the pandemic. In a typical six-month period, Emerson receives approximately 20 feature stories.
Looking ahead, where are you focused?
Right now, we are focused on communications about the vaccines. We are working on TV features about our Surgical Weight Loss program and other proactive media opportunities. Looking further ahead, we are preparing to launch new marketing campaigns to promote priority service lines while staying focused on communications about the pandemic.
How has the year impacted you as a communicator?
I have always been amazed by our front-line staff, including our nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, social workers, and others who care for patients. This year I was awed by their heroism.
Also, going through a pandemic as a health care communicator has made me appreciate the benefits of working with a nimble marketing team to understand the human experience and get information out quickly. And due in large part to the pandemic, people all over the hospital and the community have recognized the value of communications. Our team is busier now than ever.
It has been an intensely non-stop year, yet a year that makes me very proud of our hospital and grateful to be part of it. We are ready for 2021!
January 4, 2021
Fast Five with Ellen Berlin: Supporting Key Audiences, Staying Focused, and Communicating Beyond Covid-19
Ellen Berlin, Director of Media Relations for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, discussed the challenges of communicating for a specialty hospital during 2020.
How was Dana-Farber impacted by the pandemic?
Most of our work at Dana-Farber involves providing treatment for cancer on an outpatient basis. Patients desperately want treatment, but particularly early in the pandemic, some were afraid to come in since they were already dealing with a compromised immune system. And early in 2020, there was a lot we didn’t know.
Also, as of last March, many employees needed to work off site, which was a new way of working, and they needed information and support. And Dana-Farber also had to keep research work going despite the restrictions.
How has this crisis changed the way you work in media relations?
We have a small media relations department—eight people—and early on it was hard because we were managing with many unknowns, and we were scared. But we adapted and have stayed focused on two important areas: providing patient information and managing the reputation of the institute.
Initially, it felt like crisis communication, and it went on for weeks. We responded to inquiries, such as: how were we continuing to treat patients and how were we keeping the hospital safe? And we communicated about changes in fundraising events from in-person to virtual.
Have you had any special challenges?
From a media-relations perspective, our biggest challenge has been getting attention on cancer treatment and research in the midst of the pandemic. We continue to push out a lot of information, but we know it needs to be particularly relevant to get media coverage. Fortunately, we have been very adept at pitching stories that reporters are interested in. We use a wide variety of media—social, mainstream, and trade publications—and we communicate through our website and blogs and videos.
Also, a big challenge has been internal communication, and while we have a separate team working on that, the media staff contributes to it. For most employees, this has been their first experience working remotely.
In addition, the timeframe to return to work has kept changing; first we were coming back in June, then September, and now in June of 2021. The media team has been fortunate because we were already working remotely one day a week, so it was not totally new for us.
What kind of programs were put in place internally?
Internally we support colleagues who produce bi-weekly Zoom forums for thousands of staff members. They use them to answer employee questions and share information about patient care, administrative issues, and well-being tools. Also, we’ve contributed content for the intranet. Now, focus has turned to the vaccines and the process for how they will be rolled out for staff and then patients. It’s very complex.
We also now have a manager’s forum and an “all-staff” email three times a week. The email covers developments related to Covid-19, summary information from the bi-weekly forum, and other items.
What are your thoughts as you look back on the year?
When I look back, I think OMG; it’s a miracle that despite what we have lived through, we’ve all been able to continue to do our jobs and contribute to this important work of cancer care. It’s such a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the people here.
Our colleagues at Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s where patients receive inpatient care also were there with support, and we are so grateful to them. We have all stayed focused and have pulled together—but It’s been quite a year!
October 15, 2020In Fast Five on
He simultaneously holds leadership titles at two signature US brands. For Philadelphia native Rashaad Lambert, that is a metaphor of his life’s calling: building bridges and creating connections to open higher doors for people of color. When he eschewed the anachronistic term “minority,” his advocacy led Forbes to agree, recently announcing that this word would be banished in reference to race. In preparation for PRSA Boston’s Diversity Zoom Conversation on Oct. 19, Rashaad spoke with longtime board director Loring Barnes about the need in the current momentum for building diversity across corporations, higher ed and entrepreneurs, the Boston roots for his popular For(bes) The Culture online business resource community and his view that all Philly cheesesteaks are not created equal.
Q: We’re talking about the coming of age for diversity in America and globalism. Is there something that communicators or C-suite executives need to understand about applying practices of inclusion when applied to communities identified by race versus LGBTQ?
A: One of the reasons I pushed to raise the inappropriateness of the disparaging word “minority” is that LGBTQ was being postured as a minority population, when it’s not. Trying to compare or equate these struggles did a disservice to all. Diversity does include everybody, or as the Broadway song says, our “coat of many colors.” But for authors of press releases or website content: trying to hijack or latch onto a movement of oppressed people is unfair if you try to lump them as one. We don’t know if someone identifies as LGBTQ, but you can’t strip my ethnic identity from my skin. This pejorative visual makes for a vastly different employee or customer experience and organizations that aim to be thoughtful about their DE&I intent need to acknowledge these distinctions when developing their messaging as a code of conduct.
Q: In your role as content curator and leader of For(bes) The Culture’s online community of 21,000 business influencers and emerging entrepreneurs of color, you formally announced that the word “minority” will no long be assigned to racial topics by this important media outlet. Public relations professionals help organizations to align actions to words, and words to actions. How do you look for this action to change more than language?
A: I have been passionate about ending use of this term for as long as I can remember, and it underscores how words truly matter in our society. This term was absorbed and mainstreamed without question. I don’t want Forbes using inaccurate statements. I am worried about my community. One person spreading false narrative has a snowball effect on the rest of the world. Convincing one group that they have less standing than another group unequally elevates one community while denigrating and devaluing the other. It also encourages harmful judgements and behaviors. I applaud Forbes for leading this change. Hopefully it will bleed into the US educational system, entertainment, media as it has with the LA Times, and employers of all stripes. It’s a cancer in our society that has become a tool of white supremacy.
Q: You advocate that understanding an organization’s DE&I practices serves as a barometer for its growth and revenue because values matter. Can you elaborate on points of confusion that communicators can help to resolve when sharing this aspect of a brand’s story?
A: We need change across the board. Turn on the news. The violence against blacks and LGBTQ is real, demanding that leaders take bold and meaningful actions to end it. When a company or association states that they are committed to achieving diversity in hires, validating this requires that we can discern between the quality and quantity of those positions. These jobs should not be subordinate, such as warehouse jobs, but rather are true positions of power where talented, qualified people can steward influence while contributing to organizational goals and societal benefit. Even boardrooms are unclear about how “equity” compares to “equality.” They aren’t interchangeable terms. Equality is opinion-based, whereby people are snap-judged, often on their basis of racial cues, gender identity, accent or education. Equity by contrast signifies the action of offering a seat at the decision table, where one has true influence, their ideas considered and valued, and they can open the door to this room for others who haven’t had this opportunity.
Q: Can you share trigger questions for vetting the diversity philosophy of a person or a business, particularly as would inform professional communicators about how to advise organizations to align their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts?
A: My internal screening questions may be different in detail but in general I run a three-point check. I look for evidence of effort. Are the representatives of a brand or cause authentic or is this a façade? I just need to know what I am working with. Is it worth my reputation if the relationship goes south? I won’t gamble with my reputation. And I look for shared philosophy and intent. If I can’t find this affinity, then even the most polished enterprise may not be a risk worth taking. You want to know that you can be collaborative with equal energy and integrity.
Q: We’re headed into an election. Does America need to create a Secretary of Equality as a cabinet position in order to change how we interact and engage across all sectors of industry and society?
A: As promoter Don King famously said: “Only in America can you find so many angry people claiming to love their country, while hating almost anyone in it.” For individuals and brands, I think that to pursue change primarily through legislative channels is too limiting. Together we will achieve more if we become more mission focused as a global society with more independence than politics allows.
Q: You are adjunct business faculty at Temple University. I also teach an entrepreneurship course and have included a book by Daymond John, a successful self-made black entrepreneur known from “Shark Tank” and his founding of apparel company, FUBU. From your experience, is there something about how university coursework needs to evolve that will increase student command of the business advantages of building and joining inclusive organizations when they graduate?
A: Absolutely! Our entire education system needs to be overhauled to be more relevant and applicable to careers of all kinds. Content needs to be diversified and more integrated beyond one required African American Studies course, which is far too limiting. College graduates arrive to their employers and they don’t get how racism relates to them. Business is about doing business with people of different cultures. The lessons of Juneteenth and Black Wall Street need to be mainstreamed because it shapes how we conduct commerce today.
Q: Organizations, including the nonprofit PRSA Foundation, are looking to public relations for help in opening professional gateways for leaders of color. Do you have any practical guidance that will enable these efforts without them being received as patronizing?
A: They should have been doing all along, which is to accept the most qualified candidates. If you put the wrong person in a position, you will impede progress for your organization. Being inclusive for a search is important but be sure to hire on the basis of the big picture, not just to try to make up for lost time. You will be creating new problems for your brand and its economic or societal mission.
Q: Financial services is a major US business sector, particularly across the Northeast. Can you tell us about how your DE&I work is creating change for TD Bank or its relationship with customer markets?
A: They have an untold story: the company’s investment in collectible art. I’m working to introduce them to a younger, more diverse profile of deserving but possibly undiscovered artists. These acquisitions can make an economic impact in new neighborhoods and fund important preservation of social and cultural storytelling as chronicles history. What is lost about art is that people don’t realize is that artists are not born, but rather are created through teaching and self-learning. Artists are Latinx, Black, gay, and blind, but the fact that they are young or aren’t represented by galleries or brokers puts them at a disadvantage that thoughtful engagement can remedy. Preserving art is an important facet of documenting history.
Q: OK, where we have both lived in Philly, I have to ask if your favorite cheesesteak is Geno’s or Pat’s?
A: Ha! It won’t surprise anyone that I don’t follow the flock. I miss Jim’s in West Philly the most, but I will go to Larry’s or Ishkabibbles to find a solid cheesesteak. I should mention that For(bes) The Culture began three years ago this month at Anthem Kitchen & Bar in Boston. There’s a food thread here: consultants need to feed their ideas. I hope Anthem returns from COVID because their food was delicious. The pandemic has been relentlessly hard on the restaurant industry.
Q: I don’t have to tell you that this is a tumultuous time for the global economy on so many fronts: workforce displacement, the reckoning of racism and the pandemic. How would you advise public relations practitioners about how to navigate these issues when counseling an organization and carving out thought leadership space for them that is genuine?
A: I have learned through years of consulting and government work, including the White House and Congress, that it is important not only to advise leaders about hot button issues, but to craft authentic messages that make sense for them around these topics when it is not detrimental to their organizational character. PRSA espouses what I practice: always speak their truth. Trying to “be” the voice of an executive or a brand is counterproductive because it’s transparently inauthentic. I work in the other direction: I learn what the views of a client is first, in their voice, and then help them to bring those positions into relatable, clear messages. If you are too worried about being on either end of politically correctness or racy, I would say stop: just make sure they are on the right side of history.
Q: Do you have a favorite podcast for someone who wants to do private introspection on the broad and expanding movement that is diversity, equity and inclusion?
A: I should be on his payroll for the number of times I’ve recommended Malcomb Gladwell’s podcast “Revisionist History.” The content is highly relevant to the moment, but even the audio quality is attention-grabbing for you feel like you are hearing the audio of a video and can visualize his conversation. He puts important current issues into historical context. He questions the moral grounding of authority, such as the decision makers at universities that spend more on dining programs than to investing in scholarships for underserved communities. Powerful stuff, and very applicable to today.
Q: You are an acknowledged expert in ways that DE&I intersects with marketing. How do you inform your insights as a model for communicators who must stay educated for themselves and the organizational leadership they advise?
A: I think keeping an advisory circle from different sectors connects you to strategies for economic prosperity and social impact that are grounded in experience. This is a model that can be easily replicated. Philadelphia tech entrepreneur Dean Harris, developer Lamarr Kendrick and musician Chill Moody have become ambassadors for our home city and admirable ambassadors for entrepreneurism. The pandemic has put a spotlight on outlying centers of business opportunity, and Tayyib Smith is all over it by building a five-story entrepreneurship hub outside of downtown Philadelphia. The stories these guys tell in three to five years should be fascinating. I should say that it was my mother Joyce Lambert who gave me my sense of duty to serve others and to make a difference. She serves in government-funded Lambert Legacy Charities, which has fed and clothed over 5,000 people in need. She embodies entrepreneurism and service.
Rashaad Lambert (Panelist): Dir. of Culture & Community, Forbes and Strategic Partner of Social Impact, TD Bank
In an industry where diversity and racism have become part of the narrative among high-profile pro athletes, Rashaad has been immersed in creating pathways for addressing racism, equity and inclusion for their success during and outside of competition. Today, he wears two hats: as Strategic Partner of Social Impact for TD Bank and as Forbes’ Director of Culture & Community, through which he leads diversity initiatives targeting entrepreneurs. Through his For(bes) The Culture #CultureTalks platform on Instagram, Rashaad has galvanized a collaborative online think tank committed to improving access to more revenue and impact opportunities for communities that are marginalized when confronted with the uphill climb against bias or discrimination. The multicultural engagement inroads made by this proud Philadelphia native who attended Temple University have been recognized by the NAACP, Forbes, and the US Congress. He holds the distinguishing Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification for coaching and organizational change leadership.