Posts Tagged ‘Camille Isaacs’


Conventional wisdom tells us that children learn from the good example of their parents.  But something went haywire when my mother misbehaved in the office of the Prime Minister.  She defied the leadership of the Jamaica Civil Service Association by raising a topic that was not on the agenda in a meeting with the Prime Minister.  In less than 10 minutes, my mother secured an important policy change that gave women in management positions in the public service the same benefits as their male colleagues.

It was 1976, the first year of the United Nations’ Decade for Women.  The Government of Jamaica was committed to implementing gender equity policies.  Ironically, only male public service managers with over 10 years’ service could benefit from the payment of 50% of family vacation travel costs.  There was no justification for this discriminatory benefit.

The male-dominated executive of the association struck down every attempt my mother made to have the assisted vacation benefit extended to women.  These men also refused to have the elimination of gender-based discrimination listed among the Jamaica Civil Service Association’s priorities for change.  When the courtesy call visit to the Prime Minister was being planned, my mother was told that it was not the proper forum in which to raise “these controversial topics.”

Not one to burn bras or launch a public campaign against men, my mother chose to use her position of leadership to influence and create change by ‘properly’ misbehaving.  This meant taking the risk of crossing the line of political correctness in the highest office of political power. 

Three things I learned

  1. Don’t ask for forgiveness

Political correctness is the biggest hurdle to progress.  Being disruptive doesn’t always have to take the form of raucous demonstrations in the streets. My mother’s way of fighting for the cause was to secure a seat at the table, by getting elected and getting involved.   Going off-topic in the board room is a very valid and powerful tactic to militate for change.  My mother chose to break the rules of protocol.  She made no apology for doing so.  I learned from her, to never ask permission or apologize for doing the right thing.

  1. Know who holds the power

There is strength in numbers, that’s why enlisting the support of influencers is important.  However, in order to win, you always need to know who holds the power to make change happen.

The Executive Committee’s mandate was to make representations to leaders in government on behalf of public service employees.  My mother was not discouraged by the unwillingness of the male-dominated executive to advocate for gender equality.  She knew that it was the political directorate that held the power to make changes in policy.  Her ultimate goal was to get the Prime Minister’s attention and incite him to take action.

  1. What’s in it for them matters too

My mother presented the issue of employee benefits as a blind spot in the government’s policy of gender equality that could no longer be overlooked.  The Prime Minister understood from her intervention that changing the rules was the right thing to do, particularly at a time when the issue of women’s rights was high on the public agenda.  Removing gender-based discrimination in the public service would reinforce his commitment to women’s rights and earn for his government, greater credibility both locally and internationally.

The BIG picture

All of this happened over 40 years ago.  Although assisted payment of vacation travel is no longer a benefit in the public service, my mother’s commitment to the cause of gender equality continues to be part of her legacy.  She didn’t just take personal pride in fulfilling her professional ambition or sit on her hard-earned status of being among the first women in public service management.  She saw the big picture and decided to fight for a better and just world, so that many other women and men would have equal access to opportunities to achieve their ambitions and enjoy the benefits of their service.

The most valuable lesson I learned from my mother is that women should never be reticent about pursuing their ambitions or shy away from dissenting voices.  Aspiring to positions of leadership is one of the best ways to fight for a cause and create meaningful change.   Effective leadership requires the courage to take risks, even if it means you may have to ‘properly’ misbehave.   The outcome may surprise you.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.




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August 15, 1993, was to have been the luckiest day in my life.  I landed in Montreal, Canada, as a permanent resident with a job already lined up!  Fluent in French and with a degree from a North American university, I was hired as a management trainee in a major Canadian institution.  Unlike most new immigrants to Canada, the obstacles of language, foreign qualifications and Canadian work experience were not standing in my way.  As you can see from my first professional photograph, my big, long hair framed a bright-eyed, smiling face that was filled with optimism.

Six months later, I was telling a different story.

I was struggling in an unhappy work environment with colleagues who were unhelpful and insensitive to my efforts to ‘fit in.’   And it was nobody’s fault.

I came from a hierarchical, formal workplace culture in the Jamaican public sector where ”junior officers” were expected to learn by listening attentively and taking notes in meetings with their “seniors.”  Meritocracy, the quality of written reports and giving the right information when it was asked for, put you on the path to promotion and success.  In Canada, I didn’t understand that it was okay and expected of trainees to speak up, participate and ask challenging questions in meetings with clients.  The feedback I got from my politically correct Canadian colleagues was that they viewed me as shy.  A few others bluntly questioned my level of interest and enthusiasm for the job.  This all came as a surprise.  Far from being shy, I have always been passionate about my work.

Caught in a mire of cultural misunderstanding, my experience was a source of bewilderment for both me and my employer.   According to a 2012 report by the Progress Career Planning Institute, the challenge persists to this day.   Workplace acculturation – the adoption of behaviours that are in harmony with the corporate culture – is a major hurdle for professional immigrants when trying to establish a career.

There is tremendous focus on attracting immigrant employees, language learning, cultural educational programs, fast-tracking foreign students’ permanent resident applications and, most importantly, guiding immigrants through the job search process.  But once the job offer is accepted, it must not be assumed that all is well.

‘Diversity’ is a politically correct buzzword 

During my job search prior to migrating to Canada, virtually every organization listed diversity among its corporate values.  Job postings and brochures had standard statements announcing the organization’s commitment to diversity, surrounded by photos of groups of smiling multi-ethnic employees.  There was no mention of workplace acculturation programs in recruitment materials and I didn’t feel the need to ask.

Now that workplace diversity is commonplace, diversity statistics may provide a breakdown of various groups within the employee population, but the experience of employees, whether reported or observed, can tell a different story.

Focus on workplace integration – for all employees

Rather than focusing primarily on hiring a diverse workforce, Canadian employers should take specific steps towards creating an integrated workforce – a place where everyone feels that they “fit in.”  When my colleagues joked that I was “different,” I didn’t quite understand what that meant.  It left me wondering quite often whether being different was a good or bad thing, and if I was fitting in.

Every employer wants a good fit between new employees and company culture.  This can be complicated when the new employee is an immigrant; and yet, how well current employees integrate with new immigrants is equally important. There is a case to be made for new immigrants and their Canadian colleagues to participate in workplace acculturation programs.

Based on my own work and integration experience, I would have the following recommendations for employers of new immigrants:

  • Avoid setting up programs designed specifically for ethnic groups, as this may lead to the creation of silos and a source of resentment for other employees.
  • Provide immediate peer support and allow for an adjustment period to allow new immigrant employees and their Canadian colleagues to work on integration.
  • Guide new immigrants towards social media networks and professional groups and encourage participation in the organization’s social events.
  • Stop giving and accepting “cultural differences” as an easy excuse for poor integration. Provide cross-cultural workshops and forums for open communication and conflict resolution.
  • Give new immigrants opportunities to apply their foreign experience: it may provide the organization with new ways of doing business, and even provide a competitive advantage.
  • Build mentorship programs for new immigrants, especially those in leadership positions and who are people managers, to ensure that cultural differences do not affect team-building and performance evaluation.

In my case, I was fortunate to meet several business contacts early on, and they introduced me to professional networks and associations.  It was through interacting with a good mix of foreign-born and Canadian colleagues that I learned more about the Canadian business environment, expanded my network and progressed in my career.  While I may still seem “different” at times, I work effectively with my Canadian co-workers, and they value my contribution and international experience.

Immigrants are here to stay…and more are coming

The Conference Board of Canada  says Canada will have to rely on immigration to fill gaps in a workforce depleted by slow growth and an aging population.    Statistics Canada predicts nearly half of Canada’s population will be immigrants, or children of immigrants, in less than 20 years from now.  In other words, the need for workplace acculturation programs is not going away.


Camille Isaacs-Morell came to Canada nearly 24 years ago from Jamaica and the USA where she gained extensive experience working with persons of various ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds.  She is a marketing professional and volunteer, passionately committed to making an impactful contribution to the creation of a truly integrated global village, where everyone has a fair chance to be successful.  

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.


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Several business people wander through a maze looking for a job

When I published the article “You’re hired!”…and it took me a year, I had no idea that I would be looking for work three years later.  Back then, I had just concluded an intensive search after my position in a stable, global financial institution was abolished, ending a successful career that progressed nicely over 16 years.

When I accepted the offer for a permanent full-time position the following year, it was not quite the dream job I was looking for, but I was convinced, and still am, that I was forging a new path to take me to the next level.  In fact, I deliberately disrupted myself.  It was a newly created job with the mandate to develop and deliver a marketing strategy for products I had never marketed before.

Two years in, there were budget and staff cutbacks.  I sub-consciously knew that the time to move on was fast approaching.   Last summer, my position was eliminated.

Although it’s cold comfort, I realize that I am not alone.  I’ve met many mid- and advanced-career professionals on the job search trail.  I see the struggles to remain positive, diffuse anxiety and stay the course.  My career transition experience has given me some insights on stumbling blocks that can potentially derail a job search and how to avoid them.

  1. Other people’s stories are theirs, not yours

During my networking, I’ve met many people who’ve “been there, done that” and they tell their stories of how they got through it.  The Winners, who took only 2 to 4 months to land on their feet; the Whiners who give very detailed explanations as to why they won’t ever get hired (age…, conspiring former bosses and colleagues…, no one hires in summer… etc.) and the Copped-Out & Lucked-Out who boast about the luxury of being able to retire early so they avoid looking for a job.

Then there are those who haven’t “been there.” They have never lost their jobs.  They are really Secretly Scared that this could happen to them, while they hint that they pity you and don’t envy you.  There are also the Helpers and Hinters who in an awkward effort to provide good advice, actually end up saying exactly what you don’t need to hear (“You’re doing something wrong, otherwise it wouldn’t take so long…”) or they send you job postings that are no match for your skills and experience.

It’s so easy to buy-in to other people’s stories.  Comparing your experience with other people’s stories is a waste of time and energy.  The truth is you need to own your story.

Instead of trying to explain your story, make a commitment to yourself to be clear on what’s best for you.  Only you can make sense of your life’s journey.  Only you really know the things that motivate you and ultimately matter to you.  Very few people will understand your story.  Most people are trying to figure out their own story and others don’t have the time or are not really interested in listening to yours.

The temptation to set low expectations and settle for less becomes real when you compare yourself with other people. It takes courage to say “no” to seemingly good opportunities in order to say “yes” to the very best.  You are not a loser if you haven’t found a job within a given timeframe or if you made it to the final interview but didn’t get the job.

Even if you don’t have the financial independence to prolong your search, if you accept a position out of necessity, remind yourself that you can work while continuing to search for your dream job.

  1. The corporate ladder is an obsolete metaphor

Job seekers, who have progressed over many years in one company, tend to be overly concerned with titles, organizational structures and status.  In most progressive organizations today, dotted lines, flat organizational structures and collaborative team environments are the norm.

I agree that people should look for challenging work that fits their experience and expertise.  But looking for a job with a title that fits into the next step on the corporate ladder can prevent you from finding enriching opportunities for meaningful work that expand your talents and capabilities.

The truth is that we are living in a new corporate world order where the corporate ladder is fast becoming an obsolete metaphor.

Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In, encourages professionals to forget the corporate ladder and consider careers in terms of a jungle gym. You can venture down different paths and explore numerous possibilities on the way to achieving your goals, just like trying to climb to the top of a jungle gym.  It took me quite some time to get this during my career transition four years ago.  I am glad I did, as I ended up finding an interesting opportunity which has broadened my experience not only professionally, but in my volunteer work and social life.

  1. Being stuck really sucks!

Following on my two earlier points, getting stuck can happen very easily if you can’t define what you want or if your definition of what you want doesn’t fit in the new corporate world order or with your values.

I’ve come across a few people who are stuck within a destructive ‘my way or the highway’ mindset, hanging on to what was and what will never be, taking job loss personally and feeling victimized.  When corporate priorities change, it so happens that some jobs are no longer needed. That’s why no one should take a layoff personally.

I know that it can be a drag to be out of work and pounding the pavement can be tough.  But here’s the upside:  going through a career transition can be the best opportunity to reorient a career.  On reflection, many people thank their lucky stars that they had the chance to move on, rather than stay stuck in a career that was no longer meaningful.

Most successful careers rarely ever follow a smooth, upward north-eastern trajectory.  Compromises and disruptions do occur along the way.  The truth is that compromises can be beneficial.

Speaking from my own experience, the job with a lower salary with less formal influence may just be what you need to gain more relevant experience in a changing world, while applying your past experience in a way that is beneficial to the organization and to your career in the long run.


Take ownership and responsibility for your career transition

The world is waiting to embrace talent and you have a fair shot to offer yours. Don’t let people, old ideas or a closed mind derail your job search.  The power to shape the future resides within each of us. That’s why it is important for every job seeker to take ownership of their career transition.

When you can clearly articulate to potential employers, who you really are and why you care, they will see that the value you bring to their organization is far greater than what you know and what they expect you to do.  This sets the stage for you to find meaningful work and for your future employer see you as a true partner, stakeholder and contributor to the organization’s success.


You may find the following articles helpful –

Career mistakes you must avoid@Deepak Chopra MD (Official)

Forget the Ladder; Try the Jungle Gym: What Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Says You Can Do for Your Career Right Now – Maggie Malon

It’s called a life, not a life sentence!  How to move forward when you’re feeling stuck@Michaela Alexis


Camille N. Isaacs Morell is a proven marketing strategy and business development enabler. She is passionate about inspiring people to make decisions that support business success.  

She currently seeks opportunities to contribute to the success of enterprises and non-profit organizations with direct responsibility for developing the marketing strategy to support business development and stakeholder engagement.

See the BIG picture…Focus on what’s important


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Lost Luggage

For fourteen days I was without my suitcase.  When the airline finally delivered my suitcase, it was exactly fourteen hours before my flight back to Canada. This happened on my Christmas vacation in Jamaica.

It was frustrating to go through this experience as a customer.  As a marketer, I observed firsthand how a negative customer experience can undermine the hard work and investment in the company’s marketing program.

Disconnect between Marketing and Customer Experience

The philosophy of the airline’s founders – that just because you pay less for your flight, doesn’t mean you should get less – appeals to many travellers who are looking for the same or better service at lower cost than competing airlines.  The advertising slogan – Owners care – means that the employee-owners have a vested interest in the success of the airline, so that passengers will be treated well.

In the first few days of this ordeal, I wandered through a maze of standard verbal and automated responses, I resorted to sending Tweets and e-mails to senior leaders of the airline and I blew a gasket when the airline sent me the wrong suitcase on day 6.

Ironically, it was a contract worker who showed an impressive level of care that made me believe that the ordeal would come to a happy ending.

On Christmas Eve as I was preparing to go out to celebrate, the luggage delivery service’s driver called at 10:00 p.m. to say that he was two hours away.  He said that he didn’t want me to miss my celebration event and emphasized that he was committed to delivering my suitcase wherever I was and whenever it was convenient for me.

Personas, Processes, Predictability

Throughout the experience, it was clear to me that there were serious gaps in customer service, employee empowerment, operations and communication.  In my view, the shortcomings in all of these areas seriously undermined the airline’s marketing program in three ways –

  • There are some segments in the client population whose personas and needs were not understood;
  • The operations processes didn’t address the customer’s needs; and
  • The employees’ actions were not consistently aligned with the corporate values and culture.

I offer the following recommendations on how to prevent these shortcomings –

1. Clearly define and understand the personas of a diverse passenger clientele

Although Canadian-based airlines may consider Jamaica as a vacation destination, not all passengers are Canadian tourists.  A large number of airline passengers in winter are Canada-based Jamaicans returning ‘home’ on vacation.  These passengers have very different personas from Canadian tourists ‘going south’ for a winter vacation.

Admittedly, it is challenging to craft marketing messages and to provide a consistent client experience when a diverse clientele is using the same service.  Gaining a detailed understanding of various customer personas should be the first priority.  Armed with this understanding, it is likely that airlines will be well placed to develop appropriate service levels, effective operational processes and prepare employees to ensure that every client has a satisfying travel experience.

2.  Ensure processes to remedy problems are focused in customers’ needs

A passenger feels stranded when his luggage is lost or delayed.  What’s worse is when an automated e-mail promises a response within 3 to 5 business days.   A stranded passenger doesn’t care about the airline’s logistical constraints and system limitations.

Operational processes are only efficient if they meet the customer’s needs in a timely manner.

Even if it takes an extended period of time to solve a problem, in the interim, the customer needs to be kept informed of the status of the problem and be made to feel confident that every effort is being made by real people – not a computer system or some convoluted process – to solve the problem.

3.  Train employees to deliver a predictable and consistent customer experience

Fun, friendly and caring – these are among the airline’s stated corporate values that are said to flow through to the corporate culture and customer experience.  I can only agree that all of the airline’s staff in Canada, in-flight and in Jamaica were fun, friendly and caring when everything was working well.

All employees – both on the front lines and behind the scenes – ought to understand how to act in ways that are consistent with the brand promise and how their actions influence customer perceptions and corporate success.  In practical terms, this means that employees should be trained to communicate effectively when problems arise.  As well, employees should be empowered to manage risk and take remedial action on the spot before bad situations get worse.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

Companies should not lose sight of the big picture, which is that customers are the cause of business. Their needs come first!

Every area of the organization ought to focus on ensuring that the customer experience does not undermine the company’s marketing plans.

Post Script –

  • The only items of clothing in my other suitcase that did arrive with me at the beginning of my vacation were my exercise outfit and my swimsuit! So I did get a chance to work out my angst and to relax at the beach during my two-week vacation.
  • Do you want to know the name of the airline?  I’m not telling.
    • The airline has made every effort to settle my claim fairly and the senior leadership have said that they take my feedback very seriously.

I really believe that remedial action will be taken.

That’s why I am pretty sure that I will have a positive experience when next I fly with this airline.  I certainly hope that you will too!


See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.




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There is a growing awareness of the important role Marketing must play in all areas of business.   But this doesn’t mean that it’s getting any easier for CMOs to gain the CFO’s nod of approval for marketing budgets.

Ask any CEO or CFO what they really care about when marketing budgets are being approved.  The answer always boils down to having measurable proof that marketing activities are contributing to revenue generation and profitability.

While no one would disagree that brand awareness and reputation are essential for business success and should be measured, many marketers are struggling to find the right metrics to justify their budgets.

Three key performance indicators of revenue generation and profits that are likely to get marketing budgets approved are  demand generation, acquisition of new clients and profitability of retaining current clients.

To deliver programmes that can be measured by these KPIs, Marketing has to work closely with other departments, particularly Sales and Client Service. There has to be a clear understanding of Marketing’s role to define where Marketing’s accountability begins and ends and to appropriately assign KPI metrics.

When setting KPI benchmarks, it is important to separate and measure the contribution of each Department involved –

  1. Demand generation programmes are generally based on calls to action through direct and indirect marketing activities. Not every lead that is generated results in a sale.  KPI benchmarks assigned to Marketing should measure the number of leads as well as the percentage of qualified leads.
  2. Although new client acquisition is the primary responsibility of Sales, the cost of acquiring clients involves the preparation of advertisements, collateral and quotation material and product /service enhancements require investment of time and resources from Marketing and possibly the IT, Operations and Customer Services Departments. The Marketing KPI benchmark should be based on the number of clients acquired as a direct result of a marketing lead generation programme.
  3. Profitability of retaining current clients generally requires the joint effort of key areas of the business such as Client Services and Marketing to retain, upsell and effectively service the client. The benchmark for this KPI should be directly related to Marketing budgets required to develop promotional programmes and on-going communications that engage current clients and support up-selling and cross-selling.

The trends in the metrics should be tracked and analysed on an on-going basis to determine how best to allocate future budgets and to adjust marketing strategies to optimize business results.

Click on the table below to see a suggested framework for setting KPI metrics.



See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.



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Social networking media, chat, messaging and communication concept: group of glossy colorful speech bubbles isolated on white background

As a marketer, I love the word “engagement.”

Just as in marriage, engagement in marketing involves deep, sincere interest and commitment.

Deep, sincere interest and commitment lead the potential or current customer to commit to making a purchase and better yet, being a brand advocate.

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit survey of 478 CMOs and senior marketing executives worldwide, engagement is increasingly perceived as key to the loyalty and advocacy stages of the customer life cycle. An engaged customer is one who sticks around.

Getting the customer to stick around has been viewed traditionally as the job of Sales and Customer Service.  The metrics are easy to identify – new sales, client retention, client satisfaction, repeat business etc.

Tracking engagement

Until recently, Marketing was generally not considered as a key player in client acquisition and retention.  There was no transactional dimension to engagement in marketing plans.  But this is changing.

The sun is setting on the days of multi-million dollar advertising budgets which aim to achieve single digit increases in brand awareness each year.   Back then, key metrics were based on subjective responses – such as ad recall and aided and unaided awareness – which were measured by polling sample target audiences after the campaign ended.  I know.  I’ve been there and done that.

Then things got a bit better for marketers with the advent of digital advertising and social media, which make it possible to gather data on interactions and on-line experience.  To measure marketing success, marketers counted the number of ‘likes,’ ‘downloads’ and ‘hits,’ until we found out what ‘hits’ actually means: ‘how idiots track success.’

At a Canadian Marketing Association Conference a few years ago, I remember Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist, Avinash Kaushik making some bold statements about tracking and analytics for websites.  He challenged marketers to go beyond measuring ‘hits’ to assessing the behaviour of visitors, once they hit our websites.   As Kaushik has pointed out on many occasions, repeat visitors, loyalty, ‘recency’ and frequency of visits, should be used to measure outcomes.  It’s the behaviour of visitors on websites and social media accounts that tells us about their level of interest and willingness to purchase, which are the best indicators of engagement.

Measuring engagement

Engagement metrics that track interactions throughout the marketing and business development funnel will, in my view, become more commonplace, as will correlations between interactions and sales.  For businesses whose leads and sales are not generated on-line, engagement metrics can and will also be used to determine the ROI on the marketing budget.

Consider using the following metrics to gather meaningful information on engagement:

  1. Correlation between awareness and consideration

The ratio of visitor engagements to social media impressions and/or visits to web sites, indicates how effective the marketing activity has been in creating awareness and the consideration to purchase.

Engagements include the number of clicks on social media posts and click throughs to other web pages, retweets, shares, favourites and direct inquiries.

The ratio will confirm if the media, channel, timing and frequency of the marketing communication are appropriate for the targeted audience.

  1. Purchases and revenue potential

Can the number of purchases be correlated to the engagement results from the marketing campaigns or activities?

Admittedly, this is more difficult to accurately measure, as a deeper analysis is required to determine if persons who engage with the brand are purchasers.  It may well be worth the effort, particularly for marketing programs with an immediate call to action in the form of on-line sales.

For businesses where leads and sales are not generated on-line, ways of measuring engagement against revenue potential should focus on correlations between interactions and the cost of investment.  For example, a good engagement metric to determine revenue potential resulting from leads generated at sponsored events such as trade shows,  could be the cost of sales appointments.  The cost of sales appointments is calculated by dividing the cost of sponsoring the event by the number of sales appointments resulting from in-person interactions. Then a correlation should be made with the revenue potential from the sales appointments and prospecting activities that follow.  The result should help determine if continued investment in the sponsored event is justified.

  1. Advocacy

Customers, who are brand advocates, are loyal, repeat buyers, influence others to purchase and are considered a trusted source by their peers.

Advocacy is a very important qualitative and quantitative metric.  Qualitative, because it involves observing what customers are saying about the product and the brand in on-line posts, discussions and various social media.  The number of shares, followers and discussions initiated provides quantitative data on brand advocacy.

See the BIG picture… Focus on what’s important

At their best, engagement metrics help businesses see the BIG picture, in which Marketing contributes to overall revenue generation, growth and proven ROI on marketing dollars.  Armed with the results of the engagement metrics, marketers can focus on what’s important: the analysis of what works and what doesn’t, and then taking action to continually evolve and improve marketing strategies and plans that support business development.




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Think win-win is one of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

I remember reading Covey’s book several years ago and feeling challenged and overwhelmed as I thought of how I could possibly practice this habit in the ego-centric competitive corporate culture of the company where I worked at that time.

But a strange thing happened yesterday at work. Even though I set out to fight for my right to be right, I won, and so did everybody else!

I was working against a fairly tight timeline to launch a multi-media communications plan for one of my internal clients. As it turned out, I provided a hurriedly prepared brief for an external designer who then prepared advertisements that did not quite meet the expectations of the guardians of the company’s brand.  I must admit that the designer informed me that some of my design requests were not ‘on-brand.’ The ads were acceptable, I thought, but time and money were at stake so I hurriedly approved the ads.  Bad decision.

Then yesterday, I received a meeting invitation from the brand guardian to discuss the project. I remember clicking on the accept button with some amount of fear and trepidation.  Fear of getting my wrist slapped for being ‘off-brand’ – not respecting the brand guidelines – and filled with trepidation of having to tell my internal client that I would have to spend more money from his budget to get the ads re-done ‘on-brand.’

So, off I went to the meeting yesterday, with my mental boxing gloves in tow, preparing to fight for my right to be right. Crusading for the cause of time and money was my platform as I set out to win the battle of the ads!  Stepping into the meeting, I was greeted with a copy of the ‘off-brand’ ad that I approved and a few ‘on-brand’ versions created by an external design company, who had recently been briefed on the latest version of our brand guidelines.  I smiled nervously.  But it was a genuine smile.  I really did see the difference between the ‘on-‘ and the ‘off-brand’ versions of the ad.

My colleague explained that the ads I approved should really not be used as they depicted the company’s brand and image of yesteryear, a time when I wasn’t even working at the company. The sooner we stop using ‘off-brand’ ads and making exceptions because of time and cost constraints, the better it would be for the company’s image.  I had to agree.

I nevertheless launched a somewhat defensive spiel on the time and cost constraints that had led me to give a less than perfect briefing to my designer and that these constraints would make it virtually impossible for me to withdraw the ‘off-brand’ ads. “I can’t just withdraw the ads, as the work has already been done.  I have to pay the designer.  I have no extra budget to re-do the ads,” I declared. “And by the way, how much will it cost me for the work done by your external designer to create these on-brand versions?”  I thought to myself, “There is no easy way out; I’m not going to win this time!”

A quick flashback to Covey’s habits of empathetic listening and of trying to understand rather than to be understood, made me pause calmly and pay attention to what was happening in the moment. My colleague gently said that the work done by the external design company was on spec, at no cost.  The ‘on-brand’ ads were developed by the designer as a template to demonstrate how to properly apply the guidelines, and my project was being used as an example.  “Are there any other ad formats you have in this campaign that you would like to submit so that the designer may prepare some other templates?” she asked.  “It will cost you nothing.  The texts in the templates can be modified for this and future campaigns.  Your department and other departments of the company will have access to the templates and your designer can modify the templates as long as the brand guidelines are respected.”

An important turning point in the conversation was when I realized that I could get the ads re-done and at no cost. By accepting the brand guardian’s offer, I wasn’t giving up anything.  I had the opportunity to create a win-win situation for several stakeholders.

  • By agreeing to have the external design company re-do my ads, the brand guardian would be in a position to determine if the external designer was capable of delivering projects on-brand and on time.
  • My project would give the external designer an opportunity to expand business by adding our company to their roster of clients.
  • What’s more, when all the templates are finalized, the entire company will benefit from having access to a bank of advertising templates for reuse with modifications that will cost much less than having to create completely new advertisements for every project.
  • As for the cost of the work done by my designer, I consider it to be an investment in the design process.  The ads served as the point of reference for the external design company to develop the ‘on-brand’ ads.
  • As for my designer, I definitely will share the ‘on-brand’ versions of the ads and the updated brand guidelines for easy reference for my future projects.


See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.

Win-win situations are all about seeing the BIG picture – the common good of all – while focusing on what’s important – building healthy, functional relationships through listening and addressing the needs and concerns of others.

Visit my website:  www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

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