Category Archives: News articles

Articles appearing in print or online media.

The CX Edge: Customers are King

Nearly 90 percent of CMOs report that building trusted customer relationships is a significant focus of their departments’ strategic and competitive vision for 2016, according to a recent Forbes study.

Building trusted customer relationships is a significant focus for many strategic and competitive visions this year. This is why the latest data and analytics technologies was at the top of almost every discussion at the CX Impact event in New Orleans, as attendees learned the tools to build credibility and long-term relationships with customers. This CXImpact Report, that summarizes what it takes to make your CX strategy next level, shows you how.

‘Taste the Feeling’ of Coca-Cola’s love for data

Coca-Cola may be known for bringing people together, but this wasn’t always the case. Its cross-functional operations were once very decentralized, but after implementing its shared service center using a centralized SaaS model, everything changed. Karla Younger, VP of HR Services, and her team have found the recipe for success – the data reveals the support function’s history and projects its future need.

“When we created shared services we lifted and shifted those operations into our model. So we didn’t necessarily transform before we moved it in,” says Karla Younger, the Vice President of HR Services for Coca-Cola refreshments.

Karla Younger THUMBNAIL
Karla on Coca-Cola was first published on

Now, thanks to a centralized SaaS model, Karla and her team have the recipe for Shared Services Success by having a look at just what’s happening in the support they provide. After collecting this intelligence, the data reveals the history of the support function and projects future need. The foundation of the transformation is really about merging all the data together to become more and more integrated. Only after integration is achieved can senior executives become fully aware of all the touchpoints. The final, fully-baked result is the emergence of a better functional picture based off of the interweaving data points.


“In the SaaS model you can do it a lot faster. It’s more agile, so you can start to build configurations, review it, tweak it and continue in that iterative cycle … we’ve been doing that with new technologies we’ve been putting in place and it’s much faster than we saw other like-ERP type of technologies in the past,” she says.

In the future, Coca-Cola wants to amp up automation for a faster turn around on employees’ more complex inquiries. Mobile apps will play a key role in delivering this information in a quicker and more effective way. Of course, the way to meet this constant evolution of technology, and continue the center’s reputation for groundbreaking innovation, is by mining for talent within the employees themselves.

“We have found individuals within our organization who have skills that we’re not necessarily using. So, we’ve been really focusing on providing some stretch opportunities, developing individuals, being able to flex them around as we have other initiatives and projects going on, and that’s worked really well over the last few years,” she says.

My interview with Karla was conducted at the HRSSO event in Orlando. 

“The Joy of Pepsi-Cola” is found in its global model

It’s not always a joy when you’re undergoing a global transformation in an organization like PepsiCo. As if it’s not hard enough to drive a new agenda with global processes, you must also make an effort to properly sort through all of the pushes and pulls to remain locally relevant. This is no easy feat when you’re driving the change in a company that’s larger than some small countries.

Even if your company doesn’t have 260,000+ employees across 84 countries, you still need to be of two minds when implementing a global shared services strategy. What does this mean? We asked Shakti Jauhar, PepsiCo’s Global HR Operations and Shared Services, to explain.

Shakti HeadshotSimply put, you should think globally when the value is driven by consistency and standardization. Conversely, you should think locally when the value is driven by the needs and variations of specific markets, he says.

For example, motivations and rewards systems are different in different countries. These are initiatives that you don’t want to standardize across the globe. “It’s all about harmonization, and at the end, making sure that harmonization takes care of whatever the local regulatory environment is and the local needs are,” Shakti says.

Tomorrow’s successful Shared Services models will sink or swim on the backs of your HR professionals’ ability to be adaptive, agile and analytical. They will only be able to do so if you throw them the lifejacket of standardization. Demonstrate the high-level need for change management, communication and engagement to the executives on your team. Meanwhile, you’ll also need to listen to the positive and negative experiences of the locally-based teams to make sure you’re taking a constant pulse of the changes. Their feedback will provide you with the data you need in order to make timely and effective adjustments.

The amount of knowledge and data that will continue to stream in to centers across the world will require analytical abilities that have perhaps never been seen before. Thankfully, technology will step in to help carry this burden. The ideal center has a three-layered approach to technology, according to Shakti. It’s built on a very simplistic technology infrastructure that supports any given cloud-based application platform, which allows the organization to maintain the technology as it moves and changes. On top of it all of this is all of the devices.

Now is the time to set up a support structure for those processes that lend themselves to self-service, whether it’s employee management or HR, so that the affected business teams are free to leverage technology instead of the old process. Although technology ends up playing a large role, transformation is not about technology, it is about process. It’s about being able to leverage the information, and the data, to be able to help the business goal, he says.

“So, if I have that three-layer infrastructure, I can then plug and play all the new startup innovations that come in, plug them in, leverage them, use them, be more efficient, plug it out, and put in a new one if I need to,” he says. “At the end of the day, we need to be agile in order to get to that point where we can start to really leverage what is coming to us from an innovation perspective, from all these startups that we think about and we talk about all the time.”

This is a summary of an interview with Shakti Jauhar from the HR Shared Services event.

Four pro tips on media partner outreach

Let me make one thing clear right off the bat: Media partners are not the media. They can be, but are not exclusively. There is a greater network of publications, associations, groups, LinkedIn members, etc., who also have a vested interest in the topic you’re writing on.

If I conduct an interview or create an infographic that has value, why shouldn’t it be of value to others, too? I’ve identified my media partners before I even create the content because there’s really no point in content if it isn’t being seen.

It’s a no-brainer that external partnerships with media partners are integral to promotion. What’s more is that the result could be that you’re PUBLISHED!!! Or, you go viral.


Pro Tips:

1. Email individually. You can bcc, but I prefer to send people the same email individually because I am personally very good at sniffing out mass emails when they hit my inbox: and then I straight up ignore them. There are usually no more than 20 media partners per topic, so if you copy and paste the same message into separate emails it doesn’t take too long. I just sent this same message to 9 media partners in 7 minutes. Easy.

2. Make the subject line clear. I use the subject line and the first sentence to state immediately that this is content that I am giving them. Again, to abate the spam issue, I want them to know right away that this will benefit them, then I go into how.

3. Conversational. That goes without saying – I’m a human, they’re a human. I’m just a human who has created content that I am proud of and I would like another human to post it to their website and social media. This usually works out because most media partners are looking for free content whenever they can get their greasy fingers on it.

4. Find the media partners. Search out the appropriate media partner companies first and then go to their website to find the appropriate contact. The job titles are usually editorial/pr/communications/media related.

Bonus tip:

Follow-up. No deaf ears accepted. I plan to follow up with those who haven’t responded within the next week. I will not be ignored.

Why your Call to Action sucks

Thank you, CopyBlogger, for the following reasons why marketers (and content marketers) don’t see higher conversions. Here is their list, shortened and paraphrased by me:

Multiple Calls to Action

What’s the one thing you want readers to do? When you have too many calls to action, your readers become paralyzed by the choices and leave.

 No Call to Action

They come, they see, they leave. Give them  an opportunity to subscribe.

Below the Fold

When you visit the most popular sites in the world, you will notice that you never have to scroll to find the call to action.

Colors Blend In

Pop quiz: Does your call to action jump out at your readers the moment they arrive to your blog? If not, you might want torethink your color palette.

Loaded with Jargon

Too many marketers load their content with industry jargon instead of writing in words their readers actually use.

Not Specific

Your readers lead busy lives and your job is to spell it out for them. If you want them to enter their email address, tell them in your call to action. If you want them to click a link, include the words “click here” in the link.

No Urgency

People are extremely motivated to take action out of fear of missing out on an opportunity. For instance, if you want more readers to download your ebook or free report, try offering it for a limited time only.

Too Much Self Proclaimed Hype

A great way to increase subscribers is to have an industry authority quote how much they enjoy reading your content.

No Benefit to Signing Up

Hmm. Meeting speakers isn’t a benefit

No A/B Testing

At least once a month, you should test your call to action to improve your subscription rate until you’ve deemed it good enough.

Puny Call to Action

If you have a call to action and no one can find it, you may as well have no call to action at all. Make it big enough so people can’t miss it.

 Wrong Offer

If your offer doesn’t interest your readers, how convincing the copywriting is or how beautiful your buttons are won’t matter. They won’t take action. Think about the number of websites with ebooks and software that never get downloaded. The bottom line: The best way to create a killer call to action is to offer something your readers really want, when they want it, the way they want it.

Never Studied Copywriting

Let’s get perfectly blunt here. Although trying to create a killer call to action without studying copywriting is possible, it’s highly unlikely. If you’ve never studied copywriting, you need to start right now.


Write like a 5th grader to make more money

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” – Albert Einstein.

Let me explain what he means: Your copy should be #basic. Overly-complicated copy is filled with adjectives, adverbs, countless clauses, technical terms and business jargon. This is costing you money.

The science behind it is hiding right under your fingertips and within your favorite word processing software. Microsoft Word is equipped with this fun little tool called the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, which is a formula that determines how easy-to-read your copy is to the average American.

The idea was born of the “plain language” movement in the 1960s, which itself was an attempt to increase the comprehensibility of government documents. It has since been fleshed out to become a very useful metric for marketers and advertisers to tailor copy to their targeted audience.

Brand experts will tell you that the key to writing a killer slogan or tagline is for it to be memorable, emote positivity, and differentiate the brand from its competitors. All of this is true, but what is missing is the simplicity of language.

Are writers allergic to simplicity? They shouldn’t be, considering the most successful slogans are also the most plain: Nike’s “Just do it.” McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It.” Visa’s “It’s everywhere you want to be.” 

Keep it simpleThis is vital to ensuring that your brand doesn’t become trapped and die in its primary channel or media. How does a brand come to life across all its touch points and in a consistent manner? Through consistency in product design and software – all of which translate to a cohesive experience.

There are visible and physical languages, said Michael Lenz, Director, Global Brand Experience and Design at Cisco, but the human touch – using words to fulfill the brand promise – is often what is missing.

You don’t change your identity when switching jobs or locations, so why would your business change its voice depending on the channel? The marketing. The labels. The colors. All should deliver on your brand’s promise. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then take into account that the average Cisco user has 3,200 touch points. It hasn’t always been easy for them, either.

They knew there was a problem when one customer wrote-in, “I am a solid Cisco fan, but how many hours do they expect me to waste trying to understand their shit?” Yikes.

The problem was that no one understood what the hell Cisco was talking about. They had to undergo a massive overhaul to remove any engineering or product developer “speak” within their copy. It took several revisions, but the resulting copy became short and relevant; bold and human, Lenz said.

No one wants to read copy that is “too” anything: too educational, technical or clunky. Have you ever read Insurance policy packets? Painful. French author Marcel Proust? Brutal.

The next time you sit down to write, imagine that you’re a musician or composer. Consider that writing words on the page is no different than scribbling down musical notes to draft a song. Words, sentences, paragraphs and pages also need a melody and an obvious beat to them.

So, channel Taylor Swift the next time you’re tasked with drafting an article, marketing email or advertising copy. Her songs are so successful because they’re repetitive (most people must see or hear phrases eight-to-nine times before it sticks), but mostly because they’re simple.


Simplify your readability in these four steps:

  1. Click the Microsoft Office Button Office button image, and then click Word Options.
  2. Click Proofing.
  3. Make sure Check grammar with spelling is selected.
  4. Under When correcting grammar in Word, select the Show readability statistics check box.

Mobile: The digital state of play

Where is the consumer? The CX experts want to know. If you’re wondering where your consumers are … look no further than the palm of your hand.

“Look around you. What devices are your colleagues using? Your kids? Your parents, even?” asked Tony Marlow, Head of Sales Insight at Yahoo. “[You can’t ignore] the shift toward mobile.” 

A recent Yahoo survey ranked user preference by device on a scale of 1-to-5, with five representing ‘love’ for the product. An astounding 77 percent of respondents claimed to “love their smartphone.” Nearly 40 percent of 18-to-34 year-olds surveyed claimed to be “addicted.” The lesson: Use addicted Millennials to your advantage.

Their growing presence is no secret. Most of us know that Millennials will account for almost half of the U.S. workforce by 2020. They will also represent about $1.4 trillion in spend – about one third of all retail sales projected for that year. Despite these facts, huge discrepancies remain between where companies are spending their money and where consumers are spending their time.

Exhibit A: Mobile. It is the only channel in the U.S. that is growing in share time by media. Traditional media such as television, radio, print, and even digital, have either plateaued or are decreasing in share time by user. This disparity represents a whopping $25 billion gap in the U.S. alone, according to Yahoo’s research.

It’s time to close the gap. Lobby your company today to better engage Millennials. They are not frugal, but they do know the value of their dollar, Marlow says. Start looking into branded content and couple it with your native advertising efforts to win the race for their dollar. Both streams resonate with discretionary Millennials who, for all their perceived downfalls, are more brand loyal than other generations.

Once you’ve won them, you own them. The icing on the cake is that they will not only be some of your most loyal customers, but they will become brand advocates on your behalf.

Watch out for more on my recap from the CX Impact Summit in New Orleans earlier this month …

The best text msg: You’re published!

What is my favorite kind of text message, you ask? The kind that tells me I’ve been published.

Congratulations to my friend, Ara Bagdasarian and the debut of his firm’s publication, Critical Mass: The Omnilert Journal. Thank you for including me in your inaugural issue. Check out the full article below.

Omnilert Journal
Introducing: “Critical Mass: The Omnilert Journal.”

First crawl, next walk, then run to campus emergency response excellence

This isn’t the “stop, drop and roll” of yesteryear.

Campus safety is top of mind for students and faculty alike, which means if your college or university wants to be at the forefront of emergency response – it needs to have a plan down pat. This is no longer a game of choice. Congress amended the Jeanne Clery Act in 2008 to require higher education institutions to adopt and disclose summaries of emergency response and evacuation plans. Annual drills and exercises that involve the coordination of efforts across a range of departments and services are required.

Perhaps no one knows this better than Captain Lawrence Wright, the Assistant Director of Public Safety at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. UMES leads the way in campus emergency response because of its thorough approach to pre-planning, which is a critical stage of the Crisis Continuum.

“I would recommend establishing a timeline and start to planning at least 9 to 12 months in advance.

Review your emergency plans and test your plans by conducting drills and tabletop exercises, which will allow you to determine what additional resources will be needed, prior to conducting a full scale exercise,” Wright says in an interview with Omnilert.

Crawl, walk, run

In Spring 2015, UMES gathered local fire, police and EMS and campus personnel to participate in a full-scale hazardous material response drill. The goal was to “crawl, walk then run” in order to learn wherein lies each department’s weaknesses and strengths, says Warner Sumpter, Chief of Police and Public Safety Director at UMES.

Crawling is the first stage when the concept of the emergency response effort is introduced. The team then “walks” through the “table-top exercise” as a verbal run-through.

“The table top helps the leaders to, on a tactical level, make a plan. When you implement the tactical solutions and the on-the-ground people getting their hands dirty, that’s when you find out where your weaknesses and your strengths are” says John Barnette, Senior Field Instructor at the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute, who participated in the full-scale drill.

Once the emergence response team is fully studied up on the plan, they must take a graduation examination of sorts in the form of the full-scale drill. Full-scale is all hands on deck spanning all departments, plans and technologies and thereby testing their communication and teamwork.

Responding in real-time

Captain Wright served as a member on the UMES Emergency Crisis Management team during the planning, preparation and coordination of the drill. He was there when the allied first responders held monthly meetings and gave walk-throughs of campus facilities to identify all UMES hazardous materials, and more.

In the event of an emergency, the university’s Office of Public Safety is primarily responsible for sending out notifications, largely from having firsthand knowledge of an incident or circumstances for sending out an immediate notification without delay and to meet compliance with the Clery Act requirements.

During the exercise, Wright set the notification system in motion after receiving the 911 call into the UMES Police communication center. The e2campus emergency notification system instantaneously informs everyone on campus through so many channels that it would be almost impossible to miss.

E2campus sends out the alert via text message, email, desktop pop-up alerts, alert beacons, display monitors and the outdoor emergency siren and public address systems.

The e2campus has proved valuable in real-life scenarios.

“It was used to notify the campus community members about the stabbing homicide death of UMES student in 2013,” Wright says.

Within the parameters of the exercise, however, right’s role became dynamic. He discovered that he had to step into the role of the on-scene Incident Commander who was expected to respond in real-time to Fire, EMS and Hazmat personnel and administrators. He also had the honor of sending out the “All Clear” message to resume normal activity.

“Nothing beats going out there and actually physically touching and doing stuff and seeing how the plan works,” says Tim Jerscheid, Senior Field Instructor, Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute.

“What came out in every segment was communications. Communications is so important, and we just reinforced what we already know. Years ago, fire, police, EMS, all used the same radio system, so that’s not part of the problem. It’s taking those devices, and us as humans, putting the verbiage in there to share our knowledge … so that everybody knows what’s happening,” Sumpter says.