How Did They Do That?

IMG_4986Always in amazement of Minneapolis Mad Women events, I’m not surprised I’m still sharing, connecting, and gaining inspiration from the March #HowDidTheyDoThat? session. Six women and one redefining-the-term-power-couple made up the panel that shared their journeys of how they got to where they are today.

Journey doesn’t mean read me your resume, for these speakers, it meant sharing stories of vulnerability, doubt, missteps, and embracing risk.

I could go on forever about the details of each stories (ask my friends, I have) but what sticks with me two weeks later is rather than checking all the boxes and moving through the motions, trust your instincts to follow your own path. Here’s a highlight of how they did it:

  • Kalei Grines, Business Engagement for Target Style, shared that she began her career hiding that she was a single mom, and later having her daughter think of the office as a second home. Once her daughter’s 10th birthday rolled around, Kalei realized she had crossed off all the goals and positions she wanted, but didn’t see her own work in who her independent, extroverted and gifted daughter had become. If something feels like it’s missing from your work/life balance, it probably is. Redefine success to include the life you want to live.
  • Jeremy and Krista Carroll, founders of Latitude, were inspired after spending time in Haiti to leave jobs they weren’t connected to and start their own business dedicated to elevating lives in third-world countries. For this leap to be possible, they asked themselves, “What’s the worst case scenario?” After confirming moving their family into Krista’s parent’s basement was indeed an option, the plan seemed less crazy. Krista credits Latitude’s success to purpose driving talent.
  • Pamela Brown, Brand Licensing & Partnership Management at General Mills, wrote a hilarious letter to her 22 year-old self that prepared her to reframe her career experiences that were to come. She called these “gifts wrapped in shitty ugly paper,” such as receiving a bad boss, terrible pay, no work/life balance; all of which helped her know what to look for in her next role. These shitty, ugly, gifts prepared her not to compromise on what mattered to her most.

After the eight panelists shared their stories, someone asked what their two non-negotiables are in a job. After brainstorming on the way home, and for the last two weeks, I’ve decided my non-negotiables are creative outlets and work/life balance

  • While I currently create content, webinars, graphics, white papers, that is not the only way creativity must show up for me. It’s thinking creatively as well— finding a new solution, trying things that haven’t been done— that make me feel like my whole self is coming to work.
  • Work/life balance isn’t actually a matter of balance. An amazing mentor once told
    me, “If something is in balance, it’s not moving.” So for me, it’s having an employer that allows for flexibility and life outside of work, and for me to be an employee that doesn’t make them regret that. I’m a better employee when I have IMG_4539time for early morning yoga, and evening hours spent away from screens.

I’m lucky that my first role and organization offer these two non-negotiables. At #HowDidTheyDoIt? I realized how many different paths and experiences people come from. We are all too unique to march to the beat of someone else’s drum, or cling to a set in stone five year plan.

For me, remembering that is like a full body exhale. Rather than worrying about being behind or getting ahead, get the most out of every experience and opportunity so you can one day be the panelist saying, this is how I did it.

Brand Personality Done Right

SW2Security lines that are a bit too long and bags of pretzels that are a bit too small always come to mind when I think of air travel. However, my weekend trip to Columbus via Southwest brought my attention to the importance of brand personality when fighting competitors for ticket sales.

Southwest understands this, and makes sure that their brand personality is present in every aspect of what they do.

I noticed this right away when getting on my first flight, the attendants and pilots made many jokes over the loud speaker and spoke in a very casual way. This included directions like, “please pretend you’re paying attention as we demonstrate safety features.”

The napkins that came with our drinks also had fun taglines like “Here’s to You” and the stirring stick in my coffee was shaped like a heart at the top, true to their brand imagery. When it was time for us to get off the plane, the pilot chimed in, “We are on time, so be sure to tell all of your family and friends, because we know you tell them when we’re late. Okay now get out of here and have a great day!”

Out of context, these details and interactions make the airline sound unprofessional. However, since they incorporated this as part of their brand personality, it can be expected of the company regardless of where you are flying from or what crew you are with.SW1

This is reinforced by their advertisements. One of which I saw in the skyway when boarding had a picture of a staffer, and it said, “Everyone has attitudes, our employees just have the right kind.” Another ad states, “We’d like to match their new fares, but we’d have to raise ours.” This recognizes the airline competition and allows consumers to associate Southwest with low prices and their distinct brand personality.

The most important piece when it comes to brand personality is remaining consistent. If it weren’t for the advertisements, napkins, and pilot’s dialogue, I may have thought I just had rude attendants. However, because their personality is so well represented and widespread, consumers understand their intention. It sets them apart as an organization who has employees that love their job, are loyal to the company, and enjoy serving their passengers.

This approach to brand personality is also in line with their relaxed practices, as you choose your own seat and boarding is grouped into A-B-C rather than dictated by seat number. However, having a strong brand personality can also backfire if a passenger doesn’t fully engage with the brand. For example, had I not taken Southwest both ways on my flight, had I not read the brand messages on their products, or seen the advertisements, I may have not understood that this was intentional.

Luckily for Southwest, brand personality is my favorite aspect of strategic communications, so I will remember them more fondly as a result of their effective brand representation.