Peak Communicators
March 3, 2015

The Terms for Being a Great Leader

For those regulars on the Peak blog, you’ll recall that, towards the end of last year, we shared some tips from the Art of Leadership conference.

There were a lot of key takeaways that day so here are a few more to consider when looking at how you can be a more effective and inspirational leader (or start working towards becoming one).

Overall, some of the main points that stood out to me included:

  • Leadership is about values and behaviour
  • It’s about having the right set of goals that everyone is aware of
  • Collaboration is a key leadership quality
  • Positivity goes a long way

At one point, the conference host remarked, “True leadership happens when you’re not in the room.” That struck a chord with me as so often we feel like we have to be extremely involved with a process or team in order to achieve the desired outcomes. This statement challenges that concept. True leadership essentially should make everyone a leader.

We’ve previously shared what Dan Roam (The Back of the Napkin) and ex-NYC Mayor, Rudy Giuliani had to say about great leadership.

Dr. Vince Molinaro of Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions was also one of the conference speakers. Dr. Molinaro emphasised the important of getting the best out of people, of leadership accountability, and the skill of being able to connect strategy and leadership.

He brought his approach down to four key terms that leaders need to sign up to – in what he called “The Leadership Contract”:

  • Decisions: Define who you are as a leader. Be deliberate in your decision making. Differentiate between you as a person and you as a leader.
  • Obligation: As a leader, you have to step-up. It’s your job to make things better. What’s your leadership legacy? You want to ensure you leave a company in a better and sustainable state for the future. Position your company for success.
  • Get tough! As a leader, you still have to tackle the hard work. Ensure you have regular check-ins with yourself and question whether you’re wimping out on anything you shouldn’t be. Make those tough decisions and have candid conversations.
  • Connect! Ultimately you’re leading a community. Who has got your back? Clarity breeds commitment.

It’s easy to listen to the theory. But, in order to grow as leaders, we need to look at how we can realistically apply some of these theories to our day-to-day work. Something as simple as creating a checklist or assessing more challenging situations and how you approached them can be a really effective way of continual learning. And don’t be afraid to seek feedback from your colleagues. It’s the best way to learn.

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October 23, 2014

Art of Leadership Series: The Power of Pictures

In this second leadership post that explores some of the key takeaways from The Art of Leadership conference last month, I’m going to shift the focus away from New York City and Rudy Giuliani’s leadership principles and focus on the power of pictures.

I have to confess that several people have recommended Dan Roam’s The Back of a Napkin to me. In fact, I went so far as to buy the book last year. But it remained unread on my shelf, having taken second place to life. Newly-inspired by Dan’s talk on the power of pictures, it has been promoted to my bedside table in the hope that I’ll soon never have to communicate through text again.

Dan’s presentation was simple yet effective, just like his ‘matchstick’ pictures. He discussed how pictures are a common language and pointed out that every company and leader needs a vision and a vision requires pictures. He reminded us that pictures can serve the following purposes:

  • Make complex issues, simple
  • Help solve problems
  • Clarify, create, convince
  • They are compelling and memorable

Dan Roam

When you think about it, it doesn’t make sense that we neglect the visual side of our brain so much. Roam encouraged us to tap into this potential more regularly, reminding us that our visual mind never sleeps and that humans are visual processing machines. Yet we’re often not intentional around our use of images. He gave us some tools and tips to takeaway that will help solve problems and/or help share understanding among team members. Here you can see how he adopts this simple approach by getting people to talk through the who/what, how much, where, when, how and why of something, to help map-out a pathway.

I don’t think it’d be realistic to start drafting news releases that only include images or sending client reports showcasing stickmen. But I do think there’s a lot of value in leaders and communications professionals considering using images more frequently, whether it be during brainstorms, strategy planning sessions, or in proposals. Ultimately, we all relate to pictures. And I’d argue that the more we can simplify life, the better.

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October 9, 2014

The Art of Leadership Series

Last week, I had the fortune of attending the Art of Leadership conference here in Vancouver. An interesting, insightful and inspiring one-day event, it featured an impressive line-up that included Rudy Giuliani, Hayley Wickenheiser, Charles Duhugg, Dan Roam and Dr. Vince Molinaro.

Given the sheer volume of information presented and exchanged at the conference, I though it best to share the key learnings from each speaker in a series of blog posts to be published in the coming weeks.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the keynote for the event and arguably the most influential speaker, so it seemed appropriate to start by sharing some of his leadership principles.

Rudy Giuliani’s Six Leadership Principles:

1) Establish a set of beliefs: what are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? Always have a plan and an agenda and ensure you are accomplishing it daily. You must be clear when you share your goals and plan with others. People can’t follow ambiguity. And don’t forget that you need to be able to measure your goals.

2) Be an optimist. People follow hope. And they won’t follow someone who can’t provide solutions. Ensure you train and encourage those around you to always bring you solutions instead of problems.

3) Show courage. It’s a fact: most great people fail before they succeed. Take risks, learn from your failings, pick yourself up and overcome your fears.

4) Relentless preparation. Rehearse everything. Think of every possible outcome and prepare for it. Understand that things may go wrong and something unanticipated may happen. But if you’re prepared, your confidence and agility will see you through the tough, unanticipated moments.

5) Team work. Know yourself and build a team that balance your weaknesses with the strengths of other people.

6) Communication. Sharing feedback with those you work with is key. And track metrics to ensure you know exactly where you are as compared to your original goal.

Giuliani was charismatic and charming — as one hopes a leader to be — and often illuminated his principles by applying them to his experiences as a lawyer and as Mayor of New York City on 9/11.

But it was his final point, which didn’t make it onto his toplist of principles, that actually resonated most with me: ultimately, as a leader, you have to love people and care about people. You need to be there and support them in life and in business. In return, people will take care of you and go above and beyond the call of duty.

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January 21, 2014

Media Coverage of Meltdown

You can’t beat the drama and emotion in sports. The media coverage surrounding the drama makes it even more entertaining.

Since the Vancouver Canucks’ coach John Tortorella lost it going after Calgary Flames’ coach Bob Hartley on Hockey Night in Canada last weekend, it has been a field day for sports commentators and the water cooler topic for hockey fans.

Some say that as the bench boss and leader of team, the coach demonstrated intense passion. He had his players’ backs. Others feel it was a big sideshow that has no place in professional sports. The debate continues.

The league showed it was an activity they did not approve of. The coach is banished from working for the next 15 days which includes six hockey games.

Kudos to Vancouver’s local CBC-TV newsroom for its story, which I felt had the most refreshing observation about Tortorella. To quote commentator, Alistair Moes:

“It was like the end of the world. It would make sense for a three-year-old, but not so much for a 55-year-old. Look what happens when you have a temper tantrum. When you lose it, no one listens to what you have to say to them. They just ridicule you and make fun of you.”

Mr. Moes is a Vancouver-based anger management expert.

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January 16, 2014

Avoid the Cringe-worthy Quote

It’s the goal of every PR professional to get a good headline. In the case of bad news, the goal is to avoid the cringe-worthy one. The cringe-worthy headline is even worse when it’s a self-inflicted wound, based on an actual quotation.

Take this headline from the Globe and Mail last month, “Canada Post CEO defends delivery cuts, says seniors will get more exercise.” Trying to find the silver lining in a dark cloud of negative news is not a good strategy. The “positive spin” of forcing seniors out of their homes to collect mail from a community box rates an eight out of 10 on the cringe-worthy scale. Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra lost the good headline where the rationale for the decision could have been explained. Instead he was mocked by MP’s at an emergency session of a House of Commons committee for his “mail Participaction”.

It is unlikely you or I will ever be called before a Commons committee, emergency or otherwise, to be grilled by partisan MP’s, but a news conference bears all the same characteristics, especially when you are there to deliver bad news. Reporters can be just as tough as opposition politicians.

Here are my top 10 tips for avoiding the cringe-worthy quote.


1. KISS – Keep it Short and Simple.Because your announcement is “big news,” you feel that you need to hold an hour long news conference so the media gets the full story. Wrong. You need to hold a news conference which is just long enough to give the media what they need for a story, without giving them what they want, which is the negative comment headline. News conference success is measured in messages and not minutes. You don’t have to sit there and take an endless string of questions. In fact, reporters don’t like long news conferences, so you aren’t doing them any favours. Make your opening statement, answer a few questions make a wrap up comment and get out. If you find questions are becoming repetitive, you’ve already stayed too long.

2. Have the news conference professionally moderated. A CEO is at the top for a reason. Unfortunately turning to others for help often isn’t one of them. The stronger the CEO’s personality, the more they usually think they can “handle the media” by themselves. There is a reason politicians have someone run their news conferences. It’s so they can concentrate on providing the best responses to the questions. It is too much to expect one person to answer questions, keep track of who is up next, and not let one reporter dominate the news conference while at the same time judge the mood of the room and decide when it is a good time to wrap up. A moderated news conference stays on track and on topic. Professionals hire professionals to help them.

3. Don’t try to defend the indefensible, express regret instead. When you are delivering bad news, nobody thinks it’s funny. A glib response makes headlines (see above) and shows disrespect to those adversely affected. Present the facts and the reasons you are being forced to take the actions you are taking and the consequences of doing nothing. Don’t try to find the good news spin. It’ll just make you look ridiculous at best, insensitive, elitist and uncaring at the worst and your message will get lost.

4. Make a plan and stick to it. Every news conference needs a plan. It should be laid out minute by minute from when to give media the information (always before you start) through to how long you will speak and how long you set aside for questions. You should know which media members are coming, how they are likely to view the announcement and what questions they will ask.

5. Get media training on your specific announcement with real former reporters. Simulating a rough ride from veteran reporters will pay off. There is no substitute for being prepared and having specific training for your news conference with professionals putting you through your paces. You need to train until you are comfortable with whatever might happen. You should never be surprised by what is asked or how it is asked. But if there is something way off base, being trained how to deal with that scenario will ensure you don’t make the cringe-worthy comment. Again having a moderator there, managing the news conference, is crucial.

6. Practice. Media training is not one time only. There is no substitute for actually practicing it. You should have the team put you through your paces until you are comfortable. And don’t forget a refresher just before you go out to face the media.


7. Run your key messages and Q&A by a real former reporter. It’s like getting a second opinion. You get the fresh set of eyes and a fresh perspective. Remember that reporters are outsiders, so when you bring someone in for another look, they are simulating the reporter experience and are more likely to ask what a reporter will. No matter how thorough you are, I’ll guarantee they’ll find something that could trip you up. It doesn’t mean your communications team has done a bad job. It simply a matter of perspective.

8. Give the media the facts and rationale before you start. To tell your story, the media needs to have your story. The most common mistake that ensures a bad news conference experience and bad news coverage is giving the media the information when it is over. To ask intelligent questions, to understand your point of view, they need the information before you start and in time to digest it all. Then they will concentrate on the highlights you give them during the news conference.

9. Give the media what they need not what they want. What reporters want is enough time to ask questions that will get you to say or do something stupid, which for a reporter is a golden moment. What reporters need is enough information to do a story. That means they need to get only enough time to ask questions that supplement the information you have given them. It’s a lot less time than you think, particularly if you have already given them a clear set of facts. Give them the story you want by giving them only what they need.

10. Stay on script and on message. This is often the hardest step, avoiding message drift. I put it last because everything above leads to this. Doing the other nine steps will naturally help you to stay on script and on message. If you get the urge to go rogue, don’t do it, or you can guarantee what the headline will be. And I’ll have more ammunition for a blog post.

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October 3, 2013

The Art of Following Up

I’ve got a short story for you. Two friends decide by text message to meet for coffee.

“What time works for you?” says Marla.

“How about Thursday at 10:00 a.m. at Starbucks?” says Jen.

And then the conversation stops.

Fast forward to Thursday at 10:15 and Marla is waiting, cooling latte-in-hand, for Jen to show up.

“Where are you?” Marla texts Jen (secretly blaming Jen for suggesting a time and then not showing up).

“I didn’t think we were getting together!” Jen texts back (secretly blaming Marla for dropping off the face of the earth).

It’s a textbook breakdown in communication, and in professional settings it can have disastrous consequences.

The funny thing is, the solution to this problem is the easiest and most effective communications method out there, yet many people don’t do it: Follow up.

Here are some amusing excuses people make so they can avoid following up:

  • “I already told so-and-so about our meeting/task/deadline.”
  • “They’re a grown-up and don’t need reminding.”
  • “I’m too busy.”
  • “We already have an understanding.”
  • “What I have to say doesn’t matter.”
  • “I have nothing to say right now.”
  • “This issue isn’t a big deal.”

Actually, it is a big deal. That one little message can save a lot of time and mental energy. Marla and Jen would have saved a lot of grief if one of them had simply followed up to confirm that 10:00 on Thursday was a go.

Unfortunately, following up does have a cost. You’re going to have to take the time to say or type a short message. Tough, I know.

But the results can be rewarding – even wonderful.


How to follow up as a communicator

  • A quick status update reassures colleagues, clients or journalists that you’re still working on their project, and gives them a better idea when they can expect the results
  • A “Did you have a chance to look at my pitch?” can get a journalist to retrieve your story pitch from the heap
  • A quick scheduling reminder helps clients and journalists remember to connect for interviews – saving everyone the time and hassle of rescheduling
  • Dropping a journalist who is already covering your story a line saying, “Did you need photos or anything else for this story?” helps a news outlet produce a great piece of coverage for your client, and shows journalists that you care about their needs
  • A thank-you boosts everyone’s spirits and reinforces positive relationships

How to follow up to build your team

Following up internally will boost your team’s morale and efficiency, and you don’t have to be the team lead to do it.

Motivation can drop in a team that doesn’t communicate simple things like, “Thanks for your message. I got it.” When a team loses touch over time, a subtle sense of non-caring infiltrates the project, and that can seriously dampen morale and motivation.

“But I have no news to tell my team! What’s the point of saying anything?” you might protest. You don’t have to have any news. A simple follow-up of, “I’m still with you,” will help your team members move forward with more confidence, because they know you’re still supporting them.

Obviously, giving kudos to your team members is a great follow-up too, as long as it’s sincere.

But it’s not just about making everyone feel warm and fuzzy. Following up with your project team helps you identify issues that might otherwise have been swept under the rug, only to pop up in the future as full-fledged problems.

So instead of trekking alone and scared in a barren wasteland of non-communication, take the time to regularly invest just a few words of follow-up with your friends, colleagues and clients. You’ll produce relationships that are more positive, teams that are more effective and goals that are more focused.

Some words you can say

If you’re inspired to do more following up, but don’t know where to start, here are a few phrases you can borrow:

  • “Just wanted to let you know that I’m still working on ____. I’ll be done ____.”
  • “How are you doing with that thing? Any way I can help?”
  • “Thanks for that thing you did. I appreciate it.”
  • “I’m following up to confirm that we’re meeting at that place tomorrow. Does that still work for you?”
  • “I got the ____ you sent. Thanks!”
  • “Thanks for letting me know. I’ll give this some thought and get back to you.”

Please feel free to follow up in the comments section below.

Photo credits:

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September 25, 2013

Two New Partners Join IPREX Global Network of PR Firms

IPREXAs a proud partner of IPREX, a global network of 60 independent PR firms that operate in 72 cities with more than 1000 professionals, we are happy to announce the addition of Brazilian agency, Casa Da Noticia, and Jakarta-based strategic communication agency, Inke Maris & Associates.

New IPREX partnerships such as these are exciting as they further boost our capacity to engage on a global scale and offer quality PR and communications services to international clients.

Outlined below is an overview of the two new IPREX partners.


Casa Da Noticia

Founded in 1987, Casa da Notícia has additional offices in São Vicente and Mogi das Cruzes and has gained long experience of working with international companies in a range of industry sectors, particularly construction, automotive, entertainment, industry and services – in health, finance and consultancy.

The company’s clients include Saint-Gobain, Banco Fidis (Chrysler-Fiat division), Unimed, Volkswagen Foundation, Dayco and B. Braun. Many clients have been with the agency for several years, and one for over 20 years.In addition to media relations, the agency works in relationship management, events, media training, crisis communication and content and social media management.

IPREX Americas President Renzi Stone (Saxum, Oklahoma City) welcomed the company: “This is a strong, well-established agency that has built up an enviable reputation over 25 years. The team has plenty of experience of working across borders, and their deep sector knowledge will be valuable to IPREX partners and their clients.

“We’re delighted to welcome them to the expanding IPREX Americas group which now has 71 offices from Canada to Brazil, with over a thousand professional staff.”

Vanessa Xavier, Director of Client Service at Casa da Notícia, said “Our international experience has led us naturally to a global network of communication services with the reputation of IPREX. We are looking forward to using the communication skills we have developed over the years to help our new partners’ clients tap the vast potential of the Brazilian market.”


Inke Maris & Associates

Founded in 1986, Inke Maris & Associates provide strategic communication consulting services to multinationals, national companies and public institutions in Indonesia. They work in five main areas: corporate & public affairs; issues and crisis management; financial communication; marketing communication and social marketing communication.


IPREX is a $200 million network of communication agencies, with 1,500 staff and 100 offices worldwide working across the spectrum of industry sectors and practice disciplines.

David Watson
+44 1273 845462

Casa da Notícia Comunicação         
Vanessa Xavier
+55 11 2503 7611

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January 17, 2012

FedEx Caught on Camera

You may have seen the shocking YouTube video of a FedEx delivery man throwing a computer monitor over a customer’s gate, uploaded in December.

Within 24 hours, it had received 200,000 views. The story then featured in the Daily Mail and the number of views soared to 4.5 million. Today, the total stands at over 8 million and it has been ‘liked’ 17,000 times.

So how did FedEx deal with the situation?

In the first statement, FedEx condemned the employee’s actions, stating that executives were ‘shocked’. They said the handling of the package was ‘unacceptable’ and vowed to track down the employee responsible.

This is a good initial response. FedEx probably learnt about the incident at the same time as the press so they wouldn’t have had time to investigate. FedEx was also right not to protect the employee; instead they distanced the company’s brand from the individual’s actions.

FedEx’s next move was smart. They created a YouTube video in response – within 48 hours. The speed of their response was critical, helping curb speculation about the incident.

In the video Matthew Thornton, Senior VP at FedEx, said they had met with and apologized to the customer. The company deserves kudos for this; in difficult situations, companies typically communicate with customers via telephone or in writing. Meeting face-to-face is personal and proves FedEx cares about its customers.

Thornton also answered the question everyone asked: what happened to the employee? He explained ‘they’re working within their disciplinary procedures and the employee is not working with customers’. This is a mediocre response. Customers and journalists alike wanted reassurance that the guilty party had been fired. I suspect HR procedures prevented FedEx from providing a stronger response.

Thornton then reminded viewers that the company’s motto is to ‘make every FedEx experience outstanding’. This is good; he uses a difficult situation to reinforce the company’s key messages and its commitment to customers.

Despite this, the footage still damaged the company’s reputation – and consequently it was listed by Forbes as the ‘most brand-damaging viral video of 2011’.

FedEx’s YouTube video also received less than half a million views, a sixteenth of the original video. Clearly bad news travels faster than good.

This incident won’t go away for FedEx and any reoccurring issues will be closely watched by the public eye. However, FedEx can be commended for responding quickly, using YouTube as the channel to respond and meeting the customer face-to-face.

What are your thoughts on FedEx’s response?

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