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Just another reason I love vacations

Posted in Executive Insights, Sheri's Posts

I somehow was lucky enough to enjoy two vacations abroad in the first quarter of this year. And although I took some significant ribbing about it, I admit, it was lovely to unplug, relax and enjoy the history and culture of the very different destinations.

The side benefit I didn’t realize until I returned was how much getting away allowed me to be more productive at work when I jumped back into it. Just in the last week I’ve spoken to at least a half-dozen friends and business associates who expressed feelings of being overwhelmed at work, too busy to focus and burned out. In an era where we are all pulled in so many different directions, both at work and home, feeling overwhelmed seems to be an ever-increasing occurrence, especially when we take work with us on our smart phones wherever we go.

If you read my infrequent posts, you know I’m a big fan of HBR, and just this week I found two articles specifically addressing the issue of focusing and improving productivity. I especially liked Tony Schwartz’s blog about doing one thing at a time (with advice that includes taking regular and real vacations, so I am doing something right!).

Interestingly, the other post is from several years ago, but was trending as one of the most commented on stories in the last 24 hours, and it speaks to the ignore list.  I like that thought. What can you cut out of the long list of tasks so you can focus, get all the important things done and still find time to re-energize? And, hey, if your ignore list includes skipping reading my blogpost, I hope it’s because you’re planning a get-away!

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Comments Off Posted on by Sheri Johnson

Planning for a Crisis

Posted in Best Practices

Next week, my colleague Meg Schulte and I are heading to a KU PRSSA meeting to share some information about Crisis Communications. Our presentation underscores the importance of developing a crisis plan. It is great information for the less experienced and a nice reminder for those who’ve been around a while.

How your organization defines a crisis depends on the type of business you work for. Hopefully, you don’t work for an organization that calls crisis when the vending machine is out of Baked Lays. Now, being out of coffee is another story entirely.

The key to managing a crisis is planning ahead. A plan ensures you can present a consistent, united and confident picture to your internal and external audiences at a moment’s notice.

Your crisis plan is for your entire organization so be sure to create a planning team that is multi-disciplinary – get input from HR, IT, facilities, legal, security, and corporate communications and marketing.

Once your team is assembled, set goals and milestones. If you don’t, you risk daily requirements getting in the way and the plan may never be completed.

When you sit down to develop your plan, the first step is defining your crisis scope. Identify the types of crises your organization could face and determine the range of potential responses required to defuse the situation.

Every organization hopes it will never encounter a major crisis, but the truth is crises happen. So as the Boyscouts profess, “Be Prepared” – you won’t regret it.

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Comments Off Posted on by Rachel Spear

Enhance your Google Calendar experience – A few tips to make it a great and effective tool at work

Posted in Best Practices, Suchitra's Posts

We recently migrated to Gmail for Business and Google Calendar so we have been exploring ways to make the experience more enriching for all of us. As I spend a lot of time going over my colleague’s schedules, setting up meetings and juggling calendars, I uncovered some tips and tricks to make these tools more efficient. Here are a few tips and shortcuts I have found to be the most useful.

Keyboard Shortcuts: Once you start using them, you’d wonder why you never knew about it earlier. These were the ones I found, but would love to know if you found any others. The shortcut keys are case sensitive (at least for me).

c = Create event
/ = Search (the cursor blinks in the search box)
p = Previous date range
n = Next date range
t  = Today
d = Day view
x = Customized view
w = Week
m = Month view
a = Agenda view
s = Settings
q = Quick add

Adding a different time zone: For clients that are based in different time zones, this is a great way to make sure that meeting you want to set up on Tuesday at 10 a.m. CDT is going to work for your client too. To activate this feature, hit “s” for the Settings menu. Under the “General” tab, you can see “your current time zone,” click on “show an additional time zone” and then tick the box “display all time zones.” Add a new time zone by scrolling down and selecting the one you want and hit save. You will see both timezones in your “day” and “week” calendar views.

Get your agenda in your inbox every day: If you are the kind of person who likes a quick glance at your day without having to go to your calendar, this one is for you. Google Calendar can send your agenda to you every morning in an email. To activate this feature, hit “s” for the Settings menu, go to the “Calendars” tab and click on the “notifications” link that appears next to your calendar in the middle of the page. Click on the “Daily Agenda” option to receive an email with your agenda every day at 5 AM in your current time zone.

Use “Quick Add:” This is great way to add events pronto to your calendar. The general rule of thumb for setting up events is to use the principle of “what, with who, where and when.” “Meeting with X at the Z on Friday at 12 p.m.” is the correct way to enter information in the box that opens up when you click “q.” If you wish to enter an all-day event, do not enter the time, just the date. So “3/28 – SPD” will block out the entire day. Another great advantage to this tip is to add the email address of whomever you wish to invite to the event in the box. “Meeting with on 3/23 @ 10 a.m.” will automatically appear on your calendar on 3/23 with an hour blocked off, plus offer to send an invite to X.

There are a great many tips and tricks to make the most of Google Calendar. If you would like to explore more, here are some of the sources I found most valuable:

I am looking forward to managing my time more efficiently using these tips. What are your favorite time-saving tips?


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Comments Off Posted on by Suchitra Kamath

KONY 2012: How to make a campaign go viral

Posted in Social Media

If you haven’t seen the viral and somewhat controversial KONY 2012 video, you may be living under a social media-deprived rock.

After being released by the non-profit organization Invisible Children on March 5, the 30-minute short film has taken social media by storm – landing nearly 80 million views to-date.

The social media marketing campaign aims to indict Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, the man responsible for abducting Ugandan children to use as soldiers in his Lord’s Resistance Army. While there has been some backlash claiming the creators of the film oversimplified a complex issue and “manipulated facts for strategic purposes,” the initiative accomplished a tremendous feat: it grabbed the attention of, shared its message with and gained support from millions of people, including influential national media outlets, celebrities and politicians. And it did so in a remarkably short period of time.

A recent New York Times article discusses how the video leverages the untapped power of the viewer, and it paves the way for marketing gurus everywhere.

A Forbes’ article entitled, “12 Lessons from KONY 2012 from Social Media Power Users,” further explains how the video achieved such a high level of success. Here are a the five lessons I found most important for marketing professionals to consider when launching a social media campaign:

Be positive. Quite frankly, the topic of children being abducted, raped and used as soldiers is incredibly depressing. However, the video begins and ends on a positive note – Kony doesn’t even appear until 8:46. This video proves sending a positive message can be powerful.

Make it personal. Filmmaker Jason Russell connects to the audience through his young son. Always remember who your audience is and construct a message that will resonate with them. Why should they care? How does this influence them?

Invoke the mainstream media. Media have a powerful position to help share your message.

Make it simple. While this is part of the reason the film received so much criticism (oversimplifying the issues in Uganda), it makes it easy for the audience to understand. Kony=bad guy. No one would have taken time to watch a 30-minute political debriefing.

Make it easy.  The call to action is clear. The organization wants you to:

  1. Sign the pledge to show your support (everyone can succeed at this)
  2. Get the bracelet and action kit
  3. Reach out to clearly identified policy makers and celebrities
  4. Sign up for Tri to donate a few dollars a month

The digital world we live in lends a platform for voices that have never been heard before. The KONY 2012 campaign proves just how powerful and influential today’s viewers are.

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Comments Off Posted on by Michelle Boyd

You don’t have to be a jerk to be successful in business

Posted in Best Practices

Many years ago we had a relaxing dinner with a client and his wife. After several glasses of wine, he leaned over, got right in my face, and said, “…Morgenstern, your biggest problem is that you’re simply too damn nice. You’d be a lot more successful if you had more a**h*** in you.”

I paused for a moment, and then burst out laughing. That’s just not who I am.

They say nice guys finish last. But for more than 30 years, including nearly 15 with Morningstar Communications, we’ve proven you don’t have to act like a jerk to be successful.

They say you need to differentiate to succeed. We say you need to focus on your excellence – not your difference – to succeed.

They say you need to sell in order to survive. Be smart, share your knowledge and people will come to you because they already know you are a valuable resource to help them achieve their goals.

They say you need to be tough. I say you need to be compassionate.

They say you need to focus on the bottom line. I say you need to focus on doing outstanding work for smart, successful clients.

They say business exists to make profits. I say business exists to help others, and profits become the byproduct.

Photo by Anthony Burrill

Stop listening to what “they” say, and start listening to your inner voice – it will always tell you the right thing to do.

My friend (and client) Lori Mallory, CEO of Kansas City Internal Medicine, recently gave me a book, “Love is the Killer App.”  Originally published in 2002, it’s even more true today. In essence, this book validates much of my worldview on how to succeed in business … and in life.

The book extolls the virtues of being a “Lovecat.” This is defined as, “… the act of intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles with your bizpartners,” according to the author, Tim Sanders. He defines the intangibles as our knowledge, our network and our compassion.

This philosophy is hard-wired in my DNA. Always has been; always will be.

Your personal brand identity is your greatest treasure. Not only will your personal brand always travel with you; it often precedes you. “The only thing you ever own is your reputation and your relationships. Everything else is transitory.”  (I quote a lot of people, but this one is actually one of my own!)

Having power in business used to mean holding your cards close to your vest; not letting anyone in. That approach won’t work today. Not anymore.  Not in today’s world.

The world is run by intangibles – knowledge, networks and compassion. He or she who offers it up, makes the connections and gives without an immediate expectation of a return, will continue to thrive in the 21st century.

They say nice guys finish last. I say nice guys finish first. And, they enjoy the journey even more.

Onward and upward.

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19 Comments Posted on by Eric Morgenstern

New Brand for KCCVA

Posted in Community Leadership, Creativity and Design

It’s a very exciting time for Kansas City. This year Kansas City will open its first aquarium, SEA LIFE Kansas City, LEGOLAND Discovery Center is being built at Crown Center and the MLB All-Star Game in July is just around the corner. Numerous national media outlets have taken notice of this, declaring Kansas City as a global travel destination. Top recognitions include:

  • Ranked “America’s #1 Affordable Getaway” by Travel + Leisure
  • Only American city to make the top 10 list of “Top Destinations for 2012” by travel giant Arthur Frommer’s
  • Proclaimed as “America’s next great culinary destination for 2012” by top food magazine Saveur
  • Named one of “America’s Best Downtowns” by Forbes

KCCVA logo designed by Willoughby Design


There are many groups in charge of marketing Kansas City. We are proud to work with several of them, including The Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC), Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, The Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association (KCCVA), amongst others. As one group representing the brand image of Kansas City, KCCVA wanted to capitalize on this great media attention and highlight the revitalization of Kansas City by enhancing its brand image and revamping its mission statement. KCCVA did just that last week when it revealed a new tourism brand and logo at its 2012 Annual Meeting. The new brand includes a new logo, identity and mission “to ignite global passion for visiting Kansas City.”

KCCVA’s new brand is not simply a logo, but rather an overall message to promote and elevate Kansas City’s status as a prime spot for conventions, meetings, tour groups, business travel and leisure travel. Tourism is vitally important to Kansas City, contributing jobs, tax dollars and a better quality of life for all of us who call this city home. In 2010, tourism generated $135 million in state taxes and $179 million in local taxes. Tourism also sustains more than 45,000 jobs throughout the Greater Kansas City area.

We as Kansas Citians need to work together to promote the brand of KC and share all of the wonderful things this city has to offer not only nationally, but also globally in 2012.

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Comments Off Posted on by Meg Schulte

Mobile Friendly Websites: Why now is the time.

Posted in Online Marketing

I recently attended KC/IABC’s 2012 Business Communicators Summit.  A common topic at the conference was understanding and using technology to best reach our audiences.

Website mobile compatibility is one technology component that many businesses still avoid. Without a mobile compatible website, companies lose out on prospects, plain and simple. They also risk losing current customers who will quickly move on if they don’t have quick and clear access to the information they are seeking.

The mobile world is expanding too rapidly to discount the effect it will have. Skyrocket’s diagram, derived from Google data, clearly draws out why now is the time to get friendly with mobile.


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Comments Off Posted on by Tracey Anderson

Team Norms Create Culture of Excellence

Posted in Best Practices, Internal Communications, Tricia's Posts

Yesterday, I attended a leadership training session focused on team leadership. One stand-out concept was that of norms. In every team, norms form and in some smaller companies these norms can form a company’s culture.

I see evidence of this at Morningstar Communications. Our team has many norms and in my mind they are what make us excellent. At Morningstar Communications we:

  • Put our clients first and do our best work for them every day.
  • Nurture a safe environment, where every idea and thought is welcomed and considered.
  • Raise our hands when we need help and on the flip side, step up to help our teammates.
  • Accept nothing less than excellence.

Our norm of “nothing less than excellence” is set by our President and CEO, Eric Morgenstern, and is shared with every employee during their first week at a one-on-one with Eric known as “Expectations of Excellence.” As a team we have jointly instituted other norms, including “nurturing a safe environment” and “stepping up to help our teammates.” All of these norms are now tightly infused in our corporate culture.

What norms do you see in your workplace? What norms would you like to see? Do you have a way to influence the norms in your workplace? I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts.

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Comments Off Posted on by Tricia McKim