There are a couple of different ways to apply structure to strategic planning exercises:

  1. You can enforce using templates and forms participants have to complete so their answers are uniformed and structured.
  2. You can provide people with strategic thinking exercises, creative thinking tools, strategy questions, and ways to collaborate with one another, using structure to help imagine better strategies.

Many consultants focus only on the first type of structure.

Templates make it easy to compile the work participants are left to their own devices to figure out and complete. The problem is many (most? nearly all?) people who aren’t full-time strategic planning fanatics don’t have efficient and effective ways to imagine the answers that fit in strategic planning templates. What’s worse is participants often resort to completing templates individually. This means there is no opportunity for productive collaboration to devise the plan.

Productive Structure for Strategic Planning Exercises


The second type of structure, however, is all about helping people use what they know and understand about an organization and its audiences to strategically, creatively, and efficiently develop smart business strategies. And not only does it help them develop the current strategy, using productive strategic planning exercises helps them learn to be more effective in future strategic planning.

After this strategic collaboration, a full-time strategic planner (i.e., such as The Brainzooming Group) can take the output from great strategic thinking exercises and shape it into templates.

If you’ve been through too many strategic planning exercises that feel like the first example of structure, we need to talk. The Brainzooming Group uses the second type of productive structure to create a lively, positive, and collaborative strategic planning process. It will pay dividends for your organization now and for years afterward. – Mike Brown


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We’ve had the occasional guest article, but for the most part, The Brainzooming Group runs with as a solo social media department.

Because of being a solo social media department, I’m always looking for productivity and efficiency tips to extend our content marketing success. Some are implemented right away, and others aren’t.

The 8 Smartest Solo Social Media Tips I’ve Yet to Try


Here are eight of the smartest solo social media tips I’ve yet to try, but should!

1. Weave presentation and workshop outlines into the content calendar

This would stimulate more content directly tied to presentations to keep them fresh. It would also quicken workshop and presentation updates.

Why haven’t I done this? Right now, writing to fit overall blog themes and audience targets is easier than writing to a comprehensive master content calendar.

2. Link blog content to presentation and workshop outlines afterward

Even without using presentation and workshop outlines as mini-editorial calendars, you can categorize blog content afterward.

Why haven’t I done this? Once content is published, I tend to look forward, not backward. Instead of regularly linking blog content to presentations and workshops right after it’s published, I search recent blog articles when it’s time to update a workshop.

3. Anticipate breaking longer content into multiple social formats

Author Pam Didner was the first content marketing expert (affiliate link) I heard talk about consciously creating an eBook’s content with an eye toward short form content (i.e., blog posts, tweets, images, Facebook status updates) it will yield.

Why haven’t I done this? I tend to be a content aggregator.  I typically generate short content and piece it together later into eBooks.

4. Heavily integrating major content launches

Hubspot emphasizes launching new content in a comprehensive, integrated way. When launching eBooks, we typically tie launches to major speaking engagements and publish related blog posts and landing pages, but that’s about it.

Why haven’t I done this? A lack of time and patience are barriers. Integrated launches take advanced planning and time. For some speaking engagements, I have created a new eBook the morning of the workshop. That doesn’t leave time for planning!

5. Hiring freelancers to handle some tasks

There are various ways to reach out to freelancers to complete some ideas mentioned here. That’s something we’ve only done sporadically.

Why haven’t I done this? I tend to handle editing and graphics in-house and save the dollar outlay. The downside is things happen more slowly or NEVER. I also spend valuable time doing lower-value tasks instead of activities to more aggressively grow the business. Pam Didner suggested Upwork as a potential resource for finding freelancers; the next task is picking a project.

6. Blog less and publish an email newsletter

I paid for a webinar where Chris Brogan covered blogging less and putting more emphasis on an email newsletter (affiliate link) as part of a business-building strategy. He shared how he varies content between the two; the blog is to attract search traffic, and the email newsletter is for sharing deeper information.

Why haven’t I done this? I’m trying to unwind my long-term thinking about the blog and its role for our business. Quite honestly, the blog is a professional diary and reference tool. I’m actively considering how to vary content within the current format and potentially more dramatically change its structure.

7. Not including “hows” in blog posts

This tip is years old. Experts say to write “whats” and “whys” in blogs, but not “how” to do what you do. I get it, but find it difficult to get away from “hows.”

Why haven’t I done this? Maybe my mentality is too teacher-like. It’s challenging for me to NOT share how to do things when our primary audience persona eschews fluff and seeks information on HOW to do things.

8. Hiring a Content Producer

This tip is front and center for me. A producer would take my ideas and shape them into more and varied types of content. I even know who my first choice to take on this role would be.

Why haven’t I done this? Our content generates indirect revenue. You can’t “pay” us for anything currently other than strategy, innovation, and content engagements, plus presentations and workshops. We don’t sell other content (i.e., books, on-demand training courses, merchandise, etc.) currently. It’s tough to justify the investment for a full- or part-time producer on an on-going basis without direct revenue impact.

Those are our smartest solo social media tips plus a little dirty laundry on why we haven’t tried them.

What do you say solo social media professionals? Are any of you using comparable tips to expand your organization’s content reach? – Mike Brown

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Each Lenten season, Christians are called to grow in a spirit of reflection, prayer, and sacrifice in order to create space between themselves and the attractive nuisances of daily living that separate us from our spiritual foundation.


Whether it’s an accurate self-perception or not, I fell more unsettled at the start of this Lent than I can remember in recent years. I need and want a good Lent, one that takes me into the “desert” where the distractions are fewer and the opportunity for prayer more apparent. Despite that aspiration, I’m unsure (at least as I write this the weekend before Ash Wednesday) of what my Lenten penances will be. Some years, it’s been about giving up many things and hoping I stay away from some of them for the entire season. Other times, I’ve tried to be very focused on specific actions. So far, weeks of prayer seeking clarity about this year’s Lenten journey have not yielded answers I’ve heard yet.

In any event, as we’ve done in past years, we are sharing a creativity prayer I wrote a number of years ago as a reminder to also seek out new creative inspirations from the reflection and quiet in the coming weeks.

A Creativity Prayer


Thank you for creation itself and the incredible gifts and talents you so generously entrust to me. May I appreciate and develop these talents, always recognizing that they come from you and remain yours.

Guide me in using them for the benefit of everyone that I touch, so that they may be more aware of your creative presence and develop the creativity entrusted to them for the good of others.

Help me also to use your talents to bring a creative spark and new possibilities to your world, living out my call to be an integral part of your creative force. Amen.

Copyright 2008, Mike Brown


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Who could find a connection between the “Hokey Pokey” and internal branding ideas? None other than B2B marketing expert Randall Rozin! Randall, who leads the Global Brand Management function within Dow Corning Corporation, serves as the company’s key strategist on brand creation, internal branding, and strategy alignment. Besides all his corporate accomplishments, Randall is always a popular guest author on the Brainzooming blog.  

How the “Hokey Pokey” Suggests Strong Internal Branding Ideas by Randall Rozin

Randall-Rozin2As kids it was fun, if not somewhat embarrassing, to do the Hokey Pokey at school, at the skating rink or at parties.  The Hokey Pokey (song and dance) goes by many names around the world, but has a common format in that you first create a circle of friends. When the song starts, you begin by putting your right hand in, putting your right hand out, putting your right hand back in and shaking it all about, after which you ‘do the hokey pokey by turning yourself about’.  From there you then proceed with the left hand, each foot in turn, your head, backside and finally your ‘whole self’.

Now take the common Hokey Pokey as a simple metaphor to suggest internal branding ideas.  A stretch perhaps, but let’s have some fun with it as at the end of the day the goal of both the Hokey Pokey and Internal Branding are the same.  We want an employee to put his or her “whole self in” to the brand. This concept applies for both business to business firms as well as business to consumer companies.

7 Internal Branding Ideas from the “Hokey Pokey”

Put your right hand in/out

As the internal branding dance begins, we start slowly with a simple hand to test the waters.  We put our right hand in do an audit of what we know about our brand and what we have been doing to communicate it to our employees.

Put your left hand in/out

With current situational knowledge in place, we put our other hand in to develop a strategy of where we want our brand to be in the future and outline a plan to get there.  Now the left hand knows what the right hand is doing and has a path forward.

Hokey-pokey-right-foot-inPut your right foot in/out

Next we have to get senior management alignment to our strategy and goals with active support for bringing the brand to life with and for employees.  Sometimes this involves a little footwork.

Put your left foot in/out

With visible support from management, we now begin to create awareness of what our brand means, what it stands for.  This involves putting feet on the street to inform all employees.

Put your head in/out

The head in this part of the dance, as with internal branding strategy, is properly timed.  In this phase we move beyond awareness to really helping employees understand what the brand means, why it is important and what role they, as individuals, play in delivering on the brand promises.

Put your backside in/out

With internal branding strategy you want hearts and minds.  We covered minds in the previous step; a way to the heart is by having some fun with your brand to help convey its message in a variety of ways.  In the Hokey Pokey, putting your backside in breaks down barriers by being a bit silly during the dance.  For your internal branding initiatives putting your backside in could include sharing stories, in fun ways, of on-brand behaviors as well as off-brand behaviors and how to correct them.

Put your whole self in

The ultimate aim of internal branding strategy is to have employees’ hearts, minds, bodies and souls committed to supporting your brand in service of your customers.  In essence, getting everyone to put their ‘whole self in’ and do so willingly as they can see the connection between what they do every day at work and why it matters and adds value to internal and external customers.

Enjoy both the hokey pokey and your internal branding ideas and remember to “turn yourself about” to have some fun with it cause “that’s what it’s all about.” – Randall Rozin


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Super Bowl 50 featured the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos facing off against one another, with the Broncos coming out on top, 24 to 10. Despite NEVER being a Broncos fan, I was rooting for Peyton Manning to take the Denver Broncos to victory (although we did have a Panthers fan in the house) . . . Now, Cooper Manning will be the son at the Manning Thanksgiving table without two Super Bowl rings . . . . Maybe for the first time in many years, I was more excited about the football than the advertising. I am not sure if I am the only one but I am SO OVER all the hype for Super Bowl ads. In any event, here are my take aways from the Super Bowl (and we all know you have to have a good take away ratio to win the Super Bowl!


We had a Panther fan in the house.

Super Bowl 50 Winners

Lady Gaga set the new standard for singing the Star Spangled Banner, whether at the Super Bowl or ANYWHERE else. And to all the people going, “Remember Whitney Houston,” I say, Gaga Number 1, Whitney Number 2 . . . Hyundai scored early with Kevin Hart using the auto’s Car Finder technology to keep an eye on his daughter and her date to make sure the boyfriend stayed away from any precarious tunnels. I guess Car Finder is the modern father’s best substitute for a chastity belt . . . The Doritos crowdsourced Pregnancy ad introduced a new paternity test (the baby goes after Doritos just like dad does) and introduced (whether intentionally or not) a pro-life message.

The Skittles and Steven Tyler ad worked. I wanted to see it again, and I had already seen it . . . While there were various #SuperBowlEXP tweeters bashing it, I gave shout outs to Toyota for getting more product mentions in its Prius ad than all other Super Bowl ads combined. It was a smart use of repetition and tackling challenges to product perceptions. All that, plus it featured an OJ Simpson mini-series tie-in and was capped off by another ad after the game’s finish. Of course, as my wife asked, “Where is Jan from Toyota in all this?”

Super Bowl 50 Losers

Pizza Hut featured an early ad for its Garlic Knots. That product name perfectly sums up what my stomach would be like if I ate that stuff . . . There were questions about why the advertisers seem not to understand the value of integrating social media and digital with their $5 million thirty-second advertisements. A hashtag is easy to cook up (unless you are Bud, which put a space in a hashtag a few years ago on a Super Bowl ad), and a hashtag is just scratching the surface . . . I completely missed the PayPal ad. I then Googled it to watch it online and missed it again. PayPal should have featured PeyTon in its ad . . . By the way, did you see the Papa John guy catch up with Peyton as the game was ending?


When it came to the Half Time Show, I’m not sure what connection Bruno Mars had to Coldplay, but Bruno Mars was actually enjoyable to listen to by comparison . . . By the second half, the ads seemed to be mostly snoozers. With commercials about constipation, diarrhea, and toe nail fungus, one #SuperBowlEXP tweeter asked, “When is this shit going to stop?”

Fun Facts from Super Bowl L

A word to the wise advertiser: there’s a place between no spoken copy (Acura, PayPal, Budweiser) and too freakin’ much spoken copy (RocketMortgage) where a $5 million Super Bowl ad actually works . . . Of all the Super Bowl MVPs, Joe Montana is the only one I have had a brush with greatness with previously. When he played for the Chiefs, we saw Joe and Jennifer eating at a local restaurant for a late lunch. One other time, Joe Montana came in for take-out at a restaurant where we were enjoying a Friday night happy hour . . . Thanks to all the tweeters who corrected me on thinking it was Denis Leary in the Snickers / Marilyn Monroe ad. Yeah, you were all right, it was Willem Dafoe. But I still contend it would have been funnier with Denis Leary . . . The whole Puppy-Monkey-Baby thing, contrary to what Mountain Dew would want you to believe, represents three things that need not have ever been combined in a Super Bowl ad. Same as with chronic pain, opioids, and constipation. And BTW, OIC missed a cool sponsorship opportunity. Constipation should have been the official NFL sponsor of all False Start penalties in the Super Bowl . . . It sounded like Peyton Manning changed his trigger call from “Omaha” to “WhatThe” at one point during the game . . . It took Avocados to get Scott Baio, cramped airplanes as torture chambers, and the infamous is it blue/black or gold/white dress into the Super Bowl. Good job.


Finally, the Super Bowl Babies ad was interesting the first time, but I am not sure it had as many legs as the NFL tried to get out of it. Of course, that may be sour grapes because the sad fact is all the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Babies are 45 years old.

Well, there is always next year for the Chiefs, and for some better Super Bowl advertisements, with maybe a classic advertisement SOMEWHERE in the mix. Here’s to next year’s LinkedIn-sponsored, Super Bowl LI. – Mike Brown

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As you think about your career strategy, how do you see yourself?

Are you bigger than your job, or is your job bigger than you are?


I had not really considered this career strategy question until the end-of-season speculation about which NFL coaches would be fired immediately after the regular football season’s final weekend. The discussions seemed sad, as if NFL coaches at poor-performing teams could do nothing but sit around and wait to be ushered out the door. In those situations, it seemed clear these coaches’ jobs were bigger than they are.

Tom Coughlin was one striking contrast among departing NFL coaches.

In his final press conference as coach of the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin demonstrated what it looks like when someone is bigger than the job. Coughlin “resigned” after fifteen years with the New York Giants, twelve of them as head coach. He led the team to two Super Bowl wins, and was on the coaching staff for another one.

Rather than playing back what Tom Coughlin had to say, you can read the transcript of his remarks.

I would encourage you, however, to watch the press conference video.

You will get a sense of someone who, while obviously devoting himself to his job, his organization, and his players, definitely realizes his job is not bigger than he is. – Mike Brown

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Something I’m trying to improve is being deliberate about what I agree to do that could end up distracting from what’s important. After consciously pursuing many new avenues the past few years, it is evident some very fundamental business capabilities aren’t receiving the attention they need. I’ve been thinking about what strategic thinking questions could help me stay more focused.

In the midst of that personal reflection, kick ass business person and cycle instructor, Kate Crockett, posted “2016 – The Year of No” on Facebook. Kate’s strategic thinking questions resonated with me, and I asked her for permission to share them here.

I suspect you will find them valuable as well. Here’s Kate!

2016 – The Year of No by Kate Crockett

I challenge you to make 2016 the YEAR OF NO.

Before you agree to anything, ask yourself the following questions:

Do I want to do this?

We all need to stop doing things we absolutely do not want to do or things that cause us stress and anxiety just because we feel it’s what others want us to do or it is perceived as the “right thing to do.” The right thing to do is to care for yourself so you can care for others when needed.

Will doing this make me feel satisfied?


Kate Crockett and her daughter, Olivia

Would the person asking me to do this do the same for me if I asked?

We all need to stop bending over backwards and going out of our way for people who wouldn’t help us even if it weren’t out of their way.

Would you allow a friend to say “Yes” to whatever it is if you knew they didn’t want to do it or it caused them stress or emotional anxiety to do it?

Why would you treat a friend better than you treat yourself?

Is this time well spent?

We all need to learn to set our boundaries with those in our lives so that we aren’t the ones driven to stress and anxiety while the others in our lives skate around us caring very little that they’ve have put us in an inconvenient situation.

All of us are extremely talented, caring, generous, loving and amazing humans who allow those around us to exploit those admirable qualities to their advantage with little care for what it does to us. Spend your time this year on those who support your physical, emotional and mental well-being and lift you up. At the end of the day, it will make us less stressed and happier people for those that really matter to be around. – Kate Crockett

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