We received a question recently about the three biggest strategic planning challenges. It didn’t take long to think about the answer, because we see and hear about these strategic planning challenges repeatedly.


1. Thinking strategic planning only happens with senior management

We’ve been hammering away at this first challenge for years. An organization’s senior management team may be the ones charged with setting strategy and ultimately on the hook for whether the strategy is successful. That doesn’t mean, however, that senior management should be the largest group involved in planning, let alone the ONLY group involved.

Beyond the three strategic thinking perspectives essential to solid strategy we have advocated for years, we’ve formalized another view on who should participate. We’re now looking for three voices to become active in planning:  familiar, challenger, and emerging voices.

2. Believing strategic planning takes more time than the organization can afford

If one part of our brand promise at The Brainzooming Group is about involving more “brains” in strategy, another important brand promise attribute is that strategic planning can move more quickly than people typically expect.

What’s vital for faster strategic planning is greater productivity, removing unnecessary steps, and being able to move ahead with the options that make the most strategic sense. Speedier planning doesn’t happen from using strategic planning techniques to turn everyone into strategists. It comes about through allowing people to develop and deliver the information and insights they know best. That’s why we prepare the planning templates and let clients do what they do best.

3. You have to start with a clean sheet of paper

Unless there’s a need for a major turnaround, chances are there is no need to start from scratch with a new strategic planning effort. Another element of speedier strategic planning is taking advantage of all the solid work that exists and moving forward with any strategic jump start you can get. That’s why we tell clients we re-work our process to fit them, as opposed to fitting the organization into static planning steps.

Take a Different Look at Strategic Planning Techniques

Whether you’re launching organization-wide strategy development or are focused on business unit or initiative strategic planning, you owe it to your organization to consider what planning looks like without the three typical challenges we shared here.

Call or email us, and we’ll show how things can be different. – Mike Brown


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If you’re facing a challenging organizational situation and are struggling to maintain forward progress because of it, The Brainzooming Group can provide a strategic sounding-board for you. We will apply our strategic thinking and implementation tools on a one-on-one basis to help you create greater organizational success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you figure out how to work around your organizational challenges.




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During the Lenten season, Christians seek to grow in their devotion to prayer, reflection, and sacrifice as a way to detach from life’s daily consuming distractions.


This year, I feel a calling to more deliberately help others as much as giving things up. During prayer the other day, the message was clear that I should launch out into the deep in a way that is new for me. Maybe it’s the spirit of Pope Francis that seems to be permeating even popular culture, reminding us that we are called to be islands of mercy, putting aside the indifference that a comfortable life can engender. In his message for Lent. Pope Francis calls us to “pray, to help others, and to recognize the need for God.”

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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Whenever presenting to a group, I love trying out new ideas, tools, and techniques with the audience. I also appreciate the opportunity to be candid about what works and doesn’t relative to the topic we’re addressing. This is one of the great presentation tips shared early on by someone who works with a lot of speakers. I’ve adopted it, and the more intimate and interactive the setting, the more likely I will push further into successes and challenges.

During my “Creating Fantastic, Shareable Content” workshop at the Social Strategies Summit, we discussed how a content marketing strategy fits with a lead generation strategy. Typically, creating and sharing content is motivated by growing the number of prospects in your audience identifying themselves as interested in talking further about how your organization could serve them.

Covering various aspects of this content marketing strategy that must work well to make the overall strategy successful, I shared what we do well and an area we don’t do well as an organization with our own strategy.

Okay, rather than simply pointing it out, I said we “suck” at one part of our content marketing strategy.

Later, one of the great people I met at the conference remarked how unusual it is for a speaker to say his organization “sucks” at something. She wondered why I did this.

At the core, it is one of those things I sometimes say “in the moment.” The workshop atmosphere was very comfortable, making it easier for me to push the messages harder.

Presentation Tips – 3 Reasons to Admit You Don’t Do Something Well


Beyond that, there are three other reasons why I said, “We suck.”

1. It is truthful

There are some things we do really well on content marketing, including creating business-oriented, evergreen content delivering value for readers around the world. We haven’t been as strong on following up and taking the next steps with the audience that wants to work more closely with us.

2. It is realistic

I’m suspect of speakers who paint the picture of EVERYTHING being wonderful as the basis of the credibility for the messages they share. Call me cynical, but I’ve been around too long to ever swallow that EVERYTHING is perfect with any organization.

3. An audience member may have an idea to help us improve

Overwhelmingly, I’m blessed to talk with very diverse, experienced audiences typically as eager to offer ideas as I am in offering ideas to them. If one of these smart people has an idea for how we can improve what The Brainzooming Group does, I definitely want to learn it.

What did he say?

Yes, saying we “suck” was a little strong, but it got attention, which is why I said it.

If you have us speak or do a workshop, be prepared for truthful, realistic content to help your audience better understand what to do. They will also understand the challenges that could be looming, too.

Consider it part of the Brainzooming brand promise.

If you don’t want me to say, “Suck,” however, let me know. I’ll use another word! – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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Some strategic thinking questions are brand new, or at least appear in brand new forms, ready to meet a specific business need. Other strategic thinking questions are well tested and, unfortunately, underused even though they are applicable in so many situations.

On example of the latter type of strategic thinking questions is, “What are we trying to achieve?”

Photo by; MMchen | Source: photocase.com

Photo by; MMchen | Source: photocase.com

This question sits front and center whenever we are talking strategy with a client or teaching a creating strategic impact workshop or delivering any other type of presentation where strategy is a theme (i.e., social media and content marketing strategy, brand strategy, sponsorship strategy, etc.).

We even put it near the start of the “Staying Sane as a One-Person Social Media Department” presentation at the Social Media Strategies Summit. One of the tips solo social media professionals identified for their peers in the survey we conducted among the group is getting comfortable in saying, “No.” That is great advice, but you cannot typically get away with saying, “No,” capriciously. You should have a strategic rationale behind what you are saying.

And that is where there is such value in the question, “What are we trying to achieve?”

Beyond, helping you say, “No,” it helps address all these situations:

  • Create strategy – If you can pin down what you are trying achieve, you can apply creative thinking to how you accomplish it.
  • It helps you prioritize – Knowing the various things you need to achieve allows for prioritizing them in importance.
  • Focus your work – As things change and people suggest ill-founded strategy changes, you can come back to your strategic priorities in order to re-focus.
  • Produce metrics – You can begin to put numbers to what you are trying to achieve and determine related metrics suggesting whether you are on the right track.
  • Gain supporters – The answer to what you are trying to achieve helps communicate with others and build enthusiasm and action (or address why people are not enthusiastic or ready to act).
  • Grow in influence – Being a more consistent leader often sets you apart from so many other individuals inside organizations.

With all those benefits, that’s why I told the solo social media professionals in the audience that even if they felt alone, this one strategic thinking question worked so hard, it would be like having another member on the team.

The same goes for you. If you have not been taking advantage of this team member, put it to work starting today! – Mike Brown


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Before leading my workshop the first afternoon of the Social Media Strategies Summit, I participated in the day’s earlier workshops. This is something I try to do whenever I’m speaking at an event. Doing this provides new ideas, reference points, and potentially frees up topics I needn’t address as completely because an earlier speaker has covered them.

During these workshops, for whatever reason, I found myself thinking about how I process information shared during conference presentations. I began jotting down the strategic thinking questions (below) I was asking myself. It struck me that these questions tie to integrated listening. Whether the speaker’s topic is familiar or unfamiliar, and whether the speaker’s perspective agrees or disagrees with my own, I’m looking for what to incorporate from the material to adapt my perspective.

5 Strategic Thinking Questions for Integrated Listening

Within an integrated listening objective, these strategic thinking questions are ones that run through my head during a presentation:

  1. What of this material agrees with my world view?
  2. What parts challenge or contradict my world view?
  3. In what ways does this content enrich my current understanding?
  4. What should I consider doing differently (whether that’s doing something new, stopping something, or altering a current practice) based on this presentation?
  5. What are the parts of this material I don’t understand? If so, why is that?

These questions work, at least for me, to stay open to new information without completely abandoning what I think in favor of too eagerly embracing an expert’s point of view during a presentation.  – Mike Brown

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Learn all about how Mike Brown’s workshops on creating strategic impact can boost your success!

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Recently, we asked solo social media professionals to share their strategies, ideas, tips, and tricks for how they perform dual social media strategy and implementation roles as one person solo social media departments.


8 Solo Social Media Professional Success Tips

Based on the responses for our survey,  here are eight ideas solo social media professionals can adopt to improve their performance as they function as one person social media departments.

“Always carry a second admin in case you are struck by lightning and have the only keys to your organization’s social media kingdom.”

This is a wonderful reminder to make sure someone else in the organization can get into the brand’s social media presences if you can’t for some reason.

“Make sure you are included in meetings/receive the editorial calendar from your marketing and communications department (if your job title isn’t attached to this department) which will allow you to schedule content that is part of the campaign or event.”

It’s vital to create the appropriate strategic presence in the organization that social media gets brought in on the front end of strategy development and isn’t considered an afterthought.

“Learn to say no.”

If you can’t say, “No,” you’re always subject to having your social media strategy altered (perhaps dramatically) by someone else who may not have the right insights or understanding to be setting strategy. The key is YOU need to be solid in your strategic thinking or your “No” can be arbitrary.

“Create a content calendar.”

If you’re on your own, it may be easy to slough this social media strategy idea off and simply create content. A content calendar, however, keeps you honest and intentional about what you’re doing with social media.

“Gather all tools, graphics, sentences etc. before starting campaign – think about it before posting.”

This is another one where it might be easy (but definitely isn’t wise) to simply create content as you go if you don’t really have to coordinate with anyone else on a team.

“Utilize the best social media management available for your situation.”

Based on the responses to most beneficial tools, Hootsuite is the go-to social media management application for these respondents. Canva received multiple dimensions for creating graphics for various social platforms. Other mentions included: Aviary, Buffer, PicMonkey, Flipboard, and multiple Twitter cleanup tools (Justunfollow.com, Unfollow.com, Untweep.com).

“Schedule in advance” and “Set aside time for certain tasks throughout the week – schedule it on your calendar as if it were a meeting.”

There’s so much value in these two suggestions. It’s smart to shift as much content creation out of real time as possible; doing so provides valuable thinking and review time. Additionally, if you don’t schedule time to get work done (as opposed to just scheduling meetings) you won’t get the essential social media work completed.

“Have your social apps on your phone so you can review/respond to interaction anytime you have a down moment.”

Great advice. You never want to be away from access to your social presences if something explodes.

Are you a solo social media professional asking yourself, “Where should I prioritize developing my company’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

IF you are a one person social media department, you need quick answers and ideas on where to prioritize your work? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you can explore your online presence from various angles and determine how to best set your priorities.

You can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social business strategies with these diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy.”



Mike Brown

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What do you do if there are multiple, separate audiences your brand needs to reach, but you don’t have the time or resources to deliver content in multiple, separate social media streams?

This social media strategy question surfaced more than once the first day of the Social Media Strategies Summit in Las Vegas.


The first instance was an agency trying to reach client prospects who are CMOs in addition to marketing talent as potential employees. In another case, it was a startup organization without the existing content or current bandwidth for multi-channel social media. In a third case, it was a national travel and tourism organization catering to potential travelers in multiple countries speaking multiple languages.

Each is currently handling this social media strategy situation in varied ways.

Are my tweets bothering you?

Based on responses across all these discussions, here are ideas for how to approach this social media strategy challenge.

Step 1 – Have you determined if the audiences are complementary?

The days of thinking you can communicate in different ways to different audiences and keep the messages and audiences segregated are gone. If your brand is saying one thing in one place, you can figure you’re saying the one thing in multiple places, whether you like it or not.

A first step then is determining whether the messages targeted at one audience are going to be appropriate, complementary, or miss the mark with other audiences.

In the digital agency’s case, the separately targeted messages seem complementary. A CMO hiring an agency wants to know the agency is hiring smart, talented, and highly skilled people. A potential new hire for a digital agency wants to know he or she will have the opportunity to work with cool clients having innovative projects. Looking at this case in a simplified manner, the brand message to one audience is a complementary brand cue to the other audience. There doesn’t seem to be a downside to each audience seeing messages more directly targeted at another audience.

Step 2 – Can you test how similar the audiences are?

The situation with the travel and tourism organization is more complex. They address content in at least four languages (Spanish and English are primary) and audiences on multiple continents.

The current strategy involves repeating the same posts in different languages, typically on each social media channel. They appear to have duplicate content on each social platform much of the time, especially because of the heavy use of photos, which DO translate across languages. They suspect / know, however, that various country populations respond to different aspects of their country’s culture and seek out different content accordingly. One downside of the current approach (same content on each channel) is they train their audience to only follow them on one channel.

For them, social media strategy step two involves various “tests” of their suspicions about the need for multiple channels:

  1. Look at the audience demographic information available on each group (country and language) to see how they compare based on what is known about them.
  2. To the extent possible, examine quantitatively how each group engages with content.
  3. Set up and implement trials over several months where each group receives the same content at the same time. The objective is to compare the results and see how similarly or differently each group engages with identical updates.
  4. If emails are available for a representative cross-section of the audience, test their reactions in a more controlled setting (with an online survey) to various types of content.

While there is no one formula to answer the questions about how many channels they need in these situations, this social media strategy development approach should provide a basis to understand how complementary or disaffecting content intended for another group is when another group receives it.

Then they’ll have a better sense of the answer to the question, “Are my tweets bothering you?”  – Mike Brown

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“How strong is my organization’s social media strategy?”

9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy

Is your social media implementation working as well as it can? In less than 60 minutes with the new FREE Brainzooming ebook “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social Strategy,” you’ll have a precise answer to this question.

Any executive can make a thorough yet rapid evaluation of nine different dimensions of their social business strategies with these nine diagnostics. Download Your Free Copy of “9 Diagnostics to Check Your Social  Strategy.”

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