The Path To Leadership

Building a Strong Brand for Authentic Engagement and Growth with Lori Wiles

May 14, 2024 Catalyst Development Season 1 Episode 34
Building a Strong Brand for Authentic Engagement and Growth with Lori Wiles
The Path To Leadership
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The Path To Leadership
Building a Strong Brand for Authentic Engagement and Growth with Lori Wiles
May 14, 2024 Season 1 Episode 34
Catalyst Development

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Embark on a journey through the multifaceted world of marketing with Lori Wiles, an expert of branding who masterfully transitioned from broadcasting to leading her own fractional chief marketing officer firm. Lori peels back the layers of what truly constitutes a brand, revealing insights that extend past the visual elements to the psychological impact of color choices. Through her narrative, we gain an insider's view on nurturing startups and the critical role marketing plays in their success. 

Our conversation with Lori takes us on an exhilarating ride from the safety of a corporate career to the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship. We tackle the fears and strategies that come with establishing a business, delving into how identifying a niche can lead to prosperous growth. Lori doesn't hold back in sharing the significance of networking, referrals, and building credibility through testimonials. 

Connect with Lori...

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/loriawiles
Website:  https://loriwilescmo.com/

Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Embark on a journey through the multifaceted world of marketing with Lori Wiles, an expert of branding who masterfully transitioned from broadcasting to leading her own fractional chief marketing officer firm. Lori peels back the layers of what truly constitutes a brand, revealing insights that extend past the visual elements to the psychological impact of color choices. Through her narrative, we gain an insider's view on nurturing startups and the critical role marketing plays in their success. 

Our conversation with Lori takes us on an exhilarating ride from the safety of a corporate career to the unpredictable world of entrepreneurship. We tackle the fears and strategies that come with establishing a business, delving into how identifying a niche can lead to prosperous growth. Lori doesn't hold back in sharing the significance of networking, referrals, and building credibility through testimonials. 

Connect with Lori...

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/loriawiles
Website:  https://loriwilescmo.com/

Follow Catalyst Development on LinkedIn @catalystdevelopment, @drkatieervin, @jennascott, @emmablankenship

www.cdleaders.com

Theme music by Emma Jo https://emmajo.rocks/

Dr. Katie:

word. Hi everyone, welcome back to the Path to Leadership. I'm really excited to introduce you to my guest today. She is someone that's kind of new into my circle, but as soon as I met her I was like everyone needs to know what you're doing. So, lori, I'm so glad to have you today.

Lori Wiles:

Thanks, I am excited to be here too, katie, thanks for the invitation.

Dr. Katie:

Of course, of course, and I will tell everyone. Really, the first time we met, we could have talked for hours. We just both had things to do and I was like let's just continue this conversation and record it so everyone else can be a part of it. Absolutely.

Lori Wiles:

I still remember when I first met you, I was so impressed how you branded yourself so well, and so I think we just hit it off from the first conversation we had.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, I appreciate that, especially coming from someone with the background that you have, because you're really a marketing and branding expert.

Lori Wiles:

Yeah, I've always been passionate about brand and I had the opportunity for a lot of different companies to build their brands, both in conjunction with ad agencies as well as on my own, and I still am. Just, I think I sent you the psychology of brand colors after we met, because your brand color is green and I had just written a LinkedIn post on it, and I just I love to study the psychology of brands and what they mean to people, because they're so much more than a locum.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, exactly, Exactly. Well, can you, before we go all the way into that, will you introduce yourself name, title, organization, all that good stuff.

Lori Wiles:

You bet. So, lori Wiles, I'm actually an accredited business communicator with the International Association of Business Communicators and I own my own fractional chief marketing officer firm. I think fractionals are sort of all the rage or the trend now, which can be both good and bad, but I wanted to do this a couple of times in my career and this just felt like the right time, and I think part of the reason I'm doing it is that my last few jobs have been kind of in that corporate America space. But I've always had this passion for helping out companies that are starting or in that more early growth stage, because I think you really get to come alongside them almost as like a business partner to help them grow and you really see the impact of your work when you're in a smaller organization like that.

Lori Wiles:

So, I didn't start my career, though, there. I started as a news and sports broadcaster, of all things. I have a degree in broadcasting from the University of Kansas and I loved doing that. But you know what it's like you go to school and then you get the real job and it's not the same thing, and so for me, I loved everything I did, but the environment was not collaborative. It was a very competitive environment, not necessarily always a healthy environment as well, and I also owned a small weekly newspaper at the same time. So I guess I didn't know how to like stop working nonstop like you do in college, and so I did that, and then after about three years, I decided to transition all that into a marketing communications career. So that was my start, but I do feel like I still got a lot of the great training, and I like to tell students these days when they're going to school you know, just because you're getting a degree in, say, advertising or public relations, there's so many things that you can do with that.

Lori Wiles:

You know, don't limit yourself on what your opportunities are once you hit that stage and I'm glad I didn't.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah Well, and I love that you say that, especially, you know, as it's graduation time and everyone's trying to find their first job or their next job or whatever that looks like, and I'm kind of I tell people similar things as let's not get hung up on the path you think you're supposed to be on, just be open to the universe and where it takes us.

Lori Wiles:

I had a cousin who lived with me during the summers and she was quite a bit younger than I was but she did internships at ad agencies in Kansas City and she was going to the University of Nebraska and she literally thought when she graduated that she needed to go work for an ad agency. And I was like you know there's a lot of things you can do, and she ended up transferring her degree into the nonprofit world. She just really liked working in that environment and I was glad that I had a chance to chat with her. And you know, I think the schools are doing a lot better job I think universities on helping train students for what the real world is. So I don't know that that's quite as black and white as it has been before, but you know it is really nice, I think, if you're going through that, to try to do internships and different things like that so you can be exposed to that real world before you get that first real job.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, and I know this isn't what we're going to talk about, but I'm passionate about this because it's you know. Sometimes you know whether it be young adults or even you know older in our career, it's like it's okay to try something and not like it. Sometimes the bigger gift is realizing what you don't want to do as opposed to what you do want to do.

Lori Wiles:

You know, my daughter grew up saying that she wanted to be an engineer like her whole life, and so when she got into school high school she was taking AP, physics, ap, chem, you know all these horrible hard AP classes at least for a journalist. They sounded hard to me and it was interesting because when we started looking at colleges and we were looking at the actual curriculum that she would take each year, she came home and she goes when do I get to build something? And I'm like that's not what an engineering degree is. And she goes oh well, I don't want to do that. So I'm glad that we caught that early.

Lori Wiles:

And you know, she ended up getting a degree in industrial design from the School of Architecture and Design at KU and it's a product designer now and doing exactly what she wants to do. But it is interesting, you know, it's like until you really get in it. And it's another thing I'd love to tell kids before they go to college try to take summer camps or whatever it is in the field that you're interested in, and then you really, I think, get a feel for whether that's something you're going to enjoy.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I cannot agree more. And I think it's also interesting. You know, as you know, I think, when did you start your company? I'm trying to remember, it's very recent. Yeah, it was last fall. Last fall, okay. So both of us, you know we will be Catalyst Development will be to July 1. And so we still consider ourselves babies as well. And you know, through our journey, you know working for other people. And then there's a point where we're both like, no thanks, I'm going to, I'm going to do this. So can you kind of tell us what? What led you to get to that point where you're like I got this.

Lori Wiles:

You know. So the first thing is is I thought back to my career, and something I really enjoyed had always been going in and helping a company pivot or change or launch a new product or go after a new market. And when I was starting to look at new opportunities, I'm like how can I make sure that I continue that good fortune that I've had? I'm like how can I make sure that I continue that good fortune that I've had? And I'm like I think I can do that if I become this fractional CMO, because that's exactly what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to go in there and help people optimize their marketing. It could be a marketing product that they have, it could be their marketing department, it could be their marketing team. But by doing that I can have multiple clients at the same time doing exactly what I love, and as a former person in education, you probably know what you love is usually what you're really good at as well. So it was kind of easy, I think, for me to really sit down and think about it. I think what wasn't easy, though? Well, it's always scary, you know, to walk away from that corporate paycheck and realize that you're going to have to build this thing from the ground up, and you don't you know, you don't start making money right away. You know, luckily I had created an opportunity for myself where I had some of that runway to do it.

Lori Wiles:

But for me the hard part was figuring out how did I want to niche? Because there were so many things I enjoy doing and I would say in those first few months I was probably targeting startups, which might not have been the best target because, as you know, a lot of times you're bootstrapping your own company and you don't have a lot of funds to spend on correctionals or marketing consultants. And then I think the second piece was what exactly is it that I want to do? Because I could do a lot of things. I could build a brand identity, I could build integrated marketing plans. But this idea of really optimizing something by either creating a marketing team from scratch or helping people optimize the marketing that they do have, that's kind of where I've landed, and so I feel like a lot more momentum came along once. I decided to niche like that, and I'd be curious if that happened with you as well.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I think you're absolutely right and it's what's interesting is and I'm sure you experienced this as well is when we first started, people were like you know, how can we help you, what can we do for you?

Dr. Katie:

And I'm like anyone who needs leadership development, that's what we do. And it's like, oh well, that is, I mean, that's not a wide net. That is like there's no net, that is everything. And, as you're right, as we niche down, as we were able to say, this is our exact sweet spot that we are looking for, which is these midsize companies that you know, really understand the value of leadership development and want to invest in it. Then it's like, oh, everyone then can open up their you know their network and be like, oh yeah, well, I know these 32 different people and you know it's still so wildly difficult. I think that's the other thing, too, that you and I talked about is, when you're starting a business, people like you, but they don't know what you're doing, and it's getting people to understand this is who I am and also this is what my business does.

Lori Wiles:

Right, you know I've run into a few what I call business partners today, because I think they are kind of referral partners for you and I think that's a big way that you probably build your business as well. And several of them have done a really good job in what I call putting together like a business referral bio sheet and it's not like a resume, it's more like here's the business problems I solve, here's the company issues, that, if you see them, those are kind of my target audience and I think if you're, if you have the chance to put those together, it becomes a lot easier for people to I don't know kind of bring to life what it is that you're doing. And then, obviously, when you are helping clients, if they can provide testimonials on how you helped improve the business, that's another really great way, I think, for people to understand oh, you know, that's what Lori, that's what Katie can do if they come in.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I think you're so spot on and I'm fascinated because you kind of teased this at the beginning that it's kind of a trend now to be called a fractional executive. And yes, the title is kind of a newer kind of trendy kind of thing, but the type of work you're doing is not new. So can you kind of talk about what that is? What is a fractional executive?

Lori Wiles:

Yeah, so I have actually seen people define this in a really rigid way, which I think at least helps when people are like what does fractional mean and how is that different than you just being like a marketing consultant? And so a true fractional would be a person who would go to work for a company. Let's say they need a marketing leader, but they're not ready to financially hire one. They could hire somebody for five hours a week, 10 hours a week, and they're really like they're part of the company. They may have an email address at the company, they go to team meetings, they do all of the things just for a fraction of the time or part-time. That's really what a true fractional is.

Lori Wiles:

You know, ironically, I haven't had that client yet. My clients have all been more help me launch a business or help me maximize this marketing thing that I'm doing, and that's project work. That tends to be more like a two, four or six month project, and so I was actually just updating my LinkedIn profile the other day and I have now both fractional CMO as well as marketing consultant, because a lot of people aren't searching for fractions yet because they don't, they might know them in the CFO world, the chief financial officer world, that's kind of who invented them?

Lori Wiles:

But now you've got fractional chief operating officers, chief sales officers, you know, chief controllers, that kind of thing. The other thing that I have found that has gotten really tricky is I've joined a couple of fractional CMO groups and what I'm finding is, you know, when I approached this, I approached it as a former marketing leader, bringing in marketing leadership expertise. But what you'll see underneath that umbrella these days is really a fractional copywriter or a fractional video producer or a fractional website builder, which is fine. But I think it does muddy up the waters a little bit and have people not necessarily understand what that fractional is. I have those partnerships so that when I go into a client I don't have to tell them I'm going to stop here and somebody else will start here. I just have those people that come in and help, you know, finish the execution of whatever we're doing.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, and I love, I love that description, I love how you explain it, because we tell people all the time you know, catalyst Development is not a consulting firm and we're not a one and done Like we are true business partners. We created the company to support their organization and so it's not this yes, we'll come and do a lunch and learn and we'll come and do these kind of smaller things, but it's really that, as you said, that partnership, that longer term engagement. And I've also found and I think it's ramped up since 2020, but it was even before 2020, where there's just some people that, as I affectionately like to say, they slept at a Holiday Inn last night and they're like One of the best ad campaigns ever, Katie.

Dr. Katie:

They're like I'm a consultant now and it's like, but are you? And it doesn't mean that they're not lovely people, they're fantastic but it's like where's your expertise fall? And I think that's also. The water gets a little muddy when you talk about copyrights and things like that. It gets muddy in in the leadership development world too, because people think I worked for a company for 40 years, I can do leadership training, and it's like it's just not that there's theory behind it.

Lori Wiles:

What word do you use to define your business?

Dr. Katie:

We're a business partner.

Lori Wiles:

We truly are.

Dr. Katie:

We're a business partner and we have multiple organizations that have us on that five hour retainer where you know we do, we spend five hours a month with them and they will. We we do kind of a needs assessment with them and spend time with them, and I'm like you, where I don't, I don't stop and do a handoff, I will just bring in people that fill my gaps. So if I had a client that said to me like hey, we're kicking off our um, you know, big annual campaign drive and we need someone to do marketing, well, I'm on my team technically could do it, but wouldn't. That's not what she does anymore. And so it's like perfect. Well, I'm going to introduce you to my friend Lori. She's going to come in and work with us as well, and so that's really kind of where we push and pull in referral partners as much as we can Because we want to just be in our sweet spot.

Lori Wiles:

You know, what I really love are the small business bankers and the model that they have of almost being this like concierge business partner, where you know, I think you and I would at least have some kind of a line around what we would refer into attorneys, wealth planners you know all the different things that a business might need that I think if you develop a really good relationship with people like that, it just makes their life so much easier because they can focus on their business. And I love that model and I like the opportunity to be able to bring in partners at different price levels, different experience levels, so that it can be customized and they don't have to go out and look for that themselves Because, again, they didn't bring us on board, because they have all this time on their hands and they're sitting around twiddling their thumbs. You know they're trying to grow their business.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, you're, you're absolutely right. I think it's so important and I know you have talked about, we've talked about. You know how small businesses and even medium-sized businesses, how do they set themselves apart, how do they grow, how can they leverage what's out there?

Lori Wiles:

It's interesting. I have spent my entire career really focused on helping people build brands that stand apart. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to be different. You could also just be better. Because I also have another colleague that always talks about excellence versus differentiation. His name is Eric Morgenstern and he drilled that into me early on when we were talking. And.

Lori Wiles:

But you know, I think about that because when you're, when you're building out like, let's say, you're a small business, the first thing you're probably going to do is stand up a website right, you need that to be legitimate, and I see so many people do that but not go through the process of thinking, okay, what is my value proposition? How am I different or better or the best at what I do? And then what are those? Like maybe three to five key messages that I can repeat over and over. I might get tired of hearing them, but the people I'm talking to, they might have to hear them seven times just to remember those three or five. And then, what are the proof points to back them up? Are they testimonials, are they facts that you have? Because, again, a lot of times when you see these websites, there's like 25 messages out there and nothing's kind of getting through the clutter. So I think that point of differentiation is right there, alongside their value proposition in terms of you know, make sure you get that figured out before you start launching your tactics and then make sure it's consistent across everything that you do, because you know you and I may only get one or two chances to get in front of people or for them to see one of our LinkedIn posts or hear one of your podcasts, and if we don't keep saying the same things, then we're not going to stand for anything.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I think it's so important and I think, also, being a startup or small business, you have to constantly be checking in on yourself. Are we still on brand? And in on yourself? Are we still on brand? And? And you know, as we grow, as we continue to mature in our organizations, you know we, we hone in more on who we are, but also we got to make sure our messaging stays on brand. And I tell my husband all the time I don't always understand everything Emma does, but I know when someone says, hey, I did this Google search on this very generic term in Kansas City and you came up in the top three, it's like, okay, I don't know what she does to make SEO happen, but it's called marketing magic.

Dr. Katie:

Katie yeah, she has magic at it and it brings such great value to organizations and I think it's really important especially for those small businesses to lean into that, especially for those small businesses to lean into that.

Lori Wiles:

Yeah, I think people hear the word SEO. Search engine optimization is what that stands for, and it terrifies a lot of people. You're like that sounds super technical. I don't know how to do it. It's literally about building your website with words or tags within your photos of words that people search for on Google. It's really not as complicated as people think it is, but again, it's just. It's hard if you're a business owner to be trying to to do all that and stand it up in the right way. But you're right, you and I are in industries where it really helps if people find our websites by doing Google searches right.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, and it's worth. I have people it's funny we talk about. You know, you were like first I went and leaned into startups but there's not a lot of money at the very beginning, when we're starting, because I have people come to me all the time and they're like you know, where do you spend your money and where, like, what's the next place that you want to spend money? And I'm like well, the first step for me is people have to know who you are. You have to have a strong brand, you have to have a strong marketing, you have to be out there and be visible and be around. So to me, that's one of the most important and first places to spend money Eventually.

Dr. Katie:

Yes, I cannot wait to hire someone to do bookkeeping and finances and stuff like that. That's the behind the scenes stuff. You know that I can get an invoice out and I can do those kinds of things and I hate it and I don't want to do it. But it's those outward facing things that I think are so critical as we're trying to grow our organizations.

Lori Wiles:

You know I like to use the analogy of that, this marketing strategy. That's how I would categorize what we're talking about. You know what's your value prop, who are you, what do you stand for? You know that's like building the foundation to your basement. You know you're not going to hang pictures on a wall if you don't have a concrete floor first. And if you don't do that and you start hanging pictures, which is your website and your collateral and your social media? It's on like some pretty mushy sand.

Lori Wiles:

I guess is what I would like to say and I like to tell a lot of people. They're like well, you're going to come in and make these recommendations for me and then I'm not going to be able to afford to do all the things you want me to do. And I said I might be taking what you already have and just making it better where it doesn't really cost you any more money. You're just getting stronger impact, stronger breakthrough, stronger awareness and recognition and preference and, you know, click through rates, whatever it is, because you've got a strategy that's working harder for you.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I think that's so important and I'm going to take a small right hand turn. I'm just curious what has been like, what is one of your favorite projects, or you know, you don't have to say client names or anything like that, but some of the some of your favorite work that you've done, you know.

Lori Wiles:

I'm going to give you two that are kind of like polar opposites. So the first one was I'm going to tell you what my favorite job was. I had been working in engineering for 10 years and I hadn't had a mentor. I was really just a one person shop who might've built up the team to three people. And so when I was about 30 years old, I thought, you know, I want somebody to mentor me, and so, you know, I interviewed at I think it was 20th century then, versus American century. I interviewed at Hallmark think it was 20th century then, versus American century. I interviewed at Hallmark and I was going to do this very tiny, specific thing because they were big companies. But I was excited because I'm like I have lots of people I can learn from. And then I interviewed at this little company called Sprint PCS which is going to launch this thing called a wireless phone Can you imagine it makes me feel old and I was the 58th employee and I still remember my job description was whatever it takes to launch Sacramento by December.

Lori Wiles:

And I'm like that sounds fun, and so I just love that because, again, you know you're, you're in this small organization, you're super integral to helping that business grow, and I did learn really fast though, that that kind of change and ambiguity is not something everyone loves, but it's something that I loved.

Lori Wiles:

I think the other part is when you were talking about the startups and they're just not being a lot of money there. What I'm finding is that I like to go into those areas and kind of teach people how to fish, so I like to go to I just went to a conference called Founded in Fort Collins where I taught a lot of solopreneurs, almost like you and I, to actually build a marketing plan. I'm not going to make any money doing that, but it was just. It's so rewarding to see their you know, the lights click on in their head and they're like, okay, I get this now. And so I think that teaching component sometimes, even if that's not going to be the market that makes you money, there's still something you can do there that just makes you feel really good about the services you provide.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I think that's cool and I think, too, those will come back around, you know, in one way or another.

Lori Wiles:

And maybe not directly from that person, but because they know what you're capable of doing, it'll make the meaningful connection. So and I, and I've tried to get involved with the small business development centers in the communities that you know that I network in or that I that I live into, because that's another great opportunity just to, I don't know. It inspires me.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, I love it. I love it. Well, it's funny to hear you talk about Sprint PCS, because I openly talk about it. I'm 48 years old and I left home when I was 17 to take care of my grandparents and so my parents bought me a bag phone. You know where you had to put it on top of the car, and I think it was Ameritech back then, and then I think Sprint bought Ameritech and now obviously T-Mobile, and so when I go into my Sprint account and someone logs in, they're like oh, you've been a client for like 29 or 30 years or something like that. I mean there was one year I got like a handwritten note from like some big muckety muck in Sprint. My husband's like you've been with them a long time and I'm like, well, you know, say what you want about them, they take good care of me.

Lori Wiles:

What is the? What are the first three phone? First three digits of your phone number, the prefix, not the 913 or whatever, but the next three 240. Okay so. I have 226, and that was the very first one, and you've got one like right behind that, so that's one way to know how long you've been a Sprint customer.

Dr. Katie:

That is fascinating, yeah, cause my kids are 700, like 780 or something like that. Yeah Well, fun facts that we learned. No, everyone's going to be like what is my number?

Lori Wiles:

I also at one point I don't know if it's still there they were naming cell towers after the employees and I had one in Idaho, but you know, they've turned over so many times now I don't know if it even still exists. It's kind of like buying someone a star or a moon for their birthday. I guess I love it.

Dr. Katie:

Well, so along that sorry, I've got a cough in me. Well, so along that sorry, I've got a cough in me. So along that teaching route, what are some of the tips for strong messaging that you would give us?

Lori Wiles:

All right, those are. I think those are good. So I actually do have a chance to guest lecture at the University of Kansas and both their graduate and undergraduate programs, and I love doing that. And one of the things I do is I actually have a template that I give to people and in there it's not only a template on what are you trying to achieve, but it's the tips on that messaging. So the first one is just what is your value prop Like? What is the business problem that your company solves or the consumer issue that your company solves? And then I think, the second one again and I've already, so I kind of gave this away already don't have 20 messages, have three, have five and then just really drill down on those and then try to have proof points to back them up. I mean, I might say that I have the most popular X, you know, as part of my messaging, but are you just saying that? You know? Is it like marketing spin or is it true? So if you have something that says you know I won this award or I had this client testimonial, or I was ranked number two in this one category, you know, those proof points I think are important too.

Lori Wiles:

But I think the other tip is just to really try to stay on brand. I mean, when you're working on a brand identity, it starts with a logo and a color palette but then it gets into personality and language, tone and all of these things that really center back to you. And for folks like you and I, we are the company brand. You know, the brand is really us and that doesn't happen very often. If people are launching companies, a lot of times the brand is not the CEO. Ceo needs to be able to have that vision for the brand, but I think for entrepreneurs or solopreneurs, they need to remember that their company and personal brand are kind of one and the same.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, You're absolutely right. One it was fun because the Catalyst team recently we went to this virtual reality stadium and we-.

Lori Wiles:

I saw that on LinkedIn. Yeah, it was so much fun.

Dr. Katie:

But what we were trying to do was we were doing some testing for some of the leadership programming that we do, and so they threw us into I'd never played before and they threw us into this arena and we're fighting zombies and it was very intense. And we came out of it and we were debriefing with the owner and we were like what did you see through it? And he was like you guys have very clear language. You can really tell the leadership programming that you do. Like even in the high anxiety, high stress points, it was like okay, focus, calm, who's got what? Like what's our plan? You know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and all this stuff. He was like it was fascinating to watch you guys. You finished quicker than most. But, more importantly, the language that you guys shared through it and I thought that's very on brand for who we are. And he said even your personas and how you, you all, tackle things. It was. It was so on brand and I was like, well, I appreciate that, since that's literally what we do for a living.

Lori Wiles:

Well, and there's a word for what you're describing, or a term. It's called branding from the inside out, and it is so important, like you need to live your brand internally before you can ever live it externally, because your biggest brand touch points are going to be personal interactions of people on your team with potential customers. It's not going to be an ad, it's not going to be a website, and so to be able to live that, you know my brother has owned his own financial planning firm for 22 years and he even took that to the level of he looked for certain kinds of values when he was hiring people, because he knew it would be a lot easier for everybody to be singing from the same songbook if everybody kind of had that as a basis. So I mean that's a testament to the fact that you have done your branding from the inside out really well, thank you so much.

Dr. Katie:

And I am just very fortunate because and I shouldn't say that it just happens dance, because I firmly believe the right people are put in front of you at the right place. You just have to jump on them. And so the first time I met Jenna, I said I don't know how or why, but you will work for me. And it took me a couple months, but then I got her. And then the minute I met Emma, I mean it was just the perfect universe. So I was very fortunate to not pause when the universe put them in front of me. That's great.

Lori Wiles:

And, like I say again, if you don't invest in your employees. You know, my last position was at GEHA and 85 year old company, but there were a lot of messages going on when I got there. So we went through the whole value prop and everything work and the very first thing we did before we launched anything is we launched it to employees. We had a video so that we could bring the emotional side of the brand to life Because, as you know, it's not just the rational side of the brand, it's how you make people feel, you know the problems that you solve and that kind of thing. So yeah, definitely focusing internally before you go externally critical.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, and we always talk about authenticity. And people know and whether you're a small company or a massive, large international company, I mean your, your biggest kind of billboard, I think, is your employees and and you know how they behave and when they see something out there that's not on brand it's, it's their company as well and they're going to be like that's not who we are and why are we saying that we do this and we don't? And I mean we could get into a whole rabbit hole of employee loyalty. But I think it's important when you're putting your marketing out there, that, exactly what you said you focus on the inside first.

Lori Wiles:

Actually, if you say something that's not true, it's actually going to hurt you in the long run, because people will become very dissatisfied. And think about the number of companies that the primary interaction is with customer care when they've had a problem, you know it's already not a great time to be interacting with them, but that may be the only time that you interact, and so those people are extremely critical in being brand ambassadors.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, well, and I think so often organizations forget their frontline employees are truly the most important Someone in my network the other day we were talking about it and it's like you know, their leadership has been talking about their bosses. I wouldn't say leadership, that's giving them too much credit their bosses had been talking about. You know their competitors are paying more and they need to do a pay increase for their frontline employees and they need to do this, need to do that. And then it came out and it's like this new Missouri law with overtime rules, and so they have to increase supervisor and manager pay and so they're foregoing their frontline employee pay to increase the manager's pay and the frontline employees are like I don't think so you know, and they're in hospitality and so they're leaving or they're unhappy, and that's where you get repeat customers.

Lori Wiles:

Absolutely, and you need to be able to solve any problems that your customers have, whether your company caused it or if it was just an unfortunate byproduct. The ability to solve that problem will make them loyal for potentially life.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I love it. Thank you for letting I always go down this little rabbit hole. So thank you for going.

Lori Wiles:

I'm good at rabbit holes. I like them too.

Dr. Katie:

I love it. I love it. Well, as we wrap up, I asked this question of everybody at the end of the show. I think it's so important because we know our career journeys are not a straight path. So, to level your comfortable sharing what is your biggest leadership or career misstep you've taken?

Lori Wiles:

sharing what is your biggest leadership or career misstep you've taken? I would say I'm going to give you a short one that was actually a project and then I'm going to talk to you about probably the best feedback I ever got. I actually approved an ad campaign a B2B ad campaign when I was at Sprint because I felt like we needed to take a risk to really stand out in the awareness space because we were being outspent by a competitor at the time and it was one of those things that I took the risk. It was not the right campaign, it was really polarizing. It did break through but half the people hated it and so it quickly we pivoted and produced something different.

Lori Wiles:

But I always tell people you know you feel bad when those risks don't work, but I think they're important to test and take and especially if you can, as they like to say, fail fast and move on right. But I think the other one and this is going to more of a soft skill thing, which I think a lot of people say is not that teachable. I can blame this, maybe on my broadcast training, but I early in my management career when I was managing people, I liked to talk, surprise, surprise, and I was going through a performance review one time with one of the better people managers that I had and he'll probably know who he is if he hears this and he said I've got one piece of advice for you, lori. So when you go into a meeting and there's a problem, I know you're going to know the answer to fix it, like in the first five or 10 minutes, but don't say anything. Or 10 minutes but don't say anything, like just sit back, listen, allow other people to participate in the process and then maybe whatever solution you have or a different solution will emerge or be better. And he was completely right.

Lori Wiles:

I, you know, I'm just one of those people. I don't know if it's an efficiency thing or a talk thing, but I'm like let's not sit here for an hour. I know how we can fix this kind of thing. But probably one of the best pieces of advice that I ever had. Still hard for me. Still have to kind of just sit there on my hands and go, don't say anything. But it's so good if you can be open to constructive feedback like that, because some of them can be game changers, and that one for me was a game changer.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, well, and what a gift. Like I firmly believe, most people want to be great, but if no one ever tells us our opportunities for growth, we're gonna think we're killing it.

Lori Wiles:

Absolutely, and you know, and I would say you know, I'm in a different generation than those that are older than me and younger than me, and everybody learns and applies feedback differently and so you probably know better than anyone, based on the kind of role that you're in that, how you approach that feedback and how you provide it. You've got to be really flexible and you've got to remember who your audience is. It's the employee you're talking to, who might be different than the employee you're going to talk to in an hour.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah. Yeah, You're absolutely right. That's one of the things we talk about is, I mean, even Emma and Jenna they're the same age, but they take feedback very differently and it's not good or bad. And one of the questions we like to tell people, leaders, to ask is you know how often have you received feedback in your life and how do you best receive feedback? Because that will give you a really good indication of how do you need to talk to them and how do you build that relationship with them where they will truly hear and appreciate you.

Lori Wiles:

And I think it's important to always ask for those soft skills feedbacks, because you know you can learn how to do anything. I mean, if I had to become an actuary tomorrow, I could probably figure out how to do it and it would take me X number of years, right. But those soft skills you're kind of born with them and then you have to. You have to exercise that part of your brain before they become muscle memory. And being able to get feedback like that I think you said, is kind of priceless, because you can learn how to do anything, that's tactical, but learning those soft skills, that really make you a great leader is really important and not as easy to do.

Dr. Katie:

Yeah, yeah, I mean we would fully agree, catalyst, and you know it's funny because what we find oftentimes is, you know, people kind of younger in their career, or even that mid-career, are just craving a lot of times that skill development. They just really really lean into it and love it. And it's those people that are kind of older in their career, more executive level, they're like I got it, I got it, I got it and I like to tell them. It's like driving a car you can't put it on cruise control and sit, sit back and and think that you're going to be okay, cause eventually you're going to either run out of gas or you're going to hit a wall or some. You know something's going to happen and so you've got to keep learning and developing those those skills, because the ones that you don't, don't practice, it's going to bite you.

Dr. Katie:

Or the car that you're driving is going to change every five years, and you have to be able to adapt to it, right, yeah, yeah, there's that as well. Great analogy, yeah Well, so how can people get in touch with you?

Lori Wiles:

So I am. Everything is under my name. I did eat my own dog food, finally at the early this year, and I got my own logo and everything else. I was like you know, if I'm going to tell people I can help them with their brand, maybe I should have one too. So you can get ahold of me at lauriewilescmocom, which is my website, or you can check me out on LinkedIn under Laurie Wiles, and then I'm also laurie at lauriewilescmocom for an email address Awesome.

Dr. Katie:

Well, we will put that on the show notes so people can reach out to you. Thank you so much for your time today.

Lori Wiles:

I really appreciate you I enjoyed having a second chance to chat with you, Katie. It's very fun.

Dr. Katie:

Good. Well, we have to make sure that this is not the last. We got to get another coffee scheduled soon.

Lori Wiles:

All right, and I'll work on improving my green wardrobe because I just love to support you. Or, if you want, you can support my yellow and teal that I have going on here in the background.

Dr. Katie:

I have to say I do love the yellow and teal, for, for people listening, you need to go to Lori's website and you need to check it out, because the yellow and teal is a great combination.

Lori Wiles:

Yeah, it's a. For me it was all about energy. Again back to the brand psychology trying to help people turn their marketing into something that actually grows their business.

Dr. Katie:

I love it. I love it. Well. Thank you everyone for joining us on the Path to Leadership. I'll put all Lori's information in the show notes. Reach out to her and see how she can help you in all that you do around marketing and branding and supporting your business. Thanks everyone. See you next time. Thanks, katie.

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