Liz Kaplow is the Founder & CEO of Kaplow Communications. She shared with the host and CEO of D S Simon Media, Doug Simon, tips on effective leadership during these challenging times. Liz emphasizes the increased importance of human leadership and the increased link to external and internal communications. She also tells us how to maintain a consistent mindset in this time of uncertainty and volatility.
Liz is optimistic about the future of PR and its role in telling great brand stories. She notes “Those connections with executives from the brands we represent are more important than ever. Their stories are more important than ever…I do believe that what we do and our contributions will make a huge difference as we move into the future.”
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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: LIZ KAPLOW
DOUG: Liz, thanks so much for being with us. Let’s talk about leadership and maybe some of the key aspects of what makes an effective leader during these times.
LIZ: Sure, Doug. I think that it comes down to a couple of different important things to think about. Resiliency, oh my goodness more than ever, relationship building, showing up in the moment and really being present, vulnerability and then really thinking forward and being able to sort of pick yourself up with that resiliency and get to a place where we can be mindful of what are the solutions and how do we see these challenges, opportunities.
DOUG: Yeah, now that mindset’s always been an effective approach, and one you’ve really focused on and carried out. How’s that gone even more important and more pressing during this time of COVID and also social justice issues that are challenging organizations?
LIZ: I think that leaders have an added responsibility now. They are literally the storytellers or their brands. So they have to speak with purpose, and they have to model human leadership to be able to encourage collaboration and enthusiasm and trust. And so more than ever during these days when it’s a bit of a slog and it’s harder for folks and for team members to get through the day, they look to the leader, and sometimes it’s small things, sometimes it’s big things, but in total what they’re looking at is this humanity and energy and what leaders are bringing moment by moment.
DOUG: So Liz, has effective human leadership become more important to the profit and bottom line of businesses today?
LIZ: What we are seeing with our brands is that when we help them, and they work hard at bringing out their humanity it absolutely sparks creativity, new product development, the opportunity to connect more readily with their customer, and we are seeing and hearing that this is having a positive effect on the bottom line.
DOUG: And that’s that increasing link to internal and external communications more than ever before.
LIZ: That’s right. It’s getting the team, the energy, the collaboration to be… to really put that first, and that does come from leadership. The first internal, and then that begins to extend to the external stakeholders, and that’s where you see the magic happen.
DOUG: Yeah, and they’re also handling incredible change. I know for some organizations they may have been hit hard incredibly hard by COVID at first threatening their business. Suddenly they’re in boom times. Others go to these feast and famine types of things the way things are changing. How do you keep a consistent sort of mindset to helping them when there might be such different kinds of effects going on within organizations?
LIZ: I think it’s by constantly looking at the opportunity, and rather than get mired in all of the sort of malaise that’s going on, trying to find ways. And with our clients, how you they’re incredibly… they’re thinking about innovation, they’re thinking about moving forward, and I think those are the things to latch on to. And what stories do they have that they can bring and really try to reinvigorate the brands so that their leadership can go out there and move things forward in a positive manner.
DOUG: How helpful has it been for you, the fact that you’ve had so many long term relationships with the organizations that you work with, and maybe some advice on if others are maybe just starting out in relationships, are developing new relationships. How do you get to that point more quickly?
LIZ: I think from the beginning when you started the agency almost 30 years ago it was really based on this idea that when you form a partnership with the brand, that it needs to have transparency at the foundation of it, and that it is an ongoing relationship and conversation. And those starting out in the middle, or whether you’ve been within a relationship for many many years, we have examples all over the agency where we’ve been working with brands for two decades, sometimes three decades. You need to keep that communication open, straight forward, be willing to shift, be flexible and make change. Now that is more important than ever.
DOUG: Any thoughts for people who are trying to become better leaders themselves within their own organization, whether it’s a brand, a nonprofit, or even someone at the agency trying to work with their team more effectively?
LIZ: Yeah, I think that leaders need to work harder to stay connected to their teams, and that is not always an easy thing to do. When we had the luxury of being in the room we can read these signs from people. You can sort of see small things, whether somebody is sort of feeling a little bit out of sorts, and they get quiet, or the sense that somebody’s being confused about something. You can read these signs because you’re in the room, you get the energy. So now what leader need to do, have to rely on the brain, quite frankly, on the voice in the getting connected to people and asking them that how they’re doing, asking questions.
DOUG: It’s great that you say that because actually one of the things that we’re doing, I’m like if things ever return to a new kind of normal, I’m pretty much banning phone conference calls, because the ability to actually see the people you’re having conversations with and pick up on the visual cues to like oops, I’ve just gone way off the reservation on that one, I don’t want to go there, you can much more quickly adapt and you see when people are engaging or when you’re losing their interest so you don’t waste time etc. What are some other factors how leadership has changed because it’s now more of a video less than in person piece, and how do you try and balance that because not everyone likes being on camera?
LIZ: I think that’s true. I think that there was a time at the beginning in the first phase that there was tons of adrenaline. So people were just sort of happy that they could find a way to stay connected. And I think now I can see that things are shifting, and it is a very sort of long day with not a particular line drawn about when the day ends, and when the things you need to do begin, and so it’s wearing to do this. And I think we need to take time, we have to remember to take a call… the other day we had this call with the leadership team, and it was it was so much fun to kind of go around and ask people their tricks and their tips for what they’re doing, and while this was going you see little kids running around in the background, a dog started to bark. I think you’ve seen when you ask about shift, you’re seeing more of a human way, that raw way that we’re leading, and it’s not a bad thing. I think we need to show that we’re real, that we’re people, this is part of what we’re all going through together, and so there needs to be an overall kind of acceptance of that.
DOUG: That’s great, and if you have any final thought that you want to leave the audience with what would you say to them about how leadership might be evolving?
LIZ: Yeah, I think that the most important thing that we can do today as leaders, no matter where we are in our careers, no matter where we sit within a brand, within an agency life, we need to remember that this is a longing, and that things have changed. But I have so much optimism about our industry. Because at the end of the day we, our job is to tell great brand stories. And so those connections with those executives from the brands we represent are more important than ever. Their stories are more important than ever. So, I would say be optimistic and be forward thinking about the Industry of public relations. I do believe that what we do in our contributions will make a huge difference as we move into the future.
DOUG: That’s awesome, thanks so much for spending time with us.
LIZ: It’s my pleasure. Great to see you.