Gather Round: A Staff Meeting Template That Really Works

This popular post shares a practical and engaging staff meeting agenda. It’s been updated from its original posting in 2009.


With e-mail dominating internal communications, staff meetings are becoming a lost art form. Here’s a meeting template that helps engage employees and minimize their passive participation.

I initially developed this template for an advertising & marketing firm that needed to bring together its creatives and administrators (aka “the suits”). With the creative staff at their desks and the account execs meeting with clients or media reps outside the office, casual internal communications was no longer effective for this group of 12 employees.

The following agenda (approximately one hour in length) was used in the agency’s staff meetings held twice a month. This template can be adapted by other organizations to suit their needs.

  1. What’s going on – agency principals share strategies, policies, and organizational updates with time allowed to address employee questions and concerns.
  2. Business development updates – account execs, sales and/or administrative staff members discuss:
    1. New clients and prospects,  including which account execs are involved so staff know the key agency contacts if a new client or prospect calls.
    2. Expanded client opportunities, soliciting employees’ ideas and suggestions on “what else” can be offered to help clients achieve their marketing and sales goals.
    3. Analysis of lost business to understand what happened with any terminated account.
  3. Campaigns in progress – creative and media staff members briefly share creative work and, if needed, changes or updates to existing campaigns.
  4. Lessons Learned – one or two employees voluntarily share a recent work-related experience:
    1. Favorite Mistakes (things we did that we don’t want to repeat)
    2. Favorite Catches (good things we did that we hope to do again).
  5. Wrap up/next steps – summarizing any follow up action items.

Implementing this meeting template resulted in a more informed and cohesive staff that better understood the firm’s business.They also expressed a better appreciation for how their individual and collective efforts contributed to client service and satisfaction.


Engagement Marketing

No Time for a Strategic Marketing Plan? Think Again!

It’s a common lament among many marketers today – their work is more reactive than proactive. While they acknowledge the need for formal marketing planning, they’re overwhelmed and pressed for time dealing with customers, co-workers, information overload and other work demands.

So they wrestle with whatever marketing projections and data are needed to compile an annual plan and budget as required by those in the C-suite. Then it’s back to business-as-usual. For organizations that just keep on keeping on, how can they tell if they’re making any real progress?

“The truth is that in a time when we could change everything, we’re running without clarity of direction or vision.”Brian Solis

It’s a serious concern for marketers because our function is so visible and the people that deliver the brand promise – our employees – need to know where we’re headed in the marketplace. When employees don’t know and understand our marketing goals and what’s expected of them in achieving those goals, they’re more likely to disengage. (So much for nurturing employees as brand ambassadors!)

Not having the time to plan is just part of the excuse. The sad truth is the planning process is still perceived as a tedious one that many marketers don’t want to make time for. They understand the value of creating a plan, yet dread participating in the process.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’ve seen first-hand people actually enjoy the planning experience. What I’ve found that works is bringing marketing and other critical staff together for the sole purpose of exploring and developing marketing strategy in a limited time frame (ranging from a half to a full day). Whether the planning session is held in an on-site conference room or off-site venue, it’s important to create a sense of “safe space” where participants will respectfully listen to and share their ideas with each other. Food and beverages including, but not limited to, caffeine and sugar (i.e., fresh fruit and healthy snacks in addition to candy and/or cookies) are also needed to fuel the planning process.

Strategic marketing planning’s true value is in setting a clear direction and marshaling the required resources to get there. It also enables marketing and other key staff to step back from the daily grind to engage in strategic thinking for/about the organization — a process that  leaves them feeling re-focused and re-energized. A refreshing change from working reactively!

Note: I’ll share what’s needed for a successful marketing planning session in my next post.


Favorite Employee Engagement and Leadership Quotes

In my first book on employee engagement, I described the positive impact of “leaders who genuinely care about their customers and the people (employees) who serve them … leaders whose core values recognize that both groups matter and who integrate these values in their culture and operations.”

The practice and study of employee engagement has grown immensely since then with many respected consultants and authors contributing to the field. Here are several of my favorite quotes that capture the essence of leadership and engagement.

“Engagement, at its heart, is a 21st century form of leadership aimed specifically at connecting people to organizational results, an issue of growing importance in the era of social-networking.” – Bruce Bolger

“Leadership rests on a new foundation and the skills this requires are changing: managing complex situations, communication and coaching, ability to elicit employee commitment and collaboration, and an ability to forge partnerships and foster the development of talent.” Jean-Baptiste Audrerie

” … great leadership at the top doesn’t amount to much if you don’t have exceptional leadership at the unit level. That’s where great things get done.” Jim Collins

” … if you want to create a workplace that changes people’s lives and the way business is done, that leads to products and services that are mind-numbingly innovative and powerful, culture can’t be a device. For it to be lived, you’re going to have to open your heart to the people around you and engage both their intelligence and their confusion with equal confidence.” Susan Piver

“Creating a meaningful workplace is about establishing a high-order connection with employees and benefiting from the compounding effect that comes from a constant stream of meaningful experiences tied directly to the needs, beliefs, interests, and aspirations of employees.” Jerry Holtaway

Additional employee engagement and leadership quotes
Please help me expand this post by sharing your favorite quote(s) on this topic. I welcome your input!


Engagement Marketing

Favorite Quotes on the Employee Engagement and Brand Connection

It’s a fairly simple equation – as hotelier Bill Marriott once said, “Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your customers.”

Here are more of my favorite quotes about the employee engagement and brand connection:

“More than any other communications medium, employees can breathe life, vitality, and personality into the brand.”  Leonard L. Berry and A. Parasuraman, Marketing Services

“Brands are built from within … [they] have very little to do with promises made through advertising. They’re all about promises met by employees.”  Ian Buckingham

“The only reason your business is successful is because every interaction between employees and customers is positive. This only happens when employees are treated super well.”  Ann Rhoades

“Happiness in the workplace is a strategic advantage. Service comes from the heart, and people who feel cared for will care more.”  Hal G. Rosenbluth, The Customer Comes Second

“Over time, as we focused more and more on our culture, we ultimately came to the realization that a company’s culture and a company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin. The brand is just a lagging indicator of a company’s culture.”  Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

“If you begin your branding process by declaring an ‘aspirational brand’ without aligning it with the reality of employees’ daily work experience, you are in danger of writing a check your culture can’t cash.”  Leigh Branham and Mark Hirschfeld, Re-Engage

Whose words of inspiration on employee engagement and the brand do you like?
I welcome your favorite quotes on this topic.

Engagement Marketing Training & Development

“Share of Mind, Share of Heart” Award News

[Update: I’m proud to report that my book is the winner of the Small Business Book Award in the Marketing category!]

I just learned that my new book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits, is nominated for a 2013 Small Business Book Award, and I’m truly honored. This special recognition means greater awareness of the book and its reach among nonprofit leaders, staff members, and volunteers.

Now in its fifth year, the Small Business Book Awards celebrate the best business books that entrepreneurs, small business owners, CEOs, managers and their staffs should read. The Awards are produced by Small Business Trends, an online publication, which along with its sister sites, serves over 5,000,000 small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually. Small Business Trends has published reviews of small business books, including Share of Mind, Share of Heart

“Today’s business owners are hungry for information and insights to help them run a successful business. Also, they use books as a way to grow and develop their employees and management teams. The Small Business Book Awards are a way to acknowledge the books that small business owners and entrepreneurs appreciated over the past year,” said Ivana Taylor, Book Editor at Small Business Trends.

Please share and vote …

These awards offer a unique online opportunity for people to show their support for and vote on their favorite business books. Please vote for Share of Mind, Share of Heart for the Small Business Book Award and encourage your colleagues, co-workers, friends, and family to do the same. You can vote once a day now through March 26th. Together we can help more nonprofits achieve success with this book. Thank you!


“Share of Mind, Share of Heart” Book News

Nonprofit professionals, leaders and volunteers interested in Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits now have the option to purchase it in both print and electronic versions. In response to numerous requests, my latest book is available for purchase and download at Energize Inc.’s Bookstore. I’m honored that Energize, Inc., a valuable resource for ALL things related to volunteerism, has chosen to offer my book.

For those readers who prefer print, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits is conveniently available online through WME Books, and Amazon.

Engagement Marketing

What They’re Saying About “Share of Mind, Share of Heart”

I’m thrilled with the positive response to my new book, Share of Mind, Share of Heart: Marketing Tools of Engagement for Nonprofits.

I’m honored to share these more detailed book reviews by Ivana Taylor, Small Business Trends, and Wayne Hurlbert, Blog Business World.

Here are several recent reviews that I’m also honored to share.

“With a great passion for (and deep expertise in) nonprofit marketing, Sybil Stershic has written an immensely practical, valuable book. “Share of Mind, Share of Heart” clearly explicates both marketing fundamentals and more sophisticated concepts for nonprofit marketing professionals in plain, easy-to-understand language, with concrete examples.

“Unlike many academic texts on nonprofit marketing, this book is peppered with questions designed to get you thinking tangibly and immediately about how the concepts discussed can be applied directly to the day-to-day business of your organization. I found her insights into internal marketing tools of engagement to be particularly apt and important. Too often in leanly staffed, undercapitalized nonprofits where staff is pressed for time, we overlook this crucial area. Morale and profits suffer as a result, with organizations sometimes seeming disconnected and disengaged from their customers, volunteers, and (in some cases) overall mission.

“‘Share of Mind, Share of Heart’ is a book that should be on the shelf of every nonprofit marketer, both novices and veterans.” Andrew Edmonson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Houston Ballet

“Like the author, I have served on a variety of non-profit boards and counseled them about marketing. I’ve found that the whole idea of marketing is intimidating to many non-profits. They often believe marketing is too complicated for them and requires a commitment of resources (both human and monetary) beyond their capability. This insightful book dispels these fears as myths. Marketing is presented here as it truly ought to be: a simple, people-based idea about creating and communicating value. Each chapter provides an understandable exercise that will cause the reader to pause and reflect upon how to bring the marketing concept to life in any non-profit.”     Frank Haas, Dean of Hospitality, Business and Legal Education, Kapiolani Community College

“Every now and then, you find a book that contains more than a powerful message—it houses a poignant experience. Share of Mind, Share of Heart is an experiential wisdom-sharing tome written for organizations that benefit us all. Full of practical how to’s and laced in the language and philosophy of non-profits, it will open eyes, enhance skills, and enrich outreach.” Chip R. Bell, noted author and consultant, The Chip Bell Group

Special thanks to Andrew, Frank, Chip, Ivana, and Wayne for taking the time to review and share their thoughts on my book!

Engagement Marketing Training & Development

Internal Marketing Tools of Engagement For Marketers (Part 2)

Last week I shared examples of how Marketing can start to build better relationships within the firm. In addition to this general outreach, it’s important to get employee buy-in and cooperation for each marketing program you implement. Here are several tools of engagement you can use.

Before launching any marketing initiative or program …

  • Share the rationale and goals behind this initiative with employees – clearly explain what you’re trying to do and why.
  • Communicate how Marketing’s efforts in relation to the program help support the firm’s overall mission and strategic plan – reinforce the message “we’re all in this together” instead of contributing to the perception that Marketing creates extra work for people.
  • Get employee input, and be sensitive and responsive to how their work will be affected by this program.
  • Provide the necessary training (and any incentives, if appropriate) so staff can effectively support the initiative.

Once the initiative is up-and-running …

You can’t just let it run its course and forget about it. As part of your monitoring efforts:

  • Stay in touch with what employees need to keep the program’s momentum going.
  • Share interim results and any fine-tuning that needs to be done and why.
  • Recognize and reinforce employees’ support of the initiative.

And when the program is over …

  • Share final results and “lessons learned” – for example, what worked & why (to replicate success in the future ) and what didn’t work & why (what to avoid and what to improve the next time)
  • Acknowledge employees’ individual and collective efforts in supporting marketing and organizational goals
  • Solicit employee feedback on how to improve future initiatives.

Employees who deliver on the brand promise can make or break Marketing. That’s why we need to consider employees “upfront” when planning and implementing any marketing initiative – so they’ll work with us, not against us.

Engagement Marketing Training & Development

Internal Marketing Tools of Engagement For Marketers (Part 1)

My recent post on How Marketers Sabotage Themselves raised the issue that marketers need to engage all employees who deliver on the brand, including those outside the Marketing Department.

To get employee buy-in, we need to break out of our silos and strengthen marketing’s relationship with employees; i.e., we need to do a better job of marketing “Marketing” within the firm. Here are a few ways we can accomplish this.

  • Participate in new employee orientation to explain how every employee has an important role in delivering the brand promise. If someone from Marketing is unable to attend, educate whoever is in charge of orientation to share this message.
  • Host a real or virtual “Open House” so non-marketing co-workers can get acquainted with Marketing and its resources. Invite key people from other departments to your staff meetings to learn what Marketing is doing and vice-versa.
  • Share general marketing information info to let others know what’s happening in the marketplace, such as consumer/customer trends, competitive analysis, customer satisfaction results, etc.
  • Find ways to effectively recognize employees who positively deliver on the brand promise; e.g., “Brand Champions” or “Marketing Heroes.”

I’ll have more on this topic in my next post, so stay tuned …

Engagement Marketing

How Marketers Sabotage Themselves

I recently spoke to a group of marketers about our need to internally market the marketing function. Before we can begin to develop brand ambassadors or marketing champions, we need to engage ALL employees in what marketing does since each employee impacts delivery of the brand promise.

To better engage employees with our marketing programs, it’s important to understand how we inadvertently sabotage our own marketing efforts.

  • We fail to recognize that marketing is perceived as creating extra work for employees. I learned this lesson earlier in my career as a bank marketer. Whenever the Marketing Department would launch a new deposit promotion – offering gifts to customers for opening new accounts – most branch people were less than receptive. On top of their regular duties of meeting daily operational standards for efficient transaction processing, business development & sales goals, customer service standards and customer retention goals, we expected the tellers, customer service reps and branch managers to display, process, distribute and control inventory of whatever premiums that marketing had sent their way (stadium blankets, golf umbrellas, toaster ovens, VCRs, etc.). No wonder they wanted to bar the doors whenever they saw Marketing coming!
  • Just because the Marketing Department is part of the organizational chart doesn’t mean that employees know who we are and what we do. We forget that we need to continually educate others within the organization as to what Marketing really does … other than sitting around having a good time creating work for everyone else.

Our challenge is how do we engage employees who deliver on the brand when they have no clue as to what we really do and we have little/no authority over them?

As marketers we know how to develop and strengthen customer relationships; it’s not a stretch to apply this skill set to develop and strengthen employee relationships. But we’re so busy taking care of everyone else’s marketing needs that we neglect our own.

In what other ways does marketing sabotage itself? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experience on this topic.