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Brilliance@Work and the Stars Who Make it Happen: Robin McCasland

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Photo: James Lee, Chester, NH, USA

Welcome to Brilliance@Work, a series of profiles about stellar communication professionals and their best practices at work.

robin capitolRobin McCasland, Executive Board Chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), is a communication expert recognized for her creative approaches to employee engagement strategies and internal branding. She recently joined Tenet Healthcare in Dallas, Texas as Director of Internal Communication.

Previously, she led employee engagement and internal communication for a business unit of Dell Inc. Over the past two decades, Robin received IABC Gold, Silver and Bronze Quill awards and earned several Communicator Awards for her work on clients’ recruiting and benefits communication projects.

At the May 15 IABC Phoenix professional development luncheon, Robin will present “Growing Your Personal Brand and Protecting Your Reputation.” During this event, you’ll learn how to recognize the intangible qualities that enhance your personal brand and make you more valuable and marketable as a communication professional. You’ll also learn why it’s worthwhile to go “ego surfing” online to ensure your reputation is solid.

Register for the luncheon at

For more information, visit In the meantime, read on to learn more about Robin and her creative approach to communication planning:

Peggy Bieniek: What is most important for people to know about you?
Robin McCasland:
I believe that creativity and an open mind can overcome virtually any challenge (including a lack of budget). Also, it’s helpful to know that I believe if you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be doing it, whatever “it” is.

PB: What are you most interested in and speak most enthusiastically about?
I love the process of employee engagement. I’ve experienced first-hand how workplace cultures can transform for the better with a long-term, consistent and creative engagement strategy. I love showing people how to take a more creative approach to strategic communication planning. I use a slightly different method that helps get at the “heart and soul” of an organization, engages employees and inspires them to do their best.

I also love presenting on personal branding and reputation. Most people don’t often think about their personal traits and habits that make them more desirable to employers and clients. Those traits are, in my opinion, key to their personal brands – more than their actual communication skills. It’s fun to get people thinking about how they can enhance those positive qualities that make them stand out from others.

PB: How have your leadership roles within IABC influenced your career?
RMC: I’ve been a chapter leader twice – in Fort Worth and Dallas. Each experience taught me much about managing people (volunteers), public speaking, presenting, managing a budget, event planning, fundraising and more. I’ve used all of those skills in my jobs.

Those chapter roles provided management experience that prepared me to take on more senior roles in my career, with far greater responsibility. My IABC experiences over time have given me the confidence and courage to seek bigger horizons – in my career and within IABC.

IABC is in a challenging but necessary transition. The International Executive Board (IEB), staff and I have worked through some difficult situations to move IABC forward. It’s not been fun. However, the experience as IEB chair has made my career seem so much easier by comparison! The things that used to rattle me at work don’t usually faze me now.

PB: What communication projects are you most proud of?
If I had to choose one, it would be the work I did at Texas Instruments (TI) to help transform its university recruiting program with creative employment branding. I had the good fortune to work with amazing human resources pros at TI who gave me a real budget and a lot of freedom to do incredibly creative work. Overall, our work was so effective in this area that the Corporate Leadership Council benchmarked our programs as best in practice. The work was so much fun that I couldn’t wait to get to the office each day. How many people can say they’ve had a job like that?

PB: What are some communication best practices you’ve developed and/or helped to implement?
When I’m developing a strategic communication plan, I ask a few additional questions that will evoke an emotional response or cause people to take action or think differently. That’s the essence of developing clear, compelling messages. Depending on the circumstances and what we’re trying to accomplish, I might ask questions like:

–How do we make a difference in the world?

–What do leaders expect from employees? And – equally important – what should employees expect of their leaders?

–How do shareholders, customers and vendors view us? Is it easy to do business with us?

–How would we feel if any negative comments from those stakeholders were posted in social media? How would we respond?

–What do we value in this organization? Do we value the right things? How would others perceive our values? How would they discuss us in social media?

The answers to those questions and others help me build a more engaging, “living” communication plan.

Oh, and there’s one more unrelated, boring but tried-and-true best practice: Always have someone else proofread your work before you finalize it! Don’t rely on spell-check. Don’t rely on your own brain and eyes that have looked at the same copy for days. Have someone “fresh” read your copy. Always.

PB: What are your current projects as you continue to develop your professional skills and knowledge?
I’m leading special event planning to launch a refreshed brand among employees. I’m excited to pull all the messages and activities together for this special event, which has the potential to impact tens of thousands of employees positively.

I’m developing a second-half 2014 internal communication plan for an organization in the healthcare industry. I’m learning the challenges of communicating with very diverse audiences, many of whom don’t sit in front of a computer on a daily basis.

PB: What are some of your favorite resources that inspire your work?
I’m an audiophile. Music inspires my creativity. Music can literally change my mood in minutes! Some of my best ideas come when I’m listening to music. I love alternative and classic rock, but sometimes a beautiful movie soundtrack will help me engage emotionally in developing good communication.

Children inspire me. If they’re young enough, their creative minds aren’t stifled by people who tell them “no.” I like to approach each communication opportunity with no limits. Brainstorm as if there is unlimited possibility – and unlimited budget. That’s how kids think, generally. No limits.

PB: What is your contact information for questions, comments and ideas?
The easiest way to reach me is via email at or on Twitter @robinrox.








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Together We Can Succeed on Pinterest


Photo by paul bica

Following up on last week’s “Show Me the Story” post about the power of visual storytelling, I’m creating a Pinterest site to complement our work on Starry Blue Brilliance.

I would love to hear how you use Pinterest to tell your organization’s story. I’m just starting out with Pinterest, and I would value your ideas and best practices to incorporate on my site.

I found these great articles to help me get started:

Together we can help each other succeed. After all, this is why I created Starry Blue Brilliance – with your help, as always.

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Innovating a Roadmap for Customer Experience


Photo by paul bica

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” – Roger Staubach, former star NFL quarterback

Organizations that focus on improving the customer experience will strengthen their customer relationships and their overall business performance. Len Ferman knows this first-hand. Len is Managing Director of Ferman Innovation, specializing in generating and evaluating ideas to improve the customer experience.

Len is also
a world juggling champion. During the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit (TCEL) earlier this month, he reinforced the three principles of new product innovation through his unique presentation. TCEL attendees learned how to juggle scarves while learning how to solve their customer experience challenges using this proven process:

 Steps to Innovating for the Customer Experience:
  1. Explore: Understand the customer journey. Identify the customer pain points and challenges. Identify themes for brainstorming.
  2. Ideate: Brainstorm with a diverse group to generate a high quantity of possible solutions. Enable all employees to contribute ideas.
  3. Evaluate: Evaluate, cultivate and prioritize the top ideas for implementation


Learning to juggle not only helped TCEL attendees improve their ability to multi-task, increase eye-hand coordination, sharpen their brains and impress their friends, but also provided these valuable insights related to the 3 Steps:


  • Break down complex processes into elementary steps
  • Learn how to use the tools that are at your disposal
  • Recognize the patterns and categories in your data
  • Identify your customers’ key problems
  • Strive for accuracy in basic tasks
  • Create intentional “wow” experiences
  • Defer judgment – no idea is a bad idea
  • Include all parts of your organization in idea generation
  • Stray out of your comfort zone to generate ideas
  • Balance different methods of brainstorming
  • Go for quantity when generating ideas
  • Great ideas are the result of collaboration and building on others’ ideas
  • Filter out extraneous information and out of scope ideas
  • Evaluate each idea using carefully designed criteria
  • Include subject matter experts and customers in the evaluation
  • Cultivate ideas until they resonate with customers
  • Prioritize your actions to ensure you reach the goal
  • Optimal solutions are the ones that match your core competencies

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How to Build an Experience Management Core Competency


Photo by paul bica


People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou, American author and poet

Are you building a true experience management core competency within your organization? According to Lou Carbone, Founder & Chief Experience Officer, Experience Engineering Inc., and author of Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again, there is “a whole lot of discussion . . . without a lot of deep understanding.”

Embracing experience management is a cultural adoption – it’s not about improving legacy business frameworks, tools or models. Many organizations focus on process improvement instead of on creating true experience management systems or fully leveraging the opportunity to transform the value they create for customers, employees and other stakeholders.

According to Lou, to create a true experience management core competency within your organization, you must focus on these five absolutes of experience management:

  • Move from “make and sell” to “sense and respond:” Change your organization-driven perspective to an experience-driven perspective (customer-oriented). Sense what customers don’t even know and build on those responses.
  • Think customer back (emotional/rational bond): Focus on the customer perspective first. Be a “firm of endearment,” a company that if it went away tomorrow, customers would mourn the loss. Examples include Apple, Starbucks, Amazon, Costco, and Google.
  • Understand and leverage role of the unconscious mind: Focus on “how” customers think instead of on “what” customers think. Understand and act upon the premise that “the tangible attributes of a product or service have far less influence on consumer preference than the sub-conscious sensory and emotional elements derived from the total experience.” – Dr. Gerald Zaltman, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School, Laboratory of the Consumer Mind
  • Become clue conscious: Clue in to how people feel and think as they have the experience, which also includes what they see, hear, smell and taste.
  • Develop rigorous systems to develop and manage clues: Design your systems around how functional (functionality of good or service), mechanic (sights, smells, textures, sounds) and humanic (choice of words, tone of voice, body language) clues are coming together to create the desired effect. Focus on the moments that matter within customers’ perception, interaction and recollection of experiences.

Managing your customers’ experiences and emotions is what helps you create the emotional connection you need to keep customers coming back again and again.

How do you create an emotional connection with your customers?

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Show Me the Story


Photo by paul bica

Great stories are seen, not just heard, as they evoke emotion and incite action. To learn more about engaging your audiences on a personal level, check out “Create Your Organization’s Face with Visual Storytelling.”

In addition, these resources will show (and not just tell) you why storytelling is important to your organization’s success.

How are you using visuals to tell your organization’s story?

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Customer-Centric Culture: Why it Matters and How to Measure it

Flickr_-_paul_bica_-_interiorPhoto by paul bica

“A great customer experience can only be delivered by someone who wants to give it.” – Ian Luxford, Learning Services Director, Grass Roots

During last week’s Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit, Bill Barnes, Senior Vice President, Client Services and Jaci Jarrett Masztal, Ph.D, Vice President, Practice Leader from Burke Inc., presented “Customer-Centric Culture: Why it Matters and How to Measure it.” Bill and Jaci contend that the employee engagement process and the customer experience process, which are usually separate management processes in many organizations, be brought together to improve organizational performance.

The premise of this approach is that a high level of employee engagement is critical to creating and enhancing positive customer experiences leading to customer engagement. To improve employee engagement, organizations should focus on ways to:

  • Improve job performance
  • Provide more job growth opportunities
  • Enhance Talent Management
  • Better serve various internal stakeholder needs
  • Improve commitment and retention
  • Enhance customer service

A customer-centric culture that actively focuses on what is best for the customer is a critical factor in improving organizational performance. Customer centricity is a part of all organizational aspects including leadership, strategy, decision-making, operations and in ongoing job functions. It’s also important to remember that culture is:

  • Broader – it’s more than an initiative
  • Cross-functional, enterprise-wide
  • Long-term strategy
  • Motivation, focus, behavior
  • Multi-dimensional

A challenge for most organizations is determining how measure a customer-centric culture. Measurement allows a true gap analysis and a baseline to track change and assess impact. At Burke, Bill and Jaci help their clients to measure their culture with The Customer Centricity Index, which measures across these six important dimensions:

  • Leadership & Strategy
  • Messaging & Modeling
  • Employee Understanding & Commitment
  • Product & Service
  • Excellence Support & Tools
  • Recognition & Appreciation

Leadership drives the strategy and culture which sets the foundation for Who, What, and How, all of which drive and support customer engagement and business success. Employees believe the products and services are worthy and are equipped to deliver. Employees are recognized and rewarded for the customer-centric behaviors reinforced and repeated. Full customer centricity is achieved when the organization has a collective mindset of doing what needs to be done to the benefit of the customer.

Does your organization have a customer-centric culture? How do you measure it?

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Creating an Effective Customer Story Starts with Empathy


Photo by paul bica

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit (TCEL) last week! I met some great people and learned more about creating an effective customer story.

Here are some key nuggets of information to help your organization transform the value they create for customers, employees and other key stakeholders by understanding your audiences’ key emotional drivers:

Stay tuned for additional TCEL highlights this month. Thank you for continuing to follow these updates and sharing your experiences and ideas!

What are some good conferences you’ve attended recently?

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Create Authentic Brand Identities Through Storytelling


Photo by paul bica

I believe in the power of storytelling and you should too. Why?

There are many examples of how great storytelling evokes emotion, which causes your customers to take action. Here are just a few that I’ve written about recently:

Ready to learn more? Here are some key resources to help you get started:

If creating authentic brand identities through storytelling sounds intriguing to you, be sure to join Daryl Travis, CEO for Brandtrust, at the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit this week in Miami, Florida as he presents “Using Emotional Energy to Make Your Customer Experience Programs Easier, Faster and Smarter.”

There’s still time to register! Go to for details.

Stay connected with TCEL:

  • #TCEL14
  • Customer Experience Leaders

How does your organization create an authentic brand identity?

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Generational Marketing: To Know Them is to Engage Them


Photo by paul bica

“It’s hard to give truly superior service if you don’t know who you’re talking to and what really matters to them.” – Kelly Mooney, author of The Ten Demandments

Who are your customers? What do they like? What don’t they like? If you don’t know the answers to these important questions, then you don’t know your customers. To know them is to engage them, and to engage them is having customers for life.

Knowing your audience is especially important when trying to target content to various generations in the marketplace and in the workplace. During next week’s Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit, Kassandra Barnes, Research & Content Manager,, presents “Mastering the Mindset of the Millennial Candidate.” You’ll learn how to harness the knowledge and skill set of Millennials, the first generation to grow up digital.

In the meantime, check out these helpful articles on how to effectively market to the millennial generation to build meaningful and long-lasting customer relationships:

To learn more about TCEL and register, go to Stay connected with TCEL:

  • #TCEL14
  • Customer Experience Leaders

In what ways does your organization use generational marketing?


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How to Recognize Your Employees through Storytelling


Photo by paul bica

“People may take a job for more money, but they often leave it for more recognition.” – Dr. Bob Nelson, best-selling author and motivational speaker

According to Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit (TCEL) session speaker Janet LeBlanc, “Customer-centric companies know how important it is to reward and recognize their employees.” Creating a relevant story with the employee at the center of the recognition goes a long way to unlock higher performance and engagement.

A story that lacks a unique perspective will create the opposite effect as described in “How to Ruin an Employee’s Big Moment” by Jeff Haden.

Great recognition uses great storytelling as its foundation. Learn how to effectively recognize your employees in “Transforming Company Culture through Storytelling” by Darcy Jacobsen.

Join me in Miami next week (April 9-11) for TCEL and hear more about employee recognition from Janet LeBlanc during her session, “Employee Recognition Programs Energize and Strengthen Customer-Centric Organizations.”

To learn more about the event and register, go to Stay connected with TCEL:

  • #TCEL14
  • Customer Experience Leaders

How are you using stories to recognize your employees and strengthen your organizational culture?