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Ep 31: Jeff Krasno on Marketing Mindfulness

This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart and Jeff Krasno on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


mindfulness, feel, meditation, marketing, yoga, good, wanderlust, business, idea, commune, words, writing, world

Erica Mills Barnhart  00:31

You might have noticed that today’s episode is a little longer than usual. And that’s because my guest today, Jeff Krasno, who’s the CEO of Commune, which is a online platform focused on well being and I mean, well being in every sense of the word, you know, everything from kind of, I guess what you would expect yoga, meditation breath work, all of these things to like business clarity, it’s a very comprehensive, holistic integrative approach to well being. And one of the things that is so striking to me about Commune is that their mission is to bring well being to a billion people worldwide and on their website, which is so fun, you’ll see they, they’re they’re on track, they have brought well being to 2,175,591 people approximately, so far. So the way they do this, and I’m mentioning this because I just love how accessible they’re making this. So if you go to, also, there’s an app for that, the Commune app, they make these courses, which tend to be kind of four to five day courses. So kind of mini very snackable courses available for free on the day and then if you want to be able to access them whenever wherever you want, then you will become a member of the Commune, very reasonable monthly subscription. And I just, I think that that’s so much of this content can be, tends to be, maybe not tends to be but can be gated or like inaccessible for folks, I really appreciate the Commune and Jeff at the helm, is making it much more accessible. And this is what you know, people like Marianne Williamson, anyway, the guy who is all about the like super cold plunge bath and breath work and whatnot, I have to admit first, when I first was introduced to them hops, I think it’s the Wim Hof Method. I was like, absolutely, positively not. That is no, not for me. And yet, there’s a lot of science behind what he does, which is all people in Commune are doing. So why was this so important to me? Why did I want to have Jeff on the podcast? I feel like folks who listen to this podcast, you know, who are on a mission to make the world a better place, like that’s a that’s a heavy load to carry. I that can feel heavy. And so mindfulness can really be important to the sustainability of social impact. And I’m really intrigued by how mindfulness is being marketed these days. So I reached out to Jeff, and he was very generous, you know, said, Yes, he’d be happy to come on the podcast and talk to us about all these things. Jeff’s mind goes in all sorts of different directions. And so you kind of have to, in some ways, wait to the end, partially because my mind goes a lot of different directions to as you know, if you’ve listened to his podcast before, and then you know, but it comes back together, which is kind of beautiful, right? Because it gets this idea of everything being interdependent, and related, and all of that. So, this is a little longer, there’s no need to listen to it all in one sitting, or one walking, or one running, or you know, whatever you happen to be doing. You can dip in and out of a conversation, you’re not going to lose the thread, I don’t think. So feel free to chunk it out. Whatever works for you. And also in terms of whatever works for you, again, part of my hope is that you will get you know you as somebody on a mission, make your world a better place, we’ll be able to plunk at least one super actionable thing that you could do for you, right, to make to make your work and your life more joyful and sustainable. You know, we talked about breath work near the end, and just like how can we make this accessible to absolutely everybody. So I’m hoping that you’ll be able to take one thing away. And I’d love to hear what that one thing ends up being for you. I know for me, it was a reminder, which is a common reminder for me of just paying attention to breath always going back to that so I’m predisposed that way as you’ll hear in the interview. This is a lovely conversation that covers a lot of territory. And I hope that you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed having it. Here we go, a conversation with Jeff Krasno. With me today is Jeff Krasno. Jeff is the CEO and founder of Commune, a masterclass platform for well being. He also hosts just try to hold all this in your brains. I’m reading it verbatim, which I don’t generally do but there’s so many different pieces to this, Jeff. Okay. You also host the Commune podcast, interviewing a wide variety of guests from Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson to rand- I can never say his name Bouchard. Even though I speak French that’s a little bit funny, and Russell Brand. Jeff writes a weekly column that I love that is distributed to over a million people every Sunday, we’re gonna come back to that Jeff, the Comussings. But he’s also the founder of Wanderlust, a global series of wellness events. Jeff is a contributor to the Huffington Post and Fast Company. His first book, eponymously named Wanderlust, debuted in May 2015, and has sold more than 50,000 copies worldwide. His new Wanderlust Cookbook, Find Your True Fork, came out in July 2017. And in 2016, he was selected by Oprah Winfrey to be part of the super soul 100 as one of the nation’s leading entrepreneurs, which is the real deal. In 1995, I love that you include this this says a lot, Jeff married Shuyler Grant, his college sweetheart, Shuyler Grant, a yoga teacher and Director of Kula Yoga Project, served as the inspiration for Wanderlust. Jeff and Shuyler have three beautiful daughters, Phoebe Lali, and Mica, and they currently live in Los Angeles, although he is joining me from paradise, Maui. Jeff, welcome to the show.

Jeff Krasno  06:15

Hey, thank you so much. Great to be here, Erica.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:18

Yeah, thanks for making time we had a little scheduling back and forth. So I really appreciate you being flexible and open to it. So I came across Commune when I was trying to find a resource for yoga nidra, so I was having a hard time sleeping and in the past that it really helps them you know, and I personally stumbled across a lesson on commune taught by Tracy Stanley, who by the way, possibly has the most relaxing voice on the planet.

Jeff Krasno  06:42

And Yoga nidra found Tracy and found Yoga nidra I mean, there are very few things in life that lineup so perfectly, I absolutely agree.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:52

Yeah, listeners go right now to go to the Commune App, Tracy Stanley, honestly, I remember laying there because she started relaxes and you know, she’s relax your feet and relax your calves and I thought I am relaxing my calves and I was like what is going on? She’s anyway, so that was my intro to Commune and then I was like, this is a cornucopia of goodness. So I’ve continue to absorb,  then I came across Commusings, your weekly missive. Okay, a little I got to give you a little backdrop. So one of my areas of research and interest is what I refer to as the energetics of language. Right? So words often we think of them as like inanimate objects, which is partially true. But it’s also true that they’re always in motion. Right? So they’re either being read or said, or however you’re absorbing them. So if we pair that with Newton’s third law of motion, which is for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction, you really see how the phrase words matter matters, because words actually have matter. Okay, and this is like, we don’t notice this until we do something like run across someone like you, Jeff, who writes the way you do. And I want to read, I feel like unbeknownst to you, you were sort of validating my hypothesis about the energetics of language. And I want to read for listeners, just two snippets from a recent Commusing, and listeners, I know that a lot of you walking, driving, you do all sorts of things. So in an ideal, perfect scenario, you’d be able to pause, put your right hand over your heart, close your eyes, and just listen to these because I want you to be paying attention to like what your body does as I read these. The first one “To study the long courtship I waged” with your wife, Shuyler, “would be like memorizing the DMV drivers, manual dotted lines, jagged lines, double solid lines, red lights, yellow lights, green lights, off ramps on ramps, such as the serrated nature of long term relationship”. And then you go on to say, “we also tend to associate our identities with our physical bodies, even though we are 50%, bacteria and fungi, and our proprioception can be easily deceived. Still, we are all generally convinced that our body minds that being, sitting here reading are the thinker of our thoughts moated from the balance of humanity”. Now whenever I read something like that, I just, I just have to wonder and we’re gonna go into talking about how language and words are being used to market effectively or not mindfulness and meditation. What role does writing play in your life? More generally? Have you always been drawn to writing?

Jeff Krasno  09:32

Yeah. Well, thanks for that introduction. Thanks for reading that. Writing has been an outlet for me but to be honest, most of my professional life has been characterized by my role as a business person. And so most of my writing honestly has been done within the parentheses of marketing. So we can talk about that. But at the beginning of 2020, or I guess I would say in March, early March, my kind of my best friend and partner at Commune, Jake, encouraged me to start writing a weekly column for this growing community. And, you know, like, like, you mentioned that that email list, I think it’s about 1.2 million people on it and, and initially, I really started doing it because I felt like the brand honestly needed a voice and its own editorial voice to connect with this community. But as lockdown, you know, came about in early March, and people started feeling isolated, you know, in this almost forced monasticism that quarantine prevailed upon us. I just started writing these weekly missives, and they’re pretty intense, you know, they’re, and long, you know, and many of them require tremendous amount of research. So, you know, they, they vary between 2,000 and 2,500 words, and what started as kind of an exercise in giving the brand, a voice ended up being these really kind of soul searching, soul bearing essays that began to unpack all of the upheavals and tumult of 2020. And there was so much of it, and it kept giving, you know, from obviously, from COVID, but then, you know, over the course of the summer, you know, the murder of George Floyd and the reckoning around social justice, you know, obviously, you know, the American election and American politics, social media and the weaponization of misinformation on social media. So there’s so many cultural and political topics to address, many of which were very confusing for people. And, and I think by providing words, as as vessels for thoughts and feelings and emotions, you know, I helped people, and I say that in all humility, you know, process, a lot of what was going on, over the course of the year and, and I stumbled backwards into a genre of writing that honestly, I didn’t even really know existed, which is biographical nonfiction, where I started to realize that story is so incredibly powerful. And through the telling of kind of very vulnerable, often madcap, ridiculous stories about my own life and my own family’s life, that people could often see parts of their own story in mind. And that helps people to feel less alone. So, you know, as I began to write more and more and kind of excavate my own life, my own journey, it almost became my own journey and my own personal growth happening in public in real time. And I go back to some of the essays that I wrote earlier last year, and I’m not even sure I agree with myself. But, but they’re, but they were very honest, in terms of the emotion and the feeling that I had, that I had at that time. And, and then I started to kind of explore more kind of perennial concepts, like around death and life and fatherhood, and my relationship with my mother and you know, what it’s like to come from a broken family and in these things, that that, you know, hundreds of thousands, millions of people are dealing with. So, yeah, you know, I wasn’t really a writer. I don’t have any training in it, but it’s come to signify something important in my life, almost as a meditation. Because it is, it represents a very small sliver of my life or I am, my attention is absolutely sustained on something. And you know, in a in a world of myriad distractions of notifications and slack And texts and emails and social media to have something that you must, even if it’s self imposed, sort of must concentrate on is a very, is very, very healthy for the mind. And I find myself kind of, at the end of this process of writing 2500 words a week, for a year, with an ability to sustain my attention, to finish things, to get things done, and not be quite as scattered. So obviously, I have my scattered moments, like everybody does, but but it has, it’s almost like a muscle that I’ve been happy to develop in my own mind.

Erica Mills Barnhart  15:50

And we are not in most realms, we’re alive called to do in many ways anymore, that, you know, and it’s striking about your writing the long format, because we hear so much now, like nobody has an attention span. And, and so I think there’s a question that right, so sort of a societal question about like, well, that may or may not be true. I mean, yes, the research would tell us that our attention spans are diminishing by fractions of a second, right? And so then the corollary question is like, well, so what can we do about that? And what’s the value of being able to have prolonged attentiveness to something and I, I would just echo that I think you didn’t quite say this way, but part part of what I think so resonant about your writing is that you do manage to make the perennial personal, and allow us to sort of see into, you know, like, Oh, you know, I, I may not have lived exactly that, and I get it, and I feel it, and I could feel my way into it. And you may not be like, quote unquote, trained as a writer, but I always think it’s interesting when people say, well, I’m not a writer. And I’m like, well, you wrote some really phenomenal things, so-

Jeff Krasno  16:54


Erica Mills Barnhart  16:55

Maybe you are.

Jeff Krasno  16:57

Yeah, I mean, I, I self described as a writer now. But you know, to your point, I don’t think that wagging your finger at anyone with the goal of teaching a lesson is a particularly profitable project.

Erica Mills Barnhart  17:13

Now, we’re both parents who tried that.

Jeff Krasno  17:15

Yeah, that’s right. Well, I have a line about that, is that, yeah, and I, and this is true, it’s not just, you know, a good quote card, is that, you know, my kids will never listen to me, but they almost never failed to imitate me. And, and I find that to be true, because I, you know, I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life. And it’s a double edged saber. You know, my laptop is never closed at 5pm. And, you know, I’m not thinking about it till the next day. It’s been kind of very fluid, holistic life where, you know, my responsibilities extend 24 hours a day, but I also have tremendous freedom. I’m running a company from Maui. But, you know, they’ve seen the work ethic that I have, and that my wife Shuyler has, and without ever, I’ve never once asked them to do their homework, not one single time. They just do it. And they’re exemplary students. Because that is a value that I seem to have communicated through osmosis. They have just, you know, they’re imbued with a work ethic, because they see that in their parents, in their role models. And, you know, that is that’s heartening, you know, for me, they also drink coffee at a very young age, the flip side of that, but I know you’re a tea drinker, so you don’t have any sympathy for me.

Erica Mills Barnhart  18:48

Well, although so for a while it worked to tell my son that coffee would stunted his growth and recently, like, and I mean, this, like within the last 48 hours, he was like, Mom, you know, I know that that’s not true, right? Yeah. Okay. Okay, we and like, honestly, I had to exercise a lot of discipline in preparing for this because the more one gets to know you, Jeff, online at least, the more one realizes, like there’s so many different directions that we could go in, generally, but as it relates to marketing for good, there’s a lot of different, so, yeah, I’m gonna I’m gonna try to stay disciplined. We’ll see how it goes. We talk a lot about words on the podcast, I think it’s always helpful to sort of have common definition. So I’m going to do two rounds on defining words. I will start with a popcorn round, meaning I’m going to say a word and I want you to say the first word that comes to mind when I say it, it’s four words, you’re familiar with all these words. Okay. First word wellbeing.

Jeff Krasno  19:46


Erica Mills Barnhart  19:48


Jeff Krasno  19:50


Erica Mills Barnhart  19:51


Jeff Krasno  19:55


Erica Mills Barnhart  19:57


Jeff Krasno  19:59


Erica Mills Barnhart  20:02

Ooh, interdependence. Okay, why interdependence?

Jeff Krasno  20:08

Well, yoga, the Sanskrit word means union, or yoke, to yoke.

Erica Mills Barnhart  20:20

Always, thought that sounded very uncomfortable whenever my yoga instructors would say that, like, I don’t know that I want to be yoked, but then they sort of explained it. I think you’re gonna explain this like that sounds constricting? Possibly not.

Jeff Krasno  20:32

Possibly not. I mean, I think a yoke is technically something that connects to animals, like a yoke. And there’s a quote from the Bible from the New Testament that Jesus says that, what is it? My yoke is easy and I load is light, I think something like that, you can look it up. And I’m no scripture expert. But for me, yoga and meditation are very similar. And I think of interdependence, and selflessness not quite synonymously. But in a similar way, where, you know, union, or yoga is a way of a state of being in which you recognize the interdependence of all things. And we are highly conditioned to see ourselves as separate individuated people living in a separate external universe, often in competition with each other, often exalting the ego which defines us by, you know, what we do, or our position in society or what we have, or our job title, or whatever. And when we are in a state of union, or we’re in a deep meditative state of where we glimpse the realization of non self, or that we feel a part of, this is like Hinduism of Brahman, of that we are part of an all encompassing greater self, of which we are mere modifications or reflections, that this is when the sort of illusory nature of self you know, that curtain is pulled back and we feel a sense of utter union of connection with the world, that we no longer become the thinker of our thoughts or sort of identify with emotions and feelings and thoughts, that we are the wind, that I am you, that our liberation is truly bound.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:48

I can get behind that because I watched videos of Shuyler doing yoga, I feel like she probably feels all that stuff. I’m just trying to stay robos I mean, I got a ladder up to the rest of what you’re talking about. I did look up the Bible quote, because I don’t want to open loops and listeners brains, want them to be able to be present for the conversation. So it’s Matthew 11, I think what you’re referring to “come to me all you who are weary and burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you will learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls”. So that sounds pretty I mean, when he puts it that way. Sounds pretty good.

Jeff Krasno  23:28

Yeah, I mean, many Yogi’s claim that Jesus was a practitioner. Now that might be a stretch, I tend to think of yoga outside of the context of the pure Asana form, and tend to think about it in in the context of its other lens, which is, you know, I guess more spiritual than physical.

Erica Mills Barnhart  23:51


Jeff Krasno  23:52

But yeah, many Yogi’s point to Jesus as a practitioner, when he’s talking about yoking and his load being light, that when you are in connection, when you have a true deep sense of the interdependence of things, you are light, you are enlightened, you are walking, kind of, you’re kissing the ground, when, with your feet when you walk.

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:18

I wanted to start with yoga, because I think a lot of listeners is sort of like the gateway into some of these other things. I will quote Shuyler’s website where she describes yoga as “the manifestation of meditation through motion”. That is a good one, right? Okay, so let’s, what about meditation? I have noted and I’m curious, I mean, you have like, like this huge panoramic view of how people think about these things. I know that when I talk to people about you know, meditation or mindfulness, they kind of like it is a noun, like aspirationally. But when you get into the verb form, right, so like meditating, then you kind of lose people because they’re like, I can’t sit still, you know? That’s not for me. Like there’s an association, I feel like there’s a, there’s an association, like we’ve been marketed a certain version of meditation, which involves like the proper pillow, sitting very still. And I just I wonder if you’ve noticed that about sort of the noun, verb, dynamic?

Jeff Krasno  24:31

It’s good. Yeah, everyone, meditation is very aspirational. I’ve rarely met anyone that thinks it’s a bad idea. And, you know, though, it’s an idea that’s 2500 years old, every day science seems to prove empirically, that it is also an endeavor worth undertaking. And everyone feels that meditation is not for them. I mean, there’s no such thing really, as a good meditator. That’s a little bit of a myth. You know?

Erica Mills Barnhart  25:52

It feels a little judgy which is antithetical to the idea of the whole mindfulness thing.

Jeff Krasno  25:58

Yeah, I mean, mindfulness would be being in a state of absolute presence without judgment. And so this idea that like, Oh, you know, I’m lost in thought all the time, you know, I can’t really meditate, I’m not good at it, you know, meditation, there is a little bit of a myth there that meditation is the absence of thought, that’s not true at all, you know, when I’m meditating, and I’m certainly no guru in an ashram, you know, thoughts are swinging from branch to branch, like a monkey all the time. It’s just that, you know, when I am in a place of quiet and serenity, that I can witness those thoughts, that I can witness my feelings and emotions and not identify with them. And that I can become aware, these are just phenomena arising and subsiding in consciousness in a completely transitory way, moment by moment, you know, you may feel frustrated, you may feel angry, and there’s a actually a technique that is important to leverage with words, when I do this quite consistently, where I try to get away from identifying with these things, by I will rarely say I am angry, or I am frustrated, I will say I feel angry, or I feel frustrated, because in a way, that is an acknowledgment through the usage of words, that these are just phenomenon that are, you know, arising and subsiding. Rumi has that poem about emotions kind of visiting like guests at a party, visiting your house and leaving your house you are the house, or, you know, you are the sky. And thoughts and emotions are just clouds passing through, or you are the road and, and thoughts and feelings and emotions are bicycles and trucks.

Erica Mills Barnhart  28:10

And I always like that one, like you’re the road, although I don’t know that, you know, then I’m like, do I really want bicycles and trucks? Don’t know. It’s so concrete. And you know, mindfulness is an abstract noun. So I think that that makes it more challenging, you know, and I get it right like are, we have 60 to 70,000 thoughts per day. 80% of those are recycled, day after day. Our brains are prone to negativity bias. Therefore, in our minds, we have a whole lot of negativity going on. And we and then we have confabulation, which is sort of if we’re missing information, like our brains are hardwired to fill it in. And so, you know, I wonder if part of it is and then we combine this with the fact that really fundamentally, we’ve, we’ve reversed a lot from when we were on the tundra, and yet, fundamentally, the job of our brain is to protect us. And so sitting, I mean, biologically, just evolutionarily, if you were just sitting you were prey. And I just I wonder if there isn’t in our subconscious, which is 95 to 96% of where all the brain activity happens, but we just don’t have access to it, which is inconvenient. You know, there’s just this piece, it’s like, dude, I don’t want to just sit that seems dodgy. And then that seems dodgy, but maybe I can get over that. But then I’m sitting there with all my negative thoughts. And so you know, you you I love this idea of like you’re swinging from branch to branch. You know, it’s not about not having them. It’s, I think, sort of part of the exercise is what are you going to do with them? And then what story are you telling yourself and creating that space around that is one of the gifts of it. But anyway, that’s part of my hypothesis why people are like I know it’s a good idea, just not a good idea for me.

Jeff Krasno  30:04

Right. But I mean, I think, you know, going through life being constantly distracted, you know, with monkey mind, not being able to sustain one’s attention for long periods of time has very, very detrimental impacts. And oftentimes, it contributes to the seeking out of sort of external agents for your own happiness, you know, and that might, could have been the worst cases be drugs and alcohol. But, you know, in very many cases, it might be social media, or the approval that you’re getting, or not, from that, or other forms of addiction, codependency, chocolate cake, you know, whatever it might be, because you are simply not able to be at peace with yourself, you are constantly in search of external agents to, as Jerry Maguire said, complete me. Yeah. And, you know, this is the great process of, of life and self love really, is to, you know, find ways to complete yourself to exist to the degree that it is possible in the absence of need, because it’s in that emptiness, in that absence of need. That I feel like true love, and compassion and empathy, and all these kind of perennial values emerge from there and become part of what you say, this 96%. I mean, over time, you know, through habits and practices, your reflexive behavior changes, and this unconscious part of you. And you can, I mean, many of us, and I don’t consider myself outside this group, you know, we’re operating from a place of fear of, you know, often triggered by uncertainty. And there’s tremendous amount of that. And that fear can then provoke other kinds of emotions. Often when we’re in a place of fear, we resort to anger, because anger feels like a place. That is its buttressing, it gives us a sense of strength and self worth. But-

Erica Mills Barnhart  32:30

It lets us see what our boundaries are.

Jeff Krasno  32:32

Yeah, but it’s an awful place to dwell 24/7.

Erica Mills Barnhart  32:36

It is a great place to visit, and it has a bad rap. Anger has such a bad rap. Well all have our negative emotions in Western culture, have a bad rap, anger, sadness.

Jeff Krasno  32:43

Yeah, I mean, anger, certainly as you know, in a jungian shadow  emotion sense needs to be something that is excavated. And there is times, or there are times where I think anger can be empowering, in a positive fashion, sometimes in the expressions around social justice or things like that. But I think that if you’re living from a place where you are essentially holding an ember in your hand, looking and waiting for that opportunity to throw it at someone, you’re the one getting burnt. And, you know, to the degree that I have any control over my own state of being, I tend to prefer not living in that place.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:31

Sure. Yeah, there’s a great book called The Language of Emotion, which I recommend to every human basically, it just goes through in such a great way that, you know, we have all of these motions for a reason. And they because each of them teach us something, but you don’t want to like necessarily just be in anger.

Jeff Krasno  33:32

Yeah. And also be able to, sorry, to witness yourself in that place.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:56

That the creating of a little bit of space, which I actually use a lot and teach this idea of resonance, and I am which is about identities and I feel just, you know, like a as a mechanism to create space. So helpful, so hard.

Jeff Krasno  34:10

So hard, and I you know, there’s many masks with the same face underneath. But you know, Viktor Frankl has a quote about finding that space between an event and your response or reaction to that event. I’ve recently just started to wade into stoicism. And one of the tenants of stoicism posits that often our reactions to things are actually not reactions to the events themselves, they are the reactions to our judgement of those.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:45

Yes, yeah.

Jeff Krasno  34:46

And if we really then want to understand why we’re feeling the way that we do, what we really need is a thorough inventory of our judgments. What are, what’s informing those judgments? You know, there’s this notion that, like, we shape the world, but oftentimes, honestly, the world shapes the self, it’s the central idea of structuralism. And, you know, we’re shaped by our parents, our socio economic class, our culture, religions, rituals, news media, and, you know, it should be all of our project to the degree that we can to sort of, you know, pull back all of those sheets, and to try to recognize the true nature of reality, the true nature of things, you know, outside of, you know, what someone prescribed for us. And if we can do that, I think we can have judgments that are more true and honest, and reflective of the nature of the event itself. And not just what we happen to be triggered.

Erica Mills Barnhart  35:55

Yeah, our emotion to it, I was thinking about, I was thinking forward to our conversation, and then thinking about all of these things, and from a marketing perspective, you know, you would actually do almost the exact opposite of like, how we market to ourselves, because this is essentially marketing, right? Creating narratives and subconscious unconscious, like you would never ever market these things that we say to ourselves, you would do the exact opposite. If we spend like a whole bunch of time and negativity bias inside our minds, like this is not, you know, we market benefits, not the negative features, which we just spent so much time in our minds around that. So people I mean, if we look at benefits, let’s talks about the benefits. So if you look at the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, I mean, this list is so long, like just off the top of your head, you relieve stress, treats heart disease, lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, improve sleep, gastrointestinal difficulties, and like you said, like there are very few people are like, no I’m on in for that, that sounds nah. However, however, and I am thinking sort of specifically in the North American context, there is still this resistance, and I think a bit of mindshare, which goes to what you were talking about kind of, you know, the narratives that we are offered as we grow up, and you know, whether or not we grew up with, you know, say parents or family members who did yoga or talk to us about these things or not. And I feel like mindfulness is kind of an industry at this point, is burdened a little bit by a narrative that goes something along the lines of that’s great for privileged folk, who have time to like, get out the perfect little pillow and sit on it for hours on end until they levitate. Right. So is that or for folks, increasingly, we’re hearing about folks who were like extreme or like rarefied lines of work. So military, Special Ops, elite athletes and performers, but that’s still at the margins of society. And I’m wondering, I mean, again, you have millions of people on Commune, so it’s becoming more mainstream. But is there a little work to do in terms of reframing? Like, if we accept as sort of truth that more mindfulness would be more better for society? For us as individuals and society as a whole. How do we reframe to sort of jettison this narrative that no longer is serving us around what mindfulness is?

Jeff Krasno  38:30

Yeah, well, there, you’re right. There’s certainly a misconception that mindfulness is potentially indulgent or a feat or resultant or reserved for the affluent, on one side or the you know, it’s, it’s kind of this, you know, rarefied treatment for PTSD or, you know, mental illness, etc. And then there’s also kind of the, the vision that one might have in their third eye of mindfulness, sort of as a, you know, kind of monk ish, something that is done in an ashram, or what have you. And I think you know, what, I kind of get at this from a variety of different angles. I mean, with Wanderlust, particularly, we were trying to create quite literally a bigger tent for the mindful life or for mindfulness by making it like hella fun.

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:34

Will you for listeners, explain what wanderlust is, in a little bit more detail?

Jeff Krasno  39:38

Yeah so Wanderlust sort of borrowed the sort of experience of like Coachella, or Bonnaroo or-

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:46

Lollapalooza, it feels like Lollapalooza meets yoga, mindfulness, wonderfulness.

Jeff Krasno  39:53

Yeah, I mean, we were going to kind of yoga journal conferences that were these very like, stayed experiences in conferences with carpet and fluorescent lights. And then, you know, we were going also to, you know, joyful, somewhat drunken music festivals. And we said, like, you know, is there not sort of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that we could, you know, fabricate here have the best of both worlds. So essentially, we created the world’s largest yoga retreat where we brought all the most renowned teachers across yoga and mindfulness and sustainability and regenerative farming and personal and spiritual growth, we brought them all to large scale resorts that we would create. But then we also instilled like music. So we had DJs, and live music acts and big stages. And we created an experience across three or four days that was, you know, transformational both in its wellness, but it’s also within its sort of community and its joy. And it was sort of like going to Lollapalooza, where you actually felt better when you left. You feel more connected, you feel healthier in your body, because you’d be doing yoga or meditating or going on hikes during the day, and then having great dinners with friends, and then going out and seeing some music for four days. And, you know, this experience scaled to 68 events in 20 countries at its peak, you know, it’s 2 to 10,000 people per day. So there was clearly an appetite for it, you know, globally. And, you know, we, I think we tapped into and also helped to form yoga and mindfulness as part of an overarching lifestyle of the way a lot of millennials, and Gen Xers like me, were just living, and we just managed to kind of, you know, create sort of a quilt out of out of different, different yarn, but that were kind of prevalent in people’s lives. And, you know, because we reframed it as something that wasn’t really done in an ashram or something that was done in a fluorescent conference room, you know, people came and we have we, we really, you know, popularized it. And I and I, in retrospect, you know, there were some really beneficial components of that, and then maybe some detrimental pieces of what we did, and in retrospect, but largely, I think we just opened the door, you know, for, for more people. And, I mean, there is a strange sort of paradox around mindfulness, or meditation being something that’s reserved for anyone, because you literally don’t need anything to do it. You don’t you need a chair maybe not even, you know, you can do it on a bus, you can do it on an airplane, you can do it with no guidance whatsoever, you know, and in many ways, I mean, Charles Eisenstein is a brilliant sort of political theorist and economist, he wrote a book about capitalism. And he’s basically that capitalism has been a history of taking things that were free, and charging from them, and charging for them. And in a way in a Wanderlust created an experience out of a bunch of things that were just free. I mean, I feel, in retrospect, somewhat guilty by the fact that we would sell a ticket to take a hike, where people can just like, literally go and take a hike. But what we did was create a sort of container, and we brought the community together around it, which was, which was valuable.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:51

If you did it, I mean, you brought together things that until that point, it sounds like we’re sort of incompatible in people’s minds, they might have been like, either, I will, you know, do yoga in the morning and that’s like, you know, my best Angel shown up, and then I, you know, go out and party and go to the music thing, and you kind of like, set these things actually could be compatible, which is, you know, again, if we’re talking about reframing, right, was an important reframe, and also brought some things into the mainstream and open it up to more folks. I will just say it was remembering that I think it was Oprah was interviewing, I think it was Eckhart Tolle and she said, Do you meditate and he paused and I’m not going to try to imitate how Eckhart talks because it’s so distinct, I don’t want to do it a disservice. But I remember him saying is like, I’m meditating now. He said, Are you asking do I set aside time? No, I just view my life kind of as a meditation in that I try to stay very present and not judgmental. I was like, Eckhart Tolle, his approach, I don’t know maybe that can work for more of us.

Jeff Krasno  44:50

I think I can. I mean, certainly, many people seem to have an innate ability to remain extremely present without  endless training.

Erica Mills Barnhart  45:01

Yeah, I mean, I, we joked about me being a tea drinker, I think one of the reasons you can have this exact same practice with coffee, by the way, I try not to do anything else, when I’m making my tea. I do try to steep most of my tea for three to four minutes, I just try to focus on the tea. And so since I drink, like quite a lot of tea, both not all black, black and herbal, okay, just want to put that on the record. But I do this more with the black tea. You know, I really was like, I’m just get this is the only thing I’m doing, which builds in moments of true presence. And I don’t always even succeed on the three to four minutes, you know, a few times a day. But that has helped, for sure. For me just to sort of build in this idea and the muscle and I tend to be somebody because I do so much research and writing and teaching these sorts of things that you do back to your point about, like, being able to concentrate for long periods of time and the benefits of that. By the nature of my work, I have to be able to do that and by the nature of the way society is going, it gets sort of harder and harder. So I guess I’m trying to offer to listeners, like are there little things in your life that you’re doing anyway where you can just sort of, you know, have it stack? If you’re doing it any way, how can you step on the habit of mindfulness, as opposed to marketing it to ourselves as like this big thing that I have to set aside time for.

Jeff Krasno  46:20

Right, yeah, I mean, when you do the dishes, do the dishes. And, you know, I’ve often found that, that, you know, wisdom, or revelation or creativity often comes in the spaces. And we’re tend to be very obsessed with busying ourselves in the name of productivity or time scarcity, all of the time, that it does not allow a lot of space for the mind, or for consciousness to shine a spotlight somewhere else. And, you know, there’s all there’s myriad examples of this. And you know, there’s humorous ones where, you know, oftentimes so you know, you’ll recognize someone will cross the street, and he’d be like, wait a minute, he looks vaguely familiar. And like his, his name, I think his name starts with a B, Bill, is it Bob, like, you know, you, you cannot identify that person’s name, but your consciousness is very aware of what it isn’t. So you can kind of, you know, go through kind of frustration, and then, you know, when it matters and that person’s approaching now, and you’re going to have an interaction with that person, and you’re not going to be able to actually remember his name and that’s going to be embarrassing. But then, of course, four hours later, while you’re washing the dishes, Brad. And so, you know, what is happening kind of prior to consciousness, is a is a mystery. And now, that’s obviously a relatively non consequential example, remembering, you know, Bill or Brad, but it is illustrative of how the mind can work. And that if you can find space, that oftentimes the most brilliant, life changing idea, or revelation will happen, you know, within that space, it’s not necessarily when you’re absolutely 100%, you know, trying to accomplish a particular goal. I find that true with writing all of the time.

Erica Mills Barnhart  48:37

Yeah, definitely.

Jeff Krasno  48:37

I will stumble on a term or phrase, you know, just staring off, you know, in the distance, some time that was in a completely unpremeditated way that absolutely captures the essence of something. And then, you know, you can harvest that and take it back.

Erica Mills Barnhart  48:58

I do a lot of writing in my mind when I’m, I don’t run as much anymore, but when I’m working out. And so this is when I work with clients, I never do hourly, I haven’t for years for a wide variety of reasons. So one of the things is like, why not? And I would say, I actually do a lot of my best writing in my mind for clients, when I’m like, you know, my NordicTrack, or I’m lifting weights, or I’m out for a long walk, or I’m hiking or skiing. I’m like, do you want me to bill you for that time? That seems real weird. And they are like, No, no, why would you do something like that? That’s how it happens. Pretty much all the magic happens pretty much on the mountain. Yeah, but also this idea of boredom. I mean, Einstein came up with the idea of, you know, theory of relativity when he was bored in math class. Right? And, I mean, he’s such a good teacher about many things, but but about the power of boredom. And and, you know, I also, you know, go back to our biological lines and what they’re here to help us do when that now and I have a specific question I want to ask you about related to this idea of like the how we have been marketed and this idea that boredom is bad and productivities good. So you had Adam Gazzaley

Jeff Krasno  50:02

Yeah, funny that you bring him up because I was just about to reference him.

Erica Mills Barnhart  50:06

Yeah, well, he’s okay. So for listeners who aren’t familiar, he’s amazing. He also he has an ability that you do to like, take these very complex topics and just chat about them like he’s chatting about the latest, you know, beer that he just tried. But he’s a neuroscience and Renaissance guy for darn sure. So you two were chatting on your podcast. And, you know, you were sort of mentioning that Western culture has started to sort of poke and prod and have to, like, prove that mindfulness is a good thing, which by the way, like, there’s a preponderance of evidence, we no longer really need to be doing that. However, the sort of motivation behind it is to then apply mindfulness as a tool for productivity and performance.

Jeff Krasno  50:47


Erica Mills Barnhart  50:48

So like, I’m envisioning, like bumper stickers that are like meditate and kick ass or like, something like that, you know? And it’s, it makes me kind of uncomfortable. But then, so why do I have that judgment? So I guess my question to you is, how did this come to pass in light, and when did this start to transition, I was looking at the etymology of the word mindfulness, which I always do. And I noticed that across, and this was interesting to me, across all languages, so first, I looked at English, and you know, 1800, you know, fairly prevalent, and then around 1900, there’s this huge dip. And then it starts to come back in the 1960s. And now it’s as high as it’s ever been. And in English, that made sense to me. So I was like, I wonder if this is just sort of a North American thing. It is every single language, some languages I didn’t even know what they were, where they were, where they were from. And, and so it’s like, so when, when did this happen? And why is it happening? And, and is it necessarily a bad thing?

Jeff Krasno  51:49

Yeah, that’s really interesting, you know, my mind jumps to the Industrial Revolution and, you know, Thomas Edison was, famously against sleep. And had, you know, the advent of the light bulb, obviously, would allow for greater hours of productivity, which sort of fed this notion of kind of time scarcity. And now, you know, multiply that times, you know, a million right now, where, you know, you almost cannot even get through half of an article, because there’s this FOMO to get on to the next thing, and, you know, Adam talks, really articulately around this concept of information foraging, which is, you know, fascinating, because, you know, he, like, you traces a lot of our behavior back to kind of instinctual innate behaviors, and, you know, really looks at the mind is something that’s actually quite ancient, and we’re still kind of functioning with this ancient mind, but in a very modern context.

Erica Mills Barnhart  52:51

It is old hardware.

Jeff Krasno  52:52

Yeah, and, you know, now, you know, you know, he makes a really great analogy between foraging, you know, you’re talking about, you know, sort of a squirrel, you know, eating all the nuts from a tree and then, you know, there’s sort of diminishing returns where there’s not as many acorns left, and so now, then they, you know, they see a tree like across the way, and then now it’s time to go to the next tree, because that’s more stocked with acorns. And that humans have a similar pension around information, where, you know, we would, you know, at one point, like, read a book, and then we would get more, you know, curious about that particular topic, and then we would go to the library and read another book, but obviously, now, you know, where the entire annals of, of human knowledge are at our fingertips, you know, you know, we’ll start to read an article and before we even get through the first paragraph, there’s four links that we can click on. And we have convinced ourselves that we have exhausted everything that’s valuable in that article before even reading the second paragraph, and we’re clicking off, you know, to some other thing, and that process becomes so reductive, that now it seems like the world is just memeified where like our information is coming from, you know, 20 characters or less.

Erica Mills Barnhart  54:19

And that there are diminishing returns. I think part of his point, if I remember correctly, or heard it correctly, is there’s diminishing returns to going deep is what we’re telling ourselves. Because everybody is trying to gather and share right and FOMO fear of missing out, you know, and so it’s like, Okay, well, like I’m going deep on this whole subconscious thing and I think I’ve got the jist. It’s like people spend their lives researching that and we’re like, well I click three times I think I’m good. I got it all sorted out.

Jeff Krasno  54:48

Yeah. And I’m not immune to that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  54:51

Oh heck not, I do it constantly.

Jeff Krasno  54:53

You know, I, you know, pray to my weakest instincts of researching on Wikipedia.

Erica Mills Barnhart  55:00

I do want to just say one thing on Adam, because I feel like this would be important is, for all the negative that he points out about technology, he actually is a technologist. He’s also an entrepreneur, and feels like technology could also be the path forward. So that so he talks very eloquently about the competition crisis. And then also says, and guess what, if people are gaming anyway, why don’t we use that, you know, as a force for good and not just assume it’s bad. So I just, I feel like it’s important. You know, I don’t want Adam inadvertently to get this rap from folks like us talking about it being like, I think that like he’s just got, he’s like, it’s not categorical, categorically that it’s just it’s a little stuck right now. And we need to be proactive, about how do we use it as a force for good to rewire our brains?

Jeff Krasno  55:47

Yeah, being a Luddite at this point would be complete surrender. So we need to work within the context of the tools that are given to us, I think, you know, kind of circling back to numerous points that you made around the framing of mindfulness, for increased productivity or optimal performance, you know, certainly, there’s been kind of a harvesting of athletes, you know, LeBron James says, now quite famously come out, in advertising the Calm App, but even within this kind of sliver of CEOs and business leaders, like Ari Emanuel, WME, is a meditator, and, you know, really is leveraging meditation as a technology for productivity and optimal performance to keep him like, you know, at his top executive level. And, you know, there is certainly, you know, some some, there’s some utility to this idea that we’re going to increase the amount of people engaging in this in this activity, by marketing it in a different way. And, you know, because a lot of people are, they want to be more productive at work they want to have, but my question about it that give, it makes me some a little bit uneasy, is that in sort of the demystification of this spiritual practice, are we undermining the actual real utility of it?

Erica Mills Barnhart  57:23

Right. So we’re commercializing and commoditizing the spiritual?

Jeff Krasno  57:27

Yeah, and it’s, and yeah, and I don’t want to get like modelin about it, you know, there’s nothing wrong, per se, with, you know, people making great product and, and profiting on that. But are we essentially taking a practice that is, at its core, meant to help people recognize the illusory nature of self, to cultivate, you know, capital L love to have a feeling of greater self worth, outside of external agents, you know, all of these things, are we taking a practice that are geared towards honestly, these very spiritual ends, and now repackaging it as a way to simply kind of get ahead or make more money or be better at your job or, you know, and then you can even take that to the next level where they’re putting, you know, monks in FMRI’s, you know, to kind of it just study their brains in order to leverage that information for navy seals. Now, if I know probably, you know, that’s a little bit of an empty example, because the navy seals aren’t really learning that to be better killers, per se, if, if our, you know, soldiers are actually able to be more present and more mindful, I think that’s a great thing to be honest. But, but oftentimes, yeah, you know, we’re taking this ancient practice. And we’re saying, like, yeah, there’s this kind of utility in in, in modernity, that it might kind of just only serve to perpetuate the problems that we already kind of find ourselves in. So-

Erica Mills Barnhart  59:20

Yeah, we’re taking a millennial old practice putting on them, well, we’ve acknowledged the old hardware, our brains, in a modern context. I think it’s fair to say that could get cloogy real fast and with anything, I mean, marketing is neutral, right? It’s like money. It’s how you use it that dictates whether or not as being a force for good or force for evil.

Jeff Krasno  59:42

Yeah, I think you know, where it becomes tricky, and I have been trying to kind of unpack where I have been, you know, a culprit in this is, you know, I find marketing can be at times insidious when it is incessantly pointing out the consumers deficiency or a perceived deficiency, that, you know, basically telling that person that they’re not enough, and then in turn, trying to sell them something to address that perceived deficiency.

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:00:15

Which, by the way, is addressing the perceived deficiency that we’d be marketing to ourselves. I mean, either you, you know, from the get go, most of us are wired to either say, we’re not enough or too much, a little bit too much.

Jeff Krasno  1:00:29

Yeah, I have three daughters, I certainly like drive down Sunset, and you know, you can’t, but turn your head to look at, like, you know, images of beauty, particularly for women that are like, completely unattainable. And I, immediately, of course, you know, I tried to put myself in my daughter’s head and be like, well, it would be so easy to feel inadequate, and not enough unless I buy that particular service or dress or implant or whatever. So, you know, this is where, you know, I, I try to, you know, I always try to frame the marketing that I engage in, within the brackets of social good, and in actually serving the mission of the businesses that, that I have been, you know, fortunate enough to lead, which have already always had very, very strong missions. And, you know, one piece of sort of, kind of business strategy that I’ve picked up along the way is your marketing can be really good and really healthy if the, the mission of your business is inextricably overlaid or interwoven with this the profitability of that business. So then, you know, it’s kind of like, a little bit hollow for British Petroleum to have an ecological mission, you know, they may have initiatives that are pro sustainability, but it you know, it is not intellectually honest, for BP to be out there with like, an environmental mission. So, you know, what I always try to do within the context of my businesses is to really start with a mission and then build the profitability model on top of that mission. So, you know, with Commune, it was like, you know, we’re gonna bring well being to a billion people. And guess what, if we do that, the PNL is gonna look damn good. You know, with Wanderlust, you know, it was a little more subtle, to be honest, like, you know, I kind of stumbled on this word, I didn’t really totally know what it meant when I first popped into my mind, which is actually a good example of, sort of, quote, unquote, wisdom coming in, in the spaces. And we had spent, it was like naming a band, we had spent hours upon hours trying to find a name for this thing, and I was just sitting on my couch with my daughter climbing on me, and I was like wanderlust, okay. And then, you know, looked it up and it was like the innate desire to travel. And immediately I made, you know, an association with like, the idea that mirroring this external yearning to discover the world was also a desire to look inwards and to, you know, discover-

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:03:25

 Travel within your own wilderness as a work.

Jeff Krasno  1:03:28


Erica Mills Barnhart  1:03:29

That’s great. That’s such a great story about the inbetweens, interstitial.

Jeff Krasno  1:03:32

Interstitial, and then I sort of retreated off to the beach one summer for a week, and started to build, you know, the other components around that idea of wanderlust and I stumbled again upon this idea of find your true north, which again, was a travel reference, you know, of true north being somewhere that you might go physically in the world like a compass coordinate. But obviously, also referring to really unpacking your true creative spark, your essence, your most holistically well self, and then kind of drew out this little compass as the primary visual iconography that you know, Wanderlust was here to provide the coordinates on this journey for you to find your true north. And all those things like worked together really elegantly.

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:04:27

Well, they tell a story like it gives it a very cohesive narrative and I’m sure there’s some listeners who are like well, that’s nice you did that like from the get go. You know, when I work with clients, you know, and always saying this, we’re trying to honor what you have leverage your assets, but honor where you got there, and so a little reverse engineering and deconstructing oftentimes will unearth, if not something quite that cohesive, you know, a narrative and then you could come back to it and sort of freshen it and you true it up and sharpen it and all these things because that you know, part of the marketing for good philosophy is also the people who have within your company or your organization doing it are treated well. There’s a lot of turnover. And there’s a, you know, a lot of like, I mean, marketing breeds codependence like no one’s business, a lot of sort of negativity that’s gets bred in the making of the marketing. So we tend to focus on like, was it effective? Did it work? It’s like, well, what if it worked? But like, you’ve just burned out your entire team? I mean, what if your retention rate is like,  terrible? Is that, is that truly making marketing a force for good? No, because you know, that you’ve, you’ve done this terrible people to human, terrible things to the humans doing it. So anyway, I think sometimes listeners can be like, but that doesn’t relate to me. So I’m gonna offer like, a very concrete. You know, that’s why you talk to founders and get the backstory. And-

Jeff Krasno  1:05:46

Yeah, well, to be honest, I failed miserably in that respect for years. I mean, I had a company that was completely based on well being, but we had a horrible churn rate, to be honest. And it wasn’t until kind of much later, you know, where, honestly, I grew up a little bit and had my own kind of spiritual inflection points, where, you know, I really committed to, you know, the business internally being reflective of the business externally. But if you’re gonna have, I mean, it’s obviously, like, almost ridiculously, literally resonant within a business about well being, but it’s true for any business, is that, you know, I’ve come much more around to the idea that you really just want to have businesses that are healthy inside and out. And sometimes, you know, it’s easy to sacrifice the well being of a business for the sake of growth, and we become so growth minded, that, you know-

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:06:50

This is an entirely different podcast, this whole thing about growth, our obsession with growth, how marketing perpetuates that, like, it’s not all about getting bigger.

Jeff Krasno  1:06:58

No, in fact, like, the company that I run now, it’s, you know, I have really made the bottom line a priority over the top line. Where it’s like we, we control our own destiny, we don’t have to take any high velocity dollars, you know like that can misaligned incentives, all of the kind of pitfalls that you get into with intense institutional capital and all this kind of stuff.

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:07:26

Yeah, the book, The Company of One, I think, is super interesting. Even if you’re not just going to be a company of one, the principles in it are very, very interesting to me. You know, he’s Canadian. So of course, you know, my roots, I’m a little biased towards that, but but you know, if listeners are interested in, in this, and I mean, honestly, we could just, it’s such a big deal. I want to make sure that we end, I want to be mindful of your time, you’ve been so generous. We started with a popcorn round, I’m hoping we can, which is kind of concrete, I’m wondering if you’d be up for a very concrete exercise, which is to share, so if we’re trying to like mainstream mindfulness, because we’ve acknowledged that the world would be a better place, if there was more of it, and it was more accessible. When you think about different audiences for Commune, like how might you, so I have three examples, which I would love to hear you just like, if it’s this type of person, what do you say to them to bring them into the fold? So the first, what about the single mom? Taking care of the kids? She has three jobs, she has no time and his bone tired all the time? What do you say to her about mindfulness?

Jeff Krasno  1:08:37

Sure. I would say that even 30 seconds of breath work while you’re in the car between drop off, scrambling for dinner, 30 seconds of breathing of Vipassana, if you will, can make such an incredible difference in your life. It’s called a practice for a reason. You know, there’s no end. It’s something that you do every day. I mean, how long per day do you brush your teeth? Two minutes, and you can’t brush your teeth for five hours the day before you go to the dentist and not any time for the rest of the year and you know, expect a good result. So it really is just you know, you one does these things as busy as they are they brush their teeth every night. It says it’s the same thing. It’s just brushing your teeth for your mind, just you know, and again, you can do it anywhere. You can do it in your car at drop off, so-

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:09:53

You could, I was thinking of the multitasking approach and okay wouldn’t work to like brush your teeth and focus on breath, I don’t think. However, there’s a lot of other activities. I mean, I actually am a fan of the three breaths. Even three breaths, you’ll be like, Oh, that’s right, I’m breathing, like brings you back.

Jeff Krasno  1:10:11

Yeah. And just like what you said about Eckhart, you don’t have to be engaged in a guided meditation on an app to be mindful. I mean, it can be as simple as actually putting your phone down while you’re at your kids soccer game, and just watching them move, watching them play watching them interact, watching them laugh, you know, it’s, do you reach for, you know, I don’t want to indict the iPhone all the time. But is there two minutes at the grocery store, where you’re in line, where you could just be present in line and wait for the checkout? Instead of feeling like that there’s no, you’re immediately bored. And you have to check your phone, and there’s no reason that you’re checking it, it’s just to check it, instead of actually being present to what’s going on? Who else is there looking around enjoying the phenomena of, you know, your ability to see things, hear things, listen to things, smell things, you know, just these little moments. You know, I don’t think anyone really could make a coherent argument that there’s no time to be present.

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:11:33

Okay, so to the busy busy mom, we’re saying just breath, the moments where you’re there anyway, to take full advantage of them, to just be present. What about a teenage boy who could definitely benefit from some mindfulness, but he thinks it’s just like silliness that grown ups do?

Jeff Krasno  1:11:50

Yeah, I mean, I experienced that firsthand, with with three daughters, that, you know, are, are unique and special in their own way, but but certainly susceptible to all the shortcomings that teenagers are, you know, prone to panic attacks and things like that. And, you know, I would say, you know, listen, you know, I, I have panic attacks, too, but I’ve cultivated some tools. And my eldest daughter will say, Dad, don’t you fucking dare say meditation. I’m not sure I have any good advice. But, you know, again, I think, you know, what we are seeing is, you know, mindfulness is becoming part of school curriculums, you know, it’s slow, it takes the form of other names, socio-emotional learning is one of the words that often gets used within school contexts, because mindfulness or meditation, can have sort of quasi religious ring for some people, but you know, it really, I can frame it, you know, in terms of the things that do matter for them, like, you know, their relationships, like this relationship, you know, Phoebe, my eldest daughter, is really, really important to you. So maybe you want to engage in some active listening, just listen to your friend, if she’s upset. And you can frame it in other ways, because active listening or listening to understand instead of listening to respond-

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:13:31

Oh, that’s huge. That’s huge for all of us.

Jeff Krasno  1:13:32

Is it’s own form of mindfulness.

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:13:35


Jeff Krasno  1:13:36

So that, you know, mindfulness is or is very protein, you know, it’s, uh, it can, you know, doesn’t have to be like Om Shanti you know, it’s like, so I think that there’s ways to, to mold it to fit, you know, demographics or situation. So I always frame it with my kids as like, well, if this is really important to you, then take a breath here. And, and listen, or practice some form of sustained attention. Or, you know, turn your phone off. Or, you know, I mean, there’s other like little techniques that you can, you know-

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:14:13


Jeff Krasno  1:14:13

That you can pose, like, you know, the phone basket at dinner, you know, be like everyone, yeah, things like that, so.

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:14:20

It’s funny that phone basket idea. So I am, we have a don’t bring your phone to the table rule. When I talk to other parents about that, they’re like, guess what, the reason we don’t do that is because I don’t want to do it. Which I think is so interesting, and sort of, I think just reinforces like, it’s an all of us thing. I was interviewing Ian Adair, for recent podcast, and he he is prominent in sort of mental health awareness and he points out, the statistic that we hear is one out of five people you know in a year will grapple with mental health issues. And his point is that five out of five of us are impacted by mental health issues in some form or fashion. It’s a five out of five issue. And I feel like meditation and mindfulness is a five out of five solution to a lot of these things. If we can, you know, get a little more artful, like you clearly are, and you’re really speaking to the, to the specific benefits to the specific groups of people. And I want to circle back to your point about like, all of this is actually very democratic, it’s very accessible, such as I hope that one thing listeners take away from this is this idea of it truly is accessible to everybody, there’s, there’s nothing that you need, except yourself and your breath, in order to take advantage of it.

Jeff Krasno  1:15:35

Yeah, and the breath is, is used often, because it’s something that you always have, I mean, I suppose until you don’t. But becoming, you know, aware of the breath, always coming back to that into a recurring action, you know, becoming more sensitive to the subtleties of the breath, how does it feel in your lungs, in your nose? How does it you know, all of these different kind of nuances. But there’s other techniques that you can use, if that’s not one that feels really resonant for you, you know, I grew up as a musician, and I off into sort of a, like a soundscape meditation where I will walk, or I will sit. And we generally experience the world as one singular monophonic wave, which is think of sound as one thing. But if you become quiet, you start to realize that there are dozens and dozens of little sounds happening all the time. And they’re coming in, and they’re coming out. And to be honest, they don’t always have to be like, you know, like, a crow flew past the Harvest Moon or whatever it can be like the refrigerators humming in this part of my of the left stereoscape, and, you know, something’s happening over here to the right, and you become almost the producer, or the engineer of this orchestra of sound. And as you become better and more refined listener, you can start to place those sounds in space. And all of a sudden, you know, you are incredibly present. And you’re incredibly aware of sound coming in and out of your consciousness as phenomena. And so there’s other ways you can get at it, you know-

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:17:32

Many, many, many ways. Anyways, all right, I close every interview by asking the same question to guests, so just speaking of breath, so etymologically speaking, inspiration actually means to take breath in motivation means action out to take action. So we need both an equal measure, can’t can’t have one without the other and any sustained period of time, what inspires you? And what keeps you motivated to do the work? You do?

Jeff Krasno  1:17:59

Yeah, I mean, I think those things are actually one in the same and is really having connection, having conversation, I feel that, you know, outside of kind of all the metaphorical pieces of what connection and conversation can mean, the sort of realization of the non self and these kind of higher concept ideas, which are all true and resonate with me kind of intellectually, but I find just kind of where I am truly the most animated and engaged and present is in connection, you know, with other people. And I think that, you know, there’s a lot of common humanity to be found there in a time, that is very, very polarized. And I really feel that, you know, conversation is the thing that stands between us and the world, that we imagine is possible. And I’m really trying to lean in to as many conversations as possible, particularly with people that I don’t agree with, or don’t agree with me and there’s plenty of those people fortunately, and, and really try to, you know, use techniques of nonviolent communication and have compassion to, you know, to try to create, you know, common ground and, and identify some shared humanity. So, fortunately, the name of my business is Commune.

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:19:39

Yeah, it’s all coming full circle.

Jeff Krasno  1:19:42

Yeah, that works well in the context. And yeah, I mean, I love I as I grow older, I tend to get a lot of gratification through the success of others, particularly inside my family and in my business, which is really an extended family. I mean, I think this speaks to some growing up that I’ve done around concepts of leadership. But I love watching the young people kind of in my company, start to step in to their, their greater selves and accomplish more and feel super empowered, and be motivated and achieve. And, you know, more and more, I’m really enjoying that piece of it to that, that. And it also the wonderful thing about that is that it relieves me of a lot of operational responsibility. So, yeah, I would say, you know, conversation, and really deriving sort of gratification through the success of others, is a pretty happy way to live.

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:20:50

Yeah. Jeff, thank you so much for saying yes to this conversation. I really, really appreciate it. I hope that, you know, listeners, you know, got a little bit about how we might use marketing to expand the reach and impact of meditation and mindfulness and all the wonderful work you’re doing at Commune. Again, you know, I’m going to make like a total plug for listeners to go check out the app. I like I have benefited in so many ways. There’s so much to learn there in a very accessible format plus really pretty like it’s just it’s a you know, it’s a beautiful app.

Jeff Krasno  1:21:25

Thank you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  1:21:26

Yes, so much. Goodness, a gajillion hours really. And Tracy’s Yoga nidra. I feel like everybody needs to experience having their calves relaxed. It’s a thing it’s a total thing. So and you don’t need a meditation pillow or anything you don’t thank you listeners for sticking with us, at times meandering but I hope inspiring conversation. Like I said at the beginning there were so many different ways we could have gone. And again, Jeff so grateful to you for just creating an openness to the conversation. Listeners, do good, be well and we will see you next time.

Ep: 28: Kate Slater: Making Your Messaging Anti-Racist

This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart and Kate Slater on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


anti racist, racism, racist, mission statement, organization, people, messaging, verb, world, purpose, values, marketing, mission, educators, statement, words

Erica Mills Barnhart  00:04

Marketing can be an incredible force for good, it can inspire and motivate and make our world more just equitable and inclusive. But too often marketing perpetuates the status quo for a select few, rather than disrupting it for the greater good of all. This show looks to change that. Join me your host, Erica Mills Barnhart as we usher in a new era of marketing, an era of marketing for good. One of the core tenants of marketing for good is that it be anti racist. So this term comes to us from Ibram Kendi and in his book, How To Be An Antiracist, he’s a prolific writer, wonderful, wonderful, gracious writer. In his book, he says racial inequity is a problem of bad policy, not bad people. And he goes on to say, on the website, whereas racist research historically has posed the question, what is wrong with people? Anti racist research now asks a different and better question, what is wrong with policies? This got me thinking, by extension, what is wrong with our marketing? In what ways does it perpetuate racism rather than dismantle it? And one of the things about anti racism is that it has to be very deliberate, very proactive, it’s not going to happen on its own. Where we know, as a universal law is that, you know, entropy is like the biggest force that we have, right, the status quo will perpetuate itself unless it is disrupted. And so Kate Slater, my guest on today’s episode, is  an anti racist, she’s white. She’s an anti racist educator, and scholar. And I’ve had the great good fortune of attending some of her trainings, and one of them she said, every mission statement should have the word anti racist. And I thought I get I get where you’re going with that, however, is it meant to be in the mission statement? Does it have to be in the mission statement? So the question that we grapple with in this conversation is, where does it make sense for the word and the work of anti racism to show up in your messaging? And so if you haven’t listened to Episode 26, on the messaging matrix, I would encourage you to listen to that, because we reference it extensively in this conversation, you know, like I said, you know, to show up with your values or is it the vision statement, or is it the purpose or the mission like, where does it fit? This is going to be different for every organization. Right? What I’m hoping is that you will listen to this episode, and be inspired to wonder about it to work through it. Even through the uncomfortableness that these conversations inevitably surface. Can you work through that in your organization to figure out where it makes sense for you? Where does it make sense for you? So take this as hopefully inspiration and some motivation and a little bit of fodder for those conversations. Kate has so much to offer in this realm. She’s a deep thinker and an active doer in the in the world of anti racism. So I as always hope that you will enjoy this episode as much as much as I did. And with that, let’s turn our attention to Kate Slater. Welcome, welcome, welcome to this episode of the Marketing for good podcast. With me today is Kate Slater. Kate is a white anti racist educator and scholar. She is currently, this is a new role, so congratulations, I’m super excited for you, Kate. She’s currently the Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Affairs at Brandeis University. Previously, she worked for the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers, a nonprofit that promotes social justice and diversity in the American educational system. She’s also a lecture on the history of race and racism at the University of New Hampshire, where her research center is the experiences of underrepresented minoritized students who attend predominantly white institutions. She conducts trainings on white supremacy in the workplace for both K through 12, and higher education organizations, as well as numerous private companies. And we met much to my great delight, because you were doing trainings for the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance where I’m on faculty. And through that training, there was some, at some point and you very passionately, which I so appreciate anybody else who gets as worked up and passionate about mission statements as I do. I’m like, oh, my people. So you were like, antiracism should be in every mission statement, I was like, Oh, that’s intriguing. Let’s talk about that. So that is a bit about Kate and a bit about how this conversation came to be. And I’m so grateful for you taking time to educate all of us, myself, and all of the listeners on this.

Kate Slater  04:55

I’m so excited to be here.

Erica Mills Barnhart  04:56

Yes, fantastic. Would do you share? I mean, it’s it’s a little unusual to be a white anti racist educator and scholar. Can you share with us how that how that came to be?

Kate Slater  05:08

Sure, sure. What is it Bob Ross says he says that it’s a happy accident, I guess thats the way I would put it, it really was by accident. But I think that my meandering pathway into anti racist work actually is, is symptomatic of why so few white people are invested in this work. And in that, I mean, I was in my mid to late 20s, before racism as endemic in American society even occurred to me, just to give a little bit of context, I grew up in Maine, which is, you know, one of the whitest states in the union, I went to predominantly white schools, my entire life, my friend group is predominantly white, my workplaces were entirely white, my colleagues were entirely white, if not, predominantly, then entirely. And I say that to say, because it was only when I got to my job at the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers that it was the first time that I had ever not only been in spaces with predominantly people of color, but where I had ever begun to connect the dots in terms of the way that racism operates in this society. So to give a little background story about the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers, it is this incredible, incredible nonprofit, you all should check it out. And what they do is they attempt to address the racial disparities in the educational systems in this country. So as many folks know, teaching faculties both in K 12, and higher education, predominantly white and predominantly white woman by a huge margin. So the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers said that we recognize one of the major barriers in terms of teachers and educators getting into the sector, is entering grad school, persisting in grad school, and then getting the professional development and holistic support that they need to make long lasting change and be social justice educators. So what we did at the Institute for Recruitment of Teachers is we support scholars in pursuing Master’s and PhD programs, and we help them through the entire application process, help them with a lot of career support and professional development, with an eye towards essentially beginning to dismantle some of those major racial disparities in the higher education sector. So I say all that to say that this was the first time in my life when I came to this job at 26, that I ever confronted terms like systemic racism, that I ever began to think about the ways in which racism permeates all of these different sectors in our country. And the only reason that I was beginning to confront these systems is because for the first time in my life, I was the minority as a white woman in these spaces. And that was a profound experience for me, because first of all, it set me on the trajectory to start doing the anti racist work that I do, but also to understand the systems of racism, the history of them, the ways in which they play off each other in the housing market, in the economic sector in education. But also, it really enabled me to see for the first time how easy it was as a white woman to insulate myself in a predominantly, if not completely white world. And that is where things began to click for me in terms of doing anti racist work. This was such a, this was such a rude awakening for me to go to the IRT and realize how, how, my white privilege made itself manifest in my world. And so recently, I started to say, Well, how can I bring that moment of understanding or that moment of clarity to other people, and I mean, specifically white people, you know, as we know, the workforce, especially in education is still predominantly white. When we look at the breakdown of racial makeup in CEOs and CFOs in America, when I say predominantly white, I mean 99%, white. So these are still very deeply rooted systems that we have to be cognizant of, and we have to confront. So I say all that to say that where my lane has been certainly over the past year, is in helping white people begin to understand what their own privilege looks like, and how it makes itself manifest in their workplace in their day to day interactions. And then from there, how can they begin to dismantle that white privilege? How can they begin to, for lack of a better word, use their privilege for the powers of good and really begin to do some racial repair for the deep seed inequities and, and, quite frankly, the horrific legacy of oppression and violence that exists in this country that’s racially based.

Erica Mills Barnhart  09:49

Thank you for, and on that light note. It’s always fascinating to hear somebody’s journey and their lived experience. You know, what you decide to do with those moments, and we have a whole episode for folks who are interested on the language of racism, and with Fleur Larson. So I do want to I want to define the term anti racism. But for folks who, maybe for whom all of this is a little new, and you’re like, Whoa, you might pause give this one a little pause, go listen along with Fleur, because we really dug into what all they mean. And the other thing I just want to offer to listeners right now is, uh, you know, I’m sure some folks are like, I don’t want to hear the white folks, you know, I don’t want to hear this. And to really, and this is still hard for me to wrap my head around is to not take it entirely personally. Right? So that when we’re talking about systemic racism, that is pervasive, but it’s not, but you can make it personal individual contribution to unraveling that. So that that piece around prepare, we do have a sense of agency we can as white people do something about it. But that you know, and I think going through this, like deep guilt and shame and lots of other things is a little bit part of this process, as white folks and just finally, when when the veil is lifted, it is this really wild ride of you’re like, Oh my god. I always think about jaywalking, because I was, and this is I mean this, I was like maybe I wasn’t even 20 yet. And a friend of mine who was black, we were at a intersection I of course started jaywalking, and they did not join me. And I was like, and they’re like, I’m black. And it took two decades solid before I came back to that. And thats when I thought oh, well, there was there was my white privilege in my jaywalking. But every single time since, I you know, it’s like very concrete.

Kate Slater  11:41


Erica Mills Barnhart  11:42

But I just want to say to listeners, you know, what I want to acknowledge this is not always comfortable. And yet if you’re going to be committed to marketing for good antiracism is going to be at the core of that going forward. I hope and believe. So let’s define it. So this term anti racism comes from Ibram Kendi, who wrote the book, How To Be An Anti Racist. And he says and I quote, “but there was no neutrality in the racism struggle, one either allows racial inequities to persevere as a racist or confronts racial inequities as an anti racist. There is not in between safe space for, quote, not racist. The claim of not racist neutrality is a mask for racism”. Can you unpack that for us?  That’s like, woah.

Kate Slater  12:27

Absolutely. That’s the core, that’s that’s really essentially at the core of, of what it is that I’m trying to do. And you’re, you know, Erica, your term agency is is a perfect way to describe that. So to unpack, unpack the idea of anti racism, I think what many white folks, maybe for the first time realized, especially this this past summer, in light of the racial reckoning is that all of their lives when they’ve thought I have not been actively racist, define that however you will. I have not actively harmed people of color. I don’t say racist things in company. You know, I donate to organizations, they have thought white people have thought that is enough. That is me not being racist. So I’m not, I’m not contributing to the problem actively.

Erica Mills Barnhart  13:18

I know I am a good person.

Kate Slater  13:20

Exactly. There’s, there’s kind of this, this, this false equivalency of if you’re not racist, you are a good moral person. And what I think many white folks have especially realized in in light of the racial reckonings this past summer is that they’re, by not doing anything, they are still contributing to the harm by not being actively anti racist by not interrupting racism by not, not just being neutral, but actively fighting for the side of good, aka, anti racism, they are actually continue to be part of the problem. And one of the things that that has really allowed, much of the racism that’s endemic in our society to continue is the inaction of a lot of well meaning white people. And that’s kind of the moment that we find ourselves in. A lot of white people have realized that by not living their lives in ways that are deliberately combating racism, in their actions, with their money, with their business, with their words, with their relationships, they are contributing to the problem. And one of the things that I think, to your point, the kind of idea of being a good person means you cannot be racist. One of the things that Ibram Kendi points out so beautifully in this book, and critically, I think, is that you can be a good person and still do racist things. When you begin to understand that as as Kennedy puts it being racist, and anti racist is not so much a noun, as it is a verb. It’s a way of living. It’s a way of conducting your life. It’s a way of moving through this world. You begin to understand that actually good people can at one moment, be actively anti racist be confronting racism where they see it. And then the next moment moment, excuse me, do something completely racist. And and I think that, you know, while, we all have to strive to be anti racist, and that is imperative and it’s critical and it is urgent, there also has to be this recognition that anti racism is something that you commit, you commit to as a white person to living your life in service of it’s not something you ever arrive at. Because in any given moment, if you are not being racist, you can be anti racist. And if you’re not being anti racist, you’re being racist. Sorry, that was a whole words.

Erica Mills Barnhart  15:39

Well and I think one thing that is important to understand is that the reason that the default is that it is racist is because that’s the, that’s the status quo in which we are living.

Kate Slater  15:48

Exactly, exactly.

Erica Mills Barnhart  15:49

And so we know about entropy.

Kate Slater  15:51


Erica Mills Barnhart  15:52

Very powerful force. Right? So absent, like an amount of action, that can combat entropy. You know, that’s where we’re going to come back to. So I just think, you know, this idea of being proactive versus sort of passive. I think it can also be helpful, like, I always put proactively anti racist, because there’s that intentionality around like, I’m, you know, I’m gonna, I’m going to put intention behind this.

Kate Slater  16:18

Absolutely. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  16:19

And so and also, I mean, you know, the word nerd in me when I read the whole thing I was like, I love that so much.

Kate Slater  16:26

It is, it’s really a very powerful way to think, yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  16:29

It is a very powerful thing. And I think back to this, like, I don’t want to let folks off the hook. But I, in my experiences, it doesn’t tend to be helpful if you if you’re stuck in this like, but I’m a good person, and I’m taking this personally. Right? So that would be more around shame, right? I feel shame, intrinsic to you and your identity. So I like I feel like this idea if it’s a verb is one of the most empowering gifts that can be offers those that are interested in changing the status quo, because in that you’re like, oh, it’s like, what books Am I going to read? Where am I going to order my books? Black owned businesses, what about black authors and just to get a different perspective? And then in in those actions, you start realizing like, ooh, if I don’t bring intentionality, most white people are just gonna, it’s gonna be white authors and you know, all of it.

Kate Slater  17:25

Because it is such a default, it is a thing.

Erica Mills Barnhart  17:26

Oh, and by the way, as you know, just being gracious, being gracious, not letting ourselves off the hook. But just being gracious, like, okay, you know, we just had the holidays, and I bought some books off Amazon. Yeah, that happens. You know, I didn’t make the effort, you know. But, interestingly, let’s just sidebar and this might be too much information for our listeners. But I did, I became committed to reading more authors of color, particularly women of color authors. And I have discovered Beverly Jenkins, who I want to go on record as saying national treasure. Do you know Beverly Jenkins?

Kate Slater  17:36

I don’t.

Erica Mills Barnhart  18:02

 That’s great, because you’re a little higher brow with your reading. She’s a romance novelist. She combines romance novels, you know all the like swoony goofy, slightly racy, naughty stuff with historical fiction.

Kate Slater  18:16

Oh, what a gift. Amazing.

Erica Mills Barnhart  18:19

She, and well, I mean, well written. And I learned so I just read one. Blanking on the title. We’ll put links to everything in the show notes set in just before the Revolutionary War. So yes, this is a love story. Absolutely. And by the way, one of the gifts of her books is, you know, from page two, how it’s that they end up together, there’s no mystery. There is no mystery, you know, oh, Charity is gonna end up with Nick. It’s gonna be great. So it’s just like a how is this gonna happen. But along the way, I learned, I mean, honestly, I feel like I know more about the Revolutionary War, and especially the role that blacks played in it, than I did in all my schooling.

Kate Slater  19:01

See? That’s, but this is a perfect point is that, you know, Beverly Daniel Tatum calls racism, the smog that we breathe. Yeah. And the point that that she’s making there is if we are white people, we are, we are absorbing whiteness, we are absorbing white supremacy, we are absorbing racism without even noticing it. To your point up until this year, it never, and I’m someone who does anti racism training. It never occurred to me to purchase my books from black owned bookstores. But that’s because my, my lens has always been whiteness as the default. And so to your point, I have to actively combat that conditioning. I have to actively try and dispel that smog that I’ve been breathing my entire life and actually actively seek out organizations, businesses, authors, writers, producers, creative people that that are not default white and I have to fight that every single day actively. And that’s how I, I attempt to be anti racist.

Erica Mills Barnhart  20:05

Yeah, you know, I’m mindful often when we start talking about these things that it’s that you know, and I’m like, I have to fight that every day. And like, it can feel very combative. And so I do want to offer to listeners who were like, that sounds scary, or don’t want to do it, you know, and I know some listeners are, they’re like, beyond there, they’re like, let’s get to how we integrate this into messaging. We’re gonna get there in a second. But also, it’s like, every scrap, I think of Mozart Guerrier, who was the executive director of an organization called 21 Progress, and he was on a panel, it’s a number of years ago, but also struck me, you know, somebody said, So no, I’ll paraphrase. He said, You know, people ask me why I’m such a fan of diversity. And he’s a black man. And he’s like, I just look at them. And I say, there’s no downside. There’s only upsides to more perspectives, and you know, all the rest of it. He’s like, I just, I don’t even understand the question, really type thing. So you know, everything’s better, actually. And this means ceding some power and a means opening our eyes and in ways that can be initially uncomfortable, and in some instances perpetually uncomfortable. That you’ve set up with somebody who’s like, if you’re really into this work, and you haven’t slightly peed yourself a couple times, probably you’re not really going at it hard enough.

Kate Slater  21:20

Right? Right. Because a huge part of reckoning with racism and trying to live your life as a white person in an anti racist way, is reckoning with all the ways that you have inadvertently or deliberately been racist in the past. And my God, is that painful?

Erica Mills Barnhart  21:36

It’s a reckoning, it is painful. Okay. So with all of that, and again, so two other things. So because I want to transition into how do we start integrating this into messaging, right? How do we verbify antiracism into our messaging to other episodes that I would recommend that folks listen to our Fleur’s episode on the language of racism, great context, and also one that I did with Marlette Jackson and Erin Dowell who wrote the Harvard Business Review article about woke washing, and how woke washing your company won’t do it. And so sometimes messaging can be it’s almost like you could schmear it on things. And that, that happens, you know, schmear, a little whatnot, diversity and inclusion and anti racism into my messaging. So before we go into this, I want to say, listen to those episodes, and really be ready to do the work. Like it is not okay, it is not marketing for good if you just integrate a couple words here and there but within your organization, you’re not living this. That’s that’s not that is not the intention of this conversation and the rest of the conversation in any way, shape or form. Not Okay, not marketing for good, bad marketing. So, okay, messaging central to our marketing efforts, I think we can all agree we need words, most of the time, all the visuals are really important, too. So when I work with clients, I use a framework that has two types of messaging, one I refer to as foundational messaging, and then you have messaging by audience. So foundational messaging, does not change by audience, right? This is the collection of sentences that communicate the why, what, who and how of your work. And since that shouldn’t change, depending on audience, we should not keep shifting on what we stand for. You may resequenced them, depending on who you’re talking to. But these really, these are the core essence of who you are. Whereas messaging my audience is linked to, you know, who is it? What are their motivations? And how do you, you know, want to engage with each other. So it is within these foundational messaging pieces that I want to talk through how we might integrate antiracism. And so I’m hoping what we can do is just talk through each one, and have a chitchat as we go. So so high level, I’ll say that the the four foundational pillars, messaging pillars are vision, purpose, mission, and values. So values is kind of underpinning. Now, I don’t want to hop too far down this bunny trail, but also brand personality matters in terms of how you externalize the messaging, sometimes those show up and external messaging, but really, they’re meant to inform the tone of your messaging. So I include them as a foundational pillar, however, for our conversation, because definitely all four of these pillars are, you know, meant for an external audience, but they have to be true internally first. So let’s start with let’s start with a mission statement, and then work backward. So we’re gonna go mission, purpose, vision values. Okay, so I think it’d be helpful for listeners, maybe, maybe, if I if I define or share how I define each of these. So in my context, which this is, by no stretch of the imagination, by stretch of the imagination, is this the only framework but I have found it to be useful for those who want to change the world. There’s lots of other ways to go about this. In this framework, mission is what you do and how you do it. So it’s the actions you take to get to your vision. And it brings your purpose to life. Your purpose as an organization is why you exist. So it’s your reason for being and grounds your work in meaning on a day to day basis. And it motivates your actions and guides you towards your vision. So it’s a why, nestled within another why, which is your vision, which is where you’re going, and why you’re going there. Right? So vision expresses what will be better in the world in the future, because of the work you’re doing today. And your inspiration, right. And all of these should be grounded in your values. So that which is the principles that guide your work, they shape culture, and that you know, there are commitments to how you will conduct business and treat others, they guide internal decision making and external engagement. Okay, so that was a lot. Also, listeners, if you’re like, wow, too much. There is an episode just going over this framework and unpacking these. So if your brain just exploded, go listen to that, and then you can come back to this one. Alright, so because this whole thing started with the mission statement, and you very adamantly saying, I think you said anti racist or anti racism, like it should have a, it should show up in that. Explain for us why you believe that that is where it should show?

Kate Slater  26:22

Well, that’s a great question. And I think that at the end of the day, I firmly believe that if a company, how do I put it this way? I think in light of the world that we’re living in, if a company isn’t naming the thing, then they’re not doing an adequate job. So what do I mean by that? I mean, I cannot tell you how many watered down statements about diversity, equity and inclusion, I have seen that don’t say anything. And this is the point that I’m trying to make. I think that one of the largest, I think one of the largest challenges that most organizations face when they’re thinking about their mission, and their thinking about their values, is they try to encompass everything, they try and put a big old DEI umbrella over sexism, homophobia, racism, ageism, ableism, you know, xenophobia, essentially, all of the different forms of oppression and marginalization that you see. And by putting the umbrella all over, over all of those things, they essentially don’t say anything. And as we have seen this summer, this past year, over the past decade, racism is alive and well, it is not so much, I was listening to a podcast a couple weeks ago, and they said it doesn’t so much make up the fabric of society as it is the fabric of society. And without, without sounding too much like I’m wearing a tinfoil hat when you think about the ways that racism operates in housing market, job market, economic sector education, it, it really does. It is the backbone that this country is founded on. And you don’t need to dig too deep into history to realize how how much it affects everything that we do, the ways that we live our lives, the ways that we conduct business. So my point is essentially by not naming that, by not naming racism, as the fabric of society, therefore, it guides everything that we do in businesses and organizations. You’re missing the forest for the trees in trying to encompass everything under that one umbrella. And-

Erica Mills Barnhart  28:34

Yeah, so from a messaging perspective, also, when you tell someone your everything they remember nothing.

Kate Slater  28:41

Exactly, exactly.

Erica Mills Barnhart  28:42

So we don’t want that anyway. And it is, so I’m a fan of mission statements that are no more than 12 words, including the name of your organization, I used to be 10. But I realized it’s actually can’t quite get there so I added two words. Part of the reason and oftentimes I work with clients, and oftentimes our mission statements end up being a bit longer than that. However, the experience of having to prune, prune, prune away everything except the essence and this is true for purpose vision about all of it, right, just that pruning, is actually this is a process that leads you to leaves you with that internal alignment that sustains it over time. So to your you know, to your point, like if you’re just sort of smearing, again, some of this language amongst a whole bunch of other things and a bunch of semi colons, so like we’re just gonna throw it all in the hopper. You know, for the most part, people can’t remember that, and it’s not really actionable. So if these statements aren’t actionable, what’s the point of investing time and energy into doing them, right? They are for marketing and for, the first job that they have is actually bringing internal alignment right they should be a recruitment tool for you, a retention. For you, and all sorts of other things, so so if it’s just a whole bunch of words, that’s not serving the organization.

Kate Slater  30:06

No, not at all, just like you say, the mission statement is like a lighthouse. But I think and so you should always be able to point to that beacon and say, this is what we’re working towards. But I think, to your point, and what we were talking about in the beginning, there’s this added dimension to it if you borrow Ibram Kendi’s you know, racist versus anti racism framework, because that’s a way of looking at your mission statement, and beginning to think, do the word, you know, do my 12 words, how could they be construed in ways that are anti racist? How can I use them to fight racism?

Erica Mills Barnhart  30:40

So what I’m curious about, okay, hear me out. I’m curious, if what you’re saying is, you need to be very committed to the language and not just, you know, put a whole bunch there as sort of like subterfuge or obfuscating or something, not some other big multisyllabic word. I mean, really, I think what you’re saying is that it should be one of your values?

Kate Slater  31:07

Yes, that is exactly what I am saying.

Erica Mills Barnhart  31:09

And it should show up everywhere. And so I’m curious about your thoughts, so if an organization was truly committed to this, it would be a value, anti racism would be a value. And then, if you’re, if you’re if that seriously thing, wouldn’t it find its way, it might open up the opportunity for to find its way more specifically, so what does that mean? In your vision? What does that mean, in your purpose? What does it mean in your mission?

Kate Slater  31:36

Yes, I believe so. I do. I think that so for example, Facebook’s mission statement is a great example. So Facebook’s mission statement, very piffy, to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Great, in theory, that is a great lighthouse beacon, right? You can always point to this kind of they’ve identified their mission as being open sharing of information, connect the world. Then if you take that and look at the values, the vision, the purpose in an anti racist versus racist lens, well, what are the ways that that mission could be construed to actually continue racism? How do we know that that Facebook, for example, allows open sharing of ideas? Well, what does that mean? If if people are openly sharing ideas that are harmful and oppressive and racist? That might be their mission? But does it align with their values? Does it align with their vision? Does it align with their purpose? And if you embed anti racism, into the framework that you use to look at all of these things in tandem, you know, maybe your mission statement doesn’t outright state the language of anti racism in those 12 words that you use. You know, but how do the vision, how do the vision statements and the values further guide and hone that moment to talk about the impact that you want to make in this world?

Erica Mills Barnhart  32:53

Yeah, and I think this is where, you know, so historically, we’ve talked about mission, vision, values. So purpose is sort of a new addition. And I want to give props to so the Evansville has an incoming Dean, Jodi Sandfort, who, you know, wants to do some of this work as right to sort of get us all settled? And are we all in the, headed in the right direction. And she feels very strongly about purpose. And so she really invited me to get more specific about the sort of job of each statement, because to me, it was sort of obvious. And I think one of the insights I have from from her invitation being, you know, sort of being given the opportunity to think about that more deeply, is that we sort of lumped the why together, right, so we’re making the vision statement and the mission statement do too many jobs, because we weren’t, didn’t have the rigor of saying the vision is is this like, you know, where are we going? And why are we going there? And I think that’s another place where, you know, we could be so much more specific about what does this world look like? Right? And how are you going to give voice to that? What do you really mean?

Kate Slater  33:59

Right? Absolutely.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:00

What do we really mean? And then purpose is how your organization very specifically, right? What’s your why? Why do you exist? That’s, that’s like the very existential thing, right? Yes, the answer might be, well, if that’s our vision, we might not be needed.

Kate Slater  34:16

Mm hmm.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:17

So that’s, I think, in some ways, you know, and especially nonprofits, who tend to be very heart driven, that that just would be that’s an uncomfortable truth.

Kate Slater  34:27

I agree.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:27

So we’ve sort of mushed, it’s like, we took purpose, and we kind of made some that go into the vision and some go into the mission. And and so I, you know, I’ve been using this and it’s been helpful in terms of the rigor for organizations to be able to say, Oh, this is this is our why. And then this is how we’re doing it right here. Here’s how we are bringing that to life. Right. So and when I heard your Facebook, which was a great example, that very much felt like a combo meal, have a little bit of mission, a little bit of purpose. Will you reread it, because I don’t know-

Kate Slater  35:01

Yes, so this is called their organization. This was from 51 best mission statements, a very helpful article, Facebook to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Erica Mills Barnhart  35:16

So I think their vision would be a world that is more open and connected.

Kate Slater  35:19


Erica Mills Barnhart  35:20

So what a great opportunity if we were if, if the if and I don’t know if they do, but if they were an organization that had antiracism as a value, what might what specificity might they add to that?

Kate Slater  35:33

Right. So a world that’s more open and connected? Do we mean a world that is more aligned around equity and social justice? Do we mean a world that is more liberatory for historically oppressed populations? Like by naming what a world that’s more open and connected looks like. Well, if you if you bear that out, you could say, a world that is more open and connected around white nationalist value. That’s the flip side.

Erica Mills Barnhart  36:00

I do want, yeah, I want to acknowledge, like, of course, Facebook, and all the platforms come up against freedom of speech.

Kate Slater  36:05

Exactly. And this is I think, the trickiness. And that’s one of the the Evil Geniuses and beautiful, beautiful things about unspecific mission statements that aren’t borne out by these values. If you’re not naming the thing, you can essentially do whatever you want. And and it’s all copacetic. Right?

Erica Mills Barnhart  36:25

Yeah. Yeah, I feel like that first part, to connect. Right?

Kate Slater  36:31

Yes, to give people the power to share.

Erica Mills Barnhart  36:32

Oh, to give people the power to share? Hmm. I mean, I wonder if that’s a, their purpose or their mission?

Kate Slater  36:45

Absolutely. Absolutely. I think, I just think a lot about you know, it in anti racist work, a lot of what we caution against actually, is having these kind of binaries of seeing things because stuff is very gray, you know, something that is anti racist in one light, might actually be racist in another light. And and, you know, even though Kennedy’s anti racist versus racist framework is very helpful, there is the danger of the binary there, because to your point, Facebook has in many ways used its its power to connect and share and make the world more open for good, there is a lot. I mean, think of how many social justice movements have really been rooted in Facebook. But then at the other, on the flip side, you’ve given a lot of people with these horrific, racist and oppressive views a megaphone. And, and everyone’s voice is treated equally. Well, that’s both a good thing in some contexts and a bad thing in other contexts. And so it’s to your point, you know, when you have this purpose, and a mission, that can be your lighthouse, that can be your beacon, but it’s shining on everything equally, right, it’s just kind of moving in a circle. And I think that’s where, to your point, the values and the vision of where you want to go is what gives it shape and context. And that’s where you begin to imbue antiracism into the work that you want to see in the world you want to create.

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:08

Yeah, I mean, again, I go back to parts of speech a lot to hang up. But I mean, values, by definition are nouns. I think, you know, listeners if you’re if you’re going to be doing this really first picking your nouns for the values, and also the nouns like a better world. There’s some adjectives that would be adjectives and nouns, right? Because it’s the world is a noun, and the adjectives are describing the better world. Purpose and mission are, you know, they’re about verbs, especially your mission. Action, what action are you taking, but purpose is also action plus why you’re taking that action. And that is actually I take a verb first approach to mission statements. We do you can ask any of my clients, they’re like, yes, we have to pick the verb first. And the reason is, because we default to nouns in the English language, because about 50% is nouns. And so we default announced which nothing bad with focusing on people, places and things. However, efficient is that action, then you end up with super boring verbs like provide.

Kate Slater  39:05

Yes, give thanks, Facebook.

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:08

Yeah, yes. Yeah. So you know, so it really, it’s a specific example of how you can bring rigor into the process, and yet not have a feel to everyone, right? So pick your verb verbs first, for mission and purpose, and then focus on nouns for the for the vision and the values. I mean, in terms of sequencing in general, I recommend doing values vision, purpose, mission, but sometimes, I mean, if you’re if you already have some of these things, and most organization are going to have mission, vision, values and not have purpose, I think that’s going to be sort of the new direction that that a lot of, you know, organizations and companies want to change the world that you’re gonna need all of these things, especially millennials and Zoomers, like they expect to know this about you or they are not going to buy from you.

Kate Slater  39:51

Oh my god, I just I just you know, I just read a report from McKinsey that essentially said millennials and upcoming Gen Zer’s we’re opting not to work for companies that have not explicitly put out an anti racist DEI statement in wake of the racial uprisings this summer. People want to know what you stand for-

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:10

They do, they do.

Kate Slater  40:11

And silence is speaks volumes, especially when it comes to anti racism.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:15

It does. And I go back to that article about woke washing won’t cut it by Erin and Marlette, which one things I really appreciate about as it gets specific. So if you read and you’re like, well, I don’t I don’t know where we stand. They’re like, here, here are some key indicators. But one of the things they say is having a diverse, equity, and, inclusion statement, whatever you might want to call it, because there were sort of all of a sudden a proliferation of them, however, is a great starting place, and not enough. And I really am and I don’t have an answer to this. But I really am wondering, you could have that statement. But if you’re living into values, vision, purpose mission, I feel like it’s a lens through which you should be considering everything. So not have it be a standalone, but instead be integrated into the foundation of who you are as an organization and how that shows up in your messaging.

Kate Slater  41:04

Absolutely. If you’re if you’re anti racist statement from this summer came out and used language and wording and verbs and nouns that were vastly different from your mission and values and visions and purpose, then that’s that speaks volume.

Erica Mills Barnhart  41:21

Yeah. And you know, if you did it good, I mean, yeah sure, there’s always organizations are like, well, I suppose ought to do the thing. I mean, it’s like greenwashing and woke washing this new green washing, right, ya know, and so there was a lot of sort of, you know, environmentally friendly statements that came out, and then you were like, wow, I don’t think you’re living that. And this is very similar, for those of us who are old enough to have lived lived through that. So again, like, if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, well, we did that we felt good about it. Well, good. I mean, if you meant it do, and now, again, all of this work, is working progress. It is action, it is verb. So now next action might be to see how that might fit in with these other statements, which are externalized. And it you know, I’m such a believer in the mission statement, because it’s what people ask, well, what’s your mission? For nonprofits. I mean, that’s literally the question, you know, what do you do? What’s your mission? And so, but, but just understanding that those are nestled into and a part of a complimentary to these other statements, I think is, is important going forward. I close every interview by asking guest the same question. So it has to do with inspiration and motivation. So inspiration etymologically speaking means to breathe in and motivation is to take action. So we need both in order to take action, we need inspiration. What inspires you and what motivates you to keep doing this work, Kate?

Kate Slater  42:44

I think what inspires me is, is educators writ large, you know, being, having done lecturing, and now being an Assistant Dean of Graduate students, the educators are doing the work. Oh, my God, they are out there making magic with precious few resources, they are underfunded, and they are overworked. And especially now in this pandemic, they deserve all the gratitude for keeping the wheels from coming off the bus. So educators inspire me. And what was the second question?

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:15

What motivates you?

Kate Slater  43:17

What motivates me? You know, it’s funny that you’re talking about mission statements, because one of the exercises I’ve done this year is creating my own antiracist mission statement, for 2021. Great exercise. And we’re, we actually have a worksheet that we’re creating in the next few days. So folks can go to my website and access that that document-

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:37

We will definitely put that in show notes. That’s awesome.

Kate Slater  43:39

Yes, it’s a 2021 antiracist roadmap to help you think about what you do. But to that point, what about what motivates me is thinking about the verb if we’re thinking about verbs to activate white people who don’t know where to start, but want to do better?

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:56

Oh, yeah.

Kate Slater  43:58

That’s really what I’m trying to do in 2021 is help white people hold each other accountable, and hold themselves accountable. Because this movement towards racial liberation is not going to succeed unless we’re on board writ large in mass. And so that means that we have to hold space for each other, but we also have to bring each other to the table as well as ourselves to the table again and again and again.

Erica Mills Barnhart  44:21

Oh, thank you. Great mission statement, Kate. Nailed it. Thank you so much for taking time to educate me, I always learn in every conversation and training I’m when I have time with you I end up being filled up. So thank you for educating me and offering your time and expertise to Marketing for Good listeners. I’m definitely a work in progress when it comes to all this I am. I am noun because I’m person but I you know, I’m a verb trying to trying to do this. So I really appreciate people like you and of course even Ibram Kendi and so so many others, who are gracious enough to help folks along the journey. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you listeners for joining us in this conversation today. As always keep doing good. Be well. And we’ll see you next time.

Ep 20: Dean Newlund: Mission Statements and Intuition

This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Dean Newlund on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


mission statement, people, intuition, question, purpose, mission, organization, culture, thought, feel, clients, ideas, align, companies, engage, externally, process, create, serve

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Hi, Dean. Welcome to the show.

Dean Newlund 


Erica Mills Barnhart 

So Dean, you are the founder and CEO of Mission Facilitators International, which is a boutique training and development firm based out of Phoenix, Arizona, although I just learned that you are physically based in Bend, Oregon, so I love that little mental mystery. So Mission Facilitators International, has the sole purpose of helping organizations become more connected to their purpose and their people. True?

Dean Newlund 


Erica Mills Barnhart 

So I’m curious out of the gate, how do you define purpose?

Dean Newlund 

Hmm, good starting off question there. Purpose can take on many different forms, but it’s on a personal level. I think when I started that exploration around purpose actually was a part of my coaching training way back like in the 90s. And there was a piece of that training that talked about having people identify what they thought their life purpose was, you know those big huge existential questions. The navel gazing exploration of why am I here? What is this life all about? What do I want to contribute? You know, something that was meaningful other than simply catching a paycheck or taking care of others. But you know, was there some sort of existential question that we were all asking? And I think that’s the case. And if it’s true of individuals around trying to figure out why we’re here on this planet, what this is all about, how do I want to contribute? Where do I add the greatest value? Then I believe the same is also true for teams and organizations. And so purpose is really that ultimate higher calling that sets into motion, energy and focus and goals and strategy and intention, whether it be on an individual level, a team level, an organizational level, and I remember one time I was doing a strategic planning session. No, it was a team development session with a group of people from Warehouser. And this guy stood up in the middle of this, he says, this has been great, we really got a lot accomplished, but I still don’t know what business we’re in. And I thought of all the people who would have a clarity around that particular question. He couldn’t answer it. And they had budgets that were very, very healthy. And they were the senior members of this whole group. And what caught me was that there was still a basic question about mission about purpose, even with those who had all the access to it and held all the privilege for it. So I think that everything falls into place. Once you have established that purpose. You know, you start setting goals around that you start aligning resources, you start to know what is inbounds and what is out of bounds, you start to know what I should say yes to versus no to. So it really becomes your Northstar. And I think that a lot of us are very much set up to be able to align with that.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

So where did Warehouser land in terms of a business their in?

Dean Newlund 

You know what, that we didn’t get to. That was a long time ago, but it was a good start. It sparked this, this fascination with me about at that time, the whole process of creating mission statements and they were so seen as these, you know, very dry almost, you know, create them and then put them on a bookshelf and never use them again. And I just felt that there was so much more that could be done not only in terms of what you could accomplish, but the way you could accomplish it that there was something about how we do what we do was as important as what we do. So the process of mission statement creation was an integral part of what this ultimate mission would be. So anyway, a long answer to a short question, but I don’t know what they ended up doing.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

So okay, you brought up mission statements so of course I’m going to go there, because I believe in mission statements. But they can you know, I’m gonna paraphrase what you were saying just now, which is they can end up being fairly transactional and uninspiring. And if you’re going to take the time to do them, that falls, you know, short of the mark I would say. But I love mission statements, I think for many of the same reasons you do which is that they can bring this clarity and you know, really serve as a North Star. Now I use Hildy Gottlieb very handy, she has a very handy thing that she wrote about in an article a while ago, which is if you add ARY to the end of vision and mission, you get a really clear sense of the purpose of a mission statement because I feel like where a lot of organizations and companies go wrong is that actually, they’re not sure what the mission and vision statements or purpose statements if you have those like what their job is, right, then they’re gonna lose sight of it. So then you bring all these people together then and I like let’s write a mission statement. And everybody yawns rolls their eyes, if you add ARY to the end of it. So you have visionary, right? So visionaries are the people who really say this is where we’re going, right. So for me, when I’m working with organizations, I put the why in the mission. And then the missionaries are the people who go out there, and they and they do the work. So that’s a little bit more about the what, who, how. However, if you look at the etymology of the history of the words, mission actually means to originally meant to remove or exchange, I think the religious spiritual sense that exchange piece is actually very interesting. And then later it meant to send, okay, so still in alignment. Um, but so in your experience, I mean, you’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, educational institutions, family owned companies in the US and 19 other countries. So I have a two part question one, do you think mission statements have a bad rap? And is there any, have you seen or what similarities, difference have you have you seen with different types of companies and cultures around sort of embracing and really leveraging using that word intentionally a mission statement?

Dean Newlund 

So first question, first or answer to that. Yes, I agree that there is a bad rap arounf mission statement. I think it’s for two reasons. I think that one, you made this comment that people roll their eyes around the idea of doing a mission statement. And it doesn’t have to be. People roll their eyes or bring in the analogy is sort of like getting your teeth pulled when doing a mission statements because the process is so dry if it doesn’t have much inspiration. And so here we are talking about maybe the most important thing that we’re doing and the process of that conversation is dry. There’s something wrong about that. So I think that part of the process, or part of the problem with mission statement creation is that we do it in such a way that is uninspiring. We need to engage people in the process of how we develop mission statements. It has to be fast paced, it has to be engaging, have to get the right stakeholders involved. And I love your analogies. I love the ARY at the end of it. I think that’s that’s a great way of describing it from a language perspective. I think the other reason why people have a bad rap or associated bad rap around mission statements is because they’re not used. They feel like the flavor of the month, they feel like we have to do this every year, to be able to appease the board of directors, we have to put it on our website. So let’s go crank something out. So there’s two hits against us with this respective mission saving creation. I really do think that if you can create moving to your second question about a mission statement that is compelling, that was fun, that was uplifting that the process of doing it brought us closer to meaning, closer to teaming, and that we felt really positive and hopeful about what you’re all about. Then if we make sure that we engage people in a process to follow through on that, this mission statement becomes like the hub of a wheel on a bicycle, and all of our strategies and goals and tactics come off of that hub and that we use this on a regular basis to help us make key important decisions. And what I’ve noticed in some planning sessions with companies is that they often will go right to goal setting and strategy without doing the mission statement piece first, and then we stumble over ourselves like, well, wait a minute, why are we having such a hard time with this? Well, because we haven’t taken care of these bedrock decisions first.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. Yeah. Well, and then, I mean, this is when I work with organizations and clients, I’ll say, like, what job do you want your mission statement to do? Because there’s this assumption about what it is now I’ve had, you know, clients who ultimately are like, you know, initially, we only want it to be for internal, you know, consumption, that’s all well and good. But what generally happens is, it is created by an internal audience kind of, it ends up being for an internal audience by extension, and then people put it on the website. So now we’ve gone from internal alignment, hopefully, to it being externalized. But if you don’t have that express intent from the get go your permission statements doing a job that it didn’t sign on to do, right? And then we get into what you were talking about, which is that, you know, your strategic planning, and we’re tripping all over the purpose, and then everybody gets very frustrated.

Dean Newlund 


Erica Mills Barnhart 

What about similarities and differences? You know, and I guess I’m thinking about different types of companies, but also you’ve worked in a variety of different countries and cultures. Is there a difference? Is there more similarities or differences in terms of how folks think about connecting purpose and their are people?

Dean Newlund 

Yes, and that’s a much longer answer, I’m sure to your question. But the culture is going to inform how we view purpose and how we view vision. So although I never did any sort of strategic planning in mainland China, although we did do training in China, around leadership, but that particular culture, those mores, those political and economic systems are going to inform how people view what their purposes and view what their mission is. And so I think that the mission statement is always a subset or certainly aligned to those larger cultural norms and mores. And you have to take that into account. It’s, it is a reflection of the people, it’s a reflection of the thinking. And it’s going to change based on whether it’s a nonprofit or for profit, or where the kind of work that you do or the kind of community you’re involved in, or what country you’re from, or even what language you speak.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah. I love the nod to culture. Um, so you do leadership development, and then also organizational development. Do you when you work with leaders, you have them create a personal mission statement?

Dean Newlund 

Often yeah. When we do say a larger scale culture work or it could be organization development. My sense is that these are all scaled, these are all connected. So, you know, the best run organizations are run by people who have a personal mission that they can align to. When you’re doing a mission statement with a team, I think it’s important to ally what is that person’s purpose, those values of the individual and can we align them? Can we say, in order for me to fulfill my personal vision or my personal purpose or mission, I get to do that as a way to satisfy what I’m all about. But it also just so happens to connect with what the organization is all about. And so now I’ve got this alignment. I serve self in the process of serving others and now all of a sudden there’s connection and you know, talking about, you know, Daniel Pink talks about this in his book Drive, that that third motivator, he talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose. Now we’re connected to a purpose that’s greater than ourselves. I think even talks about this that we now are feeling like our life has meaning beyond serving myself, Maslow, you know, the higher order of things. Now, I feel like I’m part of a greater community that I get supported by and they also support and when that alignment happens, boy, rock and roll time.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, I had a Akhtar Badshah on the show a little while ago, and he, he is now a colleague of mine, fellow faculty member at the University of Washington, but in a prior iteration of his career, he was head of philanthropy for Microsoft, and he’s coming out with a new book. Oh, goodness, I’m going to get the exact title, wrong shift, or shift-

Dean Newlund 

Mind shift? Or Purpose Mindset?

Erica Mills Barnhart 

It is about it’s about mind shift. But it’s about shifting from a me to a we mindsets.

Dean Newlund 

Yes. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

One I just you know, the me to we is always kind of not alliterative, but it’s like, you know, good, yeah, sound good. But he he is so passionate about that and then eloquent about putting in the context in different variety of contexts really, because he’s done so many things. And we’re recording this sheltered in place. And I mean, I’m sensing you know, from my very limited, very privileged vantage point is a yen for that shift to the we mindset in the collective, but with this tension of like, we cannot be in community physically very much, or, or if we are we need to be really mindful of that. I think that there’s a tension in that that is that is similar to what I’ve seen with, you know, clients that I work with, which is, you know, you line up all the individual, you know, the leaders mission statements or team members mission statements, however deep you’re going to go with that. And then there is this moment that I find where, you know, this depends on how you sequences work, obviously, whether it’s you know which one you do first. But there tends to be a moment where if you do it where you do the leaders mission statements first and then you do the organizational mission statement. I don’t know if you found this, that there’s this moment where there will be leaders who won’t see themselves in the organizational mission statement in the same way, possibly that they thought they would see themselves. And I’m curious if you found that in your work, and how you, you know, guide organizations through that?

Dean Newlund 

Yeah, if you have a certain level of trust in a team, where that kind of honesty and authenticity can come out where the individual has that aha moment goes, wait a minute, I figured out what my purpose is and it’s obviously not to be here. That happens. And when we do, you know, this sort of work large scale culture work, when we’re talking about organization development, those types of topics, we always tell the leaders be prepared, that there will be people on your team right now that might even be considered sacred cow, so to speak. That one, they will select themselves out, because they just don’t feel aligned with the direction you’re taking the organization, or they can’t rise up to it for whatever reason. Or you might have to say, we need certain level certain levels of behavior and leadership. And we now know what that looks like and you no longer fit. We’ll give you a chance to make those adjustments. But if you can’t, we will have to let you go. There is an organization out in Phoenix that we’ve done a lot of work with, and the leader was very clear. He stood up in front of the entire group of 40 people and he said, in the next two years, I would suspect that 30 percent of you will not be here. Not, because we don’t not because we don’t love you. And we do. It’s because you’ve sorted yourself out or in some of you just may not fit anymore. And so it was like, alright, you’re right. And that was true. He was absolutely spot on.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

I love that he was just so clear on that, because, you know, through clarity and attrition. And yet, well, you know, as humans, we crave progress and resist change that sort of fundamental level. So it’s quite rare for a leader to be able to see that far down and be like really quite okay with that. I don’t know. It seems like a lot of leaders interpret attrition negatively as opposed to being healthy. And don’t you want I mean, this is sort of waving a magic wand, and this can’t always be the case, but don’t you want an entire collection a team who every single one of them is here like clear on how they align with mission.

Dean Newlund 


Erica Mills Barnhart 

You can be there and do you want to be there?

Dean Newlund 

Yeah and I think that’s one reason, that’s the hope that everybody has. And we talk about it very openly. But the work to make that happen is sometimes painful, because we have to engage in conflict. Yeah, we have to get clear, like, this is what we want, this is what we don’t want. And if it doesn’t fit, then we need to make changes. So I think that a lot of times we create these environments, wonderful environments for engagement. And we want people to come in, come and play in our sandbox, we want you there, we’re going to create all these different opportunities for you to engage with us. But engagement is a two way street. So I was accountability. And so some of us may not want to play in our sandbox, some of us may not want to hold to the standards of the team and the organization, the mission, does that mean that we keep them on? Maybe we shouldn’t, maybe now all of a sudden that becomes one of the issues that we now have to deal with and then, you know, the mission statement creation work and culture work and all the other stuff that we’re doing has a bad rap because we say the right thing, but we don’t follow through with it.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know how you, I have my clients tease me, sometimes my students tease me because I have such a specific way of approaching mission statements. Because I have a verb first approach to mission statements. So I don’t write and I don’t I don’t ever have clients write a mission statement out of the gate. I have them pick a verb. Do you have a similar? That won’t be the same thing but or do you let them write a sentence?

Dean Newlund 

I’ll tell you exactly what we do. Take it run with it and turn it upside down. And this is always evolving, right? But what we first do, one of the things we do out of the gate is we give everybody a chance to ask themselves, I mean, you can do a SWOT analysis and you know, kind of get where we are right now and all that kind of stuff. That’s that’s sort of like the first starting off point. When finally get into this whole thing about mission statement creation, we break it down into five questions, real simple stuff. Who are we? What do we do? For whom do we do it? How do we do it? And then the Big Kahuna, Why? And then we-

Erica Mills Barnhart 

And you put all of that into one statement?

Dean Newlund 

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

How many words did they get? Because I only allowed 10 words.

Dean Newlund 

And it’s great. We all have a different, you know. Yeah. So let me back up, though, how did this happen? So then we give everybody a chance just to start off with words, answering those questions. Who are we? And they have three by five cards and they write down the answer to that question. They gotta really think about it. And then they go to another card, maybe it’s a purple card and write down the answer to what do we do and then we have another card and like, what do you, for whom do we do it? And then they get all these cards done, these five cards done, and then we collect them all up, shuffle them up, and then we get people into teams. And then one team is the Who are we team. The next team is that what do we do team, so on and so forth. They review all this information, they have to think about it, they have to then summarize it on a flip chart. And then we all take a look at all this information. This data, we got to talk about it. Sometimes the talking is the most important part because this is where the decisions happen. There was one organization I remember several years ago, they were in public, they were in promotional materials, and so forth, hats and scarves and coffee mugs and all that schwag. Yeah, they were great in that they were one of the bigger players at the time. And they all thought that they were clear on who we serve, ie who our clients were. And then we went through this whole process and went wait a minute, half of us think that our clients are this and the other half thinks our clients are that that’s why we’ve had so many problems on execution. That’s why we’ve had so many conflicts around what we should be pricing these things because half the people thought that we should give it to anybody who could write a check. And the other half said no, we should give it to only this type of high level client. And they didn’t realize that they had all these assumptions. And so what this does is it helps uncover these assumptions. And a lot of discussion happens. Finally, we get to the point where we get the teams to then write their own mission statement based on answering those five questions. And then we have at end of that, individuals have to go up and vote on each of these mission statements breaking it down into who are we, what do we do, for whom to do it, why? On a one to five scale, and then numerically we write we see from a numbers perspective, which is the best mission statement, which often is not. They get fives in all areas, right? They sometimes have to we have to,

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Oh so there’s a valence, so 1 to 5.

Dean Newlund 

Yeah. So they’d have to move it around a little bit.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Now, do you let people use dots, a really important facilitator question. Are you pro sticky dots or anti sticky dots?

Dean Newlund 

You know? Sometimes yeah, it’s not like the thing I have, like, I’ve got a big box full of stuff. That’s not necessarily the thing I do a lot of but you know, there’s other ways you can do voting, you can do electronic voting, you can do other types of things.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

But underneath the sticky, the sticky dot, which I hope all listeners understand what I’m talking about, it’s a little bit 90s even, you know, like, literally, it’s a little dot that you can stick on posters, or big sheets of paper or whatever. But underneath that, actually is a really substantive question, which I feel like isn’t always surface, and I like to surface really early in the process, which is what is the decision making approach that you’re going to take? And is it you know, isn’t democratic, so like everybody thought, less democratic and then what you’re implying and that isn’t everybody is an equal decision maker.

Dean Newlund 

Right on.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

So I’m curious how do you elevate that early in, you know, when you elevate that in the process, and then how does that you know, flow?

Dean Newlund 

Brilliant, thank you for bringing that up. Now that’s a really, really good point because a mission statement meeting whether it be two days, half day, whatever you’re doing,

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Some listeners were just like two days for the mission? Yes, people absolutely, yeah. And but it can be fun.

Dean Newlund 

Oh, tremendous. We have a tremendous, a lot of fun.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

I can tell that you have a lot of fun with your clients.

Dean Newlund 

Well, we also, it’s what we do, this is a sidebar to your question. So I want to get back to this other one. But I think that as you develop your mission statement, you need to continue to develop your team. They have to happen at the same time. Now you can’t accomplish everything in the matter of a couple of days. Right? Right. But we sprinkle in other types of things that help the communication, the trust, problem solving and to your point that decision making. So yes, this is a this is a meeting like any other meeting, maybe it’s two days, but even an hour long meeting you need to clarify upfront, what is the decision making process is this consensus, great then nobody leaves until we all decide but maybe the maybe the outcome is not appropriate for consensus. You know, the fire is coming in the house? Do we need to have a consensus right now? No, we need somebody to, you know, take control and lead us through this right? But or do we have, is this a meeting where we want just a lot of ideas, and then the subject matter expert of the team leader or a small group would decide from there, absolutely set that up in front because it informs the role that these people need to play. And then they don’t have to feel upset that their idea didn’t get used, because it was never intended to be consensus.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, I mean, with the process will often say I’m democratic at the start and draconian at the finish. And what I mean by that is, I think you just you know, you want everybody’s, it’s the mission for crying out loud and the vision and you depending on what work you’re doing, but you want everybody to be able to have their voice heard. And then I’m super clear, that doesn’t mean that your word because inevitably everybody has a word that they end up wanting to see in the mission statement. This is also by the way, how we end up with semi colons and mission statements which should never happened in my book. But you say up front, hey, hey, we want to know how you feel about this. This is important, your voice, your heart, all of it is important. But please, you know, just know that there’s gonna be a process. And at some point, what comes out the other side, you may not see your word but please know that everything you share with us is factored in. The adoption, uptake impact of those statements is so much freer, easier, greater just by that little and it’s just like a little teeny expectation management piece.

Dean Newlund 

So to speak on that real quickly. I think that if you want to include the people who are going to be in charge of implementing the mission statement in the creation of it, and I think you were alluding to that, yeah, better alignment. People like go, wait a minute. I’m now on the front line. I’m a manager of 20 whatever, I helped create this.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. And in a way to paraphrase that as I see myself in that statement, exactly. You know, and that’s, that’s so that’s empowering you and it gets you through the tougher days. Okay. I want to be sure that we talked about intuition.

Dean Newlund 


Erica Mills Barnhart 

Can’t only talk about mission statements even though I love them. You have a podcast called the Business Intuition.

Dean Newlund 

Yeah, I do.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

So the English essayist, who you probably know, Thomas, who wrote a lot about intuition. So he said, the intuition is “a superior mode of cognition, which is both simultaneous and holistic.” I read that and was like, well, that sounds amazing and awesome. Who wouldn’t want that? And yet, intuition, I feel like somehow in a business context is often seen as less than or not as rigorous as, you know, data and facts, empirical evidence, those types of things. So, you know, does intuition have a marketing problem?

Dean Newlund 

Absolutely it does and I think it has has gotten a bad rap, maybe in the same way that mission statements have. And I actually do think that there is a relationship between mission statement creation, which is all about purpose and what, what, where there is meaning and this idea about intuition. We’ve had such a long run on having companies say, we want database decision making. We want science to back up what we decide to do. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I would say, absolutely. I just think that it’s not the whole story. I think that we’re missing other types of information. I think we’re also not engaging people in conversations, simply because they’re not that subject matter expert. I’ve been in board meetings, and I’ve been in meetings with executives, and there’s somebody in HR, who has a strong feeling about something but doesn’t speak up because that person doesn’t have facts to back up that particular idea so they keep quiet. And when people start keeping quiet, then you start having organizations stop tapping into that whole innovative engagment power that they should be doing, and good ideas and, and extra effort starts being cut off. And that’s when you start having problems. And then it becomes a fewer group of people that are actually leading the organization, but with the whole organization sort of leading itself.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yet the other troubling thing about that, well, one, and I want to underscore this for listeners, especially those of you who are leading organizations or teams, which is folks who and it’s often kind of a contrary, possibly a contrary view in a conversation, and then they don’t have evidence or data to back it up, it is based on their lived experience. And those if there is’nt the culture to back to your earlier point, a culture that supports speaking up they go quiet, and that is such a bummer for that individual. And, you know, I just I can I can envision many you know, working with so many clients and see these individuals and it breaks my heart because they don’t feel safe enough to say you know, my spidey senses are telling me this. But the interesting thing also about intuition is, so let’s go back to this idea of like, you’re going to do a mission statement and you do a SWOT analysis, which is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. I’m sure all of our listeners know that. But just every time we use an analogy, we should say what it means. Which is very externally focused, and rightfully so to a certain extent, but I also feel like we are so oriented. Externally, what do you think, what are other people doing? You know, what are other companies doing? And that there is a liability in relying to much on external factors and not being really centered on internal wisdom and the intuition and the lived experience which is an asset that sits within every single company and organization.

Dean Newlund 

Well put.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

That concerns me, I don’t know. It bums me out. I’m like you’re such a huge asset. What are you doing looking externally all the time, and part of this is FOMO fear of missing out, just to seeped its way in to company culture in such a way, it’s like, oh, you know, what’s our creditor doing? What’s also doing? It’s like, what are you doing? What are we doing?

Dean Newlund 

Right? Well, you know, our process around what you just described, you know, keeping things focused on data, and facts and information is really a function of our mind. And the mind is really focused on security and control. And so if that’s what we’re all about, then that’s what we’re going to get. Intuition is more about freedom and possibilities. And so it’s a great way to generate-

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Oh, say that again, Dean that’s so good.

Dean Newlund 

Freedom and possibilities.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Okay, so intuition is about freedom and possibilities. And data is about safety.

Dean Newlund 

For the mind, in the big M, you know, the left brain that the mind around our thoughts, you know, we think we talk about thought leaders, you know, these are ideas these are okay, but security and control is really aligned up with the mind. And then intuitions more lined up with freedom and possibilities. And there is, there’s a different word there’s a different lightness when you start imagining freedom and possibilities, versus security and control, right? And-

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Is one predicate, and on the other? I am thinking about Maslow’s higher hierarchy and how we need to feel safe like to cover off on the bottom of the pyramid in order to self actualize at the top of the pyramid.

Dean Newlund 

I don’t think that they’re related. I think that you do not necessarily have to have safety and intuition be somehow mutually inclusive, that you’re like, Okay, I gotta get myself safe. And then once myself is safe, then I can be intuitive.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Well, when you say it in that tone of voice Dean.

Dean Newlund 

I know it just doesn’t feel right. Right?

Erica Mills Barnhart 

I can still make a case for it, though.

Dean Newlund 

I know I’m sure you can.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

But I would use a different tone of voice.

Dean Newlund 

I am marketing my point very well. But you you’d have a sense. You have a sense. You might be able to and I think that the language you’re a linguist you understand language better than most is that we don’t have words to do the work of describing intuition. It doesn’t show up with our brain to find a word we struggle with it. That’s why we say I don’t know what it is. It just sort of feels right or feels wrong. And it shows up physically in our gut. Why we say our gut it’s not just a word. It’s there are biological reasons why there is a word that says it’s in my gut. We have tension in our shoulders, we have a big deep breath happens when we all of a sudden find truth. When we find truth in something there is a release the release is, at least I’m there, doesn’t mean our world has changed. I still might be in COVID-19 I still might be locked down in week 17 but at least-

Erica Mills Barnhart 

I think it is week 104,098.

Dean Newlund 

That’s what it feels like, right? But the point is, what do you feel-

Erica Mills Barnhart 

There is that there’s like-

Dean Newlund 

Yes. So intuition does not have to happen after you feel secure.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, I remember working with a researcher. And we were talking about intuition and that gut instinct. And she pointed out that actually, our gut instinct is data. It is millennia of, of data lived experience that accumulates, and each of us sort of possesses in this lifetime, some sort of share of that. And then we scaffold on our own lived experience. So a gut instinct is data. It’s just not necessarily externally quantifiable. And we’d like to be able to the touch stuff, you know, it’s that I can’t touch that.

Dean Newlund 

And we like to touch stuff because we want to have control over, if I can see it, smell it, touch it. It’s gotta be real. Yeah, there’s so many things that are far beyond that level of understanding the pattern recognition, you know, the it’s almost the subconscious starts getting involved. It’s like I go running and what I do after the end of my run is I always often not all the time, but there’s some things ideas start to come into my mind because I’m not trying to think of anything.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yes, this is why I do value space consulting actually one of the many reasons but it’s because I say to clients, I don’t think you want me to bill you hourly because most of my best ideas for you are going to come when I’m running, when I used to be able to run, doing NordicTrack, maybe a little bar boxing. I don’t know running some hills, like really do you want me to bill you for those hours and are always like, Well, no, because you’re working out I’m like, getting some really good ideas for you. Right? Because it you know, jiggers your brain differently.

Dean Newlund 

Exactly. You gotta break the pattern of thinking otherwise you will continue to be addicted to the same pattern.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

I think yes, Dean. That word is really an Important, which is that we do get addicted, meaning we can’t stop something through our thought patterns. And I mean, I’m a huge fan of cognitive behavioral therapy for that reason. And you know, dialectical behavior theory, and that ability to disrupt and interrupt those thoughts, because and I don’t mean that in a judgy way, like, we’re addicted to bad thoughts. I have those too. We all have it. But how do you interrupt it and reprogram it? It’s so important.

Dean Newlund 

Often, it’s just you have to physically do something different. Like why do we always shave with the right side of my face first, and then go to the left? And why do I go to the grocery store on that street versus this street?

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Why do I always floss my teeth in the exact same way every morning?

Dean Newlund 

Why do I do it that way? Why don’t you just disruptive. So literally, the neural pathways in your brain starts to get rewired to other parts of your brain because you’re now doing something physically different than you did before. That’s why travel is so cool. I’m rewriting neural pathways. You have new experiences you meet new people, new cultures, new languages, new new foods, you know, all those things are so important. And that’s why this is so tough with this COVID is that we’re staying in the same pattern every day.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. I mean, really getting into pattern for most. Yeah. There’s also speaking of safety and security for many of us who like structure, like patterns. You know, please don’t hear Dean and I say break all your patterns, but I will, I will out that yesterday morning I generally floss left to right, then bottom and that, you know, and I tried it in the opposite direction, and was like, man, this is uncomfortable. I do not like this. It’s like, that’s so stupid and little, but I could feel you know, if I can quiet my mind, and my body’s just enough. It was like, oh, it’s I mean, it’s super cool when you do those little silly things. And you can feel the neural pathways almost like, you know, like giving each other a hug.

It’s true. My brother in law is  named Douglas Diehl that he actually, we have a podcast, as you mentioned, called the Business of Intuition and his episode went live today. And I was listening to it again. And he’s a fine artist. But he also has a lot of background in running businesses. And so he’s very analytical, but he’s also can use this very creative side and it’s very intuitive side. And he was telling me, he said, You know, I could actually feel my brain go from the left side to the right side of thinking, it’s a physical feeling when I start having an intuitive experience versus an analytical experience.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

I wish everybody could see you, Dean is on video and he has this like thing going on, where he’s like, both hands going from one side to the other side, one side to the other side.

Dean Newlund 

I started to pay attention to that myself and I begin to realize there is a physical sensation in your thought patterns inside of your head, going from one side to the other. And if you pay attention to that, I think you can start to also open up to more intuitive thinking and more intuitive experiences.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. I want to ask you about creativity actually, before I let you go, because creativity plays such a key role in marketing, and you have an acting background. And so based on this, I inferred I was saying assumption, but I mean, I’m just saying inferred instead because it sounds better, that you have some sort of creative streak or value creativity. I could be wrong on this. But I am curious if you’ve, you know, your thoughts on the relationship between creativity and intuition? And have you found anything to say that, like, creative people are more intuitive or intuitive people are more creative? Like, is there any interplay there, that listeners might be able to learn from?

Dean Newlund 

I’m just going to take a stab at this because I can’t you know, I’m not a neuroscientist and, and that’s one reason why I wanted to do the podcast so that I could learn more about this. It wasn’t just to get the word out. I think that the creative process is certainly intuitive, for sure. And it has a focus on the item in which you’re trying to be creative. You are a writer, somebody is a painter, somebody is a dancer and so the intuitive process has this creative mesh that’s going in a direction going in their mission going in their North Star, and it’s in its has the focus. And I do actually think that that is part of what intuition is about is that there is a question that we’re asking that the intuition is going out to scan the answer, and it might come now might come in the middle of your sleep. And so in a way, we’re giving the question, how do I turn this white canvas into a beautiful painting of the mountains? How do we turn this dance move into something that’s really artistic? So we’ve actually asked the brain to go to work for us on something and I think that intuition can actually happen the same way. It may not necessarily be about a piece of art, quote, quote, unquote, but it could be about what should the vision be for our company? How do I engage my customers in a in you know, the development of new product? How do we serve our community? In ways now that we’ve never been able to? How do we pivot in an industry that has been shut down by COVID-19? And how do we create a new approach to serving our community and at the same time making money at this? So I think we have to ask the question, and then let the intuitive mind go to work, the creative mind go to work, that at some other point might come back with some sort of ideas. If you’re paying attention.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah, yeah. And if you’re in if you know, if you’re gonna voice that vocalize it, that you’re in a culture where you feel like you can do that and not have to have a spreadsheet necessarily to back it up.

Dean Newlund 


Erica Mills Barnhart 

I do, you know, I feel like if we’re going to talk about intuition, we also have to talk about sort of propensity to project so to say that our experience will work for somebody else, you know, which is a bit of a liability. So just that there’s a difference between projecting your opinions. I always use the example of because I’ve worked with so many organizations where they’ll have like a really young, you know, marketing coordinator who’s like, let’s do events, I love events, don’t you love events? And yeah, you know, those of us who have, you know, kids, you know, you just like or you’re introverted, or you can’t get there now, you know, we’re like, I’m not going to an event. So it’s a classic like, bit of projection that happens isn’t necessarily strategic. But the intuition and strategy and being strategic are very complimentary. And I think as long as you’re aware of that propensity to project that you can mitigate that and yet still surface again, I think of intuition as an asset, an internal asset.

Dean Newlund 

I think you can mitigate that self promotion or that projection, as you were saying, If what you are really tuning into is a question around how do we make sure that we engage everybody? How do we allow for all, what is the highest and best for this team? What is the highest and best for this organization? What is the highest and best for this person? And if that’s your intent, and your intuition starts bringing you back some ideas around that, then it’s not about me. I am not here to serve self, I’m here to serve something higher than myself. I’m here to serve the community of us, versus the singularity of me. And when you have that sort of idea around what intuition is, and you feel that there’s a sense of like okay. Then you then what you do project out, when you do communicate is in service. It’s not in promotion.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. That’s, that’s great. That’s fantastic. All right. I asked every guest this last question. So the history and the root of the word inspiration means to breathe in. So to have breath and motivation means to take action. So I am curious, so we need both. We need breath inorder to take action. What inspires you and what motivates you?

Dean Newlund 

Hmm. So many things that inspire me. Beauty inspires me. Natural resource, you know, the outdoors inspires me and people inspire me. Their awareness, their insights, their, their joy, their love of life. I’m very inspired by other people, ideas inspired me. I’m giving you more than one answer. Motivation is to contribute, I want to contribute, I want to be a part of I want to be included. I want to include others. I want to build community and to fulfill on why I think I’m here and why others are here. And it’s really more than just, it’s about joy and it’s about self expression. It’s about freedom. And it’s about contribution.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

I love that. You’re a busy guy, Dean. And I appreciate you taking time to be on the Marketing for Good podcasts to talk to us about intent and intuition and to humor me and to have a long chat about mission statements because I really do feel like they are important.

Dean Newlund 

I love them. They’re great.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

They’re good. Thank you. High five.

Dean Newlund 

All right. Thank you so much, that was lovely.

Erica Mills Barnhart 

Yeah. Thank you purpose driven listeners for joining us. Do good, be well and we will see you next time.

Ep 25: Wendy Chamberlin: Does Poverty Have a Marketing Problem?

This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Wendy Chamberlin on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


poverty, people, donors, philanthropy, marketing, constraints, solution, problem, communities, money, markets

Erica Mills Barnhart  00:13

Well, welcome to the show, Wendy. You do such interesting, very interesting and very important work. The more I learned about it, the more I was like, wow, this is fascinating, and this is needed. So we’re going to talk about whether or not poverty has a marketing problem. We’re going to get there. I’m wondering if you’d be open to it, can we start just by hearing how you got into doing what you’re currently doing with the Boma Project from Kenya? How’d you get there?

Wendy Chamberlin  00:46

Um, there’s two stories. The one that goes back like 25 years is when after college I had a volunteer teaching assignment in northern Kenya and I got a chance to teach in part of East Africa that I knew nothing about. And I also learned how difficult it was to, for entities and NGOs to operate in the area because the area is characterized having like really low infrastructure, the only part of the A2 highway from Cairo to Cape Town that wasn’t paved ran through northern Kenya. It was known for having a lot of banditry and just tensions between communities and was very prone to droughts, and other just reoccurring environmental experiences that left communities in a lot of shock. And so I left northern Kenya thinking a lot about that experience trying to understand how to get into development, and eventually found my way working at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and was doing a Google search, this is about seven years ago saying who the heck is doing work in northern Kenya. It’s really hard for stuff to stick there and not have it just be humanitarian response. And I stumbled across this organization called the Boma Project and got really intrigued by their work, partly because it wasn’t an outside NGO bringing in a solution, it was an NGO that was focused on having local talent, people from the community delivering a solution in a way that was really contextually appropriate and responsive to the needs of the community that it was working in and I got really hooked on that. And through a series of interventions, the Boma Project ended up winning, being one of 19 awardees for a big RFP at the foundation. And I got to know them closely on the donor side and fell into this world of understanding or trying to learn I should say about something called poverty graduation programming and, and poverty graduation programming is much of what Boma does which is it has a this approach, a multi sectoral approach, in what we say, to addressing the pernicious sticky issues around extreme poverty. And instead of saying, oh, if a person just has a bank account, then they’re no longer poor. And we know that not to be true. It looks at what kind of person pay for their school fees, their kids school fees, can they do they have money so they can pay for health care? And if a drought comes and wipes away their livestock, can they still be resilient and withstand that shock. And that’s the type of approach that poverty graduation undertakes is to build resiliency, through job skills, training and ongoing mentoring and coaching for a period of time. And being a bit of a data geek, I wanted to look at the research behind it. It turns out there’s a whole host of randomized control trials that look at the effects of this type of programming to say yes, this works even in the long term, even after you and your intervention and sure enough, the results show that at scale that, you know, seven years after somebody goes through this type of programming, which I can explain in a bit, they they still are considered resilient, their savings grow, their assets grow, and their family is able to absorb shocks, which is really what you want to see happening when people are taken through a type of intervention to help move them from one point to another point. I found that working in northern Kenya, and I just got sold on it. I also wanted to move my family to Kenya and I wanted my kids to have a chance to live overseas and grow up in a different country for a period of time. And I wanted to understand, I’d spent a lot of time looking at philanthropy and understand funds. I wanted to understand the implementation side. And I also needed to kind of put my money where my mouth was, I spent a lot of years on the philanthropic side saying go and scale and go work with these partners and now that’s exactly what I’m doing and I am feeling it directly. So long answer, but that’s how I am where I am. We moved to Kenya a year ago and we’re learning to adapt and adjust to a new environment.

Erica Mills Barnhart  05:11

And you made a choice to stay there when COVID was becoming a thing and you’re still there.

Wendy Chamberlin  05:19

And we’re still here. And we’re glad we’re still here because we have, well, Kenya has its challenges. At the same time, we were privy to consistent communication about how what’s happening with the spread of the virus. There’s just a lot of adoption of approaches to keep people protected. And honestly, it’s, my kids get a chance to be outside in a completely different environment and culture and see things and do things that they don’t have access to, which is an enormous privilege. And it gives me, the work I do a chance also to work firsthand on like, really relevant solutions and how we respond in light of COVID-19 too, that would be harder to do where I am in the US.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:13

Yeah, and you were saying that, that they that Kenya, like shut everything down after three cases.

Wendy Chamberlin  06:19

Yeah, it was March 13. Kenya had like around three cases and the government shut down all the schools. And then they went through even more restrictive measures across the country. We had a geographic lockdown, which meant we couldn’t leave Nairobi, the evening curfew still in place. Like stock markets are closed. All kinds of restrictions were put in place and a large majority of them were just lifted last month. But it was really meant to contain the spread because most of the virus has been concentrated in population dense areas like Nairobi, Mombasa, other areas.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:53

And you were saying before we get to poverty, I want to talk about the marketing of masks. Just for a moment. Will you just, will you share the messaging that came out around masks very early on?

Wendy Chamberlin  07:07

Yeah. You know, around actually was around Easter time because I remember we were, we were on a drive and the ministry of health was coming out with public announcements. They were actually quoting scripture which I don’t remember what it was, but it was essentially wear a mask, you know, do this in service of your neighbor because you care about, you know, we care and take care of one another, and wearing a mask is a way that we can show each other, you know, we can do that humbly and serve one another. And that’s honestly how a lot of people talk about wearing a mask here is like, I would of course, wear a mask because maybe I have been in touch with someone who has it and so I want to protect you and those around you. And the side version of that is like we we live in a country that has a health system that was working to respond rapidly to the spread of the disease, but is nowhere ready at full scaled to responding to people know that these interventions will be life saving. And so they’re willing to undertake those interventions. And so you don’t have the same sort of pushback of like, people feeling like a mask, wearing a mask is taking away their personal civil rights.  Yeah, yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  08:19

Yeah. And it sounds like I mean, I don’t know if this was what they were quoting, but that’s like, the super old  school messaging around, which is do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  So thank you, I’m just I’m appreciating hearing how different you know, within the US, obviously, lots of different approaches. But I really appreciated hearing you know, these international perspectives and it does so frequently go back to the marketing of individualism which is just part of the DNA of the United States. So watching that play out is super interesting.

Wendy Chamberlin  09:06

It’s interesting from here, because people ask me or tell me, well, you made a really good choice not to go back to the States, what’s going on? And that’s telling, and that’s people who have a different set of means that I have, but who would be are really, really concerned about the state of things happening in the US.

Erica Mills Barnhart  09:25

Yeah, yeah, really fair. Okay, so that makes me think of othering. Right, and how we all we all sit from our place of, you know, our lived experience, and we make all sorts of assumptions about other people. And then I think that that gets amplified because I think the further away you go from what you know, your assumptions become probably further from the truth. Just because you because you don’t know. And so I think that’s really relevant to this question, which was the subject line of the email that you sent me said, does poverty have a marketing problem? And honestly, as soon as I read it out loud, it’s just me in my office. I was like, yes, it does. And I thought this for such a long time, because way, way, way back when I did work in micro-finance. And one of the things that was always shocking to people was to learn and just to open their mind to the fact that people who happen to be living in poverty were actually excellent credit, I am air quoting, risks. They were really credit worthy. And so you know, when I when I talked to donors about that, or just was chit chatting with people about micro-finance, they were like, but what, how is that even possible? And I think that says so much about the marketing problem that poverty has, which is that we do have all these preconceived notions about it. Like with so many things, we bring our own biases to the idea of poverty, our own privilege, our own lived experience, or lack thereof, as it relates to poverty. And then we make a bunch of assumptions. So I had to look up where the word poverty came from because I love etymology. That’s, you were talking about your data geek streak. That’s my dorky streak, as listeners know. So I learned that it came the word poverty came into the English language in the 12th century. I don’t know what happened prior to the 12th century about how we would talk about poverty or not, but an immense misery or wretched condition. So not a strong start. Then we get poverty stricken in 1803, poverty line in 1901, and poverty trap in 1966.

Wendy Chamberlin  11:41

Oh interesting.

Erica Mills Barnhart  11:42

Yeah. So I just think the, so where it came from, does say a lot I would say about how we think about it. And that combined with this idea of many of us, myself included, do not have you know, we haven’t lived it and we have a lot of people assumptions about it. So that meant, you know, a piece of marketing there’s always this like for whom are we optimizing? How do I get into their mind and heart? So there’s that like projecting itself into other. But with poverty, there’s just something different that’s happening. So what made you ask this question about does poverty have a marketing problem?

Wendy Chamberlin  12:26

With COVID 19 oh, a few things. So, where I work in northern Kenya, the communities in which I work, they’re called pastoralists. Pastoralists are people who earn their livelihood through livestock, and they are semi nomadic, which means they are, their houses are temporal. And so and that has been the prominent livelihood activity of people who live in northern Kenya, which is an arid, semi arid land area. It’s like it is the desert. So people, know livestock, and that is livestock is their full way of life. And it’s an area also that in the 1963 constitution that Kenya adopted after left colonialism, they made a commitment that basically said, we’re not going to invest in this area economically, we’re just going to leave it be. And that didn’t change until the 2012 Constitution when they rewrote an article and said, we will now invest economically in this area. And this is an area that it covers more than the country of Ireland in size and is about 6 to 8 million people. So it’s not like a small area and there are northern Kenya is everywhere. In Sub Saharan Africa. They are characterized as being last mile, which is really if you imagine the last mile of a road, it’s where the road might cut off because there’s no infrastructure. There’s areas where there’s no electricity, there’s no, there may be buildings, but they are not completely finished. And so that context matters because it sets the scene for also understanding what typically might be in place for economies to thrive and continue to grow. And when you have infrastructure, when you have investment in communities when you have a tax base that can contribute as part of this too, that means you get schools with teachers, and you have industries that are attracted to an area and all these other things that grow and grow and create jobs and create opportunities. When you don’t have those things, and when we talk about this under investment that took place for such a long time, it means that it has what we see happening is that people have been sort of removed from the opportunity equation because of a lack of these things being in place, and so many of the people who live in northern Kenya are characterized as being extreme poor, and the SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals, even SDG one has a definition around extreme poverty, which is, you know, people who live on $1.90 a day or less, but people who are extremely poor don’t walk around saying I have $1 and 89 cents I’m extremely poor. It’s really meant to like capture that there’s this massive I mean, it’s, it’s there’s very, very few resources that they earn on a regular basis, and probably a better measurement tool, in my opinion might be like, the Oxford Multidimensional Poverty Index, which looks at not just monetary value that a person has, but also that ability to mobilize resources to take care of their basic needs. And globally, there are about 700 million extreme people in the world. That number was reducing pre COVID, that number is increasing post COVID and in northern Kenya, the reason I try, it’s important to me to focus on it is because I think it shows both the opportunity that can be realized for the extreme poor, it also shows what constraints need to be addressed in order to overcome some of the barriers that are consistently persistent. And COVID-19 really amplifies or exacerbates what those barriers are.

Erica Mills Barnhart  16:30

Yeah. Do you find it to be true, so one of the things about poverty, when we think about the US context is there is this residual thinking from the Elizabethan poor laws, which came across the water with us when people came over way back when on the Mayflower, and part of that was saying that if you poor, it was your fault, there was something you had done. So I just wonder when people hear constraints, and opportunities, but I’m gonna start with constraints. So when we hear that, I could imagine some folks being like, well, you know, constraints you kind of put on yourself as opposed to societal constraints, structural constraints in your context. I’m just curious if in Kenya and northern Kenya in this last mile zone that’s as big as Ireland, good gravy-

Wendy Chamberlin  17:27

And beyond.

Erica Mills Barnhart  17:28

Yeah, and beyond. That’s real big. So it’s just like, I think for listeners to be last mile to this really big space. When people talk about poverty and constraints there is, is there this idea of like, well, they kind of did it to themselves? It’s kind of their fault?

Wendy Chamberlin  17:46

In this particular context, no, because the decisions were made during colonial times, in some cases to both how you even geographically delineate the areas or partition the areas to begin with, and then how and then post-colonialism how you choose to invest or not in this area. Um, so it’s not, that was less of a like they did it to themselves and even then and I you don’t see this sort of you either pull yourself up by your bootstraps sort of mentality or not that kind of spills over into that people widely recognized in Kenya, Kenyans themselves, widely recognize that the North is really challenged by constraints around infrastructure and environment around really distinct ethnicities that are different than what you see in other parts of the countries that impacts language, that impacts culture, and a host of other things. And so, people don’t look at it like I should have done better, that doesn’t carry over.

Erica Mills Barnhart  18:54

You just pull yourself up from your bootstraps. It’s like if you don’t have boots, there aren’t bootstraps. Right, like, yeah, you got to get to the point of having the boots even so. Okay, so when you think about constraints, and then you were saying that there’s a lot of focus on opportunity. And, you know, part of marketing, many things, but definitely in the marketing for good space, is painting this picture for people, particularly for people who aren’t, who are living a different experience of here’s the problem and here’s the better, brighter future world, right, that together, we can work together, we can get there. And so then how do we bridge that gap? How does that picture get painted in your context? So I think there’s there’s both kind of it’s actually why I wrote you that question, too. There’s kind of the mythological side of that. And then there’s there kind of the reality you know, there’s, there’s perceptions people have about that marketing of like oh people are poor in these areas, they are passively poor and they’re waiting.  What is passively poor, what do you mean by that?

Wendy Chamberlin  20:09

Passively poor means just like a person is just sitting waiting for something to be given to them

Erica Mills Barnhart  20:15

Oh, okay, okay.

Wendy Chamberlin  20:16

That is what passive poverty would be and they’re just waiting. They’re just there’s nothing there, they’re this this kind of image is created, there’s nothing there until somebody comes and brings in something to them. That’s both a marketing of poverty and I’d say it’s also a myth about poverty too. And that myth gets extended to, maybe there’s no markets that are happening. And maybe that all that can be done in this area is just time after time humanitarian response. And people do respond to that and it has generated interest and it has generated thinking about what to do, solutions. But what we see long term is that that belief structure around that type of marketing of poverty creates almost a static picture of what it means to be poor. And it fails to recognize, in my opinion, that in fact, people are pretty entrepreneurial by nature.

Erica Mills Barnhart  21:26


Wendy Chamberlin  21:27

And that there are markets that exist, they may not be in markets that one can compare to a savvy market, but they exist. And often the failure has been actually around the responsibilities of the state. And I would, I would also say, large scale donors who have made commitments to reach that further end. And so and that’s what we see play out what I mean by that, so a few things in, northern Kenya has experienced a huge amount of humanitarian crises one after the other, especially in terms of drought and it’s not even just like one offs. This year we had like a flood, drought, flood, locusts, and the COVID 19 phenomenon.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:13

Oh yeah, the locust, it was biblical.

Wendy Chamberlin  22:17

And it’s still going, and they are huge and they’re, you know, they’re terrible. But we have cycles of experiences. And so that creates one image of like, okay, we got to do something now, drop food aid, do this like one time one shot thing that that is necessary at times, and I would never say it’s not necessary. But when these cycles of crises become predictable, because drop cycles are predictable, there are now there’s so much that is done around predictive analytics on when we know that there’s another drop is coming, we need food insecurity as part of that. When there’s predictability, you can create longer term solutions. That are responsive to the overall needs and constraints. And the same goes for when, well, let me pivot here and just say part of that is then entities making commitments to know more about what’s going on on the ground with communities as opposed to saying there is a problem here, we’re going to solve it, and we’re out. But having staying power and being in communities and being from the communities really matters. I mean, the communities need to have a voice in solutions and that voice by paying attention to that voice, that voice alone tells you that there’s a lot more going on than a static picture of poverty. And there are also I would say, a lot of premature declarations of victory against and around poverty. And this is part of the myth piece that goes on where, you know, we see examples where commitments around electrification, putting electricity into rural communities where towers are put up but they are not cabled for like years.

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:07

But victory is claimed because the tower is up.

Wendy Chamberlin  24:09

Exactly, the tower is up. A health clinic is built and it’s been paid for by somebody, multiple health clinics but they’re not staffed but you have that built and so the accountability to fully see efforts that are funded at a large scale play out and have their intended impact is missing from the picture. And that gets dismissed and put into the it’s just really hard and they’re just poor and there’s nothing else there sort of bucket of you know, that’s how it is there versus it’s hard, it’s complex, and it takes more stickiness to address these issues because they are very now we’re in the tangly, tangly mess bit of really impacting with is causing all these ingredients that are causing poverty.

Erica Mills Barnhart  25:04

Yeah, you used the word pernicious earlier which stuck out because I love that word, pernicious, it almost you know, I don’t know it feels almost like an onomatopoeia. Pernicious problems are messy, and therefore they require sticky solutions to it. What I’m hearing a bit of what you’re saying is how these, you know, victories are marketed toward donors, perpetuates and actually makes things messier, not cleaner, and definitely not better. And I’m curious you know, I mean, I have my own opinions about like, why is early victory claimed? Why is it claimed and if I mean that’s those examples right when we hear them like that was goofy to claim victory. That’s, that’s goofy. That’s a public health clinic that is isn’t making anybody healthier because it’s just a building. Why does it happen?

Wendy Chamberlin  26:08

There’s one of the other myths, I think that happens around poverty is a lot like that movie Field of Dreams of if you build it, they will come. If you create the solution, it will trickle down, right? By building a building, they will be educated, or are the teachers there? Are they capacitated to teach all those things? Somebody else has got to focus on that. That’s not my problem. Right? So that’s what I’m saying is that one of the challenges we have in the field of development is this very siloed approach to addressing poverty and poverty is not siloed. Poverty is not just siloed or on the line to like it’s an agriculture thing, it’s an education thing, it is a complex thing. And yet, donors are not organized in that way in how they respond. They’re not organized to fund in multi sectoral fashions, they’re focused organized funds sectorally and by virtue of that NGOs are oftentimes organized to operate sectorally as opposed to multisectorially. So if I am a donor and I prioritize agriculture, and I give out grants for improving agriculture, I’m looking for entities who can do that thing. And so that’s part of the problem. That’s part of the challenge that we see is that kind of siloed thinking as to how to address a problem.

Erica Mills Barnhart  27:36

Right? So I have a hammer so I’m looking for a nail.

Wendy Chamberlin  27:40

 Exactly. And we all do this right? I will say one more thing is that, the, what was I gonna say? The other part of this is patience. So and,  kind of like, I won’t say sexiness probably. That’s terrible to say I’ll say like, patience and like attraction to like, this is the thing I want do and hold up as my, my beacon. So people want to fund the thing that they feel like is the most catalytic in their silos, right? And so maybe that’s building school buildings, maybe that’s rolling out laptops, it could be a host of other things. People do not really tend to want to fund or have the staying power for like what happened five years after you did that? They’re looking for somebody else to fund that. And that’s where you have to ask, that’s where we actually need more focus and attention to say, well, you didn’t actually electrify the towers so nobody got electricity, or you gave people a bank account, but guess what, they didn’t use it as you thought and they’re still struggling. And so more attention needs to be put on these so what factor of poverty solutions, or maybe just as much and to many organizations credit, this is happening, but sometimes it has to, we either get so caught up in the like it has to happen in this only methodological way to being able to like, let’s just ask ourselves honestly isn’t working, I can look at the building, I can see there’s no lights, and it’s clearly not working. I don’t need an RCT for that. I can tell you that that’s not happening.

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:16

Yeah, I go back to this question that Beth Kanter asked many years ago, and we were doing a panel discussion about data and transparency. And the question she posed somewhat rhetorically was, is it are you proving it or improving it? And I  come back to it frequently from a from a marketing perspective to say, oftentimes we get and then there’s some structural reasons for this very focused on like, look, I’m proving it, there’s a building, there’s a laptop, there’s this or that or that, but does that improve the situation? And I think it’s that next question that would really inform things like Annual Reports. I point, I wiggle my finger at annual reports, because similar to like the electoral timelines, you know, so if it’s two years and four years, you’re kind of like, what can I get done? And it’s very frenetic. I feel like in some ways annual reports are a disservice because they perpetuate this approach to funding and to doing when you’re the NGO, because you have to have something to put in the annual report, you know, to show people whoever those people may be, the funders who gave you money or whatever, whatever the case may be. What’s happened? And am I saying do away with and reports entirely, I’m not ready to go there. But I would love to see an evolution of them to acknowledge exactly what you’re talking about, which is, here’s the bit that happened this year. What else needs to happen? How can we improve it? We can prove that we did it this year, how are we going to improve going forward? And if there was that type of framework, well then that becomes I think a positive. But as it is, I feel like we’re all kind of stuck in the development field for a long time it’s been stuck. I also think some colonial roots and historical things play into this for sure. And also for the first time I sort of for the instances where it’s a US based agency that’s coming in this like pull yourself up from your bootstraps kind of plays out, which is like, well, you have a building we gave you a jumpstart, okay, let’s see what you’re gonna do. You know, like it’s, I just hadn’t thought about it in that way. So it was interesting to hear you talk about that. But there has to be, you know, you can’t like marketing can’t solve all the problems unfortunately. But these but it, plays out these perceptions. And so it seems to me like we need to shift some perception in order to get the structural changes to start happening, that would downstream impact marketing.

Wendy Chamberlin  32:06

Totally. And  we see this play out, so about 60% of our program participants and business women we work with, they receive government cash transfers, or safety net payments. I want to use this example because one of the things is, so when they receive those payments, that the equivalent of like $20 a month, it’s not a lot of money. And it’s proof alone, that subsidy from a government by itself will not support you, as you know, as an individual. They spend almost the exact same amount to go to the distribution point to receive those funds, which almost cancels out that payment completely. The banks will not offer their services locally to them, because they have been told these myths that there is no businesses here. People aren’t entrepreneurial, they’re passive recipients, and there’s no market and so what we have been trying to do as an organization that supports entrepreneurs and tries to access them to markets and make those linkages I should say the market is we start talking to the private sector players, the financial service provider and say, there’s actually businesses here we started 11,000 businesses with these women. And we have savings groups, and there’s stuff happening. There’s livestock markets, where women are trading like crazy in goats and sheep. And when we tell that story to the financial service providers, they are like, that’s not what I knew of that area, I’ve never been to that area, but actually, that’s not what I heard about that area. And so we are there to myth bust for them to say there are markets here, people are entrepreneurial, they are like, they can kill it. And actually what is missing is you, you are not bringing the services they need to their community. You can’t offer it the same way you do say in Nairobi, you can do it differently and still have an impact and you can be a profitable on the same side. So we try and reverse the tables of communication that way to change the narrative. There is something happening here.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:07

So you’re trying to do what we would refer to as changing the frame?

Wendy Chamberlin  34:11

Yeah. I just found out that it was called that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:14

Yeah. Well, yeah. And the frame often shows that you change frames. So how do you if somebody has grown up with this one frame, this one belief system around the entrepreneurial activity or lack thereof in this region, how much does it take? Like, do they hear facts like 11,000 businesses. Does that shift them? Does that open their minds to this different way of seeing it or what works?

Wendy Chamberlin  34:46

We try and use data to tell a story. So yeah, we use facts. We tell them what’s happened. We move from like you thought this was cute and boutique, and now it’s scaled. And so what we thought was a one off is now happening regularly and it means this and we can show them through the program that we offer because we do all kinds of business monitoring to monitor business growth of these small enterprises to say, here’s how they grow. Here’s what’s happening in terms of these businesses financial activity, and it fills in the blanks of a picture that was honestly blank. And it had been before populated with very sort of monochromatic flat images of what people thought it meant to live and work in these areas, and give a lot more clarity as to like, oh, this is actually, there’s a lot, there is an economy here, there is something happening here.

Erica Mills Barnhart  35:38

So sounds like you take them to a black, from black and white to like full spectrum color version of it. And I’m hearing a little bit of by mapping their language, your language to their language, so words like growth words like scale. I mean, these are bankers, so that would be the language that might perk up their ears.

Wendy Chamberlin  35:59

We think it’s important to do that with private sector players its banks, its mobile network operators, but also donors too, because we have to counter this narrative as well to say, no, there is something more here, there’s a reason for you to invest this far out in an area that has otherwise been written off, because this is what it means. And it’s also about showing that the breaking point around poverty is not the individual and their lack of aptitude or anything else that’s like super derogatory that can be applied. It’s actually about the breaking point of responsibilities that are on the shoulders of governments and those who have made commitments to service those areas as part of their, you know, jobs.

Erica Mills Barnhart  36:46

Yeah, yeah. That’s very fascinating because switching frames is tough business. That’s tough. I feel like we’d be remiss if we didn’t, if we were talking about poverty and marketing and we didn’t talk about poverty porn. Let’s talk about poverty porn. So, for listeners who are not familiar with the term, it is a term that’s been used for a long time to describe the type of marketing that has been done which shows you know, you can mentally envision the like, you know, very emaciated images, flies on faces all of that, if we are speaking about Africa, and that type of image versus a more asset framed approach to it about the possibilities and opportunities and what’s super interesting about poverty porn, is that it you see a lot more of the asset framing of you know, positive opportunity framing, around domestic marketing of sort of domestic and by domestic I mean like within the UK, within Ireland, within the US, within Canada, we see more of that positive frame. And yet what persists poverty porn persists and part of that, so there is a bit of research which says poverty porn actually works in terms of acquiring new donors. It is not as effective at retaining donors. And we all know that acquisition is way more expensive than retention. So if that’s true, why does poverty porn persist?

Wendy Chamberlin  38:32

Yeah, I think it’s such an interesting I, I’m always surprised when I I, I’ve had the experience firsthand where I was on a site visit for another NGO and I got pulled into shots of like, let’s surround yourself with children and I will throw candy in the air and they will smile and we will smile together to see faces and I was completely appalled because I didn’t know what was happening until it happened and, and yet, this was being used for this organization for that acquisition, they felt like that was super important and yet it had nothing to do with what they were trying to tell their story, I think, I think it has to do with a couple things. One is that some audiences have short attention spans for good or for bad. And they have only been given one story since the 1980s or before but especially the Ethiopia famine is you know, is exactly and so and that’s what they attribute with poverty itself, and they can’t be moved from that point, and to take audiences to a more complex conversation around what poverty is, and what can cause it and how it can be solved means that people need to be willing to commit more attention. And to understand that the solutions are not as simple as that prior image would allow them to think about and respond to. So the first image of like, this is what it looks like and it’s a static image of poverty that allows me just to always respond in one way and when it becomes more complex, that means I need to ask more questions, I need to understand that I may not, you know, this idea that maybe, you know, I, as a donor, have all the answers gets challenged. And it means that the solutions aren’t as straightforward as they were before. And so people choose, I think, between what they want to have straightforward and simple, call it good. And, or stay in the complex. And maybe that’s too reductionist? I don’t know. But that’s one way to think about it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:39

Yeah, what comes to mind also is that it’s not only, so those images aren’t only simple. They are so different than what most donors experience. Right. And so, you know, what we know is that donors in the United States are more prone or more likely to give to poverty alleviation in another country, as opposed to, you know, we have a lot of poverty in the United States and that doesn’t get as much of the donor resources. And part of the, one of the hypotheses about that is because that’s too close to home, it’s like, oh, but then then I can’t other enough, you know, if it’s if it’s that close to home, that could end up being me that somehow makes donors feel differently guilty, because they’re not taking care of it. And I think the further away and the more different and the more othered we make folks keeps donors feeling more comfortable. Right, it kind of, you know, perpetuates a lot of things that are maybe not too healthy. I was just having a conversation on Twitter with Tom Ahern, I don’t know if you know him, he is brilliant fundraising, direct mail message, brilliant. And he was saying there’s been this term about donor centric fundraising for a long time being the gold standard and Vu Le, I don’t know, in the last year too was like, that’s not the point. Donors shouldn’t be the heroes. So unbeknownst to Tom, Vu had said that a while ago, and Tom said, you know, what other term could we could we use? And I said, you know, because I agree with Vu very much so that we’ve sort of got ourselves wrapped around this axle of this cycle where, yes, we want donors to feel good about their donation. They’ve done something wonderful, wonderful, and I never want to take away from that. But it’s like we kind of got ourselves in this. It’s like, but that’s not actually the point. The point is what that money has made possible. And it’s the people being served. So my offering to Tom was that, you know, if we need to sort of give it another term fundraising that is and in the marketing of doing good that we will call it mission centered fundraising, because that’s the point. You know, Vu is offering this community based fundraising and I’m like, it’s often about the community, but there’s many organizations, where it’s about plants or trees or animals or you know, something that doesn’t quite fit in there. So I think that you know, this is a long winded way of saying, I think that a piece of it is complexity is hard. We know right now with COVID our brains are all so overwhelmed. So the simpler things can be, the more we’re likely to take action. But I also feel like we maybe haven’t done a great job of simplifying intersectionality around you know, addressing these like people get that it makes inherent sense when you start talking to them about how these things are related. I actually, I have greater belief that people will get that, actually think we haven’t messaged it very well, because that’s a tough concept.

Wendy Chamberlin  43:51

Do you feel like though, I wonder about that, because that makes sense to me, but then I wonder like there is still this like, but what can I do? What can I do about this? Right? And so thats where the fallback becomes like so much like, at least I can do this. I can’t solve for infrastructure. But at least I can do this over here and because they don’t know how to, they may be able to make that sort of intersectional connection that as to I think people are looking for a way to respond.

Erica Mills Barnhart  44:24

Sure, sure but could we do a better job of saying, you’ll do better with the examples? But, you know, okay, no, I can’t contribute to infrastructure, what I can contribute to is food, you know, in some way. But where I think there’s an opportunity for doing better marketing is to say, here’s how food relates to infrastructure. Here’s how it relates to education. Yes, thank you, thank you so much. Do your thing right here. Awesome. And then know how these things connect because I think in that way we might keep people more engaged while keeping it simple.

Wendy Chamberlin  45:15

I think that’s super interesting. I’m trying to put my mind, my head, in the mind space of somebody who might be a founder who’s like, I just gotta get money in the door, and how there would be attraction across around a very sort of, quote, unquote, simplistic, you know, model versus the complex one. And but I could imagine if you took that what you described as the starting point, that’d be really, you get a really interesting engagement experience with your donors. Right? And, and even in interesting conversations, or, I mean, you might even just get a different set of donors. I don’t know. I think they are, you know, those I think people are drawn to support different things. So I love that idea. That’s, that’s really interesting.

Erica Mills Barnhart  46:03

Yeah, I, my addition to it would I just want to acknowledge with it is, when you are the Founder or Executive Director, and you just need to raise money, this idea of approaching things differently would come across as pure luxury said from somebody who is not needing to raise that money right now. So I really want to acknowledge that, that the offering of idea comes from a place of privilege. And that sometimes there’s urgency and we know what stuff works and what stuff doesn’t, which, you know, unfortunately perpetuates a lot of the scarcity mindsets. And so that’s, I mean, that’s a structural issue that is going to be tough to unravel in the philanthropy side of things. And, and I, you know, I look to the philanthropy side of things to say you have flexibility how, you know, how might philanthropy in the way that philanthropy is framing things, these issues that complexities help unlock the way in which historically and you know, to this day, we’re really marketing poverty.

Wendy Chamberlin  47:09

Absolutely and to the extent that there are those philanthropies who are willing to have that conversation and that discussion and recognizing the power dynamics that are part of that conversation, because that’s where I think you start seeing the needle move forward, and not just philanthropies, but when we believe that addressing poverty needs to be done with a multi sectoral approach, bringing public sector or the private sector to the table as well, that also means that you’re creating a different kind of conversation than what’s been done before. It is no longer one entity that has the solution set, but it’s recognizing that it’s a complex problem with a complex solution set.

Erica Mills Barnhart  47:53

Yes, and then what we know about people’s minds in particular is then there’s work of breaking it down and sequencing it. And then this and then this and then this. I just, I just I sit here and I’m wondering, like, maybe we have a sequencing problem. Frequently when I work with organizations, I’m like, oh, you have all the pieces, we just need to rearrange them. Right? Yeah. I wonder maybe, you know, that is like, my hardcore optimist coming out, like, oh, if you just rearrange a couple of words in sentences will be good. I know it’s not gonna be that easy. But hope springs eternal. You were saying actually, that you’re in a Whatsapp group, which I just want to say every time I hear something like that, I’m like, wow, we are not on the Whatsapp train here in the United States, but you were saying you are involved in one that is a conversation around power, privilege and philanthropy.

Wendy Chamberlin  48:45

Yeah, I wanted to, It’s a group that has folks who represent a variety of sectors talking about this issue, and it’s it represented by people from all over the globe as well. So it’s coming from a variety, with a variety of voices at the table. And  it’s talking about, I actually brought up this topic like, what are these myths that we have around poverty that we need to address? And what was really interesting about a conversation that we were having is that even the notion of philanthropy is a challenge with it, how that money gets to be where it is, who decides how that money is used and what that money influences is part of this conversation at a huge level. And some of the belief being that, you know, ultimately, what philanthropy is trying to address are constraints and challenges that individual governments should, should solve for themselves and for their citizenry. Which means there’s a host of conversations around that around how those governments came to be, around how the power structures came to be, and what are the systemic issues within each of those context that needs to be addressed because they’re greatly imbalanced. But I think it draws out an appreciation for this. And I know, there’s a lot of folks talking about this topic right now that, how we think about the role of philanthropy and the voice that philanthropy has at the table has to be measured in this conversation. Money does not equate with solutions, per se, because whoever writes the biggest check doesn’t mean they have the best solution. Sometimes it’s the worst solution. And so it’s more that that conversation has to be a consideration of this broader piece about how we talk about unpacking and tackling pernicious problems. Because there are many, just as we see as the social issues that come to light in the US, there are so many threads that are tied to these things that you can’t look at one ting and say this is the only part of the issue that matters. You have to begin to look at all of it. And that also means there has to be a broader scale commitment to talking about all sides of the equation too.

Erica Mills Barnhart  51:10

And a broader scale commitment to being uncomfortable. Those are not comfortable conversation. So before we make any progress on, you know, substantively shifting things, it’s going to be uncomfortable.

Wendy Chamberlin  51:24

It’s gonna be uncomfortable, it’s gonna mean that people lose, who like me, you know, losing seats of privilege that maybe that people shouldn’t have had to begin with, or recognizing where that privilege comes from. And recognizing also around who decides, who decides who has the best solution? And that’s, that’s something I think about all the time.

Erica Mills Barnhart  51:47

Yeah, yeah. Who decides?

Wendy Chamberlin  51:49

So, it’s a huge conversation around power. That’s part of this too.

Erica Mills Barnhart  51:54

Yes, it is. As frequently happens, I’m learning on these podcasts like we get to this point I’m like, I know we have to wrap up, Wendy is a busy human. And of course, where I want to go now is to that whole discussion about power and privilege and marketing of those things, but maybe we’ll just have to stick a pin in it and have that as a follow up conversation. Which will give me an excuse to see your face again, which will be a blessing for me.

Wendy Chamberlin  52:25

Same as well, it is a treat.

Erica Mills Barnhart  52:27

Yes. I end every interview with the same question and it has to do with inspiration and motivation. So the root of the word inspiration means to breathe in, gives you breath. Motivation means to take action, so you need breath to take action. What inspires you and what keeps you motivated to do this really incredibly amazing work that you’re doing with the Boma Project?

Wendy Chamberlin  52:52

What inspires me? I’m cognizant of sounding trite. Honestly, though, I’ll just run that risk. I work with business women who kick ass, they are risk takers, they are super bold, they have a voice and they are creative. And they withstand shock after shock after shock. And they they keep like doing that with very minimal means. And honestly, they inspire me because I look at where they work, I look at what they do, and I think that just flies in the face of every notion about what it means to be poor, a passive picture of poverty if you. And what motivates me is that the work around this issue is not done and that’s not to suggest that I’m the solution or anything like that. I just try and think about what tools I have in my toolkit. And part of that is passion and interest. And part of that is thinking and just always analyzing, okay, what do I have? What do I do with what I’ve been given, to, to think about this challenge? And how do I work with those who also care about this topic, and I get so much energy about that from that place. And that’s, that is how I do my work on a daily basis.

Erica Mills Barnhart  54:32

 I love it. I don’t think acknowledging badassery is trite, by the way. And I did have the privilege of, not done as much work as you but some work in Cambodia and Nicaragua and other places around micro-finance. And those women are they are just they’re fearless. They’re fierce. They are so, I cannot agree with you more about how inspiring they are. And I feel like their stories are starting to be told but wow, I just our world would be a better place if more of those stories were out there so that our perceptions could be shifted. So that this mental image we have of passive poverty is eradicated along with poverty itself. I think one is the precursor to the other.

Wendy Chamberlin  55:19

Yeah, I totally I’m with you. I agree with you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  55:24

Thank you, Wendy, for doing this, relatively for me that would be relatively late at night because I’m a morning person, because you are coming to us from Kenya. Thank you, listeners for being with us today, as well, to learn about this work of the Boma Project, to get a little bit of insight into Wendy’s incredible brain and her great big heart, and about you know, maybe our path towards shifting the marketing problem that poverty has starts from our hearts and from a place of compassion and being open to looking at empathy and being open to poverty looking really, really different than we than we think it does. So thank you, Wendy. Thank you listeners. And with that, I’ll say do good, be well, and we will see you next time.

Ep 19: Deborrah Ashley: How to Become a LinkedIn Blackbelt

This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Deborrah Ashley on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


LinkedIn, profile, people, marketing, company, volunteers, nonprofit

Erica Mills Barnhart  00:08

Have you ever had the experience where you think that you’re like decently good at something and then you learn maybe not not so much actually. I have that experience in this interview when Deborrah told me the metric for whether or not you are like a power user for LinkedIn. Now Deborrah is the LinkedIn blackbelt. Deborrah knows so much about LinkedIn, it’s absolutely incredible and she is so generous with what she shares about it and her advice is both strategic and also ultra, ultra practical. She was kind enough to create a LinkedIn sheet for marketing for good listeners. So definitely go get that. Don’t worry, you don’t need to do all of it. Pick a few, work through the list over time. I did want to share one thing because it happened after we stopped recording. But I noticed that Deborrah lives in Tampa, but in her LinkedIn profile, it said New York City and I was like, that’s interesting. So I asked her about it. And she said, you know, you don’t need to put your physical location you want to use every single scrap of real estate in LinkedIn strategically. So for her, her target audience is mainly leaders and CEOs. So New York City has per capita, the most leaders and CEOs in the country. So she put New York knowing that she would show up and way more search results, just by nature of how many there are in New York versus, you know, even where I am in Seattle. I was like, that’s genius. That’s the type of goodness you’re gonna get throughout this whole episode. She has really excellent tips for organizations in general, nonprofits in particular, little tidbit about how to make your volunteers into ambassadors on LinkedIn that I really loved. And then at the end, she gets into how to make LinkedIn and your LinkedIn profiles, both personally and then also for your organizations and companies more inclusive so to really bring in our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion on LinkedIn. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. I learned so much and I was just super energized by the whole conversation. So here you go, my interview with the LinkedIn black belt, Deborrah Ashley. Welcome to the show. Deborrah, I am very excited to have you here to talk to us about LinkedIn and inclusion and lots of other things today. So thanks for being here.

Deborrah Ashley  03:14

Well, thanks for having me on, Erica. I am super excited too.

Erica Mills Barnhart  03:19

So you’re tagged, I’m gonna call it a tagline. But when I was looking at your LinkedIn profile, I don’t know if you consider it a tagline, but it says humanizing brands, connecting people. And I feel like there’s a story behind that tagline, maybe. But can you share with us how you know how you ended up on that tagline? And being the LinkedIn blackbelt, and kind of, you know, how’d you get here?

Deborrah Ashley  03:43

Absolutely. Well, you know, I came from a 20 year corporate marketing background. So about for around 45 I decided that I’m kind of bored with what I’m doing and I decided to explore what else there was out there for me. So I have you know, I had quite a good amount of success in the corporate world. And of course, it was helping the companies to build brand awareness, but I wanted to do it on a different level. So I discovered this entire world online of business owners who are brilliant at what they do, but they’re just not that great at marketing what they do. So of course, I came online, I had all the different things that happen when you first come into a space that’s unknown to you imposter syndrome, all of that other stuff. And I started to share from a point of what I’m used to, which is that corporate speak, right? So you know, people were enjoying my content, but it didn’t hit me what I was doing until one day, someone said, well, you’re in line now you can take up your pearls.

Erica Mills Barnhart  04:41

Oh, that’s so good.

Deborrah Ashley  04:43

Yeah. I’ve never necessarily worn pearls, but I got it. So it has-

Erica Mills Barnhart  04:50

That’s a little bit genius right there. Yeah, your pearls.

Deborrah Ashley  04:53

Exactly. It’s not even about you know, this whole formal way of approaching people. It’s about being that friend and having conversations like you would with your friends, because naturally people gravitate towards people they find a connection with, right? That’s how you humanize your brand and obviously connecting people that way. It’s done that way too. So this LinkedIn blackbelt title was assigned to me because if we think about, like, I mentioned imposter syndrome, all of that stuff hit me. I just know that I’m sharing what I know and and how things work. But I don’t necessarily, at least in the past, I didn’t necessarily see myself as an expert. So I would hear people say different things like you are the queen of LinkedIn with the content I was sharing. And you’re the LinkedIn black belt, like you have this black belt on LinkedIn. And I was like that actually, I like that it sticks. I think everyone should, especially when we think about LinkedIn, everyone should have this little aspect that they, you know, like a tagline or a name that people remind them from because it’s easier to relate that way.

Erica Mills Barnhart  05:58

Yeah, we’ll get into this more, but when when somebody searches for you, like your profile URL is

Deborrah Ashley  06:11


Erica Mills Barnhart  06:12

Yes, so post your name?

Deborrah Ashley  06:13

Exactly. There’s a slight shift, though, because LinkedIn doesn’t allow you to use their intellectual property, which makes sense, so it’s the linked blackbelt. But if someone searches hashtag the LinkedIn blackbelt anywhere, Google through anything, they’re going to find me.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:29

Wow. Okay. So good. And you have your MBA. So you have like a very businessy background, have this corporate career snd then how long ago was it that you transitioned to being the LinkedIn blackbelt?

Deborrah Ashley  06:43

About six years ago.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:43

Six years ago?

Deborrah Ashley  06:45

Yes, about a year to figure out that although I was connecting with people they wanted to know more about me versus my content.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:55

Because then you took off the pearls.

Deborrah Ashley  06:57

I took off the pearls. I took off all the pearls after someone told me to take off the pearls. And it’s, it’s been good since then.

Erica Mills Barnhart  07:07

Was there a sense for you that you wanted to take off your pearls? But something was holding you back from doing that? Or was it more like this is a strategy you knew was this very corporate speak? I’m just I’m curious if there was anything holding you back and that that person kind of gave you permission? Or if you just hadn’t seen it that way?

Deborrah Ashley  07:24

Right. It’s interesting, right? Yeah, I almost didn’t even see it that way. I was just stepping into what I was used to, because this is like, you know, this is the new version of my nine to five. So as I’m having conversations with business people, this is how we talk about things. But these are still just, you know, you’re regular everyday people, not necessarily, you know, your corporate business people. So I think in a way it gave me permission, but like I said, I didn’t know that I was doing that. And I didn’t realize that because everyone’s always, especially as a speaker, so I you know, I’ll tell you the story too, of how I started speaking and they always tell you there, you can’t say, um, and you can’t say certain things. So I just thought they were, it was an unwritten language that you couldn’t use online. So yeah, that was my permission.

Erica Mills Barnhart  08:10

Love it. Okay, so in 2019, we’re recording this in 2020. You did LinkedIn assessments for over 800 executives and founders, and what you found was, and I’m quoting directly from your LinkedIn profile, is that they see value in LinkedIn, but they don’t know how to optimize it to unlock opportunities. So to my ear, that sounds sort of like a classic, know do gap like k n o w, like, you know something, but you can’t or aren’t, maybe because you need a permission slip, to do something. So you are doing everything there is to do on LinkedIn, because you were ranked in the top 1% of LinkedIn users. So I do want to dive into like the specifics of how to optimize it but I’m curious one why do you think that know do gap exists, like folks can see it and know that there are opportunities, what’s holding them back?

Deborrah Ashley  09:04

Well, I think it’s more about similar to what I had. I was speaking with this CMO this morning. And, you know, although they want to build their personal brand, and they know it’s important, they don’t want to be too casual. So when I said to her users will connect with you with your content when you’re taking it from a casual standpoint, I think her definition of casual was a lot different than what I see as casual. So then she pointed out someone who is what we consider an influencer in her market. I always say, you know, we have influencers all over social media. It’s not necessarily about who you think is an influencer for you, but who does your audience see as an influencer? So she pointed that out to me today and she said, well, if you look at her content is more formal. She’s also former president of a very large fortune 500 company. So she has a lot of pull. So we went through her content and I said actually, she is very casual. You can see, there’s three main concepts that she speaks about. And it’s about helping young women see that you can have opportunities and you know, no matter what, nothing will hold you back from the opportunities you desire. Another thing that we saw about this person who she thought was more formal that she’s definitely a feminist, she shares books that she’s written and had the word feminist in the title. So, you know, to me, that’s casual. I’m having conversations with my friends this is the latest book I’m reading and this is a reason why I liked the book. So she was able to relax a little bit because she said, okay, it is something that I discuss every day with friends, but I didn’t know I could use it on LinkedIn. So it’s like you said, it’s more of a permission base.

Erica Mills Barnhart  10:39

Yeah, well, and you use the word relaxed, which is, you know, you can sort of see people go like, oh, I can do this. That’s not that’s not so scary. That’s, that’s easier, right? That’s like more of a path of least resistance. I think there’s a tendency to build up things on social media because so many folks are doing it in a way that’s like kind of highly produced and everything’s perfect. And there’s a little bit of tension, you know, between this idea of highly produced, everything was perfect and like people want you to actually be human. And particularly for executives and executives, you know, a certain age, I think the the Zoomers, and millennials get this a bit more intuitively. And I’m Gen Xer. I think we struggle a bit more with that.

Deborrah Ashley  11:25


Erica Mills Barnhart  11:26

Yeah. Because there used to be those brighter lines between personal and professional. And I think it’s part of the reason I find LinkedIn really interesting, which is it does sort of call, call you to think about how you want to show up, and what it means to be professional yet human, and how are you going to balance all those things? So how is LinkedIn different, help us think about like and understand how is LinkedIn different than other social media platforms?

Deborrah Ashley  11:51

Well, when you think about LinkedIn, how it was designed and why it was designed, obviously, it’s no longer just about resumes and recruiters but it is designed to be an online platform for networking. So that’s all that is done. When you when you go to Facebook, yes, there’s aspects of Facebook that you’re using for business, but most people who are using Facebook, you know, they connected for people to people for a reason. So they connected to them to see maybe let’s see how the kids are doing and, and you got married it, we can see some wedding photos, you know, things like that. But when we go on to LinkedIn, it’s very specific to this is where I’m going to go to not only share my thought leadership, but to connect with the people who are looking for the type of business that I have. An aspect of that too, when we kind of like think about LinkedIn, obviously, it’s not necessarily about showing pictures of your kids. But now with a pandemic, things have changed. So, you know, we have people who are graduating, they’ve spent like, you know, whether years in medical school or parents with their kids with, you know, four years in college, and they can’t celebrate. So now it’s kind of cool that they can share with their colleagues at work through LinkedIn that look at what my my child has achieved. And they get a ton of engagement from that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  13:08

Oh, that’s interesting.

Deborrah Ashley  13:10

Yeah, it gives me the chills just talking about it. Because I can’t imagine being a parent that you’ve worked that hard to, like, put your kids through school and they can’t even have a graduation ceremony, like a traditional one, you know?

Erica Mills Barnhart  13:20

Yeah. Oh, I know, I, I’m a teaching professor at the University of Washington. And so I teach undergrad, but I teach a course for a second year students, their Capstone, so I get to know them deeply because it’s a six month deal. And, you know, they didn’t get to walk and you know, the Evans School, which is where I work, did a wonderful job with an online version of that, but it’s still, it’s not the same.

Deborrah Ashley  13:45


Erica Mills Barnhart  13:46

Especially for first generation students like oh, gosh, just to not have that moment was heartbreaking.

Deborrah Ashley  13:55

 Yeah, who knows what’s going to happen in the future, right? We don’t know. But this is like, this was their moment, so.

Erica Mills Barnhart  14:01

Yes, this was their moment. Yeah, yeah. Well, one thing now that we know is that we don’t know. So if ever there was a question mark about that, I think now there is no more question mark about that. Right. Right. So you’ve touched on this a little bit. But I’m curious if you can give us a little more insight into what holds people back? So specific to thought leadership, which is one way to use LinkedIn, what holds people back from sharing their thought leadership on LinkedIn? Maybe in general, what holds people back? If you have opinions about that, and then specifically on LinkedIn, what holds people back?

Deborrah Ashley  14:32

Yeah, definitely, it’s the fear of saying or doing the wrong things. Right. And you know, and it depends, there’s a piece of it, you’re doing it for your own personal brand, and then you’re also doing it to stand out within your company. So if you’re, when we think about whether the nonprofit or for profit, there are certain things in certain industries that you just cannot say, so what if you mess up? What if that audience member that’s been watching you for a while that you’re connected with doesn’t necessarily agree with everything that you share? So I think those are the main things that will stop people from doing it because they just don’t want to mess up. Specifically on LinkedIn, now it’s about that brand voice. What voice do I want for LinkedIn? Like who? And to me, it’s like, it’s your voice. It’s who you are naturally. But that’s the biggest question I get. And I, you know-

Erica Mills Barnhart  15:23

Oh interesting.

Deborrah Ashley  15:25

Yeah, it’s the biggest question I get that I don’t know how to share my voice on LinkedIn. And so it’s the whole preconceived notion of what LinkedIn is.

Erica Mills Barnhart  15:34

Are these people who are comfortable or are sharing their, their thought leadership on other platforms, and then they like get stuck when they’re trying to transition?

Deborrah Ashley  15:45

On Twitter, they have no problem. And two weeks ago, I spoke to at least 20 executives between the executive, founders, different people, someone from Facebook, so of from Indeed, different companies, just for my own research, something I was doing. And they told me they have no problem sharing their thoughts on Twitter, they almost don’t feel tied to their organization through Twitter, but on LinkedIn, they do.

Erica Mills Barnhart  16:14

Okay. So I want to make sure I’m understanding this because from a psychology perspective, this is fascinating, which is, there’s something about Twitter that feels like kind of more their own, and like, they won’t mess up on behalf of the company. Whereas in the environment of LinkedIn, that feels very tied to their company or organization, and therefore they’re worried about messing up.

Deborrah Ashley  16:35


Erica Mills Barnhart  16:36

Oh, wow.

Deborrah Ashley  16:38

Almost, they didn’t mention this, but I almost wonder maybe because they have more colleagues who are on LinkedIn, because Twitter is also Twitter’s very complicated. I used that in the beginning of my online career, but it’s complicated so people stay away but LinkedIn once you get into it, it’s a fluff.

Erica Mills Barnhart  16:54

Yeah, Twitter’s noisy.

Deborrah Ashley  16:56

Yeah. It’s noisy and it’s fast and yeah, so that is it’s fascinating. I love human psychology and it’s an interesting thing to even think about.

Erica Mills Barnhart  17:07

Yes. Okay, so you have an amazing LinkedIn profile clearly, do you mind if we walk through your LinkedIn profile and you can like explain to us what’s going on? I like I kind of fancy myself and you know, a decently good LinkedIn user, clearly not a black belt, and I was like, I wonder why she does that. I wonder why she does that. So, okay, can we take a look, I’m going to share my screen for folks who are watching on video. Here we are. And again, calling attention to the fact that I put in your name and then it takes me to this, the linked blackbelt.

Deborrah Ashley  17:42

Right. So the very first thing if we want to start with the URL, when you first join LinkedIn, what’s going to happen, it does slash i n and it has your like, if your first and last name, it has a dash in between and then a whole bunch of numbers after that, in order to kind of personalize you’re brand new, you want to switch that to something specific, but it’s something that you pretty much use throughout social media. So it can be your first and last name. But something that’s very unique to you. If your name is a pretty popular name, like Christian Smith or something like that, then you may have to find something else, but you don’t want people to search for you and then they find about 30 different people with the same name because now you’ve lost them. Right? So that’s where to start. Now, I can tell you about two weeks ago, I had a different completely different banner image. But that but the banner image was more about it was words, it’s different words that I do. So it was, you know, gain your competitive advantage, LinkedIn training. This time, I decided because I want to focus more on doing virtual trading at this point, but virtual trading and speaking engagements. So the image pretty much, this is exactly what I do, and I’ve done it for others in the past. That’s your social proof. So if you have something that you’ve done in the past, and you want to position yourself as an expert in that space, let that banner image be the place you put it because you have about three seconds for someone when they come to your profile to make a decision whether they want to go further or not.

Erica Mills Barnhart  19:12

Okay, three seconds, thats a high bar. One thing I okay, so that even your name, Deborah Ashley, MBA, and then in parentheses, elevate and scale, most paren for our podcast listeners, and then dash marketing strategy. So not just your name, like you were packing a lot into this sort of title area.

Deborrah Ashley  19:36

Right. So what’s going to happen, part of the reason when you think about LinkedIn and itself, just like Google is a search engine. LinkedIn is a search engine. So at any given point, someone’s going to notice that they’ll search for marketing strategist or marketing strategy, New York, anything else and you want to make sure that your name comes up on top so you’re put in that not everyone has to do it this way, but you want to at least put that what you do in your headline and your about section. But let’s go into the how I set up my name. So when we click on that pencil, that’s pretty much how to update your name. I have my first and last name in my first name column. And I have marketing strategy in my last name column. So when I engage in content when I’m in other people’s, when I think about networking event, when I start having conversations, and I enter a conversation that’s already taking place, in someone else’s feed, people will automatically see what I do. They don’t have to guess just by my name. And they may get curious. And then that’s when the whole goal is to lead people back to your profile. Your profile is like the funnel.

Erica Mills Barnhart  20:47

And so I’m hearing two things just in the name section. One is to help with search engine optimization. And then also to like take away any uncertainty somebody might have about what you want to be known for.

Deborrah Ashley  20:59

Right. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  21:01

Okay. And then underneath it you have helping leaders and brands stand out as industry experts to win new business. And then this very kind of groovy forward arrow linked in marketing strategist, consultant and trainer, another groovy arrow, and then 20 plus years brand building. I’ve never seen a groovy arrow.

Deborrah Ashley  21:22

It’s on there. You just do arrow character, and you can find it on you know, Google on any of those.  You can do like a podcast mic.

Erica Mills Barnhart  21:32

Oh, yes, I could.

Deborrah Ashley  21:33

Yeah. Yeah. So you can do mic emoji and then you’ll find it in Google. So with the headline area, it’s really about same thing when you’re engaging in someone else’s feed. Because more than anything, you’re going to get connected to more people when you engage with others. Yeah, typically what they see first of all, is helping leaders and brands stand out. Everything else will be cut up, cut off when I’m engaging on someone’s post. So what’s going to happen now they’re going to get curious again, because human nature makes people get curious. And the way to do it is to make sure that you’ll leave in very relevant remarks. You see people say cool, and thank you on the post. It doesn’t make you stand out. But if you share something that’s very relevant, then it’s going to make you really stand out.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:22

So I just scrolled down to see your activity. Just so the folks have a little example of that one.

Deborrah Ashley  22:28

Yeah, I think the one with 100 videos will be a good one to share. Because we started having conversation if you click on Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:35

Oh, what I learned from posting 100 LinkedIn videos, okay. And this is a Dr. Brian Harmon.

Deborrah Ashley  22:40

So go down to my comment it hopefully it’s right on top. Yeah. So if you notice the, you see right underneath my name, yep.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:51

Okay, great. Yeah. Yeah. So what folks are seeing is Deborah Ashley MBA and then helping leaders and brands stand out as Industry experts to win new bus…, right? So really six to six to seven words.

Deborrah Ashley  23:08

If that’s their goal, they will take a look at my profile. Plus, I also engage the person who  hear the comment by asking him a question. And I’m sure other people had that question they just didn’t ask.

Erica Mills Barnhart  23:21

So your question was, you said amazing accomplishment, Dr. Brian Harman. What app did you use to make this? He said canva. You said thank you, I should have known that. So there’s, it’s a conversation. It’s human.

Deborrah Ashley  23:31

Right. I’m at a networking event online and we’re having a conversation.

Erica Mills Barnhart  23:35

Yeah. Oh, that’s a great way to think about it. Mm hmm. Okay, let’s go back to your amazing profile. Here we are. So there’s some stuff that is put in there. Okay. Let’s talk about your about section.

Deborrah Ashley  23:50

Sure. So your goal, especially with the very first line of your about section because we at this point have an attention of a nat or a mosquito, the whole goal of that very first line, because before you open this, you’re only able to see the first two lines. The goal is to get other people to read the next line and doing that they have to open it. So now you’re going to call attention to something very specific that they’re either concerned about or that they have a question about,

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:19

So asking a question, because our brains are hardwired to want to answer questions is probably a good way. But it sounds like the job of this first sentence is to get people to click the more button and then read the rest of it.

Deborrah Ashley  24:32

Absolutely. Okay. Now, I’m almost telling them that this is the reason you’re going to want to listen to me. And people are always going to be intrigued by the fact that I have done all of those LinkedIn assessments. They want to know what it would mean to them and what what can they do to fix their own profile? Because that’s kind of like where it starts.

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:52

Yeah, yeah. And then you go through. I mean, you make it easy, right as a consultant, here’s all these things, as a trainer, here’s all these things, right? My expertise is your secret weapon, proof points, my 25 plus years of experience include crafting innovative campaigns for brands and steering, marketing development for startups across a broad range of industries. Right, and then next steps so I’ve never seen this before. Talk to us about this. This is your fourth bullet. Next steps.

Deborrah Ashley  25:23

So next steps, I just want them to self select. Some people may not need the full consulting with me, they just want their profile to be overhauled. And when we think about see that CEOs or executives, they don’t necessarily use LinkedIn, but their profile has not been changed in 10 years. Right. So they’re, you know, their teams may say, okay, if she and I’m pretty much letting them know specifically this is exactly what I do, right. And then this is how you can you know, you can connect with me.

Erica Mills Barnhart  25:51

So for listeners under next steps it says, I focus on a holistic approach to marketing born from a place of client obsession, which is like you’re like, well, I want her to obsess about me that sounds fantastic authenticity and integrity. If this is you, let’s chat. And then you have three calls to action. So they can kind of choose their own adventure inquiry for consulting, contact information, LinkedIn profile overhaul, contact information, and speaking and training requests.

Deborrah Ashley  26:17

Right? I shared that information about this is who I want to work with, this is who I don’t want to work with so you get to self select. If you’re the type of organization or the type of business that everything’s about sale sale sale, as soon as we connect, you want to pitch me in your inbox, then I can’t help you. Because that’s not what I do. So I want to be very clear about the type of people like I help because I’ve made the mistake earlier on on taking on the wrong clients, and they ended up being like that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  26:47

Yeah, because I’ve been consulting for so long, I get questions, right, from folks who are just getting into the field. I’m sure you do too. And my biggest piece of advice is to just remind yourself that your no’s are as important as you’re, probably more important than your yeses, your early yeses because because for a lot of people is going to be referral and word of mouth. And so if you take on a project and this makes total sense, especially now we’re all a bit worried. So you’ll take on work that isn’t necessarily there it’s work you can do but it’s not the work you want to do. Well then if you do a great job, then you’re getting referred for work that you don’t actually want to do. So as hard as those early no’s are, they are so important. And you will get you will get the projects you want faster if you can, like be brave enough to say no, absolutely. Oh, that’s tough though. Okay. And then they have a feature stuff which is automatic. Now if we go under experience, one the name of your company, which we haven’t mentioned, next is Thrivoo Marketing. Did I say that right?

Deborrah Ashley  27:45

You did. So that’s great. Most people say something different, I’m amazed. Thank you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  27:51

Thrivoo Marketing. I like the way it looks. I like the way it sounds. I was like, oh, that’s fun. And then under this also, again, just so you have this it’s like, yet again, I know exactly what you are offering. LinkedIn strategy consulting, employee profile overhaul, strategic partnerships.

Deborrah Ashley  28:11

All keywords and what I’m doing there. I’m just doing I’m putting keywords in.

Erica Mills Barnhart  28:15

Okay. Okay. Yeah. And then you have is this based on not some sort of timeline, but you have these these sub bullets underneath Thrivoo.

Deborrah Ashley  28:27

Right. So this is I typically share this in my workshops. If you are looking to position yourself as a speaker, you should have a specific separate, almost like a job experience area that just says you’re a speaker. Then you’re going to outline what you speak about, where you spoken before, even links to if you’ve been on podcasts. So when someone searches for a speaker, your keywords will now come out.

Erica Mills Barnhart  28:54

Okay, that’s exactly what you’ve done here. Of course. LinkedIn speaker, corporate speaker, corporate trainer, and those are all keywords, I’m guessing that they would search.

Deborrah Ashley  29:06

If you want to go up a few bumps, I’m going to show you something that well, you may not see it on your end, actually, you won’t. Right. You’ll see it on your profile. You know where it says the number of searches this past week is really the past seven days, that’s where typically you want that number to be over 500 that means your profile is fully optimized.

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:28

Okay. Yeah. 500?

Deborrah Ashley  29:31

Yeah. So I can tell you, let me check on my phone. I have a little over 1000 searches based on my skill set this past week. So if you click that area, you can see what company those people are working at that did the search what their titles were and what specific keywords they searched for to find you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:51

Right. Yeah. Okay. I think in general, I show up and like maybe 100. So, clearly, I have a long ways to go, lots of opportunity for improvement.

Deborrah Ashley  30:04

Exactly. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  30:06

All right. That’s a great, but what a great benchmarking thing. Okay. So listeners, if you’re listening, when you look at your LinkedIn profile and you’re logged in as you, if you’re looking at it, it would be kind of it would be over here on the side on the left hand side and it’s going to tell you how many searches you showed up in that, for so you said per week, we want to be aiming for 500 that means we’re fully optimized.

Deborrah Ashley  30:29

At least 500 so it’s gonna say your private dashboard, typically right underneath the feature area, okay, the private dashboard, and all you have to do is click it and sometimes like initially, when I first started doing this, it would have so many random keywords like fitness and coach and I said to myself, no, that’s not me showing up. So you just have to play around with it. You know, marketing is all about testing what works and tweaking and then moving forward with it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  30:57

Experiment, experiment, experiment. Okay, anything else that you want to draw attention to that the neophytes among us may not know that you have done on your profile?

Deborrah Ashley  31:08

one thing that’s going to be super important your testimonial area that’s right at the very bottom, you want to make sure that you have at least two new or relevant testimonials within the past six months. People care about that a lot more than they care about the skills area because anyone can check off your skills. Right? Those are people that you’ve either worked with or you’ve either impacted to leave you a specific testimonial. And when I always you know, share about testimonials are not Oh, Erica is an amazing person. She did a great job. I love her podcast. It’s more about before I found Erica online, this is where I was now that I have listened to her podcast and I’ve gained their insight this is what the result of what has happened based on our work together.

Erica Mills Barnhart  31:56

So the transformation that has occurred. You don’t have to answer this necessarily, but if you want to, I’m curious. Do you write a proposed testimonial and then then have folks edit? Or do you just let them freeform?

Deborrah Ashley  32:10

So yeah, two options, so what I’ll say and I share this anyway, I will initially it depends on who the person is, I will initially say, like, for example, hey, Michelle, I’d love for you to write a testimonial about the workshop that you attended, you know, that I hosted specifically, I’d love for you to share, you know, where you were in the process before, what you’re doing now, and what result has happened since our work together.

Erica Mills Barnhart  32:36

Got it. Okay, so a little like leading the horse to the water.

Deborrah Ashley  32:40

Absolutely. If I don’t hear from them in three days, I will then reach out and say, and you know, people get busy. So maybe there’s something else going on. I said, hey, you know, if you’re busy, if you want, I can kind of share something that someone else has written and you can take from that and insert what you need.

Erica Mills Barnhart  32:59

Oh, Okay, all right, like a double down strategy. But yeah, initially just like, hey, this is generally what I would like, and then helping them move towards something with more specifics in the follow up, right?

Deborrah Ashley  33:13

Because a lot of times, I mean, when you think about it, it’s not even that they don’t want to write you a profile. Now, it’s always about what if I say the wrong, I don’t want to mess up, or I don’t even know how to put into words, especially if we, you know, I have a lot of people who have very analytical backgrounds, your engineers and your attorneys. Well, not, well, yeah and they and they make it very formal versus very personal. So that’s why I kind of have to coach him a little bit and it’s so it’s completely okay.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:41

Yeah, back to that theme of being human.

Deborrah Ashley  33:44

Yes. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:46

Okay, I’m gonna stop sharing my screen.

Deborrah Ashley  33:49

Okay. All right. That was fun, a mini classes in between.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:52

It was like a mini class. I loved it. Thank you. I learned a ton as I knew I would. Um, so we’ve talked a lot about LinkedIn from personal perspectives like my, you know, a personal LinkedIn profile. Right? I want to transition so that you can share with listeners and viewers kind of how to think about it from, like a company or organization perspective.

Deborrah Ashley  34:14

Yeah. Wonderful. So okay, obviously, let’s focus kind of on the non profit area, I identified a few people who are doing it excellently.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:24

Oh, good.

Deborrah Ashley  34:25

I identify those people who are doing a great job. Obviously, we already know the, you know, American Heart Association of the world. They have a team that’s going to do they want, they’re going to do an amazing way, but I want to share what’s making it amazing for them. Another group, the ICF, International Coach Federation.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:44

Oh, okay.

Deborrah Ashley  34:45

Yeah, they also have obviously a great base on LinkedIn. So I’m surprised I didn’t realize they were on LinkedIn too, but I can identify some of the things that they’re doing very well. So when we think about the content that they’re putting out, you want to use your company page. But you also want to use the personal page and build brand ambassadors. So your brand ambassadors could be your volunteers. They could be your current employees, and they can be, you know, potentially your members. Obviously, it has to be someone who, who’s already on LinkedIn. So if we are using brand ambassadors, the first thing that we want to focus on is making sure that their LinkedIn profile is optimized. Because no matter what, even if they now share content from the company page where a lot of the content should originate, they’re sharing it to their feed, people will get interested in what they’re saying, and they will go right back to their profile. The profile doesn’t necessarily have to speak to like, for example, the American Heart Association. It doesn’t have to speak to their vision and mission, but it should at least align if they call themselves volunteers.

Erica Mills Barnhart  35:51

So are you just just to make sure I’m tracking like the Heart Association might reach out to their volunteers, which I would guess they have a lot and say do like, do they give them tips like, hey, here are three things you could do to really help us spread the word like three changes on your LinkedIn profile or something like that?

Deborrah Ashley  36:11

Yeah, they could do that, um, see, I would more say because their profile has to be done already. So yeah, whether someone internally on their team would do it, or help them with it with like a guided booklet. It’s not going to be necessarily about the American Heart Association, but it’s going to be about their love of giving back and charities and interest because you have that section on your profile that has interest in any one of the interest should be American Heart Association.

Erica Mills Barnhart  36:39

Okay, that’s a good specific tip.

Deborrah Ashley  36:42

Oh, yeah, very specific. Yeah. But the ways that the American Heart Association, for example, or any nonprofit can get their volunteers to share. We can do like a volunteer of the week, or volunteer of the month that’s highlighted on the company page. And this now is going to kind of go into I know, you know, there’s a little inclusive marketing is going to be very important, especially with nonprofits. Now we want to make sure that we’re highlighting everyone within the organization. So whether they’re volunteers, whether they’re members, anything else, because if you’re looking to recruit more volunteers or you’re looking to fundraise, or you’re looking to bring in more people with diverse audience, you want to make sure that you’re showing that diversity that’s already going on within your organization and you do that through your content.

Erica Mills Barnhart  37:29

Okay. You know, where my mind goes is so many organizations, nonprofits, do a newsletter, electronic or print, whatever. And there’s sort of a spotlight section. So it sounds like a pretty easy thing to do would be to just take that if you’re doing that and bring that onto LinkedIn as well.

Deborrah Ashley  37:47

Absolutely. Bring that onto LinkedIn. Something else that I’ve seen that’s, you know, it’s relatable. They do mini interviews with them too. So clearly, just like we’re doing an interview, it’s from the comfort of your own home, but they do Like a 90 second spot with them almost like why did you volunteer? What are you getting out of it? So it depends on your goals. So the biggest thing is to figure out what are your goals, for your organization? And how can you now use LinkedIn as a tool to make it happen?

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:19

Yeah. So when I teach marketing, I have the super simple methods. The Claxon method, which starts with what a success look like? Um, so what are your goals? And then and then who’s the target audience? And then LinkedIn would be a how. So then it’s how are you going to reach them? Do you think I mean, what’s your opinion? Obviously, you’re predisposed to being a fan of LinkedIn. But I’m curious, are there are there companies or organizations for whom like, this just wouldn’t be a fit, like their audience isn’t there? And so why bother optimizing?

Deborrah Ashley  38:49

I can well, it’s hard to name the company, I would say go to where your audience hangs out. So if you understand who your client your potential clients are your audience, then you’re going to you know, you’re going to focus on whether it’s LinkedIn or Instagram or Twitter. So I can’t think of one right off the bat. But yeah, that’s that’s probably several.

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:09

So I am sort of smirking because so I teach and, you know, most of my students are a bit younger. So more in the millennials, some Zoomers now. And whenever I talk about LinkedIn, they’re like, oh, like, there’s not a lot of enthusiasm. I’m like, here’s the deal. Like the people that who are gonna think about hiring you, you may not love LinkedIn, but they’re using it. So you kind of have to be there. Right. So I think LinkedIn is a bit unique in that way. It’s like that that overlap between personal professional, you know, in other instances, like if you don’t like Facebook, don’t be on Facebook. If you don’t like Twitter, don’t you know, don’t be on Twitter, like nobody’s forcing you to do these things. But there is a piece about LinkedIn, which is like if your target audience is somebody who’s going to be hiring you then you need to be on LinkedIn. And then you need to listen to Deborah who’s going to tell you how to optimize.

Deborrah Ashley  40:05

Absolutely. Yeah, they have. So why are they why do they groan about it just because it’s too boring for them?

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:11

 Yeah it is for old people. Oh, yeah, totally. They’re like, Oh, but you know, because it’s not where they naturally convene online.

Deborrah Ashley  40:20

Absolutely. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:21

You know, they’re on Insta, they’re in snap. Right? You know, they’re on Tiktok.

Deborrah Ashley  40:26

They don’t realize though, they could make it fun. So they could go on LinkedIn and they can, they can share just from a place of this is how I use TikTok. This is how you can use TikTok, so they can go on there and they can now position themselves as like an expert on TikTok, and then an organization. I mean, maybe they’re not even going to school for that, but who knows an organization could pay them $100,000 a year just to tell them how to use TikTok.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:54

So, so true, and so I have a son who’s 12. And he definitely is a pretty active TikTok user but increasingly what he what he’s using the force to find like to experiment with recipes.

Deborrah Ashley  41:07


Erica Mills Barnhart  41:08

Right and so I think this is fantastic, of course. I love cooking and like just as I guess I mentioned that because people think of TikTok is like, kind of patently silly. Like, this is such a generational stereotypical thing in Gen Xers and older like Tik what, you know, kind of like what why would you be that? But there is this you know, and I really appreciate you pointing out like where these things can converge in a really cool way because I was a little resistent about TikTok, you know, like really spend your time doing TikTok videos, this is how okay, but one it’s kind of cute. I also have a almost 16 year old daughter and so they’ll make and she’s a dancer. So make TikTok videos together but he is becoming a good little cook because of TikTok. Right. So that’s a silly example. But I really loved this idea that you offered to you thinking of college age and whatever, yeah, to like, establish yourself and if you had a specific area of expertise, you could blend the two so if you’re interested in environmental, you know issues climate change or whatever, you could actually look for videos on Tiktok about that and then bring that in. Oh, that’s that’s fun.

Deborrah Ashley  42:22

And your son even now let’s get him to make money your son could now work with some food, you know, we have that food as medicine type of companies. And they send like, this is for me, I you know, when I was younger, I said, I wanted to be a food critic. So I can I can get free meals to write about, but so they could start to sponsor him and they could send him food in order to do TikTok videos about you know, different there’s different things that you can do with it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  42:49

So many different things.

Deborrah Ashley  42:51

Yeah, but then he would meet them either on Instagram or LinkedIn. So he would meet those people there and then they would bring him in as an influencer, depending on how you know large is account is.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:01

 Totally going to talk to him about this. He doesn’t post as much. He’s more of like a consumer, as opposed to a producer. I will say though our family is pretty well known for our chocolate chip cookies. We make very good chocolate chip cookies. And the evolution of that happened over the weekend because of TikTok. Which it turns out, you can put your cookie dough into the waffle maker.

Deborrah Ashley  43:23

I didn’t know that but you’re right.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:25

Oh, it’s delicious. Ice cream on top, on cheat day. Oh, it was I was like this is the best thing ever. So that gives you a lot of insight into our weekend.

Deborrah Ashley  43:38

I’m excited about that. I never thought about it. But yeah, waffle maker.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:41

Waffle maker. Hmm. And anyway, it’s faster. There was a lot of perks to the waffle maker approach. We touched on this, but I want to make sure that we come back to it and we’re actually we’re talking about it a little bit here, which is this idea of inclusion. We were just talking about it sort of in terms of age. But you know, how can companies and organizations be more inclusive in their marketing in genera and then in LinkedIn in particular.

Deborrah Ashley  44:04

Yeah, I think the big thing and you know, obviously with everything going on with a bigger focus now on diversity and inclusion, because it was always there, but it’s really urgent for companies now. I think the importance is, and this can be all around the LinkedIn profile and your presence, you know, there’s a difference between and I’ve seen this on Instagram, which makes me cringe a little bit. It’s not necessarily put in my face on one of your LinkedIn or Instagram posts when you don’t necessarily know me, and it’s not relevant. But it’s about having a conversation about why it’s important to you and maybe even admitting that in the past, this wasn’t something that you thought about, and yes, I’ve messed up and we overlooked it. But this is how we are working at this point in order to make sure that things change. You know, it’s going to be important, especially if we think about nonprofits and recruiting the right board members, other organizations and recruiting VPs. Because if now they go to your profile, your just your social media presence in general, or LinkedIn or anywhere else, and they don’t see anything that speaks to them, or they don’t see people that look like them, then either when they get in that interview, they will be hammering you with questions, or they may not want to even, you know, be associated at all.

Erica Mills Barnhart  45:20

Yeah, it’s not gonna feel authentic. No, like, you can’t just write an, you know, diversity equity inclusion statement, put it on your website, and then say like, look, we have it there.

Deborrah Ashley  45:33

We have it there. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  45:34

I really appreciate your point about boards of directors. Yeah, definitely. But also, I hope that listeners and viewers will really hear your point about owning the messing up that may have happened in the past, right? We can’t, revisionist history isn’t going to serve us going forward. And this loops back to a theme that’s been kind of coming up and what you’re saying around being human, and humans fail.

Deborrah Ashley  46:00


Erica Mills Barnhart  46:01

And that’s super scary. And yet if we’re going to move forward and you’re truly going to be inclusive, you know, that’s a bit of bravery that has to happen.

Deborrah Ashley  46:12

Right? And it’s almost like a sales and marketing call when we think about sales and a sales call. They maybe they’re probably thinking about it already. You’ve never talked about this in the past. How do I know this is something different? So why not address it right now? So now, any objections they possibly have, you’re just putting out on the table and people appreciate that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  46:31

They do. Yeah. And it’s scary. Get it? I mean, all you know, speaking as a white woman, yes, I have messed up a lot. Also, when it comes to marketing, and there’s been a couple other podcasts about this, just being so mindful of the implicit bias that you bring, right? And if you’re not aware of it, and you can’t name it, then just the way that that marketing the like behemoth machine of marketing is structured right now you really risk perpetuating dominant paradigms.

Deborrah Ashley  47:04


Erica Mills Barnhart  47:04

So you have to be so proactive about it, but it’s really doable. And but it is that intentionality out of the gate and that owning the stuff like, I’ve talked about this on other podcasts, but I, you know, I teach this graduate marketing course. And a couple years ago, one of my students, God bless her, said, hey, I know that you really care about diversity. I can feel that and have you looked at the authors on the reading list?

Deborrah Ashley  47:27

Oh, wow.

Erica Mills Barnhart  47:28

All white.

Deborrah Ashley  47:30


Erica Mills Barnhart  47:31

I get like, choked up every time I tell that story, because it was it was a moment and I had to say, no, I didn’t see it.

Deborrah Ashley  47:39

But I’m so glad that you are a person that they completely trust that they could come to you with that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  47:44

Oh, such a blessing. Oh, my students are blessings in every way. I had this,  so speaking of inclusion, I want to be mindful of time and your time and listeners time, viewers time, but quickly, pronouns.I wasn’t intending to go here. But I think it’s really really feels related to me. Which is we’re having, like, you know, an evolution of, you know, with they being a singular pronoun. And that actually, that’s more inclusive than the, you know, it used to be you had to pick he she them. And then there was the s/he  kind of middle ground like that I happened for a while. And I as a writer, I’m like, Oh my gosh, they is finally a singular pronoun. It’s like, yay, but it’s little things like that and I’m thinking about like on LinkedIn profiles, just that attentiveness to the pronouns that you’re using can also speak to like, I’m trying, I get it. I’m trying.

Deborrah Ashley  48:42

Yeah. And this, and as you said before, it should be authentic. So don’t do it if it doesn’t feel authentic to you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  48:50

Thank you, Deborah.

Deborrah Ashley  48:51


Erica Mills Barnhart  48:52

There are people for a variety of reasons if we just stick with the pronoun example. They’re like, I can’t do it. They is plural. It’s never going to be singular for me. But what made me think about that is I just student a couple years ago, all my students are such gifts I learned so much from them. And she was just, she was so lovely and gracious about, you know, she’d come up after class and be like, that was great. You know, I learned a lot about this. I just thought I’d flag for you. There was a lot of gendered, you know, language today and here’s an example. And here’s how the future you might change that.

Deborrah Ashley  49:25

That’s amazing.

Erica Mills Barnhart  49:26

But it’s amazing that you took the time. Right? And she was willing. Oh, amazing. So I’m super blessed that way that I have my students who like-

Deborrah Ashley  49:34

Absolutely, but yeah, but like I said, that speaks volumes about who you are too that they feel comfortable doing that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  49:40

Thank you. I appreciate that. All right. We’ve talked about a lot of different things. So what’s one action, one action that you would recommend that people take.

Deborrah Ashley  49:52

If you still have that blue default banner on your LinkedIn profile, change it today.

Erica Mills Barnhart  50:00

Yeah that is so true.

Deborrah Ashley  50:04

Yeah. And if not, if you’re already past the second step, then just this week work on optimizing or just, you know, making your LinkedIn profile more of a reflection of who you are and where you’re going.

Erica Mills Barnhart  50:17

Yeah, a little bit of bravery. Yeah, we need human now more than ever. We need human right?

Deborrah Ashley  50:23


Erica Mills Barnhart  50:24

So I close every single interview with the same question, which is about inspiration and motivation. So the roots, the etymology of the word inspiration means to give breath. And then motivation is about action. So we need inspiration to take action. So Deborrah, what inspires you and what motivates you to keep doing this work?

Deborrah Ashley  50:43

What inspires me and I never thought about it this way before but what inspires me are people who are ready to give up that we may not have even met before but something that we say or something that we do, specifically on the online space creates this different world for them where they want to try again. So that inspires me. And what motivates me daily is, I don’t know. I just love what I do. I just love what I do. The feedback that I get from people, the lives that and I never, I never necessarily think I’m changing lives, but the worlds that I’m changing and the conversations that are changing based on what I put out there.

Erica Mills Barnhart  51:25 Yeah. And the perspectives that are changing. Yeah. And the access that you create and the connection so you create. Yeah, I think that that’s, I think that’s world changing according to me. Thank you, Deborrah, so much for being here. Deborrah, aka the LinkedIn blackbelt. Folks, of course, you can find her on LinkedIn for sure. I so appreciate you being here today. I learned a ton. So thank you. It was like a mini mini masterclass for all of us. So I so appreciate you being here, appreciate what you’re doing and what you’re sharing. You were very generous with your knowledge with all of us. Thank you. And of course listeners and viewers, thank you for being here. And, as always, do good, be well and we will see you next time.