Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter’

Hogwarts, Harry, and Leadership

Monday, January 10th, 2011

This post first appeared on HMA Time (1.7.11) and is cross-posted with permission. Alison Bailin is a senior PR account executive at HMA PR, a full-service marketing and public relations firm in Phoenix, Arizona, where she handles media relations, crisis communications, and event planning.

alan_relaxThis week, I (Alison, that is), took part in a BurrellesLuce webinar titled “The 12 Essential Talents of Marketing Communications Leadership… and other Lessons Learned from Harry Potter.”

The program was moderated by Johna Burke and hosted by Alan Cohen, who actually worked on the initial promotion for the Harry Potter books in the United States.  

Some key insights I learned as a result:

  • Kids can read! Kidding. But one of the main reasons I joined into this webinar was my absolute kudos that one literary phenomenon could prove that people do still, indeed, have imaginations.
  • Who we are and what we’re made of is as much about choices as abilities. Even Dumbledore said so!
  • Dumbledore is key. Turns out, almost every single talent is something Dumbledore does, not Harry, as I assumed when I signed up. I love a good twist in my webinars as well as my books.
  • Social media is like Harry Potter wizardry (thanks to Johna for asking this question)! Everyone has a voice and has the power to influence and inspire – no wand required.
  • Much like the evil Lord Voldemort at Hogwarts, there is a deadly character spreading around businesses – disengagement!

 And, of course, the 12 Essential Talents:

  1. Acute awareness of self and others. Treat others as creative, trustworthy and responsible just as Harry did so many times with Hermione, and others…
  2. Challenge perceptions and interpretations – Dumbledore was a great wizard but kept and open mind. Those scared of feedback make mistakes.
  3. Think like a visionary. Help people see and touch your values. Be clear and concise. For Alan, his PR team shared a vision to make that book a success and saw everything as an opportunity. Gave them ability to constantly move forward
  4. Creating alignment as it creates a North Star to set compasses by. Let small steps and victories, like winning a Quidditch match, keep you aligned toward the bigger goal.
  5. Act decisively. Decision making is shared leadership quality. Make sure people have enough information so they can also make decisions. Share decision making!
  6. Engage others! You do not do it alone. The more you serve the more impact you have on your team. Go deeper. Go under the stairs. Learn about people – you may have a Harry Potter in your midst
  7. Possess powerful energy. Dumbledore looked about a million years old but was such a force, he was a great leader to all ages. Lord Voldemort had energy too, but it was intimidating and he lost in the end.
  8. Emotional intelligence. It’s a bigger predictor of success than IQ! Create space between stimulus and response and remain calm as Dumbledore often did. Look at how you react versus how you want to react. Often, you need to just slow down a bit and ensure you are not leading with fear.
  9. Communicate dynamically! It isn’t just about what you say, but how you say. And, it’s also about actually very much about listening – within and between the lines. Be present. Care. Try to understand. How do you use your words? Seek clarity.
  10. See patterns and trends. Left brain is where verbal, rational thoughts turn to numbers and words. Right brain is all about the visual. Try using both sides – see the full story!
  11. Create high-energy teams. You need your Harry’s, Ron’s and Hermione’s. Everyone has a gift. Everyone has weaknesses. Leverage the good stuff to fight the bad!
  12. Display integrity through consistency and authority.

The white paper on the topic is also available by clicking here.

So, is Dumbledore the world’s greatest leader?

And how can you “Potterize” your leadership role among your friends, colleagues and family?


Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

We’re all familiar with the old brain-teaser: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

A question that’s much easier to answer – and more relevant to effective leadership practices – is: “If an employee offers an idea, and no one pays attention, does the employee stop participating?”

In most cases, the answer is a definite yes. Ignore a staffer’s input, and he or she will feel put out, turned off, alienated, and discouraged from offering suggestions in the future.

It’s no surprise that one of the biggest challenges to leadership today – perhaps the biggest – is that of employee disengagement…staff membersAlan Cohen, Acts of Balance Executive Coaching feeling they are not being heard, a feeling they translate into not being valued and ultimately not part of the creative team. So they tune out and stifle themselves from offering potentially valuable contributions in the future.

It’s not much different from the man who complains to his psychiatrist, “Doctor, everyone ignores me.”

The doctor responds: “Next.”

The opposite side of the disengagement coin is that, at some of the nation’s most successful public relations firms, employees at all levels are inspired to present ideas, no matter how far out of the proverbial box, and encouraged to question ideas of top management. And their challenges of these ideas are not only tolerated but even applauded.

When I was publicity director of the Scholastic team spearheading the publicity campaign for the Harry Potter book series, we all knew our mission and were committed to it. But at the same time, we welcomed the questions from everyone on the team, even when they reflected healthy skepticism.

Like the best elements of brainstorming, everyone was encouraged to present free-flowing ideas, confident there’d be no snap judgment articulated, no scoffing or rolling eyes or turned-up noses. Everyone’s idea was listened to, encouraged, and amplified. And as a result, we were all strengthened with everyone feeling he or she had shared in moving the team and its mission forward.

Some team leaders need to remember that it doesn’t diminish the boss’s luster to have an idea from a lower-level employee implemented. In fact, it rebounds favorably. Part of leadership is identifying and implementing good ideas, whatever or whoever the source.

An employee’s willingness to present possibly controversial ideas or to challenge those of higher-ups emerges only in a company culture that encourages it. That culture develops only when the leader is willing to identify employees’ hidden assets and potential and helps develop those qualities. The results: greater individual contribution and professional growth.

Leaders who understand this welcome employees who think differently from themselves. Rather than clone themselves, they don’t limit those they hire to “yes-men or -women.” Rather, they seek out even “no-people,” individuals who aren’t negative for the sake of it, but rather who aren’t intimidated about pointing out flaws in the boss’s thinking or who will sometimes take a contrary position, a la devil’s advocate.

A good balance to strive for: while demonstrating he or she is in charge, the boss realizes the possibility of being wrong, and thereby demonstrates an open-mindedness that encourages risk-taking for the ultimate good of the team.

Beyond this, forward-thinking bosses maintain an open-door policy, literally and figuratively, encouraging employees to share not only professional but personal matters as well. This means being a good, attentive listener, an often forgotten component of good communication, whether with an employee or a client.

You may have read recently of the first wedding to take place in space. When the capsule came back to earth, reporters hurried to interview family members. One reporter cornered the groom’s grandmother.

“How was the wedding?” he asked.

“Beautiful,” she said.

“The ceremony?”


“The music?”


“The food?”


The reporter said, “All your answers are positive, but there’s something in your tone that suggests everything wasn’t ideal.”

“Well,” said the grandmother, “to tell you the truth, there was no atmosphere.”

Yes, atmosphere matters. We’re in a serious business, but that doesn’t mean the environment has to be solemn. A wise leader put a premium on fun, light-hearted moments that help foster camaraderie and provide a pleasant cushion for the inevitable long hours and hard work.

They can also reflect the positive – contagious – energy that filters down from top to bottom in a thriving company, one where employees feel engaged and connected.

The plus factors are numerous, not the least of which is what a current Employment Engagement report by Blessing White has found: engaged employees plan to stay at their firms for what they give; disengaged stay for what they get.

The company’s survey also found that “executives appear to struggle with key leadership behaviors, especially what’s required to create a high-performance culture.” It also points out that managers have to understand each individual’s talents, interests and needs, and then match those with the organization’s objectives…while creating personal trusting relationships.

Blessing White emphasizes the importance of leadership focusing on engagement, “creating the dialogue, stirring up participation and driving people to focused, purposeful action.”

It urges the adoption of a “coach approach” as a means of transferring disengagement into “high-energy buy-in motivated employees and strong results.” By focusing on “what is working” and the strengths and individual needs of employees, the report contends, the odds of success are increased. The report notes that recognizing that each individual is motivated differently (seldom by money), will help create opportunities that mesh with individual needs.

The company strongly recommends self-evaluation to determine how open a leader is to engaging in a dialogue even with someone with a contradictory perspective, without feeling the need to prove anything about the leader’s point of view…and flexible enough to accept and implement someone else’s better idea.

All these goals are attainable, starting with listening – really listening – to that employee offering a potentially super idea.


 Alan Cohen, president of Acts of Balance Executive Coaching ( and a PRSA Counselors Academy member, is an executive coach, trainer and brainstorm facilitator with more than 25 years of experience in business, including public relations and human resources. 

Download a free copy of “The 12 Essential Talents of PR Leadership” at

American Television Creating Global Brands Through Overseas Expansion

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010


On a recent trip to Colombia (South America), after a long day of sightseeing, I thought I’d switch on the TV with the hope of maybe catching an American baseball game … Instead, I found an episode of MTV Network’s “Jersey Shore.” As if it wasn’t surprising enough that this show recently became a television phenomenon in the states, I found out it was also number one on pay television in Colombia amongst 18-24 year olds, as well as in Mexico.

American television companies are penetrating international markets at a rapid pace and are leveraging multiple platforms, turning their creations into global brands or “multi platform franchises.” “Transmedia storytelling,” where multiple platforms are used to create varying entry points to the story while sticking to the main narrative, is a huge contributing factor in expanding these franchises. Additional revenue, created by linking video and computer games, mobile devices, and websites to the show, in turn helps entertainment companies offset high production costs. “Once people fall in love with a brand they want to interact with it in all sorts of ways,” says Tony Cohen, the head of Fremantle Media.

Transmedia storytelling is nothing new to entertainment – movie studios have used it for years making Spider-Man and Harry Potter as recognizable worldwide as Coke or McDonald’s. Avatar, Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster hit of 2009, grossed $747 million in the states and a whopping $2.7 billion worldwide, surpassing Titanic’s overseas box office record.

McDonald’s created Internet- based games and a sweepstakes around Avatar that included a private screening of the film among other prizes. “They’re realizing that the demographic they’re targeting isn’t using traditional media as much as they used to,” said Jeff Farmer, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in Boston.

As the Vice President of media and entertainment at BurrellesLuce I follow the television and movie industries very closely. A little break while traveling abroad would be nice, however, “Hollywood” seems to be everywhere these days.

What do you think? Is Hollywood and U.S. television over saturating the digital space? Are you using “transmedia” to engage and connect with your audience? What industry beyond entertainment do you think has crossed over with an effective use of transmedia public relations, marketing or advertising?