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Rediscovering the “WHY” behind Corban University

The cherry trees are in bloom along the driveway that winds up the campus hill. Just past historic Shimmel Hall, a clock tower stands like a beacon, guiding groups of students to the Psalm Performing Arts Center for chapel. They amble down the hill from science labs, classrooms, and dorms, carefree despite the backpacks draped over their shoulders filled with microbiology textbooks, study Bibles, and laptops.

When prospective students walk onto Corban University’s campus, this is what they first see: the natural beauty of its location, the historic beauty of its buildings, the up-to-date facilities, and the challenging academic programs. In a sense, these elements comprise Corban’s “product”—these are the elements students’ tuition dollars are paying for. But the product itself isn’t why students come.

According to author and marketing consultant Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” In 2009, Sinek delivered a TED talk titled “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” He began by explaining that influential leaders, marketers, and entrepreneurs have found success because they’ve made one small change in how they process and communicate information.

Most people begin with “what.”

To demonstrate this concept, he drew three concentric circles and labeled the outermost circle “WHAT,” the next circle “HOW,” and the innermost circle “WHY.” He explained that most people process information from outside in. All day long, we process what we are doing. Answering the question “What did you eat for breakfast?” wouldn’t take more than a second’s thought: “I had a piece of toast with almond butter.” Answering the question “How?” would take a bit more thought, as you described the process of making toast. But answering “Why?” (as many parents of small children know) is more elusive, and leads to the realm of values, beliefs, and worldviews. Why did you eat almond butter toast? Is it because you believe the protein will strengthen your body and boost your metabolism? Why do you care about a strong body and high metabolism? Is it because you value health? Meeting society’s standards of attractiveness? Staying active outdoors?

If “what” deals with the visible and factual, “why” deals with the abstract and value-based. And according to Sinek, the “why,” not the “what,” drives human behavior.

Successful leaders begin with “why.”

Although “what” is easier to articulate than “why” (it’s easy to list “what” on an admissions brochure: 15:1 faculty-student ratio! Available scholarships! Top-tier athletics!), successful companies, leaders, and campaigns, Sinek says, begin not with “what” but with “why.”

He gives the example of a typical advertisement for an Apple product. Apple doesn’t start by telling you what product they have; they start by telling you why they exist. “We believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed . . . and user-friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?” Sinek explains that almost every successful leader follows this pattern: Why, how, what. Think about how many commercials you see that don’t show the product—the “what”—until the very end. First, you’re presented with a value a company aligns itself with: a unified family, the beauty of nature, romance. Not until the end do you discover the “what”: Febreze air freshener, the Toyota Prius, Chanel perfume.

It sounds so simple. So why isn’t everyone doing it?

There are a couple of reasons.

It’s incredibly easy to forget why you’re doing something.

The “what” is visible; the “why” is invisible. Too easily, we become distracted by what is visible: new academic programs, new athletic facilities, additional classroom space, endowed scholarships. (To clarify, I’m not saying that the “what” is unimportant, or that we shouldn’t update our facilities. We have a winning track team and no track. That’s a problem. A track and field is a very necessary “what.”) But the “what” should always serve the “why.” We must continuously remind ourselves why we exist. Why does Corban University exist? What do we believe, and what do we value?

“Why” is more difficult to communicate than “what.”

The second reason some leaders struggle to put Sinek’s principle into practice is that, while they may know why they exist, they struggle to communicate it to others. Once again, communicating “what” is easy: an 82-year-old Christian university, on 142 acres, with over 50 academic majors and programs. It’s quantifiable. Communicating “why” is more difficult. And while a mission statement (“To educate Christians who will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ”) can help articulate a company or institution’s “why” it does so only partially. It’s still abstract, hard to visualize or grasp.

So, how do you ensure not only that you are communicating your “why” clearly, but that you yourself don’t forget why you’re doing what you’re doing?

How to rediscover and communicate your “why”

Perhaps you’ve heard new parents talk about their newborn, complaining about sleepless nights, tantrums, and endless diaper changes. “And then,” they’ll say, “she laughed for the first time, and we remembered why we were doing this.” A similar phenomenon can help you remember the “why” behind what you’re doing—the individual story.

If you were to follow those students heading down the hill toward the Psalm Center, walk through the doors behind them, and take a seat during a chapel service, you would begin to hear students’ stories. They’d tell stories about doubts they’d resolved, challenges they’d overcome, traumatic events they’d healed from, mistakes they’d repented, all the while praising the glory and power of God.

“This,” you’d say to yourself, “is why we’re doing this. This is what we value: godliness of character, true repentance,  and obedience to Christ, glory and praise being given back to God, lives being changed. Stories are what transform an elusive, abstract “why” into something tangible and real.

While Chanel, Toyota, and Febreze have to manufacture stories to express their “why”—that family enjoying a summer barbecue is actually comprised of actors who’ve memorized scripts—institutions like Corban see real people’s stories unfold every day. A young woman who came to Corban as a timid freshman, uncertain about her calling, leaves for Madagascar to work for Mercy Ships. A young man who’d spent years in the military and came to Corban not sure how he’d fit back into academic society is now a business consultant, who shares godly business principles with his clients.

These are the stories you can share to communicate your “why,” to show your prospective clients, students, and investors what you believe and what you value and to make your mission statement real to them. “We’re shaping these young people into young men and women who are confident in Christ, who can engage the culture from a biblical perspective, and who are guided by truth, love, humility, and integrity,” you can say. This is our why. The track field, science labs, qualified faculty, and Pacific Northwest beauty just help us accomplish it.

Author: Simon Sinek
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t Hardcover
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

4 Reasons to Customize your LinkedIn URL

  1. Reinforces a consistent personal brand
  2. Provides an easy to remember and share URL
  3. Increases overall visibility
  4. Improves tech savvy image

Building a durable brand online requires both frequency and consistency and a customized LinkedIn URL is one of the building blocks.

When anyone creates a LinkedIn profile they are assigned default URL. The default URL contains random impersonal letters and numbers. Securing a customized URL is a free feature provided by LinkedIn and the upgrade only takes a few moments to accomplish.

Here are the steps to customize your LinkedIn URL:

1) Log in your LinkedIn profile.
2) Edit your Public Profile (follow this link to the correct page)
3) Edit your Public Profile URL (it’s located in the top right corner of the page)

For the most professional URL, try: If that isn’t available, add your middle initial or industry.

Here’s a more detailed instructional link:


4 Basic Elements of a Positioning Statement

All marketing strategies and tactics need a well-constructed positioning statement to help maintain focus. The positioning statement is for internal use and should not show up in marketing copy. Every brand decision should be judged by how well it supports the positioning statement. These decisions include: brand name, the product or service itself, packaging, advertising, promotions, etc. It’s one of the primary tools for agencies to manage clients and clients to manage agencies.

A positioning statement describes the customer and paints a picture of how you want the market to perceive your brand.

There are four basic elements or components to a positioning statement:

  1. Target Audience – the attitudinal and demographic description of the core prospect. The customers who represents the brand’s most fervent users
  2. Frame of Reference (FOR) – the category in which the brand competes.  Context gives the brand relevance to the customer.
  3. Benefit/Point of Difference (POD) – the most compelling and motivating benefit that the brand can own.
  4. Reason to Believe – the most convincing proof that the brand delivers what it promises.

Template for a Positioning Statement:
For (target audience)(brand name) is the (frame of reference) that delivers (benefit/point of difference) because only (brand name) is reason to believe).

The wording of your positioning statement may vary. But to be effective, it must contain the five main components in brackets above.

Criteria for Evaluating a Positioning Statement

  1.  Is it memorable, motivating, and focused to the core prospect?
  2. Does it provide a clear, distinctive, and meaningful picture of the brand?
  3. Does it differentiate itself from the competition?
  4. Can the brand own it?
  5. Is it credible and believable?
  6. Does it enable growth?
  7. Does it serve as a filter for brand decision making?

What if we rename SWOT to TOWS?

SWOT is one of the most useful tools to conduct a strategic analysis. It is also often misunderstood. The reason has to do with historic development and naming of the tool. SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It was developed by a team at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in the late 1960s.

The idea is to analyze internal capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) combined with the external environment (threats and opportunities). Armed with this analysis, begin to to identify strategic priorities and develop plans to address them.

The developers named their method SWOT. There is an implied hierarchy which encourages the analysis to first assess internal strengths and weaknesses, and then external opportunities and threats. This implied hierarchy has created problems for those who use this tool to drive strategy discussions in teams. In the absence of something to anchor the discussion, an analysis of organizational strengths and weaknesses can become abstract and undirected. Groups often fail in trying to define their organization’s strengths and weaknesses, end up frustrated and exhausted, and so give less attention to critical developments in the external environment.

A more progressive approach is to start with the environment and then analyze the organization. The first step is to assess the organization’s external environment, looking for emerging threats and potential opportunities. This assessment needs people who embedded in the reality of the organization and knowledgeable about its environment.

Having identified potential threats and opportunities, the group is able to better evaluate them with reference to organizational capabilities. Does the organization have weaknesses that make it particularly vulnerable to specific threats? Does the organization have strengths that would permit it to pursue specific opportunities?

The final step is to translate these assessments into a set of strategic priorities, blunting critical threats and pursuing high-potential opportunities. These are then the inputs to a more extensive strategic planning process.

A name change like this will never happen. But we can inject more discipline into the process.



How To Know Whether You’re Too Old To Call Yourself A Millennial

Terms like “Gen X” and “Gen Y,” baby boomer, and millennial get thrown around all of the time, as if we know exactly what they mean. But try asking someone in their early 30s what category they fall into. Few have a ready answer. Beyond that, these categories are used to define broad swaths of people. For example, the youngest of the millennial cohort, depending on what dates you use, are 9 or 10 right now, and the oldest are, if you use an early start date, around 31. Despite that, articles make sweeping generalizations.  It’s worth breaking down what each of these terms actually mean, even though some are still in dispute today. The issue is that people confuse generations, which are specifically defined by birth dates, with “cohorts,” a slightly more vague grouping of people based on common experiences. The divisions we know and reference are usually hybrids of the two. Here’s the breakdown of the terms used and what people mean by them.

The Greatest Generation 

Also known as: The Depression Cohort, The Silent Generation (later), the G.I. Generation (early), the post-war generation, the seekers.

Approximate dates: Born 1901-1924 (early) 1924-1943 (later)

Defining characteristics: Grew up, and frequently were defined by their experiences growing up, during The Great Depression and World War 2. “The Greatest Generation” is a term coined by Tom Brokaw to describe a group of people who helped fight and win World War 2, abroad or at home, and helped build the post-war prosperity that helped define the generations after them. Regarded as having a sense of purpose and duty to country, and working extremely hard to better themselves. Those too young to serve, called “The Silent Generation,” experienced the war as children or very young adults, and were described by the Time story that named them as “grave and fatalistic,” inclined to work very hard, but not say all that much.

Baby Boomers 

Also known as: Boom generation, hippies (subculture)

Approximate dates: 1946-1964

Defining characteristics: Loosely, those born during the post war “baby boom” of the late ’40s and ensuing decades, where birth rates significantly increased. Among their defining experiences were the first space flight, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and later, the Vietnam War and Watergate. They developed some of the first counter-cultures, and though early boomers were known for their tendencies towards freedom and experimentation, that grew into a sense of disillusionment and distrust for the government for the latter members. Still, compared to those who followed them, “Boomers tend to value work more than younger generations and see work as being more central to their lives than younger generations.” In the ’60s, the stereotype of the generation was a navel-gazing hippie, but now, the generation is more identified with those currently in power.

Challenges: They’re rapidly getting older and retiring, and not all of them have saved up enough to be able to do so. The fact that many in this generation led the institutions that caused the current financial crisis didn’t help. Those who are still working, or are forced to work by their financial situation, face an unfortunate bias from employers. Companies don’t like to hire older workers, and they don’t like to hire those who have been out of the workforce for a long time.

Gen X 

Also known as: Baby busters, the MTV generation

Approximate dates: 1965-1981

Defining characteristics: Grew up in the political climate in the aftermath of Watergate and the Vietnam War, during a series of recessions, the Reagan presidency, the AIDS epidemic, and the end of the Cold War. Research finds  Gen Xers are more likely to be independent and value their own career over organizations. They value autonomy and freedom at their jobs, and are not as work-centric as older generations. They’re more socially liberal than the Baby Boomers, and they’re the first generation to fully embrace the Internet. In the ’80s, the stereotype was that the generation was intensely self-involved, greedy, and narcissistic. Now, since they make up so much of the workforce, it’s hard to pin it down.

Challenges: The older members of Gen X are currently at the top, or near the top of many organizations. As more and more Baby Boomers retire, they’ll have to foot the bill, and that bill’s getting ever larger. Also, many don’t have skill sets that really apply in the current job market.Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to change tracks, especially for those later in their career.



Fred Benenson on Flickr Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the site of Amazon’s latest warehouse, is a mecca for the young and hip. Here are some of its residents.

Also known as: Gen Y, Nexters, Generation Next

Approximate dates: 1982-2004

Defining characteristics: Grew up during a time of economic prosperity, then many entered the workforce during a recession. Surrounded by the rapid advance of technology, particularly the Internet. More live with their parents, though the accusations of narcissism have more to do with the fact that all young people are narcissistic than any trait of the generation. And their values are just about in line with those who came before them.  Their attitude towards work differs; they expect quick advancement , and don’t expect to stay at any one organization for very long, a legacy of living through the financial crisis and the resulting weak economy. Also identified with the hipster stereotype/subculture, and with being glued to their smartphones rather than engaged with the world or their jobs.

Challenges: Facing a particularly difficult job market at the moment. Not that long ago, a college degree was a decent guarantee of a good job. Now, that’s not the case . Many recent graduates can’t get a job outside of retail and hospitality, let alone in their current major. Many have high student debt as well, as the cost of college rises and wages stay stagnant. Not forgetting that the problems with Baby Boomers retiring that falls on Gen X, will fall doubly hard on millennials.



5 Simple Tips for the Perfect Blog Interview

Interviewing others for blog posts is  a fantastic way to leverage current business relationships, start new relationships and drive new traffic to your blog, but the best part is you get to exchange ideas with absolutely brilliant people. It also gives the blog a more conversational flavor and helps broaden the scope of the content.

If you’ve been considering beginning an interview series on your blog, here are the Top 5 tips that I’ve learned along the way:

1. Brush up on your journalism skills:

Do a little research on each of your interviewees before putting together your questions. It will show that not only do you know your stuff, but also that you are truly interested in what they have to say.

2. Don’t limit the subject: Let your interview topic be broad. Don’t limit questions to your area of expertise or even to the theme you’re focusing on. Often, an interviewee will move off topic slightly, but, remember, this is natural and it is ok. If you can, even add a personal question or two.

3. Get ready to share yourself: Often, once you strike up a relationship with these folks and have earned a bit of respect, they’ll ask to interview you as well or write a guest post (like this one). Be ready and willing to share.

4. Provide feedback and promotional information: Make sure that you properly promote the post once you’ve posted it. Share the link with the person that you’ve interviewed, and don’t forget to remind them to share it with their friends and family and via social media channels. Also, if you’ve learned something particularly useful or have more questions, don’t be afraid to ask. After all, this might be your only chance to speak with the “greats” of a particular discipline.

5. Keep the conversation going: Time allowing, try to keep the conversation going after the interview via e-mail or on social media networks like Facebook , LinkedIn or Twitter. Friend or follow them, and make the effort to maintain the relationship if you can.


5 Ways Authors Can Use Pinterest as a Marketing Tool

Guest blogger: Erin MacPherson

We’ve been talking about Pinterest as a marketing tool for authors (here and here ) and today I want to get your creative juices flowing by telling you about some innovative approaches to Pinterest marketing. There are many more, so please share your ideas in the comments and we can turn this post into a great Pinterest resource for writers. Here are my favorite ideas:

1. Recruit a Guest Pinner 

I’ve used this strategy to great success for about six months now and it’s not only helped me to build my Pinterest boards up, but it’s also allowed me to have new, fresh content to share on my Facebook page each week. I love it. And it’s so easy! Invite another author/blogger/writer to pin on one of your existing boards (or a secret board if you want to do a big one-time roll out) by clicking “edit board” and then “invite other pinners.” From there, allow your guest pinner to add pins to your board. It’s a win for you because you’ll get fresh content on your Pinterest boards that you don’t have to work for, new pins for social media and some Pinterest collaboration with another author. And it’s a win for your guest pinners because they get a whole new audience with whom to share their content.

2. Pinterest Wars 

Authors Katie Ganshert and Becky Wade host a weekly Pinterest war where they face off to try a new recipe, activity, craft or style. They both post pictures on their blogs and then have their readers vote to see who did it best. This is a brilliant idea because it not only helps both authors to drive traffic to their blogs (who doesn’t love to vote?) but it also helps them to create a relatable and fun voice with their audiences.

3. Pinterest Challenges 

I’ve seen several authors and bloggers challenge their readers to make a certain recipe or craft each week and then post the results on Facebook or on a new Pinterest board. Try challenging your audience to make a superhealthy smoothie or a fun spring craft and then submit photos which you can subsequently post on Pinterest for all to see.

4. Pin-It Party 

The bloggers at Creative Geekery host a weekly Pin-It party where they invite their readers to pin their favorite pins. Those pins are then shared across social media by a series of bloggers as well as a “hall of fame” of pins is posted on the blog each week. What a great way to aggregate content from other writers as well as drive traffic to both a blog and a Pinterest board.

5. Use Photos from Fans 

A few months ago, I noticed that a lot of people were posting (on Facebook) photos of huge messes made by their kids. So, I quickly created an app (and related contest) where people could submit their biggest Mom-Tastrophe photos to me. Once submitted, I use PicMonkey to add a title to each photo as well as my blog title and then I save them all to a Mom-Tastrophes Pinterest Board . This board has quickly become my most repinned board on Pinterest.

How have you used Pinterest as a marketing tool — or what are some good ideas you’ve heard about?

Erin MacPherson is an Austin, Texas mom by day and writer by night. She works as a staff writer for Dun & Bradstreet where she writes social media and marketing copy for companies like Disney, Nissan, LeapFrog and Discover Card. Her new series of books, The Christian Mama’s Guide series, released this month from Thomas Nelson. Drop by to say hello on Facebook, on Pinterest or at .


4 Tips to Keep Your Email List Squeaky Clean

by Pamela Vaughan

This is a guest post written by Heather Bonura. Heather is the director of brand strategy for Lititz, PA-based email marketing firm, Listrak.

We all know that email marketing is continually evolving. Subscribers are savvier, and therefore, we need to get more targeted. But many marketers still haven’t adjusted their email strategies to be truly effective. It’s no longer valuable to rent a list and blast out a message to a million recipients in hopes they’ll appreciate your efforts and take advantage of your offer. In fact, tactics like that can often do more harm than good. If you aren’t building and managing your own email lists, you’re not only missing the profiling data that is specific to your company, but you’re running the risk of being flagged as spam and decreasing your ROI.

Here are some tips for managing and optimizing your email list.

1. Make Sure Your List Has Good Hygiene

Performing a simple data check to correct misspellings and typos entered during the acquisition phase is the first step toward clean lists. This will enable you to clean up simple errors such as, tara@gmailcom, terry!, etc., so you don’t deploy messages to invalid accounts. During this process, you should also remove any distribution email addresses, such as; system email addresses, such as; and any email address with the word “spam” in it. Many email marketing providers have list hygiene tools built in to their services to keep your list clean and bounce rates low.

2. Manage Bounce Rate

Undelivered emails continue to cause a lot of confusion for email marketers, as the bounce codes are cryptic and lack standardization across different email clients. However, this is a critical step in list management, and frankly, it increases your email ROI by not mailing to addresses that bounce. You don’t have to decipher every bounce code, you just have to manage hard and soft bounces.

A soft bounce is a temporary deliverability problem, such as a full inbox or a server that is down. It’s okay for you to resend emails to these addresses because there is a good chance they will go through on the second or third attempt.

A hard bounce is a permanent deliverability problem, such as an invalid email address. Since there is no chance the email will ever get delievered, it is important to remove these addresses immediately. ISPs track the number of bounces you generate with each send and use it when determining your reputation. If you generate too many bounces, internet service providers (ISPs) may block your messages. Keeping these addresses on your list will also squew your analytics in a negative way.

3. Monitor Feedback Loops

Another factor ISPs use to determine your reputation is the number of complaints your messages generate. With email clients today, it’s often easier for people to report your unwanted messages as spam than it is for them to unsubscribe from your list. Even if you followed all of the acquisition best practices and the subscribers opted in to receive emails from you, they can still report your messages as spam. It is imperative that you monitor feedback loops so you can identify complainers and immediately remove them from your lists.

4. Remove Inactive Subscribers

The thought of proactively removing subscribers from your list who haven’t personally unsubscribed might sound crazy to you. However, it is a current trend and best practice that savvy marketers are using to improve ROI by ensuring their lists only contain subscribers who are engaged. After all, if someone is only going to delete your message, why even send it in the first place?

Before you remove subscribers, try a re-engagement campaign to regain their interest. You might offer a special incentive to recapture their attention. If that doesn’t work, simply ask them if they wish to remain on your list and include an easy way for them to opt out, or send a notification that their subscription period is ending and ask them to opt-in again. If the subscriber remains inactive, remove them from your list. Remember: the success of an email marketing campaign should not measured by the number of subscribers. Rather, it should be measured by the quality of the subscribers and the actions they take as a result of your email (like downloading your ebook and converting into a lead!). Therefore, it’s better to deploy campaigns to 20,000 active and engaged people than it is to blast the email to 30,000 people if half of them don’t care, delete it, or worse — report it as spam.

With these tips as your guide, you’re now armed with the knowledge you need to clean up your email list so you can increase ROI and revenue.

When was the last time you updated your email list? What’s your bounce rate like?

Recommended Reading

An Executive’s Guide to Managing Email (Paperback)

List Price: $6.99 USD
New From: $6.99 USD In Stock
Used from: $7.38 USD In Stock

Email 101 for Executives: What You Need to Know to Maximize Sales & Marketing Efforts An Executive’s Guide to Managing Email is ‘Email 101’ for executives. It helps busy executives understand the importance of best practices without getting into copious detail. Deciding if you need an email service provider? Struggling to choose the right one? Trying to build a quality email list? An Executive’s Guide to Managing Email covers all of this and more. It’s what you need to know but didn’t know to ask. Make no mistake; An Executive’s Guide to Managing Email is a short, quick read. Give it an hour, and you’ll have powerful knowledge to advise a hands-on, email operations team. Please note that this is NOT for seasoned email practitioners. It is for senior team members who need to understand the ‘rules of engagement’ without being involved in day-to-day operations.