About John Castagna

John is a passionate expert in leadership communication, and oversight of internal and external relationship-building including PR and marketing functions. He's worked as national spokesman in major media. He's improved team communications and projects with major corporations and non-profits, as well as federal and state government. A former managing broadcast journalist, he can help polish your speaking and presenting skills. Off-the-clock he loves the outdoors, sports, cooking and travel, and playing guitar.

What Business Can Learn From a Squirrel

Whether it’s cold or warm outside my  back door, one constant around the bird feeders are the irrepressible squirrels. They never give up. They stick with their DNA-imbued mission. Nothing we people can do mutes or trumps their drive to do what a squirrel’s got to do.

I watched a couple of combatants battling for the best of my sunflower seeds on my porch this morning, when it suddenly occurred that I was seeing a life lesson. And I realized that marketers could take more than a few cues from these industrious critters.

Lesson one: Protect Your Nuts.

You have assets, values, ideas that represent the foundation of what you do well. Like the determined creatures out back, you must identify and seize upon those core values that make you and your company authentic, valuable, irreplaceable, and you’ve got to fight to keep those things. That takes determination, identification, constancy and realization … and the will to work hard to protect and tout those essential assets if you expect to survive another year.

Lesson two: Find and Discover New Nuts.

Its brain is smaller than yours … a lot smaller and a lot less sophisticated … but every squirrel understands that it will never survive by being satisfied with the nuts it knows. Discovery is part of the survival business of being a squirrel and it should be yours, too.  A great PR partner can help your business discover what you may not find on your own.

Lesson three: Never Assume the Old Storehouse Will Still be There.

Squirrels thrive on urgency. So should you. Like that birdseed thief on your patio, you’ve got to move fast, with constancy, to find new opportunities. Some opportunities will feed your business for a while, but none lasts forever.  We’re schooled in John Kotter’s Harvard Business School research on the need for what’s called a burning platform beneath you.  Urgency fuels continual investment to feed your future.  It’s prerequisite to your success, today and for as many tomorrows as you still have.  The right strategic communication tools institutionalize urgency and help you to prosper.

Lesson four: Climb and Stretch Without Fear.

Squirrels take measured, successful risks. They’re unafraid of stretching the boundaries of what they’ve done in the past. Their athleticism at making good on their mission carries a lesson for all of us. We need to be more fearless about discovering new things.  We should all be as willing to take leaps of faith in ourselves, challenge old assumptions and processes.  Again, the right PR partner (Quicksilver Edge) can help you identify those moments and opportunities. With the right partner you can leap without fear.

Lesson Five: Make Noise and Proudly Wave Your Tail.

Success breeds success, both internally and external to your organization. No one will notice your success or your worth unless you take pains to signal what you are and what you bring to your business environment.  Squirrels are irrepressible. You ought to be irrepressible too. But when your forte is, in essence, nut supply and multiplication, it doesn’t make you an expert in all the other aspects of success — like marketing, publicity, reputation, respect and trust. Squirrels do it all. You can’t.

Let us help. Sitting on your nuts today won’t grow you an oak grove tomorrow. We can help you locate new opportunities, act with urgency, help you stretch your capabilities and let the world know that you’re a serious asset that’ll be around for a long time to come.

Just like those little guys in your back yard.

Diversity IQ Blind Spots

Ask a company executive – CEO, marketing exec, HR person – how they’re doing when it comes to diversity, and the probable response is “we’ve got this,” or something like it.

But even smart people don’t see what they don’t see. And most have an expensive blind spot in ageism.

That might be you too, a diversity IQ gap that hurts people and repels customers. Given psychographic and demographic changes across society it could cost you your business future, too.

Americans who become more experienced over time learn more about how to spend money on things and experiences they enjoy, desire or need, also learn who it is that respects them.

Companies spend billions refining language and marketing that appeals to multinational, gender and race segments, but ignore people they apparently label as “old.” Doing so makes claims of corporate values and ethics somewhat hypocritical. Continue Reading

Avoid Change at Your Own Peril – But Don’t Just Take Our Word For It.

Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture, had it right. We always think we have more time than we do.  This is as true of business as it is individual life. As others have rightly said before, it’s a sad mistake that we spend so much time endlessly waiting for tomorrow.   One day, you wake up and realize that there IS no more time to try what you promised you would, or to accomplish what you assumed you could. But then there you are. Wishing, mulling over the past, maybe cursing your bad luck while, if we’re honest, where we are and how things are largely about our own choices.

In 2035, 21 years from now, businesses and business owners who are thriving today could be on the far outside of success, outside a bubble looking in.  If this turns out to be someone you know, it could be because that person put off then-uncomfortable change in attitude and strategy that could have permanently changed things for the better. Continue Reading

Consumer Respect One Way is the Wrong Way

I have to assume that finding our way into an elephant graveyard of forgotten companies, products and services is not what we intend.   But if our communication is mostly one-way, that’s where we may be headed. Long-term success requires two-way communication, conversation, and a permanent commitment to building from that. The only possible exception might be that of the person or company who has cornered the market on something that everyone has to have.  And even then, things eventually change. Exxon-Mobile and Chevron, for example, don’t have to listen to you or hear your problems because you need gas to get to work and go to grandma’s.  That could, of course, change in time. But for now, complain all you want about the choosing between a fill-up and new shoes for little Katya. They don’t care. Continue Reading