Interview With a Corporate Communications Expert: Michael Robison

Recently we chatted with Michael Robison CEO of The D5 Group. Michael has over 20 years of business experience, many of which he spent working on entrepreneurial ventures. In the interview, we learn valuable insights on how to help your leadership work together better by communicating effectively, and the power a unified company voice can have on your success.

Michael tells us about his background

My background like everyone in the entrepreneur world is pretty diverse. In the last 18-20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to serve many different industries in the non-profit and mainstream world. And in that timeframe The D5 Group, my current company, would be business number 6 for me. Some of those have been successes and some failures like any of us who take the risk to do it.

As far as my role in these businesses. I’ve been a communicator and a speaker most of my life. But thinking about my career, I’ve worked in sales and corporate strategy. These roles have required me to be a communicator, salesperson, strategic consultant, and a strategic thinker for my companies.

What are you working on right now?

The fun thing is that now I’m working on how I can help more people. As a communications strategist I get to help corporate teams, startups, and even sometimes solopreneurs really understand the value of communication within their team.

Just the other day I had the opportunity to work with a pretty incredible group here in New York. They’ve been pretty successful working together over the last 5 years. What I was able to do is help their team understand the why and the how of communication with one another which helped to strengthen the unity of their team. Also, we figured out their personal core values and matched them up with where they want to take the company.

When we align our personal values and our operational values it’s pretty amazing how efficient we can become and how much more we can accomplish. With The D5 Group, our focus is not so much on creating healthy companies but on creating healthy leaders. Because healthy leaders can lead healthy companies.

Why do companies need a strong brand voice?

I grew up in a big family, and I have a big family. When you’re in a crowded, busy world the idea of having a voice is super important. The question is: how do you utilize that voice? In a family sometimes you just get louder or out of sorts. That’s sometimes what happens to companies, they just get louder or crazier. That’s because they haven’t found their voice yet, and they don’t have direction. They’re just making noise hoping someone will pay attention.

When one of my kids says in a gentle and calm voice “hey dad”, I listen. In a corporate environment when a company can find their voice and learn how to use it, people listen. You don’t find your voice as a company until you establish a common language as a team.

How can a company’s brand voice contribute to a company’s brand and identity?

When you find your voice, and your common language it’s easier for your team members to feel like they are part of something real. When you can get your entire team to speak the same language and they’re all speaking at the same time, the world pays attention. The consistency and quality of that message makes such a difference.

I use my kids as an example. Four years ago I brought my youngest daughter home through adoption from Haiti. But, she didn’t speak English. So when she got home it was hard for her to communicate her needs and wants. And vice versa, it was hard for us to communicate with her. Helping her learn the language brought her into the entire family.

Another example is about one of my sons who was learning to walk and talk. Right around that time the Subway jingle “Eat Fresh” came out. He saw a Subway sign and said mom “Eat Fresh.” Now, he hadn’t learned to read yet, but the consistency and simplicity with which he heard that jingle helped him remember it. That was about his capacity at the time, being able to remember those two words “Eat Fresh.” But, it goes to show the power of a consistent voice.

What opportunities to contribute to their brand identity are most companies missing?

I honestly think it comes down communication. I’m not talking about your strategy for writing the company manual or some culture map. Sometimes I think we waste a lot of time building culture maps and we’re missing the opportunity to sit around the table and talk more. What ends up happening is that nobody understands each other and they miss out on the relationship portion of leadership. And there’s no strong leadership without relationships.

A lot of times in corporate we forget about that. We just think that we have a system, and we just need to stay in that system. Don’t get me wrong improving communication is hard work. But, if you’re not communicating internally you’re not communicating externally.

I think we get hung up on thinking that what I’m saying needs to be so good that people have to pay attention. When we should be asking is if what I’m saying is authentic. Because the reality is that if what I’m saying is authentic people will listen.

For example, being in New York I’ve passed 15 different pizza joints in the last few minutes. They’re all in business because they have something that makes them authentic. So you don’t need to be doing something completely different, you just need to be aware that you’ve said something truly authentic.

Lightning Round

Favorite book: Holding on Loosely by Pablo Giacocelli
Software you can’t live without: Ntuitive.social
Hardware you can’t live without: My iPhone
Song/band that pumps you up: Africa by Toto
Go-to order from [Stout Burgers]: The Morning After Burger

The Wrap-up

That was an amazing conversation with Michael. If you’d like to reach out to Michael check out his company The D5 Group or connect with him on LinkedIn. It was a blast getting to know and learn from him.

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