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Debbie Laskey's Expert Insights On Marketing and Leadership

Debbie Laskey is one of my go-to experts when I seek advice about a number of business topics, including marketing, social media, and nonprofit marketing and leadership. 

So, it's my privilege to share today some of Debbie's insights on all these topics. However, before you read the answers to my questions to Debbie, we'll set the stage with her background:
  • Debbie has an MBA Degree and 17 years of marketing experience in the high-tech industry, Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, insurance industry, and nonprofit sector. She’s created and implemented successful marketing and branding initiatives for nonprofits including the Foundation for the Junior Blind, Exceptional Children’s Foundation, League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, and Brides for Good; and in the B2B financial sector for an insurance company and CPA firm. 
  • Currently, she works with the Nonprofit Communications and Media Network and Special Olympics Southern California. 
  • She’s served as a judge for the Web Marketing Association’s annual web award competition since 2002, and been recognized as one of the "Top 100 Branding Experts" to follow on Twitter @DebbieLaskeyMBA.
  • Her website is

Question: For a nonprofit that has a limited marketing budget and that is thinly staffed, what are the couple or few things you recommend they do for their marketing plan?

Debbie:  Too often, small and medium nonprofits have communications plans. If they do, they need to enter the 21st century and understand that the communications specialty is just one aspect of an overall marketing plan. There's public relations, media outreach, advertising, content marketing, website development, social media, tradeshows, special events, webinars, corporate collateral, internal communications, partnerships, and more. Therefore, if a nonprofit uses the term "communications," it not only limits its outreach but shows that it has not joined the modern era.

That said, nonprofits that have to do more with less should have a written marketing plan. Once strategies are written down, it's amazing to see who can take on various tasks. There might be a member of another department that, with appropriate training, could take on the social media role. Someone in accounting might be a fit to be a blogger. Also, a marketing plan is important because it is a living, breathing document that evolves over time, so it is meant to change.

So, after the marketing plan is written, it must be shared with all departments and team members. In the social era, social media should be part of the marketing outreach because many potential donors will learn about a nonprofit via its Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram page. If there is no digital footprint, the potential donor will question the nonprofit's validity. Also, nonprofits with limited budgets and small staffs should research strategic partnerships. There might be other nonprofits or corporate sponsors that would be good fits for special events or other forms of outreach.

Question: What is the difference you have seen in the leaders at for-profit versus not-for-profit organizations who you have worked for and with? Why are there these differences?

Debbie:  Nonprofit leaders are constrained by small budgets and limited staff. But the excuse that "we've always done it this way" should be swept out with yesterday's trash. Just look at how Facebook and YouTube have changed marketing. Leaders in the nonprofit arena should think like their counterparts in the for-profit arena:
  • Leaders must be open to listening, really listening to the experts throughout the organization 
  • Leaders must be open to trying new ideas
  • Leaders must be open to all forms of metrics - not just the obvious ones 
Question: In addition to having a website, what is the single best social media channel a business should use if they can only choose one? And, why do you recommend this channel?

Debbie:  In today's visual world, Instagram is the standout social platform to provide photos and quick videos. Nonprofits and businesses can create pages and utilize hashtags for a variety of content and easily engage their audiences. My favorite accounts are Sherwin Williams, Tiffany & Co, ABC7LA, Oreo, American Cancer Society, Make A Wish America, and the Empire State Building.

Question: Please finish the following two sentences:

Debbie:  I would like to complete the following two sentences based on conversations with marketing colleagues across the country - these are the two most common responses:
  • My best supervisor...provided the tools for me to do my job and then got out of the way.
  • My worst supervisor... micromanaged, ultimately doing my job for me. 

Question:  When interviewing for a job, what do you do to determine if the leader of the company/organization is a person you believe you would like to work for?

Debbie:  I always ask some key questions, and the responses speak volumes. They are:
  • Where do you see the company/nonprofit in five years? Too often, people will simply say, "That's a good question" and not answer it. No answer shows that they have no vision, thus, not a good fit.
  • What are three things you've seen change or improve since you joined the company/nonprofit? This shows a person's history with an employer.
  • What makes your flame grow? In other words, what is the person passionate about? I like to know what makes the person tick before joining a team.

Finally, I'd like to end with a quote from Heather Coleman Voss' Instagram page:

"When I talk to managers, I get the feeling they are important. When I talk to leaders, I get the feeling I am important." -Alexander Den Heijer

Thank you Debbie. I am always learning from you!


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