In this post I get to talk with JoAnna Brandi – a consultant, speaker and trainer who believes in the power of happiness in the workplace.
I met JoAnna at an event held by our mutual friends at American Writers & Artists Inc.
After talking for a few minutes, it became clear to me that she was a fellow traveller in the pursuit of positivity and transparency in the world of marketing and sales.
While there are plenty of authors and speakers on the “happiness bandwagon” these days, JoAnna stands out because she’s been speaking about Customer and Employee Happiness for over 25 years.
It’s that depth of experience I want to tap into with this interview.
So… let’s get started…
NICK: To get us warmed up, I wonder if you could speak to something I have seen you repeat in a few different places… “Happiness is a process, not a place.” What do you mean by that?
JOANNA: Happiness is a very subjective thing – and we all have our own definition of happiness, and different things “make us” happy so I don’t try to teach what happiness IS per se. What I do know is that it doesn’t exist “out there.” Happiness is a state of mind and body that comes and goes.
You can be happy at 9AM and after wrestling with a writing job that isn’t going according to your plan be miserable by 10AM if that’s when you thought it might be done.
So at 10AM you might take yourself out of the wrestling by getting up from the chair, putting on some great music, dancing about a bit, having a big glass of water and maybe a little snack, and then reminding yourself of how grateful you are to have this writing job, go back to work feeling “happy” and ready to make some edits and finish the job with excitement and enthusiasm.
See the process?
It’s not a place we live in – it’s a process we can get ourselves into that produces a particular state – both physically and emotionally – that we can call “Happiness.”
NICK: Let me quote from your manifesto page where you say, “If you’re stuck in some version of the “Power Over” model you’ll eventually lose to a competitor who has the wisdom to adopt a “Power With” way of doing business. Power Over is about control. Power With is about inclusion, co-creation and valuing everyone’s contribution.”
That resonates with me, because as a conversational copywriter I’m constantly talking about evolving from a place where you’re “selling AT” your prospects to a better place where you’re “engaging WITH” them.
It sounds like we’re talking about the same thing. Do you agree?
JOANNA: Yes.. What I am talking about in the manifesto is about leadership and management. You are quite perceptive to have pulled that out as the same thing as you do in the writing process.
No one likes being told what to do. No one likes having their own feelings and thoughts discounted. We all need to feel important, appreciated and valued. Engaging with your employee – or with the person who is reading your copy is very much the same.
As a consumer, I don’t like to respond to copy that shouts at me, that tells me what I MUST DO RIGHT NOW! As an employee I didn’t respond to bosses that treated me like that either – and now our biggest market – the millennial age group certainly won’t tolerate that kind of treatment. So in the workplace or on the webpage (email or direct mail) we want to be involved – we want to feel “powerful with” the other.
NICK: In a recent interview for this blog, Yanick Silver said, “I believe your words create your world! And it’s no different for a company.” Do you think words are that powerful? That the words we choose can impact the level of happiness we feel?
JOANNA: Oh dear, oh dear – no truer words were ever spoken! On my website I tell a true story about the ubiquitous phrase “No Problem” and what the real problem is with “no problem”.
Most people don’t realize that the unconscious mind can’t understand the reverse of an idea. And most people don’t realize that about 95% of our mind is in fact unconscious to us.
So when I walk out of the drugstore, restaurant or get off the phone with a service department and the words I hear are “No Problem,” the speaker is leaving me with the 2 words a customer never wants to hear “No” and “Problem” (thinking they have just said something nice.) ARGHHHH! Had that person responded with “It’s been a pleasure to see you,” “I was glad to be able to help,” or “You have an awesome rest of your day!” I’d be feeling very differently about that interaction and company.
And let’s look at self-talk.
The words you say to yourself are probably the most important words of all.
I teach sales people and customer care reps as well as CEOs and we always have a conversation about what we say to ourselves.
Your body hears everything you say – so if you are telling yourself how nervous you are, how stupid, how unprepared – or even how fat you are – your body believes it to be true and that’s how you will show up in the world.
As an accomplished public speaker who used to be terrified of public speaking – to the point of physical illness – I can verify that fact. It took me four years of terror before I realized that I was terrorizing myself before each speech with my own self talk and negative visualizations. Once I turned that around speaking eventually became one of my biggest joys in life.
NICK: On your site you wrote about a meta-analysis of 225 studies that showed happy employees delivered 37% more sales. Why do you think that is? How can happiness have such a big impacted on sales performance?
JOANNA: Because optimists do better in sales than pessimists! Some of it has to do with what you are broadcasting with your energy – and some of it has to do with the Law of Expectation.
Let’s address energy first. If I’m confident, positive and feel good about what I am selling, I’m projecting a positive “vibe” to the other person. A positive vibe helps them be at ease and more open to hearing what I have to say. If (as I teach people) you spend a moment before an appointment thinking about something you deeply appreciate, and sit with that feeling for even 30 seconds, your energy changes in response. You walk into that appointment relaxed, at ease and in a state of appreciation. (That sure beats bringing the energy of apprehension and worry.)
The second is the Law of Expectation. We get what we expect. In teaching leaders, I have to keep emphasizing the importance of understanding this! When we expect someone to succeed, tell them what our expectations are and give them the tools they need to do so – we’ve got a much better chance of seeing them achieve it. Expectation is a mental construct that can set us up for success – or failure.
NICK: One of the things I say about conversational copywriting is that it is inherently positive… and that positivity is a powerful way to engage an audience and build trust. Do you agree? And is positivity simply a part of being happy? Do they go hand in hand?
JOANNA: I absolutely agree. Positivity is a high vibration emotion – it makes people feel good. I talk about “building emotional bank accounts” with people. When we offer good things to say – when we appreciate, recognize, value, celebrate and otherwise connect with them in a positive way it builds equity in the relationship. One of the surest ways to build trust is to notice what I am doing right – what I’m good at – how smart I am – how kind I am, how helpful, valuable etc. and feed that back to me in an appreciative way. BIG emotional bank accounts build trust.
NICK: Would it make sense for copywriters to create some kind of ritual or process that puts them into a positive state of mind, before they start writing?
JOANNA: I teach leaders to create rituals. Rituals set a tone, they make something more sacred. I have my clients doing beginning of a meeting ritual and an after a meeting ritual. They set a tone and are a time-honored practice.
Rituals are critical in my own writing practice.
They are not always exactly the same, but depending on the project, they involve things like lighting a candle while setting an intention for the project, making a yummy cup of tea (there’s Hibiscus tea beside me right now). If I’m creating a new training program, I might say a prayer to the “muses” or hit a Tibetan bowl. Today I started by treating myself to a small piece of dark chocolate as well.
My suggestion is to understand what puts you in a positive state of mind and do that first. (In Positive Psychology we talk about “Priming” for positivity) You can do that by watching something that makes you laugh – or gazing at pictures of a happy family vacation. I’m a candles and bells kind of gal!
NICK: When people make the transition from old-school copywriting to conversational copywriting, I often hear they feel like a burden has been lifted from their shoulders. Their work feels more like fun. It just feels better to be able to sell in a more open, honest and transparent way. Have you found the same in your work… when people take a more positive approach to sales?
JOANNA: Absolutely – when leaders – or sales people – learn the positivity practices I teach them and use them on a regular basis they find such a difference in their lives. Their lives become lighter.
What we rarely talk about is the physical components of positivity and negativity. Each emotion carries with it a measurable physical state of the body. There is a biochemical reaction to each feeling you have. So when you feel positivity you produce the “chemicals of calm.” When you feel negativity you produce the “chemicals of fear.” As writers it’s important to note that positivity carries with it 3 – 10 times more creativity. So if you are looking for a better writing experience, take the time and make the effort to prime yourself for positivity before you get started and you’ll have an easier and more fun experience!
NICK: Thank you for this. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience and insights with us. I know you offer a self-study course of your own. Can you tell us a little about that, and let us know where we can learn more?
JOANNA: I do Nick and thanks for giving me a moment to introduce that. The Practice of Positive Leadership: Use the Science of Happiness to Engage Your Employees and Keep Your Customer Happy was designed for leaders in organizations that desire to create exquisite customer experiences. Since there’s a link between employee happiness and customer happiness this course helps leaders identify who they want to BE as a leader, how to increase their own emotional intelligence, how to create the kind of high trust emotional environment where people are motivated to go the extra mile and expand their potential.
I like to say that this training helps leaders take people out of their comfort zones and into their stretch zones without ever having to take them to their panic zones! There’s a fun 3-minute video that introduces the program here: Are you a Positive Energizer?
And the link directly to the course is at PositiveEnergizer.com
Nick – I so appreciate your insight in understanding that although we teach different skills we do so in a very similar way. I trust that in some way this interview has been reinforcing for your readers in knowing they are on the right track. Emotions are contagious – let’s keep spreading the good ones.
President of JoAnna Brandi & Company since 1990, JoAnna is a consultant, a public speaker and the author of two books on customer loyalty, Winning At Customer Retention and 101 Ways to Keep ‘em Happy, Keep ‘em Loyal and Keep ‘em Coming Back and Building Customer Loyalty. She’s also the author of a gift book: 54 Ways to Stay Positive in a Changing, Challenging and Sometimes Negative World. JoAnna recently became one of the world’s first Chief Happiness Officers certified by Florida International University.
Check out JoAnna’s websites: