Jocelyn Ring’s world is filled with whiteboards, markers, and ideas – for brands, for companies, and for people. Jocelyn is a “visual facilitator” and strategy consultant at her own company, The Ring Effect, working with brands and their stakeholders across virtually every level of the organization to better communicate processes, vision, and long term goals. She draws, she doodles, and she brainstorms conversations in realtime, giving everyone at the table a chance to see themselves in a new light.
Jocelyn’s work history is represented as a fascinating “bio sketch” you can find on her site. She’s one of those gifted creative minds that can produce incredible left brain and right brain work. For instance, she studied economics AND art history — naturally — at Hamilton College before working at Deutche Bank on things like mergers and acquisitions and debt and equity for the likes of Honeywell, Tyco and ITT Industries. Later, Jocelyn made the leap into marketing by earning her MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business, later founding Brain Tattoo Publishing, an online enterprise for creatively charged entrepreneurs, professionals, and marketers, until diving headfirst into The Ring Effect, where she continues to help everyone from the CEO to the office manager “visualize” their brand’s unique place in the market.
Jocelyn also guides these brands through vision workshops — where they see growth happening — as well as meeting planning , sitting in on meetings to whiteboard and “draw” everything on paper it happens as an unbiased facilitator. The result? A remarkably refreshing understanding of what’s being discussed, NOT another PowerPoint filled with boring banter that engages no one.
Today, you’ll meet Jocelyn and learn more about her art-meets-business approach to branding. What can visual facilitation do for yours?
If you’re listening, Tweet us with your reaction to this show at @Phase3mc, using the hashtag #OnBranding.
Amanda: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of On Branding. I’m your host Amanda Serfozo.
Amanda: Jocelyn Ring’s world is filled with whiteboards, markers, and ideas for brands, for companies, and for people. Jocelyn is a visual facilitator and strategy consultant at her own company The Ring Effect working with brands and their stakeholders across virtually every level of the organization to better communicate processes, vision, and long-term goals. She draws, she doodles, and she brainstorm’s conversations in real time, giving everyone at the table a chance to see themselves in a new light. Jocelyn made the leap into marketing by earning her MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business, later founding Brain Tattoo Publishing, an online enterprise for creatively charged entrepreneurs, professionals, and marketers, until diving head first into The Ring Effect where she continues to help everyone from the CEO to the office manager visualize the brand’s unique place in the market. Jocelyn also guides these brands through vision workshops were they see growth happening, as well as meeting planning, sitting in on meetings to whiteboard and draw everything on paper as it happens by an unbiased facilitator. The result? A remarkably refreshing understanding of what’s being discussed, not another PowerPoint filled with boring banter that engages no one. Today you’ll meet Jocelyn and learn more about her arts meets business approach to branding. What can visual facilitation do for yours?
Jocelyn: Hi Amanda.
Amanda: Hi Jocelyn how are you?
Jocelyn: I’m good how are you?
Amanda: Good, welcome to the show. Thanks for being on.
Jocelyn: Thank you for having me.
Amanda: Are you coming to us from Charleston today?
Jocelyn: I am in Charleston today.
Amanda: Lovely Charleston, great city. Are you guys getting the rain that we’re getting here in Atlanta?
Jocelyn: We are, sadly, but at least it’s warmer. If it’s rain that comes along with the warm I’ll take it.
Amanda: That’s right. Yup, April showers almost bring May flowers. However that goes. Hoping for some warmer, sunnier weather. So Jocelyn, I’m so excited about your work. I’m so excited that you’re on and I know that our audience is going to be really excited to hear about what it is that you do. Let’s start with your background. I noticed from your website that you have a really interesting rich background both in strategy, business, and art. You have a minor in Art History. Are you traditionally an artist or are you a left brain right brain kind of gal?
Jocelyn: I would call myself left brain right brain. Throughout my youth and even into college I dabbled in some art classes on the side. But by no means am I a classically trained artist, just somebody who’s always enjoyed doodling and painting and just having that creative outlet.
Amanda: Sure. And I noticed that you had studied in New York and you are now in Charleston. I think that’s so interesting how you went big city. I’m a New Yorker as well and people think I’m a weirdo for being in Atlanta. They’re like, “Why would you ever leave New York?” But I think it’s interesting and I’m wondering how that change of scenery influences your work and your process, and being able to think clearer about process, strategy, business. Has it affected your work at all? Specifically sense you’re so visual and your surroundings, I’m sure, affect how you think. Does it affect that?
Jocelyn: It has. I’m definitely grateful for my time in a big city. There’s nothing like living in New York. You’re just exposed to so much cultural and business. There are like eight million people surrounding you. But I really enjoy the outdoors and being in a beautiful place like Charleston where you can get to nature so easily. We also have the very charming historic downtown and an art scene as well. It really helps. And I find that I have most of my creative inspiration when I am out of the office doing something completely unrelated to business. So that environment I find helpful.
Amanda: I love that. You have a great metaphor on your site about being a horse rider. You love horses. You love riding them and taking care of them. You have a great comparison to how making a cranky horse ridable is much like business. So could you explain that a little bit for those listening?
Jocelyn: Yes, so I’ve been obsessed with horses since I was about four years old and grew up riding. I have learned so much from being around these animals because you’ve got another being that you’re trying to communicate with and get aligned with Your horse doesn’t speak English so you can’t explain to it what you would like it to do. And they, just like people, have good days and bad days. They might wake up one morning and not want to be on the same page with you. So what you really need to do is develop this whole toolbox of skills where you can try something to get your horse to do what you would like it to do. And just being very fluent in that language and being able to try different things to get the result you would like. We’ve all worked on big projects or on teams, and I think that experience with the horses has translated into being able to work with a group. Try one approach, and if that doesn’t work try something else to get everybody on the same page and communicating effectively.
Amanda: Yeah just listening and paying attention to those non-verbal cues, obviously you said horses don’t speak the same language, but being able to pick up on the subtleties when you can tell they’re tired or they’re just worn out.
Amanda: Or really energetic. I have a cat that gets really energetic at the end of the day and you can just see in her eyes that she wants to play. I’m interested if you’ve ever taken one of those personality tests that tell you if you’re intuitive or extraverted. Have you ever taken one of those by any chance?
Jocelyn: I sure have. The Myers-Briggs, is that what you’re talking about? Yes I have.
Amanda: Yes that’s it. I’m just interested in what your result for that would be. I would imagine that you would score pretty high for intuition and being tuned into people and how they’re thinking.
Jocelyn: I do. My profile came out as INFJ.
Amanda: Ah, me too!
Jocelyn: Which is a very small percent of the population. It’s funny, even though there’s not a lot of us we tend to attract one another and hang out in groups. And we’re very intuitive and almost have this sixth sense about things. But sometimes we feel like we are the extraverts or that people that we know aren’t on the same page. We’re different than other people. But I think it’s a good different.
Amanda: I totally think so too. That is so cool. I have been meeting a lot of INFJs recently. One of our guests who was just on the show a few weeks ago runs a brewery called Monday Night Brewing. You would think he’s very extraverted. We have this trickery about us that we seem so outgoing and we are very social but at the end of the day you need your little corner, your little slice of quietness. He says that he has to give brewery tours at the end of the day, tacked on to the work day, and it just wears him out by the end of the week. He’s just got to crawl into his little man cave and just chill out. But yeah that’s so interesting and really cool that you’re also INFJ. Awesome!
Amanda: Jocelyn’s clients ranges from B2B to B2C, consumer products to technology, healthcare to jewelry design. And when she’s not riding horses she’s either on a plane or in a conference room asking questions that guide each team toward their ultimate brand strategy and positioning.
Amanda: So getting back to horses, when you’re not in the saddle and you’re not riding horses, you’re often on a plane and you’re traveling to meet your clients. Tell us a little about where your clients are at and who your clients may be.
Jocelyn: Yes my clients are spread out all over the place, so I’m quite familiar with airports and airplanes. And they’re really spread out across industries. I have some consumer products clients, I have a very high end jewelry designer, I have a technology company. But I think the common factor for these organizations is the leadership. They’re always very visionary, hard charging entrepreneurs who are always willing to push the bounds and do things differently. If you are thinking about your strategy or building a brand you need to have that risk taking attitude and be willing to be different. And they also have done an excellent job building their teams internally. I’ve had the pleasure of working with such smart, generous, wonderful teams that these people have compiled. And the other thing they usually have in common is that they have experienced probably between 10 and 15 years of that entrepreneurial growth. And then they get to that place where it’s like “Hmm, we’ve done all these different things. We’re confused about what we are now and what we want to be in the future.” So they’re at that plateau and they need to regroup. That’s where I come in and help them through a process to figure out what the next phase looks like.
Amanda: Gotcha. So you would say a lot of your clients are in that transitory muddled phase of “Who are we?” They’re having an identity crisis. And it’s interesting to me about how people like yourself get found, how people hear about you. Do you rely on word of mouth or do you do any advertising? How do people find out about you and the cool things that you do?
Jocelyn: A lot of it is word of mouth and then there’s the traditional marketing that we can now do thanks to the wonderful world of the Internet. So I have bumped into people on Twitter. I think that’s how you and I got to meet each other. Guest posting on blogs. Also doing some in person branding 101 seminars where someone in the audience might pass my card around to someone else. It’s just that you never quite know where people are coming from so you just put it out there.
Amanda: You have to make the rounds.
Amanda: Yeah definitely. Do you prefer larger organizations? I would imagine that’s a little bit more complex. You’d have a lot of moving parts. Or do you prefer smaller, more intimate organizations? Do you have a preference? Or you just tackle them both in different ways?
Jocelyn: I prefer the smaller. I really think that my process has more impact when I can actually work with more people in the organization. So maybe doing strategy sessions with the management team, but then also being able to meet with different organizational groups within the company. Because I like getting that holistic viewpoint of everybody who’s going to be moving the brand and strategy forward. And it’s just really tough to do with a larger organization.
Amanda: I can imagine. And it must be hard to get everybody in the room as well when you’re working with a lot of people. Everybody’s always got something going on. To get them physically together must be challenging too, which is another perk of working with smaller businesses like that. And you have a great tagline on your site. I love this, “Rethink your strategy visually.” It’s so simple but it’s just so clear. This is a big question I guess, what kind of value do brands and companies get from working with you and from working and thinking visually like that?
Jocelyn: Like we touched upon in the beginning, I have an extensive background that touched on everything from finance to working in brand strategy to then incorporating this visual thinking. The fact that I can understand all the different strategic pieces of a business, but then also have this creative brainstorming side, helps. And then the visual way of working is so impactful. To be able to capture words in a giant wall chart on the wall so that people in the room see that they’re being heard. But then also being able to flex between the visual and the auditory. We’re talking in words, but then being able to say “Is this what you meant?” and draw a picture of what that concept looks like. Everything becomes crystal clear and everybody in the room understands what each other is saying. That is incredibly powerful.
Amanda: Absolutely. I was just having this conversation with the CEO of Wistia, they do a lot of video storytelling and we were talking about how humans are really wired for stories. Do you think that we as humans are wired to communicate visually and to understand visually and to pickup on big ideas that way?
Jocelyn: Absolutely, I think so. It has been so fascinating as this visual world has exploded within the last five years. The geekier side of me is really fascinated by how the brain works and what neuroscience has been able to figure out about the brain in the last three to five years. A big part of it is processing things visually, so I can see why this is so effective.
Amanda: Totally, yeah. You had a great stat from a magazine, I believe it was from Fast Company. It was a while ago but it says “Hear a piece of information and three days later you’ll remember 10 percent of it. At a picture you’ll remember 65 percent.” I just think that’s astounding that it’s that impactful. And I’m always interested in shelf space. It’s so crowded now-a-days with brands. You go to look for toothpaste and there’s 50 different types of toothpaste. In your experience of thinking visually, what do you think the best brands out there do when they communicate visually with people? Is it just clarity of message? Or something that really aligns with their purpose? What do really good brands know how to do when they talk to their customers visually?
Jocelyn: It is the clarity of the message. Visual tools are wonderful but you need to find the right visual that communicates the message properly. We’ve seen an explosion of info graphics and tools that you can use yourself. But there’s a methodology to choosing the right visual and pairing it with the right words. I don’t think you can go purely visual. You need to have some words that can explain what that is. And just being able to craft that whole message together is what brands do very well.
Amanda: Yeah absolutely. I always bring this up and people are probably so sick of hearing it from me, but Al Ries is a great brand strategist. He’s a traditional strategist He and his daughter run an agency together and they always talk about having that visual hammer, which is just something that’s in the mind of the consumer. The most literal example of that is Arm & Hammer. You think of that arm and their logo. And Red Bull, they have that red bull on their can. It’s that thing that people connect with and they know that it’s your brand written all over it.
Amanda: So what does the first day of working with Jocelyn look like?
Amanda: I would love to hear more about your process. When someone comes to you and says “Hey, we really need your help getting our thoughts down on the page and thinking visually.” What does that process look like and how long does it take? What are some things you think about when you start this with a new brand or client?
Jocelyn: The beginning of my process starts with a big day of me listening. If they’ve decided to bring me in then I ask them about who we should have in the room from their team. We assemble that team and then I just let them go. I’ve got questions that I ask to guide them through that initial process so that I can collect information, and then we just fill up the walls with everything. And then we start to sift through the information and look through connections and commonalities and themes. And if there’s an issue or something isn’t working, we will start digging in to get to this visual way of working. My process really digs down into the root causes so we’re not just glossing over what they have and making things look pretty. Then we’ll take a break. I really think you need time to process after you’ve collected this information. And then we will come back again. I will be back with the markers and based on what we’ve collected before I can refine and move on to the next step. What’s been really powerful is being able to bring these giant murals back into the room for another meeting so we’re not starting off at square one anymore. We can look back and we can keep curating. We can do some fine tuning and take all this information we’ve collected and then really distill it down to what’s going to be the foundation of the brand and the strategy moving forward.
Amanda: Wow, so it’s a long process over a course of a couple weeks or months, and something you have to keep iterating on or keep thinking about in the back of your mind. In your experience have you ever been with a client that, as you’re working through your process, they have a lightbulb moment about their process, about something that they could do better, something that they haven’t even thought of before until you came into their room and laid it all out visually? Was there ever like an “Ah ha!” moment that you witnessed where someone says, “Ah, there’s an opportunity for us to excel at something.” Or, “There’s something that we could do differently.” Have you ever experienced that?
Jocelyn: Yes and I have to say that is my favorite part of work that I do, watching that lightbulb come on. Because it can get exhausting and overwhelming to look at all of this information. Sometimes we’ll be in meetings and we feel like, “We’ve already talked about this, we’ve already been there.” And then you see one person in the room. They stare at it and they literally go “I got it.” It’s awesome because then we can start mapping out that solution. You just see the energy coming back up and it’s a fascinating thing to watch happen.
Amanda: Yeah absolutely, it seems like that’s where a lot of the energy goes in to have a pivotal moment like that. So exciting! And I’m totally with you on taking breaks after processing all that information. I was doing that last night. For five hours I was sitting there banging my head against the wall trying to think of something. At the end of the day I went to brush my teeth and had that lightbulb moment as I was doing something so mundane. It’s so funny how your brain processes things like that when you’re not actively thinking about it. The interesting thing to me is that you not only provide this visualization but you offer a lot of really solid brand strategy as well, which is really fusing both of your talents together, your left brain right brain talents. When did you realize you were able to fuse those two together and offer it as something really valuable for brands?
Jocelyn: Well I had been working as a brand strategy consultant for a while and the process was always very helpful. But you spend a lot of time sitting in meetings where you’re collecting information and you’re brainstorming on concepts and you’re thinking about where this needs to go. The process worked but a lot of times ideas would get lost, you might have people leave the room and not quite be on the same page. The process wasn’t as crystal clear as it could have been. And then back in about 2010 I started seeing some of this visual recording. Some firms were doing this work and I was just fascinated by it. I sat in on a meeting where someone was using visual facilitation and I said, “This is incredible.” We had a mock strategy meeting where there were no visuals, and we couldn’t really get to a conclusion. Then we had a visual template where we could collect information and really steer the conversation. We were able to figure something out in 20 minutes. Seeing that result, already having my process and then using it one time with a client who I said, “This is no risk. Let’s try this and if you don’t like it we’ll go back to non-visual.” And the meeting was so incredibly effective that I never looked back.
Amanda: Yeah exactly. I would love to hear about some specific clients that you work with. Who are they? You mentioned a jewelry designer. Can you name any clients that we might now, any listeners might be familiar with?
Jocelyn: My jewelry client is a woman named Heidi Daus and she has a line of this incredible Art Deco style jewelry that she sells all over the world. And she has been in business for at least 15 years with this brand. I’ve gone in and worked on the strategy and the outward facing brand. The other ones are kind of behind the scenes. They’re top secret.
Amanda: Exactly! That’s exactly where I was going with my next question because for me as a copy writer it’s a lot of behind the scenes and a lot of things you can’t really talk about. It’s a little hush-hush.
Amanda: One of those things those of us in the design and strategy community struggle with is knowing what to show. That is, how much of our work can be incorporated into a portfolio or body of work? What can be seen and shared? And what’s hush-hush based on confidentiality? For people like Jocelyn it’s a fine line between keeping current client strategy under lock and key, and showing perspective clients the full power and ROI of her work.
Amanda: How do you decide what you can show someone? Are you able to show a portfolio of work? How do you really show that return on investment or, “here’s what I’ve done” on the page. “Here’s where it is. This is my work.” How do you show that to people in a way that’s not giving away trade secrets? That’s something that I really struggle with so I’m interested to hear what you have to say.
Jocelyn: The internal work that we do during the strategy sessions, that is confidential. I cannot share that. If we’ve developed some marketing collateral that incorporates some visuals into the messaging and that’s out in the public, I can point to that. The thing that’s really been most effective is having that initial meeting with a client, using the visuals to record the conversation we’re having and walk them through the strategy. And they can see it in real time and see how it can be effective.
Amanda: Gotcha. That is something that I definitely struggle with too because there’s so many things where it’s not a billboard, it’s not an ad, it’s just “I contributed to this conversation.” So how do I show that? I think that’s something a lot of people that are in design or strategy really struggle with too. I would love to hear about when you are wrapping things up with a client, what are some things they take away with them? After they’ve met with you and gone through this with you, do they get to keep all of those mind maps and brainstorms physically on paper, or is it turned into an ebook? What do they take away physically from these sessions?
Jocelyn: They do. They get to keep all of the wall charts that we’ve developed together. I also photograph and digitize them so that they have them in PDF format so they can print them out on a smaller scale and keep referring to them. I also encourage them and say, “These are yours. If you want to put one back up on the wall and revisit something, add to it or draw on it. Do it.” It’s funny because when a lot of us grow up and we’re in grade school we draw and we all go to art class. And then we lose that as we grow up because we have that inner critic that says, “I’m not an artist, I can’t do this.” It’s been really great for me to see them embracing the visual way so that then when they have meetings internally they actually start to use some of these visual tools. And that becomes part of their culture. That’s one of my favorite things is to leave them with that toolset.
Amanda: Yeah absolutely. Have you heard from a client or a team that a couple months or so down the line gets back in touch with you and says, “Oh my gosh this has been so valuable.” Or have they given you a testimonial saying, “This is what we’ve gotten out of it over a period of time.” Has that ever happened where they get back in touch to tell you those things?
Jocelyn: Yes I have definitely heard that. I’ve also had some that I do an annual planning session with. There was one client I had used the visuals with and at the end of the meeting the CEO of the company said, “I think that we should take a vote right now.” And I was thinking, “Oh this could go either way.” And she said “I vote that we bring her back this time next year because this was by far the best session we’ve ever had.”
Amanda: Wow, there you go! There’s your proof that people are loving it. Proof’s in the pudding.
Jocelyn: There’s the proof.
Amanda: There are three stages a brand typically falls into: its pre-launch phase where prototypes and excitement propel the brand to go public, its growth stage where the brand is at a pivot point at defining who it is and what it offers in the market, and inevitably crisis mode that leaves a brand fumbling to recover. We asked Jocelyn, “What’s your preference?”
Amanda: For brands there’s maybe three stages. There’s that growth stage where they’re at a transitory of “Who are we going to be next?” There’s a pre-launch stage where “We have this idea, we have a prototype or product coming out and we’re getting ready to launch to make it public.” And then there’s a crisis mode where there’s something that’s like all the alarms or bells are going off and it’s really a crisis internally. When is the best time to reach out to you? Is there really a time between those three categories where you work best with the client and they get the most out of it?
Jocelyn: I would say I work best in that middle phase where they’ve had some growth, they’ve been in the market, but things are just kind of murky. It is fantastic if you can start to build your brand at pre-launch but I think that a lot of what you learn about your brand is just by getting out to the market and doing. Because you really don’t know exactly how you’re going to position yourself. I think you can start with a brand but as you know brands evolve over time. I can be impactful in the beginning in letting you know the things that you need to be thinking about. In crisis mode I’m so visual, I’ve got the dashboard with all the lights going off in my head. I think that being able to go sit down and go, “Okay what’s going on?” and being able to map out a quick plan of how to right this ship again can absolutely be helpful.
Amanda: Definitely. Integrating this whole process through a lifecycle seems super effective. And so before I let you go, I don’t want to take up too much of your time but I would love to hear a little bit about some of your favorite tools. I’m a real geek about whiteboarding tools and styluses. Is there anything that you have that’s in your toolbox all the time that you use and love?
Jocelyn: I think I have a pen addiction. I have bins that are full of markers and pens, and I can’t go near an art store without getting sucked in.
Amanda: Same here.
Jocelyn: Yeah I’m really old fashioned in that I love using the giant paper on the wall. It’s 48 inches and it comes in a big roll and you can just slice it and create your wall chart. And I have a brand of markers called Charters Markers that’s got three different sized tips that you can use. I also love Neuland products. Tombow markers have this really pretty sweeping edge that you can use to accent things of the page. I’m not really an iPad user. I actually have the Lenovo ThinkPad that’s got Wacom technology behind it. And so I can actually be realtime on a client on a WebEx and have a PowerPoint slide up and be drawing so that we can all see the desktop. So yeah I’m trying to get more digital.
Amanda: I am the same way with writing. I need to have a computer or do it on paper. But the iPad I just can’t get into either. I have a stylus and try to doodle and it doesn’t feel the same. So I’m with you on that one. It makes it feel more real if you’re doing it on paper.
Jocelyn: Yeah it’s very tactile.
Amanda: Oh yeah, always. And so last thing before we go Jocelyn if you could do just a little bit of an outro for where people can find you online, maybe your website or your Twitter handle or your social feeds. I’ll leave that up to you. But where can people find you on the web and learn more about what it is that you do?
Jocelyn: Sure, you can visit my website which is www.theringeffect.com. You can also find me hanging out on Twitter where my handle is @theringeffect. And those are probably the two places where you’ll find me the most.
Amanda: Awesome! And you have so much good stuff on your social feeds, I love it. A lot of really good takeaways and things for people to consider. I think this was a great episode! Thanks so much for being on once again.
Jocelyn: Yeah thanks for having me!
Amanda: Thank you loyal listeners for tuning in. While you’re listening we’d love if you would give On Branding a rating or review on iTunes. And don’t forget to visit us on the Phase 3 homepage at phase3mc.com/onbranding. No matter where you go you’re brand is always on, so take On Branding with you.