The Hardest Thing to Market: Me

the-hardest-thing-to-market-met

No company’s marketing has moved me in the past few years quite the way that Chubbies has.

Chubbies makes short shorts for frat bros, and they are on a crusade to rid the world of cargo shorts one pair of gingham print “Danny Dukes” at a time.

The mission is concise and clear, and in a startup world full of “It’s this for that!” and 200-floor elevator pitches, I appreciate the focus. Maybe Chubbies wants to be this huge lifestyle brand one day. Maybe they have this big, broader vision in mind. It’s possible, in fact, probable, given what I know of founders so far. But that they were able to dodge the shiny objects and channel those dreams into a single focus is an accomplishment to be revered. [Read more...]

Straight Talk for Susan Patton: Your Words Are Hateful and Destructive

Hi Susan,

Great writers are often avid readers. Since you are a writer, I was wondering if I could send you my copy of Half the Sky, a book I was lucky enough to read last summer.

This book moved me. It told stories of the billions of women in the world facing horrible oppression. Nope, I’m not talking about “leaning in” and still not getting the promotion you want because you’re a woman. [Read more...]

Career and Life Update

By now, the 12 of you who read this blog have heard about my next career steps. But just in case there is a 13th or 14th person who hasn’t been texted, emailed or joined me for coffee or wine over the past few weeks – here is your update.

I’m no longer at Localytics. I’m doing some marketing consulting right now as I re-energize, explore and figure out my next career steps. In particular, I’m excited to be working with the awesome people at One Mighty Roar on all things marketing. If your company needs help with content strategy, messaging or anything else (I’m well-rounded) – reach out! If I’m not a fit for a project I’ll try to introduce you to someone who is. [Read more...]

Cancer Has a Marketing Problem

I’ve been meaning to write this post all month, but it’s September 27th (almost 28th.) September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month, which is the closest thing that commemorates or recognizes uterine cancer, which is something that came into my family’s life about a year ago.

Yoplait recognized it on their Facebook page, which made me feel really happy and included, until I saw a whole bunch of people kind of hating on there – saying they should instead or also support this or that… etc etc. And I get it – we all want to feel validated and included, by the media and by our favorite brands. We hope they think of us when these months come around.

There are a lot of organizations that support many different kinds of cancers, but I also believe there are good reasons to have separate marketing and communities for individual diseases. That’s why I want other cancer months to get the attention they deserve, honestly because as a complete medical newb myself, I want to make sure the messaging is clear for people like me. Medical stuff is like science, which is kind of like math. And then I’m all…

So spell it out for us – what are the exams we need? Messaging needs to be specific so it is effective. People need to know about particular exams that can lead to early detection of certain cancers. Sometimes the cancer impacts a certain group of people, or new research will show the contrary – that the cancer also impacts a group outside the typical demographic. That type of thing is an opportunity for targeted campaigns that again, will be clear enough to reach consumers. Some cancers don’t have many symptoms, if any symptoms whatsoever. So again, people need to know about what exams to ask for. In some cases, we need more funding for research to develop exams that will help with early detection.

My mind knows that everyone else having their own cancer months is a good thing. But this is how my heart feels: I feel left out. I feel alienated and lonely because of how much attention other months get as opposed to the “month” that more directly includes my situation. It sounded crazy to me when I felt this way a year ago, but as I’ve mulled it over it doesn’t seem too far fetched after all.

Clearly, the funding, and therefore the attention and visibility is probably going to go to the diseases that are more well known and prevalent. I suppose I wonder if everything actually needs a “month” of its own, anyway. There’s only 12 of these, there’s gotta be an inflection point somewhere. Others may have a more general feeling of a cancer community and awareness from the individual months though, and don’t see the necessity for such specific messaging. I wish I had a solution.

 

Be Confident, But Not Certain

(I think Madeleine Albright said that.)

Recently, two blog posts from recent graduates have caught the attention of the internet at large:

In The Huffington Post, Taylor Cotter wrote about The Struggle of Not Struggling. She reflected on the consequences of having her life all figured out – career, 401k, location  etc, at the age of 22. She feels she is missing out on some formative years of freelance and ramen.

In Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25, Cathryn Sloane gave her thoughts on why younger people are the preferred candidates for social media manager roles, reasoning essentially that Gen Y’ers have always known first and foremost how to use social media socially – not professionally – and that is how consumers want to engage with brands on these platforms.

I get the sense that Taylor came across a little less grateful than she probably actually is. And Cathryn probably came off a little more critical of older generations than she probably planned on. Even though I definitely disagree with them, and shared both articles expressing my disagreement, I’ve seen the internet pretty much cyberbully the crap out of them and I feel like I need to make a point.

For a whole slew of us who work for the internet, the particularly ambitious will establish an online presence of some kind to display their expertise and gain some extra practice in their given skillset. (And as we know, in this economy, it’s probably only the particularly ambitious mice who get the cheese anyway.) For designers or engineers, maybe that’s Dribbble or GitHub profiles. For marketing and PR and social media types, this may mean a blog about marketing and PR and social media. I just want people to ask themselves: What would you have written when you were 22? What if it had been judged not by your college professor, but by the internet at large?

Sometimes I look back at blog posts and guest posts I wrote senior year of college or when I just graduated and I  just cringe.  My writing was terrible, and I had absolutely no idea what the hell I was talking about. And it’s all out there now, in it’s awful glory. But it wasn’t arrogance, I was just genuinely trying to get out of the restaurant and show that I loved PR and knew a little bit about it. And I did, and I did.

Entry level isn’t entry level any more. We expect new graduates to “hit the ground running” as soon as we hire them. We, the companies, literally cannot afford to expect anything less than that. We grow up sooner now. Even interns don’t get to figure it all out and see where this all goes. Yet when we see young people having confidence in the opinions they express through their online presences, we don’t really like what they have to say and denounce it as short sighted. So – what the hell you guys?

It is tough to put your work and yourself out there so much when you still have so much to learn. We’re all just doing the best we can for who we are at the time, and what people like Taylor and Cathryn are doing isn’t easy. They’re trying, and there are a whole lot of people their age trying a whole lot less and complaining a whole lot more. At the risk of sounding patronizing, I say, cut them freaking some slack.

How Your Relationships Impact Your Career

Tonight I was in Central Square at a startup event for my friend’s company. I was with some of my favorite people, ones I love to spend time with the most. I left and walked to the T stop. I strolled along the side of Massachusetts Avenue in front of my old office where my ex-boyfriend used to drop me off on Monday mornings after a weekend together. I was always grateful for the ride to work, really thankful for his time. This will sound awful, but genuine appreciation aside, this other part of me felt relieved to get back to my weekday life, which felt more natural to me: sarcasm, work, startups, my friends, internet, the gym. Space. I wanted to want that weekend life, but I didn’t. It’s not my perfect life, and that’s ok. It’s ok.

Before I crossed the street tonight to get the necessary ingredients for my comfort food protein shake at Clear Conscience Cafe, I looked up at my old office where I met my next ex-boyfriend at a company party. I squinted at the window, noticing its fresh paint and new walls dividing the once open space into tiny separate offices. It looked a lot different. But I imagined what it used to look like, what it looked like the day I got a ZipCar on a Saturday morning to move out after we got acquired. I walked loads of office supplies and startupy knicknacks (ie, the Seth Godin marketing action figure) up and down the stairs.

I soaked it all in. It was a lot to take in. I would never come there to work again. So much had just happened.

Before I left, I stood in the exact spot in the universe where I first met him and took this picture.

____________

I’ve reflected on this one thought ever since I first heard the recording of Sheryl Sandberg’s 2011 Barnard College graduation speech back in May.

The most important career decision you’re going to make is whether or not you have a life partner and who that partner is. If you pick someone who’s willing to share the burdens and the joys of your personal life, you’re going to go further.

I think this might be true.

Relationships can be motivating, and they can also be distracting and negative. Point blank, it’s homelife, and that impacts your mindset and the level to which you can focus on work. (For a romantic take, I strongly recommend John Steinbeck’s impossibly beautiful and timeless letter about love here.)

As I’m clearly unmarried, I don’t have much of an opinion on the stay-at-home dad discussion that Sheryl’s point often sparks. But what I do know is that who you date impacts your career in many ways, but in the simplest way because it impacts how you spend your time. Not all significant others are cool with you going to a tech networking event and hanging out with a bunch of other dudes, and not everyone thinks a great Sunday afternoon involves getting ahead on work for the week. But these are aspects of a certain lifestyle and career track. 50 coffees, right? A lot of people are less likely to achieve 50 coffees if they’re always worried about that awkward jealously argument before or after Starbucks. Dark roast, dark times. And even if there is no tension about jealously, those are 50 coffees you’re not having with the significant other. There’s only so much time to go around.

On a practical level, the relationships I admire set expectations and plan when to see each other. If you have work to do on a Saturday or have an event to go to on a Thursday, say so. But this stuff is also about compromise, right? So say when you’ll be done if you’re still going to see that person that night. It’s amazing what setting expectations can do to build trust. From the outside looking in, that seems to allow people to still pursue the things they want to as individuals (like careers, or hobbies) but not neglect each other.

Looking back even to my internship days, I wish I’d put my intentions on the table more in relationships. I wish I didn’t ask if I could go to an event or spend some time working. I wish I just presented it as something I needed to take care of. If I could go back, I would have compromised my time less and made it clear that these things were simply a part of my life. It would have been more fair to both sides.

But had I not been a late bloomer and just done this stuff in the first place, I wouldn’t be so complicated, interesting and choke-full of excuses to play this song and whatever cliche songs I want this week. Right? Right?

Anyway, let’s face it: Splitting your time with someone else flat out sucks sometimes. Single is another relationship option too if you just want to focus on your career, or just because you want to be.

To finish these thoughts, I really wanted to make a joke about hiring fast and firing fast, recruiting A-players to your team, something witty about cofounders, probably something about dating/generating leads/sales funnels and maybe something dirty about conversion rates. Then finally I wanted to find a charming excuse to link to this post by Fred Wilson talking about the importance of family – because that guy blogs like six times a day and I heard he blogs like, on his Blackberry while on the treadmill while on the subway and if an overachieving badass yet also probably workaholic like him recognizes the importance of this stuff then. well. shit. We all should.

But I’ve got nothing. Just… fellow 20-something ladies, don’t be impressed so easily. Your attention and time is valuable – not to mention your heart. Texting you back isn’t a grand gesture. It’s just asking what time you’re coming over.

By the way, someone’s reading that freaking letter at my wedding one day. Whenever that day comes.

4 Reasons I Answer College Students’ Emails

If you’re a professional, I’m sure that you’ve received at one point or another an inquiry from a college student asking about jobs, internships or advice. I respond and I think you should too. This is why:

1. People answered my emails when I was a college student.

I’ve written before how I got my first job in Boston. I sent a lot of emails asking people about their companies or for informational interviews. Granted, it was just one of those informational interviews that turned into a job. But all the coffees and email exchanges I had with other professionals provided me with motivation, direction, momentum and confidence. I am so thankful to the people who helped me, in every little and big way they did. 2 or so years later, how could I not pay it forward?

Granted, I can’t offer a ton of long-term career advice or hindsight. I’m too young still myself. But I can offer a pep-talk/confidence boost/talk about what has or hasn’t worked for me so far. Considering similar conversations I’ve had with people just a few years older than me, I know how even that can be quite helpful.

2. The college student you meet today is the employee you hire tomorrow.

In startupland, we talk a lot about how tough it is to hire talent. The right culture fit and the right skillset is tough to come by. Then we also talk about the importance of networking. There’s a missing link, though. We emphasize the importance of networking with people who can help us, like VCs or more experienced professionals for mentorship. I don’t think we talk enough about the opposite end of that spectrum, which is spending time with an up-and-comer who is that future talent you can add to your team.

3. I remember where I came from.

It seems like everyone wants a developer or a community manager/social media whatchamacallit/something-or-other these days. Where are these people? Well, they’re in college. They’re young. They’re doing annoying things that 20-year-olds do, like joining fraternities and drinking for any special occasion possible, like it being laundry day or Monday or maybe signing their emails to you with emoticons. In addition to internships, yes, that’s what some of Boston’s most promising young entrepreneurs did merely four or so years ago. They might not immediately come off to you as a child prodigy in that email or by a first glimpse at their LinkedIn.

That doesn’t mean they’re not an “A-player!” (And seriously, what the hell is an “A player?”) What it means is that they just don’t know what they don’t know, but they want to know and that’s why they reached out. It also means that ambition and drive can come with a lack of focus, because young ambitious people want to conquer the world. But if you have a conversation with someone and steer that motivation towards a clear direction of the right internships and experiences, they grow into the “A-player” people so dearly want to hire.

My favorite interns, and in my opinion the most successful ones, have been those that were hungry to improve – not necessarily the ones that did everything perfect. Perfect plateaus.

4. I’m busy. So what.

Social media/internet burnout is real. I haven’t blogged here in two months, and I’m inundated with a lot of “communication” in general per the nature of running social media accounts for work. Just like you, there are a ton of DM’s, @replies and emails coming at me. Maintaining ownership of my own time, timeline and inbox is important so I have time to communicate and spend time with the people I love offline.

We’re generally too busy and say yes too often, when it really should be a choice between “Hell yeah!” or “No.” I wish more people saw responding to college students as a “hell yeah!” kinda of an opportunity.

Respond to college students. Don’t just reply to the rockstars. Reply to the hot messes who need honest feedback and give honest feedback. Have coffee with someone. It won’t kill you, actually it’s kinda fun. Expect some of them to flake on you and not even respond back to your advice. Roll your eyes and move on, because there’s another student who will take your feedback and could make an absolute rockstar developer or community manager/social media whatchamacallit one day. If we want to find talent, we can’t forget the source of it.