Cancer Has a Marketing Problem

I’ve been meaning to write this post all month, but I’m just doing it now. It’s September 27th (almost 28th). But, what the hell, here it goes.

September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month, which is the closest thing that commemorates or recognizes uterine cancer. This is something that came into my family’s life about a year ago when my mom got diagnosed.

As bad news would, we got the news a few days after I was told my startup was out of money and trying to get acquired, but there was no guarantee I’d have a job at the new company so the message was: “Prep your resume kiddo.” Typical, right?

So, startups. And cancer. Uterine fucking cancer.

Yoplait recognized it on their Facebook page, which made me feel really happy and included and represented.

Then I saw a whole bunch of people kind of hating on there — saying Yoplait should instead/also support this cause or that cause.

I get it. I really do. We all want to feel validated by our favorite brands. We hope they think of us.

There are a lot of organizations that support all cancers. That’s good stuff. I also believe there are good reasons to have separate marketing and communities for individual diseases. That’s why I want “other” cancer months — like October, which is Breast Cancer Month, for example — to get the attention they deserve.

Why? Well, honestly, because as a complete medical newb myself, I want to make sure the messaging is clear. Medical stuff is like science, which is kind of like math. Math? What? If it’s math and it can’t be done with an Excel sheet I’m all…

So spell it out for us. What are the exams we need? That’s why messaging needs to be specific. It has to be specific so it is effective and clear for the consumer — the medical newbs.

Here are a few ways specific months and specific marketing messaging helps.

First, people need to know about particular exams to ask for that can lead to early detection. Sometimes a certain cancer impacts a certain group of people.

Second, sometimes new research will show the contrary. The findings reveal that the cancer also impacts a group outside the typical demographic. That stuff is best communicated through an organization or “month” solely dedicated to that specific cancer.

Third, some cancers don’t have many symptoms, if any symptoms whatsoever. Uterine cancer certainly doesn’t. It isn’t until you have some seriously strange bleeding patterns and you pretty much have the fucking cancer that you find out you have the fucking cancer. 

So again, people need to know about what exams to ask for. That call to action is best communicated through targeted campaigns and organizations.

My mind clearly knows that everyone else having their own cancer months is a good thing.

But as I see everyone else’s cancer month about to get more attention and funding, this is how my heart feels: I feel left out.

I feel alienated and lonely. I feel pissed off. I feel confused and scared and alone.

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. But it still makes me feel bad that “my” stuff doesn’t get attention.

I wish I had a solution.

Everybody Recruits: How Can Startup Business People Help Recruit Technical Talent?

I could use some startup recruiting advice.

Most people know I work at Shareaholic. Like many startups, we’re hiring technical talent.  You know – a little front end, infrastructure and customer happiness action. Even though I’m from the biz side, I want to help with recruiting. If the theme is “everybody codes” for your first 10 employees, to grow the next 10, I think the theme is “everybody recruits.” All hands on deck. The truth is, I feel just as much (self-imposed) responsibility for recruiting as anybody else, but I feel a lot less able to help. That really frustrates me.

I Don’t Know A Lot of Engineers

I have a giddy excitement when I talk about Shareaholic. It’s a ton of hard work and can be pretty intimidating, but this is the most challenging position and best learning opportunity I’ve had so far. As someone who strongly feels that it’s important to optimize for learning early in your career, this is exactly what I wanted for my 25-year-old self. I will happily chat anyone’s ear off to share my personal joy with them as well as preach the good news of content and ad tech. The problem? Most of the ears I have to chat off are those of marketers, not engineers.

The most consistent and best leads for job applicants come from personal recommendations. I went to school for PR. During college, I did PRSSA, and a bunch of other PR related extracurriculars. I had PR, journalism and marketing internships. I’ve had PR, community management and marketing jobs, expanding my professional network to even more marketers. My best friends are marketers. Some of them even date other marketers. I simply don’t know a ton of engineers outside of the ones I work with because my life experiences have exposed me mostly to marketers.

Many connections can be made online, but to be forth right, I don’t engage consistently on Hacker News and I don’t have a GitHub or Dribbble profile or things that would more directly connect me with technical folks. I’ve focused most of my online networking activity doing things like guest posts for social media and marketing blogs. Creating content is part of getting the message out and that’s been my job. But I can’t help but feel like I’ve sprinted up to a brick wall.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for my marketing relationships. And you know what? Maybe the marketer I know today knows the engineer we could hire tomorrow. But how do I scale the process discovering those secondary connections and then connecting the dots?

Do Hiring Campaigns Actually Work?

For a new hire, Hipster offered new recruits $10,000 and a year’s worth of PBR, among other hipsteresque welcoming gifts.

In its hiring campaign, LA-based startup Scopely proclaimed that it didn’t always hire developers, but when it did, it hired the most interesting engineers in the world.

My friends at HubSpot have $10,000 referral bonus for developers.

I’ve pondered campaigns like these and considered whether this marketing approach would be beneficial to our efforts.  I feel like these hiring campaigns are a good supplement to organic hiring efforts, but not a replacement for them. Most of all, it seems to me that one of their biggest benefits is the PR you get surrounding them, which probably increases the effectiveness of your organic efforts. This is just my assumption though.

Answer D: Other

I’ve considered these other things, but I’m skeptical. Any thoughts?

  • Career fairs – Is the sponsorship and t-shirt money worth it?
  • Hackathons – Are these efforts to get stuff built through your API, or veiled recruiting efforts? And if it is a veiled recruiting effort, how do you do this without being…well…a scumbag… and having that backfire?
  • Job Listings – Does anyone pay attention to Tweeted job postings?

Other Biz People Probably Feel This Way

I try to remind myself that things I’ve done such as press, messaging and generally just making our numbers better makes this a more successful startup. That makes this a more eligible job opportunity for the eligible engineer. But I doubt I’m alone as a biz-side person who wants to do more. So share your comments – how can people like myself do more?

Update – Starting to get some answers on my Quora thread on this topic – How Can Startup Business People Help Recruit Technical Talent? Check that out 🙂 

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.

Power of the Pause: Maria Shriver’s Great Commencement Speech

I love me some Maria Shriver, and I think as a Communications graduate this was particularly special to me.

My favorite parts:

“But I ask you to do this because it will allow you to take a moment. It will allow you to stop, to look up, to look around, and to check in with yourself. It will allow you to spend a moment. I hope when you do that you will feel your strength and your vulnerability. I hope it will allow you to acknowledge your goodness and not to be afraid of it. I hope it will give you an opportunity to look at your darkness, and I hope you will work to understand it. It will give you the power to choose which one you want to put out into this world. Women, I hope you will look at your toughness and your softness, you can and should make room for both. This world needs both of those qualities. Men, I hope you find your gentleness and I hope you wrap it in your manliness. I hope you make room for both. The greatest men do.” (14:00)

“Courageous people are often very afraid, in fact, that’s why they need courage in the first place – in order to face their fears.” (18:40)

Enjoy!

The Internet Is Like a High School Cafeteria

I’ve been thinking a lot about content lately and how that relates to buyer personas. Mostly what I’ve been considering is this: How does a company with several buyer personas (some of whom would be interested in us for very different and completely unrelated reasons) access different people with content?

Lately I’ve been feeling like the internet isn’t just one echochamber – it’s a bunch of little echochambers. There are bloggers who blog about blogging and go to conferences about blogging with other bloggers. Craft bloggers talk to other craft bloggers. Recipe bloggers talk to other recipe bloggers. Personal finance bloggers talk to other personal finance bloggers. There’s so much content being created and shared and curated that there’s little choice other than to join an echochamber in order to handle it as a consumer. But what do you do if you’re a marketer who needs to appeal to multiple… well…echochambers?

Is there a way to cover every topic of the relevant echochambers that matter to your business, but do it in a way that maintains a consistent theme so you don’t seem unfocused and confuse your audience?

Discovery vs. Sharing

Every so often I don’t know if I should publish something on the Shareaholic blog or if I should publish it over here. On this one, it’s very much written from my personal opinion and point of view so I thought I’d throw it over here.

We’re starting to publish more data we get on how people share content and how that sharing leads to website traffic. Our two latest reports:

February Referral Traffic Report – Pinterest is killing it and actually outpaced Twitter for referral traffic in February.

Next, we published our top sharing platforms for February in Marketing Charts. The data shows that people actually share more to Facebook than they do other sites, including Pinterest.

So… wtf, right? How come Pinterest ranks so high for referral traffic but not for shares? The difference, as pointed out to me by my boss Jay, is discovery vs. sharing. Some social networks are more popular for sharing, while others are more popular for discovery.

Think about the number of people who upload video to YouTube vs the (much larger) number of people who watch YouTube videos. It’s unclear what the first number is (YouTube says 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute) but they say around 4 billion videos are viewed each day. I think Pinterest is along the same vein. It appears to me that while many people are pinning, they are discovering content and clicking through on it even more. It is also worth noting that re-pins can’t be included in our statistics as we count original shares from our plugin and browser extension.

Furthermore, what could this mean for marketers who use Pinterest? It seems like a smaller percentage of people are driving the original Pins (sharing) while many others are discovering, re-pinning, and clicking through on those images. Do I hear “Pinterest influencers” in our future? Roll your eyes (I did as I typed that) but yes. I think so.

Does the discovery vs. sharing thing make sense to you? Am I crazy? Let me know in the comments.

Social Rant’s New Spring Outfit

I don’t do it often, but this weekend I finally got around to giving the blog a slightly different look. I’m considering a background and a header image, but for right now I was happy to get a happier looking layout going on the blog. Each time I do this I discover a few favorite plugin to help me, so I wanted to share the new one.

The Google Fonts plugin easily allows you to add fonts from the Google Fonts Directory to your blog. So if you’re not the most technically inclined like myself and tend to forget to dot your i’s and cross your t’s in CSS stylesheets, this is a good match for you. It let’s you select the exact text (H1, H2) you want to customize and pick the font you want to change it too. They also give you a little CSS box for you to put any additional stuff in – like bolded or uppercase styling.

Google fonts plugin

I wish they showed an actual preview of the font in the WP admin panel so I would know what I was selecting without having to keep an additional tab open for the Google Fonts Directory. But still, it made the font selection process a whole lot easier than it has been before so I’m happy with it.

This was a very good, basic blogging reminder for me: if there is something you want to do with your blog with design or widgets or features, there’s probably a plugin that will take care of it for you! Don’t work hard, work smart. And get back to blogging. 🙂

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 home life, 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 Helpful Slices of Startup Marketing Advice

startup marketing advice
I'm like a miniature Buddah.

I have drafts and drafts of unpublished posts reflecting on lessons learned. After oneforty, then HubSpot and now being at Shareaholic, I’ve definitely come out with some new wisdom that has made me happier and more productive. Some posts explaining this learning process ramble off topic and become too personal. Those posts get retired to the WordPress trash bin. Others haven’t been thought out enough. But these tips have been consistent from draft to draft, and I didn’t want to wait on sharing them any longer.

1. Blog First

When you’re starting a marketing plan from absolute scratch, it’s tough to know where you should invest your time in social media. Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Figuring out where your audience is why monitoring and listening is so important. No matter what platform you focus on, a great blog will give you content to share on that platform and will give people a reason to follow you. It also has the most clear business benefit from an SEO, brand messaging and conversion standpoint. So when it comes to prioritizing marketing tasks, think about your own content first.

2. Remember to Play

I crank out a ton of content each week between blog posts and newsletters. Writing compelling Tweets and Facebook posts to optimize for engagement is also a form of content creation. With so much to create, it’s tough to also consume content. This may sound silly, but I try to take time to just look at other brands’ Facebook pages, other Twitter accounts and other blogs to get inspiration.  I even look at ones that have nothing to do with Shareaholic. More than any blog or conference I’ve attended (although Unconference was pretty sweet), there is nothing like taking time to “play” to rejuvenate my love for marketing and make me excited to create content.

3. It’s Not a Matter of Just One Thing

In marketing it can be easy to get stressed out about one campaign. However, it’s not one article, event or blog post that makes or breaks your entire marketing plan. It’s the culmination of ongoing content, PR and engagement that gets the message out there and draws signups for a product. Don’t be short-sighted. I’ve had to learn to look at the big picture things, like how we’ll engage attendees from an event rather than fret about the number of drink tickets we sponsor. Looking at each project as one piece of a big puzzle is helping me make decisions faster. (And this is coming from someone who took three months to pick out a duvet cover.)

4. Timebox Your Ish

This one is my favorite because it had the most influence on me. It’s not just for marketers, but for employees in general.

Learning to timebox my projects better is something I’ve worked hard on over the past year. I used to work crazy hours during the week and then try to work all day Saturday and Sunday too. Then I realized something: I’m not actually getting anything done. I’m falling asleep. I would be trying to read a blog post as part of research to write a blog post, and it’d take me forever. I couldn’t focus. What I accomplished over seven days could easily have been produced Monday through Friday, leaving me my weekends to either get more done or spend time with friends.

A ton has been discussed about work/life balance in startupland. I’m trying to timebox things Monday-Friday, take Saturdays off and then get ahead on Sundays. It is very very difficult for me to discipline myself to put a hard stop to things on Friday. However, I try to do it so I can take Saturdays off.

At some point I decided that Saturdays were friend days. I check email but don’t touch the computer. I walk around Newbury St. Sometimes I drink bloodys at brunch, go to yoga and coffee, nap, tan and get ready to go out for the night. They are my favorite days and these days with my friends have enriched my life with interesting conversations, laughs and memories.

(I love you people.)

The time I spent away from work over the past year or so helped me grow into the best employee I’ve ever been. These relationships helped me become a calmer, more confident and actually more productive person. I’m not so paralyzed by my own edginess.

We all have our thresholds and each startup employee has to discover hers. Having my Saturdays was key for me.

What little nuggets of wisdom do you have to share with the class? Let me know in the comments.