Marketing & Outreaching

Goodbye Apron, Hello (Again) HootSuite

You either make time to write or you don't. It's a priority or it's not. Having an excess of time one one's hands does not compel one to write. I still don't have it narrowed down exactly what compels people to write, but I'm highly suspect that an excess of free time is a motivator to sit down and put words down.

Several months ago I gave up my media job in San Jose and began waiting tables. The goal was to spend a couple of years carving out a career as a freelance writer. I was going to go back to my roots to put that magazine journalism degree to good use. I was taking a leap of faith in my own abilities, discipline and drive. I was prepared to be poor. I was asked what I wanted to do, decided, then threw myself into it whole-hog. I was going to write.

I've published nothing since. In 7 months I've earned not a single byline. It's not for lack of writing. There has been lots and lots of writing. But when I began to explore what I wanted out of this endeavor, what I was best at, where my strengths were, I discovered I didn't want to write articles for newspapers, websites and magazines. I didn't want to be a freelance journalist.

I want to tell my own stories.

Whether in raw essay form or barely hidden behind the veil of fabricated characters, the power of my voice exists within the stories I have accumulated. Telling you what happened, secrets and all, is what I'm best at. Telling my tales is where all the impetus lies, the real reason I sit down to write most days. Everything else distracts from this best goal.

Of course, coming to terms with what I am supposed to be writing meant coming to terms with the knowledge that people will be hurt. Telling one's stories means being brave and taking huge interpersonal risks. It means pushing down the voice inside you that demands, "This is off-limits. Stop your story." And that voice is very loud.

Deciding to tell my stories also means finding myself in tears on a regular basis. Or as angry as hot lava as writing a passage reveals more about that incident than I had previously recalled. Or dripping in self-doubt. Telling one's stories is a constant therapy session. It's exhausting.

Much like waiting tables is exhausting. I had forgotten how much it takes out of you.



I just remembered that I waited tables and tended bar while going to college. Surely, I could do that again and write on the side. Waiting tables would free me up to carve out that freelancer writer life I thought I wanted. Waiting tables would pay the bills while I created a sustainable income for myself doing what I love.

But waiting tables is fucking hard! Even working part-time, the work leaves me both mentally and physically worn out. It's stressful, high-impact and it leaves this nearly 35-year-old beat and with a backache. And it's certainly not as lucrative as I had imagined. You don't get to come back to the restaurant industry after a decade away, now living in one of the most acclaimed dining cities in the world, and get primo shifts at Michelin-star rated restaurants. I have friends who pull 80 grand a year waiting tables, but they have been working their way into these choice positions all along, and they are absolutely phenomenal at their trade.

Truth be told, I'm just a mediocre server. I was told by my dear friend Leo, a friend I made at the restaurant where I work now, "you're not a restaurant person." At the time I was offended. He refused to go into detail; that's how Leos do. But I thought about it for days: "How am I not a restaurant person?"

One beer-soaked evening (for those in the industry there are many), Leo indulged me and expounded further: "You care too much. You let people get to you. I can see you standing at your tables with Pissed Off written all over your face. If you let your tables get under your skin, you are not a great server."

He was right. And putting it that way made me feel less like a failure at serving. I'm decent at it. But I'm never going to get a gig at The French Laundry. Not happening.

And so, because freelance articles were not where I was focusing my writing efforts and because it became apparent that, for me, waitressing was a dead-end enterprise, I began to panic. OH MY GOD, I thought, I'm going to be a 40-year-old waitress barely scraping rent money together. The idea kept me up at night. How was I going to retire someday? Ever take a vacation? Have adequate health insurance, for fuck's sake?

Lucky for me--I am often lucky for reasons beyond my comprehension--a career angel came knocking at my door. A position for CBS Local Digital Media became available: Social Media Coordinator. And the guy who recruited me to come out from Tennessee in 2007 asked if I wanted to come back to the world of Twittering and Facebooking for the media.

It was an offer too good to refuse. It includes a 401K, sick days (!), vacation time and the most precious thing of all: subsidized health insurance. Mr. Dentist, it's been too long, here I come.

I start next Monday. I'll be back at Broadway and Battery where my tenure in San Francisco began. I'm thrilled. It's the smart, responsible path to take, and I'm so much more secure in my well-being knowing something more financially stable is around the corner. At present I fear a bone break or sudden illness like children fear closet monsters. A hospital visit would put me back so far I'd never recover.

And I'll make time for writing. If I want to get it done, I will. I don't need a part-time job to tell my stories, just the wherewithal to get my ass in the chair and put the words down. John Grisham managed to pump out best-sellers while working 100 hours a week as a practicing attorney. I can tell my tale and also work 40. A media career path does not preclude literary accomplishment. I'm going to prove this theory.

October 1st I'm back to an office job. My desk is huge, my co-workers awesome and my bank account is breathing a sigh of relief. I'm excited. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity.

For now, that's all the life news that is fit to self-publish.

Want Authenticity in your Brand? Take a Tiny Risk.

"Use social media to be authentic. Use social media to show you are human. Use social media to show a little personality."

These are mantras, orders, directions, suggestions, broken records heard in corporate environments 'round the world, but bosses, managers, directors, head honchos are unsure exactly how to do that. What does one mean by "be authentic"? Hasn't his hard work day in and day out been authentic? He thinks it has. He isn't wrong.

Show I am human?, she muses. I am an on-air host for a TV station. I move and talk and walk and investigate in front of cameras. How could I be any more human than I am already? It's not a stupid question. And personality? Her title is television personality. 

I think what they mean is this.

You see, The Today Show has a Tumblr. That's already a smart move. This Tumblr blog links to, among other things, videos on The Today Show website with short little quips or still images added, making it more micro-bloggy. These posts flow into Tumblr users' dashboards and Today Show videos these users would have never seen otherwise get watched. Why is that?

Because someone updating The Today Show Tumblr took a tiny risk.

Not only did the author of this Today Show Tumblr post take a tiny risk by expressing opinion about a guest's appearance, he or she also tagged the post with the term "delish." 

That's funny. It's also brave for a morning news show. But they know that Tumblr users are not their traditional audience and by being familiar with the ways that people use that medium (by employing tags like "delish", etc.), they were able to endear themselves to an entirely different group of individuals than those who normally watch The Today Show.

The reaction was glee, lots of reblogs and plenty of heart clicking. When a Tumblr blogger jokingly asked, "OMG TODAY SHOW WHAT ARE YOU DOING," the Today Show Tumblr author didn't freak out and delete the post or apologize and backpedal. He or she responded with, "We’re just doing what you’re already thinking."

Which is honest and playful and further endearing these users to The Today Show brand, all because this author did something unexpected, a little brave and stuck by the post.

Newsweek even chimed in with "Media Tumblrs: WE ARE PEOPLE TOO!"

Which is true. Tumblr users know how Tumblrs get made. Even the ones for major television programs where the stars make many, many millions of dollars. It's one or two people, maybe a small team--maybe--deciding what to publish and how to do it and how often and how come. To pretend that the author of that Today Show Tumblr post doesn't have an opinion or a sense of humor or a mind of their own is dishonest. This is what they mean by "be authentic." It kinda just comes down to "don't lie." 

We know that is an attractive actor. They know that is an attractive actor. Saying it aloud in the right forum--one where the audience can recognize and appreciate your tiny risk--is not a danger to your company's bottom line. It just isn't. 

To the first set of mantras and orders listed at the head of this post I'd add, "Take reasoned, tiny risks." It's what people do. It's what people have to do as humans. In this way your company can be more like the people it aims to reach. And the payoff can be tremendous.

That's Good Online Outreach

The Pilot Precise in question was the first of its kind I'd bought. Got it on a whim at the drugstore. Fell in love immediately and have been smitten ever since.

Then I saw this:

The Pilot people faved my tweet. Aw. Someone at the Pilot place clicked the little heart. 

Way to jump into my feedback loop with a simple little ego stroke, guys. Nice move. Now send me some pens. (Just kidding. In a way.)