guest post: a woman’s personal brand

mascara_eyelashes_large

forget sheryl sandberg for a second. let’s focus on joan holloway. christine hendriks’s character on Mad Men is a ship’s figurehead on the turbulent seas of the late sixties. she makes the most of her admirable figure and her character’s fashion sense, portraying a woman far smarter than she is given credit for, or gives to herself.

she attempts to make an executive decision and is put in her place by a coworker who knows the dirty secret of how she came to be on the board. her fellow board members will always take her side because they know she’s their company’s true brand, for a mix of right and wrong reasons. you can feel her ruminating about this for the rest of the episode as she winds up emotionlessly kissing strange men and putting herself down when conversation arises about her title and experience. “don’t forget she’s also a mom!” the writers remind us as joan’s mother leaves her baby boy in her lap.

joan’s struggle with self is far more complex than don draper’s, whose past was laid out for us long ago. don is the son of a prostitute and an adulterous liar with double standards. his wife can’t even kiss a man on camera for her acting job; nope, that makes her a whore: i’m so mad at wifey now…i better go sleep with my neighbor’s wife! oh and how it must hurt don that the invincible peggy, now the competition, has even taken his catchphrases to land a client. the women are stealing his soul! succubi!

i’ve just had a heated discussion with a client about the concept of brand consistency. contemplating this after a shower, i wrap myself in a towel and stomp outside to share with my husband some important words on his company’s brand, as he’s developing ideas on the porch. i stand there in a towel, freezing and dripping, reminding him i do indeed know what I’m doing. no argument there…and why did you come outside in a towel? ok, so at least I’m passionate about what i do. i get dressed, dry my hair and put on makeup. me time, but a distraction nonetheless.

women may always struggle to find their personal brands. in addition to many forms of pressure, there are more appearance-based choices — each with their own perceived implications. almost any men’s clothing department is a boring banner of military sameness: navy blue punctuated by little bits of bright color for the adventurous. the focus is on the man, not the suit. virtually any women’s clothing department is an explosion of color and style, always changing with the season. i can never keep up and don’t try to. Chanel may be timeless, but for those of us who can’t afford her, “when in doubt, wear black.” i just punctuate my black with full strength magenta: done.

then in a delicious irony, my dear friend velvet d’amour calls from paris to have me do the layout for the current issue of her groundbreaking body image/fashion magazine, Volup2.
hell, yes! if you are not familiar with velvet’s work as a photographer and gorgeous plus-size fashion icon, you must Google her bold strut down the runway wearing a t-shirt that reads PLEASE FEED THE MODELS. this is a chick who knows her brand.

–michele gilman

michele

a creator of copy + visuals for Trader Joe’s, michele also has years of improv comedy experience and brings a signature quirkiness to her blog at www.whatisabrand.wordpress.com. she’s currently working on a Mediabistro advertising certificate, and helming Designvoice, Inc. (when not enjoying her 7-year-old daughter). follow her on twitter at @mamagills.

work with a staffing firm: yes or no?

some of you talented individuals may be wondering about the benefits of partnering with a staffing firm.

every staffing firm operates differently, but we all have the same common goal: to match our clients’ job openings with the best candidates for the job. if you’ve never worked with a staffing firm before, or had a poor experience, here are the top 8 reasons you should consider developing a relationship with a talent agent:

benefit #1: we have access
staffing firms have been in business for a while, so we have really gotten to know our clients inside and out. we have access to their job openings, particularly the freelance and unique, hard to fill ones, before they hit the open web.

benefit #2: we “get it”
we have been partnering with our clients for years; we know their personal interests, their preferred work styles, sometimes even their favorite dessert. we can relay these insider tips to you before you interview with them, offering you more common ground than the average candidate.

benefit #3: we have the inside track
clients have a million jobs to do. they don’t really have the time to sort through the tons of resumes entering their web portal, so they put their faith in talent managers to send qualified talent that matches their needs.

benefit #4: we do our best to get feedback for you
ever submit your resume to a job and get no response…for months on end? if a client isn’t interested in your background, we do our best to find out why. this will help you improve your resume and interview skills or figure out what types of roles to be applying for to save you time.

benefit #5: building relationships
if you partner with a talent agent who has nothing for you on tuesday, it’s very likely by friday morning your phone will be buzzing with the opportunity you’ve wanted. by staying in contact with a recruiter, you can continue to access openings for years.

benefit #6: help
we genuinely want to help you get a job. why? because we all benefit and prosper as a result. so we provide constructive criticism in order to help you succeed — perhaps interview pointers, tips on whether or not that trendy nail polish is the right fit for the client you’re meeting, or letting you know if it matters whether the resume paper you’re using is thick or thin. we answer those questions for you, in advance — when you need it most.

benefit #7: we provide referral incentives
every agency works differently, but in my experience, a decent talent manager will have the authority to reward you in some way or another for referring talent if a placement is made. why? it’s good karma for you (you got your buddy a job!) and it also paves the way for an introduction that would never have existed without your help. so we want to demonstrate our gratitude.

benefit #8: money, money, money
while this isn’t always the case, we usually understand our client’s budget parameters. a professional talent acquisition partner is someone who will be very forthcoming with you about the budget in advance. why? because it does us no good to offer you a mid-level copywriting project when you have acd level experience. we always attach a price tag along with your resume so everyone is kept in the loop about salary expectations.

so…should you work with a staffing firm? sure — just be honest and transparent about what you are looking for and give it a shot.

Jane Kleinman Photo

jana kleinman graduated from suny buffalo in 2005 with a ba in psychology and concentration in marketing. she began her career in media buying and planning at Universal McCann and Cline, Davis, Mann in nyc before discovering her true calling as a talent scout for advertising and media agencies. jana pursued a bs from the school of psychology and education at touro while working full time as a recruiter. with 6+ years of talent networking experience, want to get on jana’s radar? connect with her on Linkedin.

sneak peek! see who’s attending speed-date networking tues, april 16th

the rsvps are rolling in for our next speed-date networking night, scheduled for tuesday, april 16th. be there at 7pm sharp for a seat-swapping good time and don’t forget your portfolio and business cards! (haven’t signed up? secure your spot now.) in addition to meeting creative peers (i.e. potential job connections), we also have a number of talent recruiters coming to help you find a job, stat (or down the road). want a sneak peek? here’s who’s slated to attend:

*disclaimer: life and work happen… the following people have rsvped but we can’t absolutely guarantee their attendance. 🙂

pamela maretpamela maret
president, TalentBistro
after a successful career in marketing and advertising, i made the move into creative and marketing staffing, and in 2012 launched TalentBistro, a boutique recruiting firm located in manhattan.  i’ve helped some of the world’s leading brands align their advertising and marketing strategies via the right people, processes and technologies,and enjoy mentoring other industry professionals and students, helping them achieve desired business and career results.

caroline blitzcaroline blitz
talent acquisition, Syndicatebleu
working on talent acquisition at Syndicatebleu, a creative staffing agency, i have my hands in many aspects of the recruitment process: sourcing talent, customer/client relations, and operations. even though we have relationships with some large companies, working at a small, boutique agency affords me close connections with both talent and clients.

nicole frangionenicole frangione
talent coordinator, Syndicatebleu
as talent coordinator at Syndicatebleu, i am always on the lookout for stand-out talent! we source for many positions across the creative field, from graphic designers, developers, copywriters, art directors and project managers. we work with great clients, from big agencies, to in-house beauty and fashion clients, and smaller creative tech savvy companies.

emi debosemi debos
project lead, Websignia
i’m an ever-evolving “jackie of all trades,” absorbing terabytes of interesting facts, old and new, and whipping an obscure one out when you least expect it. that just how i roll! i have a background in art and technology and a wicked sharp eye for detail. in my current role as production lead at Websignia, i keep our projects moving on schedule.

desean browndesean brown
engagements lead, Websignia
waaaay back in the day, i was a programmer who wrote code in visual basic, c++, java and even cobol (yes, cobol!). i rounded out my skills when i transitioned to the business side of corporate america, learning the ins and outs of ecommerce, sales planning and operations. i currently oversee the planning and management of our creative, technology and marketing engagements at Websignia.

sign up now

see pictures from our last speed-date networking event

the details:

what: speed-date networking

when: tuesday, april 16th, 7pm-9:30pm

where: Revel, 10 little west 12th street, ny, ny (revelnyc.com)

who: recruiters, creative peers, companies + more

how it works: a buzzer will go off every few minutes and you’ll swap seats until you meet everyone in the room.

don’t forget: your portfolio and business cards!

dispatches from ad school: standing up to public speaking fears

Lina standupi have been a classically trained pianist since I was 6. as a result, i participated in several recitals, from the auditorium of my elementary school to the stage at Carnegie Hall. those butterflies that everyone speaks of before they do anything of remote value in front of an audience? i never experienced them at the time. i heard of them from my mother, who subsequently grew them for me. growing up, i was a performer. i was always doing something in front large groups of people. i don’t remember thinking twice about it, i simply did it without protest.

i was the same much throughout high school and college. i was always the first to volunteer to speak. i loved the attention. and then somewhere between the end of college and the beginning of ad school, it felt as if someone turned off the “performing” switch. i no longer wanted the spotlight. i felt self-conscious. i found it difficult to articulate my ideas to large groups of people who were watching as my mouth vomited words and i inwardly chanted “do not faint right now, do not faint right now, do not faint right now.”

i knew that with advertising came presenting — i just wasn’t prepared for this much presenting. at Miami Ad School you have to present roughly three times a week. these presentations get more intense with each quarter and often longer. on occasion you will have to present at agencies in front of several creative directors. it’s nerve-wracking, to say the least. at first i had a hard time coping with this aspect of advertising, but as the activity grew more repetitive, it became increasingly easier to get up there. this is especially true if you feel passionate about what you’re presenting, so be passionate. allow yourself to get lost in the moment, articulate your ideas the way you would to your friends,  make your presence known. don’t worry: half the time, people will be too busy g-chatting to even listen, so do it for yourself. push past the uncomfortable. let fear be your motivator. if i can do it so can you, i promise.

a week ago, i performed stand up in front of 50+ people at MAS. every copywriter has to take the stand up comedy class, and in those 10 weeks you learn to leave your inhibitions at the door and perform to your best ability. for me, it was a weekly challenge but as i got up there in front of my peers and held the microphone below my mouth, i forgot all about my fears. it felt like i was playing the piano, except instead of hitting a bunch of different keys, i echoed words spoken directly from my heart.

for me, stand-up comedy was one of the most difficult things i have ever done in my life. a week later, i still can’t believe that i did it. after i was done with my 7-minute bit, which was performed in front of my peers, their friends, and a dozen creative directors, i felt more alive than i ever had in my life. it felt like the ending of a great date; there was this indescribable yearning for more.

although i’m not sure if i’ll ever do stand up again, i can say that my fear of public speaking has now taken a backseat, and those butterflies that i didn’t have when I was 9, well — they’re around now, but they’re the best kind of butterflies anyone can have.

lina

by elina rudkovsky

about the author: When Elina isn’t writing for or about advertising, she is with her therapist talking about it. Check her out at ElinaRudkovsky.com

understanding copy in the digital era

digital is where it’s at and where it’s headed. in this new world, information bombards potential prospects from every turn, and to adapt, they’ve become selective in what earns their attention. as copywriters, it’s our job to keep up and engage a new, slightly more distracted audience.

for pointers on approaching the digital realm, The Copy Lab invited copywriter and brand strategist jean railla to share her insight on digital writing techniques.

working with computer

copy should be short, specific and straightforward
you have as few as three seconds to convince a user to keep reading. it’s imperative that a site is easy to navigate and quick to scan. to-the-point heads and subheads, bullets, pull quotes and graphics are all effective techniques for enhancing scannability. display key messaging in the upper left, where the eye goes first, and congregate important points from the top down.

engage your brand’s “influencers”
great success has been had when brands interact online with the people who love them. know your voice and stick with it to strengthen the connection to your audience. no detail is too small: don’t underestimate the power of personalizing your site’s feedback or error messages — they could provide even more opportunity for branded wordplay.

copywriter = tour guide
there is no beginning or end to the web, which means users can (and will) enter a site from other than its homepage. it’s up to the copywriter (you!) to provide direction and make it clear where or what readers should do next. CTAs should be short and clear: sign up today; request more information; download now.

consistency is a must-do
if you call it a cart instead of a shopping cart, make sure it appears that way everywhere. put together a vocab list and pull from it as you write — it will keep your copy on brand and help orient the user. avoid outdated “click here to…” directions and opt for action-oriented “learn more” with a link.

the digital landscape moves quickly…the most successful copywriters will keep pace. connect with other writers and creatives at The Copy Lab’s upcoming speed-date networking event on tuesday, april 16. reserve your spot now. it’s an event not to be missed.

–meredith clinton bell

the humble hang tag

it’s there when I return home with my new clothes, no doubt a well-designed and colorful little reminder of what i’m about to enjoy. it’s not big enough to be too flashy or gaudy or cumbersome, and sometimes it’s in a clever shape that i simply have to admire: it’s the hang tag, which presents another opportunity to impart brand personality.

if you don’t pay attention to a hang tag, then it’s not pulling its branding weight, even if it is a lightweight. it should be your last reminder of the unique brand copy voice, graphic style and overall message. just as with direct mail or billboards, it can be oddly shaped and have strategic cut-outs, even a scent for tucking into a drawer as a clothes freshener (and brand reminder for the user). it can bring a smile to your face and remind you of a website. it can double as a luggage tag, or it can be made of seeded paper to present you with flowers or herbs later.

the next time you snip a tag off of something, take a closer look at it to see what it’s really saying. if it’s up to its task, then it’s a sweet little reminder of why you purchased the item.

— kim taylor

CL snapshot: brand strategist jean railla

jean

a flash interview with jean railla

brand strategist

three words that sum up your job:

impossible! what i say is that i am an observer and creator of culture.

[I’m a:]

published author

freelance copywriter, with an emphasis on digital and social tools

instructor on ‘brand writing’ and ‘copywriting for the web’

cultural producer for public radio’s word of mouth

food blogger mealbymeal.blogspot.com

passionate cook

the highlight of your career (so far!):Get Crafty

creating the online community getcrafty.com (no longer exists) and publishing Get Crafty: Hip Home Ec with Broadway Books (Random House)

working with Nike (at R/GA) on the launch of NIKEgoddess

rebranding PS3 with a team of fellow parents

teaching cooking to kindergartners…

the best advice you’ve ever been given:

don’t take it personally.

if you weren’t a creative, you’d be:

full-time blogger/writer

Hendricks Gincopy or campaigns you admire:

i love how seamless of a brand experience the Hendrick’s Gin has created.  I also admire how Starbuck’s has created a public space with their coffee houses.

best two reasons to attend your Copy Lab event:

i offer new ways of looking at interactive media.

gain a better understanding to how brands are allowing their consumers to shape what they do.

jean joins us tomorrow for a look at digital advertising and the disappearing line between brand and culture. sign up now!

from jean’s portfolio:

guest post: quickly learn the lingo of brandspeak

perk up your work with a word list

perk up your work with a word list

work on any account and you’ll quickly discover that every industry has a language all its own. on top of that, you’ll notice that every brand has its own special way of saying things, too.

when you’re writing for an account for a while, both brand and industry lingo become second nature. but when first starting a project, the words and phraseology of that trade may not be so obvious. and if you’re presented with a looming deadline, you’re going to need to learn the vernacular fast.

whenever i’ve been thrown into this situation, i’ve devised a little trick to get “word savvy” and build creative momentum. before ever writing a line of copy, i create a “words & phrases list.”

quite simply, i scour both the client’s and competitor’s websites and marketing materials, and jot down 50 to 100 industry-related words, phrases, and expressions for inspiration.
for instance, i recently started writing website copy for a brand of coffee. to avoid using the word “coffee” a gazillion times, my research provided me with alternatives such as blends, brews, roasts, beans, and grinds that i could sprinkle in.

and while i’m sure the coffee is “delicious,” it would be pretty boring if i kept describing it that generically. some alternative adjectives I came across for my list included aromatic, bold, balanced, complex, decadent, delicate, exotic, flavorful, full-bodied, handcrafted, indulgent, lush, premium, rich, satisfying, smooth, and seductive.

because coffee was not top of mind prior to starting this project, would these words have popped into my head without doing this research? probably some, but not all.
another good way to find helpful terminology is to Google industry-related news stories, and to choose the “related words” options at rhymezone.com and the OneLook.com dictionary.

putting the list into practice

during my first week, when assigned to write emails promoting a $5 sampler offer, i pulled out The List. With a menu of coffee-related words at my disposal, the process of generating strategically-sound headlines became that much easier. here’s the result:

SIP, SAVOR AND SAVE.
Try these blends for just $5 each.

GET BEANS FOR BEANS.
Find new favorites for just 5 bucks.

New Perk for New Customers:
BUY & TRY FOR JUST $5.

while wordplay like this may be frowned upon by some brands, others just love it. so know your client.

beyond words, are phrases. and if you’re working on an established brand, chances are, they have an established way of saying things. as writers, we should all strive to develop original and inventive copy. however, some clients are loathe to veer too far from their approved terminology, which they prefer to use again and again to “reinforce the brand.”
so, if in your brand word audit you see the same expressions used over and over again, you may want to throw them in here and there to put a smile on the client’s face. for this particular brand of coffee, pet phrases i massaged into the copy included:

– Distinctively rich, smooth taste that’s never bitter.
– Make your life rich and flavorful every day.
– Experience a uniquely luxurious coffee indulgence at home.

once you’ve compiled your word and phrase list, you then have a database of thought starters you can refer to whenever you need inspiration.

something to keep in mind: the word list may not be the best approach for highly conceptual projects, which initially, are less about words and more about big ideas. but when faced with fast turnaround for a brand or category that’s new to you, the word list could be just the thing to quickly get your creative juices flowing.

what writing tips and tricks work for you? share them here in the Copy Lab!

by mitch lemus, copywriterMitch

over the course of his copywriting career, mitch lemus (www.mitchlemus.com) has written about everything from automobiles to airlines, fast-food to fashion, and technology to travel at some of new york’s top agencies. accounts include Wendy’s Hamburgers (The Kaplan Thaler Group), Ford (Razorfish), and Citibank (Atmosphere BBDO). mitch has also worked directly with Barnes & Noble, American Express, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Capital One. when not getting people to buy, he hopes he can get them to laugh — reading his short stories, parodies and social satires on Pen & Pixel.

dispatches from ad school: meet elina of Miami Ad School

elina rudkovsky, our ad school blogger

introducing elina rudkovsky, our ‘dispatches from ad school’ blogger

i was first introduced to advertising at 19, after dating an art director who worked at GREY advertising. it wasn’t long after that, that i became enamored with an industry i knew almost nothing about except that everyone had a funky haircut, checked their blackberrys incessantly, and referred to themselves as “creative.” i always thought being “creative” meant that you didn’t hate the 45 minutes you spent in art class, or that you’ve been to every museum in new york city, by choice. looking back, i’m not sure what it was that i found appealing but i began to feverishly pursue advertising even after my relationship was over.

the truth is, i think i may have always been a “creative” despite my dislike for the MET (sorry, everyone). i am a writer, always have been. however, coming from a moderately conservative family, i was reluctant to deviate from the norm to become one, professionally. what was i going to write about? did i want to publish a book? was i ready to take on the role of starving artist? i wasn’t sure, but i did know that writing was a passion of mine that i couldn’t just give up on. for years i found comfort in the rips of an old leather couch harbored inside a neighborhood coffee shop, where i spent weekends curled up with my laptop, allowing my imagination to take me on adventures that only the power of the written word could.

i decided on the copywriting program at Miami Ad School after i realized that getting a job in advertising is like trying to have a child without a partner: sure there are ways around it, but ultimately you need a mate and in this case, a portfolio and an art director to bring it to life. starting Miami Ad was similar to starting kindergarten. everything was new, writing no longer seemed innate (wait till you get to Photoshop, it’s like learning how to walk again), and there’s a strong chance you might cry, maybe even on your first day. i’m serious.

during one of my first weeks at Miami Ad, a peer of mine said “we are all in this together” as we stood on a snowy stoop outside the building that is 10 jay st, waiting for our partner to show up to a group meeting. on a saturday! however, what she said was something that has always stuck with me. it has become my comforting go-to thought whenever chaos ensued, and chaos ensues a lot.

i could sit here and bore you with the technicalities that come with ad school and spew out words like “shop” (fancy ad word for agency), “spots” (fancy ad word for commercials/radio announcements), “pixels” (still don’t really know what this means), addy’s (advertising award), but it won’t really capture the essence of what this experience is all about. that’s what ad school is, in a nutshell, an experience. here’s the thing: you will work really hard and as result you will fall in love with your work and just as quickly you will begin to hate your work. you will get over it and move on. you will feel pressure. you will learn about rejection. you will become okay with rejection (or as ok as you can get) because criticism will motivate you to do better. you will get competitive. you will not become an asshole, and if you do become an asshole, do everyone else a favor and pick another career choice because nobody will want to work with you. you will become overwhelmed, and if you’re anything like me, an ” emotional neurotic wreck but funny and composed when necessary” (direct quote from one of my past instructors) you will cry, in the stairwell. but you will not be alone, and in that lies the silver lining. there will always be someone with you on that same stairwell, whether an instructor or a peer, reassuring you that can do it. whatever the “it” may be. i consider myself exceptionally lucky to have found a group of people that are (although in direct competition with me) incredibly supportive, making life seemingly unimaginable without them.

if there’s anything that i hope you take away from this post, it is that ad school is not just an environment where you go to work on your book, but rather a place where you will learn of the greater picture. from concepts, to brands, and yourself as a person, your mind will shift perspective and grow. for me, it’s been a challenging albeit a life-altering experience thus far that i know will be hard to say goodbye to come next december, and i hope it is the same for you.

by elina rudkovsky

about the author: When Elina isn’t writing for or about advertising, she is with her therapist talking about it. Check her out at ElinaRudkovsky.com

being social in a digital world: tips for writers on social media strategy

social media is meant to be just that — social. as a writer, having a solid strategy for tweeting, commenting and posting in the online arena can help build your personal brand, your network, and it can attract potential employers and clients.

at sign

so what are you waiting for? it’s great to follow others, but it’s also smart to get out of the shadows and interact. as you wade through the waters of going social, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • before simply posting your every whim, outline a strategy. which platforms will you use? will you have time to post enough to keep followers engaged? how personal are you willing to get?
  • take note of what YOU like reading on your news feed and what you find entertaining. use that to decide what unique spin you can contribute to the digital sphere.
  • post worthwhile content and the followers will come. updating peeps on your every waking moment may not be the way to go…just saying.
  • follow, like and engage with other writers, designers and creative groups (like The Copy Lab!) to make connections and help get your name out there.
  • not everything you post must (nor should) be work-related. social media lets your individual spark shine bright — a valuable tool as you aim to differentiate your voice in the crowd.
  • make the time to proofread. typos abound on the web, but your feeds should reflect your professional prowess.

remember, your personal brand’s social media campaign is a public venture. it has the potential to be far reaching and impactful, so it’s worth taking the time to devise a strategy. learn as you go, try different approaches and, most importantly, have fun with it.

let’s all learn together! please share your thoughts, tips and social experiences (good and bad). leave comments below or connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.

by meredith clinton bell