What does it mean to brand yourself?

By Anna Goldsmith
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If you were a brand, what brand would you be? Apple? Harley? Um … Tide? (This Tide commercial is great.) I know: This sounds like an exercise just made for a corporate retreat … right before the “trust falls.” But in our 2.0 world, where the professional and personal are colliding like never before, it’s not a bad idea to check in with yourself. Or, your many selves … your work self, your Facebook self, your Twitter self, your too-many-drinks-at-the company-holiday-party self. 

Dr. Judith Sills wrote an interesting article about how to become your own brand. See what you think — do you need a little brand management?

Content Is the New Customer Service

By Anna Goldsmith
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Here’s what it takes to keep people coming back.

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference on new media and heard this quote: “Content is the new customer service.” At which point I jumped up on my chair and shouted, “YES!” You know, since we provide content. Then I was like, “Wait, what does that even mean?”

Meet the new “It” girl.

Allow me to explain: See, before Web 2.0 became the new “It girl,” customers were loyal based largely on having a positive customer service experience. Today, Cyber Monday is the new Black Friday, so Nancy (or whoever is working in your brick-and-mortar store — if you even have one) could be the best darn sales clerk in the world, but we probably won’t meet her. Instead, we’re likely to have an utterly forgettable automated sales transaction.

Create a reason to keep customers coming back.

So, why do we come back? A great online experience. And this isn’t just true for retailers. In fact, retailers have it easy – some punchy product copy and smart navigation, and they’re all set.

The rest of us? We need to create a reason for our customers to keep us top-of-mind, especially now. This means great content that is well written, frequently updated and relevant to our customers. Done well, this builds a loyal community. And that’s what keeps companies strong. Well, that and a great product. 

So what companies are doing this well?

Anna interviews hot new eco-designer

By Anna Goldsmith
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… And we mean “hot” as in up-and-coming, but Shana also happens to be quite lovely. 

So how did we happen to do this interview? It’s part of our ongoing effort to help spread the word about Down:2:Earth, Boston’s first sustainable living expo. (Go! Go!) And why are we helping out? Well, it’s a great show, and we love the earth — and Lorelei. Plus, she introduces us to lots of cool new people, like Jute & Jackfruit founder Shana Yansen. Read all about her here.

Networking for Beginners

By Anna Goldsmith
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Navigate a Roomful of Strangers in Five Easy Steps

Whether success for you means leaving a networking event with several new business contacts — or just leaving with your dignity intact — here are a few basic steps to get you started. And while these steps are geared toward networking, feel free to use them at any awkward social gathering.

Step One: Show up late.

If you equate “networking event” with “business meeting,” you’re approaching it with the wrong mind-set. It’s more like a party — yes, even if your boss makes you go. And like parties, networking events are less intimidating if the guests have had at least one drink. Plan your arrival accordingly.

Step Two: Scope out the scene.

Says a Hollywood friend of mine, “Don’t make a move until you’ve circled your prey.” Translation for non-A-listers? Don’t feel pressure to jump into a conversation right away. Instead, take a slow walk around the perimeter of the room to scope out the scene. This allows you to get your bearings and see who’s there. End this circling at the bar so your wandering appears purposeful, rather than just crazy

Step Three: Get a drink.

It doesn’t have to be an alcohol. But if it is, remember that in business, nothing good happens after 10 p.m. or three drinks. (I can’t credit this sage piece of advice, because I can’t remember who said it. Probably because I’d had more than three drinks.)

Step Four: Say something, anything!

The bad news: Networking events will bring out the insecure 13-year-old in you. The good news: in you … and everyone else. This means people — especially people standing alone — will be so grateful you’re saving them from “standing around like a loser with no friends” that you could talk about the weather and have a rapt audience.

Step Five: Leave them wanting more.

Handle yourself like you would (or should) on a first date. This means keeping things light and fun. Your goal is just to get to know a person, not sell her on a fruitful, long-term commitment. And don’t cling — even great conversations shouldn’t last more than about 10 minutes. If there is mutual interest, you can always see each other again.

Note: This is part one of an ongoing series on networking and we’d love to hear from you: What do YOU struggle with when it comes to networking? And for you pros out there, what’s your best tip?  

How to get the dream life of your dreams

By Anna Goldsmith
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This is a hysterical video I found through Chris Brogan (chrisbrogan.com) all about the power of social media to, um, get the dream life of your dreams …  

Gabe and Max on YouTube

Five Tips for a Successful Freelance Writing Career

By Anna Goldsmith
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When you tell people you’re a freelancer writer, they immediately make a few assumptions: 1) you spend the whole day in your pajamas, and 2) “freelance writing” is really code for “unemployed.” I say, fine: Let them think this. Who needs the competition? The truth is, if you’re smart about it, you can make a lot more money working for yourself than working for someone else. Here are a few tips to help you along.

Tip 1: Create a division between work and home. It’s helpful to have a designated work space – ideally, an office or studio space outside of your home. If this isn’t possible, a home office with a door you can close is your next best option. Don’t have a room to set aside for an office? Go to your local Pier 1, buy a Chinese screen and section off a corner of a room. Voilà: instant office.

Tip 2: Take off your pajamas. No, I’m not saying you should work naked, but dress like you’re going to the office. Because, guess what? You are. Even if your “office” is your kitchen table, putting on regular work clothes gets you into the right mind-set. It also makes it less embarrassing when the UPS man shows up in the middle of the afternoon.

Tip 3: Get to work on time. You’ve cut out the commute, which means you’ve bought yourself a little time. So go ahead and have that extra cup of coffee; but it’s nice for your family, friends, clients and personal sanity if you keep at least relatively normal business hours.

Tip 4: Don’t watch TV in the middle of the day. Or go to the movies or do your laundry. You’re working, so work. However, occasional naps are perfectly acceptable and a great way to remind yourself that while you might not have technical support or a supply closet, your life is still pretty awesome.

Tip 5: But do go out to lunch. The writing life, especially the freelance writing life, can be isolating. And isolation leads to one thing: insanity. So set times for human contact helps, like lunch dates with clients or your fellow independently employed cohorts. For extra points – and probably extra business, too – join a business networking group.

There are a lot of other things you can do to be successful, like actually being a good writer, meeting deadlines and not annoying your clients. But I’ll leave those for you to figure out. In the meantime, put down that remote and get to work.

The Hired Pens Wins Big with the Skinny at MITX

By Anna Goldsmith
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Last summer we worked with Genuine Interactive — a great Boston interactive agency headed by Chris Pape — on a Web-based ad campaign for French’s mustard. The goal was to get health-conscious consumers (and those who should be!) to make the switch from mayo to mustard. How’d we do it? Scare tactics and humor, baby. Check it out.

The French’s campaign recently earned a pair of honors at the 2008 MITX Interactive Awards: Consumer Goods and Best Engagement.

Literally the Best Writing Advice Ever

By Anna Goldsmith
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If the title of this post sounds familiar, then you must also be reading Paul Yeager’s new book, Literally the Best Language Book Ever. A man after our own hearts (especially Dan’s, who prides himself on his grammatical prowess) Yeager identifies hundreds of illogical expressions and language miscues he wishes we’d all quit saying.

My favorite is Chapter 3: Verbifications

This is when you use nouns as verbs and it’s particularly common in the business world. Want an example? I’m going to challenge myself to write four in one sentence. Ready … go!

“Oh honey, normally you know I’d love nothing more than antiquing with your chain-smoking, freak-show sister, but I have to architect a new business plan for the Tuesday meeting I chair-oh, I almost forgot, you DVRed Dancing with the Stars, right?”

Okay, I’ve never said these exact words (I don’t even have a sister) but I do catch myself verbifying all the time. And if we don’t break this habit someday soon we might find ourselves asking the counter girl to “Cup me some coffee.” But can we stop? I don’t know, but I task you to try …

So what drives you crazy?

Share your own pet peeves here-or write your own verbified sentence!