I’m of an age now that I can say, with some pride, that I’ve enjoyed a couple of careers. All of them have involved writing and one even combined my writing skills with my passion for art. One of those careers was as a newspaper reporter. An aspect of that job that I truly enjoyed was the interview. I have a curiosity for knowing why people do what they do…why they make the choices they do…what gives them joy in this life. Back in the day I had the joy of being able to interview actress Janet Leigh [who can forget that famous scene from the movie “Psycho?”] on a day when she was visiting the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA – she had attended there. I was working for a small newspaper in a nearby town and I argued with the editor that this would make a great human interest story. It was great fun and I have a photo of myself standing with her taken by our paper’s staff photographer in my keepsake box.
I’d like today to introduce The Interview as a feature of Linda’s Business Blog. From time-to-time I will introduce people I find interesting and especially who have interesting things to say.
Today please welcome Susan Gunelius, CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a full service marketing communications provider; owner of Women On Business, online destination for the news and information you need to be successful in the business world from today’s thought leaders; writer and author of several books: (Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon through Palgrave Macmillan, Kick-Ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps through Entrepreneur Press, and Google Blogger for Dummies through Wiley. Her fourth book, Building Brand Value the Playboy Way will hit book stores (through Palgrave Macmillan) in Fall 2009.
Q: What is it about marketing that you like so much? What do you like about writing?
Susan: I love the creative side of marketing. Print advertising and marketing communications are my favorites. I’ve always had a natural ability to write persuasively, so transitioning into copywriting early in my career happened organically. I hate to go so far as to say I’m ‘anti-numbers’ but I much prefer the creative thinking process than the analytical thinking process. I was too practical in my late teens and early twenties to have the guts to study art, so I studied marketing. Today, I can combine my creative side with my practical side through my work at KeySplash Creative, Inc., so it worked out very well for me.
Q: Do you see yourself as a storyteller? Couldn’t a marketing professional be described as someone who helps others to tell their stories [about products/services/companies] to the public?
Susan: I wouldn’t call myself a storyteller when it comes to marketing. For example, one of the things I write about in my book, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, is that no one cares about you or your story. They want to know what your product or service can do for them to make their lives better or easier. That’s why copywriting is such a unique style of writing.
Q: What inspired you to write and publish your first book?
Susan: I had an idea to write a book to help small and mid-size business owners learn to write copy that is actually effective. The last straw for me was when I watched a commercial for a local car dealership featuring the owner and his parrot. My stomach turned as I imagined how much money the dealership invested into such an ineffective ad that would not drive the ROI they wanted or needed. That’s when I decided to write a book to teach business owners and beginner copywriters how they can follow a simple 10-step process that applies to any copywriting project to craft great copy that would actually drive results. With that idea in mind, I started researching how to sell a book to a publisher, and the rest is history.
The interesting part of the story is that my copywriting book was not the first book I wrote that was published. In the summer of 2007, I was approached by a publisher to write a book about the Harry Potter brand for a college academic audience based on a blog post I wrote. That book, Harry Potter: The Story of a Global Business Phenomenon, was actually published a month or so before Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and then Wiley approached me to write Google Blogger for Dummies, which came out in February 2009. My next book is coming out in October 2009, Building Brand Value the Playboy Way, and I’m writing my fifth book right now, Blogging All-in-One for Dummies, which will be published through Wiley in May 2009.
Q: Looking back 20 years, at what point did you see the viability of the internet and recognize that you might be able to utilize it? At what point did you actually embrace the internet as part of your business?
Susan: I wouldn’t say that I completely embraced the Internet as part of my business until 3 years ago, but that’s because I come from a corporate background. When you work for some of the largest companies in the world, the corporate bureaucracy can make it next to impossible to get anything done. My interactions with online marketing prior to starting my own business was a hodge-podge of navigating the insane number of layers and politicking that went on within the walls of Corporate America where the chasm between people who understood the value of the Internet and those who did not was wide with no signs of closing until leadership turned over. Suffice it to say, I’m a social media evangelist these days and I’ve built my entire business 100% through the tools of the Internet. In fact, it’s safe to say I would not have a business without the Internet.
Q: If a young entrepreneur were to ask you the value of writing a blog, what would be your advice?
Susan: If you’re serious about expanding your knowledge, your relationships, and your career, then a blog is a great place to start, because it gives you a place to position yourself within your area of expertise. It allows you to build an online presence, network with peers around the world, get on the radar screens of key influencers, and differentiate you from the hundreds of other people applying for the same jobs or pitching to the same clients that you are.
Q: Do you think there are major businesses that are not yet on board with social media that are doing themselves a disservice by this omission? If yes, what do you think they are afraid of?
Susan: Yes, just about all of them. I think the problem is fear of control and a gap in thinking between the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality and the “we need to get on the social Web because everyone else is.” There has to be a middle ground between those two schools of thought. The best marketing plan leverages an integrated strategy where all touch points consistently communicate the same brand message, but the key to maximizing the opportunity of the social web is giving up control and letting consumers experience the brand in their own ways.
Furthermore, a social media strategy is best created to optimize a long-term brand-building plan supported by short-term tactics that feed into that long-term strategy. That’s a scary thing for executives who have been conditioned to think in the short-term to meet their annual goals and receive their bonuses, not to mention the uproar from the legal team that inevitably ensues when people start talking about your brand online and making it their own. Put it this way, cease and desist letters are the death of social media marketing.
Q: Would you agree that the internet has been a leveler for women in business? Do you think the internet has allowed the business playing field to become genderless in some regards…giving women a greater opportunity to succeed in whatever their desired endeavor?
Susan: I’m not sure I’d give that much credit to the Internet. In reality, the Internet is just a tool, and users choose how they want to leverage the power of that tool. If women feel more confident and more accepted using the Internet to further their careers, then they should certainly pursue it, just as some people pursue speaking engagements or other avenues to success.
Q: As a marketing professional who, I’m sure, keeps tabs on this sort of thing…have you noticed the huge proliferation of independent business consultants and life coaches “out there?” Is that market niche a good one for a young entrepreneur to go into? Also, can you predict what the next great opportunity will be for women entrepreneurs?
Susan: The whole ‘life coach’ industry is a tough nut to crack, because the reach of the social web has invited everyone to the party regardless of their actual experience and expertise. The key to success is finding the niche you’re passionate about and have knowledge of and experience with, and then using the Internet as a tool to network, build relationships, and position yourself as such. However, you need to be able to back up those claims, so people understand that you’re a true authority vs. the self-proclaimed experts that lurk across the Internet. That’s where a blog can be extremely helpful in building an online platform and positioning yourself within your field.
Q: Finally…you are a busy person: business, blogs, books…what do you do for fun?
Susan: I like to spend time with my husband and our 5-year old triplets. We moved to Florida from New Jersey several years ago for better weather, so we enjoy going to Walt Disney World, visiting all the great local beaches, and taking advantage of the amazing family activities around Central Florida. There is never enough time to do everything that we want to do!
I’ll second that sentiment! Thank you Susan for your time and sharing your thoughts and insights.
Filed under: Business-general, Interviews | Tagged: business, entrepreneur, interview, Janet Leigh, KeySplash Creative, Linda's Business Blog, Susan Gunelius, University of the Pacific, Women on Business |