Friday, September 21, 2007

Creative Time & Space

Little scraps of paper with messages scribbled on them...notebooks with paper that crinkle when you flip pages because the ink is applied with such mugs...framed photos of family and friends...maps, twinkle lights, coloring book rip outs...Every desk and office space is unique. How each of us work is unique. Some can exist in pure chaos, others like myself need everything in its proper place. Our own idiosyncrasies are what makes the work space - and ultimately what makes the place ours and a place to work productively and perhaps even relax.

Despite having a category and neat file folder for every paper under the sun, it's not to say I can't make a mess. The more room you give me, the more I take up. Once I had a 1000 piece mailer to get out the door. Label each envelope, stuff with letter, give to boss to sort and affix with post-its, give back to me so they may take up 10 square feet of floor while I fold and stuff rosters, posters, and invitations in the appropriate envelopes. How I kept them straight I'll never know. How I managed to not get stepped on, kicked or screamed at, I'll also never know.

That's how I operate with huge projects. I take up an entire space. At the end of the day it all gets put away, piled and a neat To Do list awaits me the following day. My boss stopped and stared at me on a few occasions, maybe once asking if I knew what I was doing and I assured him I did. He (thankfully) stressed and fumed quietly to himself for the duration of the mail stuffing to be relieved in the end that despite the seemingly chaotic state of it, everything was in tact.

Probably also making him raise an eyebrow were the decorations that garnished my working space. Prior to this job, I worked either in tiny cubicles or at a desk assembled in squares or rows, elementary school style. There was no room to decorate, hang pictures or otherwise express one's creativity. In this place, I had a little alcove - a nontraditional space, but that was OK - with a window and two walls! A dream come true. The boss was a creative fellow, OK with the idea of adding personal style to the space (he had some interesting things adoring his space and we later put glow in the dark stars all over his office to celebrate Halloween) so I added some curtains to the drafty window, my Hello Kitty calendar, my framed charcoal drawing, a few Wassily Kandinsky prints and the cork board with all my important office papers. I mentioned the more room, the more I take. Well, later there came a side table for my printer, a lamp, twinkle lights on the window, a remnant glow in the dark star, etc.

Now I will say this in my defense - everyone needs at least one job where they can freely exercise their creativity, even if it's slightly eccentric. We didn't have clients parading through our space so perhaps if we did, I would have stopped at the framed prints on the walls. Years of hiding bouncy balls and trade show toys in drawers, of having push pins fall out of cube walls and frames fall off the side of my "school" desk came to a screeching halt here.

But the burning question here is: With my ability to take up the entire office on a project, paint the town (or alcove) red with my energy and creativity, did I work smarter? Did all this craziness make me an efficient and productive employee? Do such splashes of personality make anyone a better worker?

In my seven years of working, I'll say - it takes a combination of the tangible and intangible, intrinsic and extrinsic to motivate and excite an employee. It's a lot of Psychology combined with Organizational Behavior/Management (and probably why so many employers mess it up). The fact is - I'm already a responsible, accountable go getter of a person. I know what I needed to be doing daily. All my additions to my space only made it more personal and fun to physically drive 40 miles a job I already liked. And for the jobs I didn't like so much, infusing my space with a little personality sparked creativity and brought a smile to my face and pushed me onward. Any marketing coordinator will also agree when it comes to assembling mailers, collateral, packing for trade shows - you really do need space to lay out components and visualize your inventory. It's not all about decor or how one organizes her head, but it helps being able to exist in a comfortable place for you. Moreover, I found it refreshing to be around people that embraced creativity. I felt the energy even when I interviewed - and hauling the long drive home thought, I could work here.

The day in December 2003 when it snowed and I was 3 hours late getting there, I stayed until 7 that night, all alone with my my mailer (and twinkle lights), quietly finishing one element of the project. I didn't need to stay, but I wanted to: He didn't give me hell for the inclement weather, for living 40 miles away and surviving a treacherous drive, I wanted to put the time in, I knew with everyone gone for the night, I'd have the place to myself and I could concentrate and I wanted him to come in the next day and see I made a significant dent with the mailer!

Come to think of it, that guy still has my light up, bouncy, noise making bouncy ball. He didn't confiscate it. No, he loved it so much when I showed it to him, he asked to keep it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

On The Spot: The Allusive Elevator Pitch

How many times have you heard someone tell you that you need to perfect your elevator pitch? I'll never forget my first job out of school - I was working at an IT consultancy in October 2000 and they dropped me off at the Valley Forge Convention Center to work a trade show two months into working there. One the one hand, I was happy for the experience (to learn about the industry), to see the fruits of my labor (I set up that 10x10 booth and wrapped those candy bars with homemade labels) and to collect tons of fun trade show toys (like little bouncy light up balls). On the other hand, what did I know about IT consulting? About portals? About our clients? Nothing. I stood in the booth, panicked, and asked my HR recruiter for the elevator pitch. It's my worst nightmare to go anywhere unprepared and conferences and shows can be the most intimidating - booth visitors putting the cute little cheerleader on the spot - just because they can. I'll be your cheerleader. But I'll be smart as a whip.

Perfecting your pitch is tough. Sometimes it takes years. I believe this is a combination of knowing our products and services, how they work, how they benefit our clients, self confidence, and an ever changing landscape of our businesses. It isn't just about saying what we do as a business or independent professional. It's about engaging our listener - showing instead of telling, keeping things simple, but still telling a story. Because after all, elevators are small cramped awkward spaces - like so many initial encounters.

Up until this point, no one could even offer me a starting point on how to craft the allusive pitch. Tons of articles in INC, Harvard Business Review and other publications tout its importance, but never have I come across a writer who says This Is How You Do It. These are respected journals - why can't I find what I need? What's useful to me as a small business owner? Stop talking about what it is and why it's important and show me how! My prayer was answered. I came across this Elevator Pitch How To article posted on the American Management Association's Leaders Edge and for once someone drills the elevator pitch down to its basics and shares some useful tips and real examples of how to develop and fine tune it. Mark Wiscup, I thank you for making something that's so daunting and unattainable a realistic, challenging but reachable goal.

I'll be working on mine this week and I'll post it here with little annotations so we can see how closely I followed his tutorial.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

All That Jazz

OK, so I've been obsessed with jazz of of late. I go through phases where I'm really into classical, into bluegrass, into cheesy 80s for my workouts (it's true), but over the last few weeks I've been enjoying the local jazz radio station near me in Philadelphia, WRTI 90.1, and unearthing some fabulous internet radio stations and You Tube video performances.

First, slink over to East Village Radio and check out their program lineup. Right now I'm listing to the podcasts of The Speakeasy. It airs Friday nights at 12 midnight through 2 a.m. I don't think I've been up that late since...I was 25. That was some time ago. So rocking the podcast on iTunes I am. It's terrific modern chill jazz.

I'm also sharing a video of New York City's Waverly Seven performing Charade. So cool they are, I'm wondering why I am sitting here in front of a PC when I should find some hole in the wall jazz lounge to enjoy the performance. Alas, I will have to wait until November when they grace the baby Grand at Wilmington's Grand Opera House. A show not to be missed. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Where You Lead, I Will Follow

I was 23 when I had my first glimpse at a Title Snob. This gal joined a consulting group where I worked and she maybe had 10 years of HR experience (maybe). And I, the marketing girl, was in charge of mocking up all the business cards in Quark and upon presenting this chick with her mock business card for approval, she flipped out because her title read Director of Human Resources. The title the COO had bestowed upon her. No, she told me all smug. It needed to read Human Capital Strategist. I'm sure my eyebrow raised involuntarily and I stared her straight in the eye and said matter of factly, "Sure."

WHATEVER Human Capital Strategist meant in January 2001. I was 23 and this was my first job and I thought, what BS. Who cares? We know where you fall in the corporation's hierarchy. She wasn't even executive level material and she's obnoxious to go around changing her title a few days into her new HR role and talking down to everyone around her. This 'tude from a supposed leader? The hypocrisy was evident. And made even more painstakingly clear when in her first 3 months, she ran a lot of people out of the company and laid off 50-80 people.

Titles are merely labels and like any label, can pigeon hole us into behaviors and mindsets, whether good or bad. Often people make them up, focusing on the perceived value of the title - packaging themselves to be perceived as someone of greatness. As a marketing gal, I know perception (and packaging) is everything. I know if done correctly, this can be a positive card in your back pocket. How we present ourselves can open doors.

I've also seen it be a complete joke. Times when my Marketing Coordinator signature should have read Director of List Management. But more often than not, I witness titles that make me wonder, "What does that mean?" because they encompass a bunch of trendy words on a card, that mislead, or are relevant only in a particular industry, or are people's egos talking and - my bottom line here - the label doesn't mean squat when it comes to judging someone as a leader.

In my situation, I had hoped for a leader and quickly realized all the talk and titles meant nothing. I reiterate a few ideas that Ann Daly put forth in her Successful Artist newsletter on how to be a leader and my own peanut gallery commentary:

Create new ideas.
Ideas come from everywhere. Be open to them, write them down, embrace creativity.
Lead from where you are. You don't have to have the fancy title embossed on your card. And as I pointed out, even those that do, don't lead. Whether you're at the top, the middle or the bottom of the proverbial totem pole, exercise your experience, your skills, your charisma, your leadership.
Don't depend on your JD. Why would that boring job description say anything out of the ordinary? It never does. Do what you need to do/are supposed to do/are being paid to do and then go beyond it.
Build your own platform. I'm an example of this. Stop whining about being a victim of the dot com bomb (like me) and graduating at an inopportune time (like me) and take matters into your own hands. Seriously, there's a lot we DO have control over if only we get past ourselves and our bruised egos. Network, make friends, write blogs, comment, get involved and be engaged.
Ask for help. Let's not be the kids in class who are struggling and embarrassed to ask for guidance. There are mentors, newsgroups, blogs, social networks all here to connect us with others who are going through similar situations or have been there and can offer best practices.

I also suggest we don't take ourselves that seriously. I love when someone's title is Head Honcho. I know it isn't entirely professional, but it catches our attention, right? Makes us giggle a bit? I had Owner and Consultant on business card for a while I was so uncomfortable with such mainstream and pretentious verbiage, I had to change it. Of course, Creative Strategist was probably once like Human Capital Strategist! At least I can pay homage to what inspired me (see side bar).

In the meantime...lead, follow, observe. Be here now.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Marketing Calendar

Wow, this terrific how did I NOT think of it first, but it's perfect for anyone in any business MARKETING CALENDAR is going to be like my dad: A check in point.

I'll be posting this somewhere visible and it will likely kick me in the butt when I need my butt kicked. I love the weekly break downs to remind us to work on our own web sites...develop new relationships...developing and sending a newsletter/blog...and yikes! Cold calling! Scary. But we all must do it.

Check it out and thank the lovely peeps over at HOW Design, the premier magazine for graphic design (and some).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Video of the Week: Turtle Island Quartet

In an effort to find some fabulous classical and jazz performances on YouTube, I searched for the Turtles, a string quartet I previously represented. I didn't expect anything really (I see primarily home videos and pop videos promoted so heavily, I forget to look outside those genres). But here they are in all their glory. Let's see if I can get into the habit of featuring a cool performance weekly.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Digital advertising...the new way to brand?

Here's a link to an interesting article published in the NY Times today. I find this intriguing because I do believe, like our corporate mongol David W. Kenny, the chairman and chief executive of Digitas, the advertising agency in Boston that was acquired by the Publicis Groupe, that all advertising will be digital and personalized in the coming years.

I like where he's going...or rather where the global economy is headed. Another executive makes the point of reminding us how annoyed we become after seeing the same commercial or ad over and over and wouldn't it be nice to have a series of ads? Not only targeted to me and my tastes but also taking me to a new level each time? Not only allowing me to interact and experience the product or service, but because of that, building an emotional attachment to it too. Building awareness and becoming emotionally involved - the keys to branding anything.

I wonder though, in the case of the phone (a more personal experience than the TV or Internet, although slowly becoming a media outlet like the aforementioned), will digital advertising reach us no matter what phone we use? Will only certain phones have the ability to receive these messages? Will such phones be like the iPhone and ludicrously expensive making it hard for the target markets to obtain the phone and see the personalized messages and ads? What about those of us who abhor any sort of technological interference? Who merely want to call their friends without pop up advertising? Will it get annoying or will there be a way to enable it if we want it?

Lots of questions...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Obsession with Penguins

Everywhere I go - Penguins. Club Penguin, iPenguin, books about Penguins, Happy Feet, March of the Penguins. The way my generation had trippy cartoons about robots and animals like Voltron, Scooby Doo, Thundercats and others, kids - and apparently adults - today are up to their eyeballs in penguins. To take it further, possibly to capitalize on the popularity of the penguin, Harvard business professor and author of management books, John P. Kotter wrote "Leading Change," a book about organizational change and leadership with penguins as the central characters. Penguins are now metaphors for corporate life. There's an entire article about this in the NY Times.

I enjoy reading leadership books. So while the rise of penguin popularity still confuses me, I'll likely buy this (when it's discounted on Amazon). Meanwhile, I'm happy that my high school mascot - the Auk - is finally enjoying its heyday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ben Cameron's Keynote

For those of you church goers out there you know what I mean when I refer to the Zone. It's when you've settled into your pew and the service and as the officiant launches into a homily (in my case) either my eyelids close or I enter the Zone whereby I mentally check out for a few minutes. It's not that all speeches or stories are boring. It's that too often I've heard the same stuff regurgitated. By force of habit I drift to the Zone. Here and there though are incredible inspired charismatic people that not only speak intelligently with so much emotion one can't help but get pulled into the excitement, but they also have something important to say.

Such was the case a few weeks ago. I attended the PA Presenters Conference in Bethlehem. I've sat through tons of "all conference seminars" and "keynote speaker luncheons" and so many have been dry and/or lacking in any substantial information. Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, was our speaker and man, not only did this guy give a dynamite energetic presentation but he also did what he called all of us in the arts to do -- engage our audiences. I couldn't even be bothered with taking frantic notes. I hung on his every word (literally, I was draped over the back of my chair). I was that emotionally involved.

So many of his points still swim through my head but my favorite analogy was his quoting Wayne Gretzky: "I skate where the puck will be." Look ahead. Anticipate. Engage. I'll dissect the speech in bits over the coming weeks with new posts, but for now, do yourself a service and spend 15 minutes over a cup of 'jo and read his moving speech here. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Networking Tips (& Mistakes)

I saw these tips posted on Monster and I wanted to share them.

Let me say for the record that I have shamelessly fallen victim to at least 2 of these mistakes: forgetting business cards (he always gave me the Look)...and having the crazy email address (at least it was a conversation starter?!)...But over the years I've pulled myself together and I'm proud to say that now I know all of these and follow all of these tips and tricks religiously.

We live and learn.

The Art of the Thank You

I've come to the conclusion that after one is married the amount of money spent at Hallmark on cards increases 5 fold. It used to be I'd buy a pack of thank yous, a birthday or graduation card here and there and $20 later, be done with it. Now I have a whole other family to wish happy birthday, congratulate, celebrate, and thank, coupled with 20-something friends getting married and having babies. There's simply too many of these celebrations occurring simultaneously that I don't have the time to handcraft cards the way I want. So I contribute to Hallmark's profit with another $80. In the words of Kurt: So it goes.

Of course I'm always drawn to the cute cards that retail for $5.99. I wind up ranking the importance of people and occasions - is this worth $5.99? Honestly, besides mom and dad, the only time I don't cut a corner is with a thank you note. I mean this literally and figuratively. If I can do it, I'll buy the nice card. Sometimes time is scarce so a quick email does the job, but whatever the method of choice, spend the time crafting the note. I can't tell you how many thank yous I've received over the years that are lifeless and written simply because "I have to." Get over yourself. Someone did something nice, went out of his or her way to help you, mentor you, gave of his time, bought you something - whatever - the least you can do is acknowledge it. Trust me - People don't forget it...and they tell you so you never forget how important the thank you is to them. After an event I found a ridiculously cute and appropriate card to thank my boss for the new learning experience (seriously, I'm not a kiss ass...I just really enjoyed my role at this event) and I'll never forget the email: "I wish everyone had your manners." My wedding was a year ago and one of my relatives kept the thank you I sent her because "It was one of the nicest well written notes I ever received!" I mean, she kept it?!

So what do you do? Grab a card, make a card, buy a card.

Say thanks. Thank the person for the gift, gesture, time, etc. Don't just say thanks for "the gift." It's too vague and impersonal. Reiterate it. Monetary gift? Writing "Thanks for your generous gift/donation" is the quintessential line.

Talk it up. What's so great about the gift? What makes the gift/gesture/donation so special? Will it go toward anything particular? People like knowing these things. Write 2-3 short sentences describing why that iPod Nano is wonderful or what that donation will fund.

Wrap it up. "Again, many thanks for your - insert appropriate adjective here - gift. Think words like generous, thoughtful, kind, etc. Then sign.

By the way, old school style gets you the most points here -- handwriting the thank you. But email or a typed letter is still good.

Here are examples of a few I've written:

Dear Aunt Denise,
Thank you so much for your generous wedding gift. (The dear husband) and I are looking forward to putting this toward furnishing our new abode with hardwood floors and fabulous new furniture. It was wonderful that everyone could be with us on our wedding day; it truly meant so much to us to have our friends and family celebrating with us. Again many thanks for everything.
Love, Chrissie

Dear Presenter,
Thanks so much for the opportunity to work with you and your staff this past week on marketing projects. It was a valuable experience and I look forward to seeing how the season brochure turns out. It was a pleasure to work with you and your staff - everyone was so welcoming and helpful. You have a terrific team and I hope you'll consider me for future consulting projects.
Sincerely, Chrissie

So there you go. Maybe you've gleaned some ideas...or not. Regardless, I thank you for reading this post :)

Sunday, June 03, 2007


I was one way back in the day...6th grade. I could use an entire squad right now.

I am on the heels of a networking conference and overall I had a terrific time, met a lot of new artists and reconnected with many other industry professionals and even have some solid leads. Like trade shows and conferences of days gone by, I am caught up in the excitement of the moment: doing tons of stuff, spewing out my elevator pitch, dressing the part, attending opening and closing receptions...I could go on. If you've been to such events, you know how all consuming it is and how by Day 3 you crash and burn. Day 4 is when you stare at all the work before you and panic.

The panic creeps in ever so slowly and I don't even realize it until I find myself at Cold Stone Creamery on a rainy Sunday night "not dealing." Besides all my follow ups, I am also considering adding some web services to my marketing list. Lots of research, lots of thinking. But I was in a similar mental state some time ago and I return to some enlightening thoughts to pull me out of this temporary road block.

When I panic, stress, worry and essentially feel my self confidence wavering (and Cold Stone Creamery becomes a distraction), I recall a good friend's words: "These moments are part of any job...but compounded when you start a new business..." She continues by reminding me of all my positive traits and characteristics and the magic words that it'll all work out in time.

It's true. We all get overwhelmed. We all need that friend to remind us of who we are, why we make these seemingly crazy decisions to start businesses, to follow dreams, and to tell us it'll all be OK. Let's surround ourselves with cheerleaders. Let's remember those who have guided us in our studies of yesteryear and apply those same strategies.

My head swims with ideas while I drive home with my Cake Batter Lite ice cream. But I remind myself of why I am doing this...remind myself of my high school time management course and to chunk my tasks. I am feeling better (and back in control) already. I've had my down time to momentarily freak out, get my ice cream and not deal. Now it's back to work.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I started to write about this topic back in April, but I was distracted and unable to formulate my thoughts. But thoughts are boomerangs. Here I am on the heels of a meeting with a terrific Brazilian jazz ensemble wondering if I can take my company to another level and provide them with a quality service. It all boils down to being young. How many of us would love to say that? Love to tout being carded every where we go and at 30, be mistaken for a 22 year old. Except this wasn't cool when I was in college (and trying to get into Pitcher's Pub), when I liked a guy a few years older than me (and he continuously teased me for looking like a teen) and it still ruffles my feathers.

It's also why I'm fascinated that it has become a running theme of the last few months and not just personally but across the arts boards, blogs, and papers. There's been a lot of conversations about involving young professionals in the arts.

Ann Daly of Ann Daly Consulting posted her thoughts on recent conversations about involving the youth and young adults in the arts.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Sometimes we build our network and find mentors in the most unexpected places...or in my case, in a most unexpected person. Sometimes people are too busy working to always be the mentors we want or need. Fast forward 3-4 years. Once I made the decision to start Piccadilly Arts this past December, a creative strategy firm, I knew the performing arts was a vertical industry I wanted to serve. I understood a great deal, but I still needed input, guidance, and direction preferably from a seasoned professional. Half expecting an old colleague to say he didn't have the time, (the other half aware of my vulnerability and hoping he'd help), I sought out this person and his 20 years of knowledge. He graciously offered to take me to lunch and chat. In the last six weeks, he has surprised me over and over with his willingness to share his time, thoughts, and knowledge. As a newbie to the small business world, these pow wows enlighten me, guide me, refocus me, and inspire me.

Building a valuable network is crucial not just for someone like me getting a business off the ground, but for anyone in any profession or industry. Some people will be mentors, others will schlep your rez around their company or to friends of theirs, some will listen and build your confidence when you're despairing...some will be that go to person in your sector when you have a question...and so forth.

Networking and seeking out mentors is something we should always be doing...I didn't understand its necessity and power until I was laid off at 23. During this time, I'd make myself lists and write down every person I knew, personal and professional. Then I'd think of people they knew (or might know through an association). I'd also make the "ideal" list - the list of people that via researching an opportunity seemed interesting, well connected, and worth the cold email or phone call. After I completed all my lists, I'd follow it up with emails, phone calls, even visits. I'd also research industry events where creative types were likely to attend and go to as many as possible. It's all about opening your mouth and letting some words out...make friends.

To this day, I use this strategy. Many of my initial emails are introductions and express my passion for the arts, communication, and design. I offer a bit of my background, links to my web site and portfolio, why I am reaching out to him or her. I'll name drop if it's relevant. Maybe the agent has a terrific roster of artists...maybe the shop or organization is local and involved in some noteworthy causes, maybe someone mentioned the firm to me because of stellar work. Whatever the reason I've found that tons of people are just like me - everyday people who love being complimented. That's really what we are doing when we network and reach out to others. Finally, I close my introduction with some call to action - what is it that I want from this person?

I can't tell you how excited I get when someone replies to me...While it's terrific when there's work involved, just establishing the connection equals success to me. One more person in my more person I can ask a question, approach at a conference and say, "Hey, I'm Chrissie and we spoke briefly a few months ago..." Blah Blah Blah. I get more praise from people I don't know because of my ability to persevere, to remember, to follow up. People appreciate it.

Even if someone doesn't reply or respond favorably, I don't throw in the towel. Relationships are like sales cycles - sometimes the timing is right and other times it just isn't. In my case, it made more sense for my friend and colleague to be the mentor now vs. then. While working with someone can often be the best scenario for mentoring and networking to thrive, it can also be tricky. It's about balancing expectations.

There are TONS of people in our industries, so many who do want to help. Keep asking. Give those people a chance to say yes or no. Just don't forget about those unexpected people and places...they are the ones who surprise you and literally take you under their wing and pat you on the back and ask when you're visiting again. Who doesn't love that?!