Tag Archives: marketing

Fear of Life

It’s a fear of failure.  One so strong that you forget who you are and what you really want in life.  At one point in time, I wanted to join the Peace Corps.  I want to become an artist because something innate in me wants to experience life, interpret it and share it.  I was sarcastic as hell, sometimes acerbic, hugely real and a true ENTJ.

But expectations from parents and competition to keep at the top has worn me down.  I’m not taking it anymore.  This is the end of censoring myself.  On janyxu.com and everywhere else.

The internets is so damn open nowadays.  One wrong post or rant and what will my future employers think?  Will my elementary school friends think less of me?  Well, this is me.  No, I’m not going to rant and rave at work.  Nor will I be quite so blunt and tactless.  But somewhere out there, there’s a real me.  And I’m tired of writing tens of drafts, only to be too concerned with public perception to push the “Publish” button.

To hell with it.  Even if I write industry related posts, this is still my personal blog.  I’m taking back my “online personal brand.”

I’m a great marketer with a firm grasp on branding strategies, industry analysis, positioning statements, and vendor relations along with web/graphic design expertise, Social Media savvy and solid record of ROI.  That’s what employers should look at and ask for.

These are my ruminations.  You’re welcome to read them, comment and give your feedback.  But how I’m perceived online should be controlled by me.  My professional profile is available and will be available soon.  My personal online life deserves an equal, yet divided setting.  What I write shouldn’t affect my work (in a perfect environment).

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A Little Zen Moment

Zen Moments is a site full of fun anecdotes and stories, similar to Chicken Soup for the Soul, which I will admit ,is a guilty pleasure.  I liked reading through the stories of human decency, kindness and connections.  It’s corny, I know.  For the most part, I keep Zen Moments tucked away at the bottom of my RSS reader.  Usually, I don’t have time to get to it, but today’s been particularly frustrating day, so I flicked my mouse and scrolled to the bottom.

The story really reminds me of the internet.  We find the relevant instead of the true.  Speed instead of content.  Spoon fed instead of critically thought out.

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One of my favorite professors in college was a self-confessed liar.

I guess that statement requires a bit of explanation.

The topic of Corporate Finance/Capital Markets is, even within the world of the Dismal Science, an exceptionally dry and boring subject matter, encumbered by complex mathematic models and obscure economic theory.

What made Dr. K memorable was a gimmick he employed that began with his introduction at the beginning of his first class:

“Now I know some of you have already heard of me, but for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar, let me explain how I teach. Between today until the class right before finals, it is my intention to work into each of my lectures … one lie. Your job, as students, among other things, is to try and catch me in the Lie of the Day.”

And thus began our ten-week course.

This was an insidiously brilliant technique to focus our attention – by offering an open invitation for students to challenge his statements, he transmitted lessons that lasted far beyond the immediate subject matter and taught us to constantly check new statements and claims with what we already accept as fact.

Early in the quarter, the Lie of the Day was usually obvious – immediately triggering a forest of raised hands to challenge the falsehood. Dr. K would smile, draw a line through that section of the board, and utter his trademark phrase “Very good! In fact, the opposite is true. Moving on … ”

As the quarter progressed, the Lie of the Day became more subtle, and many ended up slipping past a majority of the students unnoticed until a particularly alert person stopped the lecture to flag the disinformation.

Every once in a while, a lecture would end with nobody catching the lie which created its own unique classroom experience – in any other college lecture, end of the class hour prompts a swift rush of feet and zipping up of bookbags as students make a beeline for the door.

On the days when nobody caught the lie, we all sat in silence, looking at each other as Dr. K, looking quite pleased with himself, said with a sly grin: “Ah ha! Each of you has one falsehood in your lecture notes. Discuss amongst yourselves what it might be, and I will tell you next Monday. That is all.”

Those lectures forced us to puzzle things out, work out various angles in study groups so we could approach him with our theories the following week.

Brilliant … but what made Dr. K’s technique most insidiously evil and genius was, during the most technically difficult lecture of the entire quarter, there was no lie. At the end of the lecture in which he was not called on any lie, he offered the same challenge to work through the notes; on the following Monday, he fielded our theories for what the falsehood might be (and shooting them down “no, in fact that is true – look at [x]“) for almost ten minutes before he finally revealed: “Do you remember the first lecture – how I said that ‘every lecture has a lie?’”

Exhausted from having our best theories shot down, we nodded.

Well – THAT was a lie. My previous lecture was completely on the level. But I am glad you reviewed your notes rigorously this weekend – a lot of it will be on the final. Moving on … ” Which prompted an arousing melange of exasperated groans and laughter from the classroom.

And while my knowledge of the Economics of Capital Markets has faded in time, the lessons that stayed with me were his real legacy:

  • “Experts” can be wrong, and say things that sound right – so build a habit of evaluating new information and check it against things you already accept as fact.
  • If you see something wrong, take the initiative to flag it as misinformation.
  • A sense of playfulness is the best defense against taking yourself too seriously.

I’ve had many instructors before and since, but few that I remember with as much fondness – and why my favorite professor was a chronic liar.

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Politics & The History of Marketing

PART I

My last post on the vice presidential debate highlighted the great marketing campaign of the GOP.  I say marketing because many of you pointed out via emails and ims that Sarah Palin, and to some extend John McCain, focuses on broad sweeping statements about some utopian United States without much in the way of a plausible road map.  Well… that’s what worries me most of this campaign, as did the campaign in 2004.

The American people have always held on to great hope for the future.  It’s been the promise of the American dream that’s driven so many people to immigrate to this great country (yes, it’s still great).  And that’s exactly the tactic that the republican party focuses on during election time.  They toy with our optimism, fondle our emotions and make those sweeping generalizations about how their candidate, McCain, will change the U.S. and the middle class for the better.

But so many supporters of the GOP at major corporations and the wealthy.  They hold much more sway over the party than the millions of rural, small town and middle class families.  Can we trust that they will serve us over the rich?  Has the last 8 years taught us nothing?

But the Obama and democratic party actually gives clear goals and action plans that cite the benefits, costs and consequences on the economy, healthcare, social security, foreign affairs, the energy crisis/global warming, etc.

But at the end of the day, as we learned in Made to Stick, the emotional appeal works much more effectively than the factual… right?

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PART II

Well to explain, let’s examine the brief history of marketing [via lessons from my management 101 class at The Wharton School].

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start – The Sound of Music). Marketing is defined as “an ongoing process of planning and executing the marketing mix for products, services or ideas to create exchange between individuals and organizations.”  Advertising, public relations, research, branding among others all fit under the marketing umbrella.  But marketing is the core strategy that directs all of the above.

New technology = economic growth.  The Industrial Evolution spurred the beginning of mass production.  No longer do we have to make our own clothes because the cotton mills could do it faster and cheaper.  Great!  With Ford’s application of the assembly line, the Model-T was so much more cost effective car that the average American could afford.  Great!  However, there wasn’t much in the way of marketing.  No strategic placement of a product or service, finding market segments, developing a unique selling point.  There was no need.  It’s “any color, as long as it’s black.”

Skip forward to proliferation of the market place.  Developments in transportation, packaging and refrigeration means that people now have a choice in what they want to buy.  These were especially apparent in the CPGs (consumer packaged goods) like Heinz ketchup (“47 varieties!”), Campbell’s soup (“M’m m’m good” since 1935), Coca-Cola (“Deliciously refreshing” 1900) and so many more.  Slogans were a way to set products apart from competitors and a catchy phrase to help advertising and consumer choices.

From there, marketing mutated to a complex machine.  In order to keep things brief (because it gets a lot more complicated), here are some highlights in no particular order.

  • Proctor & Gamble realized that it’s better to cannibalize their own products, if it means gaining more of the marketing.  Just in their family of detergents, they have Tide as a household name and top market brand.  Cheer and Gain, which sorry for not knowing, play somewhere in the mid-cost, mid-performance range.  (I’m sure PG has gigabytes of consumer studies, scanner data and much more market research on the differentiators and market segments under each.  I just don’t know them.)  Then Era at the bottom (which I assume b/c I’ve never heard of it… maybe it has higher market proliferation abroad).
  • Intel evolved into a household name by using both the push and pull strategy.  During a time when chips were a dime a dozen and consumers weren’t aware of what went into their computers, Intel pushed their chips as the top of the line.  More importantly, they pulled consumers in with effective advertising and PR (all part of marketing).  Make sure that your computer has “Intel inside” to guarantee quality, etc.
  • Pepsi, as the newcomer, challenged Coca-Cola with their blind taste test, and stupidly Coca-Cola (instead of leaning on their tradition, branding and established consumer base) fell for the trap.  They came up with New Coke.  Sure… months later with people across the nation hoarding the old stuff and complaining so fervently, Coke came back with Coca-Cola Classic.  But Pepsi had make it’s mark, and they’re still competing with about 50-50 market share (depending on country) of beverages and snack products.  [Side note: some people suspect that Coke had introduced New Coke as a ploy to convince the public how much they really love Coca-Cola.  I think the executives were just idiotic.  Side note #2: Coca-Cola determined a few years ago that there are 27 beverage opportunities in a day.  Yeah, 27.]

Those are just three very quick snapshots of successful marketing techniques and how much marketing’s evolved from “47 varieties!”

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Now every company is trying to differentiate itself.  We have dozens of choices.  Brands are freaking sub-branding, creating off-shoots and variations.  There’s like 12 types of Tylenol ache, cold and flu medicines.  When I’m in pain, I just want “THIS IS THE ONE YOU NEED.”  So advertising’s become less effective.  Direct mail’s also less effective because my mailbox is full of ads I don’t want.  [Discover, unless you're giving me 10% cash back, which I know you can't afford, stop sending me biweekly mail.  I'm not going to accept your 'exclusive offer.']  Telemarketers hounds us all the time.  These annoying marketing techniques work because they’re so cost effective that a few “YES’s” make up for the majority of “NO’s.” [Unfortunately, they also give marketing a bad name.  It's become an industry of shoving shit people don't want down their throats.  Not true marketing: exposing product/service options to audiences who want to know.]

The problem was that companies were offering their guarantees so often that what they say mean nothing to us.  We’re emotional numb to their appeals and no longer trusted their slogans.  At the end of the day, no matter how kitschy or cute the advertising is, if the product/service ain’t work, we ain’t buying it.   So things started to change.

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Remember new technology = economic growth.  Internet = proliferation and democratization of information.  The normal paradigms of advertising, public relations and branding are changing.  Thus, marketing (the planning of such) is evolving as well.

Inventions like TiVo and DVRs help us skip the ads, while companies are trying to find ways to ‘cut through the clutter.’  Marketers are moving online.  Okay, yes, a lot of the bad habits of marketers have moved online.  The flashy, corny banners.  The incessant pop-ups selling us crap and then selling us pop-up blockers.  The spam, even from legitimate companies (you have the money; hire an email-marketer!).

But this is just the beginning.  More and more, word of mouth is playing a role.  Blogs and influencers across the web are popping up and spreading relevant information to interested niches.  Email marketers are popping up with opt-in policies and reassurances that our information isn’t getting sold to the evil spammers.  Semantic search and backend settings allow us to just see ads and banners that may be of interest to us.  Because we do want marketing.  It helps us find out about great sales, the new android phone or 20% off coupons.  We just don’t want what we don’t care about.

So here’s the lesson: marketing works.  Emotionally appealing to audiences works.  BUT.  BUT, there has to be facts that support the emotion.  In order to prevent buyer’s remorse and to keep a customer (which is so much cheaper than acquiring a new one), the product/service has to deliver.

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Part III

Thanks for sticking with me. :-)

Presidential nominations are like laundry detergent.  We have to choose one.

The difference (other than the fact that one is soap and one is people) is that the companies and branding may stay the same, democrats, republicans, independents, etc., but the product changes all the time.  Last time around it was Kerry and Bush.  Now it’s Obama and McCain.  So we can’t rely 100% on past experience to determine which one we want this time.

But we learn from shopping (an everyday task of differentiating among products and choosing what’s right for us) that we have the tools to make those decisions.  For example, we know that we care about the product specs above marketing gimmicks.  As a shoe fanatic (I have the proverbial shoe closet), Manolos would go so much better with my lifestyle brand.  However, they hurt my feet, don’t fit as well and quite frankly, I’d rather save $200 and buy Kate Spades.

The same should go for decisions on candidacy! Yes, I love America.  Yes, I want the government to be for the people again.  Yes, I want someone who isn’t afraid to challenge the authority and be a ‘maverick.’ But that doesn’t mean I’m going to blindly go on my emotions and not look at the FACTS!

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1) I’m SO enraged that the GOP would use a cheesy marketing ploy to try and fool the American people.

2) Even more so, I’m irked that the public would buy into it!

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FACT: Sure, she’s cute and a MILF, but Sarah Palin said exactly 0 about specific plans of the McCain doctrine.

FACT: A ‘blanket’ tax cut helps the rich exponentially more than it helps “the Joe six-packs and hockey moms.”  (see below)

FACT: Obama’s healthcare reform includes a specific plan.  He plans to “make employer contributions more fair.”  HOW? … “by requiring large employers that do not offer coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of their employees health care.”  McCain’s healthcare plan is full of unsupported claims.  “John McCain will reform health care making it easier for individuals and families to obtain insurance.” How?  Not sure… but “Americans [sure] are working harder and longer, yet the amount workers take home in their paychecks is not keeping pace because of rising health care costs.”  Really?  I wasn’t aware.

FACT: Obama’s foreign policy talks about the situations, the factors and multiple influences we have as a country to resolve/strengthen the problem/our position. McCain… doesn’t have “foreign policy” on his website…  Apparently, it’s not that important to him…  The closest thing I found was “national security.”

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Look, I’m not going into all the issues and who said what (all from their websites).  You can do your own research.

The point is that when we’re making such an important decision that affects not only Americans but the entire world, shouldn’t we look above the marketing ploys that tug at our heart strings and get to the not-as-interesting facts?

To answer the first question, wayyyy above: the emotional appeal works much more effectively than the factual… right?

We’ll see.  But it shouldn’t.

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Something About a Beanstalk

People who blog know that it’s a lot of work. So I’m taking this entry to shirk my responsibilities and just write in a stream of consciousness manner.

Two years out of college (okay, 2 years and 3 months but don’t tell anyone), I’ve gained some insight on life, a sense of what I might want to accomplish in my career and 20 lbs. What’s more, I thought I knew everything in college and now, I feel like I know nothing at all. Yes, it’s a bit cliche, but it’s not just what I don’t know in marketing; marketing, as we know it, is changing completely. Okay, there will still be the 3 Cs (company, consumer, competitors), the 4 Ps (product, price, placement, promotion), the infamous SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), Porter’s 5 forces plus internet and a plethora of other acronyms that’s supposed to make us marketing/consulting types look smart… err… find the right niche in target markets, branding and profitability. But how we communicate to our audience is forever changing (hopefully for the better).

Living through that change and watching PR professionals blunder and companies fail is painful. But the future is also bright. And I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. Not that I know everything, but I’m starting to understand the process by which I can stay ahead of the curve, constantly try new things and fail a few times myself.

So what do I do?

  • Read my Google Reader religiously
    • Interests include design, PR, marketing, communications, technology, news, consumer blogs and lolcats/pundit kitchen/fail blog to keep me coming back.
  • Read lots of books
  • Attend interesting events and parties
  • Talk to people
  • Pray a little
  • Study my own strengths and weaknesses through working with other people, meeting new people and mixing in other interests (graphic design, web design, Tumbling, drawing, reading, etc.)
  • Trying new things… websites, programs, etc.
  • Through trial and error, find out where my strengths and my interests intersect.
    • I’m good at designing things, I like social media, and I love strategy (no examples b/c I like my PR agency and want them to keep liking me :-) ).
    • But… I’m an early adopter compared to most of my friends but a lagger within the social media realm. Just because I know how something works, doesn’t mean I want to adopt it personally. The same is true for companies who are interested in adopting social media in their marketing. They need to understand what part of social media makes the most sense for them. If their customers blog, then they should learn how to communicate via the comments section or even try it out themselves. If their industry is Web 2.0 (ugh) facing, they should try everything hire a community manager.

I’m still not ‘there’ yet in terms to knowing what’s my ultimate career goal. With lots of help from my manager (hands down, so amazing that I will join a “my manager is better than your manager” competition, if one exists, and kick all y’all asses! :-P ) and lots of time doing the above, I’m slowly getting there.

I feel like we should all hold hands and sing Kumbaya now… Yeah, definitely bedtime. :-)

Good night, internets!

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Yikes! Taking a Closer Look

The concepts “transparency” and “joining the conversation” are being so overused these days that companies often forget the purpose: embracing their consumers and creating a real relationship.

Here are examples of how one company, RealNetworks, embodies the essence of these cliches and how one company, Uhaul, forgot about the crucial second part: doing what you said you were going to do.

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My favorite example is RealPlayer. Real doesn’t have a stellar image; their player in the 90s is known for being closed, inefficient and slow (remember the ‘buffering’ sign?).

But now, they’re different. I love the RealPlayer 11and that I can download video clips from online to my computer. It’s convenient to access my favorite Russell Peters clip whenever I want, even when AT&T decides not to give me wifi service (for whatever reason). I’ve also noticed that since their new player launched, Real comments on blogs regularly and respond to customer complaints. Because they’re listen, are honest and admit their past faults when talking to consumers, bloggers and users are embracing Real. Yes, there are still hilarious dissenters, but generally speaking, Real is turning their image around.

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Uhaul’s CEO took a ‘risky’ approach. Like the new Spring CEO, Dan Hesse, Uhaul’s Joe Shoen published his cell phone number and encouraged customers to call with complaints. The idea is admirable. The time invested to contact the customers would have yielded articles on the proactive company customer service policy and blog posts on how gruff and handsome Joe sounds or charming and sophisticated.

But the buy-in and honestly parts are really important. Instead of answering the cell, Joe’s voice mail is now full of unanswered calls and no follow-up. The customers, who once thought Joe and Uhaul was amazingly open and friendly, now probably feel cheated and lied to by the company. It’s better to be talked about than not at all… probably doesn’t apply here, since you’re threatening your current user base.

Instead, Joe should have opted for a complaints section on the website, one with either live chat capabilities or at least a responsive customer service team, who can get back to the customers within 1-2 business days.

Better yet, he could have started a “U-Haul, We Help” blog with exceptional customer service stories backed up by an HR policy that offers employees incentives for going above and beyond their job descriptions.

He could have offered a Uhaul truck design contest to all college students with a prize of dorm room/apartment furnishing delivered by Uhaul.

Heck, he could have said, here’s a Uhaul Customer page (instead of cell), where you can complain to each other about what Uhaul can do better, and Uhaul will analyze the data to help provide a better service.

In just five minutes, I’ve brainstormed four potentials, that have a way better effect that the cell service. My point isn’t that I’m uber-brilliant or a show-off (okay, maybe just a little). My point is that without proper follow through, that ‘cool social media or risky idea’ can flop in your face, and opting for a less time-consuming, risky idea might be the better idea.

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Disclosure: RealNetworks is a client of my company. However, all the information shared is public knowledge and do no represent that of my agency or anyone (besides me) working there.

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Duct Tape Not Included

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is my favorite recent read, and I’ve read a bunch in the last few weeks.

Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz explains how to spread ideas, while Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good by Sarah Lacy tells the fall/rise of Web 1.0 and 2.0 through eyes of those entrepreneurs.

But Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick, is the foundation of it all: how to successfully express your ideas in a way that’s memorable and inspires others to act. Their main framework (which like most communicators/marketers comes in a kitschy acronym) is SUCCESs.

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Simple: Your audience isn’t going to remember 10 take-aways, but they will remember one that’s simple enough to recall and to survive repetition. The trick is to find the ‘right’ one, and it’s not as ‘simple’ as you may think. Idea creation goes back to your core message. Problem? The ‘Curse of Knowledge.’ It’s the inability to think from the recipient’s POV, if you already know what information you’re trying to convey.

Unexpected: Your message needs to surprise, provide more information or otherwise break the audience’s established paradigms. Most Web 2.0 savvy participants have seen dozens of logos/buttons with rounded corners, beveled 3D shape and a nice, shiny reflection. So making yet another rounded corner, beveled 3D box and nice, shiny reflection won’t get your logo noticed. See how much faster you read through the description the second time? Go back. I changed a few words, but I’m guessing most of you didn’t notice/care.

Concrete: Counterexample-

Ideas need to be concrete enough to understand and digest. The example above probably makes sense to math majors and engineers, but I have no idea how tay^rolf has anything to do with “peanut butter, jelly time.” The book has some lovely examples; mine comes from the 3G iPhone launch:

The lines around Apple & AT&T stores last week were bordering on ridiculous. You’d think the main goal was to “quickly and efficiently sell iPhones to everyone who wants one.” Nope. Because the two companies had different goals and seemingly no communication during the actual launch, customers complained. There was miscommunication (you can’t activate if you’re ‘flagged’ as a business customer but neither customer service staff knew that beforehand), long waits and server outages: both iTunes and AT&T activation. Apple wanted to drive as much demand through their stores are possible, so they had an incredible supply of 3Gs, while most AT&T stores only had a paltry 100 units or so. On the other hand, AT&T wanted everyone to sign up for service (and charge the $200 markup for those not upgrade eligible), so they bottlenecked purchase at the activation phase. If both companies could agree on a set of goals and convey them effectively to staff on both ends, hours of waiting and frustration would have been minimized.

Credible: The source affects if and how viewers accept ideas. You’re more likely to believe your comm professor than the Nigerian guy who’s emailing you about the millions inherited from some assassinated dead uncle. More intriguing is that ‘credible’ can change per circumstance. We ask for suggestions from friends but may rebuke endorsements from paid celebrities (are you really going to buy Lindsay Lohan’s new tights collection?). Conversely, we still read Perez Hilton to find out what celebrities are wearing, eating, dating and snorting as their drug of choice.

Emotions: By tapping into emotions, you can motivate people to listen and act upon it. How many of you feel a pang of guilt/pity when you see the adorable child on a Christian Children’s Fund commercial? How many even blinked when the news anchor told you President Bush attended the G8 summit to discuss poverty in Africa? I’m guessing the first generated more yes responses. Two reasons:

1. One vs. Many

  • We can build a stronger bond with a single person than 12 million because we can’t quite grasp 12 million people. Is that 20 football stadiums? 200? They’re so far away. That one picture of a starving child really ‘drives the idea home’ and makes poverty/starvation a reality.
  • It’s hard to imagine our $24/month helping 12 million people, but if it pays for school supplies, food and toys for a 8 year old Filipino child, sign me up (already done it :-) ).

2. Emotions vs. Analytics

  • Emotions bring people together by drawing empathy, while analytics cause us to reason and drive debate/argument. It’s a lot easier to get people to agree with you through emotion… on average.

Stories: Themes and story telling help engage and give context to characters. Great stories are often unexpected (David vs. Goliath), concrete (problem, solution) and emotional (go green! boo oil companies!).

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You’re probably thinking, why did I just reveal the entire book? I mean, didn’t I just write that I wanted to do a proper book review?

Well, I didn’t exactly write a review, more an abstract. Two, most of what I just wrote was covered in the 1st chapter! Turns out each concept is not so elementary, and finding an idea that covers all your bases? Even harder.

My goal is that you could just read this blog and walk away with some basic knowledge to start slightly altering how you communicate- emailing, calling, blogging, texting or otherwise. OR you could buy the damn thing and find out a lot more. Be entertained by the case studies (another term for stories) and use the handy outline in the back, when you need to reference something. (God, I sound like a saleswoman.)

Hope I did somewhat of a decent job. :-) Now, it’s bedtime and then BlogHer tomorrow!

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Notes: Thanks to my amazing boss, Parry, who lent the book to me. Uh… it might be a while before I get it back to you, since I already have 2 other people interested in borrowing. :)

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Girls in Tech

I just attended an amazing panel with women entrepreneurs called Girls in Tech.  Now, I usually don’t tout PR professionals outside of SHIFT. (To be smug, we do some amazing work.  That’s out of my mouth, not my company’s.)  But Adriana @ Ogilvy did an amazing job organizing the event, which was hosted by Orrick Law Firm in SOMA.  Sue Kwon from CBS 5 moderated the panel.  (Seriously, I’m about to be a fangirl; I love her energy and candor.)

There were so many great points during the panel, that quite frankly, I’m even less logical than usual. :-) 

[FYI, I understand that first time visitors reading this blog will think I'm a huge man-hater and feminist, since this post juxtaposes the previous one.  I'm not.  Keep reading, and you'll find that I'm pretty blunt about sexism, racism and most other discriminations; I'm just not any of those terms.]

With respect to women in tech (generally):

  • Sexism: It’s a bit hard for me to relate to the topic, since my industry (PR) is comprised of mostly women.  However, so many panelists faced obstacles working in a predominantly male industry.  It’s not just that men automatically assume that women don’t know as much, women discriminate among themselves and against themselves.
    • Panelists told anecdotes of VCs looking to the male for technical answers, when they were the ones with expertise.
    • Women tend to downplay their strengths, while men boast their own.
    • Women also pick at other women.  They hide the fact that they’re females because they don’t want to be known as the token, when in fact they should be speaking up and elevating other women.
    • So many female started companies have a tech team that’s all men, when there’s a great group of women engineers/developers out there.  Sometimes this just happens to be the case, but how much of that is a subconscious hiring decision?
  • Leverage advantages and leaving disadvantages at the door: A huge generalization, but a lot of women felt that they were timid to approach the big names in VC funding or successful CEOs/potential mentors.  We need to strive above that.  Women inherently have an advantage: being female and standing out in a sea of men.  This doesn’t mean that we have to use our bodies or sleep our way to the top.  Sarah Lacy mentioned that men confided in her because there wasn’t an issue of ego, and women tend to be better listeners.  Female entrepreneurs should use that to garner mentors, angel investors and build a strong network.
  • No men at the event: I was slightly shocked that Adriana said there would be no men at this event.  At first I was taken back.  In listening to the panelists and feedback from the audience, I realize that we can be truly honest w/o having to remain politically correct.  We can make generalizations about women being sensitive w/o having that used against us.  There was a great sense of kinship in the group.  We bonded because we are women in the tech industry.

With respect to (female) start-ups:

  • Find a mentor:  ‘If you can’t even get a great mentor for your start-up, don’t even try to get funding.’  Although that might not be all true, there’s value in building the network and finding someone to champion a start-up.  Panelists gave great examples of learning and finding shortcuts to projects because they had someone else’s wisdom to find a better solution.  One woman had sat down for a three hour conversation about data management, and the person bought her lunch. :-)
  • Network!  No seriously, network!:  You never know the value that your network can bring in the future.  Take the opportunity to talk to people.  That’s what makes Silicon Valley so useful and versatile.  I learned that at Wharton, and I’m still learning that now.  Okay, some people, like me, aren’t so great at walking up to someone and talking to them. 1) Stop being timid and just do it!  2) Everyone most people starts out with awkwardness and mistakes.  Take it in stride and push on.  It’ll pass.  One day, if you keep trying and developing those skills, you will know a lot of people in that ‘random’ room.
  • “When you ask for advice, you get money.  When you ask for money, you get advice”: Don’t bank of that rule, but also panelists and Sue realized that they had to ask.  If they didn’t ask and waited for karma to kick in, it might’ve never happened.  People love giving advice and bolstering their own ego, so entrepreneurs play to that and reap the rewards in return.
  • Bootstrapping/funding/life choices: Each panelist had her own way of funding the start-up.  Some went for VC funding, but most started off the company as a side passion and went on to find angel investors and interested parties.  Basically, 1) believe and invest in yourself and idea; 2) find out what’s right for you whether it’s quitting your job or waiting until the company starts making money; and 3) learn how to balance life and work and don’t be afraid to ‘go home to take care of your kids.’

I knew when I read that 1 in 10 people in the Silicon Valley have tried to start a business and that here holds the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs that I wanted to try it out for myself.  I think the more that I go to there panelist, network and gain more knowledge, the higher the rate of my success.  I haven’t quite ironed out all the details yet, but I definitely have something brewing in the back of my mind.  Big shout out to Market for Change and Leila, who are already realizing their vision.

Girls in Tech is amazing.  There no doubt that next year they’ll be in some huge convention center with $10k sponsors.  I can’t wait!

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