Pep Talk Wednesday: Elizabeth Gilbert on Fear & Authenticity


If you haven’t watched Marie Forleo’s interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, it is definitely worth a watch (especially if you are in the creative fields!) The interview talks about the ideas that are shared in Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic. I watched the interview for the first time a few nights ago and have not been able to stop thinking about it.  There were so many gems and great take-aways.

If you are short on time (the full interview is 47 minutes long), here are my personal take-aways. The video is included below too if you want to watch.

Fear as a Necessary Companion

Gilbert talks about the idea of fear being a necessary companion in any creative process and also life in general. Fear is what keeps us safe and alive but at the same time, it is often also what holds us back from pursuing our creative ventures. So instead of trying to conquer fear or ‘to punch it in the face’, what we should be doing instead is to embrace fear and to bring them along for the ride – just make sure they are in the backseat.  Creativity is all about uncertainty so when your fears speak, you have to just say, “Thank you for how much for how much you care about me. Your services are not needed here, because I’m just writing a poem!”

Creativity will always provoke fear because it asks you to enter into a realm of uncertain outcome. – Elizabeth Gilbert

On Originality and Authenticity

As a marketer, I often have this (irrational) fear of running out of original ideas or not being original enough.  I’ve dismissed many ideas this way – with a simple “it’s probably been done before”. In fact, it has probably been done before but you are allowed to add to the pile.  I guess the beauty of marketing is that ideas can be recycled – as long as you put your own spin to them.  I guess that is called finding inspiration!

On Living a Creative Life

Living creatively requires commitment.  Every pursuit, no matter how glamorous it may seem, comes with a ‘shit sandwich’.  Gilbert says this in her new book, Big Magic, “Finding your true purpose is really about deciding which flavour of shit sandwich you’re really in for.”  Every venture will come with ups and downs, it may pay the bills or it may not. But if it is what you love, despite all the ups and downs, then stick to it, do what you have to and don’t quit.  Luckily for me, my creative outlet does pay the bills.  But all the same, my biggest take-away here is that the road to creativity is not a smooth ride.  Creativity takes dedication and a willingness to try, to venture outside of the box and to not fear failure. There will be days when ideas don’t come easily but it is the price to pay for all the good ideas to follow. Not every idea will turn into a viral campaign but it is the persistence and commitment to innovate that counts.


Here is the video.  I can’t wait to pick up a copy of Big Magic!


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Generation Z


If you are still trying to figure out how to market to Generation Y, now would be a good time for you to move on to Generation Z. Being in the education sector myself, the idea of marketing to this next generation of consumers has been on my mind a lot lately.

Generation Z generally refers to those born in the late 1990’s – which means that the first cohorts have now reached the age of majority.  US Census predicts Gen Z will ultimately reach close to 80 million, which means that by 2020, they will account for 40% of all consumers.

Much like the previous generation (known as Gen Y or ‘Millennials’), this generation will grow up around technology and most likely be even more tech-savvy as a whole.  This will influence the way they communicate, how they interact with one another and with brands and how quickly they process information.

Every year, Beloit College (Wisconsin) produces the Beloit College Mindset List, a list that examines the ‘cultural touchstones that shape the lives of the students entering college’ that Fall.

“The Class of 2019 will enter college with high technology an increasing factor in how and even what they learn. They will encounter difficult discussions about privilege, race, and sexual assault on campus. They may think of the ‘last century’ as the twentieth, not the nineteenth, so they will need ever wider perspectives about the burgeoning mass of information that will be heading their way. And they will need a keen ability to decipher what is the same and what has changed with respect to many of these issues.” – Charles Westerberg, Director of the Liberal Arts in Practice Center and Brannon-Ballard Professor of Sociology at Beloit College

I can imagine how such a list would be helpful to professors, instructors and educators so that they can better connect with their students.  Especially for this generation of shortened attention spans, 24/7 connectivity and instant messaging, educators will have to make sure they remain relatable and relevant.

The list offers a glimpse of what Generation Z is like- here are a few interesting facts:

  • Google was founded in 1998 so Gen Z has never known a world without the tech giant
    This offers a glimpse of the type of access to information that Gen Z has and how integrated Google can be in their lives. After all, Gen Z grew up with YouTube, Gmail, Google Talk / Hangout in their lives
  • Email as a way of communication
    Even more so than Gen Y, this generation grew up using email as a way of communication that is socially accepted (if not encouraged). Where as email was seen as a more informal way of communication, email has become the new ‘formal’. Texting and tweeting are now considered ‘informal’. So – if you are wanting to market to this audience, get ready to text… and be available around the clock!
  • Wi-Fi as an entitlement
    This generation has been the most connected generation to date. Wi-Fi, connectivity and access are to be expected and not seen as a luxury.
  • Access to the Internet
    Instead of parents having to encourage their kids to explore the ‘net’, modern day parents are now finding themselves having to limit access, sometimes even using it as leverage.
  • Cell Phones… in the Classroom
    Cell phones (which is now the same as a smart phone) have become so ubiquitous that teachers are now challenged with how to do deal with them in the classrooms. Lessons here is that it is probably better to incorporate them into the classroom rather than banning them.

Marketing to this generation will require an openness to communicating in different ways. Whether it is over text or on social media, there is an expectation of instantaneous response and interaction. One way marketing will fall on deaf ears.

Growing up in an age of information and sensory overload also means that this generation will be the most adept at filtering out unwanted messages.  To get through all the clutter, a brand will have to be authentic and relevant, taking care not to be too overt in its advertising.

Just like the Millennial generation, it can be easy to make assumptions about this generation – assuming they are socially-inept, entitled, and lazy.  In fact, this generation is turning out to be quite the opposite.  What the challenge will be for brands and employers is distinguishing between their online identities and who they are ‘in real life’ – offline.  Understanding this difference will be key for companies that want to be successful over the next decade.

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Talking About Tourism Marketing

One of my greatest passions (aside from marketing, of course) is travelling.  I love seeing new places, learning about other cultures and getting inspired by local marketing and advertising too. I am currently planning for my next adventure – in about a month’s time, we will be heading to beautiful Alaska!

When I research and plan my travel itineraries, I usually like to head over to the local tourism websites.  They are usually a great resource with planning tools and links to upcoming events, restaurants, must see hot spots and even promotions. In recent years, I’ve noticed so many non-profit tourism marketing organizations branch out from their website and venture into new digital mediums for their marketing.  From Instagram accounts to Vine videos, contests and even working with local bloggers to help highlight what their cities have to offer – from an outsider’s perspective, it definitely looks like a fun industry to be in!

I would say that the industry as a whole has really upped their game! Just take a look at the major difference in these 2 videos, created 4 years apart. Granted, they are not from the same organization but I think it depicts just how much the industry has grown in recent years!

This video from Tourism Jasper popped up in YouTube while I was searching for videos on Alaska. I say, ad dollars well spent there!

Title: Venture Beyond
Agency: Stormy Lake Consultants and C&B Advertising
Client: Tourism Jasper

The respective websites also tell a very different story.  The Travel Alaska site is a bit chunkier to use and researching on my phone proved to be difficult since many of the pages were text-heavy. The main focus was on Alaska’s natural beauty (no doubt what the majority of visitors are looking for). There were also many layers with a lot of information buried deeper into the site.  I wonder if many of the readers delved as far as I did (or if I was just a tad bit less patient than the average user… ;D )

Tourism Jasper Venture Beyond

On the other hand, the Tourism Jasper site was highly visual. The pictures highlighted not only of Jasper’s natural beauty but also the many other activities and experiences the destination had to offer.  It incorporated Instagram and benefited from the efforts spent on social media. While the site also presented a lot of information, there were fewer layers (and fewer clicks to get to information).  The site also made it very easy to connect with local vendors for accommodations, food and activities.

While I will be proceeding with my trip to Alaska, the exposure to the “Venture Beyond” video from Tourism Jasper has certainly opened my eyes to what Jasper has to offer.  It might be time to start exploring my own country!

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Ram Truck Targets the Elusive Female Truck Buyers

I saw this ad from Ram Trucks the other day – and it really blew me away.  It wasn’t so much the content of the ad but the fact that it was Ram Trucks targeting the female market. How very different and yet, awesome at the same time!  I think I am so conditioned to seeing truck ads with heavy rock music, rugged terrains, and trucks pulling something heavy that seeing this one really threw me in for a loop.  Picking up on the female empowerment theme, Ram Trucks does a good job of sending an inspirational message that is strong yet feminine.

Check it out:

Title: Courage is Already Inside
Agency: The Richards Group
Client: Ram Trucks

Accompanied by a short caption “Have you ever thought you just didn’t have anything left in the tank? Well — you do. Guts. Glory. Ram.”, the ad is just so powerfully and thematically effective.


Looking into this further, it seems that Ram Trucks also partnered with country singer Miranda Lambert to create this song (or ad?) released back in May titled “Roots and Wing”. “I am very inspired by what the Ram brand stands for — being who you are, working hard, staying true to your roots,” Lambert said in her press release for the song. “I wanted to write a song that would represent all of those things. ‘Roots and Wings’ is personal to me about where I come from and where I am going. The guys at Ram really made the lyrics come to life with the imagery and I hope it speaks to people the way it does to me.” Miranda Lambert is such a great fit for the brand – the perfect mix of country, home grown American roots, strength and mass appeal to cater to the female pickup buyers!

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10 Tips for Writing for Mobile – Post Mobileggedon

Now that we are a few months past ‘Mobileggedon’ – how did your sites fare with the algorithm update? Back in February, Google’s Webmaster Central blog made this announcement:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices. (Full blog post here)

Luckily, none of my sites were impacted greatly in the search results.  When I first heard of the news, I was a bit concerned about this ‘deadline’ / ‘ultimatum’.  When I thought more on it – it just makes plain sense!  If you don’t already have a mobile-friendly site set up, you are causing your customers so much hassle (and lots of unnecessary scrolling, zooming & wishing for tinier fingers).  On that note though, having a mobile-friendly site is not enough to ensure a pleasant site visit.  One of the important factors you have to consider is that content consumption is different on a mobile device.  If you haven’t already explore Thinking with Google’s research on Micro Moments, head over now for some great insight. In short, mobile search is more purposeful – the ‘Is-it-worth-it moments’ to ‘show-me-how moments’ to ‘ready-for-a-change moments’ are all ‘inspired moments’ that are mostly on-the-go.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla

If your business receives a lot of mobile search, you have to make sure the content on your site is mobile-friendly and conducive to the ‘moment’ your audience is conducting their search. A restaurant for example, might want to make their menu easily accessible on their website. Not only that, knowing site visitors might be visiting on their mobile devices, they might want to not make their menu a downloadable PDF file (just saying!) Here are a few more pointers on writing for mobile:

  1. Write a Compelling Headline – think of what your customers will be searching for and write headlines that satisfies their needs. This will draw them in to either make contact or dig deeper. Keep your headlines short – 55 characters or less as guideline.
  2. Use Sub Headlines – readers consumer content in chunks so guide them through the page with informative sub headlines. Even better if they make sense on their own!
  3. Deliver Content in Bite-Size Bits – each section under a sub headline should be concise as well!
  4. Make Your Content Skimmable – remember that smaller screens will make even the smallest paragraphs seem long winded.  After writing your content, edit and refine to make sure your content is as concise as it can be.  Use bullet lists, bolded or italicized text to bring focus to important points.
  5. Keep Your Most Important Information at the Top – according to Content Marketing Institute, users give 68% of their attention to the center and top half of a mobile page, and a full 86% to the upper two-third. Below that point, they tend to lose focus and concentration.
  6. Use Images Wisely – people love to look at pictures. When given a choice between images or text, most reader’s eyes will gravitate towards the images. Images also take up a lot of space (something you don’t have a lot of on mobile). So – before you add images alongside your text, think about whether it will be a distraction or enhancement to your content.
  7. Be as Concise as Possible –  Edit, edit and then edit some more! Writing for mobile is not just about using fewer words, it is about writing better. That means getting rid of unnecessary filler words and phrases.
  8. Leave Spaces Between Links – if you are adding links to your writing, be sure to leave enough room in between so that your users can accurately select the link they want. (Not all of us have tiny, delicate fingers…)
  9. Remember Your Keywords – SEO is still important, even if you are writing for mobile. Remember to include your keywords for SEO purposes.
  10. Don’t Rely on Design – with all the different phones we have out there, what is ‘above’ the fold on an iPhone 6 might not be in the same spot on a Samsung Galaxy. The point is, don’t rely on design to position your content where you want. It will be impossible to satisfy all the screen sizes out there!

If you haven’t thought about your mobile content – now is a great time to get started!

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7 Tips for Writing Headlines That Work

I think we can all agree that writing headlines is, by far, the most difficult part of publishing. After all, there is a lot of pressure to come up with headlines that are attention grabbing, yet short and to the point.

After all, as the great David Ogilvy, ‘Father of Advertising’ once said: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.  When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”  I’ve been using this as a guideline for my print ad layouts – and making sure that the headline alone is able to communicate the gist of what the rest of the copy is about.

On the average, five times as many

I do a lot of writing in my current role – not just for websites and blogs but also for print.  While online content consumption is usually very different from traditional mediums, the one challenge they do have in common is the short attention span of their readers.  I once heard someone talk about a ‘trifecta’ formula to writing perfect headlines – how every headline has to contain three points of value that the audience would find useful.  But the more I think about it, the more I wonder – do we really have time to convey 3 facts in 1 headline?

Nowadays, my formula consists of one topic in a catchy phrase, supported by a slightly longer sub-headline.  This formula has served me well for print headlines and even email banners.  Blogs and other pieces that rely on a single headline are harder and take more time to come up with.  I must admit – headlines are definitely not my forte!  Here are a few additional guidelines I have been using to help with the process:

  1. 50/50 Rule – I have read of a 50/50 rule which claims you should spend at least half of your time (and effort) developing and refining your headline
  2. Start with the Value – be clear on the benefits you want to convey and build a headline around what you want your audience to remember
  3. Use Sub Headlines – people tend to consume information in chunks so use sub headlines to bring my detail and structure (especially true for longer pieces)
  4. Be Specific – and avoid vague terms and blanket statements. This allows you to get right to the point without filler and other unnecessary words
  5. Be Compelling – this goes without saying! If you are in marketing, creating compelling content is at the foundation of what you do. It shows how well you know your audience and how much you can relate to them (or vice versa)
  6. Provide Urgency – when you have a compelling headline, you can urge your audience to take action. Communicate if the content is time sensitive (like a sale that is ending soon or an upcoming event)
  7. Edit, Edit and Then, Edit Some More – I often write headlines first before developing the content and use it as a guideline to what the content should talk about. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to go back and make sure the headline is still relevant, effective etc.

Hopefully with a bit more patience and practice, this process will become a much easier one in the future! Do you have any tips for writing strong and compelling headlines?  Share your best practices with me in the comments!

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Email or Phone?

Because we have a very ‘phone-driven’ sales process here at work, I often get asked – do people prefer to get information over the phone or by email when they are researching vendors?

I can speak from experience – I recently got engaged and have been in full wedding planning mode. We’ve just begun hunting for a venue location for our big day!  I’ve contacted quite a few vendors and it was easy contacting them through the emails they listed or the contact forms on their website.  Because I do most of my research at night and on weekends, it was the best way for me to make arrangements for site tours and visits.

Retro-saleswomanOf all the vendors I contacted, one decided to forgo email completely and call me instead.  Because he had called me during work hours, we could not chat long. He gave me a lot of information during our conversation and we arranged for a time to meet in person.  When the phone call ended, I realized the notes I took were scribbles and it took a while to decipher all the information I needed.  When we showed up on Wednesday at the agreed upon time for our meeting, he was not there because he had put the date down for the week after.

This made me realize that while getting on the phone can be a much speedier process for moving the sales process along, it can also complicate the dialogue when key information is missed or not conveyed properly.  I also like to keep my work and private life separate when possible so the phone call caught me off guard!

Of course, not everyone will have the same preferences as me so be sure to have different approaches if possible to fit your customer’s needs. For instance, if your sales process is phone-driven, have a pre-drafted email that you can personalize and send out in case your customer does not pick up the phone.  Maybe funnel them to an email approach where you will continue to gather key information.  If your sales process is web-driven, perhaps arrange for a live agent to be available through chat so your customers can still have the instantaneous feedback if that is what they want.  There is no one size fits all but insisting on one method of communication over another might do you more harm than good!

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