Should You Write Newsletters? Yes. And Here's How.

First off, what is a newsletter?

A newsletter is a marketing tool businesses use to engage their customers. It involves sending out informational newsletters to interested parties. There are two different kinds of newsletters: those that are sent through traditional mail and those sent digitally via email. As you probably already know (because you’re not an idiot), email is a cheaper, faster way to send communications. It gives you instant and easy access to data that can be studied so that you can learn over time about your audience and readers.

What is typically in a newsletter?

Newsletters can contain a range of topics. It can include industry news, promotions, and articles most relevant to your audience. They can serve a variety of purposes such as increasing sales, raising awareness, educating the reader or disseminating information like announcements updates about your business or company. The possibilities are endless.

Why are  newsletters the perfect way for entrepreneurs to brand and market themselves?

If you’re an entrepreneur or someone who is building a personal brand, you are in the perfect position to humanize your work. You have an advantage over big name companies to create a core connection with your audience and make them the center of your story. This allows you to give value by creating customized tailored content that leaves an impact and impression with your readers. When it comes time to make the sale, you will have already established trust and connection with your audience through your newsletter. Who doesn’t want that?

While we’re on the topic, I’m not in love with the word ‘newsletter’. To me, it feels outdated, corporate jargon-y, and super spammy.  Would you click on a generic call-to-action link that reads: “Sign up to our newsletter to receive free updates and announcements!” Probs not.

I like sexier words like: Insider, Publication, Editorial, Happenings, or Guide.

I’ve written 284 “Guides” to date and there are a few things I have learned.

Decide on what you want to call your newsletters. Are they: newsletters, eMagazines, journals, etc. Decide on a name and stay true to it.

Content is key: Being clear on what your readers expect from you is essential. Decide what you want your newsletter to do. Remember it is just a vehicle for communicating with your audience. Do you want to inspire them, promote to them, teach them, update them...? Themes of your newsletter could be personal stories, industry news, blog post teaser, updates/announcements,

Keep it simple: When I work with clients to help them build their newsletters, my motto is always the same: Simplicity. From the overall design of the email, subject field,  to actual content. No more than two colors otherwise it becomes busy. Keep consistent fonts sizes and colors. If you’re hitting your 5th & 6th paragraph in your email, you’re on your way to creating a cluttered newsletter. If there is that much text  in your email, turn it into a blog.

Write in your authentic brand voice: If you are the face of your brand, be sure the text in your newsletter  captures your personality. In other words, write how you talk. If your newsletter is written on behalf of your company, you’ll need to clarify the essence words or personality type of your company and write from that perspective i.e. hip, trendy, informative, snarky, sarcastic, friendly, helpful etc.

Don’t just sell: Never ever ever use your newsletter to just sell to people. It’s gross and people can smell it a mile away. If your newsletter is purely promotional it will send people  away. I always follow the 80/20 rule; 80% content that is high value and relevant with no strings attached. This can be a personal story, case study, industry news, updates, quick tips/advice, etc. And 20% promotional copy, sales, etc.

Always leave a CTA (call-to-action): You always want to leave your reader with a next step, an action that flows seamlessly from the content they just read.  This can be an invitation to work with you, a link to read more on your blog, a link to company website to learn more, or some other resource. Again, simplicity is key so just a one or two liner invitation works fine.

Other things to note: Figure out how often you want to send out your newsletter. Weekly is popular but I’ve seen monthly, quarterly, and even daily newsletters as well. Figure out what works for you. Be realistic in what you can produce. Pick the right email provider platform suitable for your needs.  Mailchimp and Constant Contact are the most popular go-to providers. Stay consistent. Do this by creating an editorial calendar to keep you on track. I use my own home grown spreadsheet to track my newsletters but other options like Trello are also useful.

So off you go to build your own newsletter chock full of amazing content. Remember, personalization trumps all; there is another human on the other side who will be reading your newsletter so keep it people-centered and you can’t go wrong.

If you’re looking to grow your personal brand this year and need guidance that is both inspirational and practical, The Brand Revamp may be for you! Visit here to learn more about the program!

The Key To Writing An Authentic Professional Bio

Bios are the new resumes.

Whether for your personal website, a social media blurb, your company team page, or your pitch deck it is arguably the most important copy that you will ever write about yourself.  It is the number one thing you will be asked for by companies, conference organizers, or podcast hosts who are interested to work with you. Your bio is your top marketing asset; a place where you want people to not only get an accurate picture of you but a place to showcase your work, your personality, competence, and area of expertise.

Whatever opportunities you are pursuing right now, your bio is the one critical item you’ll need as part of your strategy.

When you write your bio, you’ll want to be sure that it is compelling, inspiring, and best of all, unforgettable.

No pressure, right?

Because your bio is that important, it is the most hardest thing for many of us to write. We would rather stick our heads in the sand than write about ourselves. So how do we come up with a document that takes the best parts of ourselves and distills it into something that potential clients, decision makers and influencers will clamor over?

It’s important to remember that people want to connect with real people and absent an actual face to face meeting, your digital mark is the one place people make their impressions of you. Your bio should contain four things: (1) Who you are, (2) What You do, (3) Why you do it, and (4) How.

Here’s a guide of what it would look like:

  1. Name, title, Who you help

  2. What you know or believe about the work you do - this is your ‘why’ statement. Should be inspiring and vision oriented.

  3. # of years in your field - this info is a great way to quickly show depth of experience. It helps the brain make a quick assessment of expertise.

  4. Compelling experiences and wins - this can include projects you’ve been involved with or client highlights

  5. Relevant trainings, certifications, awards received - this can include degrees, areas of study, universities attended.

  6. Contact - this info includes website, email, Linkedin profile, social media handles or any other ways people can find you on the internet.

Here’s an example:

Ariane Hunter is the CEO & Founder of Project She Went For Her Dreams; a personal branding & marketing firm in New York City and serving clients globally. She works with enlightened women and businesses to develop creative brands and build artistic marketing strategies to standout in a meaningful, authentic way.  Ariane believes in amplifying our voices at home and and work in order to impact our world and communities.

Ariane draws on decades of experience working for the top marketing and branding agencies in New York City and supporting high profile clients become key players in their industry. She holds an MBA and is a certified coach. Ariane has worked with industry leaders including Women in Stem Leadership at Stony Brook University, Women’s Catalyst group at HP, Oracle, and many more. She has spoken for NYU Stern Women in Business, Karen Millen, ABC Home, Emerging Leaders for NY Arts, and has been featured guest on numerous empowerment podcasts. Ariane is also a published writer whose work appears in Time.com, Levo League, Ivy Exec, and The Muse. She’s been quoted in The Daily Worth, Her Agenda, and more. You can learn more by visiting www.shewentforherdreams.com or contact via email: she@shewentforherdreams.com

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/arianehunter/     | Instagram: @arianehunter

Your bio should not be too long; keep it succinct. Anything longer than two paragraphs or ten sentences starts to get too wordy. Keep in mind that your bio should evolve as you do. You may need to tweak it as you go along depending on your audience but now that you’ve got your draft down it will be easier to rework it.

This template is meant to be a guide but ultimately you get to decide how you word and craft your bio. It should make you feel proud and capture the essence of your work in an authentic way. Additionally, it will help you to be able to talk about your work more clearly and confidently.

The Power of Your Story to Catalyze Change

The richness of our narratives shapes our character, defines our path, and seals our legacy.

The individual encounters we have throughout our our lives; those small moments when we experience a win. When we break into a new career field and reinvent ourselves. When we decide to fire an underperforming employee. The moment when we pick up our self respect and walk out of a toxic job situation.

Likewise, the moments when we encounter racism, sexual harassment at work or even in the streets as we’re simply walking home from our day. These are the stories that define us. They are a culmination of our lived experiences that what makes us who we are. Our stories are born out of those experiences. Those lived experiences that happen to us in isolation are also experienced by the collective.

So why should our stories matter in the context of running our own business, making an impact, and playing a bigger game in the world?

Simple. Without your story, how will change for the better happen?  Without your story, how will you know who you are or where you are going? Without your unique perspective, how will they know you are the right person to hire/fund/lead the team/work with?

Our stories give the work we do deeper meaning and adds a dimension that humanizes our business. Through our stories, you see the real person behind the logo. It provides an opportunity to create real connections, bond over common values, and be a bit more conscious in how we buy and sell. As leaders going for it, storytelling helps you rally the team behind an initiative, win clients, and woo partners. As a tribe, when people share their stories, amazing things happen, and in that “me too” moment, you feel empowered and emboldened. We get the push we need to leap and live our truth.

Your story must encompass these 4 elements.

  1. Be Authentic

  2. Be Relatable

  3. Get the listener to feel something

  4. Inspire action

5 elements for you to begin crafting your story:

    • How did you come to do this work? Look for the hook that will capture hearts and minds. This can be: defining moments that changed your life, triumphs you’ve had, painful challenges you overcame, lessons learned, etc. Dig deep.

    • What are the top 3 values that show up in your story? Courage. Authenticity. Reinvention.  Freedom. Equality. Purpose. Etc. These are the components that create connection and impact for your clients or your audience.

    • What’s the energy behind your story?  Inspiring, educational, victim to victory, reflective, visionary, to evoke shock, influence, etc. Focus on the intention behind your story.

    • Write out a script and revise.

    • Practice, practice, practice.

I recommend having 2-3 defining stories handy. That way depending on the setting and who your listener is, you can share the story most relevant to the situation.

Your Story in Action

So you have your story, know what? Test it out!

Share it with your colleagues at networking events. Use it in your elevator pitch. Weave it in when you’re guest speaking on a podcast or on stage at your next speaking event. The possibilities are endless. Your stories are endless.

Choose the stories that you are most inspired to share. The rest will fall into place.

What’s in A Selfie: Why Posting Self Photos Are An Essential Piece of Your Brand

Selfie photographs are not new. It is only recently that self portraitures emerged as a global phenomenon. Historically, self portraits were usually produced by the elite and revered. Fancy pants people who were adored, from artists to politicians. Now, anyone with a smartphone can be instantly zapped into stardom with just a selfie stick and a click.

Google estimates that roughly 24 billion selfies were taken in one year alone. A quick hashtag search for #selfies will yield you over 342 million post results on Instagram.

It’s no doubt we are living in a selfie-nation.

In my work, I most often come across three types of people: the selfie lovers, the dabblers, and then there’s people like me who hate the idea of being in photos. It’s why I spent years BEHIND the camera instead of in front of it.

Over the years, I’ve embraced a new idea. As the woman behind Project She Went For Her Dreams, a global brand that champions this movement of building a legion of confident women in business, I knew that I had to stop hiding behind my work and start being the face of it.

I was inspired by my mentor and many other countless women change-makers who unapologetically capture themselves in a good ‘ol fashioned selfie every now and then while giving absolutely no fucks about what others think of them while doing so.

And isn’t that what stops many of us? The fact that we care a little too much about what others think of us. There’s a little voice in our head that says, who am I to post this photo of myself? And another voice that says, who do you think you are, some sort of celebrity? Or we may buy into this false sense of humility, that shames us for daring to tie our name and face to the work that we do.

This is a problem I see mostly as women, while the men of our time have no issues being front and center of their work and accomplishments.

Without going too deeply into the social conditioning and systemic challenges women face as it relates to being seen and credited for their work, we can all agree that self promotion has always been a tough nut to crack for women.

I’m in favor of women amplifying their professional platforms and with that building mediums of expression and communication -- including the selfie. Selfies have an incredible ability to create a magnetizing power. Whether snapshots taken “on the go” or posed and non-spontaneous, the visual aesthetic of a person captured in their essence, helps us create an understanding of ourselves and establishes our existence to those around us.

In a world where we are our own brand builders, here’s a few statements that make the case for selfies as a brand advantage.

  1. Selfies are a form of self expression

  2. Selfie’s build trust

  3. Selfies humanizes you

  4. Selfies are an extension of your career

  5. Selfies are a form of reputation management where you can control how you are perceived

  6. Selfies can be empowering and encourage motivation and online support

Selfies, while they can be used as a form of self expression, they can also be dangerous forms of validation and sources of approval that if mishandled can drain you of all self esteem.

"The key is to make sure you avoid the psychological pitfalls. If you’re so keen to promote your ‘brand’ that you start to become reliant on likes and validation as a key to your success and if you just identify yourself as a brand, your self-esteem can become solely based on your pictures. You relinquish your control to people you don’t know and negative comments can be very hard to deal with." - Dr. Aaron Balick, Psychotherapist.

If you have a service, a mission, a cause you believe in, are an activist, a change-maker, thought leader, and have a message you want to get out to the world, make selfies a vibrant part of how you express that yourself and grow your platform.

Now I'm off to lunch to grab lunch at a beautiful Mediterranean bistro in midtown. The spicy shrimp risotto looks amazing. But first, let me take a selfie.

Should You Have Your Own Brand Even When You Work For a Company?

She was whip smart. She knew her shit. She was at the top of her field. Had spoken at several industry conferences. She was her company’s go-to person. She was the voice of her company.

Yet when I asked her about her personal brand, the identity she was building beyond her role as Director, she looked back at me with confusion. My brand, she responded. “I represent my company so I don’t think it’s necessary for me to have a brand.”

Now I was the one giving her a confused look.

When it comes to your brand, whether you are gainfully employed or work for yourself, you need to have your own brand identity. Period.

Your brand is part of your value. It is made up of unique and special ingredients that make you who you are. It is the thing that sets you apart and distinguishes you among your peers. You bring your brand into work every day whether you realize it or not. If you're not sure why having a brand matters, read here.

In the ever-changing world of work, your brand is the one constant that stays with you no matter where you go in your career journey. As jobs come and go, markets fluctuate, companies restructure, businesses fail and restart – your brand is the one thing you will always have control over. Not having your own brand identity is like committing career suicide.

Some of the most prominent business leaders have created brands outside of their primary roles. Jennifer Risi, World Communications Officer for one of the largest branding agency's, Ogilvy & Mather is known not only for being a seasoned executive but is a regular contributor around topics involving women in business and the gender gap in Advertising. Bisila Bokoko, Global Business Woman & Entrepreneur, has expanded her brand as a global consultant to include philanthropy and even represents the Wine & Spirits industry with her namesake Bisila Wines. And lastly, our own beloved Oprah, queen of media. Her brand not only includes talk show host but actor, philanthropist, author, and spiritual leadership.

Think about your walk through life, your career path. Would it help or hurt your career to be known outside of your company for what you do? Where might you be pigeon holing yourself into one label, under one umbrella? How can your professional platform be a bit more inclusive of the other parts of you?

We are renaissance women, ladies and it's time we take ownership of the many parts that make us who we are to build our own legacy.

Here are five things you can do to start growing your personal brand and be known outside your company for what you do:

1.     Build your speaking portfolio by speaking on topics that most matter to you.

2.     Get published in your industry or start a blog to develop your thought leadership.

3.     Join the board of your favorite organization or non-profit.

4.     Start or volunteer in a professional group that supports your favorite cause

5.     Write a book on your area of expertise.

Remember, your brand is the essence of YOU. Don't confine it to just the company you work for. There is so much more to you and your job is to express it both inside and out of the office.

{VIDEO DEBUT}: Too Hard On Yourself/You Are Enough

Earlier this year I posted a video of myself reciting a poem I wrote called Too Hard On Yourself/You Are Enough. Soon after the lovely and talented actress from LA, Monica Vallero contacted me excitedly to ask if she could use the poem for a creative project with her and her team. I was honored!

Admittedly, I wrote Too Hard On Yourself for me. Back then I was highly self critical, a perfectionist, and poo poo'd the whole self care, self love thing. But the more conversations I had with women, I saw that this was an epidemic.

As women we are expected to be all-things-have-your-shit-together-at-all-times-strong-independent-never-let-them-see-you-sweat machines. And we judge ourselves the hardest when we don't meet that impossible standard.

The woman I describe in this poem is all of us. These ladies represent all of us. From the free spirited, quirky weird, beautiful, creative ambitious types, seekers, achievers, perfectionists, goal digging dreamers and doers. Young, old, green hair, no hair. This is for you. I hope you enjoy.


Super proud of the work these lovely ladies did in bringing this poem to life.

What Brands Can Learn From Dove's Ad Fail

dove ad.jpg

Ok so I had to comment on the backlash recently received by Dove, a brand that markets and sells to millions of women everyday. I am a black woman who has used their product from bath bars to deodorant for many years and has even supported their mission towards self-esteem and body positivity. I feel let down and disgusted that a brand that I have given money to over the years is not a true champion for celebrating beauty and diversity in its truest form.
 
In case you missed it, on Saturday, Dove released a Facebook ad that pictured a black woman turning herself into a smiling white woman.
 
Social media wasn’t having any of it as angry comments and criticism on Facebook and Twitter erupted almost immediately. The company in response took it down and issued an, in my opinion, weak apology.
 
Dove states, “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offense it caused.”
 
In reading the comments and articles written about this incident in the past day, one thing that many people are asking is how could Dove’s marketing team approve such an ad like this? Could they not see it as blatantly offensive? This troubles me. For 13 years this brand has stood for women’s empowerment, celebrating diversity, and defying mainstream standards of beauty. Yet, this is not the first time Dove generated an ad that was clearly offensive. In 2006 another campaign was a photo of a black woman with a ‘before’ sign over her head and a white woman with an ‘after’ sign.

 
C’mon Dove. We have to do better.
 

In my career, I have worked with some of the top marketing firms in NYC and have been part of the teams managing the accounts for popular brands like Lexus, American Airlines, and even Unilever which is Dove’s parent company. Though I was not directly involved in the making of the ad campaigns, I worked closely to those that did. In many cases, the creative teams leading these brand campaigns, did not reflect the actual demographic of the product it was targeting.


So when a blatantly racist ad gets approved and released by a nationally recognized brand, TWICE, this is clearly a symptom of a larger problem.
 
The old model of non-inclusion at the corporate level is crumbling.
 
In order for brands at the highest level to reach the masses, all voices must have a seat at the table. Your consumers are holding you to a high standard and in integrity to your word. Mistreat that and you lose our trust, period.
 
I am proud that people whether they use the product or not, did not let Dove get away with it’s blatant lack of sensitivity. However my fear is that next week this time, this will be old news and the problem will persist until another offensive ad crops up.
 
Soon big brands will have to pay attention as newer, more inclusive beauty brands walk their talk and promote inclusion of all shades. Rihanna’s new makeup line Fenty, that launched this Fall, is a great example of this. Her product effectively hit the mark of representing all skin shades without making it’s users feel excluded or that one shade is better than another. Well done.
 

I’ll end in saying this: for all brands big and small, whether you are a solo run business or a giant figurehead in the industry ~ remember it’s what you DO, not what you say, that makes you who you are.