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FROM THE FORTE

Perspective from Double Forte Public Relations and Marketing

Month

December 2013

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Fridays With: Jessica Berardi, founder and owner of Pilgrim

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What is your elevator pitch when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?”

I’m the founder and owner of Pilgrim. As a graphic designer, I work with clients in the arts, and with those who have an appreciation for design that is a little unusual and very, very custom.

Describe the path that led you to this career.

As a small town Indiana girl I dreamed I’d be a veterinarian (I know), but as I grew older I found myself fascinated by art, painting especially. I spent a few unfortunate years at Loyola University Chicago, lost and unhappy, where I painted constantly, relentlessly, avoiding my actual collegiate studies. My father, in an act of desperation and brilliance, suggested art school and I perked up. I’d never considered a career in art. I didn’t know what that looked like. But after little consideration, and even less planning, I landed in Los Angeles at Otis College of Art and Design where, to sound utterly hyperbolic, my life began. I worked and studied constantly, relentlessly – this time with purpose and direction. I chose a path in what the school called Communication Arts, and I discovered that I was good at something. My parent’s home is filled with my large-scale watercolors, and while painting is something I still do on occasion, design feeds my passion and challenges me every day. My path was meandering and frustrating and long, but even the mistakes – especially the mistakes – inform the work that I do today.

What are the elements of a successful workplace?

Warmth and quiet peacefulness are essential. You’ll never find me plugging away in a crowded cafe, on BART, or in a drafty cement-floored loft space. For more than ten years I’ve worked from home. It’s my ideal space.

What is the one piece of technology you cannot live without?

Forget the iPhone, I can’t live without my giant-screened iMac and Kensington trackball (the anti-carpal tunnel device).

What are you reading?

Lots of fiction. Right now: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (which is terrific). Next on my list: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

If you could, what advice would you give your 20-something self?

Talent is just a small fraction of success, hard work is what matters. So work hard and stop being afraid that you’re not good enough.

If you could do anything and know you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

I’d pursue a second career in painting. Ask me this tomorrow and my answer will be different.

At Double Forte’s San Francisco office, the conference rooms are named Rock and Roll, Motown, Hip Hop, Mambo, Jazz and Disco. Which name best describes you and why?

Disco, because I’m always ready to slip into a party dress and sashay away my worries!

What’s in your Netflix queue?

The fifth and final season of Breaking Bad. Nothing else is worth watching, doing, or discussing until I finish that series. (So why are you bothering me anyway?!)

Happy Holidays!

The winner of our ugly sweater contest, DIY category.

Fridays With: Jesse Barnett, music promoter and owner of Right Arm Resource

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What is your elevator pitch when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?”

I get hired by record companies, distributors, managers and artists to get songs played on the radio.

Describe the path that led you to this career.

At Emerson College, I spent four years working at both of the school’s radio stations.  Upon graduation, I did what everybody thinks they SHOULD do – find a career in your field of study.  For me, that was Advertising and soon after graduation, I found myself in Los Angeles working for the big ad agency I had interned for previously.  I worked in the Traffic department making sure the right commercials were airing at the right time and quickly grew bored of the job.  I fell back on my passion for radio and music, and spent the next year and a half interviewing and meeting with anyone who would take the time.  Eventually, I got an offer from A&M Records to become an assistant in their promotion department.  Even though I had been promoted at the ad agency to a full-time copywriter, I jumped ship and changed industries.  I worked at A&M for a couple of years but saw the layoff writing on the walls and put the feelers out to the industry for a new position.  I was soon hired by an independent label in New York City and moved across the country.  Like so many other label folks, eventually I was downsized.  Eventually I was hired on to partner up with an independent promotion company that I used to hire out.  Four years later, I left that company for another, and two years after that I hung out my shingle on my own.

What are the elements of a successful workplace?

Well, I work from home full time so my perspective is a bit skewed compared to some others.  For me, it’s having a space to work that doesn’t double as anything else.  I know so many folks who work from home who work off of a laptop in their living room.  I don’t know how they do it.  In my house, I have an office.  It’s not a playroom, a place to hang out or anything else.  From spending so many years in larger companies, though, I still have the kneejerk instinct to shut my office door when I get into a private conversation, even if I’m the only person in the house.

What is the one piece of technology you cannot live without?

My iPhone.  I never had a Blackberry, so I didn’t have mobile access to email until just a handful of years ago.  I never thought it was a problem since I spend most of my time tethered to my desk, but I’ve been able to break that chain more and more because of my phone.

What are you reading?

Anything I can find on photography.  I purposely found a hobby that took me out of my house.

If you could, what advice would you give your 20-something self?

When I started my business, a good friend told me to come up with a mission statement that I can base decisions on.  I couldn’t come up with one but I did develop a set of three rules.  The key rule is “Make tomorrow’s money, not today’s.”  I’d rather turn down multiple projects that I didn’t think I could succeed with from a potential client before taking on the first one that I know I can do well with.  If you fail on a project that you take on just for the money, it’ll be the last check you’ll ever receive from that client.  If you wait until you find the right one, you’ve got a client for life.  Also, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.”  That’s always good advice.

If you could do anything and know you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

Probably become a professional photographer.

At Double Forte’s San Francisco office, the conference rooms are named Rock and Roll, Motown, Hip Hop, Mambo, Jazz and Disco. Which name best describes you and why?

Rock and Roll.  My speakers go to 11.

What’s in your Netflix queue?

Basically every big movie from the last year that my wife and I just never found the time to get out and see.

Tips for Last Minute Wine Gifts

We love to gift wine year round, so it’s not unusual for us to swing by the wine shop on our way to holiday parties for a quick present. As you make your holiday rounds, here are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a bottle for a last minute gift:

– Red, red, wine: Look for reds with tannins and high acidity – they make great host and hostess gifts as they pair well with rich holiday foods.

– When in doubt, sparkle it out: ‘Tis the season for sparkling wines and Champagne, making them perfect for a grab-and-go gift.

– Stand out: Grab a fortified wine! Port is a distinct wine that is best enjoyed late-night with a chocolaty dessert.

Happy holidays from The Barn Group!

IRL a Key Component of Social Networking

I heart Twitter, and Tumblr, and LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Can’t get enough. These platforms allow me to connect with people I might never meet in real life, regardless of time or distance. But ultimately for Twitter, or any other social network, to be truly valuable, I need to bridge the gap from the digital world to the real world. And I have; I met my lawyer and my publisher through Twitter connections.

Critics worry that social networks are replacing our ability to connect in person; not true. Most of the Twitter connections I make happen after 9 p.m. when my day’s work is done and my house is quiet. It’s highly unlikely I’m going to be out of the house and “in the real world” at that time. But I can still have interesting conversations, meet new people, advocate for important causes, discover a great meme. Social networks don’t replace my real life connections; they extend them.

 And then, it’s incumbent on me to turn some of those connections into real life relationships. It’s easy. I schedule two lunches per month with someone from my network who lives or works nearby. And when I’m travelling, I reach out to my networks to see who is based in my destination city, and I meet up with them. Sometimes there’s a real-life connection; occasionally I wish I kept the relationship digital. Either way, if I’m not going to take my online connectiosn into the real world, what’s the point? Because ultimately, people do business with and relate to people; not Twitter accounts.

Fridays With: Rachel Weidinger, founder and executive director of Upwell

What is your elevator pitch when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?”

The ocean is our client. I run Upwell, a non-profit social media PR agency. Our team characterizes the conversations about issues online, including marine conservation. We do analysis to gain insight, ultimately to help fellow do-gooders win in a competitive attention environment. Also, we do it because we love sharks.

Describe the path that led you to this career.

What, so you can avoid such a circuitous and rocky path? I’ve been pursuing the craft of creating social spaces for deep conversations through restaurant tables, grocery aisles, dinner parties, libraries, schools, direct action in the streets, museums, agencies, underground galleries, public parks, nonprofits, social media, foundations, conferences and cocktail parties since I was 14. We can do a better job of talking about what we care about, and technology can help. My advice for career success? Ignore having a career and relentlessly pursue your curiosity. Your LinkedIn profile will look a mess, and you’ll dread this question. But you’ll have a happy heart.

What are the elements of a successful workplace?

Sunlight! Simply that plus filling the workplace with brilliant, compassionate people who savor complexity and laugh at their own jokes.

What is the one piece of technology you cannot live without?

The tech object that I’m hopelessly tethered to is my iPhone. In a recent experiment to level up my privacy and security understanding, I travelled to Canada without it.  I missed its camera, ubiquitous email and Twitter, the ability to look up flight schedules when I missed my plane, and GPS everywhere. I was disappointed at how much I longed for my left behind device that week.

What are you reading?

I’m reading Neil Gaiman’s the Ocean at the End of The Lane, Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World, and (consults Kindle app) an impressive volume of science fiction.

If you could, what advice would you give your 20-something self?

Learn how to run your own business, sooner rather than later. It’ll set you free.

If you could do anything and know you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

This is an awesomely hard question. I’ve failed a ton, and am charmed that failure is now fashionable to admit. I think I’d push farther into trying to write, draw and document our way into hearing each other better. Listening fascinates me.  

At Double Forte’s San Francisco office, the conference rooms are named Rock and Roll, Motown, Hip Hop, Mambo, Jazz and Disco. Which name best describes you and why?

I’d be dancing in whichever conference room The Detroit Cobras are in.

What’s in your Netflix queue?

Little Women. It’s my holiday tradition to curl up and sink into the snowy fantasy of Louisa May Alcott’s snug family of March sisters.

Blending the Personal and the Professional Online

An effective social media strategy requires you to share your personality and authentic voice. But for many people, coached to separate their personal identities from their professional identities, this can be a scary proposition.

Here are four steps to consider in order to help you blend the personal and professional online, in a way that is comfortable for you.

  1. Set goals. If you don’t know why you’re using social media, then how can you know what to do on social media? Think about what you’re trying to accomplish: are you looking to make new contacts, want to establish yourself as a thought leader, are you gathering ideas, or do you want to promote something. You need to identify the What and the Why before you begin. This step will also help you identify which platforms make sense for you.
  2. Avoid analysis paralysis. Yes you need goals, but you don’t need to figure everything out before you start. What and Why are critical. How is not. So often I hear, “I need to learn more about Twitter,” or “I’m not sure I have time for Pinterest.” The best way to figure those things out is to start. Avoid making any wild or inflammatory statements online and what’s the worst that can happen? You’re not going to break the Internet.
  3. Check your company’s social media policy. Of course before you start you need to make sure you understand what your employer or industry allows and will tolerate with regards to your social media activity. Some companies don’t allow anonymity on the web (a very good policy by the way), some forbid you from mentioning the company you work for, its clients or competitors. If you’re in a highly regulated industry, make sure you know the ground rules. And even if you’re not, check before you chat.
  4. Follow the 80/20 rule. Many people wonder how to blend the different facets of their personality on social media. Are you mostly tweeting to build your professional network? It’s still okay to share your love of surfing with your followers. Remember, people do business with other people. So let your human side show. Just keep 80 percent of your posts related to your primary goal, and let the other 20 percent reflect the whole you.

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