Advertising is the art of making whole lies out of half-truths. -Edgar A. Shoaff

When thinking about camping, a landscape of beautiful lush green trees and gathering around a fire comes to mind. This was very true for the first leg of our trip.

Last month, we set off on a family adventure from New England to Williamsburg, VA towing our 23’ hybrid (Big Roo) camper. The thick woods of Williamsburg were absolutely beautiful. In one week we visited Historic Jamestown, the Yorktown battle fields, Colonial Williamsburg and Bush Gardens. Everyday was a relaxing excursion.

For the trip home we decided to stop off in Pennsylvania and chose a campground after doing some research on the Internet.

As we approached our destination, the GPS guided us down a narrow road that had a HUGE power plant on one side and lead us over cargo railroad tracks. Thinking we must have made a wrong turn when suddenly, just ahead, we saw the campground sign. My husband laughed and said, “This is going to be fun!”. Thankfully it was only a few nights after leaving the beautiful woods of Williamsburg.

We set up in what looked like a field of campers – we could reach out and touch the camper next to us. The smell of cow manure was in the air on the hot summer evening. The grounds looked like we had entered a flea market – old mirrors thrown up at the end of the water slides, trash cans with cut-out gas tanks as a lid, common area buildings falling apart. Behind the pool was a foam pit (sounds like fun!) but upon exiting the pit, the staff sprayed everyone down with a massive hose. Think of a prison scene when the inmates are getting deloused…yes this happened and our son had blood gushing from his arm after falling in the pit. (That didn’t stop the spray down!)

As evening approached, we sat by the fire looking back at the website for the campground in disbelief. They hired a great firm because the photos online looked beautiful and nothing like the grounds. The agency should win an ADDY for pulling it off. In the eyes of my eight and nine year-old, “We had a lot of things to do, but the campground was a dump! Why would anyone come back here?”. Well kids, it’s all about the advertising!

Make it or Break it

It’s in the nooks and crannies where I find design most inspiring.

While I was in New York for a few days, I got juiced by the creative everywhere. Not sure what I’m talking about? Just look up – Buildings on top of one another… Narrow alleys…

New York shows us how to utilize the space in, around, on, and between buildings for our creative. You never know what you will find 34 stories high.

From brick walls, sidewalks and glass, to garage doors and imprinting on light fixtures, design and type is everywhere. Many times, ad spaces become the focal point and inspiration for the aesthetic of a place or business.

Particularly, it is the typography found around the city that is beautiful. Great design relies on typography (and sometimes solely) and its ability to work with various textures that are present. As designers, the careful attention and detail to selecting or crafting type can make or break your design.

Once you put it all together and find out a way to incorporate design into an outdoor space, it’s the raw elements of Mother Nature that give strong design the striking authenticity of natural weathering.

Enjoy a collection below from my trip. Have something to add? Share it with us on Twitter.

P.S. – Stumbled upon these mannequins with facial hair. It doesn’t fit with this blog, but how could I resist not including them?

Burdens of Growth

Written by our Summer 2016 intern, Cara Kingsley.

Boston SkylineRed brake lights illuminate highways, and cars come to a halt in the middle of morning commutes. Rush-hour becomes unbearable with large sums of people packed into public transportation. If commuting feels long now, just wait 15 years…

Cities globally are experiencing the painful impact of population increase. Our growing population has far-reaching implications for cities trying to maintain sustainable living. According to a report from the business group A Better City, in the Boston area alone “another 80,000 cars and trucks will crowd the roads every work day by 2030, a nearly 5 percent increase from 2010 levels.”

Not only will the increase in commuters increase travel time, but it will also cause rapid decay for a city’s roads, transit, air quality and quality of living.

“There are many areas that will need some substantive attention if our infrastructure is going to keep pace with our economy,” said Richard Dimino, CEO of A Better City.

The growing population will need improved:

  • Utilities
  • Waste Management
  • Sustainability (especially regarding air pollution)
  • Housing
  • Transportation

Who’s going to fix these problems?

Thankfully there are companies that are working hard to resolve these issues and promote sustainability. But getting news of these solutions, technologies and research to intended audiences is difficult. While it’s easy to rail at the challenges urban centers face, there seems to be less acceptance of solutions, especially information from start-ups and smaller companies seeking momentum and adoption. So how do these companies reach their audiences?

B2B marketing is complex. The suggestions below can help communicate solutions the burdens a growing population create for urban infrastructure, and can help the companies providing the solution reach influential audiences.

  • Public Affairs: Public affairs as a platform to achieve strategic goals is a must for organizations activating change. Raising challenges and presenting solutions to the general public may drive goodwill and awareness, but does it motivate influencers who can make a difference at a corporate or governmental level? A public affairs initiative can elevate a corporate story from news to cause-related, or uncover opportunities to speak to government leaders influential in specific industries. Pro Tip: “Keep this fact top-of-mind: Behind any public policy challenge, are real people. When policymakers are your target audience, it’s all about the ‘show’ and less about the ‘tell.’ Provide tangible demonstrations of the strong support for a given policy solution and your issue will gain traction within the halls of power. A robust, nimble public engagement program can accomplish this by educating and, more importantly, activating constituencies relevant to policymakers.” – Saleem Cheeks, Counselor, Public Affairs
  • Digital: How well does your website perform when searching for keys words related to your product or service? How accessible is your site across devices? Taking a critical look at your website and SEO efforts, and improving both where warranted, can increase your awareness as potential clients search businesses in your industry. The more convenient and efficient it is to find your business, the more brand recognition and credibility you will receive. For example, there are many companies that help builders and architects comply with the myriad codes and regulations for the sustainable housing market. A strong digital presence helps a business rise to the top of what can be a cluttered environment. Pro Tip: “In this world where the number of devices are multiplying like rabbits, everything needs to be fully responsive. Today, more than half of internet traffic is from a mobile device. If your site isn’t conducive to this environment, then you’re going to lose a huge number of visitors.” –Erin Mooney, front end developer, digital
  • Advertising: Brand your solution with clarity, and in a way that drives affection relevance and trust. A strong brand voice and image drives brand loyalty, and helps prospective customers understand the offerings and values of a company. Sustainability is a popular subject and there is a lot of competition among companies that provide solutions. Pro Tip: “Big ideas rule the landscape. Public art captures attention. Create your own “advertising” channels by owning content when you create, promote, insert and measure… then repeat.” – Kevin Hart, Partner, Creative Director 
  • Public Relations: Driving brand awareness is best done through strategic public relations. Create two-way conversations between you and your public. Ensure your communication is dynamic. Use social media, blogs and other content to stimulate an audience’s interest in your business. PR helps inform consumers and businesses through digital media, media, special events, experiential marketing, content marketing, community relations and more. Pro Tip: Forming the right story – one with resonance and repeatability – and surrounding target audiences with it helps raise awareness and condition the market for solutions to sustainability challenges. -Mark O’Toole, managing director, PR

News and information can travel fast in today’s world. As urban density increases and human travel slows down even more, how will your story rise above the congestion?

Max Power & Calculating Your Confidence

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In Homer to the Max, Homer Simpson stumbles upon a television show character by the same name. After the character goes through a negative transformation, Homer gets ridiculed for being associated with such a person. In an effort to overcome this, Homer legally changes his name to Max Power. Garnished with compliments about his new identity, Homer embraces it. Improving his image by shopping in high-end retail and befriending the affluent Trent Steele, Homer has convinced himself that his new name improved his lifestyle.

Hubris was Homer’s real identity change. Which may not be as negative as it sounds.

Being overly-confident helps you set and achieve goals that were otherwise unthinkable and seemingly unattainable. Being realistic in your challenges can undermine your ability to meet goals. If you realistically viewed your challenges, there is strong possibility you’d never attempt to overcome them. Allowing yourself to overstate your own abilities can be beneficial in taking a risk you may not have even considered.

Jason Zweig, in his book Your Money and Your Brain, writes that 81% of entrepreneurs gave their own businesses a 7 to 10 chance of success. 33% of entrepreneurs say there is zero possibility their business would fail. Zweig goes on to note, “roughly 50% of new businesses fail within their first five years”. This shows a huge dissociation between perceived success and actual success. Being overconfident in their abilities and challenges allows them to deceive themselves of their own probability of success. Without this mindset, we may have been without such unicorns as Uber or Airbnb. Disrupting the taxi monopoly would have been unthinkable without a dash of over-confidence in Uber’s success. Airbnb was a failing startup before rocketing to success. Confidence in these projects success kept them afloat

Using this knowledge in your daily tasks may not be as reckless at it seems. Calculating your overconfidence is the key to avoiding failure. Do this by asking yourself such questions as: When can I take on more risk to push a project to succeed? When can I tell myself this will not fail (and if it does, not be destroyed along with it)? Being overly-confident can push you over the hills of “It won’t work” and “It’s not feasible”.

In the end, Homer eventually goes back to his original name. I’ll attribute this to a necessity of having the episode end where it started, rather than a lack of confidence.

 

5 Ways the Corporate “Ladder” Is More Like Rock Climbing

Written by Katherine Eckenfels and Erin Mooney

We have all heard the phrase “climbing the corporate ladder.” Many believe career advancement looks like clear-cut rungs that lead straight upward. However, sometimes this path can be a wall full of different options and problems at varying levels – kind of like rock climbing.

      • You learn the art of maintaining balance.
        Picture this – you’re 20 feet off the ground, legs spread as far as they can, holding onto little knobby protrusions coming out of the wall. Sounds like life, right? Let me explain. In order to stay on a rock wall and progress upwards, you have to be balanced. Sometimes this means looking like a starfish, other times one leg is balancing out the opposite arm. Clinging to the wall drains your energy and makes it more difficult to make headway. Similarly, it is crucial to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Exercise, family and relaxation rejuvenate your mind and body and enable you to kick butt at all of those areas in life.
      • You embrace the challenge.
        Coming at the wall or your career with a positive attitude is essential. You need confidence that you are going to get to the top, crush that project, or get a promotion from the onset. Starting a climbing route you’ve never done or going into an interview can be daunting. Resolving to get to the top no matter what will wake up your desire to continue when it gets really difficult. Remind yourself how badass you are. Also – it’s totally normal to sweat.

rock_climbing_partners

      • You will fall.
        You’re climbing a route that you’ve been working on for weeks. No amount of chalk can make your hands stop sweating. You’re tired and losing your grip. Then, a poisonous thought enters your mind— “I can’t do it.” Just like that, you fall. Life is full of setbacks and failure. The symbol of a ladder, however, suggests that you start your career from the bottom and work your way up. Easy right? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but this isn’t Utopia. At some point you will fall. Maybe you’ll lose a big pitch, or maybe you’ll accidentally hit the ‘reply all’ button. Whatever the misstep be, learn to embrace the climb and everything that comes with it. Because the real success comes from the moment you get back up.
      • You build trust.
        Climbing isn’t just about you and the wall, there is also the person at the other end of the rope to make sure you don’t die. (Unless you’re climbing solo, then you’re just plain crazy and let’s be honest you probably will die.) The best teams are those that trust each other and believe in their teammates abilities. In most career fields you have to work with other people, and sometimes those people are the ones that help prevent you from falling.
      • You learn to solve problems.
        In rock climbing each route is called a problem. There’s never one easy way to get to the top and it may take a while to figure out a solution. If you’re in the creative field you can probably relate. When you hit a wall, the best thing you can do is take a step back and get a different perspective. Where did you get stuck? What are all the potential next steps? Once you’ve assessed the situation, you will be well on your way to climbing the top!

Erin transferred from the EMA office in Syracuse to join the Boston team. Katherine and Erin quickly discovered they shared an interest in rock climbing. The two joined a climbing gym and learned to belay together. Now the climbing spirit is spreading through the Boston office.

 

HUBgrown Q&A: Melanie Cohn, Dunkin’ Donuts

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Managing social media for a major consumer brand while running a popular networking group and teaching evening classes would make most go-getters to feel overwhelmed. But Newton, MA-native Melanie Cohn makes her demanding schedule look easy. We recently sat down with Melanie to discuss social media strategy, the Boston business community and her role at Dunkin’ Donuts.

HB Agency: What led you to your current role as Social Media Marketing Manager at Dunkin’ Donuts?

Melanie Cohn: I’ve always worked at an agency so there was a big part of me that was curious about the other side. When you’re on the agency side you can only know so much about a brand. From my experience I felt like I could never fully own a brand presence inside and out. I wanted to know what it was like to be ingrained in a brand and have a laser focus. I’ve had experience working with consumer brands so the combination of the two drew me to Dunkin’ Donuts.

HB: Can you tell me what it’s like running social media for the brand that “America runs on?”

MC: It’s incredibly fun and challenging, which is what makes it so interesting! Everyday there’s something new to experiment with. Whether it’s an alpha ad product for our donuts, a new video format to launch a new product with or a social listening tool that’s popped into the market, the landscape’s constantly changing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thrive in a fast-paced atmosphere, and Dunkin’ moves quickly, which makes the job that much more exciting.

On the other hand, being such a beloved brand, there’s always eyes on every move we make in social. It’s really important to be diligent, strategic and thoughtful about what we put out on our channels and how we engage. Knowing conversation sparks around us quickly, we try to weigh every decision carefully while always keeping innovation and cultural relevance front and center.

At the end of the day though, the fun part always takes over – it is coffee and donuts – what’s not awesome about that?!

HB: So if I follow @DunkinDonuts, are all of those tweets coming from you? Melanie Cohn

MC: Sometimes! We also have a team of community managers who work in different marketing functions that take shifts monitoring and engaging. As for the posts themselves, most of those come directly from me as the publisher and scheduler. Nothing goes out on our social channels before I take a look at it, as it’s important to make sure everything’s in line with our strategy and brand standards.

HB: Do you see any similarities or differences between your previous job at an agency and your current role?

MC: There are a lot of similarities actually. At an agency you’re viewed as the main consultant—an expert in your discipline. When you’re in-house, it’s the same thing but your clients are the other business units. I advise and provide recommendations on social strategy as well as educate our teams on trends and updates in digital world.

The main difference being in-house is that you work much more cross-functionally. You get to collaborate with Legal, PR, Brand team, Loyalty team, IT, CSR and many more departments. At an agency, you’re handing everything off to the client and you don’t really see what happens behind the scenes after your recommendation is made.

HB: In addition to your role at Dunkin’ Donuts, you launched Young Women in Digital two years ago. Can you tell us more about the organization?

MC: Young Women in Digital (YWD) is a networking group for women working in digital marketing, social media, public relations and more. We host bi-monthly events that vary from classes to speakers to panelists and pitch sessions for entrepreneurs. Our main goal is to foster connections between young professionals.

I launched YWD  because at the time my former company asked me to attend networking events and I felt like I wasn’t meeting people who I could relate to. So I thought about how great it would be to go to an event with people similar to me: young women who are emerging in the digital world. I shared the idea with fellow young professionals and they agreed so I pulled together a team and we hosted our first event! About 40 people attended and it spiraled from there. I believe a smart creator or marketer finds a niche or a gap and fills it. That’s what happened here. There was a need, and YWD filled the void. Every event has been bigger than the last and awareness has grown simply through word of mouth and social media. We now have more than 1,000 members!

HB: Did you find that Boston was a good place to launch YWD?

MC: Absolutely. Boston’s full of like-minded marketers who are looking to grow in their careers. The circles are smaller than say, NYC, which fosters a close knit community. Also, the environment is extremely supportive, not competitive. There’s something about Boston—probably its size, the helpful culture and the go-getters here—that makes it a good place to start something once you’ve identified a gap because people are seeking these types of organizations out.

HB: What do you teach at General Assembly?

MC: Right now I teach Instagram for Business once every few months. It’s for mid to high-level professionals with intermediate to advanced skills on Instagram who are looking to take their strategy to the next level. In the fall I’m going to start teaching a monthly class about working with influencers. This is becoming a much larger part of marketing strategies across various industries so we’re right on the cusp of a growing trend.

HB: What recommendations would you give to startups looking to utilize social media in their overall business strategy?

MC: It really depends on the company and its target audience. For YWD, our audience is marketers, who are primarily on Twitter, so that’s our best channel. But if you’re starting a company that has to do with design or art, Instagram may be a great place to showcase your work and generate leads, for example.

I love how Curalate, a social vendor, explains social strategy. They talk about how there are channels that are aspirational or celebratory. Aspirational channels include Tumblr and Pinterest, where people go to share items or lifestyles they want, or wish they had. Instagram is focused more on celebration, and in-the-moment experiences. You need to look at where your company fits into these consumer behaviors, and which part of the customer journey (aspiration or celebration) you can really own. Dunkin’, for example, is a very celebratory brand. People share us in the moment, and post-purchase. We strive to encourage that behavior and excitement, because as we all know, word of mouth is the best form of marketing.

Follow Melanie at @SocialMel and keep an eye out for upcoming YWD events on Twitter at @YWDBoston.

 

Nurturing a Connection to Nature

We live in a fast-paced world of instant-gratification. Children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews are not shielded from this reality. In fact, they’re the first generation growing up with cell phones and tablets as a part of their daily routines. Having their phones at school or the dinner table has evolved into a norm rather than an exception.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Technology can be an incredible source of information, education and safety. But, its positive impact quickly blurs into the negative when we see children neglecting their social skills and the world around them for a 9-inch screen.

I share these thoughts and observations as someone who does not have children nor nieces and nephews. I share these thoughts as someone who is predominantly writing out of concern. What will the world be like when I have children some day? Will their pacifier be a mini-tablet? Will they speak directly to our in-home robot and not understand the differences between machine and personal connection?

Today I was overcome by these thoughts and emotions after watching a powerful advertisement that depicts childhood fun—or past times—for three different generations. I encourage you to watch it:

Shortly after watching the video I reminded myself that there are incredible people and organizations working to encourage and nurture a connection to nature. Nonprofits like CitySprouts that helps build sustainable schoolyard gardens in schools throughout Cambridge and Boston. The gardens inspire a deep, hands-on connection to agriculture, the food cycle and the natural environment. CitySprouts is making an enormous impact on the lives of children who often do not have dirt to dig in or gardens to grow their own vegetables. Many of these children grow up in the city and wouldn’t have the need to use a pitchfork or learn about the composting process.

Yesterday a handful of HBers had the privilege to see one of these gardens and sample the food that 5th-8th graders have been growing throughout the summer at the Tobin School in Cambridge. Let me tell you: it was the freshest, most delicious salsa I’ve ever tasted. Even better was the incredible teamwork, passion, commitment, knowledge, showmanship and pride that the students displayed as they guided us through their garden.

Organizations like CitySprouts give me hope for the future. While I deeply appreciate technology and the positive effect it can have on children, there are few things more powerful in the world than teaching future generations how to properly protect our environment and empower them to leave the world in a better state.

For more information about CitySprouts, please visit www.citysprouts.org.

HUBgrown: Q&A with C.C. Chapman

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Yesterday we wrote about how the conversation around B2C in Boston is evolving. These conversations are being led by many influential people in our community who believe Boston has the ingredients to build great consumer companies, not just B2B.

We recently asked C.C. Chapman, co-author of Content Rules and Amazing Things Will Happen, and seasoned marketer who has worked with brands like Nike, HBO and other household names, what he thinks about Boston’s business scene.

Here’s what he had to say.

HB: You’ve spent your career turning passive consumers into engaged activists. Some people would argue that Boston has a “relative indifference” to marketing itself. What’s your take? Is this a good or bad thing?

CC: New Englanders as a whole are definitely not into being marketed to. I grew up in New Hampshire and know how little tolerance there can be for that.

This isn’t just a New England thing though and today thanks to everyone being on the Internet, everyone is a bit more skeptical. We can skip all ads on television and are one click away from any that pop up in our face online. This is a good thing because it forces companies to be more creative, have a heart and find a common ground with the consumers they want to reach rather than just shouting BUY ME at them all the time.

When our book Content Rules hit shelves in 2010, it was one of the first books ever published on content marketing. In it we talk about how companies need to speak human and advised to share or solve, don’t shill. It is a bit sad that five years later I’m still giving this advice to almost every client I talk to. People today are choosing the brands they buy from like they choose their friends. They want to feel a sense of shared values and a connection that goes beyond the purchase.

HB: You travel frequently. Is there another startup-focused city you’ve visited doing something new and interesting that you think Boston could benefit from?

CC: Fargo, North Dakota instantly comes to mind.

What they’ve done is really built a community where the entrepreneurs, artists and city all come together for the common good. There is very little of an Us versus Them mentality and they are thriving because of it.

HB: You spent the last year as an adjunct professor at Bentley University, your alma mater. How do you think local universities like Bentley are preparing students for their careers?

CC: I think many local universities are doing a great job. One thing that Bentley does and why I chose it for my undergrad degree was that every student has to take a group of liberal arts AND business courses no matter what their degree is. This insures that all graduates come out with a well rounded understanding of the business environment they are entering. While I never wanted to be an accountant, having those classes under my belt helped me understand budgets and balance sheets in a way that many other computer majors might not.

What does worry me though is that not enough higher education institutions are updating and evolving to make sure the students are learning the latest and greatest.

At the end of my first semester teaching I had numerous students tell me how much they loved me sharing current event stories with them. Because it was a marketing class, I started each night talking about the campaigns that were making waves and new technologies that companies needed to pay attention to. If Professors are only teaching out of books and not teaching practical applications then students will not be as prepared as they should be.

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HB: How can Boston, especially Boston-area universities, prevent the brain drain and figure out how to keep entrepreneurs here post-grad?

CC: I’m not sure we have that problem. While I don’t have any studies to look at, I think we see a lot of students stick around.

Then again, when you have so many colleges and universities and so many students graduating from around the world you are going to have some.

We need to make it as friendly as possible for students to open and start new businesses. We need more spaces where they can afford to start a business. Incubators and shared workspaces are finally starting to arrive and this will help greatly.

HB: In your opinion, what makes Boston’s business scene unique?

CC: Boston hates to lose. We celebrate victories of all sizes. This is what makes it great!

Read C.C.’s blog for more about his approach to marketing, causes he cares about and his travels.

Check back in a few weeks for an interview with an entrepreneur as she gears up for the official launch of her consumer startup.

 

The Value of Incentives

Potty training. Parents with children who have gone through this process, are going through it or will be going through it: you have my sympathy. When you really think about it, the idea of using a toilet is a foreign concept to a toddler. What’s the real value for them if they’ve been getting their tush wiped for the past three years? Why change a good thing?

Parents have many tactics at their disposal to add value for their children, but most default to incentivization. Kids get stickers, treats, toys and all manner of incentives to use the potty.

Simply put, incentives are a motivation to behave in a certain way. From an early age, we’re exposed to this basic economic (and behavioral) principle. Perhaps this is why most American companies are in love with incentives; consumers are primed for this tactic, even if they are fully aware of the reason behind the incentive.  And yet, there are a surprising number of marketers who don’t use incentives to their full advantage.

Some claim that their audience wouldn’t be swayed by incentives, but even sophisticated audiences can be convinced. There is a reason why pharmaceutical sales reps can no longer give incentives to doctors—including simple things like pens and pizza lunches—they worked! (See Wazana.) Individuals have many motivations to do what they do, the trick is figuring out how to unlock that.

Stephen Levitt writes in Freakonomics, “The typical economist believes the world has not yet invented a problem that he cannot fix if given a free hand to design the proper incentive scheme,” although the solution “may not be pretty.” In marketing this holds true as well, but we try to avoid the “ugly” solutions lest they be taken as bribes.

Incentives don’t always mean giving something away, either. In late 2011 Patagonia partnered with eBay to start the Common Threads Program, which encouraged people not to buy new Patagonia clothes, rather to buy only what they need through eBay. In exchange, Patagonia agreed to only build products that last. By May 2014, nearly 70,000 people had signed the Common Threads pledge. During this time, Patagonia consistently increased its profits. By aligning its values to those of its customers and potential customers, Patagonia incentivized a broader scope of people to buy from them based on those shared values.

By truly understanding our audience, and who we want our audience to be, we gain understanding of what really motivates their actions. Armed with this knowledge we can then provide real incentives that deliver value to both the consumer and the company making the offer.

Now, if only I can figure out my son’s motivation for potty training success…

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Now it’s my turn to incentivize you, and, since this is the internet, a video incentive seems most apt. If this post generates five non-employee comments on the HB website within a week of being posted, I will share a video of myself getting pelted by water balloons thrown by HB staffers. The video link will be posted to our newsletter, so be sure to sign up! Incentivized?

You Made a Mistake. Now What?

You’ve probably heard this before: many of the world’s most famous icons and role models faced challenges and made mistakes before ultimately reaching success.

Take former NBC Tonight Show host, Conan O’Brien, who, in one of my favorite commencement speeches, shared:

 “Whether you fear it or not, disappointment will come. The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”


We often forget that failure is in fact part of our paths to success.

Arianna Huffington is Co-founder of one of the most well-known global publications, The Huffington Post. In a Fast Company piece, Huffington states, “I strongly believe that we are not put on this Earth just to accumulate victories and trophies and avoid failures; but rather to be whittled and sandpapered down until what’s left is who we truly are.” For her second book, she met with 36 different publishers who all said “no,” before she finally got a “yes.”

How many of us would have persisted after the first “no”? The third? The tenth? Not many.

It has been a little over a year since I started at HB. Similar to everyone who joins the workforce after graduation, I am in a constant whirlwind. Luckily, I am also learning so many new things every day.

Recently, someone asked me, “What’s been your biggest learning experience since you graduated?” For me, my biggest and most hard-hitting lessons have been making—and learning from—my mistakes.

We all make mistakes, it’s the human thing to do. So here are some steps to help you turn those missteps into part of your pathway to success.

Allow yourself to fail—then do something about it.

There is so much to learn from the humility that failure allows us to experience. It’s what you do after you make mistakes that demonstrates your true potential. Allowing yourself to fail creates a challenge and ultimately a better understanding of the situation. It better positions you to succeed in the future.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Learn to ask for help when you need it. The harsh reality is that agency life is not gently handed to you, it’s thrown at you and you just learn to roll with the punches. Don’t be afraid to ask necessary questions to complete a task – either big or small. Your co-workers will understand you’re learning and will want to help as much as possible. They’ve been in your shoes before, too.

Surround yourself with smart individuals.

We often hear, you are the company you keep, and I believe the same thing goes for the work environment. Every day, I have the opportunity to work with some of the smartest PR and creative pros. I’ve grown so much this past year just from absorbing the lessons from the talent around me. They have challenged me, they have proven me wrong and it has made me excel in a number of ways.

One of my favorite stories of failure that lead to success was when our PR team was responsible for pitching an upcoming announcement for one of our clients. I had spent the entire day reaching out to 50 + reporters from different publications via email and phone and by the end of the day, I had received no feedback – the day felt unsuccessful, and to me, a failure.

It wasn’t until my colleague came up to me and shared, “If you dial 10-digits, you can reach anyone in the country – it’s up to you to figure out which 10.” Only then did I realize, they weren’t about to give up on me and they knew I could turn it around.

I spent the next few hours grinding away at my desk – researching every relevant reporter’s beat and getting to know what their interests really were – personalizing my pitches – and introducing myself to new people, which ultimately put myself in front the appropriate reporter, landing a feature piece on my client.

Have an opinion and voice it.

Having an opinion is one thing, but being able to voice it properly is another. Speak up. Spark new ideas. Don’t doubt yourself. Help others understand your point of view. Don’t be afraid to challenge the norm—it’s where some of the best ideas are born. Embrace your opinions and have a say. It may not always pan out the way you envisioned it, but it is always better to voice your opinions with conviction and the willingness to make a mistake than to remain quiet.

But don’t forget the importance of listening.

Listening is just part of the HB Way, especially because we always work in teams. It’s important to listen to our peers, provide them the respect to voice their own opinions and work together to collaborate, create ideas and solve problems.

Build relationships.

Whether it’s with co-workers, clients or the media, building those bridges and forming relationships is absolutely vital to surviving in the professional world. Put yourself out there, start a conversation that may be “awkward” at first—you never know who you may end up meeting, and where that relationship may take you.

At the end of the day, learn to accept your mistakes, but don’t forget to think about ways to improve the next time you’re in a similar scenario. You’ll gain that clarity and true originality that Conan O’Brien shares with us.