Q&A with writer Suzanne Smelcer.

Suzanne Smelcer wrote a cool piece for BizMe online magazine, which is getting a lot of great press throughout the state and the nation. If you are a professional woman looking for some fun and some serious advice, check them out.

Karen Hitchcock of Creative Gun Suzanne Smelcer, Writer

Shake the Funk Article

Suzanne only had space for a couple quotes, so I’ll post the whole interview here. Enjoy.

1.      So first off, just want to get a little background on you. Probably won’t quote this part, but need something so I can introduce you to the reader. Can you talk a little about Creative Gun and what it is you do and what types of clients you’re working with?

My name is Karen Hitchcock and I own Creative Gun Consulting in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve worked in a variety of creative capacities over the last fifteen years, from Sales Manager to Marketing Manager to Artist to Managing Editor. In the last year, I have focused my efforts on strategic marketing consulting. Right now, I have several clients for whom I’m creating marketing plans. For a small, but promising biotech firm, I am helping define competitive advantage and market position. For a home improvement company, I have designed a promotional strategy along with the creative for their launch.

I don’t call myself a branding expert or a social media expert. Brand assets and social media campaigns are tools of the trade and of course I know how to put them to work. What I’m interested in is understanding or crafting business stories and finding the right tools to communicate these stories in our world.

My strength is my willingness to see the “big picture” and tell a complete story within the constraints of my clients’ resources and budget. It’s easy to put together a fancy marketing plan. What is more difficult — and what I love to do — is to evaluate marketing initiatives within the context of a client’s unique business.

2.      Next up: branding. What is personal branding? Why is it important to think about? How can it help take your life from drab to fab?

I looked up the formal definitions of personal branding. There are elements from these definition that I think are really good and appropriate. What personal branding comes down to, in my opinion, is authenticity. This goes for individuals and for companies. You can’t be what you’re not, even if you can get away with “faking it” for while. The strongest brands are those with a good sense of self. Look what happened to Coca-Cola when they tried to get all New Coke on us? Utter failure. They strayed from their identity and they paid. Don’t do this on a personal level.

Don’t be something you’re not. It takes too much energy to keep up the charade. If you’re a bubbly, quirky girl, embrace it and seek out people and organizations that need your energy. If you’re an observer, make sure everyone knows that this is your strength. You take in all the facts before judging and this is also an attractive quality. Organizations, and the world, need all kinds of brands.

In the past, I’ve had moments when I’ve thought, “Oh, I should dial it (my personality) down, I throw out all these nutty ideas and I might be too outrageous.”

Now I realize my strength is my ability to bring energy to discussions. Minding my manners is overrated…and boring!

3.     Can you give me a business example or two of how you helped a company revitalize their brand and then talk about how someone could take that same strategy and apply it to their personal brand?

Coincidentally, I have the perfect example for this question!

Recently, I was hired by a company in Madison, Wisconsin called The Window Valet. The owner approached me to help with with some tactical promotional stuff in light of his decision to completely rename his company.  He paid a chunk of change to a branding company to find something new, shiny and fancier because he felt his brand was a little tired. He wanted it revitalized and more sales. I gave the new name(s) some thought and all of them just felt wrong. In fact…

I hated the proposed front-runner name and in very polite terms, explained why I felt it may not be the best idea for his company.  I decided that even though I might lose the client for being totally frank, I owed it to him to be honest. No promotional strategy, given his budget, could make the proposed name a recognizable asset.

This was a real “big-girl” moment for me, because I had complete confidence in my recommendations. Ultimately, I convinced the owner that his original name, The Window Valet, was great and that all he really needed was some cosmetic touch-ups and a confidence boost.  With this new found commitment to the old name, the branding company came back with a new logo design and voila! a great little identity emerged.

This is not unlike what happens to us on a personal level. When things are not going our way, we tend to yell, “Reinvention!”, the battle cry of professional self-help gurus.

But,  I would argue that what you really need to do is just get back in touch with your original self.  You don’t need to reinvent so much as revitalize. Think about where you are and who you’re with when you feel most like your authentic self. What does this woman look like and how does she act? Now, get in touch with that woman and give her a pep talk.
A little cosmetic fun (think pedicure, a long run or a new outfit) will give you a short adrenaline rush, but remember that these highs are short lived. Try to go deeper, by reading inspirational books. Even a great novel that has a strong female figure may be the ticket to getting excited about things again.

4.    We aren’t going to want to make necessary changes if we’re not feeling inspired. What are some ways businesses find creative inspiration? How can we tweak these for our personal life?

This is an easy one. Do something outside of your comfort zone when you’re in a rut. Call that friend who pushes you to be impulsive. When you are way out of your comfort zone, your natural defenses will pull you back. But, happily, the place you get pulled back to your “resting” place,  is beyond your starting place. You’ve already grown!

Think about running a marathon if you’re out of shape. It will suck and you’ll feel awful for a while. But your long, hard run just made it possible for you to easily tackle shorter distances.

You have a comfort zone for a reason – to feel safe. Remember that the opposite of comfort isn’t danger. You can stretch and still be comfortable. Get it?

5.     Sadly, most people abandon their New Year’s Resolutions by February. Sticking to a “change your life” plan is tough stuff. Or is it? Any advice for staying on track and sticking with a growth plan?

My other answers speak to this. Focus your resolutions on revitalization, not reinvention. Don’t change your whole personality, just augment it by making better choices when you can and stretching your mind. And for god’s sake, don’t be so damn hard on yourself!

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One Response to Q&A with writer Suzanne Smelcer.

  1. Karen,
    Thanks for talking about comfort zones – so much of what holds us back just takes training, or discipline, or pushing through something that we’ve been avoiding doing. Making the decision to improve is step 1, getting the plan and routine in place is step 2, and having accountability really helps me get better!

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