September 14, 2009

You're Inviting Me to Your Secret Party?

That’s right, I am officially a celebrity. Or at least I felt like one at Micha Weinblatt’s Crooked Monkey photoshoot party last night. My invitation? A t-shirt in the mail. Then I received a brief email revealing only the essentials: come by yourself, bring the t-shirt to get in, don’t share the address with anyone and the entrance is on the side with the brown bricks. Talk about secretive; I was thrilled.

The taxi dropped me off in front of what looked like an abandoned warehouse; I headed down the alley and gave my name to the bouncer in black. As I pushed open the large warehouse door, I felt like I had stepped into a scene from Sex and the City. It opened into a dark room lit with neon lights, a few more steps and I was inside: white walls, a dj, and DC’s best dressed party people. Oh yea, a posh looking boardwalk photo booth, an open bar with sweet Crooked Monkey specials and graffiti artists designing on our t-shirts.

I was very impressed with Micha’s ability to transform a single room into a surprise experience for his guest just like he had turned his t-shirts into an image that celebrities wear and young people want. I met other DC media entrepreneurs including the blogger behind The Glamazon Diaries, Kate Michael who runs the online talk show, The District Dish and blog, K Street Kate, and Kelly Fredrick, founder of the e-newsletter CityShopGirl.

As I watched graffiti artists transform everyone’s invitations into a take away gift and a group of young professionals shotgun a redbull infused with vodka, I thought about just how much detail and creativity went into this event: from the sponsorships and guest list to the entertainment and design. Micha has been running Crooked Monkey for four years and it was inspiring to celebrate his amazing success, the launch of his new line and the future of his business. With a great idea and passion, he made it happen. I look forward to inviting him and DC to celebrate just like that for College Media in 2011. No details yet—it’s a secret.

Photos courtesy of Pamela Lynne Sorensen and Katelyn Gowling

June 29, 2009

Sales has a Bad Reputation

Why does sales have a bad reputation? When you think of sales you think of someone trying to make you want something that you don’t actually want. So if sales has a bad rep, how do you sell? You change the mindset—just one of the great slices of advice I learned today.

In order for my team and myself to gain a fresh perspective on the day-to-day College Media work, I often step outside of our bubble and reach out to other experts in their fields. For our editorial team, I asked Lauren Brown, previously an editor for the Baltimore Sun, to share her insights on what it takes to be a great editor. Simply put, Lauren rocked. (Soon to come: Editing 101).

Today I invited Sam Sheibani, manager of College Park's Darcars with 17 years of sales experience to speak to our Marketing & Sales team. Right before he joined us, we spent an hour discussing advertising sales experiences so far and unfortunately everyone seemed discouraged. For everyone’s first month of making cold calls, warm visits, and setting up meetings with advertisers, they learned a lot but it wasn’t easy. (Hey, they can’t say I didn’t warn them). Some of the challenges they pin pointed were staying motivated, getting a business owner to meet with them and hearing the most discouraging word of all: no.

But when Sam came into the office, he immediately changed the tone. He challenged us to shift our mindset about sales: to shift from selling to helping. Because when it comes down to it, the reason a person is going to buy a product, whether it’s a car or a magazine ad, it’s because they see the product as something that will help them (get them from point A to B or give them exposure and more business). So how do you do this? Here’s what we learned:

1. Make it your goal to help them. Literally ask: “How can I help you?”
2. Identify their needs. Ask about their business, their team, their life.
3. Listen.

And when they say “no,” ask “why?” The reason may be something you can solve (a payment plan, brainstorming design ideas) so in the end, you can still help them out.

Stay tuned for unique ways to measure advertising ROI.

June 20, 2009

Speed Dating 101

How to Stop Networking and Really Connect

If I could only list 3...

My senior year of college, when my professor asked our class to network, the exercise turned into speed dating. To me, real networking can’t be forced nor can it happen in 60 seconds. Networking sounds like a standardized process for making friends, but if want to make business connections with people, and not robots, it has to be far from standardized.

What I’ve learned:
1. Networking is like dating
2. How many people you’ve slept with does matter
3. Have fun & make friends

1. You don’t want to go to bed on the first date. (Yes, two of my advisors have said these exact words to me in the context of networking). Just like dating, in networking, you shouldn’t be so quick to pinpoint ways this new contact can help you. It’s a turnoff. Right now I’m reading the book Never Eat Alone, and one lesson I’ve already learned from author Keith Ferrazzi is instead of asking “How can you help me?” try instead asking “How can I help you?” It made me think about how often I ask this question. I’d like to think I do this well when it comes to my friends, whether it’s listening to a problem or helping out with a job search but when it comes to those I look up to, including my advisors, I easily forget to ask this.

2. Too many to count? It’s not about how many business cards you collect; it’s about meeting a few people and really connecting. That good looking suit that schmoozes with every person at the party has only given himself enough time for surface level conversation with every person he meets. Just like a one nightstand; he’s a networking slut. Don’t be slutty. Connect with 1 or 2 people and then keep in touch. This is something I've learned by simply being myself when it comes to networking. I would much rather have an actual conversation than come up with meaningless small talk.

3. Why do you think so many people go into business with their friends? Sure they end up regretting it later, but people like to do business with people they are friendly with. People they trust. People they genuinely like. If someone doesn’t like me, I can guarantee they won’t want to even hear my pitch on why College Media Group is the best way to reach students directly on campus. So, if you’re planning to network, loosen up a bit, enjoy it and make some friends. (See my blog Air Guitar and Networking).

June 1, 2009

Air Guitar and Networking

Is this blog entry an excuse to talk about my obsession with air guitar? Perhaps… your point?

Networking isn’t always packaged into a suit and happy hour. The best networking happens in a tour bus after an air guitar competition, rocking out with Björn Türoque, Sanjar the Destroyer, Hot Lixx Hulahan (2008 World Air Guitar Champion) and the founders of the US Air Guitar Championships. Talk about meeting another founder when you least expect it.

So what does College Media have to do with Air Guitar? Who knows, maybe College Media can help promote the 2010 championships. Or we could collaborate on a College air guitar event. With or without a direct connection, just expanding your network of other entrepreneurs is almost always a good thing.

The point is: have your business card ready. Remember, networking won’t happen by simply sitting at your computer, so go out once in awhile and don’t be afraid to bring your air guitar!

May 19, 2009

How to Throw a Party! (Not your usual keggar)

If I could only list three…

1. Venue
2. Audience
3. Take some shots

1. The venue is everything. Choose either the hottest spot that your audience will want to go out of their way to be at or go with their already favorite, close by, Friday night spot. Not only is location key but you also want the venue to reflect the type of party you’re looking for: small and intimate vs. open space and very social, sitting drink in hand or body on the dance floor? This may seem obvious but last year I reserved a space and a night that turned out to be a little too low key for our Spring Break Escape party. It’s easy to assume that the party will form itself.

2. Your audience demands a certain type of party. Ask them what they want. Then deliver.

3. This could also be seen as bad advice. BUT if you planned your event right, formed a committee, delegated responsibilities, and had a great turn out then why not party too? And hey, if your party sucks, throw one back and cheers to next years’ event…event planning wouldn’t be a profession if just anyone could throw a great party.

May 14, 2009

Condoms and Candy: College Media Throws the Ultimate Hot Summer Party

Events, events, events. That’s how College Media is going to build a relationship with its audience. And so we did! Last Thursday we threw a hot summer party at Santa Fe Café. And yes, it was hot.

About two months ago I knew we were ready for another party. There’s just this itch I get where I’m like “I need to make sure college students know who we are.” What was so cool was that now that we’re on our sixth issue, students did know us. 

So to get started on the party planning, we chose our location: College Park. It's where we have the largest, most concentrated audience, so it's the best place for us to set the standard for our event reputation.

Anna, our PR director, took the reins on running the show: recruiting a talented committee, brainstorming themes, meeting with our contacts at Santa Fe, organizing sponsors for our raffle giveaways (from Rita’s Italian Ice to Hanami sushi), shopping for decorations and setting the script for the night. Anna rocked. I’ve planned our events in the past and to pass the responsibility onto someone new on the team made me realize that we’ve grown. I felt confident that Anna could pull it off from her enthusiasm right from the beginning.

So how did the party turn out? We had awesome decorations, all fitting with the red hot theme—red lamps hanging above our table, red candies, red mardi gras beads, a sick looking red banner (props to Ruben for making that happen) and the red hot chili pepper piñata. Yes, I said it, piñata, filled with two very important resources for students: condoms and candy. The health center on campus even donated the condoms!

Students were wearing the beads, signing up for the raffle and getting to know College mag. There were probably over 500 students there. The best part—we had College mag photographers there as paparazzi for the night. This was key for tying in our website, so now the night’s evidence is online at collegemagazine.compretty sneaky eh?

As I’m taking a College magazine shooter with our editors, Brian, Ashley and Ian and then another College mag shooter with Anna, and then another with, wait, I can’t remember, I thought to myself, wow, I may be out of the college scene, but this is great party.

Stay tuned to my post on the key to event planning.

May 11, 2009

How to Maximize a Press Trip

If I could only list 3…

1. Take notes in unusual situations
2. Interview that cool surfer dude
3. Think like your reader

1. Sure you had your note pad ready to go at the Sydney Opera house, but so did the rest of the world. You’re goal is to capture the real action. Sometimes the best parts of a press trip are when you’re dared to eat kangaroo, the bus driver plays a trick on everyone and you teach a bunch of foreigners how to play Kings. You’re probably too in the moment to think about documenting. It’s hard to do, but if you’re laughing or enjoying an experience, it’s probably worth writing down.

2. Who doesn’t like a good character? My strongest interviews stemmed from talking to real people that I thought were cool. Before I even thought about interviewing a subject, I asked myself whom I was absolutely dying to hear a story from. In this case, was it the student who went surfing for the first time or the surfer dude who sees tourists all over the world fall off their boards every day?

3. I’m fortunate to have a pretty awesome reader: college students. It’s important to always remember your audience. What does the student want to know? The top beers in Australia? Has anyone ever fallen on the bridge climb? How to hook up in a hostel and leave without an STI? Or D, all of the above?