your shot of strategy

Integrated Marketing Gone Wild: Bud Light and Super Bowl XLVII

Super Bowl Sunday is arguably the biggest day in American sports and inarguably the biggest day in advertising.

With the Super Bowl happening here in New York (ahem, New Jersey) this year, it was incredible to me as a marketer to see the millions of dollars poured into advertising opportunities here on the ground leading up to the big game. And none was as audacious – and thus as fascinating to me – as Bud Light.

Bud Light has historically spent obscene amounts on sports and every other kind of marketing, but their Super Bowl NYC integration was something I just had to see for myself.

So yesterday before the game, I went for a run up Manhattan’s West Side Highway to witness the Bud Light Hotel: an entire cruise ship repurposed to an epic party boat, including a massive party tent and also taking over the entire Intrepid war ship museum for concerts and events throughout the weekend. Security and special passes everywhere. It was only 4pm and I could feel the DJ’s bass pumping from the running path.

Fox Business reports:

Bud Light rebranded everything on the ship, from signs, to pillows to bottles of shampoo. And the transformation wasn’t cheap. Crews worked a total of 1,500 man hours to prepare 300,000 square feet of event space, including the ship’s 45 bars and restaurants and 1,900 staterooms, for guests.

Even though I’m not a personal fan of the brand (craft beer snob; pass the Rogue), I experienced a wave of intense event marketing envy. After years of stretching marketing budgets to the max, I dream of being able to blow out an event on that level. It was spectacular from a branding perspective – see photos below.

>Read my quick & dirty explanation of how big brands measure this kind of reach
>Watch my interview with one of NYC’s top beverage event producers

What was your favorite Super Bowl marketing initiative or ad campaign? Do you think it’s all about shock & awe shows of logos, or is it about being the most memorable?


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Happy New Year – It’s Goal Time.

Back by popular demand, it’s my Game Plan Goal Setting Guide, 2014 Edition!

Click here to download it free now

I make this guide to share because I believe that the world’s a better place when we’re pursuing what we truly want and supporting each other along the way. So feel free to forward, post, tweet, beam, and otherwise share with your favorite people.

Thank you – and here’s wishing you your very best year yet!

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On Maximization

One of the best (and most sobering) books I read this year was Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice.

It’s well-summarized in his TED Talk, but the gist is this: options bring freedom only to a point, and after that, they cause stress… or worse. We approach life as either maximizers (must have the best!) or satisficers (I’m good with that!), and suffer or prosper accordingly.

It’s easy to imagine how maximizing could wreak havoc on your personal life – constantly comparison-shopping, from choosing a winter coat to choosing a restaurant in Manhattan. Schwartz’s advice is to take decision stress out of the little things (breakfast, workouts) to free up space for the things that matter (careers, partners).

In a similar way, too much choice can lead to analysis paralysis in business. This is why my friends at Worst of All Design only deliver a specific number of logo options to each client: too many options results in lack of decisiveness and second-guessing one’s (often right) first instinct.

While it’s good to consider all your options for business growth and promotion, it’s vital to know your product and value proposition so well that those options are never infinite.

When I fall into the trap of too many options, the antidote is advice from someone who “gets it” – where I am, who I am, what I offer, what needs to get done. But even that can only take me so far.

Action – taking a reasonable risk and getting to work on one of my strongest options – is usually the best way to see if it’s going to be a freeway or a dead end. And then, once a decision is made, stick with it and see it through – give it all the resources, effort, and attention it deserves. Movement breeds momentum breeds results.

In marketing, I encourage my clients to do less maximizing when it comes to target audience and more maximizing when it comes to systems and impact. In other words: focus the audience you want to reach, but create as many strategic ways of reaching them as possible, supported by a strategic infrastructure that builds audience – and eventually clients, even fans, and in the ideal case, evangelists.

The way to do this is to make sure that materials, systems, and communications are polished and effective, empowering the rest of the company. Yes, it will evolve and improve over time, but selecting the right initial direction with strategy and style will ensure that your valuable time is spent perfecting instead of just planning.

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Stephen Sondheim: Failure, Passion, and Motivation to Write

I’m juggling ideas for a few books right now, and welcomed this clarity from one of my ultimate professional heroes:

“It was a respectable show. It was not a lambasted by the critics.
It was very politely received, and politely received by the audience.
And it had no passion, and no blood, and no reason to BE.
And I learned from that:
The only reason to write is from love.
You must not write because you think it’s going to be a hit, because it’s expedient, or anything like that.
It’s so difficult to write, it’s so difficult to put on a show; better, if you have the privilege of being able to to write it,
Write it out of passion.
That’s what failure taught me, and that was the real failure.”

- Stephen Sondheim on “Do I Hear a Waltz?”
From the documentary Six by Sondheim (currently on HBO On Demand)
(I will sing it for you if you ask nicely)
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New HuffPo: What To Do When You Hit a Real Business Plateau

In my latest article over on The Huffington Post, I confront a business problem that happens to almost everyone: What do you do when you hit a plateau?

Especially in the past year, a good number of my clients have been existing businesses that needed to hit their next level, even if they weren’t sure what that next level would be. Their disparate solutions ended up falling into four broad categories:

Relaunch: The company whose expansion meant refining its branding and image in a more competitive landscape.

Expand: The company that hit the magical threshold of systemization and had the ideal platform to launch in a new market.

Pivot: The collaborator who is building an industry-agnostic business providing new networking models for business development.

Close: The organization that started with a pivot, then realized the model as a whole had reached its natural end point. The owners were able to gracefully bid adieu to their company and clients, eager to find their personal next chapters.

The trick of being a CEO or strategic leader is that sometimes it’s impossible to see the big picture when you are inside it every day. I value the opportunity to be that outside eye bringing fresh perspective to solve big business challenges.

Huffington Post: Starting-Over A Business: When to Relaunch, Pivot, Expand, or Close Up Shop

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The Audience: Introducing My Webseries on Marketing, Business, and Career

The Audience

Today marks the online premiere of my webseries The Audience! This is my passion project, and I designed it for you if you are building a business or evolving your career.

Visit The Audience main page to watch, and please share to your professional and social networks on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

I’m delighted by this project, and very grateful to finally launch it.

But in the spirit of teachable moments, I want to tell you the real story of why it took 1.5 years to release three 8-minute episodes.

For the most part, I make it look like I’m hustling on the regular. Oh look, she’s running a business! Running a marathon! Running her mouth about what people should stop doing!

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of consulting people who have a vision for their ideal business or career, it’s that we find all kinds of excuses and distractions to avoid doing what we truly want to do most.

You know what my biggest dream has been for the past few years? To have a TV show about business: sharing success principles grounded in reality, interviewing people who have both succeeded and failed, and reducing the fear factor in going for it, full out. Using TV as a vehicle is not about being on TV, it’s because TV is the most widely accessible way of getting info out to everyone; helping as many people as possible identify their professional goals and develop a concrete plan to accomplishing them. I believe that good information should be accessible to everyone, not just those who can hire people like me to make it happen.

And then I realized: the Internet is the new TV. Duh.

So I grabbed my long-time partner-in-crime-and-creative-projects Pamela Ralat and we decided to make a pilot. A pilot turned into multiple episodes shot in one day at my office in Soho and on location at Tuffet, with generous participation from Camera Whiz Niknaz Tavakolian and the interviewees you’ll see on screen. Everything went perfectly!

Then I sat on the damn show for 19 months.

Why? Well, yes, we had to take care of graphics and editing to make it poppin’, but Pam is a pro so that happened pretty swiftly. The main reason I held up the process was out of my own fear. Because it’s no big deal if people don’t like something you don’t care that much about, but it’s a huge dent to the ego if people don’t love the thing you created and love most.

Meanwhile, I constantly sit across the consulting table from clients, just like I do in The Audience, and tell them that of course they can go for the thing they want to do most! My role is to give them a structure so that they do it with strategy and style, and of course, find their perfect audience. (And then I say that if they don’t do it, someone else will… which usually lights a fire under their ass.)

So, while I may not be the only advice-giver on YouTube, my goal is to be the best combination of useful, based-on-reality, clear, not obnoxious, more-discovery-less-guru-y, and delivering 110% more hip hop beats.

Most of all, thank you to the people who are my own OF COURSE YOU CAN team, whether they realize it or not: Babs, Brette, Gray, Jeff, Darbi, George, Neil, Summer, and The Audience crew. You are the olive in my martini.

Now go watch it already!

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There is no formula for professional success

I’m sorry to be the one to have to break it to you. But you keep buying into this idea that there is a formula for success and if you just take the right class, hire the right guru, or read the right book, you will be showered with fame and riches and respect.

I know because I do it too. I get sucked in time and time again to the latest buzzword, program, article, book. But the only time these things contribute to my success is when I selectively apply some (not all) of the concepts to some (not all) of my projects. No one book or TED talk or expert has ever laid out an approach that I could follow to the exclusion of other information in order to reach my goals.

One of my favorite business journalists, Nathaniel Hindman, published an excellent article in WSJ called “Why Startup Stories Are Not Blueprints for Success,” about how this is constantly ignored in the startup world:

Entrepreneurship makes for great stories… But great narratives aren’t the only thing fueling our collective consumption of startup stories. The road to building a successful company is long and winding, and everyone is looking for a map. So it’s only natural that in this uncertain world entrepreneurs sift through stories about their peers for signals to guide their own vision. They should be careful. Even the most objective accounts of startups are subject to media pressures that make them dubious as how-to guides.

When I teach, consult, and write, I am extremely careful to explain that I focus on teaching principles, strategy, and best practices. Yes, I do teach tools, but I will explain my reasoning based on that wider strategic perspective. Here’s how I explain it in my book:

The absence of five-step plans, specific roadmaps, and timelines may be frustrating, but a cookie-cutter guide that wants you to take the same approach as everyone else in your job market isn’t going to serve you well in the long run. Instead, take responsibility for your own career destiny, and continue the development of your own unique approach to your lifelong career path… I don’t want you to become dependent. I want you to be independent. Strategic. Smart. Creative. It’s more challenging terrain than simply following a map, but it will set you up for greater success and satisfaction.

I operate my business and my content based on the teach-a-man-to-fish proverb. I want you to understand the strategy so you can make smarter decisions, whether I’m on your team for two days or two years.

This is also why my expertise is potentially more effective: it is based on a very wide view of what has made real-world companies succeed or fail, not one specific process employed by one company or industry. Creativity and innovation die in a vacuum.

Whether you are working with me or another consultant, coach, teacher, author, or guide, it is up to you to think critically and make any process your own; to throw out what doesn’t work and keep what does through trial and error. But to think that there won’t be error is foolish. There is only one you; so there is only one unique path to your specific success.

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Unlocking Publicity – My Free PR Seminar on October 29

The next session of DIYPR is fast-approaching, so to get you warmed up I’m presenting a one-time-only free preview. It’s a call-in seminar so you can access it from anywhere. Check it out below, RSVP, and alert your network!

Unlocking Publicity: From Fear to Formula

Publicity: you want it, but how can you get it if you’re not quite ready to put a PR firm on retainer? Join Ciara Pressler, marketing strategist and creator of DIYPR: Publicity Bootcamp, to get real-world advice on creating an effective publicity strategy for your business. Get the download on publicity materials, PR protocol, perfecting your pitch, and creating real relationships with journalists – all while staying aligned with your brand and goals. Find out how to demystify marketing to gain exposure and build valuable connections, and walk away with a fresh framework to assess and evolve your business.

Free 45-minute Call-in Seminar
Tuesday, October 29
2:00pm Eastern / 11:00am Pacific
RSVP to to get the call-in number.
Click here to RSVP on Facebook

This is a FREE preview of DIYPR, returning November 13/14 in NYC – full details and application here.


Check the props from my in-person seminar



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Shout Out: Pavan Bahl of OSFashion

Today’s shout out is for creative entrepreneur Pavan Bahl, founder of Open Source Fashion.

I met him at ConnectorCon (seriously the best networking event, be there Oct 26) and we started a conversation about our mutual passion for bringing business savvy to artists, designers, and creatives.

Since then he launched the first-ever Freestyle Fashion Conference in NYC and continues to publish a generous newsletter including the most interesting upcoming fashion/business events.

Check out his site and get on the OSFashion list

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Shout Out: Crystalyn of Crystalyn Kae Handbags

More Business Karma goodness – today a shout out to a friend, entrepreneur, and newly-minted New Yorker…

When I’m at my snarkiest, I like to loudly pronounce things like “The last thing the world needs is another handbag line.”

Then people like Crystalyn come along so the Universe can give me the sweetest possible middle finger.

For 12 years – yes you read that correctly – in the atmosphere of small businesses that rarely make it to five, Crystalyn has been in the game for 12 years with her namesake line, designing eco-chic bags since before it was popular. I have fond memories of all my friends sporting CK’s in Brooklyn back in ’05 before we even had kale juice to properly accessorize.

And then this year, Crystalyn took the incredible leap of relocating her business – and her life – from Seattle to New York City.

Now, it’s one thing to move to NYC when you’re 22 and all full of naive hope and idealism; it’s quite another to move to one of the toughest cities in the world when you are an established 30-something and have to not only find an apartment, but new supply chains and design space for a whole damn business.

But Crystalyn has embraced her new chapter wholeheartedly, diving into classes, conferences, and networking with an open spirit and enthusiasm.

May we all create new career chapters with such grace and optimism.

Now check out Crystalyn’s site and do some early holiday shopping! You’re welcome.

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