Something on the side

I’ve always had a little something on the side.

And before you start clutching your pearls—I mean I’ve never had just one job.

Even in high school, working part time for the local news weekly, the Iroquois Post, I wrote reviews and roundup pieces for a radical librarian’s magazine in Toronto (It was the 70s). I would on occasion, on the way to my first post-university job in publishing, stop in at Fran’s to eat waffles doused in raspberry syrup with a friend who was an editor with a women’s magazine in Winnipeg—and walk away with paying assignments.

When I worked in advertising and was morally bound not to work for competitors, I did magazine pieces. And while working client side, I’d pick up freelance copywriting gigs from former colleagues who liked my style and knew my reputation for getting things done well and on time.

When I’m at my day job, it gets my full attention. But the rest of my hours belong to me—as is how I choose to use them.

Side gigs are now seen as a collection of part-time jobs that millennials have to string together to survive. I’ve viewed mine as a continuum, modular components that formed the building blocks of a more varied and interesting (and yes, more lucrative) career. My work “on the side” is also my “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” insurance against the whims of the job market and it’s been a good way to stay connected to the broader communications industry while I’ve spent years enjoying a regular paycheque writing for a very niche sector.

I’m not the only one. Variety makes one stretch, ultimately making talent shine brighter. Kurt Vonnegut did PR for General Electric and wrote for Sports Illustrated. Toni Morrison spent her daylight hours as a textbook editor. And my personal hero, Jane Trahey, ran her own successful Madison Avenue ad agency while designing greeting cards for a major retailer, writing a bushel of books and getting her plays produced on Broadway.

Clearly I’m in good company. And I feel lucky to have a naturally mobile ability. Isn’t that a prime component of the “new” economy? Job security in the form of transferable skills?

I guess I was just ahead of my time.

 

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Case study: Costco Canada Catalogue Content

Smart, targeted content that delivers brand personality

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Dealing with intelligent, savvy clients with a clear vision of the audience they’re trying to reach results in great work. While a stroll through their mega-sized stores gives the impression that there’s something for everyone at Costco, this smart retailer does target several market segments, including secondary and tertiary audiences of newly marrieds, young male technology buffs and small business owners. Still their primary target is she who has the most retail clout, the maturing Gen X or Baby Boom female shopper.

According to experts like Carol Orsborn, co-author of Boom: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer, the Baby Boomer Woman, this group of female consumers controls 80% to 85% of purchases for the home—and is far more likely to own or be involved with a small or home business than other target markets. Reaching the mature female consumer is essential to successful large-scale retail like that of Costco.

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Following the creation of a branding guide to be used by internal marketing staff, seed president Joy Parks was charged with creating the “story” content for the retailer’s annual catalogue. While much of the piece is product driven, a decision had been made to use the front-of-book sections that provide information on membership and overall offerings, as well as department introduction pages, to provide the audience with a taste of the Costco brand personality. The information pages were written in a conversational, welcoming and helpful tone. Out of several options provided, Costco choose the “My Costco” theme for the introduction pages as a means offering shoppers a sense of ownership in the store and to reinforce loyalty. As is the case with effective content, these pages of emotion-driven copy were more about the audience’s needs than Costco’s offering.

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The content provided for the catalogue has been used for several years running, refreshed with new photography. The main client contact, Shannon Ambrose, Director of Marketing at Costco Canada, satisfied with the results, has assigned other work. She also notes that, “After taking the time to get to know our business and our project, Joy crafted texts that not only captured the message we were looking for, but she did so in a timely manner, meeting deadlines, and going over and above to get the tone of the piece perfect. “

To see more of the catalogue content, click on the links below.

http://seedcreativecontent.com/entries/branded-content/2011-costco-catalogue

http://seedcreativecontent.com/entries/consumer/costco-catalogue-pages

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Download a PDF of this case study.

Costco Case Study

Making a case for case studies

I’m in the middle of planning a case study section for seed’s website (why do I always get the BIG-CHANGE-GROW ideas when there’s plenty of paying work on my desk?) and I’m wondering if they’re still widely viewed as an effective marketing tool? Do you suggest them to your clients? Do you use case studies? Do you read those offered by suppliers? Or are they just a means of self-love? What do you think?

Work sucks…

This piece from my personal blog, Her Joyful Noise, seemed appropriate here.

Her Joyful Noise

That got your attention.

And yes, I do have a better vocabulary than that. But trust me, it’s the appropriate word.

Hopefully you didn’t click here because you know where my day job is, you’ve been reading the papers, and you might think you’re in for some inside dirt. Same goes for those who thought this was going to be a confession of laziness. And for colleagues who thought they might catch me in a crime against the social media policy…got ya!

Maybe what I should have said is…jobs suck. Not my job, but what appears to constitute a job these days. I thought it was only me, but a major Canadian bank has validated my opinion.  

I am a want ad/professional call for candidates junkie. Even if I’m happily employed or otherwise booked up, I can’t help myself. I have to check out one, some or all the…

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Who are your heroes?

According to my mother, when I was quite young, I would cut photos of detergent or face powder or toys out of magazines and catalogues, paste them to a piece of paper, write a story about why they were good things to have and make a presentation to the dolls and stuffed toys I had assembled around my kiddy table. When I watched “Bewitched,” it wasn’t Samantha and her magic family that interested me, it was Darren’s work at McMann and Tate that held my attention.

These were obviously signs of things to come.

Despite what the writers of Mad Men would have you believe, little girls who wanted to be advertising creatives (and when I look around at agency biz events, I’m thinking there were more of us than one would have expected) had our role models. There was Shirley Polykoff, creator of the famous “Does she…or doesn’t she?” campaign. There was Mary Lawrence Wells, who took the idea of branded content to new levels when her agency not only did a campaign for Braniff Airlines, but also decided on the décor of the planes and the outfits for the flight attendants. And there was my personal fav, Jane Trahey, who set a new standard for fashion content in the years when she was a force in Neiman-Marcus’ advertising and later opened her own New York shop where she won clients like Elizabeth Arden and created the famous Blackglama Furs campaign.  In addition, she wrote plays and a handful of books, one being On Women & Power, that was pretty much an early roadmap on how women could get and keep high-powered jobs. I’ve given a half dozen copies away to women I thought could use the moral support—and I continue to seek out copies in used bookstores.

These days I’m reading people like George Lois, Lee Clow and others—plus the content “specialists” like Joe Pulizzi or David Meerman Scott (whom I liked even more when I found his book World Wide Rave free on Kobo. How generous.)

Perhaps some of you didn’t start planning your career while preparing for first grade, but I’m thinking if they would have made a line of collectible cards featuring advertising executives (the kind that used to come with that stick of pink powdery gum with the consistency of Bristol board), I would have collected the whole set.

Hummm…there’s a product idea.

Everyone needs a hero. And whether you get ideas or the courage or the strength to stay focused from someone writing about the industry or elsewhere, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you make an effort to find the motivation that keeps you raising your personal bar and going after what you want.

A post from my personal blog that seemed fitting for this audience…

Her Joyful Noise

According to a handful of psychics who made practical predictions for 2013 (not the ones who speak of asteroids the size of Texas, President Obama revealing his “real” agenda and what famous celebrities ought to guard their health) along with a slew of articles about the job-less recovery and some personal observations, I think it’s safe to agree that in the future, there will be far fewer jobs.

But a whole lot of work. Someone’s got to do it.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been told this. Back in the late nineties, the term free agent was first applied to those other than professional athletes. Having been in an industry that was powered by freelancers, I didn’t see anything unusual about it. But then free agency was viewed as something performed by talented professionals with scads of work-life balance, who commanded huge fees from their chic modern home offices…

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