PerkettPR’s “Persuasive Women” Series Continues with Aliza Sherman

Aliza Sherman is a Web pioneer and has worked as a digital strategist since 1992. She speaks around the world and writes about the Internet, social media, mobile marketing and new technologies, platforms, and apps. She is also known for her focus on women’s technology and business issues. Aliza specializes in making tech more accessible to humans.  And yes, she has been known to wear a pink tiara and boa at conferences! Aliza’s books include “The Everything Blogging Book,” “Streetwise Ecommerce,” and “PowerTools for Women in Business.” Her 8th book is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing” published in July 2011. Her 9th book is “Mom, Incorporated” and was co-written with Danielle Smith. She lives and works in Alaska.

You can read more about Aliza here or here.

You have done so much in your career. What role have you enjoyed the most?

I enjoy being an entrepreneur. I love the freedom, the creativity, and especially the variety. I also enjoy being a writer and public speaker because they provide opportunities to share knowledge, motivate, and inspire. For many years, my LinkedIn account has said “I am the wearer of many colorful hats.” This is my way of explaining that I can - and do - play multiple roles in business. I hate feeling trapped or limited. I fully subscribe to the idea that you’re “only limited by your imagination.” Too many of us try to crowbar ourselves into a single role or very distinct and immutable roles, and then wonder why we are frustrated or dissatisfied. I say break out of predefined roles. Create your own.

You have spoken before about empowering women to be public speakers. What words of wisdom can you share that can help a woman struggling with public speaking?

My efforts to support women as public speakers - and to be a resource to companies, organizations and conferences to help them find and book more female speakers - culminated into a group called Chain of Daisies. Every week, we share speaking opportunities, encourage each other to submit proposals to speak, and are sounding boards when we hit obstacles. From this group, I’ve learned that we all need mentors as we pursue new things - business mentors are common, but speaking mentors are valuable, too.

Find a mentor, someone whom you’ve seen speak and whose style you admire. You can also turn to a speaking coach to help you hone your presentation. If you are just starting out, speak often in front of audiences, and start charging right off the bat. Many women tend to speak for free, thinking that is the way to get their foot in the door. I’ve learned the hard way that each time I agreed to speak for free, the same event organizer was paying my male counterparts. Why? Because they asked to be paid.

And get video. I’ve been speaking professionally for over 16 years, however, there is very little video available of me speaking, and the footage that is available has poor lighting and sound. My goal for 2012 as a speaker is to make sure I get usable footage of several of my presentations so I can put it up on my website to better demonstrate what I can do. This might mean investing in a professional videographer, but that’s something that should pay off enormously.

As a mobile app pioneer, what do you envision for the mobile app market in 2012?

I’m not really a mobile apps pioneer, but I have been called a Web pioneer for my early work on the Web in the 90s. I tend to find myself at the forefront of where new media is going because I’m curious and totally enamored with technology. Maybe it’s my longtime love of science fiction, something that has driven my imagination since I was a little girl.

In 2006, I started providing social media marketing consulting. I began looking toward mobile a couple of years ago while everyone else was all aflutter about social media. I’m still interested in location-based social networks, QR codes and mobile apps for marketing, and am keeping an eye on the developments in augmented reality.

Folks in my industry tend to think something is “over” and the media will hype the “end of apps,” and yet the rest of the general public is just catching on. There is plenty of room for adoption growth, plenty of opportunity to participate - although if you’re an apps developer, you need to be thinking about an overall business model and not just “build a couple of cool apps.” As consumers, our expectation is high, but we also experience a lot of frustration because it is hard to find great apps that become ubiquitous for us.

I think mobile apps are still going to be huge in 2012, as well as hybrid blends of sites and apps, apps and the cloud. With the tremendous growth in the tablet computer market, the demand for great apps will increase as well.  Ultimately, techies and the marketers need to be careful about being too enamored with the next “big thing,” and understand the huge shift in the way all of us are consuming information, using products, and purchasing things.

We always have to make sure we take our blinders off and really look around. It is never really about the technology. It is about people.

In your book, Mom Incorporated, you focus on giving advice to women on how to take charge of their work/life balance by starting their own businesses. What are some tips you offer women who are eager to start their own business but are hesitant to do so, due to the shaky economy?

The first tip is “Stop using the word ‘balance.’” My co-author Danielle Smith and I like to say that “balance is a mythical bar that we hold over our own heads, and just when we think we’re getting close, someone moves the bar.” There are people who make a living trying to “teach” you how to be balanced but the truth is that everything is in flux, and you will always be striving for it yet never obtaining it.

So we use “juggle.” As moms with businesses, we juggle. We can’t be at 100% as a mom or as a business owner at the same time. We have to give ourselves a break, forgive ourselves for not being “perfect.” It isn’t about balance, it isn’t about perfection, it is about doing our best and having the conversations at home to create the system that works for us. We shouldn’t judge others, and we shouldn’t let it bother us when other people judge us.

Regarding the economy, Danielle and I haven’t encountered many women who are hesitant to start businesses in this economy. In fact, more than ever women are starting businesses from home because of financial motivations. Maybe their husband’s job was down-sized, maybe they need the extra income. There is no guaranteed job out there, and childcare can be even more challenging when you have smaller children at home.

So I’d encourage women to reach for business opportunities where they have experience or established leads, to more readily generate revenues that can help support their household. That means if you’ve been a publicist before and have the skills, start there, then build out your skill set over time to incorporate other services such as copywriting or social media marketing.

What are your favorite apps?

I’m an apps fanatic. I’d divide my apps into utility - the ones that are useful; social - the ones that help me publish and share; and entertainment - the ones that are my little “escapes.”

For utility, I use Google Apps a lot, including the iPhone app to access my email, calendar and shared documents. I am using Evernote more and more for everything from taking photos of receipts or whiteboards to voice memos to web clippings. I am also using the Cohuman app to build task lists for each of my projects that I can assign to others and manage from my laptop, iPad or iPhone.

For social, I love Instagram, Twitter and Foursquare. I also like GLMPS, Pinterest, Foodspotting and Trover. And I access Facebook and Google+ through their respective iPhone apps.

For entertainment, I’m hooked on Words With Friends, and usually have 15 to 20 games going at once. I also enjoy Drop7, Muddled, Bookworm, and Bejeweled.

Who or what inspires you each day?

I’m inspired by so many things every day. Being pretty isolated where I live in rural Alaska, I rely heavily on the Internet and NPR for my connection to the world, to the voices of interesting people, to stories, and to ideas.

As a mom who struggled to have a baby, and then struggled after pregnancy for several years, I feel like I’m finally coming into that place of being inspired by my own child. My daughter is 5-years-old now, and the stuff that she thinks about and talks about astounds me. I love her perspective on life, and hope to encourage her creativity, individuality, curiosity. I don’t want her to ever feel there are limits.

Being able to create and share what I create and to be able to connect with other people is inspiring to me. The Internet opened my eyes in 1987, and literally changed my life in 1992. I am inspired by the world, really. By people all around the world.

What do you have planned next for 2012?

The next part of the line in my LinkedIn profile after “I am the wearer of many colorful hats” is: “I love reinvention.” Every end-of-year, I go through a personal inventory of what I’ve done, and what else I hope to do. Then I shift gears, move in new directions, choose different paths. I will still bring some of what I’ve been doing - writing, speaking, consulting - into the New Year, but I’m really interested in finding new ways to share my knowledge with others in ways that are useful and valuable to them.

As a Sagittarius, I see more travel in my future but will also be more mindful of not being apart from my family as much as I was in 2011. So I’ll have to be more selective about where I go and why. I’m definitely going to take more advantage of video conferencing and video in general.

And I’ve been getting hired more and more to create and lead educational webinars about new media, social media, online marketing, and technology - so that fits perfectly into my vision of sharing information in new ways. I used to say in the early days of the Web, “Have modem, will travel.” Of course, the 2012 version of that is probably “Have iPhone, iPad, and wifi….can travel or work anywhere.”


Persuasive Picks for the week of 11/14/11

Why Social Media Works is a great article by
Joe Britton, CEO of Sugar Ventures LLC and provides some insight at Business Insider on to how advertisers can reach consumers through mobile and social media marketing.


MarketingProfs Ford Kanzler and H.Buford Barr explain the skills and attributes needed to be a successful PR pro; and how to adapt to current trends in today’s PR world in an article entitled Nine Essential Skills for Any Public Relations Professional.

David Nordfors, Adjunct Professor IDC Herzliya, asks Huffington Post readers “Who doesn’t want the survey-less society?” and explains how Web 2.0 is making it happen in his article Commemities: Analytics in the Age of Web 2.0.


Why Companies Should Invest in Google+ Brand Pages - Mashable publishing partner ClickZ explains “When Google makes a move in the social space, it’s important to pay attention to, understand, and identify how the offering can and should be leveraged for your business.”


Another article worth reading is Social Media Marketing Grows Among Small Businesses.  Are you a small business who utilizes social media to engage clients? Nathan Eddy at eWeek reports that you are not alone, a recent survey indicates that small businesses are allocating more time to social media marketing.



Pssst, We’re Recruiting, Spread the Word

I’m happy to say that we’re on the hunt for some new, innovative employees. I wanted to spread the word as much as possible, so in addition to updating our careers page on the web site, I interrupt our regularly-scheduled blogging to share the following details. Thanks in advance for passing it along.

Are you a PR 2.0 expert with proven experience in both traditional programs and new media? PerkettPR is recruiting!

PerkettPR is seeking Account Strategists who can demonstrate the proven ability to run traditional PR programs such as media relations, customer/partner programs, speaking engagements, events initiatives and grassroots campaigns, as well as new media and digital production: social media campaigns, video, podcasts, etc.

Specifically, you must:

  • have a minimum of five years related experience
  • demonstrate results or case studies in PR and new media as well as client service
  • be comfortable – experience preferred – working from a home office
  • have experience in technology but demonstrate a willingness to work in industries such as healthcare, fashion, travel, entertainment. If you have specific experience to bring to the table, please highlight it
  • have an entrepreneurial spirit
  • show us why you are a standout – what will you teach us?
  • do your homework – communicate your understanding of who we are, our culture and how we are unique in the industry

Ideally, you will:

  • have a sense of humor – for fun and for sanity!
  • be in or near Boston, NYC, San Francisco or Detroit
  • not lead with “why I want to work from home”
  • have PR agency experience or client service experience
  • be creative in how and where you apply/show us your work
  • understand the bigger picture and give us an idea of how you will not only help deliver the best client service but help our organization grow and innovate

BIG HINT: if you follow @PerkettPR on Twitter and DM us that you have sent a resume, it will be more noticeable…

Submit your details to careers(at)perkettpr(dot)com and in the subject line, please indicate the position (Account Strategist) and location, (Boston, NY, Detroit or San Francisco). Visit our website for more details. Thanks for reading.

Persuasive Picks for the week of 02/01/09

MC Hammer TransitionHow MC Hammer went from caricature to human being – the social media story
Jim Tobin from shares a few simple lessons for corporate marketers citing how MC Hammer has leveraged social media to help build his business and reputation with social media marketing.

ROI (Results on Insights) of Online Communities
Beth Kanter consistently offers up excellent information on her social media blog for non-profits. This post includes several perspectives and great links to additional supporting posts around the topic of ROI and Online Communities.

8 Questions to Ask Your “Social Media Expert”
Using a product or service doesn’t instantly make you an expert. How do you differentiate between the knowledgeable folks and the snake-oil salesmen in the social media space? Dave Fleet offers up 8 questions to ask any “Social Media Experts” you might be considering doing business with. Be sure to browse the comments for additional advice and opinions.

The Importance of a Social Media Support System
Are you the sole evangelist for deploying a social media strategy in your organization? Have you given much thought to how much support you’ll get from the rest of the organization? This post from marketer Jacob Morgan provides some food for thought in that area.

B2B Social Media Marketing: Why should you start?
Kate Brodock from the Other Side Group highlights last week’s post B2B social media marketing post from MarketingProfs and expand on it in the areas of brand outreach and thought leadership.

Not Everyone is as Amazing as Jason Calacanis

I’ve been reading and re-reading this post by Jason Calacanis from last Thursday, advising companies to fire their PR firms, in order to get PR for their startup. (Note, on Twitter, Calacanis claims, “For record, I didn’t say “fire your PR firm” - Alley Insider added it (although I do think most PR fees are wasted). I don’t link bait.” [sic])

As his post is yet another of what seems like a trillion blog posts about how everyone hates PR firms, and I just wrote about Arrington’s piece on a similar subject, I wasn’t going to address this one. But Friday evening my employee, Fred Han, implored me that I should have something to say. And I do – as did Fred. Our collective thoughts are below.

First off, as I read the piece I couldn’t help but think what a brilliant marketer Calacanis is. He had some great promotional ideas in this post – advice more likely to resonate with PR executives, ironically, than startup founders and CEOs.

Like Marc Benioff, Madonna, Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton, Calacanis knows how to spin his passion, ignite controversy and glean coverage for himself and his company. That being said, my second thought was that his summation of PR, “be amazing, be everywhere, be real,” was at the same time, brilliant and ridiculous.

It’s brilliant because yes, that’s what PR needs to accomplish – being everywhere and being “amazing” enough to stand out in a sea of overhyped, over-funded startups. Ridiculous because a) not everyone is capable of being “amazing,” b) most people hire PR firms because they don’t have time to be everywhere themselves, and c) just because someone is in PR doesn’t mean they aren’t real. To imply that those of us in PR are any less human, sincere or impassioned about our work is insulting and tiresome.

So his advice, while full of gems, is not realistic. As I Twittered myself last week, yes, CEOs could do their own PR. But trust me, most don’t have time for it (not enough to do a good job at it) and most do not have the ego and showmanship that it takes to be as successful as Calacanis has been. Madonna doesn’t have the best voice, Benioff did not create SaaS, Lohan is not the best actress or singer and, well, no one really knows what Hilton does – yet, they are “amazing” because they are brilliant at PR and marketing.

Not to mention that most CEOs are busy doing other things like, oh, running the business. I know Calacanis was too – but he seems to be the exception, not the rule. Most Founders/CEOs could do their own PR, sure – they could also take out their own garbage, book their own appointments, order their own coffee, keep their own books – heck, a lot of them could even fund their own companies. But most don’t. For a variety of reasons, they don’t.

I’ve said it before – PR is not brain surgery. It is a combination of common sense, passion, intuition and awareness. (Just as some athletes play but don’t excel, not all PR practitioners possess these attributes.) It is also very much about time. The biggest problem with PR is that PR firms try to squeeze higher profit margins by pressuring executives to do as much as possible in as little time as possible – hence the off-target pitches and other seemingly “lazy” tactics. PR practitioners don’t take the time to read enough, relate enough or participate enough because of the pressures from clients and agency leaders around billable time.

Calacanis is on to something by saying PR is “being everywhere, being real and being amazing,” but PR firms – believe it or not – can and do help with this.

How, you ask? BS, you say? Fred had some good points along these lines:

1. Be the brand

Calacanis says: If you look at any of the successful brands out there, chances are their leader is banging the drum: Mark Cuban lives for the Mavs, Kevin Rose lives for Digg, and you can’t get Loic to shut up about Seesmic. That’s how it should be. If you don’t love your brand why should anyone else.

Fred’s take: CEOs can love their brand but be horrible communicators - often using every buzzword in the book, yet not really saying anything. They often need help crafting messages and communicating differentiators that anyone can understand. PR can help identify and articulate messages that enable companies to stand out from the sea of competitive offerings. Good PR executives add a level of clarity and polish.

(Chris’ note: By the way this reminds me that PR, as many have implied, is much more than just media and blogger relations – there’s a whole other blog post pending around this topic!)

2. Be Everywhere

Calacanis says: If you and your team have committed to being the brand, the next step is being committed to being everywhere. Your job is to transfer the enthusiasm you feel for your brand to everyone you meet.

Fred’s take: Calacanis had a partner to help “hold the fort,” while he acted as a professional socialite. Many CEOs that I have met do not have this luxury, as they are the sole leader for their organization (at times, the sole employee).

PR helps the CEO “be everywhere” by being the eyes and ears of the organization, reading, researching and evaluating relevant articles, blog posts and content; and bringing the most relevant to the attention of the founder or CEO, with a recommendation on what to do with it – if anything. For example, commenting on a blog post, Twittering, reaching out to a reporter as a resource, etc. Good PR executives also recognize when the CEO or founder needs to be somewhere, and ensures he or she doesn’t miss the opportunity – and likewise, doesn’t waste time on irrelevant initiatives.

(Chris’ note: I think these two statements by Calacanis are two different things. Founders/CEOs can always transfer enthusiasm to everyone they meet; many are challenged to be everywhere without some help.)

3. Be a human being

Calacanis says: Journalists hate PR people and they hate being pitched. They do. It’s just a fact. Journalists and bloggers despise PR people, and if they say otherwise they are lying, placating you or just being diplomatic.

It’s a much better strategy to just be yourself and develop relationships with people in the industry slowly and organically. If you’re a good human being who is capable of both listening to people and engaging them in a dialogue then the “pitch” will just happen.

Fred’s take: The team at PerkettPR spends a lot of time establishing solid relationships with the community at large – from reporters and bloggers to business partners, customers, analysts and even relevant vendors. We have worked hard to develop a good reputation in our field for bringing value to both sides: clients and industry influencers.

Calacanis’ comment, “journalists and bloggers despise PR people,” is a little blind – like any profession, there are some PR executives that give this profession a bad name – unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in many professional services (imagine how big a hit the world of accounting took with the Arthur Andersen scandal) and not exclusive to PR.

4. How a CEO should e-mail a journalist

Calacanis says: The best thing for a CEO to do is to stay in regular communication with journalists and bloggers in their own, authentic voice via email…. If you do that once every other day for a year or so you’ll develop relationships with 50 to 100 important folks.

Fred’s take: The demanding nature of the CEO’s job makes it hard to communicate regularly with all employees and business partners, let alone journalists. This is very shortsighted and can only apply to those who have the luxury of being a professional socialite, as mentioned above. At the very least, PR teams can help a CEO stay on top of what each journalist or blogger is writing and what industry trend influencers are saying - and communicate his or her thoughts in response while, yes, remaining true to the brand. This ties back to several earlier comments around PR as extra eyes and ears, PR is not brain surgery and time is money.

(Chris’ note: We also help CEOs get comfortable – despite what Calacanis says, many CEOs freeze up at the thought of talking to a journalist. We help them to realize that bloggers and journalists are just people too – and we give them some of the very advice Calacanis is – mention something personal or comment on their latest article – or, in some cases, realize that the reporter is not into bonding and is all business, and go into the conversation accordingly.)

In summary, good PR executives are doing exactly what Jason is suggesting for CEOs and startup founders. We are being ourselves, developing relationships and are capable of both listening and engaging. I’ve built some extremely solid relationships this way through the likes of Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn and more. Granted, too many PR executives haven’t progressed to this way of thinking and are still executing what I like to call “traditional PR.”

Lumping us all into one despised, awful category is getting tiresome. We work hard to “be human” and for the most part, our agency, as an example, seems to “get it.” In Mike Arrington’s post comments, he said “Perkett is one of the good guys that I refer to in the last paragraph. When you guys call we pick up the phone. I’m surprised you thought this was aimed at you. Perhaps that sensitivity is what puts you ahead of most of your competitors.”

We hope his comment points to the fact that some PR executives do provide significant value. Then again, according to Calacanis, maybe Arrington was just being diplomatic.

What do you think?