Erika Napoletano is a snarky speaker, strategist, author, and columnist, hailed by Forbes as a “spinless spin doctor” for her BS-free perspectives on business, marketing, branding, and life in general. She's a twice-published author, including The Power of Unpopular (Wiley 2012), a columnist for both Entrepreneur Magazine and OPEN Forum, an acclaimed speaker from TEDx Boulder2012, and speaks at conferences across the U.S. on the inherent power of truth in business… or as she refers to it, the power of unpopularity. She lives in Boulder, Colorado and is the Head Redhead at RHW Media, a brand strategy firm that helps businesses get UNstuck and over those annoying problems that keep them from being awesome. Learn more about her at www.erikanapoletano.com.
1. What comes to mind when you hear, "Mourning Goats?"
Well, by the sound of it, I imagine some well-groomed goats frolicking in a field of flowers between the hours of 8:30 and 10AM. It's a happy thought, not one that goes with your chosen spelling of the first word.
2. You're a little bit different of a writer than my normal interviews, how would you describe yourself to my readers?
Well, someone recently described me as a cross between Lisa Lampanelli, Tina Fey, and Rachel Maddow. I kinda like it.
3. Your language could be described as brash, especially in the business world in which you operate. How do you justify your language...should you have to?
I don't justify it. Love me, hate me, just don't be indifferent. I love hearing from people that they were at first kinda turned off by my chosen vernacular but they sat back and read or listened...and now they're fans for life.
4. Does that language ever get you into trouble?
I have a simple rule: if you don't like the language I use, don't read my blog and don't hire me. Can I dial it back? OF COURSE! And I do quite frequently, especially for speaking engagements. My use of what some people would call naughty words doesn't diminish whatever message I'm sharing. So I'd say no, my potty mouth doesn't get me into trouble. The day it starts being more important than the message I'm sharing for the audience I'm trying to share it with? That's when I might need to have a look. For example -- I recently spoke at a conference with 1200 people. They received four complaints about my potty mouth. Statistically, that's 0.3% -- less than one percent. I don't know about you, but I'll take 0.3% of the people in any room not picking up what I'm putting down every day of every year.
Well, you should buy it if you're sick of shitty business books that are going to be outdated in 6 months. It's a guide to building a brand, a community around that brand, and the things we need to do to take care of that community. It's not a social media book. It's not one of those books with crappy worksheets at the end of each chapter. What it DOES have is a fantastic array of case studies, all of privately-owned businesses from a wide variety of industries, who are using the principles in the book to make their businesses successful and their audiences appreciative.
6. What's your writing process like? Do you have a spot, time, every day, when it hits you, what?
I'm a vomit writer. That means when I get an idea, I vomit it on the page, give it a once-over, and hit publish. It's kind of odd -- I rarely remember what I write unless I go back and re-read it later in the day!
7. I love your sleeve! What does it entail and what does it mean to you?
Well, it entails about 16 hours of work over a year, from November 2010 to November 2011. The sleeve depicts the journey from fear to strength to wisdom, and demonstrates that it's a cycle and not a one-time-process. I fucking love it.
8. What's the deal with hedgehogs?
They're cute and often look like hairbrushes. What's not to love?
9. You've done a lot of appearances, but what was it like doing the TEDx event in Boulder, last year? Craziness?
Doing TEDxBoulder was the single most transformative event of my professional career. In two months, I went from not knowing what the hell I was going to talk about to giving the talk of a lifetime with a standing ovation from 1200 people. How's that for a process? It also completely changed the way I do speaking events and prepare for them -- I owe the change in that process to Erin Weed, the speaking coach I worked with during the 2 weeks prior to the event. She helped me face my truth which made me able to write and hone the talk that everyone saw that evening. And the best part of the whole thing was calling my mom on the way to the airport the next morning and telling her that her kid got a standing ovation. Fuck. Yeah.
10. Is social media what makes or breaks most marketing these days? Is it a necessity?
I think there's entirely too much talk about social media and not enough talk about WHY businesses do what they do and figuring out for WHOM they're doing it. The answer is never "to make money" or "I'm doing it for US" -- you have to find your WHY and WHO. And no, I don't think social media is a necessity. If you're in the semiconductor industry, your audience probably hangs out in different places online and you shouldn't be concerned with building a damned Facebook page. Social is only a component of a marketing strategy -- and any successful strategy comes down to WHY, WHO, and then your business' special thing, the HOW. Social media won't make up for a poorly-focused marketing strategy. In fact, it can probably kill it before it ever has the chance to succeed.
11. Do you ever take any time off? It seems like you're always working!
I take weekends off. I also take small vacations and am planning a bigger vacation later this year to Nepal to do a trek to Everest Base Camp. I work to live, not the other way around! Oddly enough, when I lived to work, I wasn't really doing any living at all.
12. I love how much respect you have, and demand from, your followers on facebook. I don't really have a question for this one, just really appreciate it, where did it come from? Most people would just let everyone say whatever they want, but you demand more from your folks.
Well, I'm not in a place to demand anything from my audience. I think they demand more of me. The Facebook community has grown into something of its own -- it's not the blog audience, it's not Twitter. It's just a kickass group of people who want to be inspired and who in turn, inspire me. Every day, I'm amazed at where this page has come to in just a few short years. Facebook's changes be damned, we're all still here and kicking!
13. A lot of the readers here are writers themselves, what's the number one piece of advice you'd give writers on branding themselves for success?
Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken!
14. What's the most important part of pitching an idea?
Every pitch should have an emotional appeal to your desired audience. If you can't demonstrate (show, don't tell) why anyone should care about what you're offering, they won't.
15. Your "Buy Me Coffee" session sounds badass, can you tell the readers what they entail and why they would consider it?
It IS badass! It's a one-hour, high-octane, one-on-one session with me to help people get UNstuck. Bring your challenges and questions and the entire hour is about you, your business, and your life. At the end, I offer to-dos, potential introductions where appropriate, and other tips, trick, and resources to get folks from where they are to F#%K YEAH. My clients have ranged from CEOs of multi-million dollar companies to emerging entrepreneurs. Not a single one of them is the same!
16. I see that both of your books are on kindle. What are your thoughts on the e-book revolution?
I love that readers can devour my books in nearly any format they like. I read books in both physical and digital formats. I do think that publishers need to get up to speed with eBook royalty rates and marketing so they're in line with the changing way people consume content. Authors should be paid comparable royalty rates for digital sales and physical book sales. More, even, because there are no printing, shipping, or inventory costs for digital editions. There are fabulous publishers out there doing great things with enhanced eBooks with embedded digital-only content that I'm loving. I would love to see the value-adds continue along this trend. If I can do it for a downloadable eBook I offer, why can't publishers?
17. If you could sum up your own brand, would it be GSD? I feel like the simplicity of it is the brilliance.
My brand is unpopular thoughts and blunt advice -- delivered. No one ever got anything awesome in life from being polite. They did, however, make epic shit happen because they and the people who surround them were honest and respectful. Don't like it? Don't read my stuff or hire me. I want my life filled with people who want to make epic shit happen.
18. Is it really as bad as it sounds to be a redhead?
Aside from the fact that we molt instead of tan in the summers, I think being a redhead is pretty badass.
19. What's been the most exciting part of your career thus far?
Realizing that it can become anything I want it to become. Yeah -- that. I'm the only thing standing in my way every day and learning to get the hell out of my own way? That was a damn valuable lesson learned.
20. What's next for Erika Napoletano and Redhead Writing?
Well, come hang out with us! New things are coming along every week, but there's some exciting stuff in the works. If I told you now some of the ideas, maybe you wouldn't come back. Better to let you get to know them on your terms instead of me telling you about them, dontacha think?
Also, check out her TedX talk, here!
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And, pre-order Chewing the Page: The Mourning Goats Interviews, now!