Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Building Brand You

Today, I interviewed Rachel Weingarten, author of the new book, "Career and Corporate Cool," who talks about how she's created her own brand by helping others build Brand You in their careers.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Must I? teasing. I'm a Brooklyn based marketing strategist and president of GTK Marketing Group we create and implement marketing strategies, promotions and launches for beauty/fashion and entertainment related brands- lately we've been doing a lot with the publishing industry as well. I'm also a freelance writer and author who doesn't sleep much apparently!

Tell us about your new book, "Career and Corporate Cool(TM)."
I like to describe CAREER AND CORPORATE COOLâ„¢ as being a hybrid business/style guide. It's also been described as a business memoir which makes sense to me as well. It goes through many different career stages and situations in which you might find yourself, and tries to help you develop your own brand and style, and by style I don't mean simply the kind of shoes that you wear or designers that you do or do not favor, but rather how to integrate all of your own personal quirks from the way you dress to the way you sign off your email to build Brand You.

How did you develop the idea for this book?
It's been percolating for quite some time. I did my time in the corporate world, and let's just say that both the corporate world and I decided that it wasn't a great fit for the long haul. I've dabbled in many diverse industries- everything from being a celebrity makeup artist, to running a web shop in the early days of the internet, to owning a muffin business. Over the years I came to realize three things (well, more like 3,000 but these are the ones that led to the book.) 1. Over the course of a lifetime you go through many different jobs, industries and careers and you have to try on many different personalities and work styles. While there were books about cookie cutter rules for success, there weren't any that really encouraged you to discover and define your own while your career evolved. 2. Business books take themselves very seriously,and work can frequently border on the ridiculous. I wanted to make this book fun to read while also imparting valuable information that was culled the hard way which leads me to 3. It isn't easy to make your name in business if you're not connected. I did not go to the right schools, I do not come from a connected or rarified family, I didn't go to business school, but I did learn a lot on my own. I'm by nature someone who notices things, pays close attention and works to improve my personal and professional self. I've also been incredibly blessed to have met great mentors over the years who seem to have seen something in me. In many ways I wanted to act the mentor for women (and men) who didn't have the drive or opportunities that I have and to share some of the things that I learned along the way. I wanted to encourage people not to conform, but to figure out what makes them unique, marketable and a business commodity. Oh, and to make them laugh.

How did you find your agent/publisher?
I don't have an agent. I did have one briefly but for many reasons it seemed like a better idea for me to try to sell my books on my own. I'm extremely passionate about what I do, and felt uncomfortable with the notion of someone suggesting that I settle for less on all counts simply because it might make for an easy sell. I wanted the best publisher possible and am thrilled that my dream publisher believed in my book as much as I do. As for my publisher I did a lot of research on business books that I loved and kept coming back to Wiley. I then tried to craft a proposal that would make them realize why my book was perfect for them, and thankfully they agreed.

How long did it take you to research and write the book?
Well, I'm a student of life, so I'd been observing different work styles from the minute I entered the workforce. As for research and writing it was a grueling process. I couldn't take off much time from my day job, so I gave myself four months for the researching and writing. I got sick in the middle and was basically bed-ridden for about six weeks- the pressure was intense. I would never advise anyone taking that little time to write a book with that much, intense research in it. I interviewed over 100 people- everyone from Craig from Craig's List to Cindy Crawford to amazing business owners you've likely never heard of. I'd also like to state that I barely slept for the entire time, snapped at anyone I encountered and had no social life. Then there were revisions and the marketing madness began so start to finish I'd say it was about 7 months from germ to finished, polished product.

You talk about gender differences in the workplace in this book. What is an example of that from the book?
I think that there are so many tiny and subtle differences that it can be hard to narrow it down. Two come to mind immediately. A friend is in development for a tv series and has been talking about issues with his co-creator from as long as I know him. I advised numerous intricate ways in which he could approach said partner to talk about the issues, analyze comfort levels, etc. He basically just called, told him that they had to figure out the problems ASAP and that he was going to be calling in his own legal counsel. Both were fine with it and moved on quickly while I was still wondering if they should have tried to finesse it!

What percentage of your business is freelance writing for magazines, etc. vs. writing books?
I've written two books in just under 17 months, so it's been mostly books! That said, I've written some articles for my favorite magazines/newspapers along the way. I'd say that it was 80% books 20% magazines/newspaper/web for the past two years.

How do you develop your business plan and stay on course with your goals throughout the year?
Okay, that was just plain evil of you. See, here's the thing I am not good with external structure- even when self imposed. I am a free spirit and freelancer, albeit one who is vigilant about sticking to the paramaters of projects, so if I take on a client or project I can clearly define the relationship based on my proposals to them and subsequent contract. Being a mostly word of mouth business though, I have to always take into account that I will be approached with projects that are too good to turn down. I'm trying to find balance in my life though, so I suppose that a goal for me for this year would be adding relaxation to the mix!

What's next for you?
Promoting my book. It's a double edged sword being a marketer and author, because there's the added expectation and anticipation. I'm thrilled with what I'm putting together for the book launch, but frustrated because I don't have the leisure of making this my sole priority for now. After the hubbub dies down a bit, I'm going to be changing my business model slightly and hope to take a vacation- imagine that!

Give us your website and where else can we find your book? www.careerandcorporatecool.com The book will be available at bookstores/website nationwide and internationally.


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