OK, that wasn’t precisely my reaction when I found out that a man whose business I’d been promoting was under investigation for fraud. And that his assets had been seized by the Secret Service.
I was angry and alarmed: Would I ever get paid? Would my reputation be damaged? Could I recover from my link to a man who allegedly ran a multi-million dollar scam?
I still won’t pretend to be happy about what happened. But I did learn an important lesson about the value of relationships. A lot of good has come out of this awful mess because of the genuine connections I made with people I met during my short tenure with the client.
I listened to the heartbreaking stories investors shared with me and, at first, I had little to offer but empathy and a bit of humor to ease their sense of financial and emotional betrayal. But gradually, some of the talk turned to new business.
Someone needs personal branding help, someone else needs product marketing strategy, and I’ve chatted with a few people about the possibility of selling their stories as a book or movie deal.
From lost money comes the potential for new income. I’m excited about these new ventures not only because they bring the promise of honest financial rewards but because they would give me the chance to work with people I’ve come to like and respect. Plus, I love happy endings, and what could be sweeter than getting the last laugh on a con artist?
I do not recommend my recent experience to anyone. But I do highly endorse the daily, career-long practice of relationship marketing. Yes, a conversation takes longer than a sales pitch, and not every connection has a price tag attached. Brand yourself as likable, however, and jobs and clients you never expected will come to you.
Penultimate Pencil Peddler
Years ago, there was a man selling pencils on a street corner in New York. The long-haired, slightly disheveled man looked like a homeless person, and most passersby avoided eye contact with him even if they dropped a dollar in his pencil holder before moving on.
One person — the publisher of a large Midwest newspaper — took the time to say hello, realized the guy was selling pencils to support a charity and casually mentioned he was interviewing prospects for a managing editor. Two weeks later, the guy showed up in the Ohio newsroom — his long hair tied in a pony tail — and reporters snickered behind his back.
I did one simple thing that none of my peers did — I said hello to the man who was immediately hired as managing editor and quickly rose to executive editor. He remembered me favorably from that day forward. When he sent me to New York on assignment, he made certain I had the phone numbers of all of his friends and every hospital in the city (I was eight months pregnant at the time). And when I gave birth to my elder daughter, he was the first person from the newspaper to call to congratulate me — and he promised to hold my job no matter how long I remained on maternity leave.
Grave Laws of Gravity
Do you faithfully retweet every post of the social media superstars in your circles and more or less ignore anyone who has fewer followers than you? Do you suck up to CEOs and hang up on sales clerks?
If so, why? Influencers come and go, and sales clerks become CEOs. Rising stars fall — and don’t always survive the impact.
Treat everyone the same — and well.
The guy who looks like a street bum could end up being your boss. The man who promises you millions could be running a Ponzi scheme.
And based on appearances or spreadsheets, you may not be able to tell the difference.
My advice? When in doubt, be nice.
Katherine Kotaw — Branding Strategist and Storyteller, KOTAW Content Marketing, Los Angeles, CA
Meet Katherine, a song lyric mangling, dog loving, iced tea guzzling CEO and entrepreneur who’s inspired by the words of Dr. Seuss, the spunkiness of Mary Tyler Moore, and the wardrobe of That Girl’s Ann Marie.
Katherine is the founder, spirit and Chief Storyteller of KOTAW Content Marketing, a Los Angeles-headquartered international boutique digital marketing company specializing in branding through storytelling.
KOTAW is Katherine’s passion project, the culmination of over 20 years’ experience in journalism, marketing, and business.
KOTAW was built from the treasured memories, lessons, experiences and stories collected by Katherine throughout her professional career, which has included an apprenticeship with advertising legend Steve Frankfurt, covering the Olympics as a reporter, writing two New York Times acclaimed books — one, a best-selling business parable, the other a memoir recently adapted for the silver screen and greenlit for Fall 2014 production.
Fueled by dark chocolate almond clusters (by the fist-full) and an unwavering lifelong passion for words, Katherine spends her days and nights creating marketing and branding magic for individuals and companies through the power of storytelling.
Connect with Katherine!