While I was still in school earning my BA in Writing, my Writing for Advertising professor told me I had a talent for copywriting. She suggested I offer to write a few print ads or press releases free of charge, to jump-start my career, build my book and get my name out in the industry.
The first chance I got was writing a press release for a little pizza place up in Wisconsin. The owner of the restaurant happened to be my cousin, Ben. I’m sure he thought it would be a mistake to let the cousin he hadn’t seen in 10+ years who “wanted to be a writer” write a press release for his business. Nevertheless, he did. And because I’d never written one before, and he was a relative, I wouldn’t accept payment.
His only creative direction was this: “Our November pizza of the month is Lutefisk.” Here, he paused for reaction, and when he got none – I had no idea what “lutefisk” was – he continued, “so, I’d like it to have a lighthearted, northern humor.”
I ran down to my local Blockbuster and asked the guy behind the counter for a comedy – with northern humor. He handed me “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” a comedy that takes place in a small Minnesota town. I was hoping it had the kind of northern humor my cousin was talking about.
What came from this piece was this: All three newspapers in town printed the full release and my cousin received a call from the producers of the NPR show “The Splendid Table” with Lynn Rosetta Casper. She interviewed Ben on-air and his restaurant sold out of pizza faster than you can say “Gelatinous Goo.”
My writing career had begun (it wasn’t the first time pizza prepared me for my career). From there I wrote everything from training manuals to web ads, sales letters to website copy, video scripts to feature articles and newsletters. I did all of this at night after a full day at a marketing agency where I was learning the ropes of promotions, mobile tours, sweepstakes, and other off-the-cuff ways to increase awareness, engage consumers and create brand loyalty.
By 2008, Social Media had become the new buzz-word, and I knew I’d found my calling. As it turned out, a background in marketing coupled with killer writing skills and strategic thinking was the perfect formula for a career in social media.
Back in college, my creative writing instructor used to say “write what you know!” It’s still a well-worn principle in the writing industry. But I disagree. I say, do your research! If there’s something about which you want to write, learn it! Why be stuck in the rut of only writing about what you know at the time? Stretch your creative muscles, challenge yourself, and grow! You just might surprise yourself.
I did. And it all started with a lutefisk pie. You Betcha!