Top 5 Memories of 2014 & HSL Around the Web: December

My Top 5 Memories of 2014

My Top 5 Memories of 2014

Wow, here I sit writing to you on the last day of 2014. What a year it has been! My top 5 highlights of 2014 that come to mind are: performing in Mary Poppins, attending the Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder after-Tony party with Spotco in Rockefeller Center, visiting Charleston for the first time, running the Virginia 4-Miler, and traveling to California in October.

Work has been incredible this year. I worked a lot of hours but I’ve seen really solid results. HSL Creative has grown and transformed and so have I. While reflecting on 2014 is fun, I’m way more jazzed about looking forward to 2015. This is a big year. I’ll be focusing a lot of my efforts on working as a brand journalist with Pursuant, a fundraising agency. My goal with my work with Pursuant is to help the nonprofit clients we serve share their exciting and moving stories, whether it’s through a video, a blog post, a magazine article or even a podcast.

My work with HSL Creative will continue in the form of consulting, strategy and workshops. Our first workshop of the year is Blogging for Business at Toolry on January 17. It’s $50–a steal–for the knowledge and practical help you’ll walk away with.

More on the excitement of 2015 in my next post. For now a look back on all the places I’ve been published around the web this month. Happy Holidays!!

The HSL Creative Blog
Announcing the HSL Creative Blogging Workshop
Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur
5 Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers 

The Clutch Guide Blog
6 Tips to Avoid Becoming the Grinch This Christmas

Forefront Blog
A Leader’s Mentor

Lynchburg Business
9 Secrets to Improving Your Website Content

The Digital Drip
Pursuant Gives Back: Repairing Wells Through Global Aid Network
Happy Holidays from Pursuant

And I also launched a side project that brings fairytale and superhero characters to life for children’s events and parties in Virginia: Enchanting Entertainment Company. Check it out!

Hilary is Principal at HSL Creative. She’s also an entrepreneur, musical theatre performer, and a brand journalist with Pursuant. Learn more about all of that at HSLCreative.com. Oh and connect with her on Twitter too! 

Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

5 Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two Careers

Five Reasons Every Artist Should Have Two CareersWhen people find out that I do multiple things (writing, social media, acting) they often sort of shake their heads in bewilderment. I want to take them by both shoulders and say, “you should do more than one thing too!” In lieu of that potentially awkward moment, I’m writing this blog post.

Especially for my artist, musician, actor, dreamer friends, I want to encourage you to pursue your craft and consider pursuing something else alongside it. After spending four years as a professional actor, I knew to have the lifestyle I wanted to live and to be inspired and engaged with the work I was doing on a daily basis I would need to pursue a second career. Of course there are the exceptions, but by and large, getting a second skill is only going to improve your life.

Here’s why you should have two jobs

1. You don’t have to let your dream die. I’m not proposing that you give up the keys to your dream for a life in Office Space. If I’m the first person to tell you this, move in a little closer. Pursuing a second career doesn’t mean you’re selling out, it means you’re opening up more doors for yourself. You don’t have to give up the certainty that you’ll be making a decent living because you want to be in a band or be an actor. Pursuing a second career gives you the opportunity to pursue your passion without resenting it for making you really, really broke. Pursue a second career so you won’t get to that dark place of cursing your career when you can’t make rent.

2. You become more marketable. Whether it’s a second skill directly tied to your first love (learning how to sew so you can step into the costume, learning how to run sound so you can take over the board if a band needs a sound tech) or one completely different (ie me with journalism and acting), having more than one skill makes you more valuable in the overall marketplace. You never know what open door leads to the next, so simply becoming a more useful worker overall is a very, very good move.

3. It gives you options. You know what the problem is with acquiring only one skill in a tough market? If there’s no use for that skill at the moment, then you’re out of work–or out of the kind of work that you actually like doing. If the idea of waiting tables between gigs til you’re north of 60 sounds kind of awful to you, I urge you to rethink your plan! If you are a passionate, talented person, there’s no doubt that other industries would jump at the opportunity to use your talent, passion and heck, charm (cause we know you got it!) for their cause. What about real estate? What about social media? What about yoga? What about entrepreneurship? Draft up a list of things that people have told you you’re good at, you feel personally are your strengths and things that you like (*besides* your first love career). Start there.

4. You can make an impact in the lives of more people. If you work across several fields you will be making a greater impact on more people. Not only will “show people” know you but so will marketing people or nonprofit people or real estate people or church people. You get the idea. If you want to do something significant with your life and leave a legacy, consider how you may have an even greater impact if you work in more than one field.

5. When someone says “no” it’s not over for you. One of the biggest advantages of having more than one skill is that you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. If that gig that you’re really hoping for doesn’t pan out it doesn’t mean you have to go back to the worst-job-ever. You get to go back to your “in-between-gigs” job that is fulfilling, purposeful and rewarding. Isn’t that so much better than going back to your minimum wage job where you’re really not using your strengths?

Bottom line: your passion/first love career is your main thing. It’s your identifier. But don’t let your passion for that career keep you from having a meaningful day to day existence in your work. Reinvention is always acceptable. Adding on a second skill or heck, business, is a good thing! So think about what else sparks your interest, the other things you’re good at, and how could you use the skills that you’ve developed for your art in other marketable ways. Remember, the artists who are at the pinnacle of their careers aren’t doing just one thing. Whether they create new companies, (hello Jessica Alba), or invest in startups, or go back and forth between acting and music, your role models aren’t just focused on one career. So why should you?

If you found this post interesting or helpful would you do me a solid and share it? 

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative and has become pretty comfortable with her “slash” title: Writer/Actor/Social Media Specialist. Learn more about her work at HSLCreative.com.

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur

Gift Guide for the Entrepreneur: 10 things for that person who you fully expect to take over the world one day

Gift Guide for the EntrepreneurIf you have a hustling, creative, self-starter in your life, my guess is that they would go nuts for any of the following items on this list. Happy Holidays!

1. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Full disclosure: my latest podcast obsession is #AskGaryVee. The main thesis of JJJRH is that though communication is still key, context matters more than ever. It’s not just about developing great content, it’s about developing high-quality content that’s perfectly created to blend in on specific social media platforms and mobile devices. Anybody who has something to promote online should read this book.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006227306X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=006227306X&linkCode=as2&tag=thhscrbl-20&linkId=FAKPIIRVFIUSWOGW

 

2. Subscription to Audible.com. We’re all busy here. Why not get a subscription for that busy person in your life and let them read while they exercise or drive? The Audible subscription includes one audiobook per month. Perfect!

3. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. This New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller was written by one of my favorite bloggers and podcast hosts, Michael Hyatt. Recently, Forbes magazine named him one of the “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.” In this book Michael unpacks how to let the world know about your incredible message by building a platform that gets you noticed.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/159555503X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=159555503X&linkCode=as2&tag=thhscrbl-20&linkId=6M3R5KHACD4GZS6Z

 

4. Premium Skillshare subscriptionSkillshare is a super cool online community where you can take classes from some of the country’s leading experts. Topics range from building a logo to starting a business. It is one inspiring place. Plus, Seth Godin even  lectures here.

5. Fast Company. This magazine has gotten my wheels turning about trends in technology and business many a time. Fast Company inspires a new breed of innovative and creative thought leaders who are actively inventing the future of business. When I look through the pages of Fast Company I see role model after role model. This magazine will inspire and challenge your entrepreneur.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002GCU2SA/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B002GCU2SA&linkCode=as2&tag=thhscrbl-20&linkId=4PKWDHHFNPTKSK5Q

 

6. A photography session. Every aspiring entrepreneur, thought leader or creative needs professional images on his or her website and social profiles. In today’s image-focused social landscape, pictures are everything. To say they will enhance your online presence is a gross understatement. (Photographers I’ve worked with and love: Foster & Asher, Adam Barnes Fine Art Photography, Billy B Photography, Deb Knoske, Ty Hester)

7. The 4-Hour WorkweekThis book has had maybe more of an influence on the way I work than any other book I’ve read in the last five years. In its pitch the 4-Hour Workweek says Tim Ferris will “teach you how to escape the 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich.” Well, I can’t say I’ve quite joined the new rich yet, but Ferris’ book is chock full of helpful ideas to help you do more of what matters and less of what gleans you a less valuable pay off. This is a GREAT book.

8. BluehostSo web hosting is not a sexy gift, you say? It IS! I say. Your creative knows he/she needs a self-hosted site to really run with the big dogs and show the world he/she is serious about his/her endeavor. (This very blog is moving to a self-hosted site in January.) Sometimes its hard to make that initial investment. Give them the gift of Bluehost and do it for them.

9. Success Magazine. This subscription was actually not one I sought out for myself; my dad got me a 2-year subscription last Christmas. Oh how I love it. I appreciate that the stories are not dumbed down for the multi-tasking millennial generation. They are long and in-depth. In addition–my favorite part of the magazine–it comes with an audio CD with in-depth interviews based on the focus of the magazine that month. Just last night I was listening to an interview about significance. It has challenged and inspired me on my drives more than once. Well worth it.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0088RB35I/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0088RB35I&linkCode=as2&tag=thhscrbl-20&linkId=TCE2HWCPMSKQ6MKJ

 

10. Creativity, Inc.  By Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, Creativity, Inc. was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal. This book takes you behind the curtain at one of the most innovative companies of the 20th & 21st centuries. Forbes said it “just might be the best business book ever written.” Listen to Forbes people. 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0812993012/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0812993012&linkCode=as2&tag=thhscrbl-20&linkId=ZNUV3VLRFNZR2XB2

 

There you have it! If you read this and see items that you’d love you might ought to reshare it or send it to a family member as a helpful hint. It couldn’t hurt. ;-)

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative, a writing and social media firm. Learn more at HSLCreative.com.

HSL Creative Blogging Workshop at Toolry in Lynchburg, VA

Announcing the First HSL Creative Blogging Workshop

HSL Creative Blogging Workshop at Toolry in Lynchburg, VAI’m so thrilled to announce that I will be leading a workshop at Toolry (the massively inspirational co-working space in downtown Lynchburg) on January 17.

This workshop is all about taking the headache out of blogging for your business. If you’re a small-business owner, employee, artisan or even an Etsy shop owner, this workshop is for you.

Did you know that websites with a blog receive 55% more traffic than those that don’t?

At this workshop you’ll learn blogging best practices, how to create an editorial calendar, and you’ll leave with a ton of great post ideas. Guaranteed.

This workshop would also make an incredible gift for the creative entrepreneur in your life.

Experiences>Stuff.

Join me {in person} in Lynchburg on January 17! 

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative, a writing and social media firm. She’s written some 700 blog posts. Yep, you read that right. 

HSL Creative Around the Web: November

6 November Articles You Might Have Missed: HSL Creative Around the Web

HSL Creative Around the Web: November

HSL Creative Around the Web: November

Happy Thanksgiving HSL readers!

November has been an incredible month around here. I (Hilary) got to attend the Internet Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina earlier this month. I got to hear from some of the leading digital media and marketing minds in the country. In addition to that, as you can see, I got to write quite a bit! Things have also been progressing with the social media class I teach at SNHU and with the social media work I do with Spotco. I’m writing this today from New York. Over the next few days I’ll be seeing several of the shows I work on…On the Town tonight and This is Our Youth on Friday. Very exciting!

Here’s where I’ve been published around the web this month:

Medium
Why Two Careers are Better Than One

Levo League
What You Can Learn About Setting Goals from Mark Zuckerberg

Forefront Magazine
Protecting the Shield By Building Players’ Brands

The HSL Creative Blog
On “The Internet of Things” and 10 Other Actionable Items I heard at #ISUM14
How to Write a Blog Post That Actually Gets Read

The Clutch Guide
7 Cool Weather Races to Run in Central Virginia

What has November looked like for you? I’d love to hear the highlights!

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative. To learn more about HSL Creative click here.

Steve Wozniak speaking at Internet Summit 2014

On “The Internet of Things” and 10 other actionable items I heard at #ISUM14

On "the Internet of Things" and 10 Other Actionable Items I Learned at #ISUM14

On “the Internet of Things” and 10 Other Actionable Items I Learned at #ISUM14

Last week I got to attend the Internet Summit in Raleigh, North Carolina where I got two days chock full of the latest in digital strategies, content marketing, social media, SEO, email marketing, and analytics. A week later and my mind is still spinning with all the awesome advice I heard and all the ideas I’m ready to implement. Today I want to share with you ten of the best actionable items I heard.

1. Since Google Authorship went away, use Linkedin publishing for credibility & thought leadership. -Cara Rousseau, Duke University (Tweet that!

2. Find someone like me, tell about how you solved a problem like mine, I’ll trust you. -Chris Moody, Oracle (Tweet that!)

3. Websites that blog receive 55% more traffic than those that don’t. -Matthew Capala, Search Decoder (Tweet that!)

4. You have to be as good on social media as Amazon, Walmart ,etc—that’s where your customers are. -Heidi Cohen (Tweet that!)

5. Instead of making it about you, make it about your audience and your customers and what they care about. -Leigh George, PhD (Tweet that!)

6. 80% of people delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their mobile device. -Jodi Wearn, SilverPop (Tweet that!)

7. Asking for and getting money from customers is the best form of feedback on an idea! -Eric Morrow, Google (Tweet that!)

8. 80% of people who open your email are only scanning it. Capture the big idea of your email with a bold image and strong headline. -Christopher Lester, Emma (Tweet that!)

9. The average consumer unlocks their phone 110 times a day. -Robin Wheeler (Tweet that!)

10. The “Internet of Things” is where technology is going. Every item in your home will be connected to the Internet. Your printer will be able to order its own paper. Your car will drive itself. Autonomous everything. -David Pogue, Yahoo (Tweet that!)

11. “What motivates you to do your best? Being personally excited and motivated internally.” -Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder (Tweet that!)

Guys, this was only a portion of the great information I received last week. I’m so energized to implement this stuff for all of my HSL Creative clients.

Be honest with me—have you heard of “The Internet of Things” before this post?

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative and is a life-long student of how humans use social media. Learn more about HSL Creative at HilarySutton.com.

How to write a blog post that actually gets read

How to Write a Blog Post That Actually Gets Read

How to write a blog post that actually gets read Picture this: a friend shares an article on Facebook. The title sounds interesting so you click on it. About a paragraph in you realize it sounds familiar. Wait–this post was circulating around the Internet a solid year ago. And you clicked on it then too! Here it is making the rounds on news feeds all over again. Has this happened to you?

This is a prime example of why blogging is arguably the most effective online marketing tool a company can use. A well-written, engaging, informative post can live on and attract new readers (and maybe some who’ve already read it once), new site visitors and potential customers for months and even years after it has been written.

So how do you write a compelling post that gets shared again and again?

How To Write a Blog Post People Want to Read

1. Make it digestable. Keep paragraphs short; three or four sentences are perfect. A reader should be able to glance over the entire post and not feel bogged down in any given paragraph. They should feel like they can read the entire post in two minutes or less.

2. Keep it between 300 and 700 words. Shorter is not always better but longer is almost always worse. There is no more distracting technological medium than the web so make sure your posts are concise so the user actually reads it from start to finish. If it’s not incredibly sharp they will move on to the next article before finishing yours.

3. Include an image. Photos draw readers into the story you are telling. The image should help you tell your story better. You can get stock images online or grab your smartphone and take them yourself.

4. Make the purpose of the post clear from the start. Being coy does not work in online writing. If you do not make the point crystal clear in the first few sentences you’ve lost your readers.

5. Don’t throw away your headline. The most important part of the post is the headline. Make your title compelling. This is your chance to draw your reader in with a tantalizing question or a promise. Pay attention to the kind of headlines that catch your eye online and adopt similar habits.

6. Get comfortable in your voice. Your blog posts need to sound like you at your most polished, well-organized, and confident. Include personal stories. Be authentic. Your blog will resonate with people when you write with honesty and candor.

7. Finish with a question or call to action. Give your readers an opportunity to respond whether it’s by answering a question or clicking through to your website. Never simply end a post with a concluding thought. Give your audience an opportunity to engage. That is the beauty of this technology: the two-way conversation.

Blogging is one of the greatest opportunities to create lasting content on the web. When done well, blogging is an incredible tool to use to establish credibility, build a personal brand, and increase web traffic.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to blogging?

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative, a writing and social media firm. To learn more about Hilary’s work visit HilarySutton.com. A version of this article originally appeared in Lynchburg Business Magazine.

HSL Around the Web: October in Review

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 9.25.48 PM

Juan-Carlos and me in San Francisco

October came and went before I had time to blink! I finished up Little Mermaid, celebrated my mom’s birthday with the family for a few days in Florida, celebrated my 2nd wedding anniversary with a trip to California and then celebrated my husband’s birthday in Washington D.C. I’m afraid I missed some of Virginia’s prettiest leaves but I think all that celebrating was worth it. In the mean time, here are a few pieces I wrote over the last month. Enjoy!

8 Surprising Lessons Running Taught Me About Goal-setting
H
ave you ever worked toward and succeeded at a fitness goal? I’d love to hear your story.

8 Podcasts You Should Listen To This Week
Truth be told: I listen to podcasts when I’m running and in the shower. Are you a podcast-aholic too? What are your favorites?

What You Can Learn from Taylor Swift About Killing It on Social Media
Did you hear more people bought her record in its first week than any other album since 2002?

I’ve got some exciting pieces coming down the pipe in the next month so stay tuned!

Hilary is Principal at HSL Creative, a writing and social media firm. Learn more about Hilary’s work at HilarySutton.com. You can also keep up with HSL Creative on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

Taylor Swift has over 12 million followers on Instagram.

What You Can Learn from Taylor Swift About Killing It on Social Media

Taylor Swift has over 12 million followers on Instagram.

Taylor Swift has over 12 million followers on Instagram.

If you’ve glanced at social media this week you’re no doubt aware that Taylor Swift released her first official pop album. While I haven’t listened to it (sorry, it’s not on Spotify [yet]), I can’t help but notice Swift’s impressive public persona–especially how she is killing it on Instagram.

So what can other artists, leaders, and entrepreneurs learn from the way Swift makes social media work for her? Here’s a few points.

How Taylor Swift is Crushing It on Instagram

1. She looks fun and accessible. Swift’s Instagram is full of cute photos with fans, artsy shots of polaroids, and handwritten lyrics and videos that show that the artist who rakes in $64 million a year is just like us. See here for proof–because who among us has not gotten excited when we saw our friend on TV?

2. She posts regularly. Swift’s campaign (yes, it’s most definitely a campaign) leading up to her album release includes new content that was posted regularly. We’re talking four Instagram photos a day. Each one was an insider teaser for a different song on the album. That sweet spot of not too frequent, not too sporadic posting is different for everyone. But Taylor knows her Instagram obsessed fans are on their smartphones all the time and want their Taylor fix. So she gives it to them. But notice–her face only shows up in 1 out of every 10 posts. Overexposure? Taylor’s not having it.

3. Taylor’s posts make you feel like you’re on the inside. You’re not a fan, you’re a friend. One of my writing mantras is “write like a person!” and Swift does just that. Each caption sounds like she’s writing to one of her best pals. Taylor isn’t just “thanking all the fans out there,” she is inviting them to her house for album listening parties, baking them cookies and looking person after person in the eye and showing them that she’s noticing them. She communicates this same approach to her fans on social media by posting photos with them and writing captions as if she’s friends with everyone who reads them. She is not high and mighty; she’s the artist of the people. That’s why her fans are so fiercely loyal. Tay is their homegirl!

4. She plays to her strengths. Swift’s draw is that she is accessible in an Oprah, Jimmy Fallon, Neal Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres kind of way. She is not mysterious like Johnny Depp, Jay-Z or Angelina Jolie. Her strength is being warm, likable and relatable so Swift works that to the max. She is naturally charming and wears her feelings on her sleeve (or in her lyrics) for all to see. That is one of Swift’s strongest advantages.

6. The Instagram campaign leading up to the album release was well thought out and planned. The days leading up to the album release included snippets of song lyrics written longhand on polaroids. These old school photographs are about as cozy and familiar as fans can get to Taylor through social media. Even before the countdown to the album was on, Taylor posted hints toward a big event, short videos and images to hint to fans that something was in the works.

The combination of Swift’s warm persona, her face time with fans, a creative Instagram campaign and her commitment to posting consistently have made Taylor Swift a social media rockstar. The campaign has clearly been working for her. Her album is set to go platinum this week–a feat that hasn’t happened for any artist since, well, Swift did the same thing two years ago with her last album. *Drops mic.*

Hilary is Principal of HSL Creative, a writing and social media firm. She’s also a social media professor at SNHU and loves analyzing this stuff. For more on Hilary visit HilarySutton.com.