Brand Interview – Miriam Cohen, Miriam Cohen Consulting
How long has your company been in business? Please tell us a bit about your company, its mission, goals…
I left Corporate America in 2002 and never looked back. Miriam Cohen Consulting began life as a marketing and advertising firm that provided strategic writing, marketing and sales documents as well as copywriting services. The initial mission was — and in many ways still is — to bring big business expertise to small businesses and solopreneurs. It’s extremely important to me that I believe in my clients and their products or services, and I’ve been very selective about the people with whom I work.
In the early years I also had the opportunity to do a significant amount of content generation for the outsourcing company, workaholics4hire.com. I had to jump into the online software and social media worlds since I was ghostwriting for some well-known experts in those fields. I fell in love with that work too and am delighted that it helped me offer a broader and more complete package of services to my clients.
Do you donate to charities? Tell us about that also and why.
I feel very strongly about giving back to society and helping those who are less fortunate than I am, but have to admit that the type of contributions I give has changed over time. When I was in Corporate I never had the time to do anything more than write a check, and was happy to do so for a core group of charities that reflect my personal beliefs. Now I am more likely to donate my time and services to organizations like The 23rd Street Association, where I still hold a seat on the Board of Directors.
How did you know what typeface (font) would be right for your company wordmark or logo? How did you decide on the right color palette to fit your company look and feel?
My company provides an umbrella of services and I didn’t want to be limited by generic visuals, which are common to writers or marketing people. My designer and I chose an integrated color palette that, I believe, reflects my personality and, hopefully, softens my image compared to the bright dominant backgrounds that I use on some of my printed materials. The decision to use the company initials was an easy one as I wanted a quick reminder of the longer name.
In choosing the typeface I wanted something that would be easily readable both on and off-line, as well as in various sizes. It’s also clean and modern looking, which are the traits I was looking to convey. Plus, since the face is classic, it works well with many typefaces that might be used in presenting my content to clients or showing my samples online.
How did you decide which type of designer to work with, or did you design your own identity and web presence?
I definitely worked with a designer, actually someone I met through mutual friends. I was extremely comfortable with his creative portfolio, which featured a lot of logos and package graphics. I‘m pretty good with simple graphics and layouts as I create guerilla marketing materials all the time but would never have tried to create something with such innate longevity.
The designer and I spent some time together, discussing what image I wanted to create, what my long term plans and goals for the business were, what kind of clients I was looking to attract and how I wanted to use the design. In my case, I was most interested in something I could use on business cards, forms and simple documents so we were able to go with a standard typeface in order to keep costs down.
In what order did you present your company to the world? Did you start with marketing and products, or website, blog and social media?
Given the type of services I offer, I did not need to develop products or service packages at the start. I began with what I’d call a soft launch, by calling my corporate and social contacts (which led to some really interesting, long term assignments), attending networking meetings and, generally, just getting my name out there. I answered some Craigslist ads as well but referrals were the source of almost all my projects for the first few years.
In terms of online promotion, I’ve been very much the proverbial shoemaker’s daughter: always too busy working on clients’ websites, blogs and social media posts to do real marketing for myself. It’s literally taken me years to get my own website done and I credit you, Susan, for helping me bring it to life. Although the site’s still in beta, I’m now committed to giving myself as much marketing support as I give to my clients.
How long after the launch of your company did you start pitching in social media?
I was a pretty early adopter when it comes to Twitter, less so with Facebook and now I really try to stay on top of what other venues there are. Understanding social media and how to use it effectively has become a critical part of my business and it keeps me on my toes. That’s great, though, because I’ve always loved learning new things and new categories.
I’m excited about the changes that social media has brought to marketing and product promotion. There is so much more that can be done for free or on a shoe string budget; that’s essential to helping small businesses and one-person shops.
What trends do you see happening in your field and how have you adapted your business to fit the changing landscape?
There used to be a clear definition between being a copywriter and a ghostwriter, but the line is now blurred because there is so much more content generation and demand for authenticity. When people heard “copywriter” they thought pushy, advertising and promotional materials and, in the last decade or so, website copy. Being a ghostwriter was considered to be a totally different animal, something that related to books (especially biographies) and articles.
Now, even some of the best writers employ a ghost to help them create the myriad of informational products they need to promote their own businesses. In fact, the practice is so widespread that I was delighted to be mentioned in an Entrepreneur article on the subject along with Guy Kawasaki‘s ghostwriter. In general, people need someone who straddles both types of writing so that personality shines through, while authenticity, image and compelling copy are combined together as appropriate.
People are especially concerned about the appearance of being authentic, and I try to assure them that their reputation is intact because I’m working with their ideas, new product ideas and the like. In many ways I act as their alter-ego and, of course, nothing gets posted or printed without client approval.
There’s another critical change that’s taken place and it relates to SEO. As social media sites proliferate, some marketers are discounting the importance of SEO. I think that’s a mistake because a huge majority of people still primarily use the net to search. Also, whether you call it SEO or keyword integration, the concept is the same.
Did you do research or study any software, take webinars, teleclasses, before approaching any area of your marketing or web presence?
Let’s just say that I started my business with almost 30 years of on the job training in general advertising and direct marketing. That included years of using Microsoft software to help analyze data, mine mailing lists and create product user loyalty programs. The categories I worked on were very diverse and included pharmaceuticals and over the counter drugs, classic package goods, an airline and a startup telecommunications company. There was one insane period where I worked on both Crayola and an Atlantic City casino at the same time.
I certainly took a lot of webinars and teleclasses on social media before I even considered offering services in that field. In addition, I’ve also found that online writing has an entire rulebook of its own, especially when it comes to SEO and keywords. It seems like every day I learn something new or add another tool to the toolbox.
Do you do any paid advertising for your own business? What do you recommend to your clients and why?
I’m not considering paid advertising for myself but, since other ghostwriters and copywriters do use Adwords, I’m not going to say never. Outside of developing television, radio, print, outdoor and online banner ads during my corporate life, I’ve not done much paid advertising for clients. It’s not a big part of what I do because my specialty is in free marketing and public relations.
When you printed your products, packaging, business cards and other print marketing did you choose an online printer or visit a local vendor?
My very first business cards needed to be ready within 24 hours so I could attend a big networking activity. That meant I went to the local Kinkos and had plain black type only cards made. Subsequently I worked with an online service, first using its stock images and then my own logo when it was ready.
For clients, my recommendations are based on the established marketing and image goals. I probably would strongly suggest working with a local printer if proofing and the intricacy of the art warrants it. I have one client whose target audience was COOs and CFOs. The art director and I turned her original request for a brochure into a full direct mail package which also served as a high-quality leave behind. We didn’t use a local printer but the art director went on press.
Have you ever used “green” technology in printing, using FSC certified papers or recycled paper and if not, how likely are you at trying this on a next project?
I think of online as exceptionally “green,” so, in that regard, yes I’m green. At the moment the only printed materials I have are business cards and, I’m sad to say, I don’t remember if they were made from recycled paper. I’m certainly going to recommend “green” technology to my clients who do print, especially as I suspect the costs have come down considerably in the last few years (at least I hope so).
Is there anything you haven’t yet tackled, but will want to do soon?
In Corporate I presented on a regular basis and loved the entire process — especially the give and take with an audience. Whether it was to clients or staff, the ability to share what I know and help people integrate that information into the work they were doing was incredibly satisfying. I’m really looking forward to bringing that expertise to the forefront again and hope to add professional speaking to my services in the very near future.
To learn more about Miriam Cohen, visit the links below:
Google+: Miriam on Google+
- Branding: Stand Out From the Crowd
- Brand Interview – Robert Neubecker, Author and Illustrator