Dare Mighty Things - mantra for all entrepreneurs and creators

December 18, 2015
One of my favorite quotes is quite apropos for all entrepreneurs and creatives:

It is not the critic who counts; nor the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of a deed could have done better.

The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually strive to do deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends oneself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he or she fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

- Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt photo courtesy of: Biography.com


Cialdini - The Science of Persuasion

October 13, 2015
I love being involved with the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business serving on the Marketing Executive Board. As part of my involvement there, I agreed to be the first participant in professor Jennifer Osbon's book club with marketing students. Tomorrow night I will be discussing Cialdini's fantastic book:

Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini (affiliate link)

Here is a cool illustrated video that explains the concepts in the book:

Hope you enjoy,


48in48 - Making History For Non-Profits In Atlanta

October 11, 2015
When my friend, former boss, mentor, and now client, Jeff Hilimire told me about his idea many months ago to build 48 websites for 48 non-profits in 48 hours, my immediate response was "I am in". Most non-profits are more focused on doing good, than looking good, so the strong digital marketing community here in Atlanta could pitch in our talents to help them attract, convert, and retain donors and volunteers.

So much planning and preparation went into the 48in48 weekend. Over the course of the weekend, something like 250 total volunteers and sponsors played small and large parts in the Herculean effort. At the General Assembly space within Ponce City Market, there was palpable excitement and exceptional teamwork that fueled the sleep deprived, but well fed volunteers.

I volunteered AgencySparks to write a blog post for each of the non-profits - to make sure they had some content to get them started towards their own content creation efforts. I recruited friends who were strong writers to assist, and boy did they come through:

16 volunteers offered to each write three posts. Some of them (Julie Marateck, Steve Denker, Keith Hanks, and Nancy Prager) stopped by to write their posts in person. Some of them brought treats for other volunteers, and
Keith even helped me hand out 100+ Chick-fil-A sandwiches on one of our four runs to homeless shelters to distribute leftovers donations from Arby's, Flying Biscuit (thanks to Twitter), and Moe's. I was also blown away that two of my friends (Amanda Smith and Elysse Miller), who moved away from Atlanta years ago, still pitched in remotely.

We did it! We built all 48 websites! Of course all of the non-profits were "winners", but on Sunday evening, we were able to celebrate together with some esteemed judges, who chose some of the top websites and the teams who built them.

Not only did each of us that were heavily involved feel a strong sense of camaraderie and accomplishment throughout the weekend, but also a sense of relief at the end, when we reached our goal.

I tried to document the entire experience. Here is Jeff's excellent postBelow are some of my photos taken over the course of the weekend:

Some of the general volunteers

Sponsors (including AgencySparks)

Amy G. Martin and me LATE Friday night

Hygiene supplies

Quiet room to provide volunteers a little rest

Volunteers waiting for one of the prize drawings held every four hours

Many people brought treats for the volunteers including this cake

Finished home pages taped over original non-profit homepages

48in48 founders - Jeff Hilimire and Adam Walker with philanthropist and former NFL star - Warrick Dunn

48in48 judges

Thank you to everyone involved with this amazing effort. We look forward to helping 48in48 go national in 2016!



Active Atlanta #JobSeekers - August 2015

August 10, 2015
Note: This post is the seventh in a (#JobSeeker) series that I am publishing to help those who are seeking their dream job. There are several tips that I feel incrementally increase your chance of being hired. These tips require hard work to implement, but the "sweat equity" will pay dividends when you land the job you have been coveting.

I thought it would be good for me to highlight candidates here in Atlanta that have approached me because they are interested in finding their next challenge. If you are interested in talking to any of the candidates listed below, please reach out to me at: Joe [at] AgencySparks.com and I can tell you more about them and potentially connect you.

I have attempted to segment the candidates seeking jobs by the level of the role they are seeking:

CFO - 23 years experience - experience helping startups and more established companies grow
CMO - 25 years experience as CMO at 4 publicly traded B2B companies
CMO - 17 years experience - Established startup CMO and PR pro
CMO - 25 years experience - Seasoned leader focused on wellness and CPG
CMO - 28 years experience - Consumer marketing and brand strategy expert
VP of eCommerce - 22 years experience - Global digital marketing and eCommerce expert - ROI focused

Account Director - 7 years experience - Brand planner and likable account person
Associate Creative Director (copy) - 19 years experience - Senior copywriter - BtoB and BtoC
Brand Engagement Director - 22 years experience - Agency and client background
Director of Brand Strategy and Business Development - 30 years experience - extensive agency and some client experience 
Director of Digital Creative Strategy - 6 years experience - focused on leveraging storytelling (writing) to create content for brands
Director of Digital Marketing - 20 years experience - Seasoned digital consumer marketing expert with strong mobile and game experience
Director of Privacy and Strategic Marketing - 17 years experience - Focused on creating value where digital marketing, technology, strategy, consumer privacy and big data intersect.
PR Director - 10 years experience - versatile PR pro with experience in broadcast, digital content creation and social media
TV marketing and promotions Director - 20 years experience - TV marketing and promotional leader/manager

Account Manager - 8 years experience - Strong account management and email marketing skills
Agency Senior Marketing & PR Manager - 9 years experience - Special expertise in event management and agency PR
Agency Operations Manager - 8 years experience - Big agency operations experience
Digital Marketing Manager - 5 years experience - Extensive social media strategy and execution experience with BIG brands
Global Digital Marketing Manager - 17 years experience - Worked with big companies throughout his career
Senior Digital Agency Copywriter - 8 years experience - Client and agency experience
Senior Digital Marketing Manager - 9 years experience - Agency and client side (big brand) experience
Senior Manager of Digital Strategy - 17 years experience - Worked with big companies throughout her career
AM/PM/Social/Email - 8 years experience - Great team player with strong people and email marketing skills

Digital Marketing Associate - 0 years experience - New graduate with passion and emerging skills for digital marketing

Again, please reach out to me at: Joe [at] AgencySparks.com if you would like to learn more about any of the folks above.



Community Engagement - Get Involved!

July 29, 2015
When our twins were born in 2010, my wife, Michelle asked me to reduce the number of activities in which I was involved. It was a very reasonable ask since family was important to us both, so I resigned from a few boards and focused on family and work. Now that the kids are headed to kindergarten and AgencySparks is going well, I have slowly gotten back involved in a number of initiatives which are important to me.

My goal for this post is to spark some interest from YOU in getting more involved in your own community. Please feel free to reach out to me, if you want my help guiding you to any of these wonderful organizations.

Here is a laundry list of how I spend my time:

AgencySparks - Running a company is hard work. Not only do we have the privilege of working with some of the top specialist marketing agencies in the country, but we also focus on mending what we see as a relatively broken relationship between agencies and clients. There are some real rewards to entrepreneurship, but there are also a lot of challenges. AgencySparks is my number one priority, and all other engagements are secondary.

Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia - I am proud to serve on the board of advisors for the Marketing Program at Terry. It is rewarding to make an impact on our future leaders. I am particularly focused on supporting the Digital Marketing area of emphasis run by professor, Jen Osbon.

UGA Annual Digital Marketing Competition - This has been one of the most rewarding endeavors I have involved myself with in the last few years. I serve as a coach for several teams of students, who compete for the opportunity to pitch the selected real world client. This year, my team was fortunate to win the entire competition, and travel to San Francisco to tour the headquarters of Lyft, Twitter, and Airbnb. In addition to helping the students, I get to spend time with my fellow coaches: Brian Rudolph, Teresa Caro, Todd Coplevitz, Adam Naide, and Patricia Camden.

Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association (AIMA) - Teresa Caro recruited me to join the AIMA board of directors in 2004, and I served until I was elected president in 2009. I retired shortly after my service and have renewed my involvement on the board in the last few years.

48in48 - When Jeff Hilimire told me about his idea to build 48 websites for 48 non-profits in 48 hours, I immediately asked how I could get involved. I love this idea, and seized the opportunity for AgencySparks to get involved as a sponsor. We are committed to writing a unique blog post for each non-profit, so I am looking for volunteers to help us.

SuperNova South - In 2014, I programmed a full-day event for 150+ students to help advance their marketing careers. I moderated five panels of friends and colleagues from companies like Floor & Decor, NAPA Auto Parts, SapientNitro, SweetWater Brewing Company, Cartoon Network, Assurant Solutions, Kids II, and The Home Depot. We expect to build on this success and further expand the SuperNova South 2015 program.

ChooseATL - Brian Easter of Nebo Agency approached me a few years ago about the idea of writing a love letter to our city designed to spread the message that Atlanta should be a destination for anyone thinking about building a digital marketing career. Little did we know back then that it would grow into a grassroots effort supported by the mayor of Atlanta and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

The Gumbo Show with Joe - I have been hosting a music-focused radio show on commercial (and now internet) radio since 1998. It is a great hobby that has lead me to meet some of my musical heroes including Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, Chis Thile, Kermit Ruffins, Lenny Kravitz, Jerry Douglass, Chris Isaak, Adam Duritz, Sam Bush, Jamie Foxx, and The Wood Brothers. My show can currently be heard live on Tuesday evenings at http://GumboShow.com

Everybody Wins! Atlanta - This is one of the easiest and most impactful non-profits in the city. I just completed my sixth year reading to a child every other week during my lunch break. These kids are behind in their reading skills, and most of them come from homes that do not provide them with the proper backgrounds to succeed in school. It is SO EASY to make a big impact.

Mentorship - Since my days in college, coaching a junior high school lacrosse team, I have always loved giving guidance - particularly to young people. Not only do I feel obligated to pay it forward and help guide the next generation --as my generous mentors did for me - but it's downright fun to help. Jeff Hilimire also got me involved in Advice for Good, which is an awesome way to get advice seekers to do good in exchange for advice.

Other community efforts - Over the years I have served on some additional boards of advisors for some organizations committed to bettering our communities, such as Isipho (dedicated to building sustainable food gardens in South Africa), VAYANDO (connecting curious travelers with micro-entrepreneurs in emerging economies around the world) and the Brookwood Civic Association (neighborhood association).

Please let me know if you would like to learn more about any of these fine organizations!



Asking for Referrals

July 8, 2015
Note: This post is the sixth in a (#JobSeekerseries that I am publishing to help those who are seeking their dream job. There are several tips that I feel incrementally increase your chance of being hired. These tips require hard work to implement, but the "sweat equity" will pay dividends when you land the job you have been coveting.

Asking for Referrals

We’ve all heard that in a job hunt, who you know is more important than what you know. Without a personal referral to pass your (hopefully visual) resume along to the key person, your chances of landing a job could be slim. So where does that leave the job seekers who want to be endorsed by valued associates or colleagues?   

If you know the potential referrer:
You can ask someone to refer you by sending an email or by sending a message on a networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook. It’s better to ask in writing, to allow the potential referrer time to think over if and how she/he can refer you for a job. In your letter, refresh their memory of how you know each other, tell them how interested you are in working at XYZ company (and why!). Write the email you want the referrer to pass on, so it is easy to help you. Also, always ask how well the potential referrer knows the person you are seeking.

When reaching out, rather than asking: “Can you refer me?”, instead ask: “Do you think I’d be a good fit for this position? If so, do you think you could refer me?” Asking your contact for information they might have about the company, culture, or positions available can be a great segue into asking for a referral. It will be easier to gauge if your referrer is comfortable providing the referral, and you can be more assured that she/he will be enthusiastic about your skills and feel confident you will make a favorable impression on the company. 

If you do not know the potential referrer or she/he is not familiar with your work:
LinkedIn can be a gold mine of opportunities to find professionals who can point you in the right direction. Take a look at your 2nd or 3rd degree connections to find your strongest relationships to see how you might be connected to a potential referrer. Make it easy for your direct connection to make link for you by offering the email you want them to forward. It should include the reasons why you are a great fit to at least be introduced to the target contact.

Another soft way to ask for the referral is to request an
informational interview. It is a non-threatening ay to ask for a meeting, by setting no expectations that they should provide you with a job lead as a result of your conversation. The purpose of an informational interview is to learn about the company or profession, and build a new networking connection.

Asking in person:
Getting involved in industry or professional organizations can provide a strong way to meet potential referrers. Through networking, you might discover job openings that have not yet been posted. If a new connection is impressed with you, then ask if they would mind providing you with an introduction to a key contact.

For all of these tactics, be sure to offer value to the prospective referrer in exchange for the introduction. For example, do you have a skill that you can offer to the referrer? Also many companies offer referral bonuses.

Other tips:
Job seekers who know an employee, should ask what pain points the company is currently feeling. The employee may be able to help you reorient your pitch, cover letter, and resume to better suit the company’s needs.

Be sure to mention it in the first paragraph of a cover letter or subject line of an email, if you were referred for a position. 

Always, always write a hand written thank you note to the referrer, in addition to the hiring managers.



3 Awesome (Free) Tools Every Job Seeker Should Use

June 17, 2015
Note: This post is the fifth in a (#JobSeekerseries that I am publishing to help those who are seeking their dream job. There are several tips that I feel incrementally increase your chance of being hired. These tips require hard work to implement, but the "sweat equity" will pay dividends when you land the job you have been coveting.

3 Awesome (Free) Tools Every Job Seeker Should Use

While there are hundreds of websites that offer tools and advice for job seekers and those looking to advance their careers, everyone has different priorities and needs. That said, I don’t want to spend time telling you about job aggregators on sites likeTheLadders.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com,  CareerBuilder.com, and SimplyHired.com. Those sites are packed with free advice about job search basics. Instead, I want to tell you about the these (free, with paid upgrade options) tools that give you “superpowers” when pursuing leads and networking:

Hubspot Sales!

When sending an email to someone you don’t know, it’s likely they receive numerous emails per day, including other cold emails like yours. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where and when a prospective employer opened your email and clicked on links, which may indicate if there’s even a slight interest in what you had to say? It’s especially helpful, after you took the time to write a well-crafted message, to know that someone on the other end is reading your note. (Need help writing a compelling email that hits every bullet point? Check out this simple framework.)

Hubspot Sales! sends live notifications when someone opens or clicks on your emails. This tracking tool lets you when, how many times, where, and from what device they opened your email. You can also schedule an email to be sent later, so you can make sure it arrives in your recipient’s inbox at a specific time. This allows you to follow up in a productive way if you get no reply. Of course, when you follow up with the prospective employer, it may be best to not indicate that you know that they read your email. Keep that intelligence to yourself, but use it to your advantage when asking for an opportunity to meet in person. 


Cold emailing a prospective employer can help you get a foot in the door, but it can be a challenge to know the recipient's preferred communication style. Should you utilize a short, casual approach or a formal greeting and closing? Crystal knows!

Crystal aggregates online data about your email recipient, and provides you with suggestions for your email exchange. Examples: State your purpose for the email in the first sentence; Don’t use a formal greeting and closing; Use an emoticon :)

Haha - "might seem aloof at times".


Everyone hates the back-and-forth emails trying to nail down a time for a quick call or meeting. Calendly is a simple scheduling tool that exposes your Google calendar for the recipient to select an open day and time that works best for their schedule based on your availability. You can put parameters in place to ensure you do not have meetings booked right next to each other, or after hours.

Calendly makes it simple for recruiters or prospective employers to connect or schedule an interview with you. Instead of signing off with “I look forward to hearing from you,” you can share a Calendly link, which puts the ball in their court to initiate a conversation. 

Bonus: Reputation management tools

I wrote about how important it is for a job seeker to build a strong digital footprint. Potential employers are going to Google you to see what they find. Are you best represented by the links on the first few pages of search results?  If not, you'll want to add content that will enable you to push down undesirable search results. In addition to having "YourName.com", you can utilize tools like About.me, Flavors.meBrandYourself.com and Vizibility.com make it easy to develop content about you.

Utilizing these tips will help you get an edge in the job search. What other tools have you found useful?


Campaigning for your Dream Job

June 4, 2015
Note: This post is the fourth in a series that I am publishing to help those who are seeking their dream job. There are several tips that I feel incrementally increase your chance of being hired. These tips require hard work to implement, but the "sweat equity" will pay dividends when you land the job you have been coveting.

Campaigning for your Dream Job

You’ve tried to contact your dream employer for months; you sent LinkedIn requests and emails, reached out to the C-Suite, sent your portfolio to a few employees in the right department, and maybe even landed a meeting or two, but none of these encounters led to a job offer. By now, you’re ready to move on, because you’ve tried everything, right? But have you actually done EVERYTHING you can? (Be honest, probably not.)

Chances are, you’ve used the same tactics as many others, but haven’t tried any new approaches. If this describes your efforts, it might be time to consider campaigning for your dream job.

Though it may sound extreme, job-seeker Nina Mufleh created a stunning website resume that mimicked that of her dream employer, Airbnb:

Her creative website not only highlights Airbnb’s much-needed growth in Middle Eastern countries, but it also illustrates the depth of her travel industry knowledge, and shows how badly she wants the position. Notice that Nina’s web-resume doesn’t focus on her past experiences that anyone could have easily found on LinkedIn, but instead showcases opportunities that she believes the company should pursue, thus, illustrating her future contributions to Airbnb’s success.

Here is another story from a few years back from a young man who used a "full court press" effort to win a position with his dream employer: Hire Me HeadBlade

Try getting creative, if you really want to land your dream job. What other creative job winning efforts have you encountered?


3 Tips For Building A Strong Online Personal Brand and Footprint

May 29, 2015
Note: This post is the third in a series that I am publishing to help those who are seeking their dream job. There are several tips that I feel incrementally increase your chance of being hired. These tips require hard work to implement, but the "sweat equity" will pay dividends when you land the job you have been coveting.

3 Tips For Building A Strong Online Personal Brand and Footprint

Everyday more and more recruiters are leveraging the web and social media to source new talent. A strong online presence could be a deciding factor for a position you’ve applied for, or a position you don’t even know exists. Building an online personal brand is more important than ever, so it is crucial to not let others define you. Are you taking charge of guiding and cultivating your personal brand perception? Are you emphasizing your subject matter expertise and your glowing personality? When the potential employer Googles you, what will they find? I am not suggesting that you should "be a robot" (in fact authenticity is key), but you also should not be embarrassed about what your new potential boss might find. Be yourself, but with purpose. 

Here are some tips for building your online footprint:

  1. Secure a personal blog or website to show off your career, thoughts, and perhaps even feature your visual resume. Your personal website gives potential employers a way to develop a stronger connection with you, while also building your profile in search engine rankings. This site can be used to illustrate what your current projects, personality, and skills you would offer a potential employer. You no longer need to be able to write code to put together a beautiful website. There are inexpensive templates available on sites like WordPress, Squarespace, Yola, and Wix, that can make you look professional.
  2. Audit your online presence. Google yourself and if you are not thrilled with what you find, you can try to clean up your social media profiles yourself, or employ a service like Reputation.com to help., see what comes up. Don't just delete accounts or change the privacy settings without thinking through the implications. You want to leave enough of a "digital footprint" so that you can be found online and also to help crowd out other search results that may be even worse.
  3. Be purposeful with what you share. People do not realize that content published on the web rarely is there temporarily. Every tweet and status update contributes to your online presence. Once you’ve honed your desired personal brand, you can become more strategic about your posts and online affiliations. Associate yourself with groups and websites that contribute to your desired persona. For example, I have been involved on the board level with many organizations about which I care and also provide me with a positive digital footprint including: AIMA, AMA Atlanta, ChooseATL, the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business and several non-profits. Find and leverage other strong brands to uncover hidden opportunities. Submit a guest op-ed on a company or interest group blog, or respond with thoughtful comments to someone else’s opinions.
What other tips would you share with those looking to build a stronger online footprint for potential employers?



Honing interviewing skills

May 19, 2015

Note: This post is the second in a series that I am publishing to help those who are seeking their dream job. There are several tips that I feel incrementally increase your chance of being hired. These tips require hard work to implement, but the "sweat equity" will pay dividends when you land the job you have been coveting. Getting a call for your first interview is half the battle in the job hunting process, but that phone call is only the beginning of a new phase of the search. Interviewing for a job entails a lot of work: research, careful consideration, practice, and preparation, because you've put in the hours and effort to reach that first interview, you don't want to blow your chances!

Below are some practice tips and activities that will help you sharpen your own skills and nail that pre-screening telephone call with a recruiter, or (if you're going for the whole enchilada,) the one-on-one, suit-and-tie, in-person interview.

"The only purpose of your resume and of interviewing is to be memorable, so go in and tell your story, and connect yourself to the job and their company." - Bernice Kao

Preparing Before The Interview

  1. Do your homework and research the organization to better understand their wants and needs and their industry. Investigate and identify the most commonly sought-after industry traits (analytical skills, communication skills, business knowledge and problem solving.) Don't just stop at surface information - also use resources like trade publications and Glass Door to get the inside scoop.

  1. Prepare a list of likely questions that most recruiters are likely to ask. To practice competency-based interview questions, use the STAR method. Other common questions about your background are not  an invitation to recite your entire life story or your resume; instead, use the Present-Past-Future Formula.

  1. Try a mock interview, or an informational interview. Videotape a 30-minute interview with someone you know or trust to give you a constructive review of your performance. Lots of recruiters enjoy informational interviews with young professionals who are interested in learning more about working in a specific industry or at a specific company. Both of these types of interviews aren't an excuse to slack because "it's practice." Make sure you're just as prepared as you would be for the real thing.

  1. Stay confident - try one of these strategies to help you feel calm, cool, and collected, or at least make you appear that way.

The Interview

  1. Dress in appropriate attire. When in doubt, overdress, never dress down!

  2. Greet the interviewer with an enthusiastic handshake and smile.

  3. Listen to the questions asked. Make sure you know what the interviewer wants you to know, and ask for clarification if the question does not make sense to you.

  4. Keep your answers concise and to the point, preferably 2-3 minutes long, each.

You are there to ask questions, too. Use this as an opportunity to determine the organization is a good fit for you. Here are some examples of the right questions to ask an employer during your interview. Good luck and happy interviewing!