Ashurbanipal by Parhad

“Promoting Yourself in the Digital Age”

by Georgia I. Hesse

On Nov. 10, program director Erin Caslavka brewed yet another blend of education and entertainment, this month served at San Francisco’s stunning Asian Art Museum (formally the Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art & Culture) on Civic Center Plaza.

A trio of Twitterers tackled the subject of self-promotion, or how to toot one’s own horn using the tools of social media. Speaking to an interested, if occasionally skeptical, audience were Michael McColl, founder and CEO of McColl Communications; Molly Blaisdell, president of Hook, Line & Thinker and associate representative on the BATW Board; and Renée Berry, CEO of BeMoRe.

Mike McColl’s main message was that most consumers need to hear your message seven times before buying into it. That means that the seller (you, the travel writer) needs to be fairly repetitive: “Find me, read me, look at me,” almost ad infinitum. This marketing isn’t for the shy and self-effacing. “Savvy marketing” is Mike’s recipe for success for the “generalist with a deep knowledge of some niche.” (What comes first, the knowledge or the niche?) What you need is “missionary zeal” in selling yourself. (Hint: You might begin by clicking on www.travelwriting2.com.)

Molly Blaisdell has spent 20 years developing her successful PR business; current clients include such worthies as the three Hyatt Hotels of San Francisco, the Red & White Fleet, and – perhaps most romantically – Palau’s Visitors Authority. Now she’s embarked on a new adventure and a new blog, www.herjourneyto50.com. Molly lauds blogging as a tool with the end, as a writer, of making and keeping oneself and one’s work “relevant,” a word she pronounces almost with reverence. “It’s all networking,” she pronounces, “with old-fashioned courtesy.”

Renée Berry came to social media and online platforms from what seemed to me an unusual direction: from the world of health help and ER rooms, from geriatrics and hospice volunteer care. She finds herself “connected to others who have the same passion.”

“Find a way,” Renée counsels, “to build a community with people who share your interests.”

All three speakers referred to “tools” that may seem arcane to travel writers, especially older ones like – ahem – me: Tumblr, Plurk, Pownce

[now part of Six Apart], Instagram, Bitly (formerly, Bit.ly, if anybody cares).

In the end, the verdict seemed unanimous: “Use the right tool for the job.” Now if I can only remember what my job is.

Nota bene:
BATW members were welcomed by Timothy P. Hallman, director of communications and business development for the museum. Only four days before, Gae Aulenti, the Italian architect who turned the interior of San Francisco’s Old Main Library (1917) into our Asian Art Museum (2003), had died at home in Milan, aged 84. It is her only American building. A masterpiece was her makeover of a decaying French Belle Epoque railway station into Paris’ dazzling Musée d’Orsay (1986).

NB #2:
Also on hand to greet BATWers (but probably missed by those who didn’t detrain at Muni’s Civic Center stop) was Ashurbanipal (668—627 BC), last king of the Assyrian Empire that once stretched from today’s Syria and Iraq to Egypt. He established the first systematically organized library of the western world (in cuneiform tablets) and was given sculptural birth by Fred Parhad (born in Baghdad in 1947, a graduate of UC Berkeley). This giant has been welcoming passers-by since 1988, when he was presented to the city by the Assyrian Foundation for the Arts. “How are things in Syria today?” I asked him. He didn’t answer.