Last January I took part in a virtual marketing panel discussion for my alma mater, Vassar College. Their Career Connections program helps sophomores learn more about potential fields of interest by featuring panels of alumni in different disciplines.

The program also features an hour of speed consults, 7-minute sessions where students could meet with me one-on-one.

I loved it.

I enjoy mentoring. It’s a joyful and meaningful way for me to contribute to society.

Between the panel and speed consults, it struck me how many students were feeling pressure to figure out their career path before they were legally able to drink alcohol.

I could relate. When I moved to Boston in 1987, I had done more ruling out than deciding what I wanted to do.

In March 2022, I read this HBR article by Dorie Clark, talking about how to advance your career when you are unsure what you want to do.

Thinking back to the panels, I shared my career path experience in a LinkedIn post, showed that you don’t have to have your path mapped exactly, and linked to Dorie Clark’s article.

My typical LinkedIn posts get 500-600 views and a few dozen reactions. This post had that in less than 2 hours.

Within 10 days, the post had over 12,000 views, 200+ reactions and 21 comments. Seventeen people had shared it with their networks. My follower count climbed by 250.

Clearly my story resonated. And it wasn’t just the college set who could relate.

Successful Marketing’s Secret Sauce

My post had no flashy graphics, video, clever taglines or special offers.

Yet it was among my most successful marketing efforts ever in getting on new prospects’ radars. And it cost me nothing but time.

What made it take off?

A feeling that resonated. Hundreds of LinkedIn members of all ages reacted to the post in a positive manner. Some shared their experiences. They could relate.

When people relate to a feeling you (or your brand) share or a value you espouse, they feel a connection to you. If they feel the same way, that connection can lead to their trust.

When people trust you or your brand, they are more inclined to share their feelings and give you their attention. Hence the 21 comments and 250 follows my post got.

Trust is everything in a relationship. And you need it before prospects will become customers.

Where Marketing Often Fails

Why does so much marketing fall flat? Why do so many social media marketing posts gain anemic numbers of likes or comments?

Because they fail to generate emotion. They flunk the “so what” test. The viewer feels no relation to the post, ad or video and moves on.

This sad situation can happen regardless of the money invested in the marketing effort.

In her book, Conversations That Connect, Brooke Sellas explains that to generate emotion, to connect with your prospect, you need to disclose something about yourself.

It sounds risky, but it doesn’t have to be.

My LinkedIn post disclosed how sketchy my career plan was when I moved to Boston, but it didn’t feel risky because it worked and it’s 35 years later.

Self-disclosure is how people build relationships. Think about it.

People with whom you only discuss the weather tend to be acquaintances. It’s when you start talking about your life, your family, and your feelings that you start to get to know someone and they get to know you.

Marketing is about relationships. To form them, you have to do what you do when forming friendships. Share things about yourself.

4 Types of Marketing Messages

All this talk about self-disclosure can feel uncomfortable. Let’s see how this relates to marketing.

Every marketing effort contains a message, information we want to convey. A disclosure of some kind.

In Conversations That Connect, Brooke Sellas explains that there are four kinds information we share: clichés, facts, opinions, and feelings.

Clichés are overused expressions. They are impersonal. They say little about you or your brand, because everyone uses them.

Examples of marketing clichés include stock photos of happy people to represent employees or customers, but who are obviously not; overused phrases like “world class,” “we go the extra mile,” or “do more with less”; and co-opting a trend to appear current but without any link to your brand, like Hilton’s use of Wordle.

Facts are straightforward pieces of information. Product updates, store openings, catalog availability. Necessary, but not interesting.

Factual marketing messages have little to no pulse on the emotion meter, unless you have raving fans eagerly anticipating your news. Paul McCartney concert dates, for example. But for most brands, facts do little to build connection.

Opinions reflect a stance on something. That something need not be highly controversial.

Opinion-based marketing can involve a color or style preference or a favorite hobby. Many brands use polls on social media to invite their audience’s opinions.

Opinions stoke feelings. People agree or disagree. Some are motivated to engage in conversation. There is an opportunity to make an emotional connection.

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes’ #myperfectbowl campaign in the UK featured consumers describing their preferred way to eat the cereal and asked the audience “What’s your perfect bowl?”

Feelings express an emotional state. Marketing-relevant emotions include the range your customers may experience as they get to know your brand and discover your solution to their problem: curiosity, relief, assurance, confidence, gratification, affinity, enthusiasm, joy.

For virtuoso examples, check out the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Twitter feed.

A sense of humor and creative approach has earned their account a national following.

Hat tip to Ann Handley for making me aware of this gem.

Source: Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer Twitter feed

Before you pooh-pooh the idea of learning from a sewer system’s Twitter account, know that in the past year they’ve more than doubled their following from 17,000 to over 36,000.

Up Your Marketing ROI with Emotion

Nothing feels worse than spending a chunk of your marketing budget on a social post, catalog, newsletter or video and getting radio silence in response.

Here are 6 steps you can take starting today to generate better response and improve your marketing ROI.

1. Stay away from clichés. At best these generate head nods, at worst eye rolls. Clichés make you look like everyone else and tell me nothing about your brand or why I should care about it. Ditch ‘em.

2. Minimize solely factual marketing or infuse it with emotion.

Fact-based marketing can sometimes generate emotion on its own. The tweet below is what I call the “cheer-for-you” post. Emiliee Mae, a writer with 1,271 followers, touched the hearts of many with her journey to becoming a published author, generating 81 comments, 32 retweets, and 539 likes.

Emiliee Mae tweet about becoming a first time author

Most of the time, however, marketing with facts is yawn-provoking and quickly forgotten. Adorn your fact-based marketing with some opinion or feeling.

3. State an opinion or ask for one. State your brand stance on something and inquire about your audience’s, like Kellogg’s did. Poll your audience on something you’d like to know or something just for fun. Remember, you are looking to start a conversation.

4. Express a feeling. A great place to start is with the emotional benefits your brand delivers. You can feature customers sharing their stories of how your brand helped. Or you can share your own feelings.

I shared my feelings about conquering my fear of recording my audiobook on LinkedIn and Facebook. My post expressed gratitude to those who helped me (see You Can Hear Me Now, below), and the relief and joy I felt completing my project.

Like my career path post, this one reached many more people (2,295 and counting) and garnered higher-than-usual reactions (93) and comments (48).

5. Comment. Comments are gold. If the goal of marketing is to build relationships by starting conversations, comments tell you your marketing is succeeding.

Want people to comment on your posts? Comment on others’ posts! And make sure to respond to the comments you get.

Future commenters will be inspired to know you are listening and those to whom you respond will feel your brand cares.

Over the past year I’ve posted less often and commented more. Comment exchanges have done more to start and deepen my relationships, and have led to paid work and speaking and podcast interview invitations.

6. Reach out to individuals. If your marketing has succeeded in getting your prospect’s attention and sparking a comment, continue the dialog. Not with a hard sell, but perhaps with a personalized invitation to something you think your prospect would enjoy based on your initial conversation.

Maybe it’s a link to a post your prospect would enjoy, an invitation to sign up for your newsletter or a special discount offer.

Anything that makes your prospect feel heard and appreciated.

Up the emotional impact of your marketing by sharing your sentiments and stories and inviting others to share, and watch your marketing ROI soar.


You Can Hear Me Now

Evelyn recording audiobook in Liz Solar's studio

Photo credit: Liz Solar

Do you prefer audiobooks to print copies?

If so, I’m thrilled to tell you the audiobook of Teenage Wastebrand is now available!

And I recorded it myself.

It was not easy. I’ve never loved the sound of my voice on tape. Reviewing my outgoing voicemail message was as much as I could stand.

Recording a book was not just beyond my comfort zone, it was an entire universe away.

So I got help. Fabulous, fabulous help. My eternal gratitude to Liz Solar and Eric Seibel.

With Liz’s expert coaching, patient guidance, and production know-how, I recorded the book. That’s me in Liz’s beautiful sound studio.

Eric’s editorial ear and technical savvy polished those hours of recording into an audiobook I am proud of.

You can hear a sample of the book and nab your copy here.

I highly recommend Liz and Eric to anyone looking for audiobook production help.

They rock!!


Just for Fun

Nothing beats talk shows when you are looking for emotion-fueled conversations. SNL has produced some of my favorites.

You can get verklempt with this rich episode of Coffee Talk with Linda Richman with Madonna and Roseann Barr playing guests (8 minutes, 35 seconds).

Watch Jason Sudeikis go through a wide range of emotions in The New Boyfriend Talk Show (4 minutes, 50 seconds, bit R Rated).



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