The LinkedIn Message That Moved Me From Maryland

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As I removed my old St. Mary’s College business cards from my wallet to make room for my sexy new Social ICON cards, I was hit with a weird realization - In the three months of working here, I have gained more professional connections in Pensacola than I had during the six years I had worked in Maryland. 

Flashback to my senior year of college. I remember sitting in the Career Development Center, listening to a counselor preach about how important it is to build a network, maintain connections and be active on LinkedIn. I thought, “What a waste of time. Most of this is just common sense.” 

Flashforward to my second year post-grad. I was working as the Assistant Director of Admission for Digital Media for St. Mary’s College of Maryland.  It was a perfect first job that taught me more about business, marketing and communication within the first three months than I had learned in my entire college career. But I found myself feeling stagnant in my position. I was at a point where I felt I wasn’t growing anymore and I had exhausted the resources at hand. Being a smaller college, we didn’t have enough personnel with the time and knowledge to create strategic campaigns that included social media.  My bosses just wanted to make sure something was getting posted to our social media channels and then have me focus on other responsibilities tied to my position. I knew there was so much more I could be doing in this field and I felt that I couldn’t get the support I needed to go deeper.

As I was toying with the idea of making a career move, the perfect opportunity for a change arose. My boyfriend, a 1st Lt. in the USMC, was stationed in Pensacola, FL and we decided to move in together. 

For the first time, I found myself in the throes of a job search. My previous positions had been referral-based and had relatively painless interview processes - something I had taken for granted. I didn’t know anyone in Pensacola- or anyone who had once been in Pensacola, for that matter- and I hadn’t formed any relationships in my field outside of Higher Education. I thought back to that Career Development Center meeting and I realized the counselor was right - having connections to refer you to positions is really helpful. 

I spent a ton of time applying to jobs on Indeed, Zip Recuiter, Google Jobs and any other online listings I could find, and the only thing this yielded was an inbox full of spam and calls back from ad sales and positions that seemed like pyramid schemes.

I needed to find a way into the Pensacola marketing world, and I needed some facetime with someone who was connected. I began searching “marketing agencies in pensacola” on Google. I visited each website and social account that came up, then followed and connected with every person who had positions I wanted. I liked, commented and direct messaged these people - and their bosses - trying to find an in. 

Much to my surprise, this actually worked! I ended up with a couple connections in the Pensacola marketing scene. Then, I messaged Bri specifically in reference to a LinkedIn post she had made about the responsibility a boss has to support and encourage their employees growth.



Briana, 

I am currently relocating to the Pensacola area and I've been doing some research on marketing firms that could potentially be hiring.  I came across your website for Social ICON and read your page "Next Moves". I found it totally inspiring and just wanted to reach out and let you know how much I appreciate your words and advice. As a young professional, I can completely relate to the experience your new employee went through and its refreshing to hear someone say that type of behavior on the part of employers is not okay.  I feel like it’s often written off as instilling professional behavior or values into young employees.

Also your advice on leveraging LinkedIn...super helpful, but more importantly it was original and specific. I'm totally going to be taking it to heart. 

Anyway, you deserved the kudos so I thought I'd give them- Thanks!

She responded almost immediately and we got to chatting about why I wanted to make a move. 

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We actually ended up chatting for a good amount of time. Then one thing led to another and although she had nothing listed, Bri was looking for a project manager that could help her stay organized and on task as she worked to bring on more clients. 

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After a couple FaceTime calls, she asked me if I’d be willing to come down to Pensacola and work with her and her team for a week. I was so surprised at how quickly everything was moving after almost a month of no success. 

Heading into my first day, I met Bri and the team at Co:Lab and immediately felt comfortable. My current office at St. Mary’s was a stark contrast to Bri’s.  St. Mary’s was uncomfortable business professional attire every day, had a strict hierarchy and made me feel like I had to adapt a new personality and demeanor to fit the corporate standards.  Social ICON was colorful, and Bri and the team obviously worked hard and were very professional, but they maintained a certain level of fun and camaraderie while doing so- a flair, if you will. I felt like I was in a space where I could be creative, laugh, work hard and learn a ton. It was invigorating. 

At the end of an awesome week, I accepted Bri’s offer and frantically started trying to figure out how I was going to move to Florida in just two weeks. I couldn't believe that this all started with a LinkedIn message.

I had finally experienced this networking thing that everyone keeps saying is so important and so beneficial. However, I still hadn’t fully grasped how crucial the role your network can play in your career, beyond just helping with a job search.

My first week with Social ICON was filled with networking. We helped organize an event for Autism Pensacola, held several meetings with potential clients, went on coffee dates with key people around town and had chats with anyone and everyone that we ran into. I was almost taken aback at how much of Bri’s business benefited from her connections. From the Autism Pensacola event alone, I had scheduled three more coffee dates to discuss work opportunities on Bri’s calendar. 

Part of the reason I decided to make a career move was to start learning again, and Bri has been giving me a masterclass not only in marketing strategy, but in how to create and leverage your network. She has gotten me involved in various committees that allow me to work alongside awesome people from all parts of the industry. We actively attend networking events around town and we became the title sponsor for a women in business conference. Bri recognizes that there is always something that can be learned or gained from a new relationship and focuses on creating as many as possible while looping me and Lindsey in and encouraging us to make our own relationships, as well. These are skill sets that I admire and will surely strengthen because I know I will have more than enough opportunities to practice while I’m with Social ICON.

From Micromanaged to Moral Support System

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The second I was out of sight and earshot of Bri and her assistant, Sarah, I let out the tears that had been welling up in my eyes during the interview. I exited the front doors of Co:Lab, the office building that housed Social ICON, sure that I wouldn’t be invited back.  

After landing the interview the previous week, I spent virtually all of my free time preparing for it.  In the first sentence of my cover letter, I wrote, “Since moving to Pensacola in June, shortly after graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, I have not come across a job listing that has excited me as much as the Social Media Manager position with Social ICON.”  I was convinced that I had found the listing for my dream job.

I reached my car, now in the midst of a full-on, snotty breakdown and called my dad. “I blew it,” I said while sobbing. “I’m going to be stuck working in retail forever,” I said.

Although I was still excited about everything I knew about Social ICON, I had psyched myself out during the interview. All of the pretty, detailed answers I had rehearsed beforehand fell to the wayside, and instead, word vomit spilled out. I wanted the job so bad that I let my anxiety get the best of me.

I sat in the parking lot of Co:Lab while my dad did his best to cheer me up. After we ended the call, I wiped my face, traded my nicest blazer for my plain work vest and headed to work my shift at the Pensacola location of a national retailer.

When I first moved to Pensacola and accepted the position as Department Manager at the retail store, I was sure I would only hold this job title for a few weeks until I was able to secure a real, big-girl job. Flash-forward eight months, and I was still taking inventory, stocking shelves and being micromanaged by a boss who didn’t respect or appreciate me or any of her employees, counting down the minutes until each shift was over.

I had been warned about the painstaking process of the post-grad job hunt, yet I still wasn’t fully prepared. Having worked a variety of jobs through high school and college, including internships doing event planning, copywriting and digital marketing for an arts district and a talent agency, I was sure I would be able to find something I actually enjoyed doing for a living. When I wasn’t working at the store, I spent my time searching and applying for positions ranging from everything from Entry Level Administrative Assistant to Art Gallery Attendant and Doggy Daycare Employee— I was sure I qualified for and was capable of. And for eight months, I had no luck.

Living in a city halfway across the country from my family and most of my friends, with virtually no professional connections and a retail job I despised, I questioned the value of the years I spent working toward a degree. I questioned my decision to move away from Oklahoma—a place I had always sworn I would leave. Even worse, I questioned the value of myself as an employee.

That afternoon, while I was on my strict fifteen-minute break at the store, I got a call from an unknown number. “We’d love to welcome you onto the team!”

It was Bri. I put in my two weeks resignation notice at the store and never looked back.

I entered the doors of Co:Lab, this time for my first day on the job. That morning, our team had a preliminary meeting with a representative from Pensacola’s chapter of the Community Action Agency – a national nonprofit organization whose mission I stood behind and had even organized a fundraiser for in college. Then, I was tasked with my first copywriting assignment for another client: a blog about meditation – a practice I had begun reaping the benefits of within the previous six months.   

When lunchtime rolled around, Bri took advantage of her first opportunity to push me out of my comfort zone. She informed the team that we would be attending Monday Movement, a freestyle dance session held by life coach, Angela Forth. I agreed with a smile, but inside… I. Was. Terrified.

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Ever since I could remember, I had been teased about my lack of rhythm and my two left feet. There I was, on my first day at my new job, worried about impressing my boss and my coworkers, being forced to do something I perceived as humiliating. But I had nowhere to hide. The room was covered in wall-to-wall mirrors and Bri set up a Facebook Live video. For the first few minutes of the dance sesh, I felt awkward… to say the least (pictured above).

However, I eventually had a lot of fun and realized that I was truly in a no-judgement zone. Afterwards, Angela asked us to gather in a circle to discuss our experience. An intuitive Life Coach #BorderlinePsychic, she told us that she was pulling energy from the group that made her think of one word: Isolation. This opened the floor for us to talk openly.

For me, living so far away from my support system and having just left a work environment that treated me like a cog in a machine, I could easily relate to the word. Then, Bri made a comment about how she had chosen me out of a pool of over 100 applicants. All at once, I realized just how perfectly Social ICON and I fit each other, and I was appreciative of all the job applications that were rejected and the interviews that didn’t work out. I knew that if I had accepted another position, I wouldn’t have been where I was supposed to be, with a new kind of support system.

Since that Monday, Social ICON has given me the opportunity to engage in more projects right up my alley, like blogging for Community Action and writing profile articles on local artists. It has also given me the opportunity to engage in experiences I never thought I would have at this stage in my career, like coordinating and managing swanky, large-scale events and conferences. It has continually pushed me far outside of my comfort zone, like doing a public speaking engagement for a sports camp.

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Writing this blog post was out of my comfort zone. As Social ICON’s copywriter, I am used to writing impersonal blogs for our clients, not about myself. It was a challenge—just like my interview and that first day on the dance floor—but now that it’s accomplished, I feel as though I have reached a new level of growth. For those looking to remove themselves from a toxic work environment, seek new opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone. You may surprise yourself and land the job of your dreams.





 

 

The FastPass to Growth: Trust Your Team.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to deliver a speaking engagement by the team at Mr. Robbins Neighborhood, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Pensacola’s brightest High School student athletes, founded by 12-year NFL veteran Fred Robbins and his wife, Tia. The organization was in the planning process for its annual three-day career and football development camp, which provides guidance to young athletes as they enter their next chapter in life and prepare for college football recruitment. 

When I received the email inviting me to deliver a presentation on the importance of social media at this year’s camp, I immediately had a sinking feeling. This was an incredible opportunity, but my calendar was booked. I was going to Disney World with my husband, our two kids, his parents, sister-in-law, my parents and two nephews, and I was planning the whole trip down to the hour. What a missed opportunity! Ugh! Vacation, why are you ruining potential business relationships?!

I began to walk down the hall of Co:Lab to find someone who I could hand off the presentation to. Surely, I could send another professional in my place. Then, I stopped myself in my tracks. It occurred to me that there were two professionals sitting in my office, eagerly waiting for new projects. Within the last 3-4 months, I had hired a Social Media Manager and Project Manager for Social ICON. Maybe I could trust them to represent my company in my absence? 

Anxious Bri thought, “ARE YOU CRAZY?! You are risking losing a major relationship with Mr. Robbins Neighborhood and you are putting your reputation on the line. What if they fail? What if they don’t make the presentation perfect? You can’t possibly do this without YOU!” 

Then, I told Anxious Bri to shut up. 

I turned myself around, walked back into my office and asked my very capable counterparts how they felt about public speaking. Meghan volunteered without hesitation and Lindsey agreed, but she had “Oh, $#*!” written all over her face. Classic Lindsey. I outlined the things that I would like to contribute to the presentation and explained that I would still want to give a video or stream-in so I could still show face. The team agreed, and we moved on. 

As my vacation approached, my head was spinning. All at once, I was trying to delegate with trust, onboard new clients, nurture existing relationships and clients in the pipeline, while securing FastPasses for Magic Kingdom and fielding questions from my family.  

On the eve of my departure, my anxiety was in overdrive. In fact, I was so anxious that I texted Meghan and Lindsey. I felt like I was letting the team down.  

 
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Maybe it was the look in Richard Gere’s eyes that calmed my soul, but it suddenly occurred to me that my team really had no idea why I was freaking out. They were confident in me and in themselves. They were sure that they could keep the ship sailing in my absence, which would allow me to enjoy an actual vacation. 

When I was finally sitting in the passenger’s seat, all packed, kids loaded, tickets purchased, FastPasses secured, proposals sent, presentation scheduled and clients cared for, we pulled out of the driveway and headed to Orlando.

A sense of peace filled my mind.  

This simple milestone was more than a vacation. It was proof that I had come a long, long way. I had worked my ass off getting this business off the ground. Now, I was finally able to afford two employees and a vacation. I reminded myself why my Project Manager, Meghan, had reached out to me in the first place: a post I had made on LinkedIn. 

“It is my responsibility to help [my employee] grow, to allow her to make mistakes without being punished. It is my responsibility to lift her up when she is trying to attain new goals,” I wrote in the original post. “This is how you build valuable rockstars that do their best work. It is my responsibility to trust my people until they give me a legitimate reason not to.” 

This post resonated with Meghan and inspired her to reach out to me and give kudos because she believed in my company culture, which ultimately resulted in her relocating to Pensacola from Maryland. Now was my moment to walk the walk. I trusted Meghan and Lindsey fully. For one whole week, they would be Social ICON. Without me. 

 So how did it turn out?

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Outstanding. The team sent me a video of their finished presentation for approval. It wasn’t just good, it was better than I could have ever expected. I took a FaceTime call with them, brew in hand, and told them there was no need for me to live-stream in or record a video myself to augment their presentation. While they had everything under control, I could actually vacation [and maybe finish a cocktail by the pool before lunch].

They held down the fort and showed me that I can grow, I can trust, I can believe in my team and lean on my people. That’s what they were hired to do. Mr. Robbins Neighborhood was absolutely thrilled with the outcome. Lindsey even found her own level of growth in presenting in front of a large group for the first time. Above all else, I made an effort to build a company culture that my team loves.

As for Disney World, it was amazing. I spent much-needed, uninterrupted time with my family, making memories that will last a lifetime. 

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No one else will love your business as much as you do. That’s too much to ask. But if you do your due diligence during the hiring process, set your expectations high, give your team the power to grow and make change, then they won’t just meet your standards, they’ll exceed them. 

Welcome to growth. 






9 Fine Lessons about Conference Planning from Social ICON

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“What should I do here, Bri?” asked my client.

It was the first conference either of us had planned, and I had just delivered the news that the food and beverage contract terms were $56,000 more expensive than she had accounted for. This could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“Do I cancel the entire thing and cut my losses?”

“If you want to cancel, I will undo all that has been done for you and do it well,”  I answered. “But that’s not a decision I will make for you. If you do decide to move forward, we will make this the most memorable and fabulous experience for each and every attendee. It’s your call.”

Here’s the truth about large events, they are stressful.

Planning your first conference is especially unnerving, as so much has to be arranged in advance. A venue must be chosen, keynote speakers must be booked, the website and social media must exist, content must be created, deposits must be made-- all before you can sell that first ticket.

Is it worth it? Abso-freaking-lutely.


When the day finally arrives, and your emcee takes the stage for the first time, it’s 100% worth every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that it took to get there. When you look out among the crowd, and you know you’re going to change lives, it’s a feeling like no other.

Lucky for you, I want you to learn from our lessons. I’ve compiled a list of 9 things you should do before you spend a single dime on planning a conference.

1) Establish your conference objectives.

Whether your objective is to motivate, educate, enlighten or to provide a fun experience, there are so many reasons to throw a conference.  Before you begin, you should establish the goal of the conference, then envision how you would like your attendees to feel when at the venue and during the event.

First, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the conference mission?

  • Who are the 4-5 types of personas that will be attending this conference?

  • How much are those potential attendees willing to pay?

  • How much are you willing to invest to attract those attendees?

  • What do you want those attendees to leave feeling or knowing?

2) Conduct some serious due diligence by doing your research.

So you want to plan a conference. That’s cool. Do you have a name for it? Have you looked at extensive business registries and web URL’s to double-triple-check that your name isn’t being used by another company? You haven’t? Ok, well then your name hasn’t been chosen. Get to work.

Now, you must do research on the market in which you are targeting. Are you planning a conference for wedding planners? Fabulous, then don’t plan it during the peak wedding seasons, such as March, April, May, September or October. Your market will be working!

Do some additional research on trends, your venue, buying behaviors and other relevant purchasing decisions. You’ll thank me later.

3) Be sensible with accomodations and have a clear understanding of your venue contracts.

Providing accommodations is necessary, but if it is your first time conference, you should only room block 15-20% of your total expected attendance. Overestimating the rooms that will be reserved for your event is the quickest way to turn your conference revenue upside down.

If you choose a venue that is a hotel conference center, be sure you ask the following questions:

  • What is the drop-dead date to reduce my room block if we do not meet the capacity?

  • What is the drop-dead date to cancel my event if we do not reach our estimated ticket sales?

  • What is my penalty if I cancel the event?

  • Is there any discount applied when utilizing in-house food & beverage?

  • Do the totals you are showing me include taxes and gratuities?

Get the answers to these questions and put them somewhere you can see them while planning. Add the drop-dead dates in your calendar and make sure your team has reminders set, too.

4) Use Eventbrite. Just do it.

Unless you have a custom web builder with a built-in registration ticketing system, use Eventbrite. Yes, the site does take a percentage of sales, but it is worth every penny when you are conducting registration for your event. Eventbrite is fully-loaded with analytics, built-in communication, a seamless app for registration and a place to successfully refund tickets.*

*Tip: Consider ahead of time whether you will allow refunds. If you build your Eventbrite event with refunds available, you cannot change your mind and decide that refunds are unavailable.

5) Seek support from the city in which you are planning.

So, you’ve chosen the type of conference and the venue in which you plan to hold it. Now, what? In many cases, there are local grants, visitors centers, local chambers and associations that may help you sell your tickets.

Here’s a checklist of folks to share your event with and ask for support:

  • Local Area Chamber

  • Local Tourism Group or Board

  • Local Economic Development Group

  • Local Facebook Groups and Pages

  • Local Media Calendars

  • Local Social Media Influencers


6) Include plenty of networking time during your event

When attendees pack their bags for the conference, their wardrobe includes business attire, possibly workout attire and almost certainly cocktail hour OOTD (if you don’t know what this acronym stands for, Google it).  Chances are, part of the reason they are looking forward to the conference is to have the opportunity to harvest new relationships. Be sure to intentionally build time slots into your itinerary that allow for attendees to interact with each other.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Welcome Reception (typically held within an earshot of registration)

  • Dedicated Cocktail Party (complete with libations and snacky-snacks)

  • 90-Minute Breaks for Lunchtime

  • Always End the Final Conference Day by 2:00 pm

7) Make Every Speaker and Attendee Feel Like VIP

Oftentimes, attendees who purchase “standard” tickets expect to get basic treatment. With our first event, we wanted to deliver the contrary. Although the VIP ticket holders had the opportunity to take advantage of certain perks, general ticket holders’ experience was anything but standard.

Here are a few tips and tricks to go above and beyond:

  • Start communicating with all attendees via email at least six weeks in advance

  • Have dedicated volunteers at every entrance of your venue to guide attendees to their desired destination and to answer questions regarding the conference

  • Assign designated registration staff who will recognize names and faces of speakers and be able to locate badges and lanyards quickly

  • Send your speakers a text message of your point of contact’s picture and contact information to utilize when they arrive

  • Do a complete walkthrough of the green room and backstage areas with speakers upon arrival

  • During the Welcome “Kick-Off” Reception, encourage all speakers and attendees to network

8) Be prepared to be flexible (like Twizzler flexible)

Sometimes, the plan is: there is no plan. We ran into numerous last-minute changes leading up to the conference. For instance, our original emcee, who was a huge draw for many attendees, had to resign when she decided to fulfill her calling by running for Congress three weeks before the event. In the weeks preceding the conference, we learned that wifi ain’t free (it came with a price tag of $40,000). We didn’t receive a quarter of speaker presentations until the night before, in some cases the day of. There were a few hiccups with the audio/visual. And ten-minute breaks are hardly ever ten minutes.  

Luckily, we secured a new emcee who joined the crew of first-time conferencers and absolutely brought the house down. We relied on personal hotspots for internet and saved ourselves a pretty penny (thank you technology gods). We managed to get all the presentations organized and prepped prior to speakers taking the stage. After debriefing with the AV team on the first day, it was all smooth sailing. Although our ten-minute breaks turned into fifteen, we still managed to begin and end our days on schedule.

With all that being said, we are brought to our ninth and final piece of advice.

9) Hire Social ICON to manage your next conference

Sure, it seems self-serving. But seriously, we know how to provide top-to-bottom services in both event management and digital marketing. Not only do we help you manage every point in the decision making process, we do it with a smile on our face because we are truly passionate about the outcome of event experiences. We get all ooey-gooey inside when the final day comes to a close. We are so event-obsessed that on the drive home, we are already planning for the next year.

Here’s a glimpse into the services that we provide:

  • Conference Branding

  • Website Development

  • Ticketing/RSVP Management

  • Venue/Site Selection

  • Content Creation

  • Social Media Management

  • Digital Communications

  • Public Relations

  • Budget Management

  • Sponsor Management

  • Event Decor & Design

  • Audio/Visual Management

  • Speaker Management

  • Vendor Management

  • Onsite Event Staff

  • Onsite Social Media Marketing

  • Event Photography and Videography

  • Print and Promotional Materials

  • Post-Event Communication

You know, all the things.

I am so glad that my client ultimately decided to move forward with the event. You will be, too.


I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t offer you a free event consultation with our team. Check out Iconic Events for more information!

Why LinkedIn is important for your personal AND professional branding.

I almost cried when I saw this for the first time.

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It’s really complex to wrap your head around how you can effect others through stories on social media platforms. As we become more in tune with who we are as we get into our 30s we use different platforms for different messaging.

LinkedIn used to be the platform that you forgot to add information to until you applied for another job. You scouted out companies and their employers before you decide to apply somewhere. And inevitably, you’d get messages from “acquaintances” who were in the insurance industry asking to have coffee so they could ask you for your business.

If you’re an insurance agent… DON’T DO THIS.

No longer is LinkedIn merely used in those ways. LinkedIn has become a community. A place where other business owners give and get information.

For example, a few weeks ago, I spent time writing a long form post that talked about the new person I just hired and how strange it was that she felt she had to tell me where she was at all times. She had come from a toxic work environment and I thought it was just asinine that she felt that way.

The post read:

I’m having an issue with one of my employees that I desperately am working to correct.

She’s a gem for our company but I have one serious issue...

She has been beaten down in her previous jobs. Her former employers have made her feel like she can’t be trusted and like she has to be accounted for every second of the day.

She felt it was necessary to text me to tell me where she was and what she was doing. Although I appreciated it, she didn’t have to do that.

She apologized profusely for being really ill and missing a day of work when she first landed her position...

This is crazy!!! I can’t believe there are still employers who instill so much doubt in their workforce that they APOLOGIZE for being sick.

This. Has. To. Stop.

Support your people, people. The problem with my new employee is not something that SHE did. It’s a culture she was exposed to that broke her spirit.

It is MY responsibility to help her grow, to allow her to make mistakes without being punished. It’s is MY responsibility to lift her up when she is trying to attain new goals. This is how you build valuable rockstars that do their best work. It is MY responsibility to trust my people until they give me a legitimate reason not to.

I challenge your company to do the same!

A post like this generated 147 Likes, 13 Comments and 5,262 views in 3 weeks. The comments were very lengthy, most relating to the employer because it is a very real situation.

LinkedIn is a place to use other connections as a sound board. It’s a place to post your experiences or get feedback on a situation. LinkedIn has become so much more than an “online resume,” it has become a platform for personal and professional branding.

Personal branding is a very important part of your career. Whether you work in a corporate community or as an entrepreneur, personal branding can make advanced moves for you. LinkedIn is ripe for this.

Let’s say you are one of those pesky insurance agents I was talking about. Let me give you a quick and dirty lesson in personal branding. When you directly contact someone on LinkedIn, cold turkey, your chances of getting through the barrier of entry are slim and it’s also irritating.

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a “cold call” or a “cold lead” when you are communicating on LinkedIn. This begins with personal branding and translates into professional branding.

First, update your info. Make sure you have a nice headshot or at least a photo of your face that doesn’t have sunglasses on. Make your headline short and catchy and update all your information so that it is relevant.

Second, connect with who you know on LinkedIn. These connections should be people you could call on your phone, email and reach out to. Ask some of them for coffee just to catch up, VIA EMAIL, TEXT OR CALL.

Third, establish yourself as an expert with a twist. Before you go all ‘connection-crazy’, make sure you have some content worth reading. Post about real examples, excluding names and too many details. Find something that specifically relates to you personally and professionally and how those worlds collide.

Are you having a hard time transitioning with a new policy that is now in affect with the new year? Have you been in Panama City working with hurricane survivors? What are some true stories you can tell that are vulnerable for you but interesting and relatable to others? This should not be “salesy”, this should be readable and shareable.

Fourth ask your connections for a little help. You’ve connected with your friends, colleagues and coworkers on LinkedIn and you’ve taken a few to have coffee. Ask them for a little help. Ask them to endorse you for certain skills and ask them if they have contacts that would be good for you to connect with.

Last, connect with the warm lead. You’ve done your research. You’ve posted relevant and interesting content. Your profile has a catchy headline, a nice headshot and up to date information. You look like a pretty trustworthy individual who could be a great contact to personally know on a professional level.

Pro Tip: When you do meet with your new warm lead who will eventually become a customer, be ready to refer someone great for them to contact that would be a lead in their world. By having this ready, you are not only a contact, you are a resource!

Follow Me on LinkedIn

-Briana Snellgrove, CEO

2018 Fighter. 2019 Warrior. 2020 Visionary.

Openness.

“Openness is being honest, clear and sincere, sharing who we are and what we feel without pretense. It is the willingness to consider new ideas and listen to others with an open mind. We reveal our thoughts candidly without attempting to manage the response of others. We hold no hidden agendas. We are more interested in connecting than controlling. We listen to others’ feelings with compassionate curiosity. When we are open, we are receptive to the blessings and surprises of life.”


These are the words I read when I pulled from Abby Moe’s Virtue Reflections Card stash at the end of my workout. Maybe it was the fact that I had more oxygen pumping into my blood, but I immediately felt enlightened by it.

I hadn’t chosen a word for 2018, but in hindsight it’d be Adapt, hands down.

In August of 2017, I was in a bit of a rut. I liked the job that I had at the time, but I was not completely fulfilled by it. I was developing graphics and marketing collateral for a commercial real estate company. My boss was and still is one of my favorite people on the planet, but my heart could never really be pulled into real estate. (I’ve signed up for the class twice and tabled it, twice.) I love economic development and market trends, but it was just never my calling.

That real estate office happened to be in the Brent Building where I had heard of the Cowork Annex buildout for months. It was in September that my old friend Ramsey Coates took me on a tour of the finished product where I immediately fell in love with it.

I didn’t just become a member, I became apart of a family.

I left my job in real estate and threw myself back into the grind full-time with the support of my husband, family and friends.

Around October my friend, Calvin, connected me to Eddie “Truck” Gordon. Eddie is a Jamaican mixed martial artist who competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2011. (Plot Twist!) Although he was fit, accomplished and driven, he had not always been that way. Eddie was full of spirit, determination, drive and “in your face confidence.” He was just what I needed for that time of my life.

He wrote a book about his life, titled, “Forever Truckin’: Mastering the Will to Win.” Once upon a time Eddie was overweight, unhappy in his marriage, worked in the financial world in New York and was generally disappointed with his life and where it was. He attended a UFC match and as he sat ringside, when he decided he was going to fight too. His friends laughed at him.

Not only did he go onto fight, he is the middleweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn. His whole view on mindset was fascinating to me. I read the whole thing in 2 hours in the bathtub.

The bath was cold, but I was on fire. It was probably 11:00 p.m. and I decided to stay up all night and redesign my logo and build a first draft of a website for Social ICON. Who was there to say that I couldn’t?

Since the New Year was coming, it was then I decided to plan the event which changed my business completely. Social ICON’s Rebrand Launch Party.


A fun fact about me is that when I am inspired and driven to accomplish something, there are no brakes, there are no rules, there’s me and my mission and no one can stop me.

The party was scheduled for January 19, 2018 at the Cowork Annex. I planned everything. There would be fancy invitations, huge foam chess pieces, there would be a step & repeat, there would be professional headshots taken, there would be custom cocktails, there would be tables where you could play chess, food, music, THE WORKS.

The icing on the cake would be the branding video I would reveal. I spent weeks working with the incredibly talented Andy Gwynn, directing video testimonials. It took a solid 4 shooting days to create the 5 minute masterpiece in which it is today.

During the climax of the party, I would project the branding video on the entire back wall of the Cowork Annex and then I would step up to speak with a cocktail in my hand and I would thank all of those who attended, supported me, lifted me up.

The whole vision was burned in my mind.

On January 3, 2018, I found out I was pregnant. (Plot Twist!)

I had been feeling a little nauseous for about 2 days and I had one pregnancy test that was stashed away in the back of my bathroom cabinet. I mean, what’s the harm in taking it right? You’re probably just catching what everyone else has this winter, because there’s not really any way that is what’s happening to me right now…

WRONG. I was definitely, most certainly “two-blue lines” pregnant. I sat with my mouth open on the floor for at least 30 minutes. Trent and I had always wanted a second baby, but the timing was, well, a little inconvenient considering my whole business hinged on a party that was in 16 days.

I called my best friend, Ashley, I was in disbelief, shocked and a nervous wreck. I told Trent that evening by having Maddie give him a note that read, “I’m going to be a Big Sister.” He was in disbelief too, but was immediately excited.

So what did I do? I carried out my vision exactly as planned… minus the part where I was holding a cocktail. It was perfect. Symbolic. It was all of my visions coming true and I had put in the work to get there.

After that, business began to pour in.

I was on a cloud, but there was also rain coming. I had always done everything myself. I liked it that way. If I did it, I knew it would get done and it would be done the right way. However, you can’t grow in that mindset and I thought it was time to try hiring. With the combination of first trimester hormones and the inability to let go of control, I had a hard time finding a good fit.

Then came Sarah. Sarah was working (and still is) with Goosehead Insurance. She is very good at what she does and she loves her job, but like me, the creative marketing spirit calls her. She reached out and asked if she could work with me part time.

I had been jaded by future hires and I was not getting any less pregnant. I asked her to meet with me and we decided to go to UWF where she was studying for finals. I sat her down in a side room in the library and I gave her the detailed story of my journey and what my plans were for Social ICON. I was transparent with her and where I was with business. I laid out all my cards, my strengths and my weaknesses.

I asked her, “If you are still serious with working with me, I want you to commit to working with me until after this baby is born. That is the only commitment I need. It’s going to be a blast and I will support you in whatever you want to do next in life and teach you everything I know along the way.”

She obliged and I thank my lucky stars that she has been with me ever since. Sarah is special. Sarah has visions of where she wants to go. She takes initiative and is very detail-oriented. I needed Sarah for this time in my life. Plus, Jordan Reyes was supportive of her splitting time for the both of us and now we kid that we have “split custody” of her.

More projects came in and there was one in particular that I was gunning for, for weeks. The Propeller Club was looking for a local agency to develop an awareness campaign for the Port of Pensacola. I’m a lover of economic development and even more so when I get to play in the director’s chair.

I had invested time into landing this project. I was invested. I had attended City Council meetings, board meetings, member meetings, met with economic development movers and shakers and I had a picture in my head of what I wanted the campaign to look like. There was talk of an “end of July” board meeting where decisions would be made about my proposal but the date of the meeting was not yet set in stone.

This next timeline is a little daunting, but hang in there with me…

July 23rd, Sarah and I taught our first Instagram class for realtors.

July 26th, my blood pressure numbers were high, so I visited the labor and delivery ER. I expected to get medication and go on my merry way but my OBGYN wanted me to be kept overnight.

July 27th, I got the news that I was pre-eclamptic and my son was having dips in his oxygen levels which classified me as high risk, and that I would be staying the hospital for the remaining duration of my pregnancy. (PLOT TWIST.)

July 29th my family moved my entire baby shower to Sacred Heart Hospital in a tiny training room where I sweat profusely and was swollen enough to be a Shrek character.

August 3rd, Sarah streamed me into one of the Cowork Annex conference rooms where I hosted a video conference with the entire board of the Propeller Club while I was at the hospital.

August 5th, I gave birth to my son.

August 6th, my son was place in the NICU for 8, long, painstaking days.

August 14th, we were released from the hospital and got to go home with our baby!

August 24th, I was at the Port of Pensacola, directing and filming a campaign project with Steven Gray of Move Media… with my son.

On that day, and every day after that for nearly 5 months, I took my son to work with me, wherever I went, he went. I breastfed, carried, changed and bonded with him as I worked. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to.

When I had Maddie 3 years ago, I knew I was never meant to be a “stay-at-home-mom.” I am an extrovert and being apart of something that could change the course of entrepreneur history drives me. Alleged social norms and gender roles fueled me and my family is my WHY.


Let’s revisit my 2019 Virtue Card:

“To open deeply, as genuine spiritual life requires, we need tremendous courage and strength, a kind of warrior spirit.” - Jack Kornfield, A Path With Heart

Recently, I started working with life coach, Erin Kirk, who owns Girl Catch Fire. The main issue I have with my planning and growth is my fear of failure. “I didn’t do enough, it’s not exactly what I had pictured, you’re not going to succeed, everyone knows you’re a fraud, you’re not capable of juggling so much, no one really cares, your team is going to know you’re an amateur, you’re never going to be enough to support your family long-term, you should go back to a 9 to 5…”

These are legitimate voices that I fight regularly. If I’m begin open, honest and sincere… I was scared to death every step of the way. There were moments where I took on the world, showed up as a mom badass, but on some days I curled myself into bed and avoided all responsibility because I was just crippled with fear.

The Practice Of Openness

  • I am honest and transparent

  • I am direct and candid in sharing my perspective

  • I appreciate new ideas and possibilities

  • I sincerely want to communicate

  • I have no hidden motives

  • I care about the views and feelings of others

  • I am willing to receive life’s bounties

Life has a funny way of telling you when to saddle up and ride on. Since beginning my sessions with Erin, she’s encouraged me to dream bigger, think bigger and put written plans in place to execute my vision.

I’ve reflected on 2018 in so many ways. Although it was my busiest and lucrative year in business, I made time for family and friends. I made time for my husband and children and I have my found myself in a place where I am proud of where I am.

Has my year come and gone without mistakes? Of course not. Are there things I can improve upon, you bet. However, living in a constant state of transparency is what has allowed me to breathe.

I started posting moments, real moments of me working with my son. It’s something I am so proud of because I want other moms to know that they can do it too. We all have fear, especially as a parent. Life becomes so complex but rewarding. It’s so important to me that my social media means something to someone.

As we move into 2019, I have been challenged to write down the valuable things about myself. It’s not something I’ve ever done, but Erin insists it replaces the “voices.” That it takes practice to train your brain not to see the worst in what’s to come. One of the things I wrote down is that I have an innate gift of messaging. I want to share this gift with all of you and plan to reveal a project our team is working on in the near future.

With heart, courage, drive and purpose, I want to be open with you all. I want to encourage you to go after what you love. Seek the projects that give you fulfillment. Spend the extra time doing your research. Envision who you are in a year from now, three years, five years. Reach deep within yourself and do what’s uncomfortable. Live on the edge.

Most of all, move forward with openness.

I am thankful for the gift of Openness. It frees me to be myself.

Sincerely Yours,

Briana Snellgrove