Community manager Harmony Eichsteadt is the guest for the 102nd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. We chatted with Harmony about a wide range of topics related to connecting with clients to building communities for both customers and peers. Harmony knows a thing or two about building healthy communities—she’s done it with groups like The Good Life Project and NationBuilder. We asked Harmony about:
• how she became a community manager (with stops as a dating coach and cancer survivor along the way)
• the first steps to take to build a community around ourselves
• who is better for community building: introverts or extroverts
• the biggest misconceptions around building a community
• where you can build a community and how (it’s not just online)
• some of the benefits of building and belonging to a community of copywriters
• how to connect with others within communities you don’t own
• whether there’s a growing hunger for new communities today
• why everyone is already a community leader and how to get better
• the differences between online and offline community interaction
• how to connect with people in the real world
• how copywriters can build deeper connections with other writers
We also asked Harmony for her advice about when you run an event (we’re starting to think about round two for TCC IRL) and what it takes to win a poetry slam. She let’s us in on the fact that we probably won’t win one. Maybe we’ll have Harmony to our next event to perform a bit of her award-winning poetry—yeah? To hear this one, simply click the play button below, or download it to your favorite podcast app. Want to read it instead? Scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The Copywriter Club Podcast is sponsored by Airstory, the writing platform for professional writers who want to get more done in half the time. Learn more at Airstory.co/club.
Kira: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join the club for episode 102 as we chat with professional community builder, Harmony Eichsteadt about what it takes to create strong communities, how to work a room online and off, what she does to land and rock a speaking gig, and writing poetry good enough to win a poetry slam.
Kira: Welcome Harmony.
Rob: Hey Harmony.
Harmony: Thanks so much for having me.
Kira: We’re excited that you’re here so we can talk about something that we really haven’t covered on this podcast. All about community development, community engagement and relationships. So, why don’t we kick it off with your story. How did you end up as a relationship and community expert?
Harmony: It’s such a good question and I think for many of us we can start the story at a lot of different places. So, the more deeply I get into my work, the more I can see tendrils from even my childhood of like, ‘I’ve always been very fascinated about connecting people.’ So, I think there’s some thread that was maybe there from a young age, but how it crystallized for me was actually I started out as a dating coach, which I think is, now I think is very funny. I spent a few years working with people on writing dating profiles, on how to flirt, and think about developing relationships. That morphed into this current career for a few different reasons.
One is that I got diagnosed with thyroid cancer when I was 29 and that was not what I was planning to do with my 29th year on the planet. I had other items on my agenda, but it threw a monkey wrench in things. As is the case for lots of us when we have a big surprising life change, it forces us to look at our priorities, what we care about and who we really are.
Part of what emerged for me in that process was that I noticed I was really gathering all these people around me. That seems very obvious and normal in that time, but I started to see other people going through difficult circumstances alone. I realized that there was some combination of having already built a really strong community and then knowing what to do with it. I started to reflect back on the dating coaching that I was doing, and so much of that was actually teaching people how to build communities, and how to have a lot of rich relationships, many of which, or some of which would turn romantic, but not all of them because we have a lot of friends, it’s easier to meet someone to date.
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So, I started to really refine like, what I care about is actually just teaching people about connecting. I want everyone to have the kind of network support that can uplift you so that when life takes a left turn, it’s there. It became just like a really personal passion and, which then turned into this career path, which has been just like really a fun adventure to see that unfold that way.
Rob: Okay. So, I have a whole bunch of questions that flow out of your story. But, I want to go back to the beginning where you are a dating coach, teaching people how to flirt and connect. What’s involved in that? I mean, I’m thinking about myself and I have a relationship so I’m not really interested in learning how to flirt for romantic purposes, but obviously connecting with people and getting people interested in you, like how do you teach that?
Harmony: Right. I think that’s a great question. Actually a lot of flirting that you might do with a romantic intention is also like if you take the romance part out is really great for just connecting with people. So, giving someone a lot of eye contact and being really curious about their life, and what they’re interested in is very attractive and engaging whether you want to date somebody, or you’re just having a conversation with a colleague.
So, thinking about those elements, I was like, what makes us just feel really good and want to get to know somebody better? That’s the whole point of flirting really. It was like, ‘This feels nice. I might want to have another conversation with this person.’
Kira: So, is the key to growing our businesses to flirt more? Do Rob and me need to start flirting more?
Harmony: I mean, I don’t know if it’s the key, but especially if you’re interested in building more relationships, I think it’s a pretty good tactic.
Kira: So, I want to hear more about when you had cancer at age 29, how did your community help you? Can you provide some specific examples?
Harmony: Yeah, so I actually had teams of folks, so I had a finance captain who’s in charge of helping manage fundraising because I couldn’t work for part of that time, and I had several people who were coaching me around stuff like grappling with my mortality, and thinking about what that meant, and who I was going to be in the face of this big change. I had folks organize teams so that I always had a person with me at every doctor’s appointment.
It was really funny being a young adult with cancer is really different than how most people experience it. It’s usually either pediatric cancer or folks who are older, so you tend to either have a spouse, or children, or parents there as a consistent support figure. But, I was divorced, I wasn’t living near my parents but I had this great community, so I had a rotating band of friends. My doctors never knew who was going to show up with me. There was always some person there.
I lived with some friends for a little while, so it was really a wide range of ways that people showed up, which I think is actually a real key for community. So, I think of it like stone soup, or I might bring a carrot, and you have a potato, and there’s somebody else who has celery, and you all just pitch in the thing that you have, and if you have enough folks who can do that, you end up with this really rich result, and nobody is having to really extend past what they’re able to offer.
Rob: So, before we jump into the business applications of this kind of a thing, a lot of copywriters, myself included, are a little bit introverted and so connecting with people, especially in real life is difficult. What are some of those first steps that we need to take in order to build communities around ourselves like what you’re talking about?
Harmony: I love this question. I actually do a lot of work with introverts, and I’ve gotten like a little obsessed with thinking about introverts as community builders. I actually think in some ways introverts can be even better community builders than extroverts because … I know, it’s like plot twist. The reason being that, obviously I’m painting with a broad brush, but the often for introverts, each relationship they build takes much more energy, and so they tend to be much more invested in and hold the relationships as really precious. If it’s very easy to make lots of relationships and everyone’s a new friend, then it can be … you might forget or be a little more flippant about the relationships. So, I think that, ‘Okay, this relationship was painstakingly one, and I’m not going to lose it because I’m not doing that work again.’ actually can be like a great asset for community building.
But, then obviously there is like if you’re building a big community, a lot of relationships so that that can be taxing, and if you’re someone that doesn’t draw your energy from that. So, I think some, some tips is like, one, don’t have to be extroverted. So, not trying to be something that you’re not. A few really quality deep relationships that last are better than a bunch of superficial relationships. You don’t personally have to build every relationship. So, you can build a small group of folks and then they can bring their friends. In a really good community, that’s how it should be, is that people are like, ‘Hey, this thing is really cool. You should come along with me.’ And, you don’t have to hold every relationship as the primary person who’s connected to them. So, I think those are probably the biggest things I would say.
Kira: What are some common misconceptions around building a community? I mean, I think, again as introverts we think, ‘Okay. Well, I can’t do it because I’m not like so and so, or I’m not that type of leader.’ What have you heard from your clients?
Harmony: Well, I think one common misconception is that one person can just make a community. That’s not how people work unfortunately, much to my dismay. You can’t just make people come together and connect. So, I think what you can do is create a container, and see if community will form inside of that. So, you can’t make community happen. I also think we often, right now, really undervalue the importance of face to face connections. I think there’s definitely a place for online work and relationships are just so deep if you can meet in person. So, any way that you can do that I think is really, really helpful. Those are, I think are the biggest misconceptions.
Rob: I want to follow up on that. So, when you’re talking about putting out a container to have a place where this community can grow, what does that look like? Are you talking about like, ‘Hey, I’m going to set up a Facebook group, or I’m going to set up a forum somewhere online and invite people.’ or is there more to it that goes into that?
Harmony: That is a great question. Well, one of the things that I’m thinking about is there’s a coworking space here in Seattle that my business partner and I just hosted an event at last night called Office Nomads. One of their core values is actually we don’t build community. We just like create the space in which community can thrive. And, we really resonated with that.
So, in that case it’s a physical location, but it’s not just the building. They didn’t just rent a building and be like, ‘Well, I hope people show up.’ They thought about their core values. They thought about how would they decorate the space, furnish the space to support the values of the kind of people they want to attract. They thought about their copy, like how do we communicate who we are, who we’re hoping to come together. And, then they put all of that out into the world.
So, I think all of that is the container, and that’s one place where copywriting is so crucial is like really getting clear. Like who are the people you’re hoping will come to whatever that container is. So, whether that, you’re a Facebook group, or you’re a retreat, or you’re a coworking space, and being able to speak in a way that, like what happened with us when we walked in this space, we read these. We were like, ‘These are our people. We want to be here, we want to connect more.’ Then we became members, and now we’re in the slack group, and hosting events and getting like deeper into the relationships of the people because they did such a good job of specifying who’s this for and what could you do here.
Kira: This is so clear to me because I work with clients who build communities, so I see the importance of the copy with that. And, then Rob and I run a community as well, so I get this and it’s really interesting to me, but I could also see where there could be some copywriters who aren’t necessarily running a community right now, and don’t work with those clients. What would you say to them as far as how they market themselves, and how the role community plays in marketing today especially with social media.
Harmony: Well, I think there’s two big places. One is really building your own community of colleagues, which I think is part of what’s so exciting about this podcast, and what you all are doing is having that internal community of people who really know what it’s like to be a copywriter, and you can have those real conversations with ask questions, connect, have someone say like, ‘Yeah, I know exactly what you’re going through.’, and refer people to each other because a lot of building a business is about not trying to do that alone, but building this collaborative network. So, that’s one place where I think community building is just really powerful for anyone.
Then for copywriter externally or with your clients, even if someone’s not really specifically out to build a community, I think those principles can really shape how you write copy. So, you all probably know this better than I do, but some copy is really designed to inspire fear, scarcity, competition not being good enough, right pay. If you buy our product and then you’ll be lovable, then you’ll belong, then you’ll feel good enough, so that’s one way. Lots of people use that, and it can be effective in selling things, but it creates a lot of isolation and disconnection.
So, this other way of creating copy for your clients can be like, ‘Hey, there’s this awesome thing happening, and you can be a part of it. We want you. You belong here.’ Even if there’s not a tangible place to connect to just say like, ‘Raise your hand if you’re one of us. Raise your hand if you believe in these things.’ That is a different framework, I think, for inviting people into whatever it is that you’re selling, even if there’s not a really specific way to connect on the other side of that.
Rob: Interesting. I think one of the things that we talk a lot about within our community is that a great place to connect with potential clients is within other communities where your clients would hang out. So, in as far as copywriters who maybe don’t want to start a community, and run their own thing, but they need to be able to connect with people within a community, what kind of advice do you have for them in finding, and joining, and connecting with people within the community that they don’t necessarily run on their own?
Harmony: That’s a great question. Well, and I actually think copywriters are probably better placed than a lot of people to do this work because so much of writing the copy is being curious about your client’s market and asking questions, and those are all the same things that would have you build good relationships. So, I think you can draw on that skillset.
I would say first is find communities that you actually like and want to be a part of, not just that you think there might be clients because I just don’t think there’s any way you can fake liking something or liking someone. It’s not the same as when you’re really engaged, so I would think about where are communities that are fun for you to be, you really enjoy it, and there is potential customers, or the people in that community know potential customers because we love to refer people. We love to say like, ‘I’ve got someone for you. Let me give you their name.’
Then form relationships without an agenda. So, if you go into it like just trying to make a bunch of sales, everyone will smell that on you. But, if you go in being interested to connect with people that are exciting to you, then I think it’s inevitable that people say like, ‘What do you do? Who do you work with?’ and that will organically lead to connections.
Kira: I’m wondering, have you noticed an increase in the need to be a part of a community even more recently? I mean, have you noticed any studies, or have you just felt it in your own work where, just thinking back to what you were saying about copy and how maybe agitating the pain may be less effective than creating the desire to be part of something bigger than yourself, and to be part of a community. I wonder if that’s always the same and dependent on the client, or if there is this really big need for that right now.
Harmony: I think as human beings we have always, part of what fundamentally makes us human is that we are tribal creatures, and we like to be in connection with each other. In the last hundred years, stuff has really changed. So, we can buy things online instead of walk down to a little local market where we know the one person who sells the thing. There’s a huge decrease in participation in religious communities, which for a lot of folks was a place where they every week met the same people and connected with them. Then we created suburbs where we’re really far away from our jobs, and we’re driving from these little boxes in a little box car to a little box office.
So, there’s all these ways in which we’ve redesigned our society to decrease connection. So, I think that plus the rise of technology where we can connect virtually, but we’re not getting as much in-person connection has created this really interesting situation where we’re feeling this gap, and you see it across most demographics of people, and industries, and cities of there’s a longing for connection and for relationships, which I think is part of where businesses, especially when they have a real mission, and ethical drive behind it can actually fill this need, and create this container, and create this place for connection. And, there’s a hunger for it because of all these places we’re not connecting that we used to connect.
So, I think the instinct has always been there, but I think there’s a particular need that’s happening now that’s new, and if you approach it right, it can be a really powerful way to serve people in addition to whatever else you’re serving people with.
Rob: It seems like at the same time you’ve got that need growing. When we talk about how we are tribal in some of the things that we do, there are things going on in the political culture where both sides are maybe moving away from the center a little bit, and then we see those people clash in some communities. We’ve seen it in our group a little bit. I’ve seen it in other groups online as well.
How do you deal with those kinds of collisions where you want to foster this communication, we want to create relationships, but at the same time some people hold very deeply held beliefs, and a Facebook group is probably not the place where you start changing beliefs, at least not in a big way. Do you have advice for people like us who have a community as far as fostering better relationships between opposing groups?
Harmony: That’s a great question. I think it’s one of the ways in which we haven’t quite figured out what we’re doing with social media yet. Like we got this like technology, but it’s giving a jet airplane to a two year old. We don’t really know what we’re doing.
Rob: It’s a great idea, they’re going to get somewhere.
Harmony: Right. But, I think there are a few things we’re starting to learn. So, one is having really clear guidelines and codes of conduct are super awesome because then you can enforce them in a way that’s not personal. It’s not just you arbitrarily deciding you don’t like a comment. We have this rule, there’s no name calling or … and not every community should have the same rules. So, we don’t have any snarky comments. That’s not allowed in this community. Maybe another community that’s appropriate to the tone, to the flavor to what you want to create, but really getting clear what are the kinds of ways we want people to show up and don’t want people to show up, and what will happen if they violate these. So, is there a warning? Is there like a public response to their comments, are they going to get banned, can they just … there now Facebook has an option where you can mute people for some certain periods of time so they can be in the group but not comment.
So, there’s some options like that. It’s really worth taking some time to lay those out. Ideally before you launch the community, but at any point is better than never. Then to enforce them. Then people start to learn that they can count on this container to be a place where a certain standard of communication will exist. That creates some safety, and then people can lean in a little bit more to being vulnerable with each other because they know where the edges are.
Then obviously there’s still going to be tension, or differences of opinion, and stuff to work through. So, I think having some other steps that aren’t just about moderating or banning but help reconcile, and of course everyone’s got to decide how much bandwidth they have for this because you could spend literally your entire life moderating Facebook comments.
Rob: Absolutely. Not exactly how we want to spend our lives.
Kira: So not what I want to do, right?
Harmony: Right, which is like maybe I should have added in the misconception that communities don’t take a lot of work because they absolutely do, but there are communities where it’s worth doing things like whole facilitating a private phone call between two members who are having tension so that they can actually be in real time dialogue in a private space, get to know each other a little bit better, and see if there’s some resolution that can get created there. That’s not appropriate for every Facebook community or for every other kind of community.
But, I am one of the community managers for a listserv of folks that do political work that crosses over with technology, and all kinds of stuff can come up in that group. But, there’s also a really deep shared commitment. So, that’s one of the options that we have on the table is if the listserv, there’s some tension that we’ll be available to help facilitate private healing conversations so that the community can deepen our connection with each other.
Rob: Because our community deals with copywriting and language, and so many things ranging from freedom of speech to the meaning of words, I mean, there’s just so much of what we deal with on a daily basis that’s politically charged. We want to facilitate a group that doesn’t look like everybody else, right? We don’t want an only Conservative group, or an only Liberal group, or a group of only women, or only men. I think that there’s so much value in the clash of ideas and comments, but at the same time balancing that so that it stays relatively friendly non-accusatory, negative. I mean, we’ve definitely had that happen in our group where we’ve struggled with it, and it’s something, it’s a bit of a work in progress. Maybe there’s not a perfect way to do it, but it is not easy.
Harmony: Right Well, anytime there are humans involved it’s like it can get messy.
Rob: Yeah, exactly.
Harmony: So, that’s just part of it. I mean, it’s part of the pain, and also part of the joy of community work is like it’s real people. It’s not a dress rehearsal ever, right? We’re like actually dealing with real humans. That’s where I think for you all having really clear guidelines and codes of conduct is going to serve you. It’s like what’s allowed, what’s not allowed in this community in order to serve this purpose and this mission that is clearly really important to you.
Kira: Can you share an example? Maybe this is a self-serving question, but the private call, and how you reconcile differences, and what that call looks like because I think that is a great idea.
Harmony: Well, there’s some really great models around restorative justice. So, I would say for folks who are interested in that, like that’s a great model. I think you can also draw from things like non-violent communication. There’s other tools that lend themselves towards having conflict resolution moments. But, a big part of it is when you are with a person. So, I mean a video call is really great. When you see their face, we tend to be a little softer. We say things differently than when we are typing a comment, or a phone call, or even face to face in real life, so that piece of it just by itself is often a de-escalator because we’re like, ‘Right, hello other human.’ Not just a computer screen.
Then holding space for the humanity that’s there for each person. I mean, this is the track, when you can pull it off is like holding space for the real precious vulnerable humanity, and holding clear to the values and standard of the community that you’re building. If you can marry those two, then I think you can really create a space where folks show up, and are willing to learn, and listen, and come together. Not everyone will be interested in doing that for sure, but if folks are willing to it, it can be really awesome.
Kira: So, it seems like we can safely say that copywriters are business owners, and business owners are community leaders because whether it’s two people in your community or 2 million, you have a tribe when you have a business. Is that safe to say?
Harmony: I would say so. I mean, I think everyone is a community leader in some way, right? I mean, we’re all connecting with people, even if it’s a very small group, or just our family, right? Everyone has that potential to be a community leader.
Kira: So, what can we do to be even better at that? When we have that moment we’re like, ‘I am a community leader, or leading my family.’ whatever role that is. What are some ways that we can improve, or anything that you’ve tested yourself?
Harmony: Well, for all of us as entrepreneurs, as business leaders and community leaders, doing our own work is so powerful. That can look like a lot of different things. But, for me, taking time for meditation have, working with a therapist, or doing self- development training, really taking time in your life to do your own work is so powerful because, gosh, when you are in front of a room, or talking to clients, or running a community, whatever is unresolved for you will come up in those moments. I guarantee you.
The more facility that I have around like, ‘I’m in front of a room.’ and I noticed that I like said something embarrassing, and I disconnect from the room instead of being present, then that makes me be more like ego driven, or more trying to perform, or want approval, or want to hide, or whatever the reaction is.
So, the more I can notice that, the more I can be like, ‘Okay. Thanks brain, but actually I’m going to come back to this moment now.’ Then I can actually just show up and be of service. So, I would say that’s probably the biggest thing is like we’ve all got stuff we could work through, and the more of that you work through, the more you can serve people and be with what’s happening, and not with whatever you’re reacting to. Then along with that, to try to just have a sense of humor with yourself because, man, people are weird, and wonderful, and stubborn, and complicated. I sometimes joke that community is the worst, and the only thing worse than community is not having community.
Rob: I totally agree. There’s so many people in our community that I can think of that I love so many things about them, and then there’s this weird quirk, and it’s that … but it’s that one thing that you know everybody bumps up against, and it’s hard to deal with. But, we’re all human and life works a lot better if we’re forgiving, and understanding, and cutting slack even if maybe slack isn’t deserved, or somebody believes something reprehensible, and it’s just an interesting mix when you get thousands of people together.
So, are there differences with how we should be interacting with our community in person versus online? Are there things that we need to be doing when you’re in front of a room as opposed to when you’re posting a comment into social media?
Harmony: Well, when you’re with people, you get a lot more feedback, right? So, you can see their facial expressions and hear noises and they’re going to laugh, or clap, or not make any noise. So, you’re getting this really direct feedback in a way that we’re not getting online.
I don’t know what the exact study is, but I mean there’s something that’s like 90% of communication is non-verbal. So, we’re really eliminating a lot of that when we’re dealing with text. So, I think being sensitive to the limitations of the media that you’re working with is great. So, I definitely have been guilty of assuming somebody would get something was a joke when actually it just landed as mean, and I’m like, ‘No, no, because remember that time … ‘
Rob: Been there. 100 times.
Harmony: Defaulting to maybe being a little less sarcastic, or a little less cryptic online. But, there’s also advantages to online communication, which is that you can take a minute before you respond, you can edit your response. So, taking advantage of that because you can’t be like, ‘This thing I just typed out of my mouth, I’d like to take it back and edit it.’ That’s not how that works in a real conversation. So, I think that’s the biggest thing is just noticing like what are the limitations, and what are the advantages of these media, and how can I really be responsible for those in a way that I’m communicating.
Kira: I want to go back to flirty and infamous, stuck on the flirting part of this conversation. So, especially with networking events. Let’s start there. This is a two parted question.
Kira: I’m going to hug the mic for a little bit. So, when you go to work a room at a networking event, what tips can you offer copywriters to just really feel more confident and comfortable, and build some good relationships with potential clients, maybe fellow copywriters who you could partner with because so many of us just feel really awkward in a room full of people we don’t know.
Harmony: That’s awesome. So, I had a job for a while where I was the evangelist of a software company that makes community building software. What that job entailed was basically I went to a conference or some big event every weekend and networked my butt off. So, I have worked a lot of rooms. I started to forget people’s names, little muddy, but it was really powerful as a learning experience.
I think there’s a few things. One, before you go to that event actually think about like why are you going, and who are you hoping to connect with. So, you’re not just throwing yourself at this group of people and hoping something happens, but you have some plan or some idea of, here’s what success would look like. I’d like to connect with one potential client, or sometimes it’s like I just want to have one conversation where I don’t feel awkward. That’s fine. If you’ve got to start there, that’s wonderful.
So, having sense of why you’re going and what you’re hoping to get out of it I think is really useful. Then thinking about that way that can shape how you go through the events. You’re like, ‘I’m in this conversation with someone, and I don’t think that they’re a potential client. I’m not really feeling very engaged.’ I can like move on. I can say like, ‘Hey, it’s been really great to meet you. I want to connect with some more people. Thanks so much, have a nice night.’ and meet some other folks.
Also for me, I have come to find that if I make one or two really good connections, that, that is a success. So, I don’t try to give my business card to every person in the room. That is exhausting and feels, even if you’re an extrovert, and can feel very superficial. So, have one or two really good connections. If you are an introvert, you’re feeling a little shy and overwhelmed, the best advice I could give is to find the person who seems to know everybody and who is extroverted. Often, that is me in the room, and just seriously go up to them and be like, ‘Hey, I’m a little shy or I don’t know anybody. Can I like be your sidekick? Will you help me connect with people?’
That question, if somebody asked me that, I would be like, ‘Come with me kid, I’m going to show you the world.’ It’s like such a sweet question. For folks who are very extroverted, and love to connect with people, it’s like Christmas, like you want me to introduce you to people? So, use that and just let them help you with that.
That’s probably my favorite piece of advice for introverts, and then again as copywriters, I think you have this great skill set. Ask questions like you’re interviewing people in the community, or a client you’re working with. Get to know them, be curious, and you’ll find that people tend to think you’re really interesting when they talk a lot about themselves.
Kira: Right. No, that’s great advice. I feel like I want to go to networking events with you and be your sidekick.
Harmony: Yeah, come along, you’ll be awesome.
Kira: So, the follow question is how can copywriters build deeper connections with, again, potential clients or maybe even fellow copywriters because we get so many leads from fellow copywriters, and how can we do that online? So, exclude the in-person networking event in a way that feels genuine because everyone’s on guard too. It’s like you’re on guard with your email, you’re questioning what people’s motives are when they’re reaching out to you, want to get on a call and pick your brain. So, how do we build those connections so that it feels good and there is some value in it. Like it could actually help you down the line.
Harmony: I think that can be somewhat personal. It’s what is a way that you really like to connect that will fill you up as a person so that it’s not like a slog. So, if for example, I really liked to connect in real time, I might be like, ‘Hey, anybody want to have a co-brainstorming session where we just all hop on a zoom call and bring like the places we’re stuck on writing copy for our clients, or the places we’re stuck in building our business, and let’s just share with each other.’ I’ll just be like, ‘Anyone can come. Invite your friends or just post it in a group.’ That’s a way, where I’m not selling myself, but I am providing value for the community and providing value for myself.
That might not be interesting for somebody else to do that, so that sounds terrible. I don’t want to do that, but they could think about what’s a way you can be of service and nurture yourself, and that lets you connect with other folks. That’s probably the best way, because then worst case scenario, you get something out of it, but you start to be known as someone who has something to offer. You’re not just out for what you can get. You’re clearly an expert if you have something to offer, right? So, it positions you well, and it feels very no pressure but does let people know who you are and what you’re about.
Kira: That’s great. So, I know that you’ve worked with clients on in-person events. I mean, really big events, and maybe you can share some specifics, whatever you’re comfortable sharing, but what do we need to think about as maybe we’re planning our own events. Maybe it’s just a little retreat, or maybe it’s a workshop, or maybe it is a bigger event. How do you make it successful, and build, grow a community rather than potentially not doing anything or even setting you back a couple of steps.
Harmony: Right. Yeah. Well, there’s obviously tons of little pieces that can make an event really great or make it not as wonderful. So, I think there’s like thousands of tiny things. But, a few bigger things, actually I think my number one piece of advice for when you’re at the event producing it is don’t run, even when the tech is broken, even when something has gone wrong, and it feels like the whole day because there’s always going to be something just so you know. There will always be something, but don’t run because then you communicate that there’s an emergency, and it puts this tension in the space.
So, it seems funny, but it’s one of the things that really tipped the scales for me in the events I do. So, it’s like, ‘The tech isn’t working.’ and like, ‘Okay.’ I’m going to walk over to the stage even though inside I’m going, ‘Ah.’ And, I’m going to be like, ‘Great, we’re going to figure it out.’
When you as the facilitator are communicating that like, ‘Okay. Well, it’s cool, maybe we won’t have slides for this. I’m going to draw stick figures of your slides on the whiteboard while you talk, or we’ll pass out handouts later that have copies of the slides.’ and you just know that it will somehow work out. People will match you. So, there’ll be like, ‘Great. Yeah, whatever. The tech didn’t work, but speakers were great. The people were great, food was great.’ Right? Like they just, they’ll be fine.
So, no matter what happens, if you can have your focus be taking care of people and not coming from an emergency mode, even if it feels like there’s an emergency happening, then I think that is probably the biggest thing. Obviously if there’s an actual emergency you should run, but unless something’s on fire. Yeah. So, that’s the biggest thing.
Then especially when you’re dealing with really big events, you just can’t do everything. This is such a hard one for me to learn because I want to just put my fingers in every little piece, and take care of everybody. But, as the main person organizing it, it’s really important for me to do as little of the small work as possible so that I can be available for questions, and to help organize, and to facilitate.
So, my business partner and I just had a big festival in a park here in Seattle, which was super fun. We had never thrown a festival before, but we had bands and vendors and all kinds of people. I was watching vendors set up their tents, and I really wanted to go help them because they’re my people and I love them. But, if I went and did that, I couldn’t like get pulled away for all the other questions that there were. So, I was resisting the urge and they were great. They helped each other. They didn’t need me actually to do that work. They needed me to organize the big stuff.
Kira: Yeah. That’s such a good example, and I think it’s easy, especially if you’re running your own event to hide too, especially if you’re not as comfortable in the spotlight, to hide and get really busy in the weeds when really you should be meeting with people, chatting with people more so in the spotlight, connecting because it’s your event.
Kira: We need the reminder. I’m also wondering about activities that help build communities, so if you have any examples. Not necessarily icebreakers, but it’s always good to know like what have you actually seen work really well, again, in-person event with the smaller group or with a big group that you can tell in the moment, you’re like, ‘Wow, that just brought this whole room, or all these people, 400 people together. It’s magical.’
Harmony: That’s so great. A couple things. So, one, when I’m thinking about helping people feel comfortable and connect in events is I try to structure it so that there are ways of connecting where people have solo time to reflect. They have a one-on-one partner, a small group, and then bigger group so that the extroverts get what’s really comfortable for them, and also some places to stretch, and the introverts get what’s really comfortable for them, and also some places to stretch, and they get to connect in different dynamics in the group. I try to structure it that way.
One thing that, this is a little bit in the icebreaker category but I think is worth knowing, it’s okay to do stuff that’s a little cheesy because when we have a little embarrassing thing that we all go through together, we feel bonded. How people bond as humans is overcoming shared obstacles or shared trauma.
So, sometimes I will joke, like last year at Camp Good Life Project, which is one of the clients that I work with, I was running the volunteer team, and during our meeting had everybody introduce themselves and make silly animal noises. It was a little embarrassing to do that, but I told them that we’re doing it for a couple reasons. One is because it helps you remember someone’s name when they say like, my name is harmony and then, ‘Hoo, hoo, hoo.’ Right? I mean, that’s, just like that, we’re going to forget that. But, it also helps us connect if we overcome shared trauma together. So, we’re all going to do this traumatic thing, and then now we’ll be eternally bonded.
Kira: Okay. We’re definitely going to do that at some point. That’s such a great reminder too just for building relationships with your clients. I mean, it’s different for every client relationship somewhat. Like I get really close to clients, it may not make sense for everyone, but to have something maybe even slightly embarrassing or awkward as part of your onboarding process to help the two of you bond, that makes a lot of sense even within the client relationship. So, I love that idea.
Kira: Alright, so to shift gears a little bit, I want to ask about speaking gigs because I noticed you’re speaking, you seem comfortable speaking of course, but how did you get on that path? How did you land those speaking gigs? Because, a lot of copywriters want to speak more.
Harmony: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, it’s having gone to lots of different conferences and events, I’ve seen a lot of the behind the scenes of how speakers are picked. So, for lots of events, they’re curated and for lots of events there’s a submission process. So, I think especially if you’re interested in speaking, and you haven’t really like gotten into that a lot, looking for events where there’s a speaker submission is really great. Then just fill out a ton of them, and practice, and get used to like, ‘What are the kinds of things they ask and what kinds of things are being accepted versus what I submitted.’ You can start to learn like, ‘Here’s how to write a compelling pitch for a workshop, or for a speech that will get accepted.’ And, especially as copywriters. I mean this is great. This is like a golden moment to practice your copywriting about yourself.
Then also tell people you’re looking for speaking gigs, because you might be surprised who is interested in having a guest speaker. That might be in person or on a podcast because there are a growing number of folks who are hosting podcasts, and who want to have different kinds of speakers on. So, letting folks know that that’s something you’re available for, and interested in, and asking other people who are speaking like, ‘Hey, how did you get this gig? Can you tell me about that? I’m interested in speaking at something similar.’ My experience has been if you do that work and you’re engaged, it’s not difficult to find places to speak.
Rob: Yeah. Especially if you’re looking where your clients are hanging out. At a show as opposed to marketing conferences. But, conferences are focused on the writing that we want to do, there are lots of opportunities.
Harmony: Yeah, that’s awesome. And, I think people are really curious to hear from copywriters. They want to know like what are your best tricks and what can I learn from you and how do I work with you. So, that’s a great point. A really good way to get yourself in front of your clients.
Rob: So, Harmony, I want to ask about poetry.
Rob: You have written a little bit. I think you’ve written a book of poetry, but you’ve won a couple of poetry slams. What does it take to write a poem, or perform a poem good enough to win a poetry slam?
Harmony: That’s a great question. Yeah. So, I was the first youth poetry slam champion in Austin a million and a half years ago, which was so much fun. And, then I got to go on tour. I created a little tour thing with a friend, and we made some books of poetry that we printed at Kinko’s back when that was a thing. Yeah, it was really great.
So, I think there’s a few things. One is, I have been writing poetry since I was 11, so I had a lot of help and support from teachers and workshops that I did. I was in creative writing club in high school, so practicing, and getting feedback, and editing, and coaching is really helpful. I also heard a poetry teacher say you should input as much as you output, so I think if you’re interested in poetry, especially in poetry slams, go to poetry slams, buy books and recordings of people doing it, and listen to the stuff that’s really resonating with you.
What are the words, and the topics, and the flow and let that inspire the writing. Then you got to output, right? So, try stuff out. Most cities have open mics and slams that you can go and get your butt on a stage, and get judged, and it’s so scary, and it’s so awesome too. And, the community is very, very supportive of people who are willing to get up there, and put themselves out there, and you’ll get better that way.
Kira: That sounds terrifying.
Harmony: It’s so terrifying, especially because most stuff people write about is very personal. So, it can feel like what you’re getting judged on is like your personal life experience. So, it’s not for the faint of heart, but also the fastest way to get better in your writing.
Rob: For somebody who hasn’t actually been to a poetry slam, you’re probably imagining the scene from, ‘So I Married an Axe Murderer’ where Mike Myers is up there doing these poems or whatever and they’re funny, but yeah, poems are the last thing I want to share with my audience.
Kira: Rob, we need to do it. I’m adding it to my bucket list, and to your bucket list.
Harmony: You could just start out by going to a poetry slam, and being in the audience because they are actually really fun. They are usually about three minutes long, often memorized and very performative, so it’s a little bit more like, I didn’t know, like poetry meets hip hop, or something like …
Rob: You should give us an example.
Harmony: Oh my God.
Rob: Just right now.
Harmony: I do not have a poem prepared. They’re really, really exciting and the energy tends to be very high. So, they’re fun events to go to, and nothing like the poems in ‘So I Married an Axe Murderer’.
Kira: Final question for you. What are you working on? What are you excited about right now? What are some upcoming projects that you can share with our community?
Harmony: I would say the big thing I’m really excited about is that my business partner, Milly and I have a company called Worth the Journey where we work with heart centered entrepreneurs. We are just about to open up registration for our Winter retreat which is called Inward, and it’s really sweet. We’ve got this little house, retreat center a couple of hours outside of Seattle where there’s a chef who makes food custom to every person’s specific dietary restrictions. It’s incredible. So, whatever kind of food that you like to eat, it’s like fresh from the garden, and homemade, and super delicious.
Then between meals, we spend two and a half days really diving into completing the year of 2018, and then visioning out and creating your path for 2019. There’s yoga, and time to connect really deeply. So, it’s very, very nurturing and heart centered, and it also helps set up your year for your business.
So, if you’re interested in that, worth the journey.com/inward, we’ve got a little waiting list, and soon a registration page open. So, I think that’s my current favorite project. I know it’s Summer right now, but I’m like, already imagining how fun-
Kira: No, it’s okay. You had us at food. You sold me on the food part.
Harmony: Yeah, great.
Rob: That’s good. So, I’m not sure I’ll go for the yoga. The visioning thing might be a little weird, but I’m totally there for the food.
Kira: I’m there for the whole thing. Sign me up.
Rob: That’s really good.
Kira: All right. Thank you so much for your time with us and sharing about community and relationships. This has been really helpful to me personally, so I’m sure it’s helpful to our community.
Harmony: Thank you so much. I’m really excited about what you all are creating for copywriters. I think that’s really, really special.
Rob: Thanks Harmony.
You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive, available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes, and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit the copywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.
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