6 Ways to Find Blogging Inspiration in the New Year

New year, fresh ideas, right? It always seems as if once the clock strikes midnight on a new year that we are expected to be filled with a creative jolt and ready to take charge again. But, it doesn’t always work that way. In fact, blogging can be super tedious, propelling us round and round on a hamster wheel, only to burn out at times. We have all been there. Sometimes, all we need is a new outlook, change of scenery, or new perspective to start kicking some blogging butt again.

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1. Buy a new planner.

I know, you are thinking “what the heck is a new planner going to do to inspire me?” But it really will! Planners are filled with fun quotes, colors, and designs that are sure to spark something. Start simple and lay out a few blog post ideas and start to formulate your editorial calendar for January and you will see new ideas start to flow. Keep your planner with you so that you can jot down new ideas as they come to you throughout the day and you won’t be able to keep yourself away from your blog!

2. Learn something new.

Whenever even the smallest amount of newness creeps into our lives, blogging related or not, we are automatically filled with new ideas that stem from that new piece of knowledge. It can be something as simple as wanting to try indoor rock climbing and then sharing that experience with your readers for an engaging blog post, or learning new blogging skills.

3. Start with a clean slate and simple goals.

Think of the new year as a clean slate and try to re-evaluate. It can be downright overwhelming to set huge goals for ourselves at the beginning of the year, only to be left kinda perplexed with where to even start. I started with setting 3 major goals for my blog for the year, and then break them down to simple ones on a monthly basis. Much less scary.

4. Step outside of your comfort zone.

Been trying to tackle SEO? Pinterest scheduling? Switching to a self-hosted blog? Whatever it is, in most cases it’s this fear of stepping outside our comfort zone that holds us back from doing great things. So you know what? If there is something scaring you about blogging, I challenge you to email Steph or I and ask questions – we will get you over your hurdles!

5. Find out what your readers really want.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and see if there is something your readers want more of that you aren’t giving them. Sometimes its obvious, like if your recipe posts do really well or they leave a ton of comments when you write about what’s going on in your life personally, but sometimes its not. Make a little schedule over the next week to ask this question in different ways over your social media network through a simple post or even creating a survey.

6. Create a product.

People love tangible items, especially if they can get them for free. Brainstorm a really great product that you can offer your readers whether it be an ebook of some kind, printables, or even a fun t-shirt with a saying on it that you know become known for, and sell or offer it to your readers. Not only is this a way to generate more traffic and more email signups, but it’s lighting that inspiration fire inside you again!

StumbleUpon for Beginners

One of the most frequent questions that we get asked is: how do I generate traffic?

We believe so strongly in community, so our number one is response is to build your social community and focus on SEO (search engine optimization), and watch your traffic grow. SEO  should always be your #1 traffic source. But, utilizing ALL the resources available to you is super important, and this is where StumbleUpon comes in.

If you are not familiar, StumbleUpon is a content discovery platform that allows users to discover content based on category, and is a huge traffic generator for content that is highly ranked – or “thumbs uped.” There are millions of users just waiting to get their hands on new content, which could be yours.

Basic Steps to Effectively Use StumbleUpon

1. Create your StumbleUpon profile, add categories that relate to your blog, and start following other users. The more followers you have, the more powerful your stumbles become.

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2. Download the StumbleUpon toolbar and start discovering new content with it, as well as your own. It’s great to have StumbleUpon share buttons on your blog as well, but they don’t always work properly, so using the toolbar is always your best option.

3. Invest time. Make sure that each day your are stumbling the web for new content, as well as going to your blog and adding new posts. (Using the Stumble toolbar, you can simply add a new post by clicking on the “thumbs up” button, which will allow you to index the post properly. Always choose a relevant category, add at least 3 tags, and a 1 sentence comment.)

4. Share only evergreen content. If you have a giveaway going on, that’s great – but StumbleUpon isn’t the place to share it. Content that has an expiration date will result in people giving your page a thumbs down, which will dramatically hurt your traffic.

5. Share using the StumbleUpon URL shortener. I know we are so used to using bit.ly and Hoostsuite for shortening links, but check out their version and share using that from time to time – it will give you more stumble power.

6. If you have a little bit of money to invest, check out their Paid Discovery platform. It’s a great resource for yourself, even if you only have $20 to invest because it brings your content up for users to find on a regular basis and then also provides you with a detailed report of how many thumbs up or thumbs down a specific blog post got. This lets you know what readers enjoy reading the most, so you can create more of it!

7. Join StumbleUpon groups. If you search Facebook, there are many StumbleUpon groups that exist where everyone helps each other stumble new content each day, increasing your chances of getting discovered much, much higher. Keep in mind that most of these groups won’t allow you in unless you have at least 50 followers on this platform, so work on building that number up first.

8. On a personal note, I have found that beauty and recipes tend to do best on this platform.

Happy stumbling!

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5 Ways to Refresh Your Blog

Do you ever look at your blog and wish that you could hit a “refresh” button that would magically give it a little touch-up? I always do! In fact, over the summer I have been keeping a list of little tweaks and updates that I have been yearning to make, waiting for my son to go back to school before I had time during the day to dig in and actually do them all. It’s good to think this way, as it shows you want to make your blog the best it can be for your readers where they get excited to visit. Here are some easy ways to help give your blog the face-lift it deserves!

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1. Custom Sidebars

Did you know that you can have a different sidebar on every single page or category on your blog? You can! This is a great way to further capture a specific audience that is coming to your blog to learn about one thing. For instance, if you write a lifestyle blog and one of your topics is beauty – create a custom sidebar (using this easy Custom Sidebar Plugin) and make everything in your sidebar area beauty related. This will keep them clicking!

2. Update your “About Me” page

We have stressed the importance of About Me pages before, and now its important to stress the importance of keeping them updated! Make sure that the information your are displaying is the most up to date – you never know who will be reading about you!

3. Add a subscriber pop-up

A subscriber pop-up is a GREAT way to capture email subscribers and even Facebook likes in an easy click. Make sure not to be too aggressive with them because you will just turn people away. I leave mine on only on the home page and popping up for first time visitors. My favorite way to do this is using Gleam captures.

4. Speaking of subscribers, get that welcome email in tip top shape!

Once you have an automated email set up that goes out to new email subscribers, it can be easy to forget about it. Make sure you go back and check it periodically to update links, information, and always include great images linking to your best blog posts!

5. Visit your insights

Don’t forget that your social platforms are an extension of your blog and periodically need some refreshing, too.  If you are anything like me, you look into your insights and then plan your social media scheduling around what has proven to be the best times of day to post – but sometimes you forget to go back and see if they have changed. People are on different schedules in the summer than they are in the fall and you need to adapt with those. For instance, last year, my most popular time of day to post was 3:05pm Monday-Friday. This has changed to 4:05 starting with the new school year, and I never would have known this if I didn’t go back and check!

Pinterest Hacks and Using Group Boards to Boost Your Pinning Power

We’re always looking to better our blogging power, reach more people, and get them to come visit our awesome blog! I know I’ve said before how Pinterest was my personal social account that needed work (and a bit of a transformation of sorts) to fully utilize it’s benefits, and I have been doing some investigating. Since media trends are always changing, we stress the importance of always learning more – even if you are a seasoned blogging pro. Check into our current classes, and see ways that we can help take your blog to another level.

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Pinterest Hacks

  • First, get started with the basics! I wrote a post last year called “5 Pinterest Tips & Tricks,” check out this post as it will cover the Pinterest foundation that you need to build on.
  • Pay attention to keywords – We are constantly looking at what keyword phrases people are using in search engines to find our blogs, and use those phrases more often. Apply these keywords to Pinterest as well, since it is essentially a search engine, too. Simply update the description of your boards, using these keywords. This will help you become more visible and be pinned more frequently.
  • Take your focus off of hashtags. While they work better in search on twitter, hashtags tend to be a bit too broad for Pinterest and won’t result in helping your pin show up more in search results. Stick to keyword phrases.
  • Categorize your pins in the description. This not only helps for organization, but will help people who are searching for something in that category. For instance, if you are pinning a recipe, do something like this:

Recipe: Stuffed Spinach Chicken Breasts (then continue with your description)

  • Pay attention to what’s being pinned and create more pins like that. You can easily access this information by typing this into your browser and replacing your domain: http://pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com
  • Schedule pins. I know this sounds a little daunting, but Hootsuite just made it easier by letting you schedule pins using Tailwind through their dashboard. This enables you to hit your readers with pins during peak hours, even if you are out at the beach this summer! You can learn more about that here.

Group Boards 101

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Group boards are really where it’s at! There are hundreds of thousands of Pinterest group boards in your niche that have thousands of followers waiting to read your content – it’s tapping into them that’s the tricky part. A group board is a Pinterest board that is shared by many people and followed by many more, that give people access to one specific topic. This gives you mucho pinning power! Typically, there are rules to follow, such as re-pinning a pin that is not yours for every pin that you add, and this helps everyone.

First, if you join our INTRO NYC Blogger Network, you will be immediately invited to our group board – yippee! Beyond that, the first place to look is pingroupie.com, which has the ultimate online listing of group pin boards. Once you find a group board you would like to be a part of, you will typically find in the description of the board how to become a part of it. This is where it gets tricky because sometimes the description isn’t there or the board owner is unresponsive. You just have to keep trying!

The main takeaway about group boards is to only be a apart of ones that truly match your niche, otherwise it will be a waste of time. Happy pinning!

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Stepping Outside Your Comfort Level

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I have been traveling a lot for work and it reminds me how important connecting with people in real life is – and how it has really become a long lost art. It also reminds me how I got into blogging in the first place, and how it seems a lot of bloggers have lost their voice, their authenticity.

Example 1: Do Something that Scares You

This week I brought a client from New Jersey to Virginia to hold her hand through her first conference. She is excited and yet scared to do something she would never have done in the past – and needed a little help from me to show her the ropes. It also has been empowering to me to realize how well I can manage these things – take charge, have everything organized and completed flawlessly, how to connect with people naturally and not be afraid.

Remember yours? The first time (or maybe you haven’t yet!) you went to a blogger or social media conference and were so excited – and then were too afraid to talk to anyone? You played on your phone. You stood in the corner. You left without saying goodbye to anyone, but then Tweeted them from the train on your way home.

Stop. Turn around. Go back.

Homework:

I want you to do something that scares you this week. I want you to go to an event and talk to a stranger. I want you to finally try that aerial yoga class you saw someone take on Facebook. Then I want you genuinely write about it – from your heart – and tell me what happens.

Example 2: Yorgo’s Bageldashery

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Irene Weinberg with Rodney at Yorgo’s Bageldashery

I walked into a bagel shop this morning in Norfolk, Virginia with a client and honestly fell in love with the place. It had a warm, welcoming vibe, the workers were friendly, and before I knew it – we were chatting with the owners over bagels and coffee about the history of the area, sailing, bagels and more.

I felt an honest connection, and wanted to share the love on social media to promote them – not for money, not out of obligation, but out of genuine want to help them and let my followers  know where I was. Just sitting with them reminded me why I do what I do – to connect with people, the learn the scenery an experience the world – oh, and just bring you along on my journey.

Homework:

When was the last time you wanted to actually TWEET about something cause you loved it – and weren’t getting paid to say it? I want you to remember how social really works – but BEING social. I want you to engage your audience with something that is fun and happy to you – just because. Then tell me what happened.

Example 3: Speak Your Mind

Maybe it’s just me, but I am getting bored of reading paid reviews and see your “ads” on Twitter. *Yawn* When I first started blogging, I would write about all the crazy things that happened to me when I was pregnant. I would speak my mind about breastfeeding in public, or why I choose to be a co-sleeping parent. But more and more, I see myself getting “too busy” to write about the really cool things that happen to me that people would find interesting and instead writing about yet another product or event. I’m even bored with myself.

Homework:

Find a new way to inject life into your words. This doesn’t mean you can’t write about products, or events or food. But give it LIFE. I want to hear the story behind it. I want to see the how the commute was a nightmare, and how you spilled it all over your shoes. Or how your toddler almost pulled down the step and repeat. I want the raw, honest story of life that happens. That’s what is interesting – your life. Don’t be afraid to show it.

I want to authenticity back into our writing before I tune out blogging all together – who’s with me?

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5 Ways to Rock Your About Me Page

A couple of months ago, I had my blog design completely re-done and decided to spring for the customized “about me” page with my designer. I was all of a sudden faced with the questions: what makes for the perfect about page? I know how crucial this is and how brands and PR reps really do click on this tab to learn more. How was I going to market myself to the world, while still be an authentic voice for my readers?

Let’s face it, writing an about me page is tough work, so I turned to my favorite blogging groups to find my answers and quickly realized that no one had them. So, I did the research myself, and here is what I found:

1. Share your story.

Use this opportunity to share your real self with the world and let your personality shine through. Outside of your blog posts, this is where readers and brands alike will first turn when looking for make a connection with you, so think of that with every word that you type. But, keep in mind to be concise, you don’t want an about me page that goes on and on, people will get board. Share just enough, the rest they will click over to your blog posts to learn.

2. Tell people what sets you apart.

There are more blogs in existence than one could sit and count, so use this as an opportunity to include a paragraph telling everyone what makes you different. Are there really cool cooking challenges that you run regularly? Were you the first to accomplish something? Whatever it is, yell it from the rooftops and make sure its included in your about me page!

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3. Include links to posts that tell more.

You can’t include every little detail in your about me page, as it needs to be concise content, but I’m sure that you have blog posts that explain in detail more information on certain things you are sharing. Use this as a place to link to those posts so that readers and brands can view information or posts that they might otherwise overlook – all while learning more about YOU!

4. Name drop!

Including some of the major brands you have worked with or major things that you have done are important to both readers and brands alike. It gives readers a bit of a background on the types of products you might be writing about and brands will be interested to measure the brands you have worked with against themselves or their clients. It also lets people know to take you seriously, because you’re a big deal! All jokes aside, there is nothing wrong with doing a little bit of bragging and including a paragraph about your blogging accolades or listing major outlets your writing can be found published on.

5. End with a call to action.

Always, always, always end with a call to action! Whether it be a link to your contact page, sharing your email, or linking to a super important campaign you are running, make sure this is included.

As an added bonus, make sure that your about me page is always updated and in it’s most current state.

We would LOVE to see a link to your “About Me” page and learn a little bit more about you! Head over to our INTRO NYC Facebook Page, give us a like and share you link!

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Is Blogging Dead? Things Are Changing And So Should You!

Yikes! This is certainly a scary question to even need to entertain, but nonetheless it’s a topic running rampant this week and we wanna jump right in!

First, how could we not all be a little bit scared whenever there have been hushed whispers of this among blogging groups everywhere. Then, Dooce, the original “Mommy Blogger” announced that she’s moving onward an upward onto other things. Gulp.

Fear not our bloggy friends, today I’m here to set the record straight – blogging is NOT dead. Blogging is NOT GOING ANYWHERE. Though, blogging IS EVOLVING. First things first, the blogging market truly is saturated right now. There are new blogs being started each day and the competition is higher. The mysterious “blogging in dying” whispers are stemming from the fact that more blogs exist, less people are subscribing, and conversations that been moved from the comments section of a blog post to social media.

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While this can sound devastating, the exciting part is that there are more readers of blogs now than ever. People are turning to blogs just as much as they turn to major news and media sources. Readers trust our opinions, experiences, and what we have to say – and they want more of it. Here are a few key ways to take advantage of the blogging evolution and emerge on top.

1. Think of yourself as a CEO.

It’s time to be strategic about how you are operating your blog. Since your blog is a business, this makes you the CEO and you need to start thinking like one. A huge change that we are seeing in blogging is that many bloggers are working more creatively with brands and essentially taking on Creative Director type roles as they plan out campaigns to help with growth and exposure. There are so many ways to get involved with brands beyond just writing sponsored content and sounding like an ever-playing commercial.

2. Take advantage of those social media conversations.

Let your readers take the lead. If they want to take their chatter about a blog post of yours to twitter – let them. And while they are chatting, get in there and converse with them. Don’t be afraid that since comments aren’t happening on your blog that brands won’t see them. Brands are watching you everywhere!

3. Get creative!

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Thank outside the box. For example, what once started as a simple DIY blog, A Beautiful Mess is now one of the most popular apps for adding filters and doodles to pictures. They would have NEVER gotten to where they are today without being creative and listening to what their audience was yearning for. Don’t be afraid to try something new with your audience, you never know how widely it will be accepted.

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INTRO NYC’s First Brunch at Sarabeth’s

This past weekend we threw our first exclusive blogger brunch here in NYC at Sarabeth’s. What is better than learning about trending topics and social media over bellinis and delicious treats?

Here is a peek at the event:

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What were some of the common concerns among the group?

A big one is monetization and growing your audience. Another was, what happens when you out-grow your blog (like moms!)…. do you grow with your children or find writers to keep it more baby-focused. Good question! We also talked about some fun new trends and tips for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to keep up with the constant changes.

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We’re excited to see the INTRONYC community growing bigger everyday – on social media and in real life! We are hosting mini lunch and learns every month in different venues around NYC (learn more here). Or watch for upcoming details on our next brunch in the fall!

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5 Tips For Building an Authentic Community

To be completely honest, one of my personal blogging goals for 2015 has been to build a more authentic community. I entered “the blogesphere” the same way as most of you and read everything that I could get my hands on that showed me how to grow my community  – because it’s all about those big numbers right? WRONG! I did all of those follow threads that helps my social community grow, jumped on the giveaway bandwagon, and then started to panic mid 2014 whenever I started seeing stagnet numbers and no engagement.

Truthfully, we are living in the age of blogging, where there are many blogs that are great and consistently updating and delivering fresh content to their readers. They are our competition. With so many competing blogs, brands are paying much more attention to the levels of engagement that you have, which comes from having a truly authentic community. I have been on a journey since mid-2014 to change this for myself, and here are some tips that will help you do the same.

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1. Find your authentic voice.

Being 100% authentic with your voice is the very first place to start. Think about portraying yourself just as you on the pages of your blog and in your social media posts, not someone else. I think that in many cases, people tend to blog how they hope people will see them and their life, instead of being real and showing their readers who they actually are. Lastly, if you have a team of contributors, an editor, etc, make sure everyone is on the same page and understands how this voice must be consistent and shared.

2. Think about giveaways differently.

Giveaways are obviously a great way to grow our community, but are you actually reaching your community through the giveaways you host? For instance, if you are giving away cold, hard cash, we all know it’s something that everyone loves and will enter to win. You will probably get a huge spike in traffic and they will follow you on all your social media channels, but what happens when the giveaway is over? Will they all unfollow you? Will they ever return to your blog? Probably, if you give away more cash.

If you consistently run giveaways to help build your community, as most of us do, make sure to give away prizes that are aligned with what you blog about and what your audiences comes to you for on a regular basis. Otherwise, these new community members are just dead weight and doing nothing besides bringing your Facebook organic reach down even further.

3. Remember, people are nosy!

I probably don’t need me to remind you of this, but its a fact! People follow you and read your blog because they are interested in what is going on in your life and what you are writing about. If you stop posting personal pictures, only write sponsored content about brands, and write about off topic subjects – you will lose what your readers came to you for. People are nosy and want to know about your life, so give it to them!

4. Show interest in them.

Don’t just make it all about you. Make sure that you create an authentic balance between sharing and reaching out for information about what is going on in their lives. People like to know they matter, and if they are taking time out of their day to read what you are saying, take value in reaching back out to them. I promise that something as simple as asking their opinions or to share a similar experience with you will help turn them into loyal readers.

5. Respond when people comment.

This seems so simple, yet so many bloggers overlook it. We yearn more comments on our blog, facebook posts, and now tweets – so whenever it happens, take that opportunity to engage.

My last tid bit of advice – do what works best for YOU! If you have found a certain blogging method that is working, keep at it! Don’t ever change things just because someone told you to. Everyone grows their audience differently and at various rates.

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5 Essential Business Books for Bloggers

When is the last time you actually sat down and read a good book. I mean, put your phone down and laid in bed and read a real, hard copy piece of work? Even though we work mainly online, I think it’s important to still hold on to tangible items here and there – like a book. People laugh that I still use a daily journal to keep my schedule, but I feel (and see a lot of other bloggers) it helps keep me more grounded and organized.

So this week, I am giving you some homework. I want you to take a step back from blogging so much and stressing yourself out, and I want you to read. Blogging and small business is just like any other profession – you need continued education. Doctors do it. Lawyers do it, and now I want you to do it. Here are five outstanding books to choose from to get your started.

I think it will recharge you and give you better inspiration to keep going for the year as a successful business owner. The best part? You can get these all on Amazon (hard copies!) for around $1-2 each! It’s like a yard sale for your brain! Enjoy –

1. UnMarketing

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I will just say this. I. Love. Scott. (maybe he’ll read that and be flattered). He honestly changed my life when I met him because he’s honest, raw and real. He’s one of those guys who will feed you no bull shit and call you out on all the things you’re doing wrong that are making you (and us as an industry) look bad. If you want a dose of reality, this is the book to read – because it will honestly make you a much better marketing person.

2. The Art of Social Media

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This is all the rage these days – if you don’t know the name Guy Kawaskai – order this book asap. He’s the new guru of social media, and he spells it all out for you here in this book. It will give you a lot of great tips to revamp your social media strategy, and hopefully even free up some more time to read TWO books on this list.

3. Good to Great

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The original must-read book for any business owner or someone striving to be. I read this in grad school and it had molded the pathways to success. It basically says, do what you are good at, and stick to it. Stop trying to do a little of everything and focus on your talents. Today, bloggers spread themselves too thin over a wide range of areas when they can be successful focusing on what their best in.

4. Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich: 75 Avoidable Mistakes Women Make With Money

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If you need some tough skin, pick up this book. It’s still a man’s world out there, and if you act like a girl all the time, you aren’t going to reach the financial success you’re destined for. This book reminds us how to get what we want by being a lady, but a bitch at the same time. And to STOP killing yourself and business by drowning in debt from things you aren’t even aware of! You might even want to follow up with her first book, Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office. That’s the book that started me on my journey to being my own boss.

5. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

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Another oldie but goodie. If this hasn’t crossed your path yet – you’ll want to pick it up. This was also a great book I read in grad school because it talk us about morals and ethics, and how to be genuine in a journalist world. As a blogger, let me as you – have you ever done a post or taken money to talk about something that wasn’t exactly what you believe in? Well, your readers probably also noticed. This book will teach you how to still be successful without jeopardizing your brand. ** The forward is by Jim Collins – the guy who wrote Good to Great, so you can see these authors actually work together and believe in what each other is saying – maybe you should, too!

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