Our guest today is going to talk about some stuff that we haven't really covered too much on our show before. We're going to talk about SEO, we're going to talk about digital marketing, we're going to talk about copywriting. My guest today's name is Jessica Schirripa.
What's awesome about Jessica is that, not only is she the Content Director at The X Factor and and Deputy Content Producer at the New Theory Magazine, which I'm sure we're going to get to talk a lot about it, but she's also into this public relations stuff and becoming a rising media personality herself. She's got a show called Coffee Tawk New Jersey. Here's the main reason that I really wanted her on here. She's in the process of developing her voice, her identity on different social media platforms, on the internet, by hosting different entertainment in order to build her audience.
Jessica, I'm super happy to have you here. I don't know if you want to fill in any information that people need to know about you. I'm really curious to hear about these entertainment platforms and, more specifically, building your brand and your audience.
Jessica Schirripa: Thank you so much for that introduction. That was awesome.
It's such an exciting industry to be because it's constantly changing, it's constantly evolving. It's really important to stay on top. I want to say I fell into it a little bit because one thing led me to another. When you're in this industry, you wind up learning so much more about different aspects of it. You wear so many hats, you have knowledge of all these different things. It's really about figuring out ways to make all of these projects overlap with one another, and build your presence, and just get out there as much as humanly possible. Fortunately, social media and digital content makes that easier, which is great, but it also makes it a bit harder because the competition just quadrupled like a million times over.
Lance Tamashiro: I've got a content business and an information business as well. One of the things that you mentioned is managing it all and there's so much different stuff going on. I know that I struggle with entrepreneur ADD and, "Ooh, what's this next cool thing." How do you manage all of these different platforms? What goes into you deciding what platform you should be focusing on?
Jessica Schirripa: I'm not going to lie, it's super challenging, especially in the beginning. There's still so much of a learning curve when it comes to that. I think what it is, you try and get out there as much as possible. You try and get on all these platforms. I think one of the key ingredients, without making one fall to the wayside or one over dominating and overpowering the other, is to figure out where there's opportunity for you to capitalize on everything all at once. For instance, we do SEO, we do content marketing, we do all of these great things and copywriting for our clients so why wouldn't we have our own media platform and build relationships with media partners and branch out into the PR world and dive into all these different things.
It's all opportunity for us to expand for our clients and expand our own brands at the same time. I think what's really, really key is figuring out what the common thread is between all of these different things.
What are you really passionate about?
It's very funny because everybody always asks me whether it's friends, family, or whoever, "What are you really passionate about? I don't understand. You radio, but then you write, but then you do this, you're all over the place. What is it that you do?" My own brother every day will be like, "What do you do? I have no idea." I'm like, "Whatever, just share my article." I think that's part of the excitement, of course, but the challenge at the same time is unifying everything and connecting with people is what I say my passion is. You have to connect with people in today's world because that's how you separate yourself and there's all these different outlets to do it.
My personal true passion is figuring out ways to connect with an audience whether that content curation, whether it's through people's websites, whether it's through our own properties, whether it's through a radio show. It's all about finding, like you mentioned before, that voice and getting it out there as much as possible.
Accidents happen in a good way, serendipity. One thing has always led to another, fortunately. I started doing the blog Coffee Tawk, which led to a radio show, which led to more opportunity writing. You go with the flow, but you stay hopping on that line too. That's part of the fun.
Goals and Focus
Lance Tamashiro: One of the things that you mentioned, when I see people that are just getting started or I see people that feel like they're overwhelmed, it always seems like they've got this crazy giant goal out there that they're trying to hit. While it's good to have that goal, it gives them no focus. What you just mentioned was pretty interesting to me where you said, "I started this blog, this blog led to a radio show, which led to a copywriting opportunity, which opened these doors and did these things." I'm wondering, through your personal journey, when you started the blog, were you like, "This is going to lead to copywriting or a radio show? Or were you- now I'll work on this and see what happens?"
Jessica Schirripa: No, not at all. To be honest with you, I started out ... My first job out of college, which was the best job ever, I was a junior publicist for a metal band PR agency. I worked with some of the greatest metal bands of all times backstage, Metallica, Lamb of God, Megadeth, all these crazy people. I was in awe. I was fresh out of college and I was like, "This is the most."
Like most jobs out of college, eventually you have to seek out other opportunity and grow and learn. I took that and parlayed it into what I wanted to focus on which was more like fashion and entertainment. That, unfortunately, after a couple stints with Fashion Week, I experienced a layoff. During that layoff, I fell into a little two month period where I was searching for a job, figuring out what to do next. I'm in my twenties. We're all trying to find ourselves, no news there. I started the blog Coffee Tawk as an outlet for myself during the hours of the day where I wasn't constantly searching for a job. Honestly, I wasn't expecting anything from it. It sounds corny, but I was like, "I just kind of need to get my feelings out there. I need to talk to somebody. I'm going to talk to the open space and see what happens."
I started sharing it on social media and stuff, on my own personal pages. A few people started reaching out here and there and I never generated any income from it. It was, like I said, like a hobby/passion project. Before I knew it, it started growing and growing. Like I said, I discovered I had a passion for writing which I never realized I did before. I was more focused on being an entertainment personality. I wanted to be the next Giuliana Rancic. I wanted to stand next to Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet. That's what I was meant to do in my head. Following that dream, I got sidetracked, but in a good way.
Know, Like & Trust
Lance Tamashiro: What's interesting to me about the way you describe that story is that you built in a lot of known, like and trust factors which is something people are always striving for whether they're becoming a celebrity or they're trying to sell products. What you said that was really interesting to me, a couple of things. The first is, you were looking for an outlet for yourself to ramble or share whatever feelings that you had. The first thing that came to my mind as you were telling this story is, "Oh, my gosh, what she probably didn't realize at the time was how many people she's connecting with as just keeping a journal rather than trying to be professional or trying to write for money or whatever else."
At the very beginning, you also said your brother says, "What do you do?" You say, "Don't worry about it, just share my stuff." In a weird way, doing those things like, "I don't have a bunch of traffic, I don't know about traffic. I don't even know if I want anybody to see this, but share my stuff," builds that traffic slowly over time as you're finding your voice. I think that you probably showed a vulnerable side of yourself that helped people to connect with you in a way that you probably never would have if you were in a copywriting position and then trying to write for an audience.
Jessica Schirripa: One hundred percent. That's exactly it because by building that and not really having a full understanding of knowing where I was going to go next, I wound up building more opportunity for myself without even realizing. I'm not going to lie. When Thomas LaVecchia, he's the President of X Factor Media, my predecessor, when he found me and we collaborated and we started connecting, it was challenging. I was given an opportunity to do what I was doing on a professional level and I'm not going to lie, I struggled. I struggled a lot in the beginning because I wasn't used to somebody putting that kind of professional pressure on me, with client expectations and with client goals. I was always writing for myself. I wasn't writing for anybody else.
I'm so thankful for him and for that opportunity because now I'm in a position where I understand what it takes and what it actually encompasses to write for other people and what the expectations are and all these different elements of SEO and, again, content marketing and strategy that got my voice out there in a different realm that I was never aware of. It's been a challenge, but, of course, it's been a learning experience at the same time. I think it's a very scary jump for anybody to make because I don't think anybody knows what they're doing, to be honest, especially when they're first starting out. They're just figuring it out.
I don't think anybody knows what they're doing
Lance Tamashiro: The amazing thing about that to me is the people that I talk to and the people that I've seen succeed, the story's always the same. It's like, "I had no clue what I was doing, but I threw it out there and, guess what, I learned." Then I see a lot of people that are struggling or failing and the one thing that I always see that is the same in all of them is they're perfectionists to a fault. They don't want to do something wrong so they don't do anything and they never end up doing anything. They end up getting nowhere.
Jessica Schirripa: That's something I can totally relate to, that I struggled with in the beginning too because I was so nervous, especially when it comes to writing or anything that's personal in any way. When someone criticizes it, you cannot help but take it personal. I could be writing medical copywriting and if a doctor doesn't like it, I take personally, like they don't like me. Then your blood, sweat, and tears, your hours in front of the computer, your hours of research, your hours ...
Everybody verbalizes things different, everybody likes different terminology, it's not personal. It's very, very hard to separate yourself from that, especially when it comes to anything that involves any side of creativity whether it's graphics, whether it's ... You can't help but take it a little personal. You have to laugh at yourself at that point because you have to remove that from the equation.
Ignore the Negative People
Lance Tamashiro: I think too, a lot of things that people don't realize, or maybe they do, but this was eye opening to me, I had to stop really paying attention to what the negative people were saying to me on the internet about my content, about my stuff. There is a large portion of the internet that just wants to make fun of you. It doesn't matter who it is or what it is, they really thrive off of making you feel bad about whatever it is you're doing. When I first started, I used to make my wife read every email I wrote, every blog post I wrote, watch every video. She'd always be like, "Why are you doing this?" I'm like, "Somebody said last time, they didn't like the way that the light was bouncing off my forehead. Now I can't do that." She's like, "Yeah, but a hundred people gave you a thumbs up so why do you worry?"
It's amazing to me how that one negative person sticks out in my head. Sometimes they didn't even show up, but I was so concerned about that, I forgot about all of the people that did enjoy the stuff that was happening.
Jessica Schirripa: That's something so important that needs that you just touched upon that I actually take initiative in doing. If ever anybody, whether it's on social media or some people will find my contact information whether it's via LinkedIn or even Facebook messages I've gotten from random strangers. They said, "Hey, you know, I loved your article. It really struck a chord with me." I'm not going to lie to you, I save every one of those messages. If ever I'm having a moment where I need to just walk away and be like, "I'm done," I read them. That really motivates me, I should say, because that is what it's all about.
You have to ignore the people that are just on there to criticize you and beat you down and twist every word you say. Being on radio, there are so many times where you have to almost feel like you're walking on eggshells with what you say, but, at the same time, what I love about radio is, I have no filter because there's no camera. I almost feel like no one's listening. You're more likely to be yourself on radio and say what you mean because you don't feel the attention on you. The attention's out there.
Lance Tamashiro: I do a similar thing whenever I see something good that somebody said to me, or sends me an email, or sends me something in the mail, I print it out and I stick it on this board where I've got this collage of stuff that people have. I walk up to it and take a look at it and it's amazing how you go, "Oh, my gosh. This one person means nothing to all these people that I'm actually connecting to."
Content Marketing & SEO Mistakes
I want to switch gears here and talk about something else. That is the whole idea of this content marketing and SEO stuff. Everybody listening is familiar with these types of things, but, as somebody coming from your position, what's the biggest mistake that you see people making if they're just getting started to build a presence through their content? Where you're like, "Man, if you would have done this differently, things might look ... Now we'll have to undo this for you."
Jessica Schirripa: There are so many different layers to it. I think people, in the beginning aren't aware as much about SEO and search engine optimization which is, obviously, what it stands for. When you're on Google, or any search engine, the competition, it's limitless. It's literally you against the world. It's very, very important to understand what your goals are when you're doing it. Again, if you're just doing it for your personal self and building your brand, but if you're a business, a company, anything like that, you do need to identify what it is you do, and what your goals are, and understand the research behind it, key words, things that separate you from your competitors, things that make you stand out.
That way, when people are searching for those things, you get a little edge on the competition, so to speak. What's the stats? No one goes past the first page on Google, right? Eventually you've got to figure out what are the strategies to get yourself on the top. The way I feel that's best to do it is to utilize the other opportunities that are out there, get as many backlinks as possible and understand that whole foundation that goes before it. I will say this, it's very difficult learning those because SEO and creative, often they conflict with one another. I think that's part of the battle is to figure out the way to marry the two in a way that make sense, that's going to benefit you.
When I first came on board here at X Factor, and not knowing that much about SEO, my mind was all about the creative and I was making up words and things like that that made sense for what I was writing about, but it had no SEO value whatsoever. Again, you take it personally because you're like, "Why are you changing my words? This is what I want to say," but it's not about that, it's about figuring out what you want to say in a way that's going to register and make sense and then use that to get in front of the people. Then you have the authority now. Now you can say whatever you want.
New Theory Magazine
Lance Tamashiro: What's the big platform that you're excited about right now, whether at X Factor with SEO stuff, or whether for your own type of stuff. It seems like every day you turn around and there's this new platform that you need to get on. What's the one that you're most excited about today?
Jessica Schirripa: I'm very excited about New Theory Magazine which launched back in August and we're actually going through a relaunch right now. We've actually hit tremendous amounts of success very early on which is great. We're really putting in our blood, sweat, and tears to take make sure that that train keeps running that fast. The reason it's such an important project to me is because this is an opportunity for myself and the other editors. We are laying the foundation down. It really is like the ball's in our court right now. We have the opportunity to build the platform from the ground up.
One of the things I was doing before was I was a contributor for all these platforms. I'm a contributor to an Elite Daily and I make it very Millennial driven and funny and humorous as much as possible. Then I'm a contributor to Examiner, I make those more informative and more this. I'm always changing up my style to fit all these different set of publications that are already existing. New Theory is such an opportunity, we're building a platform and we're really molding our voice how we want to mold it. We have full control. We're really excited about what we have going on with it. Again, we reached tremendous amounts of success early on.
We have celebrity interviews on the hook, really, really fresh articles for, we're calling it, the mature Millennial, even though everybody hates the word Millennial at this point, for the people that are on the cusp, they're not in their early twenties, maybe like later twenties, early thirties. They're looking for similar content, but content that they can really identify with. The new struggles that they can really identify with rather than the Elite Daily Style which is more like your college, you're really figuring it out, you're at the bottom level. Now there's that in-between market. It's almost like when you're twenty years old and you're too old to go to the places that you went to in high school, but you're too young to go to the bar. It's like, "What do you do on a Saturday night?" You loiter outside of a convenience store.
Right now it is an online publication. We do have a print version, it's going to be in Barnes & Noble bookstores, at select locations. Basically, it's almost like a guide book for those people that, like I said, are in that in-between stage. They cover everything from lifestyle, fashion, beauty, travel, social issues, hot topics, business, entrepreneur, new gadgets, high tech stuff. It's this all encompassing guidebook that is online, it's active online. We're opening the doors for other contributors. Other people can go onto newtheory.com and if they're writers, and if they're people that are looking to get their content out there, this is an opportunity that they now have another outlet for them to have their voice be heard. That's what it's really all about is growing these networks and building more and more opportunities for other people too.
Lance Tamashiro: What I love about how you describe that was, "It's a guidebook." At first I was thinking, "Okay. It's a guidebook. I've heard this." The one twist that I really like that you threw in there is, it's a place for other people to come have a voice, for other people to contribute. All of a sudden, I'm thinking like, "What a novel idea for a platform for somebody where you guys have the power behind X Factor, and the name, and the brand, and all of that and the resources to build this platform, put out some initial content, but really to have the group that you're looking for, give them a place to be published and end up in Barnes & Noble, get their message out and what's important to them."
We're all in this together
It's such a unique thing whereas, most of the time, people think of, "Well, I've got Facebook. I can go blog. I can go do this stuff." What a neat opportunity to really connect with people that you're looking for. As a business model, I think it's a very interesting way to have your readership feel like they're part of the family, also contribute, and then also benefit at the same time.
Jessica Schirripa: It is. It's very much one hand helps the other because we're offering an outlet to these people who are going to want to share their content because they need it on a great platform. I feel like we all have similar stories and we all don't have an outlet for each other to connect and relate on that level. It's an opportunity for the leaders, exactly what you said, to be a part of the family. The hope is for the blind leading the blind in a good way. We're all in this together. We all have a voice. We all have things we want to share. There's either nowhere to share it, or you do share it and it doesn't get seen, or you struggle to contribute to other networks that already have people in place and credentials and things that close the door for a lot of other people.
Now's a really exciting time for us because, like I said, we are building this from the ground up. We have such amazing staff and key people in place right now that, like I said, we're shaping this. We have the control, we're shaping it the way we want to shape it which is really, really amazing and provides an opportunity for so many different styles of writing to lay the foundation down and lay out all the bricks and the groundwork.
Cool Tools and Services
Lance Tamashiro: It sounds like a great, great product.
I'm going to throw you a curve ball here. Get ready. What is one of the tools or services or cool things that you love on the internet or that help you manage your day or something that is just awesome that people should know about?
Jessica Schirripa: I don't know if I have a specific one in mind, I should say, but any sort of tools that are available for you to help manage social media, I think is really, really huge, especially if you're on the business end or even if you manage multiple accounts. You really have to stay on top of it if you want grow your following and engage with people and interact. That's very, very time consuming which a lot of people ... It sounds so simple. It's like, "Oh, just upload a photo and a couple hashtags and you're good to go," but it's so much more complicated than that. There's so much more strategy around it. The content that you put out is very, very competitive because it's going to be in a sea of how many Instagram photos per day? How many Facebook posts per day on your News Feed when you're scrolling.
I think any tools that help you manage your social media with multiple accounts, maybe schedule content in advance, things like that are really, really crucial, especially in the beginning stages. You don't have the followship yet. You're looking to engage and you're looking to interact and communicate as much as humanly possible.
I was very, very fortunate in my early stages where, I took my internship, I took a lot of different opportunities to get on radio and be on the air and be on AM stations and FM stations no matter how small, no matter how big. Then I reached a point where, when those shows were over, again, "Where's my outlet, what do I do? I'm going to start my own podcast."
Finding out the right tools. You don't need to have an on set studio and things to make it happen. In the early stages, I used to just record stuff on my phone or I would go to events. It's very, very funny. My Dad will actually tell you, because I was in my early twenties, and he hated the fact that I would be going into the city late night and I'd come home at Port Authority at three o'clock in the morning. A lot of times, he would come into the city and pick me up and pretend he was my driver. It's very fake it until you make it. I would go to events that had high profile celebrities. I would get myself on the red carpet. I would do interviews. I would do interviews on my cell phone and record it that way and upload it on the computer. Again, basically, that's how you build, build, build, build credibility. Before you know it, people were coming to me and saying, "Hey, we have this event. You want to come and check it out? Let's do this."
Stop worrying if it's perfect
Lance Tamashiro: I love it. I've heard this message from you a couple of times which is, "Get out there. Do something. Stop worrying if it's perfect." I know so many people get caught up in, "I don't have the right microphone. I don't have the right theme for my blog. I don't have enough traffic," and they end up doing nothing. I love that, over the course of this entire conversation, there's been multiple times where you're like, "I just did this and then I corrected. I wanted a blog so I did this. I knew I needed to interview somebody so I did this," using what you have rather than ... I almost feel like people create excuses for themselves not to do things. It's like, "I'll do that as soon as I get the microphone and figure all this out." It's like, "Why don't you take your phone and record yourself, nobody cares."
Jessica Schirripa: You've never going to have the right resources, especially early on. That's even something we've learned starting New Theory. You start something and maybe you've got a first round of contributors, but they're not strong enough as far as the quality content. "You know what? We'll work with you." No one's going to come to us and be a Pulitzer Prize winner and say, "Hey, I want to write for you." No, that's not how it works. If you don't have the resources, you make the resources or you take the resources that you have.
Me, personally, I actually work better with a team than I do by myself because it's very easy for me to get distracted or maybe feel a little defeated even early on. When I know that I have the support of a team or a team that's relying on me to deliver, I'm so much more like, "Okay. We're in this together. If we go down, we go down together so let's work on getting up."
Lance Tamashiro: I love that. I love your attitude. I love the way that you approach things. I think it's really helpful for people to hear that and hear that it wasn't easy and that what it took to get where they are because, a lot of times, just knowing that we're not alone and stuff really helps.
I super appreciate all of your time. You've shared a ton of action items, a ton of really great stuff that people can start using right away. Where can people find out more about you and more about New Theory, if it's something that they're interested or they just want to keep up with you and what you're doing?
Jessica Schirripa: First and foremost, newtheory.com. The content on there is really great. It's really fun. It's fresh. There are celebrity podcasts that we've done on there. You could find one of your favorite celebrities, or somebody that's in an upcoming movie or comedy special. I'm big on stand up comedy so I jump at those interviews ... I'm always, "I'll do it. I'll do it," anything like that, newtheory.com. Their social media handles newtheorymag on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. They farm out all of our articles and, again, really fun, fresh content.
My name is Jessica Schirripapa. I have Coffee TawkNJ. Tawk is spelled T-A-W-K, play on the whole Jersey thing. Then I have all different articles on Elite Daily which I'm very, very proud of, Examiner, BuzzFeed. Again, my social media handles are: on Instagram, I'm JerseyJessie and on everything else, CoffeeTawk NJ spelled with a T-A-W-K. I'm all about connecting.
Lance Tamashiro: If you guys are interested, go check out newtheory.com. I assume that's where they would hit you up if they were interested in possibly contributing something?
Jessica Schirripa: You'll see the information and you'll see the form.
Lance Tamashiro: Go check that out over there if that's something that you're interested in. Then we'll also have all of the links that if you want to connect with Jessica, if you want to find her handle, find what she's doing and obviously Coffee Tawk New Jersey, we'll have a link to that.
Again, Jessica, thanks a ton. I really appreciate you spending a little bit of time today doing this. I really appreciate it. Thanks.