Sally-Ann O’Dowd

In a divisive world, we need to be grateful for the many platforms we can use to spread messages of love.

Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sally O’Dowd graduated summa cum laude with French Department Honors from Saint Mary’s College in nearby South Bend, having also earned undergraduate credits from Georgetown University’s Summer Institute on Comparative Political and Economic Systems and La Sorbonne, University of Paris. She went on to earn a master’s of science degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Consistently leaning on her intellectual curiosity, writing skills and creativity, she has had an international career in the interrelated fields of journalism, corporate communications and content marketing. In recent years, she has served the publicity needs of a wide range of clients through her integrated marketing-communications consultancy Sally On Media, whose HQ she recently moved from NYC to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Where did the idea for Sally On Media come from?

The name of my consultancy, Sally On Media, is a play on words. The verb “sally” comes from the Latin salire, which means to move forward or take a leap. Motion and momentum are at the core of my personality – it seems to explain the prescience of my parents, who changed my name from Carrie Ellen to Sally Ann three days after I was born.

Likewise, forward motion describes the industry that I love – media and entertainment. Communications platforms and technologies – all the things we use to communicate with each other and exchange information – are evolving on a daily basis. They are constantly sallying on. This is great news for brands, artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians – for anyone with a story to tell.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I start with a cup of green tea. A smoothie comes second. The infusion of healthy vitamins and antioxidants wakes me up. I start the day on a positive note, knowing that I am treating my body and soul well.

Then, I refer to the calendar on my phone and confirm the meeting place, and read the to-do list I wrote by hand the following day. I find loads of satisfaction in striking lines through the tasks I have achieved – no matter how small. I guess you’d say that I am a highly organized creative person. Recalling what I did yesterday gives me the confidence I need to be successful today.

How do you bring ideas to life?

As a creative with an analytical mind, I have a unique take on the axiom “from chaos comes order.” And as a former reporter accustomed to daily deadlines and tangible results, I focus hard, think fast, type fast, move fast. I rely on this training as a communications professional — when I get going, my ideas start to flow.

That said, even Type A people like me can move too fast. When I feel overwhelmed, I force myself to stop because I know that my productivity is going to decrease. A relaxed mind is a creative mind. Because I often work from home, this means I can rest. I will literally slow down my thoughts by lying down for an hour or so – sometimes dozing and letting my mind wander, sometimes napping. And when I get up, a solution to a problem usually pops into my mind. And I get going again.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I have to go back to the idea that media and communications technologies are sallying on. In a divisive world, we need to be grateful for the many platforms we can use to spread messages of love.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I believe it’s the combination of infinite curiosity and creativity that seeps from my pores, accompanied by the desire to listen to other people’s stories.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I joined a start-up, and I did not listen to my instincts, which consistently told me to get out of the dysfunction. I got burned. I have since done an entire re-set: if someone or some place makes me feel nervous, then I know it’s my mind telling me to retreat. Life requires boundaries and safe zones in every context.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

As per #6, I will always be true to myself and avoid people who do not meet my high standards. I won’t settle for a paycheck.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

My mantra: “Inspire and be inspired.”

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

An extrovert, I thrive in social environments and make connections easily. I also believe in sustaining positive relationships. I’ve developed my client roster via word-of-mouth, networking events (one was a chocolate tasting), and people I’ve known more than 20 years.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I had a client a couple years ago. We jumped into tactical execution before taking the time to get to know each other. The project didn’t go well, and we parted ways. I now budget a 40-hour discovery phase for every project.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’m looking for business partners to manufacture metal and wood wall-hangings. The shape of each piece will be unique and based on each customer’s “inputs.” I am looking for artists, metal workers, e-commerce experts and operations people to build the business. I will share more of this concept with people once they sign an NDA. My email address is [email protected]

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently moved from New York City to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for a much-needed change of scenery. I’ve already joined a swim team at the Swimming Hall of Fame. My cousin, Nancy, helped me move –with my two cats in tow. She stayed with me for two days to help me get organized. I could not have done this move without her, and certainly could not have assembled my outdoor furniture alone! I wrote her a check for $111 to reimburse her for the flight back to Jacksonville, where she lives. Her love, as they say, is priceless.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

ISSUU is the magazine platform I chose for self-publishing my video- and music-infused e-zine, Creativity Is Risky: Free Speech in a Charlie Hebdo World. I chose it over other publishing platforms because it enabled my team to be ultra creative – there were no boundaries to our design, editorial and technological aspirations. You can find it here:

Like millions of bloggers around the world, I also like the easy interface of WordPress. In fact, I met founder Matt Mullenweg at the Monaco Media Forum several years ago, and interviewed him for the blog published by Publicis Groupe’s communications network MSLGROUP. Here is our chat.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’ll give you two.

1. Quotable Wisdom: Steve Jobs, edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi. For anyone who doesn’t have the time to read his biography, this short book captures his thoughts on a wide variety of topics. Enraptured, I invented a conversation between him and Einstein who said, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” (Hence my blog name, Creativity Is Contagious). Read their chat here: “Jobs and Einstein Talk Cars, Girls and God”

2. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield.

The message of this book is to ignore the powerful and negative voices, excuses and other mental shackles that keep us from being our best selves, especially those of us in creative fields. Want to write a novel but never sit down to do it? Read this book. Doing so has freed me up in many ways. A couple results: leaving the grit of New York City to be closer to the ocean and writing Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Other Tales of Love and Loss, a poetry selection with original artwork by family and friends. You can find it at

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I read LinkedIn on a daily basis for inspiration, positive life lessons and business trends. I highly recommend following serial entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk, a no-B.S. businessman with a good heart. We can all learn from his self-awareness to become more self-aware, too.


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