Beginnings are the hardest part of anything in life – but once you start things take on a life and rhythm of their own.
Born in New York, Sharon Roth is graduated from Ramaz High School and Cornell University, College of Arts & Sciences, where she double majored in History and Music. She was also a classically trained singer and performed in Young Artist programs in Rome and New York – and for a time seriously considered a musical career. But though these experiences were incredible, she knew early on she had a passion for creating and communicating ideas and pursued a career in writing. Sharon Roth began her career in a boutique PR firm specializing in real estate and after only seven months was hired to head the fledgling PR and Marketing department for a company called State of the Art that created all the events at Cipriani, The Mandarin Oriental and all the major Manhattan venues. Following that, she headed up communications at Guardsmark, one of the world’s largest security services firms where she worked closely with former FBI and Secret Service and top medical experts creating content on security and current threats. In 2014 she formed WriteNow, a brand writing and strategy company that stresses powerful, transporting language and visuals for clients, where she is currently President and Creative Director. Her articles and stories written and placed have appeared in publications from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, to magazines such as Grace Ormonde and Town and Country. Sharon Roth is also currently the Wine & Spirits Editor for Social Life Magazine in the Hamptons.
Where did the idea for WriteNow come from?
From editing friends’ papers in college to my first job in PR to my first articles, I recognized the power and art of language to move, transport and impact. While I enjoyed the challenge of placing stories, it was in developing them where I found the most creative satisfaction. Writing has always been second nature to me for as long as I can remember – I was memorizing books even before I could read and my dad instilled a love for writing early on – and I also have always had a little bit of an intuitive grasp of what clients really want to get across and what resonates best with the public. There is more than a little psychology involved – both individual and collective – which can be really fun. I also realized that good writing today is unfortunately not as widespread as it should be, so there is a great need for this – from medical and tech experts who need help explaining complex ideas, to designers, artists and photographers who want engaging, poetic language to accompany their visual work, to businesses starting or rebranding who are looking for a new strategy or statement. Moreover, Internet writing is shorter and more compact – and words have to be chosen carefully, making this area more critical than ever before. I think in 2007 when I wrote an Op-Ed that might have had an impact on a law that was subsequently changed it hit me that there are many people and organizations I can really help by being this kind of conduit to the public. And drawing out clients who are a little shy or not sure of how to get their messages across can be very gratifying, especially when they are so gratified with the results!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I get up early to write – it’s good to do it when you are fresh first thing in the morning – and speak to clients on the phone or in person throughout the day, and coordinate with any Web or logo designers I have hired for projects. Though after holding high pressure jobs with tight deadlines I can write under any conditions, I do my real creative work when it is flowing, and if something feels blocked in any way I back off for a little bit and let it simmer ….and when I revisit it the answers usually pop right in! Activities such as yoga can help keep the creative juices going too, and I sometimes come up with some of my best ideas during class or in an outdoor activity.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I write very instinctively and I trust my gut feelings on things – often when I am talking to a new client, strategy and language begin to form during the first conversation and I’ll hear something that will catch in my head and I will think, “that’s it!”. When I am on a project I am thinking about it off and on pretty much around the clock, and when I sit down to write I often hear the words and sentences in my head – and sometimes can’t type them fast enough. People tell me my writing is also very visual, and sometimes I really do feel like I am “painting with words”. I also try to get into the head of the client, organization, message or ideas and will adapt the style to reflect it/them best. For me, brand writing is just as much an art as creative writing.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I think the Internet and social media – if used well – are great platforms for the freer, more creative expressions of ideas. I also think we are becoming more conscious and thoughtful of how we are in the world, how we treat each other and the environment, how we can bring about self-fulfillment in a positive way, and how we are about issues such as health, ethics and political turns we might have just let ride beforehand. I think there is a definite collective desire for advancement that is gaining strength.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Plunging into a project even if I feel hesitant at first. Beginnings are the hardest part of anything in life – but once you start things take on a life and rhythm of their own. And you can always go back and edit/fix/redo if you want – just get going it will fall into place!
What advice would you give your younger self?
To do what you love, not just what you are best at or looks more “important” – if you can find the combination that’s ideal! If you love to do something and you work at it you will stand out, and be much happier in the process. Don’t be afraid to express what you need and aim for accomplishing goals in areas where you feel connected, not for perfection – which is an unreachable goal designed to make anyone miserable. Enjoy your school/work and enjoy your life with a good balance of work, family, friends, love and adventure – and don’t be afraid to make mistakes…sometimes the best things come out of curveballs or “wrong” turns. Try lots of new things and see what sticks!
Tell us something that’s true that almost no one agrees with you on?
Here’s a few: I believe in the basic goodness of most people. I think Manhattan was much more special and sparkly when I was growing up here in the 80’s than it is today – but that could be because I was a pre-teen and teenager then! I live in hope for a Manhattan renaissance. I also think that steak tastes like shoe leather unless it is cooked practically rare, and that vanilla is in general infinitely superior to chocolate. Peanut butter anything trumps it all.
I also believe that there is no problem ending sentences with a preposition lol
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I network constantly, am generally friendly, and meet people everywhere. I do this because I like people in general, but it does come in handy – you just never know where connections will come. I am also very passionate about doing what I do and the art of communication – and I think people feel that and want to be a part of it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
This is not so much of a strategy as a life choice. I do a fair amount of pro bono non-profit work for causes I believe in from children with disabilities to animal protection and rescue to public health. It’s fun and meaningful and feels great – and as an added boon I make many connections through this as well. But most importantly it’s good karma, keeping a balance between ourselves and others.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have a very active social life but most people don’t realize that I am also a little shy – and I just am not very comfortable being super shark aggressive in rounding up potential new clients! Thankfully my biz is very much word of mouth and clients often come to me – but it’s hardly smart to rely solely on that. I have learned to sit on my hesitation when needed – and also that it’s ok to check in and follow up in an open, friendly manner without coming across as obnoxious or annoying! I keep in mind that I can help others through what I do and focusing on their needs helps me approach them in the right way. I also play to my strengths…I remember early in my PR career I hated the idea of cold calling media. So instead, I sent them written pitches first which they often called me back about – and if they didn’t I made a follow up call, and at least had what I sent as a jumping off point for the conversation. So, if you think about where you are strongest, there are often ways around any obstacle that will work well for you.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
This is not specific but businesses geared toward the older population – 70+ – there are going to be more and more of them in the years to come as people are living longer and aging more slowly and actively. Any product or service targeted at that age group is going to have an increasingly wide market. Plus – by the time we all get there we will benefit!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Buying an amazing illustration from my new artist friend George Lewis, who is coming out with a children’s book on spirituality. The book features exquisite illustrations of a little boy and his bunny, that represents the soul. George donated a few illustrations from the book to a charity event I recently chaired for kids with disabilities and I bought one that I loved. Not only did the money go to the kids, but I now own a really cool piece of artwork. Don’t get me wrong – I love shoes, massages and pedis, good wine, live music, books and yoga as much as the next Manhattanite but there is nothing like putting art you love in your space….it sends you somewhere every time you see it.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Paperless Post is great for charity and art client invites. So is Eventbrite. Both help you get the word out, track responses, take RSVPs and send reminders and messages and there is good flexibility on design.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It’s a must read about overcoming fears/blockages and letting your creativity fly. It is very relevant to any area, not just writers and artists, and I was nodding the whole time thinking “yes that’s exactly it”. And it’s a fun easy read!
What is your favorite quote?
Georgia O’Keefe: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from a single thing I wanted to do.”
Picasso: “Anything you can imagine is real.” Love that.
- Go for what you love, not what you feel like you “should” be doing.”
- All beginnings are hard. Sometimes you just need to dive in and try – and just let things fall into place.
- Nothing ever happens in a vacuum. Always listen carefully and in between the lines to your client or market, and weave that into your strategy. Never have blanket approaches – no two situations are ever alike.
- Don’t be afraid to be different. And if you put the full weight of your passion behind you people will follow. Passion is contagious.
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