Felicia C. Sullivan
Marketing Exec/Author. I build brands & tell stories. Work in Human Parts, OneZero, Forge & Marker. Hire me: t.ly/bEnd7 Branding & Freelancing eBooks t.ly/ZP5v
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Licensed from Adobe Stock // JenkoAtaman

Love, loss, and sweating in an L.A. AirBNB.

Today was a photograph worth shredding. A friend comes over with a swamp cooler because the temporary home in which I live scalds at eighty-seven degrees. Heat rises up all around me, makes me slick and sour.

We don’t wear masks or maybe I forget or perhaps I secretly crave something I can no longer have, but we keep our distance. We stand six feet apart and I can’t remember the last time I’ve eaten, but I notice she’s sun-soaked and sepia-toned. …


The clue phone is ringing & some of you need to pick up.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // chajamp

We live in a world of takers. People size you up, see the benefit of knowing and extracting something from you, and they demand you hand over the keys to your hard-earned kingdom.

And they never offer anything in return. Courtship in all its forms is a relic from a bygone era where people cared about the stretch. …


Fiction

The afterlife is like life, only the pizza is never any good.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Eric Simard

Here’s the thing about the afterlife. It’s a lot like life, only a little worse. There exists no heaven or hell, no cashmere clouds and raging infernos — it’s a place like any other place except the pizza is never any good.

There’s no cable or WIFI or the Trader Joe’s cheese enchiladas I like so much. On the jukebox, there’s one song I want to listen to, but everyone keeps playing Carole fucking King. …


Treat customers like VIPs instead.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // iuricazac

For years, the Greek chorus shouted, get me 100,000 fans! There existed no rhyme or reason for this arbitrary number, only that it felt like they had arrived. They had something to show venture capitalists or a vanity metric to tout in their bios, because when I asked why this number, why this many fans, they did the equivalent of plugging their fingers into their ears and screaming, I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

Reason 1,454,232 I no longer work on performance marketing or social media projects. But I digress.

Personal finance advisor, Ramit Sethi shares a story in his Zero To Launch course about how a site contacted him to promote his articles. They strutted out their 400,000 subscribers to show they meant business. …


Exploiting your values for profit helps no one. Especially you.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // triocean

Years ago, I was a status whore. A money-hungry animal. If I had more money to buy more things, I would be whole and complete. I hoarded and stockpiled until the things I could no longer bear their burden. I collected titles and accolades thinking they meant something. I didn’t realize how I’d never fill the gaping hole in me, which only seemed to widen and deepen with the passing of each day.

Only when I was physically ill, depleted and ravaged, did I see the cost of wanting things. When the person I had become was unrecognizable did I realize the things I’d lost where more valuable than the trinkets I’d accumulated. I regarded my boxes of glittery shoes and expensive finery with shame and disdain. …


Spoiler: A house is not a home

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // pololia

When I was a senior in college, we went to Mexico. I remembered the flight being turbulent, and it would be the start of my lifelong fear of planes. I wondered if we’d plunge into the ocean and what that would feel like — metal breaking the surface, a body tearing its way down to the ocean floor. But I secreted my thoughts away as I tended to do back then because we were up in the air, drunk on cheap vodka and a future filled with possibility.

It was the spring of 1997 and many of us already had jobs and graduate schools waiting for us on the other side of our cap and gown. …


People with mental illness can’t will their way back to happiness

Book and eyeglasses left on a maroon velvet couch.
Book and eyeglasses left on a maroon velvet couch.
Photo: Matthieu Spohn/Getty Images

Their profile photos are gleaming. They’re on an island, or sprawled on a fast car, or clutching a piece of fruit. Every day, their articles crop up on my feed, each one promising betterment. With their clickbait titles and words that barely nick the surface, they want me to believe that they can make me happier, smarter, cuter, thinner, lovable, productive, and possibly a millionaire.

All I need to do is sign up for their newsletter, download their $29.99 eBook, and take their $499 online course.

All I need to do is believe… and click to buy.

They’ll start their pitch with a personal anecdote that makes readers believe they’re “just like us” — or at least they were until they tried whatever it is they’re now peddling. The relatability is merely a vehicle for the sale. They’ll then introduce the challenge or tension, deliver their proposed action, and boom! Welcome to the resolution. All lessons have been learned. …


Let’s play 20 questions

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // deagreez

You have an idea, a gift, but do you have a business? If you’re not earning an income from what you offer, you have a hobby.

But first, let’s define a few terms:

  • A business strategy is a deliberate vision to get to a desired long-term goal. A business strategy encompasses your vision, mission, and positioning.
  • A business model (s) is a tool to execute that strategy.

For example, I had a coaching client who wanted to build brands and campaigns for businesses that didn’t want to be garbage people. My client’s strategy centers on empowering for-profit business to do good by creating a purpose model and customer communication and connection, which ultimately bolsters her clients’ bottom line while doing good for humanity. …


Because likes don’t pay the bills.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // iuricazac

I’ll say this until I’m knee-deep in the grave — stories bind us to one another. They’re the way in which we humanize ideas, products, and services. You can’t just toss a resume or widget in someone’s lap, you have to tell the story of what got you to this place. This could be in the form of your cover letter, About page on your website, or an Instagram reel — your story introduces you to people, and there are three components that make stories impactful.

  1. The Specific: Your story has to be specific about what you want to do, who you want to do it for, and the problem you’re solving. People want to know that you “get them” and you’re here to offer a practical, tangible solution they can put into action. …


Asking for everyone.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Antonioguillem

I read about fires scorching millions of acres of fallen trees. Photographs of a tangerine sky crowd my feed. Imagine falling asleep to darkness and waking to the kind of glow that makes you feel as if the world is cindering. I read about earthquakes in New Jersey. I don’t know why I keep buying sweaters like some arctic zombie when the temperature last week was 119. A famous Olympian stomps her freedom feet, rips off her mask, and calls herself brave. Meanwhile, Black people are systematically slaughtered in the streets.

Sometimes, I don’t think people know what the word brave means. …


It’s a strangely smart time to figure out your next pivot

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Photo: Tachina Lee/Unsplash

I know what it’s like to be in career quicksand. I’ve pursued opportunities because they seemed shiny and new — or because they’d save me from having to subsist on a diet of ramen and oatmeal. But there came a point when I finally asked myself: Was I doing what I was meant to do? I’d spent many years in digital marketing, but I wasn’t sure I could see myself at 70, sporting my finest muumuu, cranking out yet another social media strategy for yet another company I wasn’t passionate about.

When it comes to reinventing our careers, rarely do we look at the whole of our lives to draw lines and make connections. We might look at the last three jobs on our résumé and figure, “Well, I guess this company/role/project is the next linear step.” Or we’ll make moves out of desperation — maybe we’re hoping to escape a nightmare boss, burnout, or unemployment. But by stepping back to consider all the decisions we’ve made and paths we’ve taken, we can see how we ended up where we are today — and where we should go next. …


You’ll deliver A-game work when you set & enforce boundaries.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Kaspars Grinvalds

Back in my agency days, I had the sort of clients that made me want to set my hair on fire. Clients who treated a slight pixel shift like it was a medical emergency. Or issued CodeREDs when I didn’t respond to their thirty-four frantic texts, twelve voice mails, and forty-five emails — all sent at 2:30 in the morning.

Subject line: URGENT.

Tricky clients are the Agamemnon of our time with their tantrums, war-booty thievery, and next-level Achilles fuckery. They’ll bring their kingdom to its knees because believe everyone is beneath their cleats, to quote Lil Wayne.

Remember what happened to Agamemnon? He got shanked in the bathtub by his wife after his post-war victory banquet. Imagine winning the longest war ever to then get murdered when you’re trying to chill. This is akin to planning a massive product launch to ruin it day-of by getting cancelled on Twitter for that shady Halloween costume you wore back in 2002. …


This Is Us

The heart is cruel above all things

Double exposure of a sad woman as a woman’s silhouette passes by.
Double exposure of a sad woman as a woman’s silhouette passes by.
Photo: Emilie Barbier/EyeEm/Getty Images

We were good girls who drank. We pregamed with Rumple Minze, Goldschläger, and 151, and we winced as the drink burned down our throat. We pounded 50-cent drafts and staggered home. We held our drink until we held our hair back — but the drink was the one thing we couldn’t let go.

And on it went with Thursday night drink-ups and gypsy cabs into the city, and do you think we’ll get in, of course we’ll get in — we’re the pretty ones. …


And I dislike them so much it makes me not want to write.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // deagreez

Normally, I’m loathed to write about a platform because it’s tedious and my audience doesn’t care. However, I dislike the new profile pages so much that I have no desire to write, which does affect my readers.

While tucking into a celebratory cheeseburger and truffle fries, I received a note that my profile had changed. At first, I didn’t pay much attention because truffle fries, but when I arrived home a violent discontent settled in.

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Credit: Author

The only benefit of the change is my readers now have an opportunity to read a story’s excerpt before diving in. I’m ambivalent about the design changes as I’ve never been a visual marketer — people come here for my words, not for an adorable background color and font selection. …


Want nice? Get a dog.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // luismolinero

We want women to smile. We want to be swathed in their warmth when the air conditioning in the office cranks all the way up. We want them soft-spoken and sweet — men can be jawbreakers, but women have to be cotton candy. We want them to be team players, accommodating, non-confrontational, on her knees if you please. We want our female executives to arrange the bagels and donuts on the conference room tray. Does anyone want a water? Would you like me to pat your hair? Can I bake you a muffin?

Is it that you find strong, assertive women intimidating or are you easily intimidated? …


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Licensed from Adobe Stock // iuricazac

You don’t know your audience.

Back when I had fewer grey hairs and an abundance of optimism, I worked with a major beauty brand that had a suitcase of issues. One of which was their propensity to prattle on about themselves all the time, on every channel. They were a walking commercial, spamming their socials and newsletters with product information. Every day, there was a new sale, GWP, promotion, a product description variation — their content’s soul purpose was to drive the buy.

Save for their existing customers who dropped in for the deals, they weren’t attracting new people to the party. …


For one, don’t put your customers to sleep.

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Credit: Nuggs Website

Psst. I have a secret. Want to know the sure-fire, cure-all for insomnia? Read emails sent by marketers. Nothing puts you to sleep faster than a welcome sequence. Pore through an order confirmation email and you’ll snooze like drooling babes. While you’re optimizing their open and click rates, employing every Shopify bell and whistle, obsessing over your AOV, and segmenting into oblivion, you’re missing the cold truth — people don’t care.

You’re invested in your brand because it’s your livelihood, you have venture capitalists who are one quarter away from pulling a Donner Party, or you actually believe in the product or service you’re selling. And these products and services may very well knock the little socks off your customers’ feet, change lives, the whole nine, but your sea-of-same, growth hacking tactics builds walls between you and your customer. …


But you can survive the darkness.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // © iuricazac

1.

I remember sitting across from a woman I used to know. We were in the kind of restaurant that made a production over the bread basket. Plump hot rolls, seeded crackers, rye toast garnished with sprigs of thyme, and whipped butter were wrapped in white cloth and presented to us like gifts.

My friend waved it away because she wasn’t eating anything white or brown at the moment, and I shook my head because I wasn’t eating anything at all. …


Saying no to cash isn’t ludicrous, you’re playing the long game.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Dmitriy

Not too long ago, I went through a period of subsisting on ramen and oatmeal. It was a dark time, friends, complete with drawn shades and day-drinking. Crippled by fear, all I could do was sit in front of my computer and refresh my inbox. Hoping for the one email that would save me from a lifetime of subsisting on carbs. I was desperate and not above anything that would pay my bills.

No one talks about the droughts. We keep our humiliations and tears offline. Hidden from view. Instead, we prefer to megaphone our bank statements and six-figure years because we want our sheen to be blinding. We want people to think our success was easy. …


We live in a moment that demands compassion. Why is rage our default?

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Antonioguillem

Believe me when I say I love a little snark. Bring me a biting comeback and we can call it a day. Smart satire is nothing short of a symphony. Before March, I worshipped at the church and tabernacle that was sarcasm. But lately, I’m seeing something different — unbridled, dirty, raw rage.

I live in a country where hate makes for terrific television and book sales. …


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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Nomad_Soul

Fiction

A story about a young girl’s first kill.

The last thing Kitty remembers is Ramona’s hair on fire. And then the screams, the sound of distant sirens. Kitty waits for the good parts, the red parts. The paper skin curled and peeled back from bone. Flesh charred and molting. Smoke rises up in the room and forms a column around them. They cough and their eyes are rivers and possibly they might pass out, but Kitty is nothing if not disciplined. She’s prepared. She tightens the extension cord bound around Ramona’s wrists. Wraps their necks with wet towels even though they’re already scarved in sweat.

Listen, she knows Ramona has been through a lot in the past year with being locked under a floorboard with three other girls while balding men and their suitcases of wants gag and rape you. Where happiness was getting individually wrapped pieces of red Starburst — strawberry and cherry — the tastes of summer, of home. …


Real talk for unreal people.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // _jure

People who have never stood in the sun will always find ways to blanket your shine. Happiness is bearing witness to you cowering, shrouded in darkness. They’ll sweep you off the internet if they have to. And they’ll smother and snuff out your shout until the only voice they hear is their own because they believe theirs should be the loudest sound. Only they can rise above the din. Theirs is a world populated by walking clones who look, speak, think, and act like them. Not realizing they’ve become prisoners and wardens of their misery.

I suppose a prison doesn’t feel like one if the photocopies stand in the sun. …


Fiction

Imagine waking up in a hotel room with your hair on fire.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Goffkein

“There is a woman on a hotel bed, and her hair is on fire,” I shout into a payphone. The operator asks me whether I saw actual flames, was there actual fire? Maybe I saw a woman smoking a cigarette, because this is Nevada and that’s what people are prone to do. “No, you don’t understand, I’m talking a fire here. I’m talking about a burning, a smell.”

Come to think of it, the woman, Gillian, was smoking, or rather, swallowing a lit cigarette that burned down her throat. I know this because I put the cigarette in her mouth, struck a match and said, “All you have to do is breathe. I’ll take care of the rest.” I bound her wrists and ankles with rope, dialed up the thermostat to ninety (because why not?), …


This is NOT a platform how-to — this is about thought leadership.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // deagreez

No one platform should ever be your end game. It’s sort of like putting all your eggs into one basket, only the basket is owned by a board of tech bros you don’t know, who one day to decide to make an omelet with ingredients you can’t pronounce, and then you become a vegan and what do you do now other than cry your little eyes out?

Never place your bets on something you don’t own. This goes for marketers whose entire strategy rests on the shoulders of the social media platform du jour (you’ve actually created a tactic, but details) and consultants and freelancers who base their income on a channel over which they’ve no control. …


How one piece of content can go the distance.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // IC Production

We live in the year 2020 and brands are still cutting and pasting their content across all their channels. And they have the nerve to call it a strategy. Before I fan myself and start in with the bless your hearts, let’s talk about why mass-blast posting is a hot mess.

As you may know, each digital and social media platform whether it be Facebook, Instagram, your newsletter, blog, blah blah blah has its own unique vibe. …

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