I received an email from a client with a forward from Tory Johnson of Good Morning America, Women for Hire, and Spark and Hustle fame. It was titled, “Haters gonna hate!”
In this email, Mrs. Johnson discusses her new book/movement, “The Shift” and the praise and critiques she’s received since its launch. Approximately half way through the email, Tory revealed the criticism that cut the deepest. Someone wrote her and said, “You don’t care about helping other women lose weight. You just want our money for your book sales.” While Tory is writing this off as someone being a hater (at the advice of her 16 year old daughter) I see something totally different. I see a client having a negative experience with Tory Johnson, her brands, or both. What could be awry with the PR Princess’ brands? As I dug a little deeper, here is what I found.
- Same Thing, Different Name (Same Face, Different Place). All three of Tory Johnson’s brands (Women For Hire, Spark and Hustle, and The Shift) have the exact same business model. Each includes a book and a conference, where once in attendance, premium products and services will be sold to you. To boost your feeling of influence, you are invited to work for Tory by being an ambassador or host or sponsor for an additional investment. But does it really boost your influence or only Tory’s bottom line?
- Brand Confusion. While Mrs. Johnson’s movement from Women for Hire to Spark and Hustle appeared seamless, this latest venture, which has the exact same business model, is clearly not. Women definitely maneuver from the workplace into entrepreneurship, but not all women are on a weight loss journey. For those who follow Tory Johnson, the turning of a life experience into a movement can make one feel abandoned. I thought we were Sparking and Hustling??!! Now you only want to talk about how you lost weight and created a better life? I’m confused.
- Stop talking about it and Be About it. The real reason this person wrote Tory Johnson with her “hate” is because there is a disconnect between the image, or promise, that Tory Johnson and her brands emits and the experience. Based on my research, this disconnect was created when Mrs. Johnson STOPPED staying connected to the audience that propelled her into the limelight. She stopped working with them and started talking about the work she did with them. Women for Hire started in 1999. Spark and Hustle appears to be in the hands of affiliates with programs like Daring Doers and the BBF initiative. Her work was not speaking and writing books—those are tools to spread the word about her real work. And more speaking and more books won’t fix the problem, either. When you spend so much time writing books and speeches and preparing to speak, coupled with the other responsibilities she has as a wife, mother, mentor, and community leader, there is no time to actually connect with the struggles and triumphs of your fan and customer base. When this happens, your core customer feels abandoned, frustrated, and devalued—thus the “…you just want our money for your book sales” comment.
Tory Johnson, I implore you to take a second look at the “hate mail” comments you received and referenced in your eblast. Then, I want you analyze where you started and what steps you took to get where you are. Lastly, I want you to remember that most of the women who look up to you are somewhere in the middle of that staircase. You cannot just speak to them from the front of a crowded conference hall. They don’t want to just read your story on their Kindles. That may work for some other mediapreneur, but it is not working for you. Your customers are telling you that they miss the “Tory in the Story”—they need you back at work. Your work is being an awesome connector and conduit of entrepreneurial energy. Once you return to that, you will get true hate mail—the kind where the only thing they can say is “I thought you looked better fat.”
See the CAREER Conversations™ webisode on Ego’s In Employment and Entrepreneurship
Before you contact anyone about a donation or a sponsorship, make sure you understand the difference! We just received a great blog from one of our CAREER Magazine contributors that we couldn’t stuff away in an issue. This is something every business owner needs to see! Thanks so much Anetra!
To all my Brand ME! solo-preneurs out there who are soliciting companies to support you as you mount your stump and begin telling the world what you believe, who you are, and why we should partner with you, let’s really talk about what you are asking for-a donation or true sponsorship.
First, let me tell you why I am qualified to have this discussion with you. I worked in the beauty, spa, and wellness industry for over 10 years at numerous companies. One of the consistent job functions I had across the board was being a part of the decision making process when it came to agreeing to donate or sponsor certain projects. I admit, in the beginning, it was never one of my favorite job functions because: A) I had many other things to do; and B) no one likes to be the bad guy all of the time. I had to say no way more than I could say yes to 99% legitimate requests. But that was part of the job in an industry that gets what I feel are more than its fair share of requests for support. So, I am speaking to you from the viewpoint of a decision maker, the person who read the requests and said yes, no, or nothing at all. The first reason your request is not getting a response or getting turned down flat is because you don’t know what you are asking for.
I know you looked online and pulled up a generic form that gives you information on what a request for sponsorship should look like. I know the form used nice buzz words that sound great and you punched it up with some of the key words whoever did your marketing gave you. I also know you looked up the definition of donation and sponsorship in the dictionary so you clearly understand the difference, right? Wrong-especially on that last point.
Regardless of what the dictionary tells you, the difference between a donation and a sponsorship request is what the company you are asking gets out of the deal. It is NOT having charity status, it is NOT defined by tragic circumstances, it is NOT in how you plan to use what you are asking for. It is simply and completely this: if supporting you with something of value only adds a warm, fuzzy feeling and a tax write off at the end of my fiscal year, its a DONATION.
Real and true SPONSORSHIP provides an opportunity for partnership between the solicited company and yours. As the decision maker, I want your request to tell me how handing you product and/or money will expose my business to a demographic that I need more of or don’t have at all, or fits into my overall mission and focus. In other words, my business needs to get something sustainable and tangible out of the deal. So if your event is going to expose my spa brand to 1,000 25-50 year old women who earn 75K or more, your sponsorship request is going to the next round for approval. If your event is going to give my spa brand an opportunity to gift to a group of male CEO’s with my new line of men’s skincare products, your request is going to the next round. If your online community is comprised of mommy-preneurs and you are looking for sponsorship opportunities for a Mother’s Day event, your request is going to the next round! These examples demonstrate sustainable demographics that can lead to tangible profits for a spa brand.
So before you send out another email requesting something from a for-profit business as a for-profit business, be sure you know what you are asking for!
If you need help sorting out your event sponsorship requests, let’s talk. I help clients navigate the monetization minefield of Sponsorship. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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