People to Watch
(page 11 of 11)
By: Greg Ryan
If you’ve seen the television show Mad Men, you know how companies used to define their brand. Men in suits sit around a boardroom table. Men in suits banter about a product until a pithy tag line is agreed upon. Men in suits pat each other on the back, then head out for a three-martini lunch. The customer is nothing but a distant, faceless demographic.
The emergence of Google, Facebook, and Twitter has changed that dynamic, of course. Customers are more in control: With a few mouse clicks, they can write a complimentary product review or blog about an obnoxious sales clerk. Companies are staggering in the pre-dawn darkness of this new world; among those entrepreneurs helping them find the light is Troy resident Lisa Barone, a 27-year-old who prefers a hoodie and jeans to a suit and a café to a boardroom. “It used to be that it was only the big companies that had a platform to talk to people,” she says. ”Now, anyone can.”
Barone is the chief branding officer of Outspoken Media, an Internet marketing start-up she founded with colleagues Rae Hoffman and Rhea Drysdale in January. The trio helps businesses maximize their online presence, teaching them how best to use social networking sites and to influence which links pop up when customers google their name. In less than a year, Outspoken’s revenue growth has increased threefold. Big-time publications such as BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal seek out its expertise.
Outspoken’s choice of name is no coincidence. Barone writes a blog at www.outspokenmedia.com, and she isn’t afraid to drop the occasional expletive or call out the demigods of the Internet marketing world. In September, she used a blog post to criticize marketing guru Seth Godin, who had created Web pages featuring the brand information of several hundred major companies, but would only allow the companies to control the pages if they paid Godin’s firm $400 a month. The post garnered more than 150 comments, and two days later Godin changed the policy so that companies needed to give him permission before he’d create a page. “There was this big community outcry that we helped organize,” Barone says. “It was kind of a neat thing for us.”
Elsewhere online, Barone uses her Twitter account to post items both personal and professional. That mixture matches the candid tone she uses in her blog posts, a writing voice that won Barone a 2007 SEMMY search-marketing award in the “LOL Funny” category. (A taste of Barone’s humor, from Twitter: “Wish Facebook would stop suggesting ex-boyfriends as friends. Yes, I know, I thought we were a good suggestion too. Clearly, not.”) At the same time, her informal style has lost Outspoken a few clients, she says. But Barone is confident her personable approach draws more customers than it repels. “By being yourself, you attract more people who are prone to like you,” she says. “I think a Twitter account helps people feel like they know me. People want to have relationships with other people and be treated like a human being.”
Barone originally envisioned herself as a traditional journalist, not the Internet firecracker she’s become. She graduated from Emerson College in 2004, then journeyed to Los Angeles and found work at a company that happened to be an Internet marketing firm. She was hired as a technical writer, but her job description quickly evolved into something more similar to her role at Outspoken today.
Last year, Barone accepted an offer to work for an Internet company in Troy. (“I’m an East Coast girl,” explains Barone, who grew up on Long Island.) It was there that she met Drysdale, but the pair soon discovered they did not mesh well with their new environment. They resigned on the same day to start Outspoken with Hoffman, whom they knew through the industry. Running a business has proven time-consuming: “I probably work — it’s so sad — 10 to 12 hours a day during the week, and 10 on the weekends,” she says. Barone savors the freedom that comes along with it, though. “As a blogger, I don’t have to worry about a boss who’s going to get mad if I piss off someone,” she says. “We really wanted to do things our way, and I think this is a great vehicle to do that.”
Circumstance may have pulled her to the Hudson Valley, but Barone says she’s found a home in downtown Troy. “I think it’s pretty,” she says. “I’d always loved the city of Boston, and it kind of looks similar.” She travels quite often for Outspoken, including four trips to Las Vegas in the past year for Web conferences. Of course, if you’re Lisa Barone, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. It goes right up on Twitter.