Keep Feeling Fascination: Sally Hogshead

By Emma Alvarez Gibson

You could argue that Sally Hogshead does not actually have her own gravity field, but it would take a lot to convince us. During her her second year in the advertising industry, she won more awards than any other writer in the U.S. She started her own ad agency at age 27, sold it a few years later, and is now a highly sought-after speaker and consultant. She is the author of two books: Radical Careering, and, most recently, FASCINATE: YOUR 7 TRIGGERS TO PERSUASION AND CAPTIVATION. Of course, the final landslide into the ne plus ultra  of cool, as far as we’re concerned, lies in her tagline: A HOGSHEAD IS A BARREL THAT HOLDS 62 GALLONS. SO WHAT’S YOUR NAME, SMARTASS? Aaaaannnnnd sold.

What’s the most exciting thing happening in the industry?

The playing field has been leveled in a way that gives all of us individually the chance to do incredibly exciting work. It used to be there had to be a massive budget in place, or you had to have a lot of seniority; now anybody with the use of social media can do high-visibility PR, award-winning types of ideas and promotion. When I first started, you had to work in the business for 5 to 10 years, and then work on a TV commercial. That was the key. Now, it’s about innovation and courage. It’s great for people that have the vision and the irreverence and the bravery to be able to do something truly fascinating. It sucks for people who are traditionalists and are playing by the rules. They’re just getting crushed.

Someone in your position must have her ear to the ground quite a bit, metaphorically speaking. Who do you rely on for your inside news?

I’m really lucky, because the people I’m connected to on social media tend to email me and say, This is fascinating, you need to know about it. That’s what’s great about social media: it’s not just for broadcasting, it’s also for listening.

What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?

In 2005, I published a book called Radical Careering. It’s the answer to that question. It contains what I wish I’d known. It’s available for free, online, at [Ed. note: The book is more or less what I imagine it must be like to have a highly intelligent rock star for a best friend who takes you out for a spiked milkshake and some spot-on, tough-love career advice. That good.]

What is the best thing that’s happened in your business this year?

I made a decision in 2009 that I was going to change my business to be more scalable. Up until now it was about how much output I was able to generate. It’s a trap a lot of people fall into. I gave myself a year to change my career from being based around scalability. For example, for a lot of freelancers, if you’re not working, you’re not earning. I invested heavily, in terms of time and training, in how to do new things. I looked for new ways to spread my content and share my message. I flew to meet people, I took time away from paying clients to do this. I practiced things I’m not really good at, like writing long format. I worked to evolve my career according to long term goals. Anytime there’s fear in the air, like there is now, people tend to put their heads down and think, what can I do to just get through this? But really, chaos equals time to create new skills. I went from being an expert in a limited field to being a student again. You should always being willing to start at the bottom.

What is a typical day like for you? Or do you have one?

I truly don’t have one. Last week, for example, I was booked to be in five different cities and ended up only being in four. I was so excited. This week I’m in the office. The work I do is made up of three parts. The first is speaking to corporations and businesses, at conference and conventions, on innovation and marketing. The second is consulting. Right now I’m working as an innovation consultant with Jagermeister. The third is content; tools people can use, like [the digital version of] Radical Careering, Slideshares and blog posts. Because of that, depending on which of the three spheres I’m focused on, I’m split between being on the road and being tucked in my office. Wish there were a typical day. I would like a little more structure.

What’s the next big thing in marketing?

I think people not looking to experts, learning how to develop your own ideas. It used to be that you called a travel agent when you wanted to take a trip. If you needed to diagnose migraines, you went to a doctor. Now we do all of that online. It used to be that if you wanted a creative idea, you went to a creativity expert. Small businesses are going to do that themselves. We’re going to see the democratization of creativity.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on the democratization of creativity myself! I’m developing a set of tools that I’ll be able to give to small businesses to create more fascinating messages.

Fascinated? We thought so. Find more Sally Hogshead at, and follow her on @sallyhogshead.


Emma’s unofficial motto has long been “PUBLICATION OR BUST!” Jack Move is her fifth from-scratch magazine. A writer and creative gun-for-hire, she’s had a hand in all types of media, at every step in the process. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. Follow her on Twitter (@ealvarezgibson) and find out more at

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