Barbara Weckstein Kaplowitz, Big Huge Ideas, Potomac, Md.
What was your first job out of college and how did you get into this business?
Assistant to director of research and communications, Local and State Chamber of Commerce Division, Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. It was an exciting place to work. My window looked across Lafayette Park to the diplomatic entrance of the White House. There were always high-profile visitors like Anwar Sadat and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. I wrote a monthly newsletter for communications directors at local chambers of commerce, edited a quarterly magazine and compiled an annual statistical guide. One of my most useful resources was The Ragan Report. Years later I told Larry and Mark Ragan that this was my first brush with paid-circulation newsletters. I worked for two other trade associations and then in 1985 got a call from a consultant with UCG. She asked me to interview to become the company’s first full-time marketing director. I met with Bruce Levenson and Ed Peskowitz, started part-time, and after six months became full-time. Over the next 10 years, I moved from marketing director to group publisher and also managed the conference division and in-house telemarketers. I left UCG in 1995 and formed Big Huge Ideas.
Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road.
When I realized that I loved to write, and that people would actually pay me to do just that. Most enlightening moment: When I discovered direct marketing. I’m hooked on being able to track how my writing affects an organization’s bottom line. Career crossroad: When I was accepted to a dual MBA/MA in Journalism program. I opted not to enroll because I knew I’d come out of school still wanting to write copy more than crunch numbers. I’ve never regretted that decision.
In brief, describe your business/company?
Big Huge Ideas is a full-service agency that provides copywriting, marketing strategy, website development and editorial assistance to publishers, trade associations, academic institutions, corporations, retailers and small businesses.
What are two or three important concepts or rules that have helped you to succeed in business?
1) Never stop learning.
2) Always write to an individual. Before I create copy or content, I develop a mental composite of who I’m trying to persuade or inform, including their demographics and psychographics.
3) Give and the world will give back. I volunteer for SIPA and SIPF, and serve as the communications chair for my synagogue and PR director for MoverMoms—a local nonprofit that matches busy moms and families with short-term, community service projects. My entire family actively supports the American Diabetes Association. (Check out this page to see why.)
What is the single-most successful thing that your company is doing now?
Helping clients keep their marketing and editorial customer-centric. With all the platforms, it’s easy to focus on efficiency and cost-cutting and lose sight of what customers really want and what turns a prospect into a customer.
Do you see a trend or path that you have to lock onto as we look to 2012?
Seamless integration of marketing and delivery platforms. Customers don’t care how difficult—or costly—it is for us to deliver product to various devices, they simply expect information to be available when and where they want it. (And at a negotiable price.) I constantly scan the web, magazines, newspapers and press releases and white papers to figure out the next big wave to catch. One of my favorite inspiration sources is www.ted.com.
What are the key benefits of SIPA membership for you and your team?
I attended my first conference when SIPA was still the Newsletter Association [and today] I am a member of the SIPA Board of Directors and president of the Specialized Information Publishers Foundation (SIPF). SIPA gives back what you put into it. I treasure the friendships I’ve formed, count on the astute wisdom my fellow members provide, and thrive on working with clients in this industry.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Roanoke, Va., and my parents still live in the house where I was raised.
What college did you attend? Is there a moment from that time that stands out?
I graduated from the University of Virginia. UVA didn’t offer (and still doesn’t) a journalism degree, so I majored in Rhetorical Theory and Mass Communications. What still amazes me is that I was a member of only the fifth class to admit women to UVA. As a founding member of the women’s varsity track team—we had no equipment or coaches of our own—I threw shot put, discus and javelin.
Are you married? Do you have children?
I’ve been married to Brett for almost 23 years. He’s a commercial lender and we often joke that he’s numbers and I’m words. We have two talented and inquisitive children, Molly (who’s 18 and a freshman in college) and Scott (who’s 16 and a junior in high school).
What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?
I love to read. I belong to two book clubs and go through 3-5 books a week. My not-so-secret vice is romance fiction, and in the ’90s, Sue Tomasso and I co-published a consumer newsletter for readers of romance fiction called Between the Covers Book Club.
Is there a book you recently read or movie you saw that you would recommend?
Right now I’m reading Twenty Thirty: The Real Story of What Happens to America by Albert Brooks. If you haven’t seen The Social Network, it’s a movie well worth watching.
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 12–1 p.m. Eastern time
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