People Reading: Hollis Thomases founder of

Hollis Thomases founded, a specialized agency providing strategic digital media and marketing solutions to challenger brands and large non-profits, in 1998. Hollis advocates for tactics, airtight processes and prudent ad spending that ultimately generate cost-effective website actions for clients, a philosophy that has earned her a reputation as online marketing’s “Voice of Reason.” Hollis authored the book, Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day, has been a bi-weekly media planning columnist for ClickZ since 2005 and has appeared on television and radio news programs. In 2007, Hollis was named Maryland’s “Small Business Person of the Year” by the SBA.

Shawn: Thank you Hollis for visiting with us! What are your communication style preferences — what causes someone else to be successful when communicating with you?

Hollis: I would say that my communication style is pretty direct.  Whether that’s on the phone, in person or online, I like to have clear, transparent and honest communication.  When I’m speaking to someone else who treats me with the same respect and values, that is a successful conversation.

Shawn: What are your communication turn-offs?

Hollis: I get turned off by people who don’t listen in earnest.  You know the type:  They “uh-huh” you to death but then turn around and ask you questions you’ve already answered.  I also don’t like people who constantly interrupt other people, particularly without acknowledging their interruption — I think it’s just a sign of disrespect.

Shawn: What motivates you professionally and personally?

Hollis: Professionally I feel a strong desire to better the industry. As a web marketing agency we all too often see the results of campaigns with little to no (even bad) strategy, and I think as marketers we need to collectively challenge ourselves to be better at our work.  I’m also motivated to be a good employer, boss and leader. I have seen so many bad managers, I really feel strongly that I want to elevate the responsibility I have beyond above-average. Personally, I’m motivated to just try to be ‘good people’ as well.

Shawn: What are the communication trends you are observing in your work?

Hollis:  I’m seeing a few trends lately, and I don’t honestly welcome them all:

1) I see a growing reliance on digital communications…to a flaw.  People seem to forget that not everyone’s preferred communication channel are the same and instead of trying to accommodate what works best for the person to or with whom you’re trying to communicate, they do what’s easiest for them. This might mean the communicator takes the easy way out, emailing, texting or Facebooking their contact a message when in fact that person may prefer to have phone call instead.  I try to understand someone’s preferred method of communication early on — it can generally save both parties some heartache, discomfort and misaligned expectations.

2) Obviously, having written a book about Twitter, I cannot overlook the growing trend to communicate via social media.  This is true for both business and personal.  Social media can be an incredibly effective channel for communication especially when it comes to initiating relationships.  But again, it cannot be the only default means to communicate with someone.

3) Lastly, being in the business of communication, I see a lot of attention being paid to measurement, reporting, nailing down the ever-elusive “ROI” in web marketing and advertising. As it should be, but at Web Ad.vantage we’re more focused on the even MORE elusive question, “What do we do with ROI data?” This is the question companies need to be asking themselves, as those decisions should be tied to core objectives.

Shawn: Knowing you are doing something you are passionate about, do you have any Talent@Work™ tips you’d be willing to share?

Hollis: Learning to say no. My advice?  We all get caught up in the rush to do more, get out there more – network, see, be seen, etc. It’s equally important though to recognize when to say ‘no, thank you.’ You can only be in one place at one time, so make sure you’re in the place and engaged in the activities that are actively moving you towards your goals. A ‘free lunch to pick your brain’ isn’t free if it cost you time you would have otherwise spent developing your business. Same with a request to speak if it’s the wrong audience, or responding to a RFP when you know it’s not a good fit. Be as strategic as you can with your time, is really the bottom line.

Shawn: Anything else you would like to share about yourself and your work?  Anything you hoped I would ask you about?

Hollis: Since founding my company over 13 years ago, the digital marketing space has grown pretty cluttered — everyone from traditional advertising and PR agencies to web design/development firms seem to offer online marketing services like ours (whether or not they really provide the service in-house or not) and it’s hard for clients to distinguish among all of us.  That’s why we’ve decided to approach the market differently now:  instead of focusing on our tactical offering, we’re focusing on a special kind of target client. If you’re curious, you’ll need to come to our website to turn more, but as a hint, to support this effort, we’ve launched a brand new product: a ‘F.I.E.R.C.E. Assessment’ – Ferocious Intelligence Evaluation Report & Competitors’ Emarketing Assessment. This assessment provides companies with a straight-shooting, fact-based look at their digital marketing efforts to-date and compares it to their competitors’.  If this sounds like something your business would be interested in, you can get the 411 here.