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Kara Grey

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Kara L. Gray is the owner of New Horizon Consulting and a colleague of mine from the Editorial Freelancers Association. She is also a horse lover and excellent person!

How do you want people to contact you (website, e-mail, Facebook, blog, Twitter, address, storefront, etc.)?

website: www.newhorizonconsult.com

email: kara@newhorizonconsult.com

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karagray

Twitter: @NewHorizon1

What inspired you to go into writing – specifically copywriting and consulting? How has it defined your life?

My background is in marketing and public relations, and I have always been naturally curious. I love to learn about new things and teach others as well. My inspiration to launch my writing/consulting business came from the fact that I was out of work! J I’d always wanted to start my own business, but with a family to support, I would have never left the security of a full-time position to do so. In 2003, I got the push I needed: I was laid off from my job as the marketing and PR manager at a nonprofit arts organization. I absolutely loved the job, but a shift in upper management made it clear that a change was coming. When the day finally arrived, I was actually more relieved than upset.

I landed my first paying freelance gig about two weeks later, and I’ve been off and running ever since. I launched my business with the intention of providing full-service marketing and PR strategy and campaign development/execution. However, I quickly learned that there were certain parts of that puzzle that didn’t appeal to me at all (ad buys and media placement), while the writing part of it became my favorite thing to do.

At the time, I didn’t realize that this was even a job a person could have. When I heard the words “freelance writer,” I pictured a journalist. I soon discovered the Editorial Freelancers Association and realized there was a whole community of people out there like me – which proved to be both comforting (I’m not alone!) and intimidating (more experienced competition!) at the same time. It’s turned out to be the most perfect fit for my personality and my lifestyle. I love contributing to the PR process without the pressure of placement and the schmoozing required.

Freelancing allows me to work for hi-profile, hi-tech clients all around the country (and some international) from the comfort of my rural home on 28 acres in the beautiful state of West Virginia. Most of my clients are surprised to learn that I live in a state that has such an unfortunate reputation for high rates of illiteracy, poverty and obesity. We rank high on every list of the bad stuff, and low on every list of the good. But, there are incredibly talented and creative people here, and it is part of my mission – my responsibility, really – to help change the stereotypes most people have about this beautiful state. In fact, we can read and write – some of us quite well!

What was the greatest lesson you have learned about writing in your life? What is the greatest lesson you have given?

The ability to communicate effectively through the written word is a vital skill for everyone. No matter what your chosen profession, the ability to write well will pay dividends in just about any situation. Throughout my education (both in high school and undergrad) there was an emphasis on writing across the curriculum – we wrote a paper in my college algebra class! – and I am certain that this was a major contributing factor in my current career path. This is both my most valuable lesson learned, and one that I share with others, including my 7 year old daughter.

As a consulting agency, there is more that you do than people may realize. Can you share how much you cover, especially parts people may not think of when they think of communications consulting?

My business has evolved from an “all-things-to-all-people” PR and marketing consultancy to become mostly focused on straight-up copywriting for PR and marketing endeavors. I write press releases, by-line articles, advertising copy, website copy, case studies and a variety of other publicity-related documents, mostly in the hi-tech sector.

However, one of the advantages of working with me is that, with my marketing background, I understand how the copy fits into the overall picture – the campaign, the strategy, the objective. I know that every piece is part of a larger whole, and I am careful to ensure that my deliverable maintains that consistent message.

In addition to the writing work, I still do a small amount of advertising and direct mail work, as well as website development consulting, for small businesses in my area.

What's the story behind your company's name of New Horizon? How did you come up with it?

When I was laid off, I half-heartedly sought another full-time job, but found that the prospects were slim in my area for a position that afforded me the creative freedom, flexibility and salary I’d been accustomed to. For about 6 months, I juggled job searching with freelance projects and found myself worrying that one day I’d land the perfect job and I’d be forced to drop the ball on a project in mid-stream. One day, I finally decided it was time for me to make a clean break from the job search and explore new horizons. I considered a business name that included my actual name, but a friend suggested that it might give the impression that I was too small. A “company” name afforded me the scalability I should need if I were to bring on partners or add staff. I just couldn’t get comfortable with anything except this concept of exploring new horizons – so it stuck.

What can people expect when they hire New Horizon Consulting? What are you happiest to provide clients with?

I’d have to say that the hallmark of the “New Horizon Consulting experience” is my can-do attitude. I work very hard to be positive and flexible in order to meet my client’s needs. I’m willing to go above and beyond, help out in a pinch and make it a priority to see that there are no loose ends left hanging. I’m also very professional, motivated and independent. My clients know that if they ask me to do something, I’ll do it – no hand-holding required. It’s also very important to me that I represent my clients well when interviewing sources for articles, etc. I work with a couple of PR firms and other clients on projects that require me to function as though I were an employee of that company, so it’s important that I represent them well in order to keep my client and their clients happy.

I am happiest to provide clients with exactly what they need when they need it. I do a lot of ghost writing work, so often someone else’s name is attached to work that I actually produced. I’m fine with this, of course (that’s just how it works), and it’s incredibly rewarding to hear the “author” say that I was able to capture and convey their thoughts better than they could have themselves.

You told me about the two wonderful horses in your life. Have horses always been a part of your life? Do they work their way into your writing/consulting life – directly or indirectly?

I have two “mutts” – a Quarter Horse pinto gelding named Breeze and a palomino paint gelding named Phoenix. I have literally been riding horses since I could walk (maybe before), beginning with a Shetland pony that, to this day, none of my cousins/neighbors can agree upon who actually owned him. He was community property! I got my first horse when I was 5 years old – a gorgeous, bomb-proof red chestnut Quarter Horse/Morgan named Pretty Boy. My dad would help me saddle him, and I’d pull him alongside anything that could serve as a boost and I’d be off. I spent hours atop that horse, especially during my teen years, when horseback riding meant freedom from parents with my friends. He had to be euthanized during my senior year of college and I cried more over the loss of that horse than I have over any human relative. I still miss him and I’ll never find another like him.

Horseback riding provides me with the kind of mind-clearing euphoria that I need in order to come up with the hook to get me started on a project. Rarely can I crank out good copy while staring at a blinking cursor on a computer screen, especially if a deadline is looming. I worry more about the deadline than the work! I need to escape, clear my head, take the pressure off and allow the information I’ve gathered for a project to percolate. I’ve formulated whole press releases and articles in my head while riding. Since I rarely have paper and pen handy, I used to call my house and leave it on my answering machine, lest I forget the phrasing before I returned. Now, I record it on my BlackBerry!

What lessons have horses taught you about communication? What are lessons can horses share with everyone regarding communication and writing?

The most valuable lesson by far is to understand your audience and what it takes to reach them. Horses don’t really understand English, but they do take direction from physical cues and tone of voice. When one misbehaves, for example, screaming my head off isn’t going to make him understand what he’s done wrong; only that he’s done something to make me mad. But he has no idea how to avoid that in the future. It’s up to me to speak to him in a “language” he understands, by using the right cues to guide him in the proper behavior. By “speaking” to your horse in a way he’ll understand, he will come to trust and respect you, despite the fact that he could easily squash you like a bug. This builds loyalty and a much stronger relationship – much like the successful buyer/seller or vendor/client relationship.

Thank you, Kara, for supporting the Bay State Equine Rescue through this interview!

Click the apple to donate now to help the BSER horses!
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