Cat Cora is one of my personal heroes. She’s a tiny, fierce, talented little out of the closest lesbian mom world dominating celebrity business owner. (In other words, everything we couldn’t get our of Jodie Foster.)
But there’s something about this photo of Cat, and this whole concept, that’s just wrong to me. And I feel wrong about feeling that it’s wrong. Allow me to esplanade:
The media and media consumers – so, you know, everybody – uses celebrities as content sources. We use “celebrity news” as an excuse to keep talking about our fears and aspirations. For what I’ll shorthand as “minority cultures,” our conversations are disproportionately large because there are way fewer celebs who are doing the specific things we want, and goddammmit, we want to be pretty and strong and happy like Ellen and Portia.
And that is why I loved, I clung!, to Cat Cora. While I am admittedly a pedi-loving, champagne-swilling girlie girl myself, I’m also a cleaver-wielding entrepreneurial force in my own head. I, and I think a lot of other women, gravitated to Cat because she was the shamelessly bad ass, no-nonsense leader on Iron Chef America we want permission to be. So to see her buffed and polished into an anonymous catalog model just…hurts a little.
Thing is, it’s not like the woman doesn’t deserve it. After 20 years of working her ass off in a hot kitchen to create a solid career and have four kids, who could begrudge her a glamorous photo shoot where she looks like J. Crew model? Let’s get real, I also want that! But not from her. I go to Cat for the sweat, the screaming, the shot of uzo. That’s the personal brand she was building on Iron Chef America. Watching her swing towards the easy-breezy supermom celebr-model with this advertising campaign and similar projects with Kraft, Macy’s and Electrolux, it makes me wonder, Do I agree with, or even understand, her perspective? And as a self-aware marketing hack, I ask, Is she a trust broker? Would I make purchases based on her recommendation?
It hurts me to say….probably not. A check on Twitter reveals she has 11,500+ followers and is following 57. Every tweet is a link is somehow marketing related, with no RTs or replies, in other words…a community that’s dead in the water. Her site’s blog and her Facebook page reveal pretty much the same thing. Cat Cora and her management team are making some huge mistakes in not engaging with the tens of thousands of people who want to engage with her. The tweets with cutoff sentences, redundant material on Facebook and differing “about the author” info under some blog entries on her site show that she/they are being careless with the three biggest platforms for creating loyal communities. For someone who’s gunning to be in every American household, there’s really no way to get to know Cat Cora.
I don’t want to come across like I’m harping on Cat personally. It’s ridiculous to suggest that she, or anyone, should try to be the next David Liebovits or Frank Bruni and build followings of 30,000+ one person at a time. Those guys write for a living and were made for Twitter. What Cat should do is HIRE A WRITER. It’s OK to delegate. In fact, it’s preferable to delegate, even if you’re well qualified to manage your social media strategy. Believe it or not, I’ve done most of my business as a social media strategist for writers who could have done the writing, reading, monitoring and responding, but they knew they should focus on writing the next book and let someone else promote it.
Cat Cora’s conventional marketing for herself and her partners has done OK. I believe she can even get away with mixing her beach babe advertising campaigns with her half-ponytail, no makeup in store demos, but she’s going to confuse and lose potential followers if she doesn’t develop a personality they can get to know. Social media is a strategy she can define and control for herself, uniting all of her different projects through a conversation about herself and her values. Right now, Cat and her team are missing an opportunity to connect with tens – hundreds! – of thousands of fans like me who just want to get to know the real Cat Cora.
P.S. The other thorn in my ass about this is that it took me 15 minutes to find this freaking picture. If you’re a HUGE CREDIT CARD COMPANY running a PROMOTION, maybe you should spend a couple bucks on SEO so people can actually find the photos you probably spent $20,000 shooting.