“I wonder if she got my email. Well, it’s a Friday, so maybe I will hear back next week. My email is working properly, right?” – Questions that went through my head after I sent Marisa Zeppieri with LupusChick a “cold email”.
Similar to “cold calling”, I was experiencing the apprehension of “cold emailing” – when you send an informational email to a stranger and hope that they respond. While the immediate pressure might not be equivalent to actually having a voice on the other end of the phone, the anticipation of the “will they or won’t they respond?” can be just as anxiety-inducing.
I had these questions buzzing through my head one Friday afternoon after I emailed (and hoped for a response from) the amazing woman behind LupusChick– Marisa Zeppieri.
SYLK’s article with Sjögren’s Syndrome had just been published, I had found Marisa’s website a few days later, and sent her (with fingers crossed) a lengthy but informational email about SYLK and our mission to educate those in the autoimmune community and asked her if she would like to try our product and join us in our mission.
Turns out, my “cold email” anxiety subsided when Marisa responded THAT evening and she was more than willing to team up with us! Months later, Marisa has blogged about SYLK, did a Facebook Live Event SYLK Giveaway, and has become an overall brand ambassador for SYLK.
When I decided to start the SYLK blog, I knew that Marisa had to be one of the first people I talked to. As an experienced journalist, writer, and blogger, she is truly an inspiration for her followers as well as other bloggers and writers looking to form their own voice and blog. I had to ask her how she got her start, more about her blog, LupusChick, and any advice she would have for fellow bloggers.
Here is what she had to say:
MM: Marisa! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us. We met over email and the phone back in August and then we had a very exciting and inspiring phone call discussing personal and professional lives as well as chronic illness, intimacy, and SYLK. How was Lupus Chick formed? How long have you been writing?
“I started LupusChick nine years ago, originally called Lupus Survival Guide. At the time, I was in the thick of it and was so focused on just surviving every day with this turbulent disease. It was around this same time I began writing professionally, first at a local newspaper in Fort Lauderdale. Back then, before social media was what it is today, people were looking for a way to connect with other patients.
As I visited Lupus support groups and went to Lupus-specific events, I was hearing from a lot of men and women that they wished they had more ways to reach others and share their experiences with another Lupus patient. And so, I started the blog.
Even though I barely knew what I was doing at the time, it resonated with people and grew. Today, we are an award-winning website, we have a nonprofit arm, and we typically reach around 150,000 – 200,000 people per week. And, they do not just have Lupus.
We have found many people with autoimmune disease and chronic illness come to the site and social media pages because they offer a safe environment where people can talk openly about chronic illness and things they are dealing with each day.”
MM: Of course over time, you find your own voice and niche within your blog. How did your community’s response to your blog posts and social media presence help shape how the “Lupus Chick” blog is today?
“One of the most crucial jobs of a writer is to find his or her own “voice.” This was something I needed to learn for both my blog and social media presence with LupusChick, and for my occupation as a journalist.
Over time, I realized my voice was raw, honest, somewhat sarcastic, and very straightforward – basically exactly how I operate on a daily basis.
Once I started being completely transparent about my every day struggles with illness and just doing life, people were able to relate and connect with me. I think they also appreciated my ability to find something positive in even the worst of times.
No one wants to come to a website that is an absolute downer. So, I try to keep it funny and light at times, but with a good dose of reality and truth about the craziness that comes along with life and illness.
My voice, coupled with things patients want to learn about, such as health, resources, diet, alternative therapies, and more, I believe has helped LupusChick shine.
Last, being available to others is also important to me, and I think our fans know they can always reach out if they have a question. I may not have the answer but I will be determined to find someone who does!
Life is about helping others at the end of the day. When we focus on someone else, we stop obsessing about ourselves and get out of our own way.”
MM: What is one piece of advice you have for other bloggers and writers in general?
“Gosh, I don’t think I could narrow it down to just one! I would say to have a solid brand or business plan mapped out beforehand, even if it changes along the way.
What type of content do you want to write, what outlets work well with your voice? If you are starting a blog or a website, what is your specific niche? How often are you prepared to create meaningful content?
There are so many things that go into blogging and operating a website. Some of the pitfalls I have seen with some of my freelance clients is them not having a specific focus on their blog and trying to have a broad overview. This can get out of control fast, and then visitors won’t get a clear sense of who you are when they visit your website.
Another pitfall is creating a lot of content and then not posting for weeks or months. If a fan continually comes back to your site and there is nothing new and useful, you will most likely lose that follower over time.”
MM: You, yourself, your story, and your incredible strength and kind heart are an inspiration to many (including myself) but what and/or who inspires you?
“I believe a lot of my inspiration in life comes from my faith, and my husband and mother. I believe God has a very specific plan for my life and I have witnessed this plan in action and have seen incredible things happen in the lives of others because of LupusChick and my personal story.
As for my husband and mother, they never leave my side and give me that extra boost when I am experiencing a darker season because of illness. Seeing their faith that everything will work out for good inspires me to keep moving forward and believing the same thing.”
MM: Thank you, Marisa! You are awesome and I am so happy that we have connected. It is truly inspiring to see how many people you help on a daily basis.
“Thank you, Mariessa! I am so happy we were able to connect. You are such a doll and our followers just love our connection with SYLK. It is such a crucial product for those with chronic illness that deal with dryness issues. Thank you for reaching out to our community. We have been blessed!”