Inspirational Women: Erika Napoletano

ERika Napoletano CMA Live 2017

As I sit down to write this post, just one week ago Erika Napoletano was closing her keynote speech at CMA Live 2017.

She was the only female keynote out of four during the two days and it was a paid speaking gig.  I hate the fact I have to say it was paid but the reality is that when it comes to gender and most types of work, females are underpaid.  I’ll avoid going off down the whole rant about understanding our worth as females but if you’ve ever cast your eyes over any conference speakers list, you’ll note the lack of keynote female speakers and therefore how significant this was.

You only have to google “top conference speakers” to know that this can be a rarity.  Most of the ‘top’ speakers lists contain less than 25% female names.  I know. I checked.

ERika Napoletano CMA Live 2017

But, it wasn’t the best start

I’m going to be honest.  When Chris, Founder of the Content Marketing Academy (CMA), shared the schedule and final speakers list with me, I initially felt deflated.

My eyes had settled on the titles for the afternoon sessions and along with Doug Kessler, Erika’s session contained swearing in the title. Yep, her session was titled: “How to Find Your Voice and Own Your Fucking Brand”. You might be thinking, oh oh, Vicky’s feeling precious. Is she one of those that gets offended by swearing?  But the reality is, I’m not someone who is easily offended by swearing.  So why was I deflated?

If you are someone who reads my blogs and knows the business well, you will know by now that I write exactly how I talk.  I don’t stop myself from swearing or deliberately omit it from my writing. It just isn’t part of how I express myself.  So during my friend Cara’s “LinkedIn gate” back in January of this year (seriously you haven’t read up on this, it is a fascinating read – you’ll find it here), I got totally pissed off with the reactions and responses.

Let’s just say I was tired of individuals jumping on the bandwagon of swearing post Cara’s article (I appreciate I have now just done that .. but well the whole thing really got on my nerves). On the face of it, I found several individuals suddenly trying to ‘fit in’ or be ‘cool’ and then making judgements about those who dont’ swear.  “Stuck up corporate behaviour” was quoted so often that I’m really surprised I managed to hold off writing a LOT about how small minded that was too!!!

Now I’m not daft, I know Erika wasn’t following on from ‘LinkedIn gate’ but I was worried about the follow-on discussions if the audience took away the wrong message.

I seriously couldn’t face it again.

But there was something I hadn’t factored in and that was Erika herself.

Before, during and post the conference she has stood out for me in terms of her values, transparency and approach.  She really is one amazing female and I’m very, very grateful to have spent time in her company and heard her speak.

So yeah, I may have been thinking “crap, not another sweary gate” but little by little she’s quickly become one of my favourite females ever!

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ERika Napoletano CMA Live 2017 inspirational women

Photo Credit: The Content Marketing Academy



Inspirational Women: Erika Napoletano

Ooooh now where do I start?


#1  Erika: The Professional (with style!)

As someone who was heavily involved with the organisation of CMA Live 2017, I had the opportunity to make contact with all speakers before the event.

Actually, lets reframe that.

What I mean is, I had to make contact with international speakers. I have paid money to sit in their workshops. I’ve read their blogs and books and listen to their podcasts!  I have a huge amount of respect for them. And I had to try and get them to send me their slides and silly important things like dietary information on time! HELP!

Erika was well Erika.  Quick to respond, I immediately felt at ease.  Every email made me smile and I could tell she understood how it felt to be in my own shoes. She seemed to genuinely be interested in CMA and the community and as excited as we were to be hosting it.

And yeah. Her slides came in on time, dietary info and really anything else that we asked over that time (even though we were asking her to speak in a church castle!). With 167 delegates, 17 speakers, 3 days of workshops/conference and 4 socials. It seems such a small thing but it meant a lot and again stood out from the norm.

On Friday night, Erika said to me that she “didn’t want to be the bitch” in terms of the organisation of the event.  Well she definitely wasn’t that and instead was so much more in terms of her lovely thank you and personal comments throughout.

I learnt a lot seeing how Erika worked on a professional and personal level during that time and as an organiser I hope others recognised that in her too.  Given my own insane attention to detail and deadlines, I’m feeling way more confident that I can use that strength to stand out. Inspiring.



#2 Erika:  The Writer

OMG. You have to read Erika’s writing.

The first piece of writing I read of Erika’s had me in tears and it’s when I first realised that Erika is one of us – a dog mum too!  But whether you love dogs or not, you will respect and be in awe of her style of writing.

Eloquent, emotional, intelligent. I could go on and on and on but I’ll let you read that one particular article for yourself HERE (grab tissues!).

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I didn’t really need anything else to tell me I had to read her book (The Power of Unpopular) and I have been raving about it ever since. I particularly love the in-depth case studies and have found myself quoting them to other small business owners and recommending the book.  They don’t just support the case she’s making in each chapter but provide further insights into why they were such a success with their own customers.

Pick up her book (The Power of Unpopular: A Guide to Building Your Brand for the Audience Who Will Love You (and Why No One Else Matters), read her blog or just read her Facebook posts!  You’ll understand after a few minutes.



#3 Erika : All In!

During her keynote, Erika mentioned that she suffered from social anxiety and I’m not sure anyone in room was more shocked than I.   She had thrown herself into CMA Live with gumption (don’t you just love The Holiday!) and had certainly played the leading lady.

She had pro-actively asked to get involved in delegate socials before I had the chance to ask her and she hung out with us all for the full two days of the conference. Every time I saw her, she was chatting away to delegates sharing advice, providing encouragement with laughter and seemed to be so at ease.  I couldn’t look at social media in the run up, during or after the event without seeing Erika going ‘all in’ with us.

I know that the level of engagement with everyone on a 1:1 basis would have taken a huge amount of energy and time from Erika. She could have shown up, do her bit and leave to enjoy the rest of her time in Edinburgh and Scotland.

But no.  She was brave enough to step through those Hard Rock Café doors for our first social.  An American in Edinburgh who hadn’t met any of us and still she went ‘all in’.


Erika Napoletano Danielle Walton Collinton Furniture CMA Live 2017

Danielle Walton and Erika Napoletano at CMA Live 2017

#4  Erika:  Strength and Vulnerability

Looking from the outside, you’d be hard pressed not to describe Erika as a strong, independent female.  She comes across as someone who knows what she wants and how to get it.

But as you scratch underneath and Erika herself lets you in to knowing ‘all’ of her, I found myself drawn into the reality of what Erika calls being a ‘messy human’.  She shares real emotional stories of losing a loved four-legged family member (above) to her own love life and meeting Clark Kent.

So much of what she talked about in terms of her own vulnerability really resonated with me and that was only possible because she was willing to share.

Over the last year, I’ve tried to share more of my own thoughts and feelings and not just the upsides of business. However, Erika does this with class and humour, without distracting from her strengths. Showing that vulnerability made me love her even more and I can only hope to get the same balance across in my own blogs and videos going forward.

(and I now have the best response ever when I get comments about ink and owning a Harley Davidson – thank you!!)

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#5  Erika: The Giver

If going ‘all in’ wasn’t enough, Erika, personally gave her time and skills to a number of people throughout the two days.

Col Gray had an hour session booked with Erika purely down to reaching out to say hi on Twitter in advance of the event (and she actually gave him two hours). I talked to Col earlier this week and have never seen him have so much more clarity about his business and how he could truly be ‘him’ within it and to the outside world.

I discovered Erika had popped a message out on Twitter offering everyone at CMA Live 2017 that same opportunity.  I keep discovering more delegates who were given her advice and wisdom on a 1:1 basis (even taking time out when she was about to leave on the last night). I see her following up and responding to comments even today.  Yep – one week later, she still cares that much about those interactions and discussions.


Photo Credit: The Content Marketing Academy



But she’s human too

You may be reading this thinking that the women is a machine.  She’s brave, she’s inspiring, she’s vulnerable… yeah she is pretty much Superwoman .  But the reason I wanted to talk about Erika in this inspiring women series was down to the fact that all of above let me see her values and ethics.  Those are the same values and ethics that I try to live by and that I look for in friends and those I admire.

Just today she continued to inspire me and other CMA members by reminding us that life isn’t always perfect, even for those who are successful in what they do:


ERika Napoletano CMA Live 2017


But hey, I think you’ve heard enough from me and you know I’ll just get emosh if I carry on. So why not hear from a couple of my favourite CMA members who wanted to share their love for Erika.  Then go and connect with Erika herself.  You won’t regret it!

Meeting Erika for the first time IRL was the weirdest thing – see, I already met Erika. Years ago. She was an 8 year old brave as fuck – Cara Mackay. It’s easy to forget where you belong sometimes, Erika is your 8 year old self, kicking you right in the shin.”  Cara Mackay.


‘Erika truly listened to what I had to say. She could read between the lines of what I was saying, and I think, read my body language more than anything else. I could be wrong on that, but how else could she read me so well? Maybe she is some sort of word wizard or brand witch. Whatever it was, she blew my mind.

I’m not ashamed to say that Erika had me in tears after our 1 to 1 session as she had opened up my eyes to what I should be doing with my brand and what was possible. I felt like I’d wasted a lot of years doing it the hard way, but maybe that was just practice. In 2 hours, Erika opened up a bright, fun and amazing future for my business and I truly cannot thank her enough.


Erika, if you are reading this, Clark Kent is one lucky bam!”  Col Gray.


Erika is one of those speakers who everyone will love. As soon as she walks on stage you know you’re in for a treat. Not because of what she says, but because who she is as a person.

Erika is a kick-ass human being with a heart of gold. With a passion for helping people. Erika does just that by being herself and telling her story. Danielle Walton.


Connect with Erika Napoletano:

Twitter – @erikanapo





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4 Comments on “Inspirational Women: Erika Napoletano”

  1. Erika was one of my favourite speakers, Vicky!

    She had so much enthusiasm up on the stage, gave us actionable tips and wasn’t afraid to show her vulnerabilities. I hope she comes back to Scotland soon!

    1. ditto Anne… why on earth did we let her get on that flight back home ;0) Vicky x

    1. Couldn’t agree more Gary – I know so many who worry about being open and Erika showed us how much further we could go to (and we love her even more!). Looking forward to meeting you again soon! Vicky x

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