We had the good fortune of connecting with Todd Brogowski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Todd, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Really, while I am analytical and measured when it comes to decision-making, risk has had an enormous impact on my life and career. Twenty years ago, I was a trial lawyer working in the suburbs of NYC earning a substantial income. My life felt relatively empty, however. After 9/11, I realized that there was a part of me that felt this hunger to serve and to do something more meaningful than divorce litigation. I ended up getting into the military intelligence community, eventually working as an interrogator and crisis negotiator with a special operations unit. Here, I felt my skills were put to a meaningful purpose: reducing bloodshed due to terrorism and resolving potentially violent situations in a peaceful manner. I could have very easily died overseas doing my job, however, and definitely paid for my decision to do counter-terrorism work by having to undergo reconstructive surgery and by developing PTSD. In other words, this rewarding feeling came with great risk.
When I left the military, I went to work in corporate America for The Boeing Company, but again found it unfulfilling. So, I took the plunge and decided to become a freelance writer and photographer. On one side of this job, I was able to tell compelling stories in the press about the burdens faced by victims of crime and the struggles of small business, and on the other side, I could help those small businesses succeed by doing content marketing. Ironically, leaving Boeing and its stable-but-meaningless work helped me avoid risk, as I managed to leave right before Boeing faced scandal for its misconduct related to the 737 Max program.
Keeping mindful of risk helps me in my work today. Anticipating where risks lie means that I can help protect my clients from what they may consider to be the unexpected when it comes to digital marketing. With the Federal Trade Commission cracking down on misleading marketing and bad acts by influencers, and with the European Union cracking down on privacy-violating actions, advertisers need to make sure their online presence is beyond reproach. That can be challenging, especially for highly-regulated professionals that want to advertise their services, such as healthcare providers, attorneys, and investment advisors. I get that, just from my own experiences as an attorney, and so I respect that by making sure my work for these clients won’t put them at risk of being called in front of a disciplinary committee.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I grew up struggling with a learning disability, which meant that I was always being told that I was a screwup and that I wouldn’t amount to anything. While I am no millionaire, I was able to use what gifts I do have to help people. In a few cases, I was even able to save lives (although I’ll never be able to talk about it).
Nowadays, I get to use my skills to help tell the stories of people facing times of crisis, whether as crime victims or as small business owners. I get to share with others the resiliency I see in the subjects of my stories. I get to point out truths that we may not want to face. That’s a lucky place to be.
When I work with small businesses on content marketing, such as SEO, blog posts, or social media ads, I get to help them overcome a challenge in a way that benefits them, their employees, and their families. Even though that may not be as thrilling as going head to head with a terrorist, I get pretty excited when I’m able to do good work that helps people. I get to take what I have learned about the science of persuasion and use it to make sure these businesses turn a profit. Especially now, with the negative impact COVID-19 has had on the small business sector, I like walking away from a job knowing my client is in a better place than when I first met them.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My wife and I live far from any city. I suppose Pueblo, Colorado, or Taos, New Mexico, are the two closest, but they are hours away. Here in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of Colorado and New Mexico, the best places to be aren’t restaurants or boutiques. They are trails that open up on inspiring views of the mountains and mesas. They are ghost towns that show the sheer fortitude of those who came to the American Southwest to forge a new life. The best places are hidden spots along the Cimarron River where I pretend I know how to catch trout, and they are also a campsite on a mesa near Pecos National Historic Park with the best view of the night sky. I’d take any soul I meet to see those places.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Unquestionably, I am only successful because of the help of others. When I took the leap into freelancing, I was immediately taken under the wing of a graphic designer (and now marketing professor) named Rhonda Negard, who owns Fat Dog Creatives (www.fatdogcreatives.com) in San Antonio, TX. Rhonda helped open the door to our local business community and helped me develop my first few client relationships. Similarly, Brian Orr and his wife Gretchen Sporleder-Orr, publishers of the World Journal (a newspaper that covers Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado) saw some promise in me and gave me a chance with their newspaper. Their trust opened the door for me to reach other publications with story ideas. I believe that my winning of a New Mexico Press Association award in 2020 wouldn’t have happened without the kindness of Brian and Gretchen.
Mugshot of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, released to the public domain by the US Department of Defense