Tips from the Trenches: Q&A with Mikki Glass of WITH YOU

I have two rules in my business.  Tell the truth and do what you say you are going to do.  I find that if you adhere to those, you will be way ahead of the game.  - Mikki Glass of WITH YOU

 

The crowd-funding site Kickstarter continues to gain traction and buzz thanks to the ingenious, outrageous and downright outstanding things that have come to fruition as a result of being featured on the site.

Clearly there are some ups and downs when preparing to put yourself “out there” to attract funding for a business or idea. So, we talked with Mikki Glass – CEO of WITH YOU, a jewelry company that is in the process of procuring funding via Kickstarter — about her thoughts on investing in yourself and your community, and why this business could be a breakthrough on a variety of levels:

 

Mikki_OliviaWhat is WITH YOU and why are you doing the Kickstarter campaign?

WITH YOU is a new jewelry line featuring lockets that allow people to carry loved ones “with you.”  While we are just officially launching now, it’s a concept that has been with me for almost a decade.

I hatched the idea around my sister’s wedding when I was looking for a way to make sure my dad — who had died a few years before — could “walk” her down the aisle. I created a locket to hold his photos on a discreet anklet.

Then, about a year ago, WITH YOU kicked into high gear.  I was doing the commute back and forth to New York City for work and I was grappling with how limited my time [was] to be doing this commute with a then two-year-old at home. Like many working moms, I want to be there for my daughter when she gets home from school. In order to do that,  I needed to figure out a way to work closer to home. In addition, my husband retired from the Army and was looking for his next career move. After 24 years and three deployments (and four years as an embassy Marine), he, too, wanted to find a way to be closer to home and more connected to the community.

We knew we needed a boost and thought that Kickstarter was a great way to leverage our Facebook fans and raise some money for the production of the pieces. (They are semi-precious stones and precious metals, so not inexpensive to produce.)

It’s working! We’re close to our fundraising goal and we just got a shout out from Queen Latifah on her website and Twitter.  We were also chosen as Kickstarter staff pick — so things are really moving along.

KickStarterTitlePage_wBadge_640x480It seems like Kickstarter is typically used for funding films or techie stuff.  How has the experience been for you?

Kickstarter has a tradition of funding tech and artistic projects, but the idea of selling products is growing in popularity. The toughest part for us is that we live in the fashion category, one of the lower priority categories in terms of interest and engagement at Kickstarter. But we knew that going in and we built our marketing campaign around it – it’s our job to get the people there. We can’t sit back and rely on the Kickstarter community to discover us on their own. I’m happy to say that we’ve been successful in that way – over 72 percent of our backers are first-time Kickstarter contributors. And, 98 percent of our backers have come directly from our outreach.

 

What skill or technique have you, yourself, used to get ahead or get a job?

I am the ultimate “stay in touch”-er. Once you are in my life, I usually keep you in my life forever. It has always been part of my DNA.  It’s served me well. I’ve found people are willing to help me even years after we’ve worked together because I never truly go away — and not just because of social media. I was a huge letter writer as a kid. I loved being connected to people from an early age.

The experience with WITH YOU has been all about telling my story and getting people to understand it. And the response has been HUGE. We met with our manufacturer and after I told them my story, they immediately wanted to be a part of it and have been an incredible partner from that very first day we met. Getting my business partner Elizabeth — a top marketing expert — to sign on to work with me on a dream has been tremendous. I’ve been blown away by how telling a story about something that means so much to me personally has resonated with so many people.

 

Ultimately, what are your top tips for anyone looking to “kickstart” their careers – or a campaign?

I have two key rules in my business: Tell the truth and do what you say you are going to do. Those have always served my reputation of being a woman who will get things done and will work like a dog to make things right, even when they sometimes go wrong. I have a client who says that he hates agencies. But he likes me. He likes me because I tell him the truth, and I work like mad to honor my word.

Beyond that: Find commonality, bring news and value, and create moments of connection – genuine ones! When I left my last company, I found that almost every person I called for help was willing to do so because I had always given help myself.

For WITH YOU, it’s been the same. Kickstarter is about asking people who are important to you to support your dream, and I’ve been amazed by how many people in my life have seriously stepped up – no questions asked.

 

What’s an example of a time you failed and what did you learn from it?

This last year has been one of my toughest years in business and what I learned is that you have to seriously love and believe in what you are doing. I started WITH YOU to be able to channel my passion into something I always wanted to do – and couldn’t imagine not doing. And I believe it is the recipe for great success. I’ve had success in my life, but this is that moment I’m looking for great.

 

WITH YOU is in the final week of its fundraising campaign.  To learn more, go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2130636646/with-you-reinventing-the-locket.

 

How to Lead from the Front: Advice from a Marines Captain

Angie Morgan, Marines Captain and co-founder, Lead Star

Angie Morgan, Marines Caption and co-founder, Lead Star

Jessica recently attended a one-day leadership conference hosted by The Quorum Initiative, a selective group of high-level corporate women devoted to creating more opportunities for women in the workplace. At the event, amongst an impressive and smart group of women across industries–from finance and law to media and academia–she participated in an inspiring workshop given by Angie Morgan, a former Marines Officer and co-author of the book, Leading From the Front: No-Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women, along with fellow Marine Courtney Lynch, with whom Morgan also runs Lead Star, a leadership development consulting firm that has worked with companies from FedEx to 3M to Bank of America.

Morgan and Lynch were among the fewer than 1,000 female officers serving in the U.S. Marine Corps at the time — a scant one percent versus, for example, the U.S. Air Force, where nearly 20 percent of the officers are women — and she believes that the leadership training that she learned during her military service is transferable to the private sector, and can help anyone become a stronger and better leader. Below, Morgan shared with us some advice for how to lead from the front both in work – and in life.

JK: I imagine there’s a lot of fear and nervousness when entering the military for the first time, just as there is when you get a new job or position. How can fear stand in the way of success and how can you quell it in order to lead?

As you go through life, you get more comfortable with yourself and more reflective. I can easily recall that one of the biggest fears I had early on was the fear of failure. Up to that point in my life, everything had come pretty easily to me. I had good grades without studying too hard and did well at sports. In the Marines, I had to quickly learn a skill set that I wasn’t socialized learning and it was really challenging. I had never played with G.I. Joe or watched war movies growing up. When I started training, I was very overwhelmed and, on any given day, I felt like I was behind.

When there’s a fear of failure, your ego goes up and you start to get very defensive. I had excuses for my poor performance, but those weren’t helping me. What I had to come to terms with in order to succeed and get out of that place was absolute humility and an ability to ask for help. I never needed help before, so that was humbling. The fear of failure can influence your ego in unhealthy ways. Often you don’t want to raise your hand and ask for help because it makes you vulnerable.

That fear manifests itself in different ways in different people. For me, it was a lack of confidence; for others, it’s over-confidence.  Sometimes it’s even complacency, such as “I’m too afraid to fail so I’m not even going to try.”

In order to combat the fear, moments of self-appraisal are pretty helpful, such as “This is what you’ve done, this is how you’ve overcome this similar situation before.” That’s important for leaders to do. You have to remind yourself that you have the ability to influence your success and failure in pretty powerful and profound ways.

JK: If the Marines believe that everyone can be an effective leader, then who is following those leaders? In other words, can you be effective if you have all leaders? Or can those following a leader also be leaders and, if so, how?

In our society, we tend to see leaders as people who have positions of authority. In the Marine Corps, they teach you to have influence, and anyone can have influence. Someone can be a go-to person at any level. The Marine Corps teaches everyone to be a leader – they teach basic fundamental behaviors that influence outcomes and inspire others. Leadership can happen anywhere. Through Lead Star, we like to go to corporations and help them understand that leadership can be demonstrated at any level of the organization, especially among those who are individual contributors. What we like to do is start with professionals at an early stages of their career so they can develop their leadership skills well in advance of any promotion or managerial role. That way, they are prepared for the people responsibilities when they get to advance.

JK: With Millennials, they often want their superior’s job in six months or have tremendous confidence because they were told by their parents that they could do anything. At that age, how do you show leadership and not hubris?

For Gen Y, it’s important to have a mentor to help them understand that growth doesn’t have to be vertical but can be horizontal. Give them challenges and to help the develop their expertise and experiences – whether they want to start their own business, move into another role or move up. Most companies are faced with a significant percentage of their workforce getting near retirement age and the need to mentor younger employees. You can’t change the way the younger generation operates, so you need to embrace it. I think we’re going to see a lot more mentoring models out there, and it’s a good thing.

JK: I love your story in the book about making cold calls as a manager right along with your staff and how it inspired them and made them work harder. Why is it important as a leader to show that you are not above rolling up your sleeves? 

I’ve been to so many programs that teach leadership and often we gloss over two important qualities – trust and humility. Frequently people get promoted into managerial roles and think about their staffers, “You work for me,” but that’s not true – you really work for them. Sometimes the smallest things can have the most profound impact on your team’s performance or your employees’ performance. Even asking someone “How’s your day?” and sticking around for the answer can really help.

JK: In the book, you and your co-author Courtney give personal examples of when you had to give up or change things in your life in order to focus on succeeding in one area. How do you determine what to give up and how to maintain balance?

One of the things I like to do when I’m making decisions is really reflect upon my priorities and if something in front of me doesn’t fit it to one of my priorities, I say no. The “decision-making lane,” as I like to call it, allows me to stay on my path. In a perfect world, that works great. You can get comfortable doing everything but if you want to succeed at one thing, you have to narrow your focus. You can’t do everything well.

JK: In your workshop that I participated in at the HOW conference, you talked about three critical qualities of a leader: credibility, decisiveness and confidence.  Can you be a leader without all three?  If you lack in one of these areas but want to lead, how do you advise addressing that weakness?

There are many leadership qualities that are interdependent on one another. For example, if you’re confident, but indecisive, that will slow your team’s progress down. Or if you’re decisive, but lack confidence and can’t express this in your decisions, you’ll have a difficult time rallying people to support you. Leaders are well rounded and it’s important to know qualities associated with leadership behaviors so you know what needs to be developed.

JK: As a PR professional, my industry has to deal with crisis management on a daily basis and I love the phrase in your book used in the Marines – “aviate, navigate and communicate” – to handle a challenging situation. Can you explain the three steps?

Consider that you’re flying an airplane and you see the “red light” blinking, indicating an emergency. Your instincts are to panic and freeze, yet that won’t get your plane on the ground. You need to aviate – keep your plane in the air, so keep your hands on the control. Navigate – keep on attempting to get to a destination. Communicate – reach out to others to get the help you need, such as flight crew or air traffic control.

JK: You talk a lot about the importance of accountability in the Marines and in the real world and believe that effort and excuses don’t equal progress. Why is it so important? What if you have a team member who tries hard and takes responsibility for failures but just isn’t getting results?

We define a leader as someone who influences outcomes and inspires others. Results matter. While it’s important to take accountability for personal failures, they next step is identifying what you’re going to do about it to deliver a different, more positive result. An important part of being a leader is being credible – credibility is derived from your character and your competence. If you’re looking to influence others, your results will capture their attention.

If you’re purposefully committing yourself to developing your leadership skills, my guidance would be for you to start thinking about important leadership qualities and assess how good you are at expressing them. Then, after you’ve identified areas of improvement, make a commitment to yourself to pick three things that you’re going to focus on. When you’re intentional with your development, you end up surprising yourself with how quickly you can develop a specific skill or behavior.

How do you lead from the front?  Share with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Tips From the Trenches: Jodi Arnold of Eloquii

 “Be clear about your mission and your value proposition and don’t waiver from that.” – Jodi Arnold, creative director, ELOQUII

When we first heard the story about ELOQUII, we were wowed.

It had all the trappings of one of those Hollywood tales: the underdog bouncing back from seemingly insurmountable odds.  The plus-size women’s clothing store is truly a “comeback kid,” having been shuttered by its parent company but then resurrected as a stand-alone entity thanks to its vocal legion of fans.  Eager to learn more, we spoke with Jodi Arnold, the brand’s creative director, who was on board throughout the entire adventure.

Jodi is a fashionista of the first degree.  Years ago, armed with a degree in Fashion Design from Baylor University, the Birmingham, Alabama native made her way to New York City and into the various positions in the fashion industry.  Then, over a cup of mint tea in Paris in 1999, she made the decision to set out on her own and launched the press and retail favorite contemporary line, MINT Jodi Arnold.  Her next move came after a successful designer collaboration with The Limited; the company hired Jodi in 2011 as Vice President of Design for their then-new plus-size line, ELOQUII.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s what Jodi has to share about her beloved brand, standing out from the crowd as well as bouncing back from career challenges:

JodiArnold_ColorYou’ve gone through ups and downs with ELOQUII. What were a few things you learned from the process? There are too many to name but first would be the power of being small and nimble in a manufacturing business. Second, go with your gut. The plus-size business was one that made so much sense, given our knowledge of the average woman’s shape, and we could not understand why no one was catering to her. Third, be very clear about your mission and your value proposition and don’t waiver from that.

 

What would you like the plus-size women of the world to take away from the story of ELOQUII?
I hope that plus-size women will be inspired by the passion it took to re-launch this brand for THEM and to finally give them the fashion choices they deserve. Everyone on the team passed up other lucrative job offers and took a risk to do what we really believed in.

 

 

So many companies make significant missteps with regard to their online/social media presence. How did ELOQUII successfully negotiate those waters?
We try to be as human as possible and do everything we can to ensure our customers are taken care of. They are our #1 priority. We also stay really nimble – as little pre-scheduled content as possible so that we’re able to react to current events, or even priority changes on site. If she follows us on social, she knows what is happening on the site at all times, and even a few exclusive deals she can’t find anywhere else. Thanks to our in-house social media expert, Sarah Conley, we are able to interact with and react to our fans at all times!

 

Courtesy of ELOQUII

Courtesy of ELOQUII

What advice do you have for businesses or brands looking to harness their fan base like ELOQUII did?
If you genuinely care about what your fans have to say, let them know! We do our best to respond to every question and comment, most of the time in under an hour. We’re not going to be able to make everyone happy, but we want her to know that her feedback has been heard and we’re trying to accommodate all of our customers in the best way that we can. If they want personal shopping advice, we’re happy to help guide them in the right direction. If they want us to offer a certain style in another color, we’re going to give it serious consideration. It’s that level of attention to detail that will bring her back to us time and time again.

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Lessons from the Media’s Most Powerful Women

This Monday, Jessica had the distinct pleasure of attending the Matrix Awards, the annual celebration of influential women in the media industry by New York Women in Communications (NYWICI), an organization on whose board she sits. But for many years prior to holding a board seat, she sat in the audience at this inspiring event, held in the 1,400-seat ballroom of New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The luncheon honored seven icons from across the media landscape–from television and film to magazines and advertising–who have achieved much success in their careers. The Matrix honorees, and their presenters (many of them men), included:

Queen Latifah, a 2014 Matrix Honorees, on the red carpet

Queen Latifah, a 2014 Matrix Honorees, on the red carpet

  • Wendy Clark, Senior Vice President, Global Sparkling Brand Center, Presented by Shelly Lazarus, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy & Mather
  • Queen Latifah, Musician, Award-Winning Actress, Record-Label President, Author, Entrepreneur, and Cover Girl, Presented by Mary J. Blige, Singer, Songwriter, Record Producer, Actress
  • Jane Mayer, Staff Writer, The New Yorker, Presented by David Remnick, Editor, The New Yorker
  • Cynthia McFadden, Senior Legal and Investigative Correspondent, NBC News
    Presented by Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Correspondent, CNN
  • Dyllan McGee, Founder and Executive Producer, MAKERS, Presented by Gloria Steinem, Writer, Organizer, Co-Founder Ms.
  • Eileen Naughton, Vice President, Global Accounts & Global Agencies, Google, Presented by David Gregory, Moderator, “Meet the Press”
  • Jonelle Procope, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Apollo Theater, Presented by Richard Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity LLC

These women shared their words of wisdom with the crowd and, since not everyone had the benefit of being there, I’m including the honorees’ and presenters’ best (tweetable!) nuggets below:

“Women can be bad-ass and beautiful.” — Jane Mayer

“No one’s journey is a straight path.” — Jonelle Procope

“I’ve been saying the word ‘improbable’ wrong all along. There’s a space between the ‘m’ and ‘p’: ‘I’m probable.’” — Wendy Clark

“There will never be post-feminism.” — Eileen Naughton

“Staying put is a bore.” — Cynthia McFadden (quoting her late friend Katherine Hepburn)

“If there’s a place in hell for women who don’t support each other, there’s a place in heaven for those who do.” — Gloria Steinem

“Focus on what matters; don’t get caught up in the minutiae.” — Dyllan McGee

“Great things come to those who show up fearlessly.” — Mary J. Blige

“Women need to lift each other up, not tear each other down.” — Queen Latifah

The two pillars of NYWICI–”the changing landscape of communications” and “helping women at every stage of their careers”–were on full display at the Matrix Awards and if this year’s honorees are any indication, there’s a bright future for women in media.

Media Chicks Rocked the House

Jessica with XO Group's Carley Roney

Jessica with XO Group’s Carley Roney

There are tons of events geared towards women–from conferences to panels to rallies. While we love the idea of doing something specifically for a female audience, we noticed a few years ago that there weren’t many events with no other agenda than to connect cool women with one another. With that goal in mind, we started a semi-annual cocktail party called Media Chicks Mixer–and, because we live the world of communications, we focused on women who work in media and public relations across industries, from fashion and beauty to finance and design.

Last night, we co-hosted our latest Media Chicks Mixers along with Carley Roney, co-founder of XO Group (which owns The Knot, The Nest, The Bump and other popular websites) at their gorgeous, sleek offices in the Wall Street area of Manhattan. (I ran PR at The Knot back in their startup days and, boy, do I wish they had been in this space then!)

 

Unfortunately, Meryl was sick and had to sit this one out (we missed her dearly!) but we had a great turnout, with attendees hailing from CNBC to the New York Post, Hearst to GoogleAnn Taylor to Lippe Taylor.

Lots of chatting going on at Media Chicks (with one rogue guy...)

Lots of chatting going on at Media Chicks (with one rogue guy…)

It was a night of good champagne and great conversation–those who already knew each other got to catch up and others made brand new connections.

Lots of bubbly, compliments of Meryl's fab clients

Lots of bubbly, compliments of Meryl’s fab clients

Special thanks to XO Group for hosting the event (their amazing views of the Brooklyn Bridge were a special treat) and to those who donated great beauty and fashion giveaways and raffle prizes, including Bliss, Boots, FLOWER, Fred Segal, Elaine Turner and Strivectin.

Jessica, L2 PR's Letena Lindsay and Masthead Media's Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich (we all used to work at Hearst together)

Jessica, L2 PR’s Letena Lindsay and Masthead Media’s Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich (we all used to work at Hearst together)

Jessica with CNBC's Jennifer Zweben

Jessica with CNBC’s Jennifer Zweben

 

Google's Andrea Faville and Jessica Kleiman

Google’s Andrea Faville and Jessica Kleiman

Lauren Melone, Dede Brown, Kirsten Segal of the New York Post and NBC's Lenore Moritz

Lauren Melone, Dede Brown, Kirsten Fleming of the New York Post and NBC’s Lenore Moritz

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Hearst’s Lacey Drucker, Google’s PR girls and Ann Inc.’s Sanam Ghanchi

SANDOW's Jessica Kleiman and Misfit Media's Nicole Brydson

SANDOW’s Jessica Kleiman and Misfit Media’s Nicole Brydson

XO Group's cool cafe
XO Group’s cool cafe

 

Marni Raitt of DiGennaro & Partners, BYOBP co-author Jessica Kleiman and Emily Blumenthal of Handbag Designer 101

Marni Raitt of DiGennaro & Partners, BYOBP co-author Jessica Kleiman and Emily Blumenthal of Handbag Designer 101

How Mentorship Can Help You Get Ahead

NYWICI Mentoring Panel

Sage advice being doled out at the “Fastest Way to the Top” NYWICI panel.

Last week, we attended a great panel hosted by New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) called “The Fastest Way to the Top,” where five successful women at all stages of their careers discussed the importance of finding mentors and sponsors along the way to support you, offer advice and help you reach that next level of achievement.

Moderated by Erica Hill, co-anchor of NBC’s Weekend Today, the lineup included Ellen Archer, ABC Entertainment‘s Head of East Coast Development, and her longtime mentor, iVillage co-founder Nancy Evans; as well as Stacy Martinet, Chief Marketing Officer, Mashable, and her mentor Denise Warren, Executive Vice President, Digital Products and Services Group, The New York Times.

While the women-focused event was peppered with references to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, much of the wisdom imparted during the panel could apply to men too, though as Archer pointed out, “We as woman are very good at developing friendships and men are good at business relationships. It’s important for women to get out there and develop those relationships as well. We’re somehow not as good at it.”

Below, some of the best tips for how to choose a mentor, become one yourself and learn from the generation ahead of you and behind you:

 

What Does Mentorship Mean?

The best of mentoring is when you can send [the person] an email and say, “When can you talk today?” Don’t just walk up to someone and say, “Will you be my mentor?”- Nancy Evans

People took notice of me because I did a great job. I showed up early, I stayed late. How can you make the bar higher? How do you get people to notice you? As a mentee, you have to trust your mentors. - Denise Warren

I admired a woman who was open to people at all levels. She recognized me as a junior staffer and said, “You did a great job; it doesn’t matter how much experience you have.” – Stacy Martinet

Reverse mentoring is great — digital natives can teach older people a lot about technology and social media. - Ellen Archer

 


What Can We Learn from Twenty-Somethings?

I don’t view this younger generation as stereotypically feeling entitled, but I have encountered people who think their path up should be quicker than ours. I see that this generation wants to build their skills –whether social media or program management– and we want to help them do that. - Denise Warren

The norms are different now. I Snapchat and text with my team at Mashable. The fact that they don’t have as many hang-ups as we do is good but it’s about balance. Things move very fast now — there’s a list [that comes out] every week of “Top 10 People under 30″ and they want to get on those lists. - Stacy Martinet

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Volunteering: How Helping Out Helps You Stand Out In the Workplace

Photo credit: www.careways.org.au

Last week was National Volunteer Week, an annual event that, since its inception in 1974, has raised awareness about the  growing role volunteerism plays in strengthening communities. But did you know that it can also help you stand out in a good way in the workplace?

LinkedIn recently shared that 1 million members have added charitable causes to their profiles and pointed out that over 60 percent of those members are Millennials who highlight their volunteer efforts as a part of their professional identity.

Some might argue that they can’t afford to work for free, but here are a few ways in which volunteering can help you land your dream gig:

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Tips from the Trenches: Q&A with Social Media Week Founder Toby Daniels

“Be purposeful in what you do. Think about the why of every action you take, every piece of communication you share and every interaction or new relationship you forge.” — Toby Daniels, Founder, Social Media Week

When we met Toby Daniels, founder & executive director of Social Media Week (SMW), and CEO of Crowdcentric, we were instantly impressed with his vision of how the world could be better connected through the power of social media — as well as live interaction – and wanted him to share some of his wisdom with us here.

Since Daniels founded Social Media Week in 2008, it has become a major global conference reaching more than 100,000 people in 26 cities around the world, aiming to connect people and brands around emerging trends in social and mobile media. In order to build SMW into what it is today, Daniels and his small team have done a great job leveraging word of mouth – and, of course, social media – to spread the gospel worldwide.

SMW 2013 kicks off on February 18 in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Lagos, Miami, New York, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington, DC. Join the worldwide conversation by posting on your own social media platforms with hashtag #SMW13.

 

When you first started Social Media Week, how did you promote it to the world?

Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and outreach through my personal network were my primary outlets. One of the most important things I did early on with SMW was establish an advisory board of key influencers, community leaders, academics and luminaries in the emerging media and technology space. When we announced the conference in early 2009, they were a key factor in helping to get the word out.

Since then we’ve refined our approach, but even to this day, our most effective form of promotion is through our community, which in four years has grown to more than 100k professionals worldwide.

 

What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?

Two slightly conflicting pieces of advice:  1) No one does PR better than you and 2) Let your community do your PR for you.

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Tips from the Trenches: One-on-One with Emily Blumenthal, CEO/Founder, Handbag Designer 101

“Be aware that the person you are speaking with has no time for you until you prove you can give them something they might need or want, so having your elevator pitch ready is always a must.” — Emily Blumenthal

 

Fashion entrepreneur Emily Blumenthal

Emily Blumenthal never went to design school. But that didn’t stop her from creating a line of handbags that she singlehandedly got into Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Bloomingdale’s and finally to QVC. Add to that teaching Fashion Marketing at Parsons The New School for Design and running a business helping burgeoning accessories designers get their handbag lines off the ground and into major retailers across the country.

In addition, Blumenthal created the Independent Handbag Designer Awards, an internationally respected design competition, runs online resource HandbagDesigner101.com and authored “Handbag Designer 101,” a book to help designers create the next “It Bag” and a viable business to go with it. The woman is BUSY.

In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we interviewed a number of smart, interesting people on how to build a brand and stand out. Just in time for New York Fashion Week, we recently talked to Blumenthal about how she launched her brand and her advice for other entrepreneurs trying to break through the clutter with limited time and resources.

 

Why is it so important these days to stand out in the workplace?

The market is so incredibly oversaturated. It is key to stand out since internal competition is fierce, especially in markets that are so sought after. Proving your value is a must as that will translate into more power, responsibility and eventually dollars in your pocket.

 

What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?

When I was starting out and wanted to get into television, a buyer pulled me aside and said, “You would never open a clothing store if you didn’t know how to shop.” In other words, make sure you know how to buy before you can sell. I have used this in every step of my career; I try to get behind the mindset of those that I am pitching and to address their needs before I even begin to tell them anything I am working on.

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6 Ways to Build Buzz for Your Brand on a Budget

How to get people talking about your brand.

You have a great idea, a website, a business plan and maybe even some funding. Now what? That doesn’t mean anything unless people are talking, sharing and buzzing about your brand. If no one hears the proverbial tree falling in the forest, how will they know it actually exists — and why would they care?

For most startups, publicity typically falls to the bottom of the expenditure list. Yet, in this day and age, with so much competition for coverage and attention, it can be the thing that connects the dots, raises your profile and attracts consumers, advertisers, partners and investors. The reality: Those who put public relations as the lead horse will likely cross the finish line first. But if you’re bootstrapped and feel you just can’t justify the cost of hiring a PR firm or an in-house communications specialist, you can learn how to be your own publicist — and kick-start the drumbeat about your brand through press coverage and social media buzz.

Recently, Jessica participated in a panel at the Golden Seeds Innovation Summit — a conference run by an investment firm that supports companies founded by women entrepreneurs — called “Building Your Brand: Lessons in PR for Early Stage Companies,” where this topic was discussed. Moderated by The New York Times bestselling author and former Hearst Magazines Chair(wo)man, Cathie Black, the panel also included The Daily Muse co-founder Kathryn Minshew, Business Insider tech reporter Alyson Shontell and Joannie Danielides who runs an eponymous PR firm. Below we share some of the advice that was given during this panel.

  • Know your elevator pitch. Have a great story and know how to tell it…quickly. What you pitch to the media is not that different from what you have to “sell” to potential investors and, similarly, you have a short period of time in which to impress them and gain their interest.
  • Find a news hook. Understand how your business fits into a bigger trend or story. Don’t just pitch in a vacuum. Minshew of The Daily Muse said that she often pitches reporters when new job numbers come out or as part of a story on young female tech entrepreneurs in the career space so they use her as an expert on a particular trend. Shontell advised startups to identify how their company or story relates to a broad audience.
  • Be scrappy and resourceful. Follow reporters who cover your industry on Twitter, then retweet them and respond to them. Also, read relevant media about your industry and stay up on the latest trends. [Read more...]