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.

 

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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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…]

Tips from the Trenches: One-on-One with Kelsey Recht, CEO, VenueBook

“Get people talking.  People have a lot of interesting things to share.  You might discover an unexpected connection.” — Kelsey Recht, CEO, VenueBook

 

Ever try to book an event and end up calling around to dozens of places, trying to get someone on the phone to check dates of availability, budget, menu, capacity, etc.?  It can be extremely time-consuming and often fruitless. Well, Kelsey Recht, founder & CEO of VenueBook, has a simple solution: create an online platform that enables corporate event planners — or regular people — just looking for a party space to search all of those things and more in one place.

When we saw Recht pitch her idea at a NY Tech Meetup Women’s Demo Night a few months ago, we knew she’d be a rising star in both the technology and hospitality worlds. While VenueBook just launched in New York City, the company plans to roll out its platform to other markets around the country over the next year. We interviewed the founder of what she calls “an OpenTable-like platform for finding and booking event spaces” about launching a brand, standing out in your career and creating buzz.

 

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

The harsh reality right now is that the economy is not strong. Jobs are hard to come by. If you have one, you need to do your best to excel and make a name for yourself.

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

Do your homework on reporters and what they cover first. Half of the battle is knowing the right person and what angle to take with them.

What are your top networking tips?

Get people talking. People have a lot of interesting things to share. You might discover an unexpected connection.

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Bragging on Social Media: Useful or Annoying?

Can bragging on Facebook and other social platforms backfire? In an extreme example this week, a gang of thugs in Brooklyn boasted about committing murder on their Facebook pages and got arrested as a result. Verdict? Not smart! While most of us are bragging about much less criminal things (we hope!), touting your accomplishments through social media may still have a negative result.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story last month ago called “Are We All Braggarts Now?”, which examines whether social media has given people a platform — and permission — to constantly boast about their accomplishments, children, jobs and lives in general. In the piece, Elizabeth Bernstein writes that “we’ve become so accustomed to boasting that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. And it’s harmful to our relationships because it turns people off.” We believe this is a generalization and that, while select folks spend all their Tweets and Facebook posts talking about how their child is the world’s most talented and beautiful, there are ways to leverage social media to promote yourself and what you’re proud of in a smart and more subtle way.

In our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work, we dedicate an entire chapter, called “Toot Your Own Horn (but Not Too Loudly),” to teaching people how to be their own publicists without irritating those on the receiving end. There’s an art to self-promotion and part of it is building your reputation slowly and strategically so you don’t come across as too in-your-face. (Though we don’t see what’s so bad about posting “Got my first royalty check for my book,” as referenced in the article. As authors ourselves, we know what a huge deal it is to finally see some rewards from all the hard work you put in!). Nonetheless, here are a few tips on how to avoid being pegged as a braggart:

Pat yourself on the back but pat others harder. It’s okay to post something about an award you won, but make sure you’re also congratulating others when they’ve received accolades. Hit the “like” button on Facebook or re-tweet it when you see that people you know have posted about their personal milestones and they’ll likely do the same for you. A third-party endorsement often has more impact than if you tout your own accomplishments.

Offer a take-away. If you wrote a great blog post about how to avoid being a braggart, for example, linking to it might actually offer useful advice to the folks who click on it. Or if you say, “Our nanny is a rock star,” maybe you can tell people where you found her so they can find their own personal Mary Poppins or link to the great sample sale where you scored amazing Hermes piece, so others can benefit too.

Don’t make others feel bad. We haven’t had a real vacation in a while (that’s a whole other blog post!), so it’s natural to feel a wee bit jealous when we see our friends post amazing beach shots of their tropical trips (though we’re mostly happy for them). That happiness would be dampened, though, if they posted or tweeted things like, “Ha, ha! I bet you wish you were here!” or “I feel like I died and went to paradise.” instead of “Great view from my hotel room in Costa Rica.” The upshot: Be cognizant that not everyone is as lucky as you are, watch your tone and try not to over-post. (You are on vacation, after all!)

You can always dial down who sees what posts on social media, if you fear that you are over-sharing to your extended crowd. And, on the flip side, if you feel that some of your Facebook friends or those you follow on Twitter are getting out of hand with their self-promotion, simply filter out their posts or stop following them. That way, when you see them face-to-face next time, stories about their child landing first seat in the school orchestra or their latest major deal at work won’t irk you quite as much.

What kind of posts annoy you?  Share with us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Using Social Media to Burn Bridges: A Good or Bad Idea?

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a story about the trend of kissing off your former employer (or soon to be!) in a very public way online, whether on Twitter, Tumblr or YouTube. While this may be a “cathartic” experience, as one person interviewed in the piece said, this kind of behavior can have negative repercussions that will affect your future career. Here’s some advice from Be Your Own Best Publicist for what to think about before you post a big f-u to the job you just left on your social media channels:

Your digital legacy outlasts you. Your online profile lives on even after you don’t. Every tweet you make ends up in the Library of Congress. Your Facebook page stays up unless someone physically removes it. And Google is your first resume these days. If you blog/tweet/post nasty things about a past employer, it won’t take long for potential employers to find it. Most HR professionals are checking out candidates’ social media profiles these days and wouldn’t look too kindly on someone who publicly bad-mouthed their last company or boss.

Patience is a virtue. In a world of instant gratification, where it takes a second to tweet, post or email something, we tend to act immediately instead of taking a breath and thinking about it before doing the damage. In the old days, you’d write an angry letter, put it in a drawer somewhere and re-read it a day later. (In many instances, it went back in the drawer or in the trash, never to be seen by its intended recipient). Now, when we’re upset, we vent in real time without always considering the consequences.

The high road is usually the best route to success. You may have had an abusive boss, a terrible job or were fired without good reason. But any time we interview someone and they trash-talk their former workplaces, it’s a huge turnoff. In PR, we teach our clients to deflect tough questions such as why they’re better than their competitors so they’re not spending an interview saying negative things about someone else, but rather positive things about themselves. If asked why you left your last job, simply say, “It wasn’t the right fit for me” or “I learned a lot but was ready to move on to a new opportunity.” Enough said.

Gripe all you want — in private. Listen, we all have bad experiences at work and feel like yelling “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” but try to limit your complaining to a small circle of friends and family, who will let you vent your frustration before you post it on Facebook. Or, instead of blogging about it, write it in a good old fashioned journal that the world won’t see. Remember “Dear Diary”? Not everyone needs to read about your deepest darkest emotions on WordPress.

Have you ever publicly griped about work?  What were the consequences? Tell us here, on Facebook or Twitter.

Creating Buzz on a Budget: Our #SXSW Bid to Help Start-Ups Stand Out In A Good Way

You have a great idea, a website, a business plan and maybe even some funding. Now what? It doesn’t mean anything unless people are talking, sharing and buzzing about your brand.

For most start-ups, 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.

That’s exactly why we’ve proposed a session at SXSW (a nice follow-up to our involvement last year) to help start-ups learn how to kick off the drumbeat about their brands through press coverage and social media buzz, even if they are in bootstrapping mode.

Help us help them by voting for our session: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/1680.  Vote and then send us the screen shot of your vote online —  you will be entered to win a signed copy of our book. (Winner chosen at random.)

**Added incentive: The person who gets the most of his/her friends to vote for us will get an hour-long coaching phone session with us.  (How to show that your friends voted: They email you the screen shot; you then forward to us at Bestpublicist (at) gmail (dot) com.) **

Thanks – and here’s to being your own best publicist!

Life Lessons Learned from the Films Director John Hughes

This past Monday marked the three-year anniversary of the untimely death of 80s film director John Hughes. And, while many of us who grew up with his movies learned a lot about our personal lives, there are lessons that can translate to our professional efforts as well. Some of those include:

  • Don’t put anything in writing you wouldn’t want read. (Sixteen CandlesAs Samantha found out when she filled out the quiz that fell into the wrong (read: Mr. Right’s) hands, everything is on the record — and that is even more clear when you put something in writing (or post something online).  Sure, things turned out great for her (complete with birthday cake and happy ending) but most of us mere mortals need to be cognizant that everything we say, write and post can and will be used against us. In our speaking engagements and workshops for Be Your Own Best Publicist, we remind people not to put anything in writing you wouldn’t want your grandmother, boss or rabbi/priest/shaman/spiritual guide to read.
  • Help can come from the least likely of sources. (The Breakfast Club) A criminal…a princess…a brain…a jock…a basketcase….What started as a group of strangers turned into the ultimate powerful network by the end of the film. And what they learned as their detention day rolled on is that, despite their surface differences, they could rely on one another for advice (Claire giving Allison makeup tips), to help dodge a bullet (Bender distracts while the others get back to the library), for attention (Andy listens to Allison) and to communicate the message (Brian writes the pithy note that summarizes the film). In work, too, support can come from anywhere. Don’t dismiss the people who seem less powerful than you (i.e. security, mailroom workers, secretaries) because sometimes they’re the ones who can help you most. Be nice, lend a helping hand to others and be open to making connections wherever you go.

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