Thank you to Thrive Global for publishing my article, “Are you ready to PIVOT? Be Your Own Publicist!”
Where can you turn for help during a COVID-19 pandemic?
I loved reading Aliza Licht’s book, Leave Your Mark. I felt like I had my own personal PR mentor explaining step by step on how to re-vamp my resume, handle interviews, create award winning social media and make my dreams come true!!
She created the social media for DKNY PR GIRL which had over 1.5 million people listening to her fashion views! She shares her insider tips from over twenty years of experience.
In college, Licht changed from medicine to fashion public relations and asked herself, “Could I really walk away from a goal I’d had for such a long time? And what would I tell my proud parents?”
But the “bottom line: It’s never too late to start over. We hear stories all the time of people later in life going back to school for something completely new and different...You get one life, but many chances.” During this pandemic, many people will be pivoting to try again at something new. Licht’s book is a primer for how to make it happen.
You can pick yourself up and try again! Remember that “the journey of a career can go in many directions. What would my life have been like if I never had the courage to quit medicine and pursue my childhood love of fashion? And what would happen if you made a decision to cast yourself in a completely new leading role?“
Chapter 15: Being Your Own Publicist
Excerpt courtesy of Aliza Licht: “Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media“
I’LL NEVER FORGET WHEN I WAS AT ATELIER MAGAZINE AND I WOULD CALL IN HERMÈS BIRKIN BAGS FOR A SHOOT. THE SAMPLES WOULD ARRIVE WITH AN inventory sheet that would detail exactly what I borrowed. But then, the PR people at Hermès took it a step further. A warning read, “Please inspect this sample upon receiving. We loaned it to you in perfect condition. If it is returned to us with any scratches or marks, you will be charged for the replacement of the handbag.” Gulp. Please note the package also included white cloth gloves to handle the sample. Pretentious for a simple leather bag? Yes. Did I believe the hype? Yes. We all drank the Hermès punch. I borrowed plenty of major designer bags for shoots—everything from Chanel to Saint Laurent.
No brand asked us to treat their bags in the way Hermès did. Hermès showed us that they valued their samples and in turn, so should we or we would pay… dearly.
Was there a legitimate reason they took their bags so seriously? They certainly wanted us to understand the artisan handwork behind each bag. I was even once invited to attend a Hermès sewing event, where I learned and experienced what went into making an Hermès design. It wasn’t simple. It certainly was artisan. Was it involved? Yes. Was it worth the price they charge? Probably not. But they walked the walk. Hermès decided what value they wanted to hold in the minds of their consumer, and so it was. Yes, they have hundreds of years of heritage, and yes, it takes countless hours and artisans to make each style, but at the end of the day they made public perception exactly what they wanted it to be.
With that in mind, people can also decide what they want their public perception to be and they can actually shape it. Think about all the people you know and how you have labeled them: She’s the stressed-out one. He’s the lazy one. She is always so productive. He is an overachiever. I bet if you think about your top ten closest friends, you can sum each of them up in a one-sentence description. We’re all innately judgmental even subconsciously. So the question is, how would your friends or colleagues describe you? And is that the message you want to convey? If it’s not, you need to change it. You need to self-examine and decide what you want to stand for and what you want your personal brand to be.
Shaping a brand is indeed an art. Take, as another example, how a publicist manages a photo shoot at a celebrity client’s home. They are next to the photographer at all times. They are directing what can and cannot be shot. They are curating the story and creating the point of view in the way they want their client perceived. Their strategy is one you can mimic, editing your life for public consumption in the same way. You need to think like a publicist, but as a publicist for YOURSELF. You are the brand.
But first, what is a brand? The American Marketing Association defines a brand as “A name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” A brand in many ways is an identity. Branding on a personal level is the art of aligning what you want people to think about you with what people actually think about you.
Personal branding for non-celebrities is a relatively new idea, even for me; I never thought about personal branding until it started coming up as a catchphrase in social media. Prior to that, the only people who were considered brands were celebrities. For the rest of us, the closest we got to a personal brand was our reputation. To be clear, caring about your reputation was always valuable. But what changed, thanks to social media, is your ability to strategically shape and amplify your personal brand’s message. Publicists do this daily, so why not do it for yourself?
Most people wouldn’t naturally think of themselves as a brand, but there are a lot of reasons you should. People are consuming your words, actions and how you present yourself in various ways. The sum of those ways is your identity. But is that the identity that you even want? I’m a firm believer that every person has something unique to offer and that branding yourself is the best way to make sure people know what that is.
To do this you need to look at yourself from an outsider’s point of view. Forget the person you are. Step outside yourself and pretend for a moment that you are a public relations executive and your new client is YOU.
No matter the industry, a publicist’s strategy for generating brand awareness is the same. A publicist always considers:
1. What are the best products or assets that I have to work with?
2. What’s my hook or story? (a.k.a. What will the media, and ultimately the public, care about?)
3. How do I create an emotional connection between my product/brand and the audience it’s intended for?
4. Where is the best place to launch this strategy? (Print, online, socially, etc.)
When crafting your personal brand, you need to keep those angles in mind while answering the following questions:
1. Who are you? What are the core principles that you stand for? You can think of these answers from both a professional and a personal standpoint. Write down three to five words that answer this question. The fewer words you can describe yourself in, the tighter your “filter” is.
2. What do you want to be known for? Every good brand gives off an air of expertise in a specific area. INSIDER TIP: A lot of people do a lot of things, but the person who does it the loudest gets the “expert” credit.
3. What are marketable qualities or talents that are unique to you? Do you promote them?
4. What do people remember most after meeting you?
Consult with friends and colleagues who can give you honest feedback on this answer.
These are NOT easy questions, but I will show you how to navigate this thought process and come to a conclusion that you can digest and use to your benefit.
Step One: Get to know yourself by writing your bio. A bio is a summary of you, your professional and your personal lives. It’s everything you are that you probably never thought to put on paper. Famous people have bios because if someone in the press is doing a story on them, it gives that reporter an easy, digestible snapshot of the celebrity’s life and career. It is essentially a summary of your personal brand.
Bios are written in the third person, which is genius for the purposes of your branding exercise, because it allows you to take a step back and not feel totally awkward talking about yourself. So when you’re writing your bio, pretend that you’re a journalist who is writing an article about you for the New York Times. Instead of writing things like “I did,” write “He [or she] did.” It’s an out-of-body experience, one that will help you understand who you are and what you have done so far. Also, it’s OK to brag a little, so do list your most important accomplishments. But remember, a good journalist has a critical eye. If there are some less-than-stellar facts about you, it’s important to include those. You need to paint a vivid picture of yourself—not just what you have done, but who you are as a person. What is your personality like? How do you present yourself? What do you look like? Throw it all in there.
Write your bio in chronological order: Start with your current position and then take people through a brief synopsis of the past. Include only the most noteworthy points, the things that really have had an impact on who you are today. The goal of the bio is to show how you got where you are. If you can try to keep it under five hundred words, you will challenge yourself to be edited. When you start writing, you might get to a place where you have nothing left to say. That’s OK, because your story is never actually done. Life is to-be-continued, right?
Once you reach that stopping point, cozy up in a chair somewhere and pretend that you’re reading a story about someone else. Do you like this person? Are you impressed by what he‘s done? What do you feel this person should change about himself? Be objective. Pretend it’s not you that you’re reading about.
So what do you think? Did you paint an accurate picture of yourself? Were you being honest? If someone Googled you, would they be able to write the same story based on what came up about you in their search results? Are there pictures, if not articles, that come up in the search that tell your story? Is that the story you want told? Would you write it in your New York Times article?
You have to ask yourself these questions so you can get a real assessment of what you’re dealing with. Do you need to start doing more of something? Do you need to start doing less?
Step Two: Make your life “word cloud” by pulling out the keywords in your bio that really summarize your story. These words will essentially describe the overall picture in a list format. The stronger the attribute, the bigger the word should appear.
Step Three: Find an image for each word that you pulled out and create a mood board of your life. Take a step back. What does it look like altogether? What do you want to keep? What do you want to change?
Step Four: Continue the journey. Since your story will end right in the middle somewhere, think about where you want it to go. Start imagining what you want the rest of the article to say. Continue writing it all out as if it has already happened, but this time in italics—all your aspirations, everything you want to accomplish. Perfect the story until it reads exactly the way you would want it to be printed in the New York Times. This all may sound like a lot of work and a lot of soul-searching—and it is. But, when you’re finished, you will know yourself so much better. Your article might be tough to read and you might not like it, but that’s OK. This could be the match that lights the fire under you to make some positive changes.
People don’t innately like to look at themselves in the same way that most actors don’t like to watch themselves on camera. But to improve in any area, you need to be honest with yourself about who you are, where you are and where you are heading. How do you connect with people in your world? Do they feel you have something special to offer? Do they get value from knowing you? If the answer is yes, it’s that value you uniquely offer those around you that you need to promote and capitalize on.
But I want to be very clear about something: Personal branding is not about becoming famous. In fact, that’s the least it’s about. Personal branding is about self-reflection and ultimately outward presentation. Personal branding is about identifying the best version of you and striving toward achieving and communicating that every day. If you think like a publicist, you will be conscious about how others perceive your message and you will be able to fix that perception as needed. Being conscious of your personal brand will allow you to perform better in every area of your life, no matter what you do.
Every day gives you an opportunity to reimagine yourself differently. If you are brave enough to really look at yourself with eyes wide open, you will be all the better for it. There is no right answer here. The closest you will get is being happy and proud in your own skin and to me, that’s worth a hell of a lot. What you do with your personal brand depends on you. How hard do you want to work on it and how committed are you to shaping it? The answer had better be “very,” because no one is going to do the work for you. You are your best PR person.
Aliza Licht is the Founder & President of LEAVE YOUR MARK LLC and the author and host of LEAVE YOUR MARK
Join Aliza for her podcast, “LEAVE YOUR MARK:” How do you build your personal brand and succeed in your career? In her best-selling book, LEAVE YOUR MARK, Aliza Licht, marketing executive and former Twitter phenomenon, DKNY PR GIRL, answers these questions and more. Now in LEAVE YOUR MARK, the podcast, Aliza brews fresh career advice every Sunday with some of her most successful and dynamic friends. With an emphasis on communicating and building your brand, Aliza and her guests deliver essential advice, inspiration, and motivation for succeeding in the working world, where the most important thing you can have is a strong sense of self.