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Who Are Digital Influencers?

7 Aug

Who are digital influencers? What do they do? How do you identify them? If you work in the marketing and communications business, I’m sure you’ve either asked (or have been asked) these questions. The topic of digital influencers has been a pretty trendy one in a few brainstorms I’ve participated in over the past few months. Marketing and PR teams are constantly trying to find ways to innovate and this is a sexy new way of doing it.

In my opinion, there should be a loose definition for “digital influencers” because brands will work with them in their own unique ways. If I had to give a very generalized definition, I’d say digital influencers are online personalities who’ve built a following around an area (or areas) they’re most passionate about. Some of my favorite digital influencers I’ve had a pleasure of working with are JessiMae Peluso, @NYDoorman and Rae Holliday. JessiMae’s a popular stand-up comic who got her big break on MTV’s “Girl Code.” @NYDoorman started his parody account a few years ago and built a following around NYC nightlife and events. Rae Holliday is one of hip hop’s premiere socialites.

 

Once you’ve discovered a digital influencer who shares the same passion points as your brand, then it’s time to think about how you can collaborate. It’s important that you look at it as a partnership and not a build on to something existing. Digital Influencers will only work with brands that their followers love. Once the partnership is formed, there are tons of ways to create content. Below is a list of a few different ways:

  • Exclusive Content Series
  • Press Events (don’t just invite media, invite digital influencers for real-time promotion)
  • Product reviews
  • Twitter Parties
  • Facebook Takeovers

Now you’re probably wondering how to connect with these individuals. There are professional “connectors” who help brands and influencers work together. In fact, I’m one of them. Before I started working professionally as a connector, I had the privilege of meeting a ton of digital influencers at events or through social media. Initially I participated in conversations with digital influencers for the same reason you’ll want to work with them – I thought they were cool. I didn’t realize I was building a powerful network. I then was able to help my clients create major campaign partnerships with these guys. If your brand is looking to build out a digital influencer program, I highly recommend meeting with a connector who has experience working with these individuals. They can help your team build relationships for ongoing partnerships.

What are some of your favorite brand/digital influencer partnerships?

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Pursuing Your Dreams And Not Settling For Less

23 May

The last day of summer was always the hardest day for me because I knew I would have to leave the place I always wanted to live: NYC. Visiting family in Brooklyn as a child sparked a passion in me for the “NYC-Lifestyle.” The passion grew with me and all through college I told myself I was going to graduate, move to NYC and work in marketing.

A few months before graduation, I noticed my plans changing because I feared not being able to survive in NYC. Why? Because the cost of living is pretty intense and the workforce is beyond competitive. A lot of this persuasion was the result of me listening to others.

Times Square

I still desired to live in a large city so I accepted a post-grad internship in Chicago at a well-respected agency, where I worked on a few teams for nationally-known consumer brands. I gained a valuable experience but towards the end of my internship, I discovered I was not going to receive an offer because there wasn’t anything available on my account teams. A normal person would have accepted this and moved on. Not me … I panicked because I feared embarrassment because I was a former national officer in a prestigious organization and had members expecting me to be one of the ones who “makes it.” I folded to the pressure (that I was placing on myself) and accepted an offer at an agency I didn’t want to work for, in a city I didn’t want to live in, telling myself “I can make this work.”

Some of my initial concerns with the agency proved to be true: the company culture was not one I could thrive in and the management style of the woman leading me conflicted with my working style. The working relationship with the manager got so bad I looked forward to sick days. I was in a situation where I felt trapped by the professional constraint of staying with a company for at least one year.

After receiving advice from two of my good friends — Jasmine Brooks and Evan Roberts — and being motivated by my grandmother’s sickness, I quit the job, packed my things and moved to NYC. I told myself I wanted an NYC story (moving to a large city with a little bit of money, chasing a dream).

Automatically, I outreached to some of my Twitter friends and told them I was looking to transition to New York. Without hesitation, they helped me to set-up interviews. Thanks to Andrew Worob, Justin Goldsborough, Tiffany Winbush, Pegah Rashti, Mark Ragan and Valerie Simon. With the help of these friends (and a few others), I interviewed more than 15 times at agencies and corporations and received a few offers. The only problem was that I realized I did not want to walk back in the same situation I left. I also discovered that I wanted to focus more on social media marketing, instead of traditional public relations.

Sadly, my grandmother (who was my best friend), lost her battle and passed away. An hour after I received the sad news about my grandmother, a certain television network called me to set up an interview. A few weeks before, I applied for a job that I thought was not possible to land, social media coordinator at MTV. While applying, I shot a friend who worked for the company a note, asking for a recommendation. She put in a good word and that combined with my experience led me to the interview.

Only after a few minutes in the interview with the hiring manager, I knew this was the job for me because he was extremely charismatic, passionate about his craft and team and had a vision! They felt I was the best person for the job and hired me to be social media coordinator, a position that requires me to use all of my marketing and PR skills to help our amazing brand remain social.

It’s still surreal to me that I am living in the city I always wanted to be in and working (in Times Square) for a brand I always loved. If I didn’t step out on faith, have friends and loved ones who believed in me and believed in myself, I would not be where I am today. I encourage all of you who have dreams and goals you’ve been pushing off, to stop pushing them off. Pursue your dreams and don’t settle for less.

Entertainment PR Chat (#entprchat) is Back by Popular Demand

13 Apr
Lights, Camera, Action … Entertainment PR Chat – a monthly Twitter chat – will be re-launching on April 20th from 8 – 9 p.m. EST. This chat will be a monthly discussion moderated by Pegah Rashti (@pegahrashti) and myself

Entertainment PR Chat

(@kionsanders). Our goal: to build a community for professionals working in the entertainment industry. We will come together once a month to discuss issues, trends, social media and current events in entertainment & fashion marketing and PR.

Will you be joining us? If you have any questions, tweet us @entprchat or email us at entprchat@gmail.com

Operation: PR Student (#OPRS)

4 Feb

Do you remember the beginning of your last semester of college? You were probably involved in more than three organizations, interning, on a national board and trying to find a job, right? Or … is that my story? Regardless, I think you get my point. The PR profession has some amazing students aspiring to

Operation: PR Student #OPRS

be just like us. However, it is a lot harder to get into this industry than it looks. For a lot of vacant positions, it is extremely important that students know someone on the inside to pass along their resume.

The thought of a passionate and capable student having to settle for less than their dream is unacceptable. This is why I have decided to encourage every PR professional to find one student and help them land their first post-graduation gig! I’ve found my student and we are working hard to get her in with an NYC-based agency.

How does it work?

  • Find a student who has realistic job-placement goals and help them accomplish them. Before taking on a student, I suggest you make sure you have a perfect match. For instance, if your student wants to work in political communications and you don’t have any connections in that industry, it probably isn’t a good match.
  • Help the student to improve their resume and cover letter.
  • When they land the interview, offer to host a mock interview with them.
  • Blog about it! Put it on Facebook! Tweet about it! I want other professionals and students to share their experience with this process so it becomes something we do every year.

Pretty simple, right?

Imagine how you can make a difference in a student’s life by taking the initiative to help them accomplish what someone helped you to accomplish.

Will you step up to the plate and help a student out?

This Is Why I Want To Earn My Agency Stripes

10 Jan

The Cast of Mad Men -- talk about earning agency stripes

The marketing/public relations field isn’t the easiest to understand when you’re on the outside looking in. As communicators, it is our job to properly educate those who don’t understand our area of expertise as well as we do – team accounting, team law, team advertising, team C-suite and everyone else. Of course, we’re all working together to generate revenue for one company, but sometimes everyone gets caught up in their department teams. This situation is usually something you see in every environment but agency.

As you all know, I am a proud junior staffer at an agency but … I did not start off in agency. My most memorable college internship was working for the mayor of Charlotte, on his political campaign team.

I served as his press assistant and worked under the press secretary, communications director and campaign manager as the press assistant. While working on the campaign, I saw some things that convinced me to take an agency route right out of college. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the structure of political campaigns, it’s basically a variety of people who have different professional backgrounds coming together to help a candidate get elected.

As a PR/marketing student, the “what’s the value in this program” and “why is this more important than this” questions were extremely challenging to answer. Was there an answer to those questions? … Yes. Could I present a valid case … No. Being the young and confident student I was, I thought I had all of the answers but I didn’t. There was something about questions regarding PR measurement that was always confusing.

This is why I decided agency would be best for me right after college. The majority of agency junior staffer positions are designed to help you grow in this area. In the agency setting, you’re surrounded by PR/marketing people and you don’t have to worry about the “what’s the value in this program” or “why is this more important than this” questions because someone else will be responsible for answering it. Well, not exactly … but you get my point, right? This is the perfect time for you to sit back, observe and learn.

If someone asked those questions today, I could shoot out an answer without any hesitation and I honestly think it’s because of my agency experience.

Have you ever been in a similar situation?

Chief Marketing Officer Is Such a Beautiful Title

22 Dec

In the 9th grade, I met a short, opinionated and tough-loving educator. Her name was Kathy Pinner (Mrs. Pinner) and she was in charge of my high school’s marketing program. Mrs. Pinner was truly one of a kind.  A lot of students didn’t understand that there was a method to her madness. Some perceived her as a bitter lady who was out to get everyone but this was far from true.

I believe Mrs. Pinner created a strategic plan that her students won’t fully understand until they’re writing a blog post about aspiring to be the head of

The Four P's of marketing

marketing for a company. Her number-one goal for students is quite simple: to instill an unwavering passion for the field of marketing.

I’m glad I met Mrs. Pinner because ever since the 10th grade, I have not been able to turn off this passion for marketing. As you all know, I am a young professional with a long list of huge dreams. The latest edition to the list is becoming a chief marketing officer – the C-suite representative who oversees all marketing for a company. I’ve gone back and forth on this latest goal for some time but it is now official.

When I received my degree in marketing, I decided to get another in PR because other than advertising, it seemed to be the most complex integrated marketing communications (IMC) tool. Of course, I found PR to be a great fit for me as well but one of the main reasons I wanted the degree and experience was to make sure I didn’t limit my future opportunities in marketing.

Some may ask, “Why work in PR if you want to be a CMO?” … Here’s my answer:

The CMO Controls PR’s Budget

Not everywhere, but most PR departments get their budget from and report to the CMO. When I listen to some PR professionals complain about budget constraints, it always seems like the controller of the budget – the CMO – did not see the value in what the PR team was proposing. The typical career path for a CMO does not include PR. Usually, they work on the advertising side at an agency, move to corporate, get their MBA and boom … CMO! Well, not that easy but you get my point. Who is better to understand PR than someone that has worked in the field?

Social Media Is Changing, Has Changed and Will Continue to Change Marketing

While industry leaders are still fighting over where social media belongs, I have made up my mind: it’s a PR responsibility. In order to effectively manage someone, I need to know how to do their job. The CMO job responsibilities will continue to change as does everything in this field. When I think of a CMO who gets it, I think of Lisa Gavales of Express Fashion. Lisa is a very innovative CMO who isn’t afraid of social media and does a great job incorporating “social” in her marketing plan.

Becoming a CMO is a long-term goal. I am only 23 and don’t plan on becoming a CMO any time soon. Until then, I will continue to enjoy my life as a junior staffer at a great agency, learning as much as possible.

Does this sound realistic? What do you think the CMO position will look like in 15 years?

Why Entertainment Public Relations?

10 Nov

Working directly with people brands, insane work hours and a “if you want to get married, entertainment is not for you” quote from a PR instructor were all characteristics of an entertainment PR specialist/publicist that turned me off to this portion of my industry. I’ve been a PR professional for a short time but have made some great connections in the wonderful world of entertainment public relations and happy to say all of my negative perceptions of this field have been proven false.

The entertainment public relations field is filled with a lot of practitioners who enjoy what they do. Yes, the majority of us in this industry love our careers but I believe it takes a certain level of passion to survive in the entertainment world. To help paint a clearer picture, I asked two professionals and two students “why entertainment public relations?” Check out their responses below:

PR Professional Derek Ross

Derek Ross is a Account Supervisor at French/West/Vaughan and oversees the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) account which encompasses fully integrated marketing services including public relations, event production, promotions, media relations, sponsor relations and activation, digital and social media, advertising and creative services. Derek has also worked across various accounts including Wrangler Jeans, 1800Hotels, House-Autry, etc.

Why Entertainment Public Relations?

Fast-paced. Energizing. Fun. Challenging. Rewarding. All of those words describe just a small portion of the entertainment PR world. I love this industry because there is no true script you have to follow. You become a part of the recipe for success. You are just as important as the client because the relationships you build in this industry matter just as much as the final goal.

PR Student and President of Kratz PR Harrison Kratz

A junior at Temple University, Harrison has made great strides in Public Relations, and is starting to make a name for himself in the public relations industry. Harrison has completed an internship at the prestigious Sharla Feldscher PR. Currently, he is leading a nation-wide toy and clothing drive, the 2010 Holiday Tweet Drive

Why Entertainment Public Relations?

Entertainment PR is definitely in a class all on its own. It can be extremely stressful, but the rush you get when your efforts show positive results is incredible. You have to be prepared for rejection in entertainment PR, but I think versing yourself in this sector prepares you for future ventures and projects a little more than other communications fields. It’s cut throat and intimidating, but I know I am a better PR professional and student because of what it has taught me.

Celebrity Publicist Josh King

Josh is an Atlanta-based celebrity publicist who double majored in PR and journalism. At the young age of 25, Josh has had opportunities to work on projects people dream of working on. He enjoys music and is a man of God. Josh is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and co-directs music artist Sammie’s youth foundation.

Why Entertainment Public Relations?

It takes a certain type of person to work in this industry: one who is passionate, goal-oriented, drive and creative. To work in this industry, you have to live a life without boundaries. This industry is time consuming so you have to love it. Without passion, you are wasting your time and other people’s time. Growing up, I always was a people person and the combination of music and entertainment excited me. In school, I completed nine internships that prepared me for future projects. If you get a call at 2 a.m., you have to act on it. A lot of people enter this industry and expect a quick turnaround but that is not the case, it takes time.

PR Student Monica Karkhanis

Monica Karkhanis is a junior communication major with a focus in public relations at the University of Maryland. As a student at UMD, Karkhanis holds a position in the university’s 12-member high riser council, which organizes and manages promoting the university to prospective students. As a promotions representative for Capitol Records, Karkhanis is in charge of promotion in the Washington D.C. area for several music venues and artists. Recently, Karkhanis served on the planning committee for the 2010 PRSSA National Conference as the co-program director.

Why Entertainment Public Relations?

I have decided to pursue a career in entertainment public relations because it presented an opportunity for challenge in a field that has continued to keep me on my toes. Through my experience at various entertainment-related internships, I discovered that I truly thrive off the fast-paced atmosphere and sometimes spontaneous moments that come with the job.  It is important for people to understand that entertainment pr is not glamorous; it requires the same creativity, determination and passion as other fields.

Are you interested in the entertainment industry? … Why?

Do you have any experience in this industry? …. How was it?

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