All Articles Tagged "branding"

What Torrey Smith’s Baby Dancing Video Can Teach Us About Branding

July 14th, 2015 - By Tanvier Peart
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Torrey Smith, Instagram

Instagram

While most of y’all are probably watching the adorable video of Torrey Smith’s son doing “the whip,” there’s a bigger picture at hand.

Have you ever considered using a viral video for your hustle, or how one can affect your brand?

I know you’re probably thinking what the heck am I talking about, but come and sit at the brainstorming table with me. Viral videos are a highly popular way for businesses and individuals to get exposure. Some deploy them with the intention of touching on a particular message, while others use them for pure enjoyment. Regardless of your goal, successful execution on a social media platform can score you major points when it comes to your brand and its popularity.

I don’t personally know Torrey but would make an educated guess he had no idea how big this 15-second clip would become. In just a couple of days, it’s already received well over 3.3 million views and counting on Facebook, not to mention news coverage from People magazine to the Today showHe posted a follow up video of his one-year-old son dancing a day ago that already has over a quarter million views. Do you know how much you would have to pay to get this kind of exposure?

Now let me ask you a question: Before these videos went viral, did you know who Torrey Smith was?

I did, but that’s because we graduated from the same alma mater and he played on my hometown’s football team, the Baltimore Ravens. Unless you’re a Ravens fan, a 49ers lover (he recently signed with San Francisco), or an NFL junkie, there’s a good chance you had no clue who this cat was — and that’s okay. Hopefully now you do as Torrey does some pretty great work for charity and his community off the field. With a bigger audience viewing his social media accounts for clips, one can only assume other posts will get a few more eyeballs.

When it comes to branding — whether personal or about business — it’s important to think about your image and how you plan to get your message out to the public. Entrepreneur says “your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.” In Torrey’s case, a quick glance through his social media accounts would reveal he’s a family man about football and his faith. Looking beyond this cute video of his son dancing, any advertiser or sponsor can learn a little more about his personal message that might entice a few to offer new endorsement deals.

This is why it’s so important to think (and think again) about what you put on front street for the world to see. Too many celebs and public figures are tainting their brands because of a few goofs, or stupid mistakes that have cost them dearly. The last thing you want is to corrupt all of your hard work.

Here are a few more takeaways on brands for us to remember.

It’s OK to get personal. Folks are more likely to buy what you’re selling if you can resonate with them on a personal level. Don’t be afraid to lower your walls.

Viral videos are quick, catchy and in most cases, free. Who knew that a short video could lead to so much press? There really is something to be said about viral videos and their effectiveness in today’s society. This can help level the playing field when it comes to smaller companies and their exposure.

Stay consistent with your message. You’ll find it real hard to sell that you’re professional if you’re constantly cussing folks out online. It’s also counterproductive to post questionable content that would turn off the audience you’re trying to attract. Take a look at your social media and make sure there’s a cohesive message that backs your mission.

main image: Instagram

Publicist Sasha Brookner Shares Her Keys For Launching Successful Artists & PR Firms

June 1st, 2015 - By Rana Campbell
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photo credit Djeneba Aduayom

Photo credit: Djeneba Aduayom

As anyone involved in the music industry knows, public relations is an ever-important part of launching (and maintaining) one’s career. How you handle your relationship with your target market could either help or hurt, so having someone on your team whose job it is to manage and leverage those relationships is crucial.

Meet Sasha Brookner founder of boutique public relations firm Helio PR. Over the past 16 years, Brookner has worked with artists such Ceelo, N’Dambi, Katt Williams, Goapele, Ledisi, and Lira. We chatted with Sasha about her background, what it’s like being a publicist, and how she believes the branding and publicity paradigms are changing for emerging and established artists.

Check out the interview below!

MadameNoire (MN): What inspired you to be come an entrepreneur and launch your own PR firm?
Sasha Brookner (SB):  When I was growing up, my mother and grandfather both had their own businesses. I was able to see the freedom they had as business owners. That was always in the back of my mind.

I went to UCLA and majored in history. During my last  year, I didn’t have enough credits to graduate on time, so I decided to do some internships in publishing, A&R, promotion, and the last one was publicity. It was cool because I was working directly with writers to develop stories.  I didn’t have to deal directly with the politics of music executives and labels. That was the beginning where I figured out I could do this.

As soon as I graduated, I got a job at Red Ant, a subsidiary of BMG, as an assistant publicist. When Red Ant went under, an associate called me up and wanted me to come over to The Courtney Barnes Group. I worked there for a couple of years and branched out and started my own company.

MN: What were some challenges you faced early on?
SB: When you start your own business, you have to be the rainmaker.  At the time, I had saved up enough money so that I really wasn’t stressing it that much. Public relations is great because there wasn’t a lot of overhead. I started working at home. There weren’t a lot of hurdles because I was already seasoned as a publicist. Everyone told me that if I really did a good job and focused on whatever I was doing, things would spread word of mouth.

Another challenge was that I had to be very creative because I was working with independent  grassroots artists who didn’t have radio, marketing, or worldwide tours. We were up against corporate firms who are already established and working with major label artists. In the beginning, you had to be much more creative with pitching.

MN: Who was your first client?
SB: N’Dambi. She had such an interesting story. Before we knew it, we got her in L’Uomo Vogue and Vogue Hommes. She was getting so much press even Erykah Badu (who she sang background for) was like “Wait, who’s doing your press?” This was before the female neo-soul thing took off.  Now, it would be almost impossible to get a background singer selling CDs out the trunk of her car into these outlets.

We get 85 percent of our clients through referral. That started with N’Dambi. Then, Ledisi and Goapele were calling me. I saw artists that were falling short in marketing. That was our niche in the beginning. We expanded to painters, graphic designers, actors, and spoken word artists.

Sasha Brookner 2

MN: What is it like to work with mainstream celebrity clients versus more grassroots artists?
SB: It’s easier. We started working with Katt Williams during the end of his Wildin’ Out season on MTV. He was taking off with Pimp Chronicles. When you’re working with someone who everyone wants to interview, it’s more work, but it’s not as challenging. It’s not like you have to pitch. Then again, there are problems such as personalities and missing photo shoots. When there’s a lot of money involved, there are a lot of issues and then you have to do crisis management.

Grassroots artists are my favorite and more satisfying. You’re taking people who normally wouldn’t get this type of exposure who are seasoned in their craft and helping them get to a plateau that they probably would not have.

With bigger artists you don’t want to over-saturate the market because you are getting so many requests. With independent artists, you want to do as much as you can that is quality press.

MN: How has the PR world changed over the years?
SB: The biggest shift has been the digital world. When we first started off, it was just magazines and television. Magazines worked four-to-five months in advance. Now, you can do a story and 24 hours later the story is up on an online site. The pieces are much more topical and newsworthy.

When I started off with music artists, they were just in musical publications talking about music. Now, the majority of my clients are all using fashion (and other creative avenues) as outlets to promote whatever projects they have.

MN: Why has celebrity branding become so prominent in our culture?
SB: The word “branding” has become a buzz word. I like my clients to be more fluid. I like to go and let it happen organically as opposed to typecasting  someone, putting them in a box, and then selling that to the media.

However, I understand the importance of creating an identity that is recognizable to the people and the fans. Some people skip over the “Why are you important? What void do you fill?” You definitely have to live your brand, master your craft, and be known for something.

If it doesn’t match your personal brand, you shouldn’t do it. There are people like Taylor Swift who turn down movie scripts all the time that don’t reflect who she is. Or, someone like Immortal Technique, a rapper, who turns down corporate endorsement deals.

Reinvent yourself. Beyonce is the paragon of this. Do it so that it is an evolution and not a marketing scheme.

MN: How would you advise the everyday woman trying to build her brand?
SB: Interacting on social media is important. You have to figure out a way to mix the professional and personal. I’m really big on presentation. Find a good photographer and good writer for your bio.

That’s really important and is the first thing that you should do. When you’re dealing with media, they are top-notch English majors that went to journalism school and know their stuff. You can’t just hit them with something that is wack.

Network. I’m on Facebook all the time. I realized that all these people (like editors at Vogue) who may not have gotten back to me before were following my political tirades on Facebook. They loved my radical ideas and were like, “If you need anything, just shoot me over an email.” I realized that I was creating more relationships when I wasn’t even trying to.

Go to the sites that you want to be on and look for the Contact or About Us in the masthead. You can reach out to editors just to establish a relationship.

MN: What has allowed you to get so far in your career?
SB: Picking clients wisely is important. I won’t take on a client if I don’t think I can get them any press. I don’t care how much they’re paying. The industry is so small. People talk. We get 85 to 90 percent of our clients via word-of-mouth. I don’t want anyone unhappy. We’re very selective, however, yes, you do have some pay-your-bill clients.

Be proactive. Meet people. I always tell people, “Be careful. You could meet a guy at a party. He could have on ripped jeans and Birkenstocks and you pay him no attention. He could be the brother of the CEO of Coca Cola.  You never know who somebody is.”

Be organized and get back to people. There are a lot of publicists I know who don’t. Even if I get back to say that an artist isn’t available or we can’t do it at this time, I make a point of trying to get back to people. I know publicists who worked at major labels and ignored everyone. Then, they branched off and started their own PR firms and those same editors won’t deal with them.

Sasha Brookner 2

MN: Where do you see Helio PR going in the next few years?
SB: People have been asking me that for years, but it’s really just been consistently what I’m doing such as finding new acts that are dope. I don’t see myself being in a high-rise or corporate entity.

Although I only have four to six clients at a time, they are clients we are really invested into. What I do sustains my lifestyle. I get a lot of freedom. I get massages. I sleep eight to nine hours. What I do affords me the ability to live my life and do what I want to do.

Rana Campbell is a freelance writer and marketing/branding strategist. Connect with her on TwitterFacebook, Instagram, Linkedin or visit ranacampbell.com

Gabourey Sidibe Is Showcasing Her Personality & Winning

March 31st, 2015 - By Karen Taylor Bass
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Image Source: WENN

Image Source: WENN

Brand Gabourey Sidibe is winning. She is working consistently in Hollywood and using brand consistency to showcase her confident, bold and determined personality to make the most of her big break since Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. She is a NAACP Image Award recipient, Academy Award nominee, Saturday Night Live host alum, co-starring in the monster hit Empire and recently scored another coup with a lead role in the upcoming Hulu comedy, “Difficult People.” Not bad for an actress who had never acted before and doesn’t fit the Hollywood mold.

Branding is an overused word. How do you create the perfect brand – in life and in business? By being a bold dreamer and allowing your authentic beauty, personality and winning attitude to shine. Real talk: Sidibe is the unlikely next big star. But she has fomented demand simply by being herself.

This isn’t to say that she’s oblivious to the people out there talking smack. She’s just particularly good at shutting it down and moving on.

As mentioned in my previous articles branding is simply a consistent feeling, image, and experience desired from a product conveyed to the general public. Basically, you – the entrepreneur – are the brand. The minute someone interfaces with you, they are deciding if they should do business with your brand based on their perception of you.

As entrepreneurs and women we must learn from Brand Sidibe to love the skin we are in to attract the big break. How many of us miss the mark because we don’t believe in our gifts? Is it because we are worrying about the competition? Or, because we lack confidence in our talent? All you need to succeed is within you.

Start dreaming big and bold today:
1. Dreams don’t happen overnight. It takes heart, persistence, money and blessings to make one’s dream become a reality.
2. Dreams must be gargantuan. It’s not acceptable to just dream. Your dream must be out of this world so that when you tell people about them they laugh. As they say, if your peers are not laughing then you are dreaming too small.
3. Dreams only flourish with confidence.
4. Dreams must have clarity. Know what you want, how you want it, and with whom you want it. When you ask, you will receive. Make certain you are asking wisely.
5. Dreams are ordained. Tap into a higher spirit and simply believe.
6. Dreams have vampires. Stay away from those who can seek to rob you of your chance. Keep the haters at bay.

Bold, Beautiful and Determined Reset: Dream in color. See the moment, feel the moment and actively participate in the realization of the moment.

Karen Taylor Bass, an award winning PR Expert, media coach, best-selling author and Brand Mom. Follow Karen @thebrandnewmom.

5 Personal Branding Mistakes You Should Avoid

March 20th, 2015 - By Rana Campbell
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personal branding mistakes


According to Amanda Miller Littlejohn, a Washington,DC – based personal branding coach and creator of The Branding Box, a personal brand home study system designed to help individuals clarify their message, position their expertise and increase their visibility, “This is a great time to be a Black woman.”

“Women are embracing their natural hair, getting into shape and shedding generations-long bad eating  habits. It’s like a renewal. We are embracing digital tools, starting websites, and expressing ourselves,” says Littlejohn. However, are you ensuring that the brand called YOU is clearly defined? Can it be leveraged to bring you new opportunities?

We spoke with Littlejohn about some of the personal branding mistakes she’s seen individuals make over the years.  Check out the blunders she identified as well as her tips on how you can turn these mistakes into successes and starting building your personal brand today.

1. Having an “Employee Mentality”

Amanda Miller Littlejohn (AML): Many are comfortable marketing and promoting the company or person they work for, but have hesitation when it comes to promoting themselves. They think of self-promotion as braggy, obnoxious or self-serving, when in fact they would do the same thing, if not more  for their employer, especially, if they are in a marketing role. People who go out and decide to do their own thing and start their own business can still suffer  from that mentality when they don’t want to step out of the shadows. They might want to promote the work of something bigger, instead of promoting their own brand. They sometimes forget that they are the bigger brand.

To fix this,  embrace the spotlight. Speak up when people ask you questions. Step out when you are invited to speak. Look for opportunities to share what you know. At the end of the day, your brand may be all that you have in the next fifteen years.

2. Waiting Until The Last Minute To Build Your Brand

AML: Many times individuals may wait until they are ready to switch jobs or get new clients to start building a brand. A lot of people come to me in that situation. They need to start building a brand immediately because they need an opportunity. That’s a backwards way to go about doing it. Building your brand steadily is more authentic. Opportunities will come to you.

College is a good time to start building your brand. Work on your Linkedin profile (and build your experience) during your undergraduate years. Collect recommendations from advisors and professors. Build the social proof that you need to create credibility around who you are. Although most people won’t be able to look at your college transcript, they can look at your Linkedin profile and see if you are highly recommended, dependable, punctual, etc. Nowadays, everyone is previewing Linkedin profiles before they hire you.  That’s a  really easy place to put positive information about yourself.

3. Not Being Proactive

AML: It’s a great thing to get opportunities that come your way. A better thing is to go after opportunities. The best thing to do is to create opportunities. For example, an example of me waiting for an opportunity would me waiting for you (the reporter) to reach out to me to schedule an interview. Me being proactive (or going after the opportunity) is me calling you up and [pitching] my expertise directly, and saying, “ I know you write for MadameNoire, would you like to interview me?” Me making an opportunity would be realizing that you may not be interested in me at the current time, but [deciding] to create a blog and write something that is reflective and fills a need for the audience I am trying to attract.

People have to be more proactive now because the barrier to entry to create have fallen drastically in the last 15 years. When I was in high school, if you wanted a magazine, website, or newsletter, you had to go to people to make that happen for you. Now, anything you want to do is within reach. If you want a TV show, you can create a YouTube channel. If you want to write a book, you can type it up and submit it to Create Space. This is a response to the technological advances we are experiencing. There are no excuses for  the person that has something to say and wants to create a platform.

4. Using social media only to “be social”

AML: A lot of people use social media for recreation and as a way to keep in touch, but don’t use it as away to make it work for them. I love seeing funny things on Instagram, but are you also putting out your expertise and services? Are you making it for you? I use Instagram to create more awareness around my brand, what I’m doing, what I offer, and what I can do for a new client. I am building an audience. If your social is just fun and games, it’s like you are working for it. It’s not working for you. I don’t think people think strategically. Everyone doesn’t have to use social to create new clients or new business opportunities, but you should be thinking about how social can help you get the things that you want. How can you use it to connect with people across the country or around the world? Use it to create for more credibility for yourself. Your biggest fan might become your biggest customer.”

5. You don’t invest in your brand

AML: In the next 15  years, people who have taken the time to make sure people know who they are and what they can do are going to have a much bigger advantage over those who haven’t. The work world is getting leaner and more efficient. Companies are getting smaller because we have all these tools. In the workplace, questions that test your proficiency with WordPress, digital photography, page layout, video or sound editing will be commonplace. It’s because tools are universally available, inexpensive, or even free. If you don’t know how to use them, you will be behind the times. It may get more cutthroat as far as where opportunities go. For people who are creating opportunities and building their brand, they will have a big advantage over others who are waiting for things to come to them. Investing takes time, thought, and sometimes money. Don’t be afraid to take courses and fill in some skill gaps. These are investments that appreciate. Once you have knowledge and understand how to position and promote yourself, your career always benefits. We invest a lot in how we look, but how are much are we investing in how we “look” in the perceptions of the marketplace? How much are you investing in your reputation and how you come across to other people?

Rana Campbell is a freelance writer and marketing/branding strategist. Connect with her on TwitterFacebook, Instagram, Linkedin or visit ranacampbell.com

‘Grow Your Brand’ Brings Together Millennial Women Entrepreneurs During Social Media Week NY

February 27th, 2015 - By Janel Martinez
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smw15Brooklyn Wine Yard was packed with business-minded women looking to take their startups and companies to the next level. Hosted by Innov8tiv, Ibom LLC, MadameNoire and Social Media Week NY, “Grow Your Brand” provided attendees with invaluable knowledge on what makes a great pitch and ways to brand yourself in the digital age.

The pitch portion, which was hosted by Ariel Lopez, founder of 2020Shift and career coach at General Assembly, and yours truly featured Jessica Santana, co-founder of Brooklyn On Tech and Worldwide Boss; Kianta Key, founder of EveryBody; and Michelle Gall, founder of Digital Girl, Inc., among other women in tech. After each entrepreneur delivered a three-to-five minute pitch, the pitch coaches—Anthony Frasier, co-founder of The Phat Startup; Chana Ewing, founder and president of littlebigGirl + CO; Eddie Washington, business development producer at General Assembly; and Associate Managing Editor at Black Enterprise Janell Hazelwood.

The conversation spread beyond the four corners of the venue and across Twitter timelines via the event’s hashtag, #smwnetworq. Here are several tips shared during Tuesday’s Social Media Week event:

Business Card Too Bland? Creative Business Cards Say More About A Brand

January 30th, 2015 - By Michelle Alerte
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Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Business cards may be the conventional marketing foundation of every company, but being standard doesn’t mean being boring. While nine cards out of 10 are on white stock with colored lettering, there is no rule stating yours can’t be a tool for highlighting the company culture behind your unique brand. These nine creative business cards aren’t just placeholders for your name, website and email. Instead they offer the receiver a glimpse into the lighthearted, serious, techie, or educational nature of your business.

7 Branding & Marketing Tips For Small Business Owners Just Starting Out 

January 15th, 2015 - By Kara Stevens
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Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Once you have decided that you want to start a business, you are going to have to figure out what your business stands for and how you are going to make money.  Since your brand is an extension of you and how you market that brand will determine how long you stay in business, it is extremely important that you create a viable marketing plan so your ideal client will know about you and your products and services and vice versa.

Christine St.Vil and Julian Kiganda, sisters and co-authors of Whose Shoes Are You Wearing? 12-Steps to Uncovering the Woman You Really Want to Be and owners of Moms N’ Charge and Bold & Fearless, respectively have over 20 of years of combined experience in marketing and branding as small business owners.

They shared their tips for marketing and branding your business. Here are three of Kiganda’s tips about branding:

Have total clarity on your WHY. So often, we get into business because we see an opportunity that is too good to pass up, but we’re not always clear on WHY we really want to get into business. The opportunity is less important than the WHY. Why? Because your WHY defines your passion. Your WHY defines your mission—the foundation of a successful company. Your WHY defines your commitment. Your WHY will keep you pushing even when you feel like giving up.

Know who you are. When you know who you are, you understand your value. As it’s been said: You don’t get paid for the work you do in an hour; you get paid for the VALUE you bring to that hour. How can you know your value if you don’t know who you are? I’ve found that taking the time to get clear on who I am, what I want and what I deserve, has helped me become much more focused and clear on the direction in which I want to take my business. Because of that, I can resist the wrong opportunities—no matter how good they look—because they are not aligned with who I am or the vision I have for my life.

Deliver on your promise. There is no faster way to destroy your brand than by making promises to customers and clients that you don’t keep. In this age of social media, it is more important than ever for your brand to deliver. Providing consistently great products and customer service is one of the best types of marketing there is!

Here are St. Vil’s top marketing tips for new entrepreneurs:

Focus on relationship building. The money is in your relationships. People refer business to those they can vouch for, those who they know, like, trust and will go the extra mile. Build relationships that matter and surround yourself with people who you can learn and grow from.

Focus on creating and sharing great content that your audience wants/needs/will benefit from. When you focus your marketing on giving rather than receiving, you will inevitably attract clients/prospects. Don’t make it all about you and what you have to share (sell). Make it about your target audience and what they need, focus on their pain points and strategies to solve them.

Tell your story. People connect to the mess behind your message. Everyone has a story. Until you can face your own and share it with others, it will prevent them (your true audience) from connecting with you. Allow your story to put you in a position of authority and increase your credibility. Do you relate more to those who have never gone through struggle or those who show that they’ve gone through struggle and show you how you can overcome it like they did?

When your business grows, make sure your head stays the same size. Stay humble. When you become a “local celebrity,” or your status in your industry becomes elevated, never forget where you came from. Have integrity with everyone you interact with because you never know how people are connected. Don’t ever stop feeling like you have to stop being humble because you’ve “made it.”

The #BrownGirlBoss Series seeks to provide inspiration, information, and support to aspiring brown girl entrepreneurs. This is Part II of the series.

Connect with Kara @frugalfeminista. Learn more about The Frugal Feminista at www.thefrugalfeminista.com Download her free ebook The 5-Day Financial Reset Plan: Eliminate Debt, Know Your Worth, and Heal Your Relationship with Money in Just 5 Days. Join Kara’s closed $20 Cash Crash Diet Facebook Group to get some sistergirl support and accountability for reaching your savings goals. 

Branding Tips For 2015: The Kimora Lee Simmons Way

December 23rd, 2014 - By Rich
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What will you do differently in 2015 with your personal brand and career? Are you ready to get uncomfortable by channeling your ultimate authenticity? Have you had enough of the same results each year and ready to start believing in your magic? I know I am.

Enter Kimora Lee Simmons, the hardest working mom in Hollywood. KLS is 39, a mom of three (with another on the way), newly married, a savvy entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, producer, top model, television personality and–most importantly–the ultimate #resetter as it relates to rebranding and challenging herself to push the envelope.

kls1images courtesy of KLS.com

So, what is branding, anyway? Simply defined – branding is a consistent experience you (enter name), give off each time you interface with a person or client. Just think of yourself as a delish order of fries from McDonalds, it simply never lets you down no matter what. Can you say the same for your brand?

Recently Simmons, our favorite brand mom, announced that she was ready for a new challenge and was going to shape-shift her brand by launching KLS Kimora Lee Simmons, a collection of clean, tailored and taut designer ready-to-wear (prices range from $500 to $2,400) that reflects a new phase of her life. “When people look at this they say, ‘Oh, this is Kimora when she was 12 or 13 at Chanel,’” she tells WWD, referring to her teenage modeling days, when she was famously plucked from Missouri and put on the Paris runways. “I didn’t have on makeup when I was at Givenchy and Saint Laurent. I worked with the greatest people in the business and this is more back to that person.” Word.

kls2

Life is always changing – if we listen to self, commit to dreaming big and tapping into our inner power we can rebrand, redesign and press reset for the next phase of our life. 2015, here we come!

Let’s learn a few rebranding tips from KLS for 2015!

 

  1. Be authentically you! Enough said.
  2. Embrace change. Manage the ups and downs of your lifestyle (divorce, career, stress, family) with class.
  3. Upgrade your style for 2015! Define your signature look and work it like a rock star.
  4. Diversify your business portfolio. Create an international marketing/pr plan for your business/brand and go for it. Think huge and don’t be afraid to put your face on the product.
  5. Empower the next generation of entrepreneurs. It’s important to groom our children — teach them everything and make certain they understand the business.
  6. Claim it fiscally! It’s not how you start; it’s what you do with the knowledge you have. Start to make changes towards a better life financially.
  7. Make love to your thoughts. Each word, sentence and prose you utter will impact your outlook; make them strong, sexy, and righteous.

Karen Taylor Bass, The PR Expert and Brand Mom, provides entrepreneurs, corporations and mompreneurs with essential branding, marketing and public relations coaching. Follow Karen @thebrandnewmom.

‘America’s Next Top Model’s Raelia Lewis & The Difficult Rise To Modeling Stardom

October 17th, 2014 - By Candace Smith
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Photo credit: Marcus Palmer

Photo credit: Marcus Palmer

For many young girls around the world, modeling is a glamorous dream, bolstered by gazing at pictures of supermodels on the pages of Vogue and practicing a signature runway walk in front of the mirror. For many young Black girls, it is even more difficult for this vision to become a reality.

It may be considered a fantasy by most, but the fact is modeling is a job and it requires business sense, hard work, and determination in order to make a living in the field and grow one’s brand. Deep into the 21st cycle of America’s Next Top Model, Philadelphia native Raelia Lewis is a standout, not just due to her height of 6 feet, ½ inch tall, but also because of her fierce determination to make her name known within one of the toughest industries to ever exist.

Getting her start as a model at the age of 15, Lewis began sourcing her own modeling jobs and photo shoots. “I did some local modeling and by the ages of 17, 18, I branched out and became a freelance model and started to source my own jobs and photo shoots,” Lewis tells us. The work of getting her name and look noticed, much less referred, on a consistent basis was challenging. But for Lewis, the hard work was something that she loved doing. Fast forward six years later and Lewis has made it onto millions of television screens as one of Tyra Banks’ Next Top Model contestants. With a curly weave makeover and tips on how to refine her runway walk, viewers have witnessed Lewis’ transformation into a new kind of model — one that’s discovering the power in her height, body, and mind.

Being self-aware, particularly as a Black fashion model, is important. Modeling agency founder and director Ellen Wasser-Hrin, of MMA/Model Management Agency in Pennsylvania, has seen young women and men rise in their respective modeling careers for 25 years. If you want to be a fashion model, you must have certain body measurements. “Fashion models in the major markets are typically 5’9 to 5’11 and a size 2, with measurements of 34-24-34,” Wasser-Hrin says. “Features of the face should be symmetrical. However, in commercial markets there is a need for a variety of sizes and shapes. Local models do not have to be as thin as they are wanted to be in New York City.”

Even with the right measurements, a perfectly symmetrical face, and endless amounts of energy and fashion sense, Lewis recommends that you focus on yourself. “It’s really tough being an African-American woman in the modeling industry,” Lewis says. “There aren’t too many of us, ever. There is always the ‘token’ or ‘ethnic’ African-American woman model, but there are never enough of us, period. Sometimes I don’t know how I should come off because I may not know what the client or agent is necessarily looking for. All I can do is walk into their offices, be confident, and not let that stop me. There are opportunities out here and I may not book every job, but I just focus on the things that I know I can do and go for it.”

Speaking from the other side of the casting table, Wasser-Hrin also has some valuable advice for all women of various ethnicities that hope to realize their supermodel aspirations. “Send photos to a variety of agencies and be yourself in your pictures as well as in meetings and do not get discouraged. One must have confidence and talent in front of the camera if an agency is going to take notice and want to represent the model or talent. It is important to ‘shine’ from the inside out, so live a healthy lifestyle and show your personality and positive attitude at your castings. Also, never pay an agency for representation.”

To a certain degree, having the “right look” requires a stroke of luck in the genetics department. Still, whether you want to see your face behind a Sprite campaign or strutting on a runway, there are fundamental elements of business that should be highly considered to put you ahead of the pack: knowing yourself (both inside and out) in order to market your brand effectively; being mindful of what is in your control and using that  to your advantage; being attentive to scams; being consistent and persistent; and keeping yourself open to opportunity and change.

“Nothing worth having comes easy, no matter what you want to do in life,” Lewis declares after looking back at how far she has come with her modeling goals. You just have to be willing to work and troop through anything that comes your way. You will get so many no’s, but you have to want it. If you don’t want it, then you won’t see why it’s worth it.”

Get Brand Sexy: 5 Tips To Writing The Perfect PR Plan

July 23rd, 2014 - By Rich
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According to TheRoot.com, African Americans starting a business grew three times the national rate, however, the challenge was staying in business longer than a year.

Here is why: Most people prepare to launch a business, however, not stay in business. As a PR Expert/’Brand’ Mom, I empower my clients to not only write a business plan but, most importantly, the perfect PR plan to bring awareness to the business.

Public Relations is the art of bringing awareness to your personal ‘brand’ via social media, magazines, newspapers, television, blogging, and by any means necessary. Creating the perfect plan is comparable to writing the ultimate love letter. Write boldly about your “wow” factor and most importantly, write a plan like money is no object (when you think small, you get smaller). Also detail what makes your story unique and how it will empower others--write about the challenges you’ve faced and how you triumphed, the service you are bringing to the marketplace that your competition isn’t, and, most importantly, rely on your network to help increase your net worth.

The banks and economists teach us that having a five-year plan is essential for a successful business, however most of us won’t be in business beyond a year. I teach reality - create not only a business plan but also a PR plan in increments of 30, 60 and 90 days. A lot can be accomplished in 30 days (think consistency which will yield results) and stay motivated to reap the rewards.

Here are some sure-fire tips to keep in mind while crafting your PR Plan:

1. Write like a rock star. When you think big, you get big.

2. Crawl before you walk. Believe and know that it takes 30 days for a habit to stick.

3. Showcase your expertise. Use social media to build a following and clientele.

4. Set your price and get paid. No explanation needed.

5. Your Network is your net worth. Create a team of individuals that support and promote you.

Want more? My best-selling book, You Want Caviar But Have Money for Chitins: A Smart Do-It-Yourself PR Guide for Those on A Budget ($15.95, Amazon) offers public relations and branding tips from writing a press release to pitching the media on a budget.