Andy Warhol famously said; ‘In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.’ Looking at where our society is heading, it may end up that it is really true, from the explosion of reality TV to the growth of social media, fame and notoriety are closer than ever before.
Ten years ago, PR and Marketing professionals stood behind their brands, building them from the inside, carefully controlling them and their image. These days, we’re doing this and on top of that we’re branding ourselves. The humble PR’s are finding that as well as publicising a brand, or a personality, we now have to consider our own persona. Beyond that, journalists and stylists are no longer confined to behind the scenes, they are not only editing fashion pages but they are in the magazines, wearing the very clothes they are talking about and demonstrating how to style them.
Overnight it seems that we are now at a point where you simply have no choice, and you must consider your own social online presence. From your Linked In updates to your photos on Instagram, your online persona is your brand, and you have to consider the ramifications of everything you put out there. This is not always easy. I have spent a lifetime making things run smoothly from the control room, and now here I am trying to decide who I am. What I represent, what my identity is, thinking about my USP? However, for some the transition has been a much smoother and infinitely successful. @DKNYPRGirl and @OscarPRGirl are two great examples of PR’s which have successfully built an online following through their clear and consistent approaches seemlessly mixing their work life with an engaging Twitter portfolio.
And it’s not just PR, anyone can be their own brand, you only have to look at the Beckham’s or the Kardashian’s to realise how much mileage there is in an enticing brand backed by a hard work ethic, because taking the decision to be your own brand means that you are on stage 24/7. This is not something which is only defined by the fashion and lifestyle world, this also extends out to sport, politics, art and so on – you name it, whatever your field is, there will be a few key voices online and offline who the industries will look to for comments. However, word of caution, careful of tweeting for tweeting’s sake, or just starting up a blog because it has ‘a funny name’ or adding a picture to Instagram a picture of yourself in a half-naked if your USP is politics. Social media is social, be friendly, but remember if you start your blog or social media to enhance your career, stay on brand and steer clear of anything you wouldn’t be happy for your boss to see. Image is everything. Above all, don’t tweet when drunk. Ever. No good can come of it.
Becoming your own brand is the kind of project that, at least in the early days, takes weeks and weeks of work, research and fine tuning to get it right. What is surprising though, is how it is gathering pace. Every student graduating seems to have a blog, as do stylists, journalists and PR and marketing professionals, who quite often will run these blogs alongside their day job. For example, Emily Johnston of FashionFoieGras says ‘I worked in PR for ten years at an auction house and started the blog one day thinking I wanted to do something more’. She juggled both until the blog was successful enough for her to work full-time on that. There was a point where writing a blog alongside your job would have been a negative aspect, taking away from your day-to-day role. Now the tables have turned, your blog, or your social presence can add to your role. If you have amassed an army of fans on Twitter because of your field, you can ultimately enhance the company you are working for, and drive traffic to that company or website. The endorsement is there for all to see in sheer numbers.
So many of us have taken to social media slowly, hoping that it might accidentally become less relevant if we avoid it. Countless times I’ve looked up an inspirational speaker at a conference, or searched for an influential journalist on Twitter to find that they ‘just don’t doooo Twitter.’ But the grace period is over, many businesses are encouraging staff to take to social media as they embrace the 360 degrees, holistic approach. Even if you are not a natural at social media, the time has certainly come where you have to learn because it adds so much value to the overall business – magazines, retail and newspapers often add their links to their social media handles on their articles now. Marie Claire magazine devotes a whole page in each issue to Twitter handles and biographies of all their team. ElleUK’s approach is led by Editor Lorraine Candy – merging the print, online and social aspects into a singular omni channel offering that every member of staff follows.
It is certainly food for thought for new graduates, taking their first steps into the industry.I was recently sifting through CVs as I was recruiting for a Content Editor, and the first thing I did? Google them. I didn’t expect them to have zillions of followers, but I would have been impressed to see that they were aware of their social presence. Even though, I would not want to encourage anyone to HAVE to be online if they didnt want to be, my own expectations are now that if you work in online, marketing, PR or are a journalist, I’d want to recruit a person who is grasping the changing landscape with both hands. When hiring, you are no longer hiring the person, you’re hiring all that they represent. If you have been in your career for years and years and feel like there’s no point in starting now, I would tell you that you can still do it! And I hazard a guess that the articles or social media comments, backed by all your years of experience, will be more meaningful and appreciated than you realise.
If you are ready to be a brand, then congratuations, you join the many freelancers, stylists PRs and journalists that have their own blogs or websites and you can start to define yourself against a sea of others. It makes me wonder whether in the future, we will all operate as individuals, ready to hire on a freelance basis. We’ll say goodbye to 40 hour weeks…actually, we’ll probably just work constantly in a different way – checking our iPhone, emailing from our blackberry, networking via Linked In, the more adaptable you can be and tech savy the better. Just remember, be careful what you tweet, the whole world can see it.
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