You’ve written for some of the most esteemed publications in the business, like HuffPost, Redbook, Women’s Day, and Glamour, among many others. How did you get started?
I have always been a writer. Even as a child when I was sure I would be the next Marilyn Monroe, I would spend hours writing short stories and diary entries. When I found out that I could major in communications and spend much of my college years writing, I thought I had struck gold. While in school, I took a magazine writing course taught by journalist, Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, and was mesmerized by her and her stories of life in magazine publishing. That was it for me, I was going to write for magazines. I spent years trying to break into the industry, writing for free anywhere I could, and telling everyone who would listen what my dream was. My boss at Morgan Stanley heard about my ambitions and introduced me to his girlfriend who was an editor at Woman’s Day. She looked at my clips and assigned me my first piece, and I started writing for her monthly after that. My other colleague suggested that I apply to write for a comedy site called The Phat Phree. They signed me and that led to an agent finding me and I sold my book, Cinderella Was a Liar a year later. That’s when my relationship writing career really took off.
For five years, you were Preston Bailey’s Global Director of Content, Marketing, Branding, and Digital Strategy. Were you always involved in the events industry? How were you and Preston connected?
By the time I began working for Preston, I was writing monthly relationship pieces for different publications and working for I AM Staggered, the top men’s wedding magazine in the UK. My former iVillage editor, Josey Miller, told me about the opening for Preston. Her (and now our) friend, Victoria Loustalot, was leaving to write her book and Josey put us in contact. I sat with Preston for 10 minutes and he hired me on the spot. I was intimidated and thrilled beyond belief as he was not only an icon, he was one of the most interesting people I had ever met. Working for Preston was a truly life-changing experience full of fun, opportunity, hard work, challenges, adventure, and a lot of love. Today, Preston is like a dad to me and I met some of my closest friends in that job. I will always be proud to be a part of the PB Family.
As a business owner, how have you approached these last few months, given the current climate?
The pandemic hit right as my daughter was born so I was a bit lucky in that I had planned to take a break from work. I have used this time to polish my skillset, mentor business owners, teach free Masterclasses and give as much information to the entrepreneurial community as I can. I feel that the best thing we can do in times like these is to give and exchange information. Not only does it help calm the collective anxiety, but it is also an opportunity to live out core values like transparency, collaboration, and kindness.
Has social media changed as a result of the pandemic? What strategies have you seen work most effectively during this time?
Right now, people are struggling with a number of different challenges. From sick family members and mental health challenges to struggling with real financial and emotional distress. The last thing they want to see are celebrities in mansions or a bunch of unrelatable aspirational images. Relatability, authenticity, and transparency are key themes in the content that is succeeding as is content that addresses hard topics and encourages discussions about important social issues. Now is not the time to shy away from showing a pimple or two. People want to engage with something and someone they trust and that starts with being real.
What advice would you offer to event professionals that want to level up their branding or digital marketing plans?
Take this time to get to know who you are. People use the term “rebrand” but it’s really just a series of consistent tweaks to show that you’re staying at the top of your game. A lot of brands have pretty Instagram galleries but have no idea what their mission is, who their key demographic is, or how to market to them. When was the last time you have researched generational marketing tips or checked if you’re using banned hashtags? How recently have you reviewed the content on your website to make sure it’s up-to-date and what are your themes and plans for your content in the next 3 months? I don’t ask this to overwhelm anyone but to point out that a lot of people just keep tugging along doing what they have always done and not taking control of their brand beyond Instagram. What good is a beautiful gallery if your team has no internal process or your materials all have different fonts and messaging? Try to set aside an hour a week to do a bit of research and another to work on a collateral refresh. You don’t have to do it all at once but just doing what you have always done because it has worked won’t work anymore. I also love to remind clients that winging it is not a strategy.
If you were to leave us with something to think about, what would it be?
When faced with a decision, my favorite question to ask myself is, “What would 90-year-old Brenda tell you to do?” How would your 90-year-old self feel about the decisions you’re making.
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