Business Lessons Learned from Kelly Cutrone

Kelly CutroneBefore I read Kelly Cutrone’s New York Times best seller, “If You Have to Cry Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You,” I caught a few episodes of her reality show, “Kell on Earth” documenting her fashion PR firm, People’s Revolution. While I wasn’t completely impressed with the operation as documented on the show, it piqued my curiosity and made me want to learn more about the PR icon and her road to success.

After reading the book, I have a lot more respect for what she’s been able to build at People’s Revolution, given her early struggles with both her personal life and her career. In my opinion, Kelly’s most important lessons aren’t just about PR – they are about life and what we expect our lives to be. She talks a lot about discovering yourself and having a chance to transform your ideals time and time again, before you can become successful.

There are some valuable business lessons here we can all learn from, no matter which end of the PR spectrum, industry or stage of your career.

  • Awaken your soul: You shouldn’t expect that if you do everything your parents/the media/your friends tell you to do you will be happy. You have to listen to your inner voice and find out your own desires within your soul; without any outside expectations for who you should be and what should make you happiest in life.
  • Life is unpredictable: You need a strong foundation to support the twists in the road and need to be able to adjust your plan accordingly. Kelly credits her “tribe” with helping her get to where she is today. She went from nursing student to training nurses for NutriSystem, to publicist, to homeless and unemployed, to tarot card reader and musician, among other things, before achieving her current position on top of a very successful fashion PR business.
  • Know your place in the pack (no matter what business you are in): Leaders steer the direction and protect the pack, teachers teach, hunters hunt, etc. “Knowing your place in the pack doesn’t mean restricting your contributions; it just means keeping your entitlement in check,”  My takeaway is that we are all part of a bigger team aiming to reach a common goal; we all have to pull our weight, and if every manager explained business teams and org charts this way to fresh faced interns or new employees, they may take more advantage of the lessons others in “the pack” could teach them. And in turn, worry less about entitlement and more about achieving success for their own future potential.
  • Develop your own personal brand -- and be who you truly are: Kelly is dressed in all black all the time, and this is how she is most comfortable in her own skin. She has made this and her no-nonsense approach to client service, her personal brand. She knows that if clients are looking for something other than what she offers, they will go somewhere else to find representation, and that’s ok with her. If you try to be someone or something you are not, you will fail. Decide what your personal brand is and what you can offer your clients that is unique and refreshing and stick to that.
  • Use the phone: Kelly reiterates what we all already know. In today’s digitally-inclined, socially-networked world, too much time is spent detaching ourselves from real relationships and emotions. We are obsessed with apps and devices that are supposed to make us feel more connected when in reality, they are making us more isolated from forming real relationships. We need to spend more time on the phone, not less, to show our human side and make more human contact, not less.
  • If you have to cry go outside: This isn’t just about showing over-the-top emotions in the workplace, but rather a lesson on balance. We all need to realize that work isn’t life, and you need to have a sense of balance in life outside of your job to put that into perspective. You learn this as you progress through life experiences, overcome challenges and manage a crisis – or 12 or a hundred. You gain the experience needed to improve your place in the pack and handle the situation no matter how tough it is.

Did you read the book? What did you think? What was your top takeaway from it that you will apply to your career? Please share your comments and any other lessons learned below.

 

I Know You, I Know You

At last week’s PRSA T3PR conference, one of the audience questions to me was whether or not today’s “marketing celebs” overshadow their clients. The question was asked with the comment, “I know a lot of the marketing ‘Twilebrities,’ for example, but I don’t know any of their clients.”

My reply was that I didn’t think it was an issue – that maybe you are not the client’s core audience and therefore the marketer hasn’t promoted any of his or her client news to you. You may know the marketer because he or she talks about marketing, business, PR, social media – all things you would want to be paying attention to as a fellow marketer. But, if their client sells widgets and you don’t buy widgets, it makes sense that you wouldn’t know the client. In fact, dare I say the marketer might be doing a bad job – over-promoting his or her own work to the wrong audience – if you did know all of his or her clients. Wouldn’t it get annoying if they talked so much about their own work – instead of promoting to you what you find valuable, such as shared insights, experiences and – when the time or circumstance is right – client news, products or services?

Here’s an example. A year ago I had a conversation with Jason Keath, founder of SoFresh, a social media conference for marketers. At the time, he was consulting for several companies on marketing and social media. I paid attention to Jason because he’s a fellow marketer and I was interested in his posts about marketing. I learned about some of his client work as well – but to this day the only client of his I remember is one that I was personally interested in (because it involved shoes). Likewise, I follow other industry colleagues and competitors because I’m interested in their marketing and PR insights, not necessarily because I’m interested in their clients’ products and services. I remember the ones that do apply to me – something I would buy or use – but I pay attention to the marketers because I think they have smart things to say about marketing, PR and social media opportunities and challenges.

Some, like Kelly Cutrone of People’s Revolution, I learned about and began listening to because she’s a PR veteran and I am interested in learning from her. Now, as a lover of fashion, I also happen to pay attention to her client work. But even if I weren’t a fashion fiend, I’d follow what Kelly does because I value her stories and experiences in PR.

What do you think? Are today’s influential marketers overshadowing their clients?

PS – Just for fun, my headline’s a nod to an SNL skit. Who knows which one?

Photo Credit: Michael Halsband

Are You A PR Influencer?

Even though 99% of everything you do in PR is on behalf of your company or your client, are you working on becoming an influencer yourself? Our own @missusp spoke last Friday afternoon at the PRSA Technology Conference in New York on the topic of PR professionals as influencers and shared her insights into how our role is changing. She highlighted several PR & digital marketing professionals turned influencers including: Chris Brogan, Kelly Cutrone, Steve Rubel, Peter Shankman, Brian Solis, Scott Monty, Ann Handley, Sarah Evans and more. You can see her full presentation on SlideShare or check out some of the key tips and takeaways below:

  • It’s about YOU – PR professionals aren’t just "flaks," we’re tastemakers — choosing to work with the best and brightest upcoming brands, products and services. Embrace your role as an influencer and share your thoughts, insights, opinions – we have a better chance than ever to show how intelligent we really are.
  • Build your personal brand – YOU are your personal brand  and guess what – it lasts forever. Put some care into making sure it’s a brand you’re proud of. Great examples of personal brands include Gary Vaynerchuk, Julia Roy and more.
  • Do what you know and do it well – especially in PR! Bad pitches are now public – often the subjects of a reporter’s wrath – so “do what you already know how to do” but do it well because the footprint you build now will stay with you forever.
  • Share, Share, Share (with your networks) — the difference between simply being a member of a social network and being an influencer is sharing valuable content. Think about how you can help others.
  • Write a book — or at least a blog! PR executives need to be great writers and that means doing it well and doing it often. Blogs also give you another platform for sharing insights and opinions – embracing that role as a tastemaker -  as do Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks where you can be a resource with answer, opinions and thoughts. The point is to write – it keeps your skills sharp and increases your credibility as a PR professional.
  • Don’t say you are (just) in PR — our role has changed and we are so much more than PR pros now. Know the new terms used to describe our profession and make sure you are referring to all of your expertise, as it has now evolved to include digital and social media marketing, for example. As a leader, you should recognize when to change your messaging to meet the growing demands of our industry. You’ll notice many of the best-known PR leaders don’t even have "PR" in their company descriptions anymore. Some do – but regardless, all the strongest marketing influencers today include terms such new media, social media and digital marketing in their expertise description.
  • Make your own rules (within reason) – be bold and innovative. Take risks. Try new things – the best PR and marketing often comes from throwing out the old rules and making your own.
  • Remember it’s all about you (but really it isn’t) — we are all well versed at building relationships online and off and we continue to find new ways to leverage our communication skills for the better good of our companies and clients. Building your personal brand is important, but remember; you are doing all of this for the betterment of your clients and ultimately positive exposure for them. Your own influence on social networks is becoming directly related to how successful you will be with generating buzz for your clients.

Thanks to all who attended the session on Friday and for all the #TechPRSA tweeting. It was a great event!