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

It’s Not Personal – or Is It?

When Twitter first arrived on the scene a few years ago, it took a long while for businesses to jump on the bandwagon. A few brave souls were early adopters but even today, there’s still a lot of skepticism on whether or not social media is appropriate and valuable for business. I think we’ve made it clear here that we believe it is, but if you’re still wondering, take a look at some of the biggest “web-celebs” (individuals popular on the web and who have successfully used it to build and extend their brand) and their use of social media. Many of them use it solely for the purpose of business – you rarely, if ever, see a personal update from them. So, although one might argue that these folks are focused on “personal branding,” ultimately, they are using their recognition to grow their businesses. A few examples:

Pete Cashmore (he moved over to Google Buzz in lieu of his “personal” Twitter account)

Robert Scoble (a few scattered personal comments but usually around where he is, especially with his current focus to travel the world to study how start-ups are formed)

Guy Kawasaki (“firehose” is putting it lightly)

Michael Arrington (if you don’t count semi-arguments with people trying to get his attention through controversial engagement)

Brian Solis (the most personal current Tweets are around his own book)

On the flip side, there are several examples of some new “web celebs” who often share personal updates, sometimes posting such random things like quotes from their favorite song, or what they had for dinner. Folks like Laura Fitton of oneforty, Penelope Trunk (who is a writer, so perhaps this is part of her persona), Chris Brogan (also a blogger, but now also a marketer) and Peter Shankman (of HARO fame) all share a combination of personal viewpoints and professional insights.

Then there’s a lot of talk about the new “over sharing” of personal information around location-based technologies, such as Foursquare. If you missed the latest hoopla, check out this TIME story on Please Rob Me and the dangers of getting too personal online. A recent PR-specific example of over sharing is the young lady who was hired – and then had her offer rescinded – by People’s Revolution (a fashion PR firm and center of the BravoTV show, Kell On Earth) for tweeting about her job interview.

So what’s my point? It’s really more of a question – are those who keep content more professional-focused and less personal-focused, more successful in business? Have social media networks crossed the chasm from personal fun to serious business tool? If so, why are so many brands still hesitant to make the leap into social marketing? Clearly, these few examples are only a small part of the social media population – but they are also strong examples of those who have successfully grown their personal brand through heavy use of social media and digital content.

What’s your style? Do you have a preference of the type of people that you connect with in social networks? Is it better as a business/executive – especially a marketer – to keep what you share 100% professional? I tend to believe that as a PR executive, social networks give us the opportunity to show that we’re human, more intelligent than often given credit for, and interested and passionate about many of the very products and services we promote. However, I often wonder whether or not I should post anything personal on my social networks. My historical preference has been to strike a balance between professional and personal posts, although with Facebook I really struggle – should I be posting anything personal? If I want to be personal, should I only accept “friends” who are truly friends in real life (you know, those people I’ve actually met and share common interests with)?

What do you think? I’m particularly interested in hearing from those who have built brand awareness online and if such success came from staying on one side of the fence or another. Thanks in advance for “sharing.”