February 24, 2014, 1:47 p.m.
by Addison Viani.
An entrepreneur identifies opportunities, discovers new solutions to a problem and differentiates from competitors. However, having an idea or solution to a problem can only go so far without exposure. The key to developing a successful new venture is through the skillful use of public relations and marketing.
The words “free” and “inexpensive” are music to an entrepreneur’s ears. Spending money on a public relations campaign is often the last thing on the business plan, but with today’s technology, communicating key messages and building customer relationships are practically effortless. Social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have provided a way for business owners to connect with targeted audiences without spending a dime.
Young entrepreneurs Kristin Clark and Erica Jackson can attest to the importance of social media and brand recognition within a growing business. Clark and Jackson each have a passion for creativity, fashion and design. These women have taken full advantage of presented opportunities and branded themselves in ways appealing to their markets.
Meet the business starters
Professional blogger and freelance PR and marketing consultant Kristin Clark has built her brand with her experience and knowledge in public relations and her successful use of social media. Clark’s blogsite, Living in Color Print, allows Clark to share her personal fashion and lifestyle with the world. The blog’s consistent idea, photo and promotional updates generate word-of-mouth recognition and a large audience base. This formula attracts not only those interested in following Living in Color Print, but becomes a marketing tool for potential hires.
Erica Jackson, along with her sister, Tina Jackson, are the owners of VELINA. VELINA sells contemporary jewelry pieces that are handcrafted with beads and stones from around the world. VELINA keeps customers engaged with promotional giveaways and trunk shows, and by forming strong relationships with retailers. Erica Jackson applied her knowledge of public relations and social media to build and promote VELINA.
Clark and Jackson share how critical PR and marketing are when starting a business venture. The young entrepreneurs discuss their personal experiences, strategies and challenges as they continue to pursue their passions.
Knowledge + experience
Clark — “It’s everything in my business. From becoming a professional full-time blogger to launching my freelance PR and marketing business, the information I was taught in school, paired with real life experience from past internships and jobs set me up for a real understanding of the industry and what’s expected. I’m able to navigate both sides of the industry, being that I’m a writer with a media outlet and perform PR work for clients. There’s no price tag on having a keen understanding of what both parties’ expectations are and being able to deliver the results they’re looking for.”
Jackson — “My knowledge of PR and marketing has been everything when it comes to building, promoting and expanding VELINA. We first had to know what type of product we wanted to sell, and then whom exactly, as far as clientele, we’re trying to reach. Knowing which audience we want to attract, that determines everything regarding how our brand is built and perceived.”
The social media strategy
Clark — “Being knowledgeable about popular and up-and-coming platforms will make you a huge asset to a company. Social media is a way I’ve gotten the word out there about my business, and I have even gotten clients and/or referrals from utilizing those tools. I think LinkedIn is the best platform for business relations and obtaining clients, but I also love Twitter to really engage with my fans and get the conversation started.”
Jackson — “Social media helps us reach a mass audience at once; and we use verbiage in our posts that bring our audience to a ‘call to action’… Wording that encourages them to ‘shop,’ ‘share,’ ‘comment,’ etc.”
Standing out in the crowd
Clark — “I help educate my clients, from an insider’s perspective, on how we can take their business to the next level through PR. I think at the end of the day, PR is a very competitive field in general; however, competition breeds excellence. Doing your best to stay on top of the trends and what’s coming next is really the best way to go. Being creative with your branding and strategies is always key — sometimes you just have to go for it!”
Jackson — “I think what we try to do is focus on is why we love what we do; our story is different: two sisters with a unique background. Our experiences have influenced and inspired us, and we take those things and let them run free in our creations and visions for VELINA. PR and marketing strategies help us tell that story; and hopefully that sets us above comparison.”
Facing the challenges
Clark — “Obtaining clients in the beginning was difficult because I ultimately didn’t have much to stand on other than my word and knowledge of PR tactics. Of course, I had previous projects that were similar, but nothing substantial as a reference point for new business. As a result, I lowered my pricing in order to get my feet off the ground. That quickly turned into a surplus of business where I was able to enlist help and raise prices.”
Jackson — “Hardships come with everything. Getting your name out there is always a challenge. And you’re always going to run into things that will discourage you, but we’re lucky. We’re a sister-team; we have each other to stand on, and no one in the world knows us better than we know each other.”
Words of advice
Clark — “Learn as much as you possibly can before entering the workforce. Enroll in internships with a variety of brands and fields! Be a sponge in your surroundings and immerse yourself in your experiences to discover new aspects of the business that you’re interested in. Whether it was learning how to work with difficult people, learning time management (something I still struggle with to this day), learning what it’s like to work in an extremely fast-paced, deadline-oriented atmosphere, learning who I do and do not want to work for, etc. The list goes on and on, but those experiences were so valuable to me, so I would encourage any young aspiring entrepreneur to do the same — never take an opportunity for granted.”
Jackson — “If you have an idea, run with it. Make a plan, work hard, don’t stop. Remember who you are and remember why you started. Not everyone is given that entrepreneurial spirit, and if you have it, you’re meant to. So have faith in it and in what you can do. There’s no better time than right now. The best practice is to try. Try something, see how it works. If it doesn’t, reevaluate your strategy. Nothing is set in stone and brands grow and morph and undergo major changes as they mature. It’s your art; it grows and matures as you do.”
Having an innovative idea or a strong passion may seem to be enough, but it is just the beginning. It has been said that luck is the intersection of hard work and opportunity. This is never more true than with a start-up business venture. Starting a business from scratch is no easy task, but one thing is for certain — the use of public relations and marketing can either make it or break it. Clark and Jackson are two successful business owners who have learned this lesson firsthand.