Ad Agencies & How to Build a Brand from Scratch
This blog post was highly requested. I always get asked about how I started my personal brand and landed jobs at two of Kansas City's best advertising agencies before the age of 25, so I decided to share all my branding secrets. Today I'm sharing my agency story and how to build a brand from scratch.
Started from the bottom
Before we talk strategy, let's talk timing. I started building my personal brand with my first blog, Thee Fashion Stories, back in November 2012. Don't worry about checking out the domain because somebody else owns it now. At one point in time, someone was selling knockoff designer bags using the domain. I tried to repurchase the domain after it expired, but it was going to costs me close to $1,000.
Thee Fashion Stories was all about celebrity style, Polyvore outfit collages and whatever random thoughts crossed my mind. Instagram wasn't popping back then so I'd share new content to my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts. Once I started to gain traction, I started a Facebook fan page and new Twitter account. Twitter was the place to be ratchet back then, so a new account was both necessary content wise and easy to attract new followers. Everyone had a Twitter in circa 2012-2014.
New Blog, Who Dis?
Finally, in 2014 I started Jasmine Diane to give my content a focus... me, myself and I. I would share style posts, breakup news, write through depression and cover fashion shows in Kansas City and Columbia. I was thirsty to attend any fashion show that I could. I was "that blogger" at every show before bloggers were a big deal. I would email or direct message show producers without a second thought. I never imagined being a sought-after blogger in the beginning... I just followed my passion.
In between class, writing blog posts and attending fashion shows I would create content nonstop. I'd skip out on parties to finish posts and go home to attend Kansas City Fashion Week. Aside from written content, I had a few money makers. I sold jewelry, handmade beanies and arched eyebrows in between working on my site.
One could kind of say that, I've always been a busybody and my brand is busy too. I never realized that I was building my brand by creating content, sharing posts on social media and attending shows, but I was. People are always watching so what are you showing them?
Your personal brand is what is perceived about you, not who you want to be. Choose to be authentic always. People can spot a fake from a million miles away.
Building my brand after college
Now fast forward to 2015, when I graduated from Mizzou. I applied for a social media position with the Plaza Art Fair ran by Highwoods Properties. Highwoods used to own the Country Club Plaza, a popular shopping district in Kansas City. I was responsible for communicating with Art Fair artists, the Plaza's email newsletter, and scheduling Facebook content. This is where I learned to schedule Facebook posts and strategize content from multiple sources. Ultimately, I got bored with this position and started searching for my next opportunity.
Once I put in my two weeks, I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders and I began to intern for two entrepreneurs, Brooke and Megh. Brooke and Megh opened my eyes up to advertising and encouraged me to apply for social media positions. Once that internship ended, I began working for Barkley with Dairy Queen as my client. I would have never applied for a position at Barkley without Brooke and Megh's encouragement and recommendations. It is important to have mentors in different fields throughout your career.
Fun times at Barkley
Fast forward a year later, I landed my dream job at VML working on Express. I wouldn’t have landed the job at VML without agency experience and techniques that I learned at Barkley. Every job or hustle that I’ve ever had makes me more qualified to do my current job. That crazy retail internship in college, gives me store insight.
I am saying this to remind you that every position makes you better for the next. Learn what you can from every stage of your journey.
It hasn't been a year yet, but I'm still obsessed with my job. Everything that I learned as an intern, at Barkley and from experience with my personal brand landed me here. It took years of building my name "Jasmine Diane" both at work and online.
Now that you've got the background scoop. Here are some tips to help you build your brand from scratch.
Always create content
You must create content to get noticed. Content means social media posts, blog posts, videos, articles, studies, etc. Become an industry expert by sharing your knowledge. I share my blog post to every social channel that I have including LinkedIn. Do not be afraid of sharing your voice.
I can’t stress the importance of creating Instagram content if you want to work in a creative field enough. My Instagram feed has gone from randomness, to crazy colors, to overwhelming filters and so much more since I created my account. But as you can see, I’ve been consistent about posting my journey. People want to know people not robots. You are your brand, so don’t be afraid to show your favorite books, where you like to eat and the important people in your life. My Instagram account is a pretty accurate depiction of some of the best days of my life. You can be open and honest without sharing your deepest darkest secrets. For more Instagram related posts click here.
My Instagram feed through the years
Apply even when you aren't qualified
This is a major key, especially for women. I applied for a high level social position at VML and landed an interview. I didn't get that position, but I caught the recruiters eye. I didn't let the qualifications or my fear of failure stop me from applying. Tighten up your resume and cover letter and apply for that position, sis. If you don't apply for it, then someone else will. Bet on yourself.
Ad agencies are all about showing up physically and mentally. If you are in a room, it's because someone thought that you were beneficial to the conversation. It can be difficult to find your voice in the beginning, but you must push past the fear. I had to tell myself that I deserve to sit in rooms with my colleagues. I was disappointed to find out that Black people weren't ever in the same rooms as me. My biggest pet peeve with ad agencies, especially in Kansas City is their lack of diversity. We will revisit this conversation.
I hope that this post helped you to see that it takes time to make a name for yourself, but it is possible. Leave all your comments and questions below.