Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion is about Personal Branding

Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion is about Personal Branding

If Lisa Kudrow only starred in Friends, we could still classify her as a legend. But thankfully, she didn’t stop there. I’m here to talk about her 1997 film with Mira Sorvino, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, and how it’s a perfect metaphor for personal branding.
 
 
Since it’s been 24 years, I hope I don’t have to warn you about a spoiler alert, but it’s on Hulu if for some reason you haven’t seen this iconic film.
 

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A Recap of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion

The movie starts with Romy and Michele freaking out about how they’ve lived such average lives. They worry they won’t impress their old classmates when they return for their high school reunion. 
 
 
Vying for acceptance, Romy and Michele completely reinvent themselves. They look for jobs, join the gym, start diets, and schmooze their way into borrowing a fancy car to pull up to the reunion. 
 
 
But what bothers me most is how they abandoned the eclectic style they’ve had since high school for black blazers and refined updos. My favorite scene is when they walk into a diner while on their road trip, dressed to impress in straight-laced, professional attire, and ask if they offer a businesswoman’s special. 
 
Unfortunately, they don’t, but this should really be a thing. 
 
 
As you know, Romy and Michele end up fabricating their accomplishments and tell their classmates that they invented Post-Its. But this backfires in the best way.
 
Their lie gets blown up and they become the laughing stock of the reunion, thanks to Heather Mooney who somehow knew that Art Frey is the real Post-It phenom. As they wallow in shame for a bit, Romy and Michele soon realize they should just be themselves.
 
By the end of the movie, they ditch their suits for outfits they designed — ones that reflect their true style they’ve had all along.
 
 
 
They end up getting both the last laugh and the last dance at the reunion, and they literally fly away with Sandy Frink in his helicopter. 
 
 
You may recall the happy ending where Romy and Michele open their own fashion boutique! While they were bullied for their unique outfits as teenagers, fashion has always been a constant interest in their lives. This passion was there all along, but it took them a while to tap into it. 
 
 

The Personal Branding Lesson from Romy & Michele

 
We all go through a similar journey when building our personal brand — or at least I did. Rather than reflecting and sharing who we really are, we’re tempted to create a more impressive, yet inauthentic, façade. We ask ourselves what other people want, vs. what we want.
 
I had this challenge when I started prioritizing my online presence as a marketer. I created a polished, stiff online profile complete with buzzwords and corporate headshots with a fake smile.
 
That’s what I thought the industry wanted me to do.
 
It wasn’t working.
 
I didn’t want to critique Fortune 500 campaigns or use showy jargon to share my knowledge or thoughts on marketing. That’s not who I am. I wanted to talk about branding lessons from the Spice Girls, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or AJ McLean’s nail polish line. That’s me.
 
The first lesson we learn in marketing is to know your audience. But with personal branding, you have to know YOURSELF. I know this sounds like the antithesis to what every marketer has always been taught. But it’s true — with your personal brand, your audience doesn’t come first. You do.
 
If you’re creating content just to look cool for other people, you’re destined to be really unhappy. The foundation of your personal brand should be to express yourself, not to impress others. If you start building for the wrong reasons, you’ll never have the passion to keep going. 
 
Create what you want to create and what makes you feel most like yourself. I doubted this advice at first. I didn’t think you’d care about marketing lessons from an old ’90s film.  I thought I’d never be taken seriously as a marketer by sharing what I truly wanted to share.
 
But trust me, your people will find you. Being yourself is the only way to attract the right audience. And that being said, I’m SO happy you’re here. I hope you’ve learned a thing or two from this silly little blog.
 
 
User-Generated Content isn’t Always Great Content: How to Use It Wisely

User-Generated Content isn’t Always Great Content: How to Use It Wisely

I was going down a YouTube rabbit hole the other day and I ended up watching an old episode of TRL from the year 2000. Melissa Joan Hart and Britney Spears were hosting in Carson Daly’s absence. Besides the fact that Mambo #5 was on the countdown, I was reminded of something even more interesting.
 
Melissa Joan Hart starts talking about a contest TRL is running where audience members can submit original artwork to potentially be featured on TRL merchandise. She and Britney introduce the artists and share the designs on screen — all of which were hand-drawn sketches.
 
But what I found most remarkable was how Melissa and Britney called the audience to action. If others were interested in submitting their artwork to the contest, they couldn’t upload it to social media. They had to FAX it in. I couldn’t help but smile when TRL’s fax line popped on the screen: (212) 258-8719.
 
You can watch around the 3-minute mark here:
 

 
Think about how limiting this was. I imagine there were thousands of people who would’ve wanted to enter their designs, but the barriers to entry were high. They couldn’t fire their work off in an email, submit a form, or upload to social media. They had to have access to a fax machine. 
 
I wonder if marketing and social media managers know how lucky we are today. On a daily basis, our audience gifts us a bank of content we can share from our brand channels, with their permission of course. And on the other side of that, your audience has more opportunities to express themselves and share content that is meaningful to them. 
 
The opportunities for user-generated content are endless. We can receive unlimited content, all in an instant. But just because you could use UGC, doesn’t always mean you should. Let’s discuss some considerations when managing and sharing user-generated content. 
 
 

How to Make the Most of User-Generated Content

 
I’ll start with the hardest, yet most important tip. Screen your UGC! While we love content that is authentic, you should still have a level of standards before reposting a piece of content. Some UGC is good, but not good enough. Look for basic quality guidelines like image clarity, lighting, audio quality, etc. 
 
Ask yourself if you’re sharing this piece of content because it’s helpful, informative, or entertaining to your larger audience, or if you’re only sharing it simply to spotlight the original user. 
 
You can still express gratitude and show appreciation for the user without reposting their content. A simple DM, comment, or like on the post is often enough to make the user feel special. You’re not leaving them out, and they’re just as likely to keep posting just for being acknowledged. 
 
 
Also, remember there are certain etiquette rules when it comes to user-generated content. First of all, always ask permission before resharing it. Just because a user shared it on their own channels, doesn’t necessarily mean they’d like it broadcast to your entire audience. Plus, reaching out to thank them for the content and ask permission only strengthens the relationship. It’s much better than just taking their content without initiating a conversation. 
 
 
Okay, so now you’ve determined the UGC is high enough quality and you have permission to share. But your job goes beyond simply retweeting or reposting. In order for your UGC to have the most impact, you have to give it meaningful context.
 
This is where most UGC, including testimonials, falls flat. Unless the content does a great job storytelling all on its own, you will likely have to provide those additional details. 
 
For instance, let’s say you’re a realtor who is tagged in a photo your clients posted standing in front of their new house you helped sell. Rather than just reposting it, tell us more about the couple and how you met their needs. Give your audience something they can potentially relate to as well. Is this a young couple who is expecting their first child and needed more space? What were they looking for in a home and where did they find it? How desperately were they searching before you were able to help?
 
This added background helps your larger audience see themselves in the content, too, and realize that you have the solution they may need. “If it worked for them, it will work for us.”
 
 
Lastly, remember that attention is scarce. If you reshare every single piece of UGC without context or adding value, you will slowly chip away at your audience’s attention, and they may tune you out for good. 
 
For example, if you run a fitness studio and you often get tagged in your customers’ post-workout mirror selfies, resharing several of these back-to-back, day-after-day is BORING. There are only so many Boomerangs we can take! 
 
We’ve all seen those brands with endless Instagram Stories that don’t hold our attention. And don’t even get me started on those people who tag a friend in a post, then that friend reshares the tag, and then the original tagger reshares the tag! You’re just spamming your audience at that point.

 
 
Don’t just reshare so you have a steady stream of content. Reposting all of your UGC can be tempting, and it surely makes our jobs easier, but it can do more harm than good. 
 
You know how it goes… always make sure your content adds value. It has to be worthwhile. 
 
The Streisand Effect: A Must-Know for Every Marketer or PR Pro

The Streisand Effect: A Must-Know for Every Marketer or PR Pro

You don’t have to be a Barbra Streisand fan or have grown up in her era of music to know just how respected she is. She is known as one of the greatest voices of all time. But beyond her voice and music legacy, we can thank Barbra Streisand for helping create a social phenomenon called ‘The Streisand Effect’. And it’s absolutely something every marketer should know about.
 

 
 

What is The Streisand Effect?

 
Let’s rewind back to 2003. 
 
Long before drones were created, a company called California Coastal Records Project captured an aerial photograph of Barbra Streisand’s sprawling beachfront mansion on the coast of Malibu. Although many photographers in California are known for invading the privacy of celebrities, this case was likely inadvertent. The photo was taken in an effort to create awareness about coastal erosion — not necessarily to reveal Barbra Streisand’s residence. That may have been a coincidence. 
 
The photographer, Kenneth Adelman, published the photos on his website. Barbra Streisand then filed a $50 million lawsuit against him, calling for him to “remove an aerial photograph of Streisand’s mansion from the publicly available collection of 12,000 California coastline photographs.” 
 
Aerial shot of Barbra Streisand's mansion off the coast of Malibu, CA

By Kenneth Adelman

 
At the time she filed the lawsuit, the image had only been downloaded from Adelman’s website six times; two of which were downloads by Streisand’s attorneys. As a result of the case, paired with Barbra Streisand’s celebrity status, public interest in the photograph grew immensely. By the end of the month, 420,000 people visited the site. Boy, did that backfire! 
 
‘The Streisand Effect’ occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information, usually via the Internet.
 
It reminds me of the episode of Friends when Ross and Rachel get a new ‘hot nanny’. Ross forbids Joey from pursuing her, which only makes him want her more. 
 
 
Spoiler alert: we later learned she’s a lesbian. Crisis averted! 
 
 

The Streisand Effect in News & Pop Culture

 
We’ve seen examples of The Streisand Effect in play with several headlines over the years. It often comes up when celebrities try to have unflattering photos of themselves removed from the Internet. Both Beyoncé and Khloe Kardashian have tried this. I didn’t think Beyoncé could take an unflattering photo, but her 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show performance sparked the ‘hulking’ meme. RUDE!
 
Beyonce meme showing her lifting weights with an unflattering expression
 
Other examples have come up more recently amid racial justice reform. ‘Gone With the Wind’ was temporarily removed from streaming platforms, which ignited more interest. When six Dr. Seuss books would no longer be published, it created a frenzy. The attempts to suppress only drew more attention. 
 

The Takeaway for Marketers and PR Professionals

 
Why is this important for marketers or publicities? Because despite your intentions, your messaging may do more harm than good. 
 
I’m currently reading The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Jonah Berger. He dedicates a chapter to talking about the Tide Pod Challenge from 2017. You may remember the viral meme that encouraged teenagers to ingest laundry detergent. Obviously, not a good idea.
 
Tide tried to do the right thing early on. When they first got wind of the challenge, they released statements and messaging warning their audience that the pods were only to be used to wash clothing. They even tapped Super Bowl champion, Rob Gronkowski, for a commercial about it. 
 

 
 
But, you guessed it… the campaign only drew more attention to the Tide Pod Challenge, inspiring more teens to try it. Boom, ‘The Streisand Effect’.
 
This makes me wonder if public service announcements always have a reverse effect. Jonah Berger’s book indicates that pushing your audience and telling them what not to do, only makes them feel like their freedom, control, or choices are being limited. He says that if you really want to change someone’s mind, find more ways to remove barriers and help them come to a decision themselves.
 
They say some things are better left unsaid, which may also be true in marketing. We often think that over-communicating is what will get the message across, but it may inspire people to do the one thing you’re telling them not to.
 
In Tide’s case, I’m sure there were legal implications to their warning campaigns. But for Barbra Streisand, she probably should have let that photograph go. She unintentionally drew more attention to something she wanted hidden, and now we’ve named a phenomenon after her. 
 
The good news is, she’s safe and living the life just fine in Malibu. But I’ve gotta tell you, if I had a mansion like that, I’m not sure I’d want it hidden. It’s spectacular!’
 
 
This Simple Content Idea Works Every Time

This Simple Content Idea Works Every Time

Content creation usually requires a lot of trial and error, but for a content idea that ALWAYS works, I looked to some of my favorite movie scenes for inspiration.
 
Like in Miss Congeniality when the frumpy FBI agent Grace Hart becomes a stunning pageant queen.
 
 
Or in Clueless, when Tai Frasier gets a makeover and goes from stoner to stunner.
 
 
Or the iconic scene in She’s All That, when the class geek Laney Boggs makes an entrance down the stairs, stunning Freddie Prinze Jr. with her beauty.
 
 
If you haven’t guessed it by now, the surefire content idea I’m referring to is transformations. Transformations hit the mark every time you publish one, and they work for any medium. Here’s why:
 

 
 
 

Transformational content is versatile.

 
It’s not only people that undergo transformations. So can places, companies, and things. Any brand has the potential to share them.
 
We see this often on social media any time we see a person’s physical, mental, or behavioral traits transform. But an inspiring before-and-after can also apply to products, DIY projects, home renovations, or workplace culture.
 

Transformations are authentic.

 
But only if you communicate them correctly… Don’t skip right to the good part. 
 
Even a good testimonial can be a bad testimonial. For a transformation to be the most effective, you have to show the full story. Paint a picture of the bad, the ugly, and then the good. This gives the transformation more meaning and impact.
 
If you have a satisfied customer, don’t just share a happy-go-lucky quote. Help your audience understand their original problem and pain points so the transformation has a stronger story arc.
 

Transformations are compelling.

 
They give the reader something to look forward to, and there’s always a clear beginning, middle, and end. It’s likely your audience can relate to the before stage of the transformation themselves, and they’ll be interested to see how the story ends. Transformations are the perfect way to promote the idea that “if it worked for them, it will work for me.” 
 
Every great story has a strong hook, so be sure to frame your content with an interesting detail that will grab their attention. 
 
 

Transformations promote conversation.

 
If your audience sees the way things were before compared to how they are now, there’s a built-in wow factor. 
 
They’ll feel inspired to remark on the story or ask questions of their own. And since transformations typically emphasize improvements, your followers will want to applaud, congratulate, and engage.
 
 

Transformations illustrate credibility.

 
No matter what your expertise is, transformations show your impact. This can apply to products you sell or services you perform. Maybe you’re an artist who makes jewelry to upgrade someone’s look, or you’re a landscaper who gives homes some much-needed curb appeal. 
 
With transformations, you don’t have to explain why you’re an expert. They prove it on their own. This will make people trust you and want to work with you. 
 
 

Transformations build relationships.

 
A transformation is often highly personal. It’s admitting to the world that you needed to make a change. Your transparency and willingness to share the full journey with your audience not only make them feel closer to you, but it makes them want to root for you.
 
Because of this, vulnerability is key with transformations. Your content will be much more interesting if you share your imperfect experience. 
 


Transformations create an emotional connection.

 
Have you ever sat through an episode of Queer Eye and found yourself crying at the end? When you bring your audience along for a transformation, they experience the emotional roller coaster, too. They are an ideal opportunity to relate to your audience and inspire them to take action or get involved.
 
 

Transform Your Brand’s Content

Audit your content to see if you’re sharing enough transformations. This content idea works well as a blog post, short or long-form video, Twitter thread, or even before and after photographs. You also can get really creative with transformation transitions on TikTok! With every transformation you share, you’ll build trust and bring yourself closer to your audience.
 
How to Take Personal Branding Photos as Awesome as SNL Bumper Shots

How to Take Personal Branding Photos as Awesome as SNL Bumper Shots

There’s a lot to love about Saturday Night Live. The show has been going on for decades and always makes us laugh. We get to see a different side of the celebrities we love, poke fun at the media, and play back the skits countless times on YouTube.

But there’s something else that always catches my eye beyond the sketches, monologues, and live performances: the SNL bumper photos.

I didn’t know about these photos even had a name until I did my research, but SNL bumper photos are shown in between commercial breaks and feature the host or musical guest. And they are works of art. 

The photographer, Mary Ellen Matthews, clearly has an eye for creativity. But beyond that, you can tell she does her best to capture the personality of her subject. She doesn’t just pose them in front of a backdrop. She puts effort into the details to make sure each celebrity’s bumper photo tells their story. 

 
 

For example, to poke fun at Ariana Grande’s iconic ponytail, Mary Ellen playfully posed her with scissors.

 

 

Here is a round-up of some of my other favorite shots:

How to Take Better Personal Branding Photos

SNL bumper photos are a sharp contrast from the boring yearbook photos we took in grade school. Thankfully, we no longer have to pose in front of tacky, watercolor backgrounds like we did then. 

Yet, most professional headshots these days don’t embrace the boundless creative potential. This is what came up when I Googled ‘professional headshots’. We’ve got a bunch of suits and corporate squares who all look the same. 

 
 
 

Where is the personality?!?!

As kids, yearbook photos were a chance to be awkward. But as adults, professional headshots are a chance to be awesome.

Your photos are part of what make you memorable online, and you won’t dread taking photos if you make them uniquely you.

It starts with abandoning your idea of a “professional” headshot. Instead, think of them as *personal* headshots that are true to you. This doesn’t mean your photos will lack polish

 

Here are some things to think through to when taking personal branding photos:

Wardrobe – Ditch the boring black blazer. Choose bold colors or patterns that reflect your personality. Don’t be afraid to incorporate statement earrings, colorful glasses, or a vintage tee.

Location – You can do so much better than a white backdrop. Go outside, find a cool mural, or look for a venue that makes sense for your niche.

For example, if you work in sports, take some fun shots on a basketball court. Music lover? Hit up a record store.

Poses – This is another chance to get creative. Put on your favorite playlist and let loose a little. Test different expressions and do a variety of candid vs. posed shots. And smile!

Props – My favorite tip! Props are small elements that make a huge difference. They help tell your story! For my ’90s-inspired shoot, I brought a fluffy Clueless pen, a Central Perk mug, and a throwback laptop.

 
 
If you’re able to splurge, hire a professional photographer. Consider your photos an investment in yourself and your brand. They’ll make such a statement on your website and social profiles!
 
But you can also do SO much with your phone and a few editing apps, especially when you add your personal style with everything mentioned above.
 
Let me know if you plan to put take personality branding photos! I’d love to see your creativity and personality come to life!