Three ways I learned to create my personal brand

When I started my first job, I was all excited about establishing myself online as some kind of expert, but I was uncomfortable with everything I was publishing. My blog? A fluffy mimicry of fashion blogs I followed. Twitter? Sporadic and voiceless.

I thought the frustration came from feeling like I was selfishly talking about myself all the time, but after two years I realized I hadn’t figured out my personal brand. I didn’t have any confidence in creating and sharing “me” because the person I was portraying was a façade.

A big part of my job, right now, is training others on social media and I always start my Twitter training talking about personal brand. So while I haven’t perfected my personal brand, here are three tips that have helped me:

Hilary Twitter Profile Personal Brand

1 – Pick a focus.

I started out, like a lot of people do, just jabberjawing about anything that came to mind. It’s a good way to get familiar with the different platforms, but a personal brand should have a focus. For example, right now, mine is branding, design and guerrilla advertising. Figure out what your unique focus.

2 – Care.

You should enjoy posting on social media and the best way to do care about the conversations you’re involved in. This is very similar to picking a focus, but you can follow topics you don’t necessarily focus on. For example, I throw a little bit of Harry Potter and literature into my conversations to add depth and it makes me excited to continue building my brand.

3 – Stop focusing on the end.

I’m a destination person, and one struggle of creating a personal brand is there is no destination. People are ambiguous and continuously changing, so a good personal brand will match that.

What other tips have you found to be helpful in building your personal brand? I want to know!

Video editing and used bookstores

Recently, I’ve been teaching myself how to edit short videos. I’m definitely pleased with how my first few have turned out, even though they are super amateurish.

I figure if I keep working on short videos two things will happen: First, I’ll go on more adventures around Jacksonville and Florida. Second, I’ll learn how to make interesting and fun videos that don’t look like a newbie put them together.

My most recent video is of a used bookstore in downtown Jacksonville, Chamblin’s Uptown Books.


Check it out, and if you have any advice on how to improve my video-making skills, please let me know!

Prepping for NYFW: Thanks Diet Coke and Show Your Heart

I am all packed and ready to fly to New York City! If you don’t follow me elsewhere, and therefore haven’t heard: Thanks to Diet Coke, and my obsession with social media, I was one of five winners selected to attend the Red Dress show at this spring’s New York Fashion Week.

Basically, I was gifted a sister weekend and a fashion show. I keep saying “I’m excited!”, which is true but it’s starting to get cliche. So let’s put it this way: They let me extend my return flight to Sunday so I will eat obscene amounts of pizza at obscenely late hours, I will be eating buckets of donuts, I will probably drown in Diet Coke, and I will be doing all of that with some of my favorite people in the world.

To that, I raise my Diet Coke!

If you want to read all about my trip check out my life adventures blog in a week.

Photographs of the Syria struggle

I have had the opportunity to travel. In most places I avoided touristy destinations in an effort to find and experience worlds unique from my American ones. Very few pleasure vacations are more raw than winding down Turkish back roads guided only by a piece of paper that you hope was translated into Turkish correctly.

Time published a series of photographs from photojournalists covering the conflict in Syria between the Assad regime and the rebels. They are powerful: a collection of the journalists favorite images.

Perhaps more than anything I have shocked at the resilience of these people. The above image is of a man returning home to his family with his groceries. He has to run across the street to avoid the sniper haunting the street.

I’m not sure if it is because I have seen the beauty of these foreign place that I ache for those thrown into the wars. Maybe it’s because I have no way of really comprehending the world the Syrian rebels are currently living and these journalists images have succeeded in moving their audience that I find myself wishing I could be there photographing the situation. It feels more concrete, like these people and their cameras are doing more to help resolve this situation than anything I can do from my padded chair in America.

Asma al-Assad’s Silence

As the atrocities in Syria continue I have repeatedly heard the world call to and plead with Asma al-Assad to do something. As the first lady in Syria, educated in Britain and modern and glamorous in every way, she has stood as a beacon to the women of her country and the surrounding area. Not only has she represented the potential of woman in her country she has come out as a spoken advocate for women’s betterment and human rights. And yet her silence is a stronger statement of the regime than any crazy statement left from Bashar al-Assad.

That is what I find so striking. Her inability to do anything shows more about the region’s affect on women’s rights than it does on her personal strength and conviction. She stood a progressive ground on women’s rights and education but at the time where her country needs her to become the women she claimed to fight for, she disappeared. A sad realization for everyone that she was simply a facade used by the Syrian government to keep the people happy. The most difficult truth to accept is realizing how far women of the region need to fight before they reach a level of rights on par to what we expect in this day and age.

I look at countries such as Germany and the United States where some of the most powerful and influential women are not only respected, but actively listened to. The men and women in these countries work side-by-side with Hillary Clinton, they look up to Angela Merkel’s leadership and they do it knowing these women have proven their abilities in a country open to their strengths.
While Asma stands silenced, whether from her own choice or the State’s, we do not know. But the fact she has been unheard* after the global call for her help says to me she is under the fist of the government and the rebels fighting to bring Bashar’s government down have more power to make change than she does.


*The Times reportedly received an email from her on 8/2/12 saying she stands behind him as supporter of the President of Syria. This to me does not break her silence since I view this as another empty action of the State’s pawn. She, the woman who stood for so much good and hope, has not spoken.

September 11, 2012

It doesn’t feel like 11 years have gone by, but I think about everything that has happened since I watched the second plane hit the Twin Tower: my dad had turned the television on before school started just as the second tower hit and I stood there transfixed. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew this was big.

I ask myself if I feel safer. I don’t like having our troops in the Middle East, but I don’t begrudge President Bush for the choice he made. I may have made a different one, but there’s no way to know exactly why he did what he did. Do I fear the Taliban? No. I never really did because they weren’t real to my everyday life. When I listened to President Obama tell the world Osama bin Laden was dead killed the power of the militant group even more in my eyes.

And how has America changed? We are closer as Americans and more divided than ever. In 11 years I hope we can learn to address our fears, see which are real and which are simply ghosts we allow to survive. I know I have learned to balance my perspectives, my beliefs and I hope I can help others do the same.

Love to you all.

More of James Nachtwey’s photography from the day.

Slow Public Relations

Simply the sound of it makes me feel funny. I understand that some situations require a little time to compose an appropriate response, or that the timing for a response might not be immediate, but to me that is “thoughtful public relations,” not slow. Hell, if someone called my PR work slow I’d immediately look at how I need to change what I am doing. But that is exactly what Gregory Galant titled his article, “What companies need to know about “slow” PR” and you know what, he was right.

I have not had the opportunity to work with a large enough public relations firm that would give me unlimited mass-blast tools, so I have always depended on personalized approaches to pitching media. In general, it has worked. Yeah, it takes time to find reporters covering a specific beat, and then to read enough of their articles to decide whether or not he/she would be interested, but the process makes the reporters a person to me.

In a lot of ways, when I do finally send the pitch, it’s as if I already knew them. One time I contacted a woman who wrote for the New York Times and when I got her on the phone she was surprised I had sent her an email directly because she did not publicize her email address, and it required me to really look around and find it. She knew I was serious about this pitch going to her as a writer and not simply because she had an email address that ended in

Galant said,

Anyone today can build meaningful relationships through real human interactions globally using technology.

That’s the awesome part about PR, I’m paid to do that and I should work to build those resonating connections before the skill is lost in the masses of automated email and @ mentions.


SoundCloud: In the toolbox

Today, my co-worker told me that one of our company’s new hires mixes his own music. (Read: Musical mash-ups in the electronic genre of music) When I asked if I could hear some of it, my co-worker sent me a link from the new-hire’s SoundCloud account.

If you aren’t familiar with SoundCloud, (I’m ashamed to admit I was unaware of it before this happened) it’s a social website where users can record, create or upload music and share it. My first response was to be mildly impressed at the new-hire’s talent. My second response was to think how cool it is to have a social site based solely around music and my third response was disappointment that I didn’t think of a social music network first.

I suppose that’s how all new inventions are created. What is that one saying; You don’t have to be smarter than everyone else, you just need to be a day earlier.

That’s definitely true when it comes to things like Chia pets, but when something like MySpace comes along the doors are thrown open and everyone is on the same day. At that point the race is to do the same thing, but better. Thus, MySpace gave way to Facebook and Hotmail to Gmail.

Sadly, I’m not inventive enough to spend my whole life trying to create the next big thing, but I am creative enough to discover new ways to use them. SoundCloud might just stay a tool I never really bring out of my toolbox, but it’s there and I’d like to figure out a way to use it, even if it is simply to decide the new-hire was a good pick.

The Dark Knight Rises Shooting: Great and Awful PR

The Aurora theater shooting during The Dark Knight Rises premiere is devastating. The incident will, no doubt, spark bitter discussions of gun laws and emergency preparedness. Despite that, the immediate lesson has been a sober reminder of the delicate balance of using social media as a public relations tool.

I first heard about the shooting from NPR on my drive to work. The statement was short, devoid of details: “There was a shooting at the midnight premier of the new Batman movie in Colorado.” I shook my head, frustrated at the thought, then turned my car off and headed into the office.

I knew a bunch of my co-workers were planning on seeing Dark Knight at midnight so, as I sat at my desk, I formed a related tweet in my head: “I will not be taking off my Beats all day because if anyone ruins The Dark Knight Rises for me there will be blood.”

Before sending it, I searched for the most popular Dark Knight hashtag. Everything related to it was about the Aurora shooting and I immediately realized two things. First; I could in no way post the tweet I had planned. Second; this shooting was a way bigger deal than I first realized.

As I followed the incident on Twitter I came across the tweet that has since drawn a huge backlash: “@celebboutique: #Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;)”


No, really. That was my only response. Since then, the company has tweeted an apology stating its PR is not done in the US and the team was unaware of why Aurora was a trending topic. In the wise words of @AndyLevy, “It would’ve taken 5 seconds to check why Aurora was trending.”

In any client-facing role, but especially in public relations (social media, spokes person, press release, etc.), it is critical one understand the conversation he/she is joining. I think Celeb Boutique will survive this gaff because they are a clothing business, but other companies might not be so lucky.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Twitter also provided me with the link to a live streaming of the Aurora city press conference.  The press conference was executed perfectly. I am not in Colorado, and I know my friends who do live in Aurora are safe, but I still felt comforted by the press conference. Those who stood in front of the camera were well-spoken, appropriately emotional and right-on with their messages. Everything, from the 24-hour free counseling to the details about the incident early this morning and its current continuation, were open, honest and appropriate.

I hope those in Colorado are able to find comfort in what the city is able to offer at this time and my thoughts and prayers continue for those involved in this situation. My hope is that we come together to support the victims and prevent these situations from occurring again.


image source

Women and National Security

My brother recently tweeted a link to an article on Foreign Policy titled, “What Sex Means For World Peace,” written by Valerie M. Hudson.

A little background on Hudson: As a former Brigham Young University and current Texas A&M professor she has established herself as one of the top world political analysis thinkers. I was lucky enough to listen to her lecture at BYU, and my sister took a couple classes from Hudson, the ideas and topics from which my sister and I would dice, examine and discuss. I personally know people who do not like Valerie Hudson’s ideas, but I find her work fascinating and critically important to my personal education and the global view. Read more about her here.

This article analyzes global statistics about the female citizen’s role in society (how they are viewed and treated politically, culturally and educationally) as compared to that country’s global standing. Each country was then rated according to the amount of freedom and safety the individual woman enjoys, and that data was then compared to national safety and security. Their findings in Hudson’s words are:

Our findings, detailed in our new book out this month, Sex and World Peace, echo those of other scholars, who have found that the larger the gender gap between the treatment of men and women in a society, the more likely a country is to be involved in intra- and interstate conflict, to be the first to resort to force in such conflicts, and to resort to higher levels of violence.

She continues on to give examples and theories which are eye-opening and fascinating and yet somehow innately resonated as accurate.

For me, the real power of reading this synopsis of her findings came in evaluating myself as, not only a woman, but a woman in a situation with the power to bring about real change in the world. So often I rationalize immobility because of my seeming insignificance in and ignorance about the “big picture.” But if not me, and if not now, then who and when?

Another point to which I constantly return is my belief, and one supported by Hudson, is that women are not “better” than men. I believe deeply in the importance of men and women working independently and interdependently. I do not necessarily believe in the stagnation of traditional gender roles, but I do believe men and women possess individualized strengths that must be tapped in a way that enhances the talents of both sexes while negating each sex’s weaknesses. Men and women are inherently different. We shouldn’t spend time trying to pick a winner, or trying to make men and women the same, we just need to learn to use both together.