As a PR major, I’ve learned something – we’re all a little bit linked. Whenever finding out someone else is in your niche field, it’s a cool connection. I’m not really a Tumblr user following my “Edgy Teen” ™ days, but I still check the website occasionally, and realized that a user, who I became aware of after a post about her Mom buying her a “fluffy chicken” went viral, was a fellow PR major.
Known as Thatsmoderatleyraven on the website, Peyton Lee has realized a few things about personal branding in the past few years that the typical PR major may not be particularly versed in.
Communicating is an easy thing, but it isn’t always easy to do some of the things that Lee, a senior Public Relations major at York College of Pennsylvania and an intern for Collegefashionista, has done.
On the surface, she looks like your typical college student, but she’s also a popular Tumblr blogger who’s maintaining two different personas online – and slowly, is trying to merge the two without too much culture shock.
What is your background with your public relations major, and what have you been doing with it so far?
I became a public relations major the first day of junior year. Before that, I was a mass communication major, and I chose to go PR instead because I can use it – it revolves more around social media, and I knew I would be able to work with one company and work with their social media. Mass communication was more broadcasting, and I wasn’t into that.
My social media accounts that I already had, including my tumblr, and during that time, I had about 80,000 follows. Then I decided from there, that I wanted to, I didn’t know what kind of company I wanted to work for, just an individual fashion company, or a sports team, I thought a little bit about. And handling their different outlets.
Then I got really into branding, so using social media to tell the story of the company through pictures and making sure all social media outlets are cohesive – and just to elaborate on that, for example, Free People – their Instagram will match their website, match their Twitter, and everything. And it’s all because they’ll use the same kind of photos, and copy and text, blog posts, that all kind of tell the same story at the same time.
So from there, I started an internship with College Fashionista, which involves me writing an article a month about fashion on campus, and it definitely made me realize I wanted to work with fashion.
How do you feel your internet popularity has affected the trajectory of your PR career? Has it opened doors you don’t feel are available to others?
I feel like the fact that I have a Tumblr and have now 166,000 followers – I feel like that helps me and sets me apart, not only because of the number, but because I can show how I’ve learned to create a follower base and have people follow me. People follow and unfollow all the time, but I can keep a steady group of the type of person who would follow me. I think that’s really important to know as someone who wants to work in branding, because if I knew the type of people that follow me, I would have a good gauge on the people who would follow a company I would work for.
It’s just dedication, and I think that’s what a company would look for rather than someone who has a lot of followers because posts selfies or something. It’s not even the amount of followers – it’s the knowledge that someone has about growing a follower base and cultivating it and knowing what people want to see.
And being able to accumulate an idea of who your target audience and resonating it with what you’re posting?
Yeah, and just knowing what you’re posting, if it’s on brand or not. For example, for something that I’ve had controversy within the past is because I’m not someone who post a lot of political stuff on my page, because I know that it is controversial, and people who are looking to follow a funny blog aren’t really looking to have a lot of news on their feeds – which is also controversial because people are like “why aren’t you posting about this? You have such a large reach and audience.”
Do you feel the brand you’ve created for yourself between your blog, and the brand you’ve had through internships align with each other? Or do you feel you need to keep them separate?
I think that, through the years, most of my Tumblr followers came from when I was on Tumblr every single day in high school – and in a way, I’ve tried to rebrand myself from this high school kid to a college student who interns in New York and wants to move there and wants to work there. It’s who I am on Instagram, because my instagram is more of a portfolio so I can give it out when I’m turning in my portfolio and resume. But, I’m trying to make sure that the things I say on Tumblr over the years have slowly morphed into something that would match my instagram.
I still have to be very careful on my Tumblr of posting too many things about fashion – posting too many things about clothing or models or the industry, because people would definitely be a little bit disrupted by that, I think. But that’s where matching my brand and my tumblr brand is definitely an issue.
Do you feel that it’s better for you to evolve your branding, or to have a fresh start without background behind you?
Specifically for me, I’m really thankful that I have had the history – and most of the people who did follow me remember me in high school. This is something I’ve analyzed, people would send me asks all the time asking me how I’m so positive, how I’m doing so well in school, and people followed me because I was someone who had a lot of fun things going on. I’m a pretty good storyteller, I think, so I was able to tell these stories and get people engaged. And people said “wow, I’m into this, because this is a girl who has stuff going on and we can follow this story, blah blah blah”.
Now, as a college senior, people ask how “Well, how did you go from high school to now, you’re going to have a job.” And I can give advice now from there, and it’s even better for those who are still following me, because the place where I was then is still where I am now.
It’s cool now because the people who followed me in high school are now in college with me, and I feel that people who came to me for advice now as much as they could back then because we’ve all aged at the same time.
With the different experiences you’ve had with different internships, what do you find the most beneficial thing you can take from your internet popularity?
The first reason I had a Tumblr, I’d always thought I was a really funny person, and I was always getting in trouble in school for making jokes and being loud, and when I wasn’t getting any followers on Tumblr, I was like “well, that’s weird. I should have Tumblr followers. Whatever.” And I’d make my own posts and my own jokes, and I treated it like my own diary, and I didn’t care about it.
I didn’t care about what I posted, because nobody would see it.
Then I started following people who had a lot of followers, and seeing how the kind of things that they got a lot of likes on, things they didn’t, and how they kept interacting with followers, and I realized it was something I do in real life on a normal basis. I mean, if you think about it, building followers is just like building friends in real life, there’s people in your school, you’d have to go talk to them. Ask if they want to hang out, stuff like that.
So I would make friends, and send messages to cool Tumblr bloggers, like “hey, did you see this?” and sometimes they’d follow me back. And sometimes I’d post something funny and they’d reblog it and every time they’d reblog something of mine, I’d get three or four followers, until I had enough of a base to gain 100 followers every time someone reblogged me. Because a lot of people were reblogging me now.
Through Tumblr, I’ve learned that if I want anything, I can probably get it if you focus on it enough. Not that I was using people to get followers, but I know that in social media and public relations, you’re going to want to make friends and connections to get people to reblog your posts. And that’s what instagram is all about – tagging people, tagging tags, making sure the right people see it. Building relationships so they’re more likely to retweet you, reinstagram you.
What do view as a skill you’d need to be successful in the PR field, other than social skills?
What I’m really thankful for, as a PR major, is the number of art classes I’ve had to take. When I was changing my major, I was choosing between PR and marketing – and I knew marketing relies more on statistics and math, and I’m not about that. As a mass communication major, I was required to take classes with photography and photoshop, and as a PR major, those were still counted as secondary required classes.
I think that skills like that – knowing how to use photoshop, how to take photos, and not only take photos of streets and stuff, but taking pictures of people.
Something that I did, that I’m so thankful for – when I was in middle school, I took modeling classes. Not because I thought I was going to be a model, but for etiquette and stuff. And I found out if you took the classes, you could retake them for free if you’ve already taken them. So, over the summer before junior year of high school, I retook the modeling classes – not because I think I’m a model, but because I needed to know more about the industry, and I learned more about posing.
And from that, now I know how to, maybe for a future job, know how to pose a model, know the right angle for a picture. And from my photography classes, I’ve learned how to take a good photo of a building, of a person, how to make the lighting right and the photoshop, knowing what you can and can’t fix for a photo.
It’s how to keep a cohesive theme going – if I take a picture of a New York building, I’m going to have to take a picture of a girl who looks like she lives in New York. But if i’m just snapping photos all over the place, there’s no guarantee that’s the same visual.
I would say, if you want to be successful in PR, you have to know the different aspects of photography. Because if you don’t know how to find the content for the brand, you’ll be at a little bit of a loss.
Is there anything I haven’t covered that it’d be especially important for people to know about PR, fashion branding or you?
Go and diversify yourself as much as possible – I took classes ranging from public speaking to photoshop to photography to fashion design to marketing. I took a print media writing class, which was a class that specialized in writing articles under 200 words, and that’s the class I’d say was a turning point in my college career – because I’m good at writing essays, and it scared me because I was like “Shoot, I’m a PR major and I don’t know how to write” and when I learned to shorter 200 word sprints, it made it easier to do the marathon and write longer papers.
If you are a PR major, you need to try and cover as many aspects as possible, because you never know if you’ll need to, all of a sudden, do a speech or make pitch and be persuasive in your argument – or take a photo of a model, or do visual merchandising. Nothing hurts.
When I was a sophomore, I walked into a clothing company that was local in my small town in Maryland, and I said “Hey guys, I’m a PR major looking to get experience in visual merchandising. Would it be okay if I took some of your clothes and modeled them on friends, and took photos that you could use in your social media for free, I just need experience.”
Make sure that you diversify your portfolio and set yourself apart?
Don’t do a class because everyone else in your major is doing it – sometimes, in my major, a lot of people are like “I’m going to do the crisis management class” – and not like it wouldn’t be beneficial for me to do, but personally I don’t want to do the PR that involves being someone’s “team”. For example, I would not want to do PR for a politician, I don’t want to have to defend what they say all the time, so I’m glad that I didn’t follow what everyone else is doing and try to take that class. Because I know I won’t be involved in that kind of PR.
Just make sure that you’re marketable and take as many classes as possible.
For more from Peyton, follow her on instagram @leytonpee, Twitter @peyTcruiser, or her blogs thatsmoderatleyraven.tumblr.com , http://www.collegefashionista.com/author/peytonlee/ or leytonpee.blogspot.com.