Month: January 2014

How Julep’s Social Media Strategy Snagged Investors Attention

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Customers aren’t the only ones responding to the young beauty brand’s buzz on social media, investors are quietly eavesdropping on the conversation as well. According to this article from Forbes, Julep’s unique social media strategy has attracted the attention of investors who are willing to drop a pretty penny on the company, and here’s why:

Julep customers have the option to become a “maven,” where you can pay $19.99 per month for a box full of hand-picked makeup, nail-care and skin-care items at a discounted price. Before signing up, you have to take a style quiz online,which tells the company what kind of products and colors you’re interested in. What sets this Seattle-based company apart from the famous Birchbox, is the fact that Julep will send you an email each month with a preview of what your customized box will contain, and if you aren’t happy with their selections, you can request to send it to a friend or ask for different products. This program is brilliant, really, because women tend to gossip…a lot…especially on social media. During a time when blogging is all the rage, beauty bloggers will eat this stuff UP. They are looking for any excuse to try a slew of high-end products and either praise them (hopefully) or absolutely tear them apart, and the longer Julep can stay on a beauty blogger’s radar, the longer it can reap the benefits of free marketing.

So, what better way to get someone to try a product and talk about it than to ship a box right to their front door? (Yes, $19.99 is a bit steep to pay month-to-month, but when you figure that an average bottle of Julep nail polish is a whopping $14, you are definitely getting a bigger bang for your buck by becoming a maven.) Anyways, what I am trying to get at here, is that word-of-mouth marketing is HUGE in the beauty industry, and Julep has a real knack for getting its products talked about, thus, grabbing the attention of some pretty high-profile investors.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and beauty blogger reviews have become the go-to mediums for customer feedback. Being active on social media allows Julep to see what products are flying off the shelves and what products are duds. If a limited-edition nail polish gets rave reviews, Julep is more than likely to make it a permanent product, thus satisfying the customers that can’t live without it.   What’s most impressive about the beauty brand, is that Julep will not delete or hide negative comments or complaints from customers; Julep actually RESPONDS. “We’re not telling customers what they want, we’re responding to what they want,” says Jane Park, Julep Beauty’s founder and CEO. If there is one thing that customers appreciate these days, it’s transparency, and Julep prides itself on being honest and responsive.

From an investors point of view, it’s refreshing to see companies take such a hands-on approach. Julep actually listens to it’s customers, which is a huge contributing factor to its success- and investors want in on this success. Big names like Maveron (Howard Schultz and Dan Levitan’s venture arm), Version One Ventures and Precedent Investments (whose funders include Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jay Z’s Roc Nation) have injected a total of $26.9 million into the company over the past two years. Not too shabby.

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Pinterest: A Not-So-Healthy Obsession

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I, like millions of other women, spend way too much time on this pesky site. I’m obsessed. Whenever I have down time- waiting for the bus, putting off homework, or waiting for a class to start, I’m scrolling through my home page to see what everyone’s pinning.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Pinterest, it’s” a pinboard-style photo-sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, and hobbies. Users can browse other pinboards for images, “re-pin” images to their own pinboards, or “like” photos.” (Yes, this is the definition from Wikipedia.) I pin to several boards that cover a variety of interests including fashion, food, health, home goods, hair, beauty, etc.

Pinterest is a great place to find wardrobe inspiration, new recipes and DIY projects, but it’s also a great place if you’re looking to lower your self-esteem. Yeah, I said it. As much as I love seeing what’s on trend this season, it’s a constant reminder of all the things I desperately want but can’t have. Whether it’s an unattainable body, a $1,500 dollar Louis Vuitton or ridiculously long hair, everything on Pinterest is disgustingly perfect. Try scrolling through the “Health and Fitness” category without reading an “inspirational” fitness quote next to an image of an extremely tan woman in a sports bra showing off her eight pack. Barf.9841402416_b2760f111e_n

Pinterest is not the only culprit; Images and status updates on other social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook could be linked to perpetuating the same unhealthy thoughts on body image. Young girls are constantly exposed to images of sexualized women whether it’s on billboards, magazines, television or the internet. Similar to the impact that advertising has on women, social media can make girls feel like they aren’t beautiful unless they look a certain way or use a certain product. According to psychologytoday.com, “social media presents you with countless opportunities (if not demands) to describe in words or pictures your physical attributes.”  We seek approval from others by sharing status updates or photos that shed ourselves in a light that we think is appealing. Similarly, when we see an update that a friend has posted we are quick to compare our lives with his/hers. “Does she have a better job than me? Does he make more money than I do?” These are probably just a few of the questions we have all asked ourselves before.

Based on what I’ve read, very few studies have been conducted to prove there is a significant link between social media and body image. However, I found several articles and blogs on the issue- a few of them are linked above. Based on my own personal experiences and  experiences of friends, I think it’s important to be aware of the negative impact that Pinterest and other social media sites can have on one’s self-esteem. A negative self-image is no joke- it can lead to anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

It’s safe to say that I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. Let’s be real, I probably won’t ever stop using it because I do get some fabulous ideas from it, but I will have to remind myself to proceed with caution.

Food Network: Behind the Scenes

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Is the Food Network becoming less about food and more about entertainment? As a die-hard Food Network fan, it pains me to say that it probably is.

It’s been interesting to watch the network evolve from a slew of educational cooking shows to this new era of reality competition. Don’t get me wrong, some of those competitions make for great television- I am a sucker for Chopped and Iron Chef America. I just love the drama! However, I miss the traditional shows such as Good Eats with Alton Brown and Emeril Live with Emeril Lagasse. Call me old fashioned, but there is something inspiring and mesmerizing about watching a talented chef prepare a meal while explaining the step-by-step process in his own words. A wave of nostalgia flooded my mind when I heard that the network completely stopped making its own cooking shows. I know this sounds dramatic, but it felt like a piece of my childhood was gone forever. All that’s left are the memories I have of my mom and I watching old-school cooking shows while preparing Thanksgiving dinner, or waking up on rainy weekend mornings and making breakfast recipes that we learned days before.

3200203890_7aaafd4b17_nSo, why the shift from internal production to competitions? From Scratch: Inside the Food Network, a tell-all book by Allen Salkin, reveals some scary truths about the once groundbreaking television station. Apparently, ratings have significantly declined just within the past year. You can imagine the pang of anxiety that hit Food Network when it found out that HGTV took the cake in terms of viewership in the first half of 2013. Producers needed to re-win the hearts of viewers by offering a fresh take on food entertainment. Thus, the competition format emerged. Salkin explores this phenomenon in his new book as well as a variety of other juicy topics including the scandal with Paula Dean.

It’s no secret that the end goal of any big television network is to make a profit, but it’s not everyday that a book comes out revealing the specific ways a particular network reaches said goal. The facts in this book will be a major eye-opener to Food Network fans to say the least, however, I would be surprised if it caused a full-fledged public relations crisis.

Salkin makes a point to say that he truly believes the “hosts genuinely want to educate the public about food,” and I would have to agree. I don’t think any behind-the-scenes book could convince me to think that the hosts have a hidden agenda. And, to be honest, I would actually be heart-broken if I found out Michael Simon HATED cooking and only competed on Iron Chef America for the paycheck. On the flip-side, it is obvious that the Food Network has its own agenda, and like Salkin suggests in his book, sometimes those two agendas don’t match up.

So, I will pose this question again: is the Food Network more about entertainment than it is food? Yes, just like every other television network. Does that fact discredit the chefs in any way? No, not at all.

Why am I writing?

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I created ‘A Fresh Take’ for my strategic public relations class, but I am secretly excited to have an excuse to blog every week. I will use this outlet to explore the freshest PR techniques as well as a variety of other topics such as food, lifestyle and a bit of entertainment. As a “millennial” who is about to embark on this adventure called the “real world” I want to connect with people who are going through the same disappointments, triumphs and anxieties that come with being a twenty something young professional. I want to learn from the best public relations professionals who know the ins and outs of the industry. I want to be inspired by food journalists who get paid to eat fabulous dishes and write about them. But most of all, I just want to write.

I love that the public relations industry is so expansive because it gives me the opportunity to dip my toe into the waters of a plethora of fields. While I am most interested in communications as it relates to food, lifestyle and entertainment, I am not at all opposed to branching out into other areas such as crisis communications or event planning.

Throughout my time at the SOJC I have gained hands-on public relations experience through PRSSA and Allen Hall Public Relations, a student-run firm. I was also a communications intern for the Eugene Police Department where I helped launch a social media campaign, interviewed crime victims and produced videos. My newest adventure is to take on the role as communications intern for the Springfield Public School District. While I have only been there for a short time, I have already learned so much about writing and designing content for the district.

I am set to graduate in June 2014 from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication with a major in public relations and a minor in business administration.