Aliza Licht was among the first to humanize a fashion brand via social media, which makes her take on today's marketing and PR industries particularly unique. Formerly #DKNYPRGirl and today's EVP of brand marketing and communications at alice + olivia, she shares her insight on influencers, video content and the value of relationships. Also the author of LEAVE YOUR MARK, her top five career tips are words to work by.
How did you start out your career and what were some of the important milestones along the way that have led you to where you are today?
My path was not direct. I grew up loving fashion but not realizing that fashion could be a career. Instead I was pre-med and graduated with a degree in Neurobiology & Physiology. However, in my junior year I had an epiphany that medicine was not my destiny and that I should work at a fashion magazine! I broke the shocking news to my parents and when all my friends went to Europe after college I buckled down with an internship at Bazaar. From there I held other editorial roles and ultimately decided that jumping to the communications side was better suited for me.
What does your current role as EVP of Brand Marketing and Communications at Alice & Olivia entail?
I oversee all forms of marketing and communication for the brand in media and direct-to-consumer channels. My role manages the events and social team as well as the creative services area. Any touch point of the brand to the consumer is my jurisdiction. This of course heavily relies on celebrity and influencer marketing as well.
How is your job as a brand marketer different than it was a decade ago?
It’s a whole new world. I would say the biggest difference is the ability for brands to make their own buzz through owned channels and directly via influencer partnerships. I’m old school, so I still value editor relationships but in a way, you really don’t need them to be able to market a brand. The entire job of PR has disappeared in some regard. It’s very sad in a way, but on the other hand, the ability to kill a story when you need to is probably still the most advanced PR skill one can have. That skill is entirely based on relationships and nothing is more valuable.
What are the key marketing & comm’s initiatives the brand is currently engaging in? Are media relations and traditional publicity still a key focus, or has it shifted?
We do a lot of amazing collaborations and partnerships. For Spring 2019 I partnered with my friend Elizabeth Harrrison of Harrison & Shriftman to bring our travel-themed show to life with Booking.com, her client. We have an alice + olivia yacht as part of the show, which can be rented through Booking.com. It’s really fun to put these partnerships together and to link up with like-minded brands who have entirely new audiences. Media relations are important, but I would say your overall network of different movers and shakers is more critical.
Outside of your role at A & O, how are you mentoring younger professionals and providing a leading voice for the industry?
My book LEAVE YOUR MARK continues to be an essential guide for young professionals. The paperback came out this Spring with an entirely updated manuscript and five new chapters. Also, I write career advice for my column on Forbes which is also distributed through my newsletter, Blackboard. My #AskAliza portal on alizalicht.com gets daily submissions. I answer every inquiry with tailored advice. I’ve learned over the years that people really struggle to find mentors and I’m happy to be that to as many people as I can. My book does this at scale in Spanish, Chinese and soon to be Russian!
What led you to ultimately reveal yourself as the previously anonymous person behind DKNY PR Girl?
I was anonymous for two years, and the personality became too big to hide. It’s not easy to keep a secret for that long!
To what would you attribute the phenomenal success of this social media persona?
DKNY PR GIRL was one of the first on Twitter for fashion. It pioneered the idea of a humanized brand. It was authentic and very behind the scenes exposing aspects of the world of PR that no one was ever privy to before. I became everyone’s best girlfriend and was able to connect with people around the world. Without DKNY PR GIRL there would not be LEAVE YOUR MARK.
What was behind your decision to leave DKNY after your long tenure?
I’m a firm believer in stopping at a good point. My mentor Patti Cohen had stepped down, as did Donna Karan. My book had just come out, and it seemed like the perfect time to tie 17 years in a bow.
Do you have any predictions for the future of influencer marketing and social media in general?
We have come to a point where there is little patience or bandwidth for anything new. I think fashion has decided to settle down with Instagram and I think social will move more toward super short video than anything else. I also love the written word, and that’s why I still love Twitter, but no one can deny the power of video and how much that form has grown. Influencer marketing is not going anywhere because it has always existed. It’s just the fancy term we decided to coin spokespeople. Whether you’re a celebrity in a commercial or an influencer doing an #ad on Instagram, it’s the same thing. Every brand wants that third-party credibility and the ability to capitalize on other people’s audiences and fame.
Do you have any exciting future projects in the works that we should know about?
I’m working on the next iteration of LEAVE YOUR MARK. It won’t be in book form, but it will live on.
Tell us your top 5 career tips.
1. Work as hard as you can in your twenties so you can be senior in your thirties and have a life!
2. Mind your reputation always.
3. Pay it forward.
4. Don’t burn bridges.
5. Speak up for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to voice your ideas.
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