University of Maryland College Park - Neurobiology and Physiology
Aliza Licht knows how to leave a mark.
As senior vice president of global communications for Donna Karan International, Aliza is the force behind the brand’s iconic @DKNY Twitter account, which boasts more than half a million followers. The award-winning profile, which aims to be the “well-placed fashion source bringing you behind-the-scenes scoop from inside Donna Karan New York and DKNY,” is like your best friend. Aliza dishes daily about her life as a PR girl in New York, style, all things DKNY and even Olivia Pope. (Yes, she's as obsessed with Scandal as we are!)
But before she was part of the glitterati, Aliza was a University of Maryland student who dreamed of becoming a plastic surgeon. After coming to the realization that a life wearing the same uniform every day wasn’t for her (in addition to other facets), she pursued a career in the magazine industry. After a few years working for glossies she then made a switch to the fashion public relations world – nabbing a job at Donna Karan International.
Now Aliza shares her “how I got here” moments in her book Leave Your Mark. Packed with spot-on advice for your personal brand and career, it’s a must-read for any budding professional, whether PR bound or following another path.
Don’t think about three years from now or about five years from now, but give 200% to what you are doing right this second.
With all of your responsibilities in your job, social events, a book launch, and two little’s at home, how do you organize your day?
I think that not every day is that insane of course. I would say last week on Thursday [the week her book came out] I thought I was going to die, not going to lie, but I have a great support system. I don’t do it alone. I have help with my kids from my family, and of course, priorities shift throughout the day.
What surprised you the most about writing and launching your own book?
You know it’s funny. As a publicist you focus, especially before it comes out, on, “How am I going to get people to know this exists? What is the press strategy and the social strategy?” That is kind of like me doing my day job, and because of this, you forget that people are going to read it.
I’m honored and so pleased that people are enjoying it and getting the value out of it that I intended, because it’s not always a given. When people started talking about the book, quoting it, and sharing content from it, I was like, “Oh yeah, they’re talking about it – good or bad.” So, it was a wake up call.
We seriously admire your passion for mentorship. If one of our readers is looking for a mentor, what are your tips for her?
You need to think about what your end goal is. Find a person who has done what you want to do and who is at least a few years ahead of you. Understanding though, that there are a couple variations of being a mentor. It doesn’t have to be like this official stamp of, “Okay, you’re my mentor now.” That kind of declaration – like when you need your boyfriend to say, “You’re my girlfriend.” It doesn’t have to be like that.
I think it’s about starting a relationship with someone you admire and understanding that the person needs to see potential in you in order to want to help you. They almost have to view you as a mini me. Understand that it takes time for this person to consider your questions and give out advice. Appreciate that time, and use it wisely. When someone gives you the opportunity to ask a question and you come back a few weeks later, and they’re responsive, send them a thank you note, send them some flowers and recognize that person is taking some time for you.
The other thing is following through on the advice. You know, sometimes I feel that people who are a few years ahead will give advice or make an introduction, but the person doesn’t follow through. And later, you know, whether it’s me or someone else, I’ll say, “Did so and so ever contact you?” and they’ll say, “No.” And you’re just like, “How do you just shun that? How do you shut the door on an opportunity like that?” So, be really appreciative and take advantage of any connections that someone is making for you.
Is there a movie or TV show that closely represents working in the fashion industry?
It's a cross between The Devil Wears Prada and Scandal.
In Leave Your Mark, you said Gossip Girl inspired the personality of DKNY PR Girl. Is there anything in today’s pop culture inspiring your work now?
I think it’s part of who I am; honestly, I am a pop culture junkie. Since I don’t use content calendars and I have to believe in something and feel passion for something, I am very inspired by the now – whether it’s stuff in the news or in pop culture. I am always jumping off of something real. I am definitely a product of my surroundings for sure.
I get the feeling from your book that your current role is your dream job. What's next on your career wish list?
You know, the book was really my next goal, even though I didn’t know it was my goal when I was approached to write one. I am very in the moment; I don’t really jump ahead, so right now I am just enjoying the fact that the book is actually out. It took almost two years to get out there, so I kind of just want to hover over here right now in the present, because I feel like we are always running to and from and every day is crazy. Sometimes it’s really just nice to enjoy the moment.
What is one piece of advice for someone who is looking to break into fashion PR?
You really have to network wisely and I do think social media is a good way to do that. But before you jump in, make sure you are ready to make connections, that your online presence looks good and that you’re proud of it. Also, make sure you are someone who is willing and able to. You have to be very strategic in how you communicate. You get one chance to reach out for the first time. I’ve seen that happen, and you’re like, “Really? No one is responding? You emailed me!” Even though you may not be a “professional” yet, think of yourself that way and try to make sure your personal brand is aligned with whatever job you are trying to get.
Other than Twitter, do you have a second favorite social network for networking, specifically?
Personally, I don’t. I don’t consider LinkedIn. I know this is probably counter to their goal, but for me LinkedIn is about your existing connections and bolstering those. I wouldn’t personally reach out to someone I don’t know on LinkedIn and say, “Hey do you want to connect?” and I don’t really respond to people who do that to me. I really think LinkedIn is a reflection of your existing network and once you make new connections you build on those, and that is very powerful. I don’t think it’s about cold pitching people to make connections with, because I think you have to know the person and have a mutual respect for them to be a part of your network.
What are some of the rules you live by?
My rules are: I say it like it is, with a degree of respect, but if you ask me my opinion you will get the truth. I always remember my background and where I came from, and I appreciate the people around me who support me, and just giving 200%. You know, I’m always going above and beyond because that is just how I roll.
What 140-character advice would you tweet to a younger version of yourself?
Mind your personal brand.
Any last thoughts or advice you'd like to share with our readers?
Don’t think too far ahead. Don’t think about three years from now or about five years from now, but give 200% to what you are doing right this second and have your eye on the next step. It’s much easier and I think you’ll be more successful, because when you start to think out too far, it becomes overwhelming and then you end up doing nothing.