Bee-Coming a BAUCE: Publicist Brittni Brown on Personal Branding and Entrepreneurship
Brittni Brown, known as “The Millennial’s Publicist”, started a branding and public relations consulting firm called The Bee Agency in 2011 as a college student at Eastern Michigan University (EMU). This BAUCE woman gets excited about helping her clients go beyond what’s traditional to become their personal brand, and has always had a knack for the field of public relations. During college, she played a major role in organizing an unprecedented fashion show at her alma mater and successfully pitched her step team to a local radio station while in high school. Originally attending EMU to become a high school teacher, Brittni decided to reroute her studies towards communications at the end of her college career, and that’s made all the difference.
“Something told me like, you’re really good at being a mouthpiece, getting people to believe why they should attend something, why they should buy into a product; and I was always in the know about different events taking place in the area. Someone one day told me, “You know, you should look into Public Relations.”
In this interview with BAUCE, Brittni shares her journey as a millennial entrepreneur and offers her top tips on building a personal brand.
What inspired you to start The Bee Agency?
Brittni: I wanted something of my own where I could have creative control and not have to live up to a standard that was on a corporate level. I wanted to create something where I could have hands-on communication and access to any of my clients and have actual face to face conversations on what’s already out there, how can we make it better, and how [they’re] filling a void in [their] community. I wanted to have something where other individuals who work with me could feel like they can easily have access to me and be taken care of because I could be making their brands my brands.
I think it’s really interesting that you changed your career path from education to public relations. What was that like for you? Did you experience any backlash? Were you afraid at all to make that jump?
Brittni: Yes! And it’s so crazy because when you’re in college, you know, you have four or five years or whatever to take a certain amount of courses, you have a certain amount of financial aid. I decided that I wanted to go into public relations my junior year when I was basically at the point where I ran up to the cap of my financial aid. So, I did change my major to Communications, but I kind of kept it to myself that I wanted to go into Public Relations. I couldn’t go to my dad and be like, “Hey dad, I wanna be a publicist!” He doesn’t know what that is! I feel like no one really knows what [Public Relations] is. Even still to this day, I can tell when I talk to someone about public relations and they’ll act like they know what it is, but then they really don’t know [laughs].
A lot of publicists in Detroit, they’ve been in the game for like 20+ years, 15+ years, 10+ years. I didn’t get backlash per se, but it was basically like a battle within myself because it was like, “Am I doing this right? Am I doing PR the way it should be done?” I’m always hard on myself, and I always feel like the veterans in the game looking at me like, “You’re not doing real PR,” because I do it a little bit different.
With me changing my direction from going from education into PR, I didn’t necessarily get backlash because I have a strong support system, whereas I’m a headstrong person. So if I want to do it, I’m gonna do it; nobody’s gonna tell me like, ‘Well you shouldn’t do it,” you know. I may or may not listen to you but I’ll tell you why I do it, and if I need some advice I’m gonna say like, “Ok, I need you to help me on this.” I was nervous because number one, I’m owning my own business and then number two, I didn’t realize that when you own your own business, you are your business. So everything you do, every action that you do comes after that, so that’s when you have to do a whole shift and change and I did have to realize that very, very quickly.
What are some common mistakes that you’ve either made or seen people make with branding?
Brittni: [Laughs] Okay… I don’t even wanna say because it’s so common. When I wanted to get my logo done, I was like, “I don’t like this color, I don’t like how this looks, I don’t like x-y-z.” The issue with that is that I kept saying, “I.” You can’t base the physical look of your brand off of what you think; it’s what your target wants to see because that’s what attracts them.
Other mistakes are people’s websites and logos not being updated, not being properly done correctly; having colors where you can’t read or see, having fonts where people cannot read the font, having private social media accounts…these are all mistakes that have never made sense to me. Not tweeting, not being on Snapchat, not being active [on social media]; these are all mistakes because the [direction] that brands and social media are turning towards is that, if you are not human with your brand and being interactive with your brand and with your consumers when they’re talking to you on social media, you can get swept right under the rug. So it’s all about being human, humanizing your brand. Becoming your brand is so, so important.
That’s the main thing, and then there’s people not being professional, like sending you an email and not checking over grammar. Just like having content that doesn’t make sense, or content that’s so formal and it’s not matching your brand. As the CEO, that’s so important. Every piece of your brand should attract one of the five senses when somebody looks at it. Even if they can’t smell something, if they come to an event, you should have a signature scent that matches your brand. I know it might sound crazy, but trust me, it all makes sense in the end.
Also, people not investing in their brand or rushing their brand, that’s one thing that I do not like; for example, when people are like, “I gotta get this website done by this date.” At the end of the day, nobody knows what you’re working on but you, so when you rush, that’s when you get things that are not properly done, not correct, and it looks a mess.
How important is it to have your brand pop out?
Brittni: It’s so important…so important. It will make or break you. It’s the standout factor, because it may be seven other people who are doing the same thing — how do you stand out? It’s simple, you’ve probably been taught this your whole life: How do you stand out? It’s not a competition, it’s basically focusing on what can you offer and staying in that lane, and focusing on what you offer versus focusing on what everyone else offers and how you can offer the same thing. So, focusing on that and whether your product or services are appealing to your actual target audience, and knowing your actual target. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t know who your target consumer is, you’re just talking to a whole bunch of people and you’re just talking to the same type of people. If everybody sells hair extensions, individual [sellers] might have a different target of how they want to market their brand to a [specific] type of woman who wants them, like women who might be able to afford a $300 closure versus a $100 closure. You could be targeting the college crowd; you have to know your target. You can do branding that will stand out to that specific audience, versus someone who may do branding that would stand out to someone who can afford more expensive services. So it’s just really about knowing their target.. knowing what they want to see, what do they want to read, and how to make it relate to them. That’s what’s gonna stand you out from anyone who’s doing it and it’ll directly connect you to your target. If your target wants to pay attention, they’re gonna pay attention; it’ll organically happen.
What advice would you recommend for people who might not be on that level of being able to afford branding or public relations consulting just yet, but need the services?
Brittni: There are so many resources out there in terms of branding that you can do. There may be different organizations and resources within your city that may offer brand coaching, or logo making for not that much money. I wouldn’t say it’s for free, but it is an investment just kinda like one time, somebody can kinda get you on track and you can take what they give you and kind of do your own thing.
In terms of public relations, there are different resources where all you have to do is know how to write a press release about a product coming out. You can easily learn how to make your own press release through a Google search, and there’s different resources where you can actually upload your press release. You could also reach out to your own local media and TV stations yourself.
You can involve yourself with publications by just doing simple research and deep-diving into the different journalists who write for that publication, actually seeing what they like to write about, actually connecting with them, and directly contacting them. I would also recommend being active and human in terms of attending events where you’re getting to know different people, and that’s just making connections off yourself. I’m really big on making your network work. So just having a simple conversation with a business owner, you can build a relationship with them and you can do things for each other; you can host an event there or invite your network, or you can even, you know, intern.
There’s so many things out there, but you have to put the work in. But in terms of resources, they’re out there. You can do your own PR, it’s all about research, research, research; it’s so important. Because all it is is a simple email; you just have to know how to write the content and tell your own story, and then you got it from there!