Is it still cool to have an Instagram aesthetic?

@caitlinrryan

Working in PR, I spend a lot of time studying and working with influencers (what we used to call bloggers and thought leaders). The field of influencer marketing has exploded over the past 5-10 years and shows no signs of slowing down. But there is a new narrative leaking through those perfect square images on Instagram. The staged photo, as we know it, may be over.

Over the past year, I’ve seen an increase in influencers discussing the stress and anxiety that comes with the misrepresentation of their lives through meticulously edited and filtered photos. I’ve seen comments in bios that say things like, “Watch my stories for my real life.” And I’ve seen numerous influencers introduce “old school blogging” series on their blogs that are essentially diary posts accompanied with raw iPhone photos. This past April, even The Atlantic picked up on this shift.

When Instagram was first introduced nearly 10 years ago, users posted photos in real time. There was a handful of filters and borders within the app for quick editing, but for the most part, photos were simply snapped and uploaded to our feeds. (Remember when it was so odd to post a photo after the fact that people started using #latergram to let people know they weren’t currently there?) Then, bloggers and superusers started experimenting with the app and their photography style to make their feeds stand out. Enter flat lay images, murals, DSLR cameras and Adobe Lightroom presets. As this style gained in popularity, it became the norm, and we’ve finally hit the breaking point – even the influencers who created it are over it.

So, is it still cool to have an Instagram aesthetic?

Over the past few months I’ve been playing with A Color Story, a popular photo editing app that even Taylor Swift started using for her Instagram photos. I purchased its vintage filter pack and started using the same filter on every one of my photos to create a consistent grid (pictured above). I have to admit, I love the look of a matching Instagram grid – it gives me a sense of calm – but I can’t say that my friends and family noticed, nor did it make me gain followers. I think the tide has turned on the Instagram aesthetic.

But before you freak out and think you need to blow up your Instagram strategy, here are some easy adjustments you can make that I’ve picked up over the past year of observation and experimentation.

  1. iPhone photos are good enough.
    Of course, there are exceptions to this based on your business, but for the average user, iPhone photos (especially on the newer phones) look great on social media. They also feel less staged (even if you have 20 outtakes in your camera roll 🤫) I still love a good iPhone mirror selfie to show off an outfit.
  2. Don’t worry so much about your grid.
    How often do you look at other users’ profiles? I’d bet that 9.5 times out of 10, you’re seeing their photos in your feed, not on their profile page. So don’t stress about your grid. Post two flat lays in a row? Cool. Typically post pink photos, but have a cute photo from last night with zero pink in it? Post it anyway! I promise you, no one else is going to notice. Focus more on posting images you like, not images that fit your “brand.”
  3. Post more in the moment.
    Shift your mindset back from “this photo will get a lot of likes” to “here’s what I did today.” I hate to use the word “authentic” because it’s so overused and misused that it now kind of triggers the opposite, so instead, let’s say “current.” Keep your social media feeds current. It will help you come across as a more relatable, real person and bring social media back to its original intention.

Have you noticed this shift in the Instagram aesthetic? What strategies have worked for you?

Spring cleaning your personal brand

3 personal branding lessons I learned with the New Pros

Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht

In 2018 I served as chair of the PRSA Charlotte New Professionals. Throughout the year, our committee organized a few programming events on personal branding, including a resume workshop and a panel on work wear that discussed what it means to dress for success in 2019. Here are some of the best personal branding lessons that I will be taking with me – even though I’m no longer a “new pro.” After all, what better time to revisit your LinkedIn profile or dust off your resume than during a bout of spring cleaning?

1. The purpose of your resume and cover letter is to get you an interview – not the job.

Your resume and cover letter should answer the question: “Why should I bring this candidate in for an interview?” I think often we’re so focused on getting the job, that we forget about the middle step – the interview. The recruiters at our resume workshop event said they typically don’t spend more than 10 seconds looking at a resume before making a decision on whether they should schedule an interview with a candidate. Tailor your resume and cover letter to the job posting to show how you check all of the boxes, and design it in a way that is quick to read. Then, you can expand on your skills and experiences in the interview.

2. Don’t include a headshot on your resume – but do include a skills section.

Speaking of an easily-scannable resume, the recruiters at our event said they love when candidates include a “skills” section. This allows them to quickly see the candidate’s areas of expertise without having to dig through all of their job descriptions. However, they said the best resumes then show specific examples of those skills in action in their job descriptions.

On the flip side, all three HR professionals on our panel said they do not like it when candidates include a headshot on their resume. Many new resume templates, like the ones found on Canva, include a designated spot for a headshot, but our panelists said they don’t want to judge candidates by what they look like – only by their work experience.

3. It’s still possible to ‘dress for the job you want’ – even in a casual office environment.

Startup culture has caused more offices to go from business casual to simply casual when it comes to dress codes. But if everyone in your office dresses in jeans and a t-shirt, it can be hard to comply with that old adage, “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” Our panelists said you can stand out from the crowd by dressing in the best possible version of the company dress code.

For example, if everyone wears jeans to work, don’t wear your casual jeggings or distressed jeans, but opt for a tailored, dark-wash jean paired with a high-quality blouse or button-down and a smart blazer. Another pro tip? Create your own work uniform by buying your suit separates in the same color and mix and match with colorful tops or accessories.

What’s the best personal branding tip you’ve picked up over the years?

2018 Resolutions

2018

I love New Year’s Eve. Not for going out (always overrated, in my opinion), but because of  the fresh start it promises. I enjoy looking back on my year, seeing what I accomplished, and setting new goals for myself. It’s a good way to ensure that you never stop growing. Because if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

2017 was a big year for us. We bought a house, became vegetarians, decluttered, and actually did some traveling for pleasure, including Cuba and Nashville. But I also crushed the professionals goals I set out for myself last year:

  1. Attend more networking events: I attended every single PRSA Charlotte luncheon, helped plan the PRSA Charlotte Communications Symposium, and at the end of this year, I ended up taking over the PRSA Charlotte New Professionals Committee. My mantra for the past couple years has been “bloom where you are planted,” and with every step I take to get more involved, I set deeper, stronger roots here in Charlotte.
  2. Volunteer regularly: This past summer, I joined the Junior League of Charlotte. While I’m still in my provisional year, I’ve already met so many wonderful women and made new friends, all while helping to improve our community.
  3. Make more time for the things that truly make me happy: I’ve gotten better and better at saying no to things I just don’t want to do. Life is short, and I want to fill my days with what I enjoy, not obligations.

Now we’re on the eve of 2018, and my resolution is much more broad:

do more things that make you forget to check your phone

Earlier this year, both MPR and I conducted an experiment where we deleted all of the social media apps from our phones. (The only exception for me was Instagram, because I manage accounts for work, and there’s no way to post on Instagram from a computer.) I found that the apps kept sending me irrelevant notifications, and it’s nearly impossible to ignore those red badges on your home screen. I was tired of feeling the urgent need to open those apps, especially when 99% of the time, the notifications were pointless and after scrolling through my feeds, I was left feeling unfulfilled.

So I deleted Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Slack. At first it was a little challenging, but I did successfully break the habit of mindlessly pulling out my phone and scrolling. And as a result, I decreased the amount of time I spent on Instagram, even though it was still on my phone.

As a PR girl, I never thought that I could delete social media from my phone. But the truth is that I wasn’t any less informed and I didn’t become a recluse, I simply learned to use the networks more intentionally.

This fall, I ended up re-downloading Twitter because I help manage the PRSA Charlotte social media accounts, and we like to live tweet the luncheons, but I turned off all notifications. (Pro tip, if you try to turn off notifications on any app and it doesn’t seem to work, delete the app, re-download it, and when it prompts you to receive notifications, just hit no/not now.)

So to prevent a backslide in 2018, my resolution is to do more things that make me forget to check my phone. This includes reading more books, discovering and listening to more music, and watching higher quality shows and movies. (Side note: I forgot how overwhelming cable TV is! When we were home for Christmas, the act of trying to find something to watch on the thousands of channels made me just want to shut everything off. Netflix + Hulu for life!)

My resolution also includes getting into yoga, spending more time outside with Rufio, and continuing our quest to clean eating. It’s pretty incredible how much time you realize you have after you cut out mindless apps.

What are you working on in 2018?

My 3 favorite blogs at the moment

I am a tad obsessed with the blogging world. Ever since I created a LiveJournal account back in high school, I have been hooked. Over the past 10-15 years I’ve upgraded my platform, and blogging in general has morphed from a hobby into a lucrative business. In fact, a big part of my job in PR is working with bloggers and influencers to partner with my various clients and create content about them. Who would have ever thought that all of this random blogging knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years would help me in my career?

With all of that being said, I still love to read blogs just for fun. I wish fashion bloggers were around back when I was in high school – I could have used the help! 😂 Here are my favorite three blogs that I read regularly (aka on my lunch breaks at work 🥗):

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Instagram: @carly

The College Prepster

A huge life goal of mine is to cultivate a closet that mimics Taylor Swift during her “Red” era. I love how she always looked ladylike and put together, even in her street style photos. Carly from The College Prepster doesn’t have as many nods to vintage style as Taylor Swift, but she has that whole preppy, classic style down. I also like how The College Prepster is a true lifestyle blog where she shares snippets about her family, her adorable dogs, and the books she’s reading.

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Instagram: @kristarobertso

Covering the Bases

Krista from Covering the Bases is also a preppy fashion blogger, but I like that she’s a size 6, so I know that I can successfully recreate a lot of her outfits. She also has a full-time job in marketing/social media, so I can relate to her. Lately she has been doing a lot of posts about what she wears to work, which I LOVE. Working in a casual environment like an agency, I can get stuck in clothing ruts, so I love using her outfits as inspiration. She has also made me a huge fan of navy blue. Coming from a girl who used to wear all black everything, this is a big step for me.

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Instagram: @mflynnpete

Freckled Italian

Megan from Freckled Italian actually used to live in Charlotte, and I met her when I attended two of her SkillPop classes – one on Instagram tips and one on blogging tips. Within this past year, she moved to California for her husband’s job, and is now expecting her first child, so I love to follow along on her newest adventures. She’s also a talented writer and I get lost in her dreamy, lyrical posts.

What are your favorite blogs to read?

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2017 PRSA Charlotte Communications Symposium

The Communications Symposium is my favorite PRSA Charlotte event of the year! Maybe I’m biased, since this year I served on the committee and helped with the communications for the event, but I just love geeking out with like-minded PR pros in the Queen City.

This year, our keynote speaker was Oscar Suris, Executive Vice President of Corporate Communications at Wells Fargo & Company, who discussed communications efforts undertaken by the company to facilitate recovery from a national scandal involving consumer banking practices.

After, I attended a breakout session on localizing #GivingTuesday. Amy Jacobs of Share Charlotte discussed how the organization localized an international giving effort, #GivingTuesday, and created a local fundraising campaign called #GivingTuesdayCLT that encourages Charlotteans to give back to hundreds of local nonprofits. Did you know that in 2016 Share Charlotte raised $7.2 million and became the largest community-wide #GivingTuesday campaign in the country? Go Charlotte! 👑

Lastly, I attended a panel session on how to reach millennials with: Garrett Tichy, Founder and Owner of Hygge Coworking and Creator of @WeLoveCLT; Corey Inscoe, Editor of CharlotteFive and Co-Host of CharlotteFive Podcast; and Paul Chabai, Associate Campus Pastor at Elevation Church. They all agreed that the biggest mistake businesses make when trying to reach millennials is being inauthentic, and this is caused by either not putting young professionals in positions of power, or not listening to them. Another key takeaway came from Paul Chabai, who said that a lack of diversity is always the symptom of a deeper problem. He suggests to figure out what about your culture says, “you’re not welcome,” and fix that – don’t just focus on filling seats.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s event!

PR Girl Travels: Des Moines Part 2

The first Hardest Working Cities event of 2017 for our #client Freightliner Trucks is in the books! We started with a 4:30 AM wake-up call to provide workers with a hearty breakfast before their shift (and before the sunrise!), followed by an award presentation at the APWA 2017 Snow Conference, where Mayor Frank Cownie gave a speech that got right to the heart of the Hardest Working Cities program. The next day we were back at it for two more job site visits and squeezed in some more Des Moines eats, including a pork tenderloin sandwich (when in Rome…) and amazing Mediterranean dishes from Eatery A.

Thanks for the hospitality, Des Moines!

PR Girl Travels: Des Moines Part 1

It’s safe to say I ate my way through Des Moines this past week while scouting work sites and caterers for an upcoming client event. Along with my team member from our Buffalo office, we tried cheese curds, gourmet doughnuts, endless pasta bowls, ramen, Kimchi tater tots, and a cheeseburger that had a grilled cheese sandwich as its bun. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m in desperate need of some leafy greens! 🌱

The lovely establishments we visited in Des Moines:

Thanks for the hospitality!

Personal Branding Lessons from Boss Bitch

Boss Bitch by Nicole Lapin

Boss Bitch in the Queen City 👑

If you’re a loyal reader of my blog, you know I’m a huge fan of Rich Bitch by Nicole Lapin, a personal finance book. So I was stoked when I got an advance copy of her new career book, Boss Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan to Take Charge of Your Career. I love Lapin’s sassy tone and her ability to explain complicated topics simply and conversationally.

Her new book is divided into three sections: Being the Boss of You, Being the Boss at Work, and Being the Boss of your Own Business. I was tempted to start and end with section two, as I’m already on my way into my career and honestly have no interest in being an entrepreneur, but I’m glad I didn’t because I learned an important lesson in personal branding.

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How to be the most informed girl at the water cooler

TheSkimm

That time I dressed up as TheSkimm girl for Halloween. Uncanny resemblance, no?

When I first enrolled in undergrad, I declared my major as journalism. I loved to write, and I loved to play anchor in front of the green screen in our broadcast studio, but the problem was that I didn’t love the news. Especially the local news. I wish I did. I wish I could be the next Sloan Sabbith from HBO’s The Newsroom, but the truth was, I wasn’t passionate enough to put in the work. (Nor did I have any connections in news or publishing.) By the end of college, I realized that I could not, in fact, live out The Devil Wears Prada, and refocused my energy into PR.

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3 TED talks to help you tackle your Monday head-on

3 TED Talks for your Monday morning commute

Oprah chai tea latte with soy milk please! 🙋🏻

This weekend I was thinking about the link I shared in Friday’s round-upYour Road Map to Making the Most of Your Career, and more specifically, the point to make your commute more productive. During my first year of working post-college, I had about a 20-minute commute on an average day. On my way in every morning I would listen to Wake Up With Taylor on Cosmo Radio, and on my way home, I would listen to Cocktails with Patrick. It was great. I got the big news headlines of the day (the 7 things you need to know before you go), heard the latest celebrity gossip, and got to recap the latest episode of Mad Men – like, would any man really want a birthday serenade a la Zou Bisou Bisou?

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