4 PR Lessons Learned from 140 Characters

How one branded Twitter account changed the Game

You know how you one day start following or like any of these accounts on social media? Way later you realise, you have been through so much with this stranger, and they feel like a friend? How someone unknown can have so much impact on your life without you thinking about it?
This is exactly what happened to me. Started tweeting about 2 years ago and began to follow brands that I like.

Unfollowed most of them quite shortly after, as they are one thing: BORING.

Yes, most brands don’t get it when it comes to Twitter, or any social media platform in that case. But there was one, a particular one that I adored.


It was an avatar, a sketched woman in a fancy dress — DKNY after all, but yet, that was not what intrigued me. What intrigued me were her witty, but smart tweets, her behind the scenes rants and the fact I didn’t know who she was.
That fuelled my imagination and I mine is living a life of its own. A young woman, independent, living in the vibrant city of New York and working for this fabulous brand. I so much wanted to be like her, especially when we were watching Gossip Girl or Scandal “together”. She nailed it, every single time with a snarky comment or an answer to her followers that kicked ass.
Then, one happy day, she revealed her real identity on her Youtube channel. Aliza Licht, a redheaded mother of 2, PR specialist at DKNY — a brand she has worked for 16 years up till now. It was not quite how I envisioned it, was it?

No not exact to the point, but you know what? It made me like her even more.

Now, I could put a face to it, a person, a story and an experience. It was not her fancy shmancy DKNY tweets I was looking for, I most of all enjoyed her random rants on any other topic like no coffee in the morning.

Then, I finally got enjoy her TED talk, see her speak in person and share some stories — it was delightful. Inspiring, but down-to-earth. Authentic, but fun.

Looking back on my personal story with DKNY PR Girl, I have learned a lot from her — on a professional level. Her handling of social media for a brand is like seeing a unicorn in the supermarket — rare. She ‘gets it’ and interacts with her followers like friends. So here are the 4 lessons I have learned from Aliza Licht as DKNY’s PR girl.

1. Be Authentic
When at first Aliza pretended to be someone else, she gathered more and more followers — a real community. Once she came out with who is tweeting behind the scenes, her fans stayed loyal. Still it is clear that it could have ended up being a disaster, as pretentious characters are always called out on social media. Being someone you are not, never works. Except for DKNY’s PR Girl, she nailed it. Why? She nailed it, because Mrs. Licht knew her audience and interacted with her followers both ways.

2. Attention to Detail
When dealing with the social media channels of a well-known brand, attention to detail is crucial. Since you are representing a brand as a person, little notes, reminders, thank you tweets for your followers and rewarding surprises. It is most important to follow online what participants say about the brand, in which tone and where. So that these conversations can be followed and exploited if needed or even problems can be solved.
One of DKNY’s favourite activities is also to tweet along with other events, like red carpet shows or TV series. These activities that have little to do with the brand or its story are authentic and create a like-minded community. Also, she answered every tweet directed to her which drove more traffic to her page and made it appealing to interact with her as the brand representative. On this note, the next lesson learned from her social media handle is:

3. You are the conversation
What most companies don’t understand is that you are the conversation. You start it, you follow it, you provide relevant content and you listen. In his book ‘The Conversation Company’ Steven van Belleghem criticizes brands for having a checklist mentality. He says most people go about new media in a way that is outdated. You have a Facebook page? Ok, check. You are on Twitter? Done. People find you on Instagram? Perfect. This might be a good start, however has nothing to do with how these platforms work.
Aliza Licht always tweets about relevant topics, things that she likes or dislikes and thus, so adds a personal touch. She understands that the conversation does not just happen to be there, but you are the one initiating it. You need to stay on top of the game, tweet on a regular basis and be authentic. Just having a page or an account is not going to be enough or help your brand to establish itself. Participation, co-creation and relevant content is what brings followers. What doesn’t bring followers is the next lesson:

4. Sales is for Marketing
What people on social media hate more than the flu or no WiFi is a brand that does cold sales online. Companies that want to tell you how good they are even though you didn’t ask or you really don’t care. When working with a virtual community, the key is to find the right people, tweet about things that you care about and show your story through the eyes of others.
Working in a clothing brand? Show behind the scenes of your latest photo shoot, not the price tag on a bag that you designed. Representing a site in the hotel industry? Introduce your staff in a video for example, as it is them who makes your stay what it is. Are you an ad agency? Tweet about interesting findings within a target group and see what the audience has to say.
This is also a lesson the DKNY PR Girl never forgot. She might show articles from new collections or pick a specific item, but it is never with a caption of ‘Buy this’. You can always show off your products or give updates, however it needs to be done in a way people can relate to and find it intriguing to look at it.

So, after looking at all lessons learned, one might wonder why none of the other brands was capable of doing these simple tasks before her. So do I.
It was the company however who gave Aliza the opportunity to freely handle the online representation — a proof of trust that worked out in everyone’s favour. No matter how outrageous in the beginning it might have been, there are many other brands that are following DKNY’s path and create similar avatars online.

In this case for example OscarPRGirl from Oscar de la Renta or the department store Bergdorf Goodman. Both of them imitating the original account from Licht, but are not able to gain as many followers.

Uniqueness cannot be copied. Therefore, this article is not a checklist to success, but a guideline of what is important when working with a branded handle on any social media platform.
Last but not least, this does not just apply to companies, but also the private people who want to profile themselves online for a future job.
Therefore I am celebrating. Today, I tweeted my 300th tweet in the Twitter World, thanks to Aliza Licht and her ability to draw me into the world of 140 characters.