Holly Conti Of Full Swing Public Relations On How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally
An Interview With Maria Angelova
Less imposter syndrome. Women, especially, are told that they aren’t good enough in one way or another. Finding your authenticity helps protect you from those external influences that keep you from taking risks or being excited about new opportunities.
Being vulnerable and authentic are some of today’s popular buzzwords. It may seem counterintuitive to be vulnerable, as many of us have been taught to project an air of confidence, be a boss, and act like we know everything. In Brene Brown’s words, “vulnerability takes courage.” So is vulnerability a strength or a weakness? Can someone be authentic without being vulnerable? How can being authentic and vulnerable help someone grow both personally and professionally? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, mental health professionals and business and life coaches who can share stories and examples of “How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Holly Conti.
Holly Conti is the co-owner of Full Swing Public Relations, where she helps underrecognized leaders be seen and sought after so they can reclaim their power and rewrite the human story. She brings over a decade of experience managing brand platforms in digital, television, and print media. Holly lives in New York with her husband and young daughter, Eloise.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
My mom taught me what it meant to build a relationship with myself, how to be assertive, and always encouraged me to seek out experiences and work that would be fulfilling. She taught me how to lead with my values and not underestimate myself. My stepdad is a successful business owner so I got to see firsthand how fulfilling and sometimes challenging entrepreneurship can be. At the same time, I had experiences and people outside of my home that made me doubt myself and the power of my authenticity. From a young age, I grappled with what was authentically me. I learned to find a deep connection with myself and an inner creative space so I wouldn’t be easily influenced by others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I am constantly (maybe even obsessively) reading and listening to thought leaders in every form I can — whether that’s podcasts, magazine articles, books, or live speaking events. One of my core beliefs is that my perspective is not the only perspective. I find it crucial to learn about others’ beliefs. In fact, I have an entire bookshelf in my office dedicated to the authors that inspire me. While I don’t have a singular favorite quote, I just grabbed Caroline Myss’s book from the shelf and found one that resonates, “Your spirit is the part of you that seeks meaning and purpose. It’s the part drawn to hope, that will not give in to despair.”
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Two podcasts come to mind: The Expanded Podcast by To Be Magnetic and Rachel Rodger’s Hello 7 Podcast. To Be Magnetic has been a major part of my personal healing journey as I’ve learned to be more acquainted with my authentic self. They offer extremely useful resources to help you become more vulnerable and authentic so, if you’re reading this interview, you’d likely enjoy checking out their website. Hello 7 is geared toward women business owners. Rachel Rodgers is a phenomenal business coach who my business partner, Caitlin Copple Masingill, and I have had the pleasure of working with for the past few years. Rachel is a big reason why our company, Full Swing Public Relations, was able to reach our seven-figure revenue goal in under four years in business.
The icing on the cake is that I was recently featured on both of these podcasts! I got to sit down and have our long chats with my heroes. And it’s not true what they say, you should definitely meet your heroes — they were wonderful. You can find those episodes anywhere you listen to podcasts.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly does being authentic mean?
Being authentic means that I would rather disappoint someone else than disappoint myself. Even though someone might feel uncomfortable with something I say, want, or like, I’m not going to change it for their approval. I let my values be my goalposts for if I think something is true to what I want or need. Especially when I’m feeling under pressure, my values guide me and give me the strength to recognize when I’m leaning into my old bad habits of people pleasing versus when I’m doing something that will help me achieve the impact I want to make in the world.
What does being vulnerable mean? Can you explain?
Vulnerability shows up when you’re willing to put down your defenses and admit your blindspots. When you can share something without wondering what you’ll get out of it. It’s when you can genuinely say, “I don’t understand” and ask others for help. Asking for help can be seen as a sign of failure, but I believe not asking questions is far worse. This, paired with recognizing what we don’t know, is especially important if you’re having hard conversations about social justice and work culture as a white person. I’m an aspiring anti-racist, but I also recognize that I am a white person and there are experiences that I simply cannot understand. If I come to those conversations without defenses, then I am a better ally and can take action that is actually helpful, rather than action that preserves my own ego.
What are the positive aspects of being authentic and vulnerable? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
You can do so much more when you’re not falsely projecting perfection. Claiming that we’re perfect is what leads business leaders to stubbornly hold onto a strategy, even when the data shows it’s not working.
Just this last summer, my business partner and I developed a brand new offer we thought was pretty perfect for our audience. We launched and it was crickets. Literally no bites. If we had been egotistical, we might have kept trying the same tactic because we were afraid of being wrong. Instead, we looked at the data, revamped our Ideal Client Avatars, and made a product that our audience actually wanted. Our PR Accelerator is a done-for-you six-week program in which we pitch underrepresented leaders for podcast, news, magazine, and speaking opportunities. Only six months since we launched, our Accelerator has already brought in tens of thousands of revenue dollars and many qualified leads for our Rocketship Retainer.
Are there negative aspects to authenticity and vulnerability? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?
The negative aspects of authenticity and vulnerability come from when we misuse them. In the media world, some influencers have found that vulnerable messages get good engagement. They post performative vulnerability for likes and comments. But truly being authentic and vulnerable is less about big, profuse admissions and more about small actions like speaking up for yourself, asking for what you need, and admitting you don’t understand. It’s important that we don’t disguise being vulnerable as yet another tactic for approval.
From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that hold someone back from being authentic and vulnerable?
They are not being truthful with themselves and haven’t had their own personal reconning. They still operate with their guards up and, most of the time, don’t even realize there’s a wall that’s keeping them from being vulnerable. Personal reflection of this level isn’t easy and looks different from person to person. I found that spending time alone with my thoughts without the distraction of music or podcasts is most helpful for my reflection. Walking, journaling and meditating are my go-to’s, but there are many other tools that can help you become more in tune with yourself and better handle stressful thoughts.
Here is the central question of our discussion. What are five ways that being authentic and vulnerable pay off, and help you win, both personally and professionally?
- More effective collaboration that leads to a stronger bottom line. When you can admit you don’t know all the answers, you’re more likely to hear and respect others’ contributions. Brainstorming sessions are more effective because you are not worried about getting someone else’s approval and can focus on the true objective of the thought exercise.
- Clarity around what brings you joy. Once you find clarity around what brings you joy, you can prioritize those aspects of your personal and professional life. In turn, this will help you show up more refreshed and energized for your responsibilities. For example, I know that getting out in nature brings me joy. So, every morning, I make it a priority to go on a walk after my daughter goes to school and before I start work. Even though I’m not “on the clock,” some of my best ideas, including our PR Accelerators, have come to me on those walks.
- Less imposter syndrome. Women, especially, are told that they aren’t good enough in one way or another. Finding your authenticity helps protect you from those external influences that keep you from taking risks or being excited about new opportunities.
- Clarity around values. Whether they are your business values or personal values — which likely intercept — knowing your values is the first step to success. You have to know when and where you are going to spend your time and what you are willing to sacrifice.
- Having a more aligned life. Work-life conflict usually arises when people feel tension between their two “lives.” If you’re authentically showing up in both, know your values, and prioritize what brings you joy, then you’re less likely to feel that tension. In your professional life, you may have more job satisfaction and feel more confident to ask for a more appropriate salary.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I’d like to inspire self-love and trust. Impacting others in the most helpful ways starts by having a strong and loving relationship with yourself.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I spend all of my time learning and trying to grow, so I’d be happy to meet with any thought leader. Obviously, I’d love to have lunch with Oprah, but it would have to be sitting barefoot under a tree in her yard eating snacks, and having an authentic conversation.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow Full Swing Public Relations on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn and you can follow my personal journey on Instagram and LinkedIn. If you’d like to listen to my recent podcast appearances, you can find them on the Hello 7 and To Be Magnetic websites, or anywhere you can find podcasts!
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at email@example.com. To schedule a free consultation, click here.