When a photo of a new “boy band” crossed PR Agent Heather Hawkins’ desk in 2001, she was surprised at how glamorously they were presented. The era of Backstreet Boys was over; kids were listening to “real music” (like highly produced punk), and what was more, the look of the band didn’t match the sound. As Heather and her coworkers listened to the music and got to know the band members, they quickly realized that something needed to change.
“[W]e realized that in order for them to survive in the ecosystem we needed to absolutely double down on the music and who they really were as people. We understood that that was going to mean making some really tough decisions.”
Heather and her crew took on the philosophy of “Radical Authenticity” and proudly began shipping the band to Jeep Jamboree camp outs, Sam Adams beer festivals, and locations where bands respected for their musical proficiency would be expected to play. Their long game paid off: the band, Maroon 5, became a globally recognized tour de force, and are still producing hits today.
Now the CEO and founder of Elevation Strategy, a visibility consultancy, Heather loves working with companies to crystallize their brand DNA and find their “guiding North Star.”
“[U]nderstanding who you are not is just as important as understanding who you are…It’s not just about selling a thing; it’s about creating a movement. It’s about, you know, recruiting crusaders for your cause, and that if you do that right your customers become your greatest allies.”
Heather is well versed in recruiting crusaders. One of her career highlights includes the launch of the Sega Dreamcast, an experience she remembers fondly for how well her team rallied together and found a groundswell of support among Sega’s fan base. On 09/09/99 they made entertainment retail history as their product launch caused the most money to change hands for an entertainment launch ever (for contrast, keep in mind that Star Wars’ The Phantom Menace was the previous record holder).
But the biggest victory, at least for Heather, was what that launch meant to the fans.
“[T]hat's the kind of movement and emotional attachment that I've been striving ever since to help my clients achieve. Certainly, I've been striving ever since to find another job, another role, another environment where people are working together in the way that we did during that time.”
Join us as we discuss Heather’s other careers (including doing a stand-up comedy set in a club alongside the late Robin Williams), how entrepreneurs and executives can build media relationships, and what really sets Heather’s heart on fire.
Takeaways from this episode:
- As with many of our guests, Heather “fell into” her career in public relations. She was originally a radio personality in Santa Rosa, but found that she wanted to exercise more creativity in her work.
- When Heather showed up for her job at Sega she had blue hair, a nose ring, and an uncanny ability to speak authentically to people. “I don’t feel like it every really felt inauthentic because I understood how to talk to them, so I had this dual-sided in my mind.”
- Heather’s team created conditions for success: they formed a new department called “Enthusiast Relations” to work with word-of-mouth influencers and gain the groundswell of support needed to needed for a successful launch.
- They also made a game out of the marketing materials for the product launch which appealed to the gamers interested in the new console. Heather “spoke the language” of the gamers, despite not being one herself.
- The leadership at Sega, including the CEO, reinforced an attitude of “all-in-it-together philosophy” that empowered employees and allowed them to accomplish the “impossible” at every level of the company.
- If you’re trying to figure out who you are and feel stuck, try listing all the things you are not.
Links Mentioned in this Episode:
- Heather Hawkins – Website | Twitter | LinkedIn
- Disrupt Yourself Podcast – Episode 24: Lee Caraher
- Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine by Mike Michalowicz