I was recently named one of the 10 finalists for the fashion blogging competition sponsored by Sunglass Hut. The company is going to hire one fashionista to work as an independent contractor for a year to blog under the Sunglass Hut brand. The winner will get $100,000 compensation, a fully furnished apartment at the W downtown in Manhattan, $1,000/month styling allowance, and VIP passes to fashion shows in NYC, Milan, Paris and more.
I applied over a month ago, and the competition was narrowed down from thousands of applicants to the final 10. After a two-week voting period ended, a celebrity-studded judging panel chose nine other finalists based on their submission video, ability to communicate, social media expertise, and blogging experience.
The ten finalists now have to blog for the month of December. The judges will select the winner based on the factors stated above as well as the overall success of their individual Sunglass Hut Full Time Fabulous blogs.
My experiences in the competition so far have already humbled me. I never thought I'd make it this far, but I can say that I knew I was more qualified than many others and that I haven't had more than 4 hours of sleep since November. I am proud to say that I can call myself different, and the majority of my life has been spent developing the creative skills necessary to become successful in this industry. It takes a lot more than a pretty face and a fashion sense to be a successful blogger. You have to be every part of the media machine - the photographer, the editor, the marketing guru, the web developer, and the salesperson. I have stayed up many nights tweaking web layouts and updating twitter. I inject quality in everything that I post, and always try to put my own spin on anything I write about. I invested $900 in a Nikon D5000 because I know the importance of delivering high-quality visuals - finding a good medium between stimulating verbage and entertaining visuals is key to a great fashion blog.
Does hard work pay off in this industry? Absolutely.
I could have easily sat in front of my MacBook Pro to record a 60-second video telling you why I should be chosen, but I knew that wasn't the name of the game. If I only had 60-seconds to sell myself and represent myself in a certain light, I had to strategically create a commercial showcasing my blogging abilities, style and fashion sense, and communication skills.
I received an e-mail from the recruiter an hour after I submitted my application and uploaded my video requesting to interview me via phone. After speaking with her, it was a matter of patiently waiting to see if I would be chosen as a finalist. She called with the good news three weeks later - I was trying desperately hard not to jump off the walls with excitement.
This competition, aside from the obvious incentives to enter (perks such as $100K salary, $1K/month spending allowance, full-time travel to cover global fashion week events), is impressive also because of the PR value being a part of this campaign has brought to the Sunglass Hut brand and my brand. Third party confirmation is one of the best ways to develop a reputation in this industry, and this competition allows me to capitalize on just that. If a sexy, savvy brand like Sunglass Hut cosigns on my skills and quality of blogging, then it becomes easier for me to establish credibility within the industry.
Looking from the inside out, and as someone who works for a top PR trade, I can't help but notice the choices the Italian-owned brand made to capitalize on the completely over-saturated market of fashion blogging.
The nine other finalists and I all have one thing in common: a voice.
We all have the ability to promote the Sunglass Hut brand in a less pervasive way than traditional in-your-face advertising. If the message is being delivered by a friend or opinion leader, it's so much more likely to register and be retained by the targeted audience (in this case, 16-35 year-old fashion-obsessed female bloggers). The VP of Marketing for Sunglass Hut told me at dinner that we were helping him reach a market that the company had not been able to crack into before. Fashion bloggers are the opinion leaders and have the resources and abilities to share their opinions and reviews of specific products. They are influencing all aspects of the fashion industry, from the creative designs to the way brands are marketing to their consumers.
Oh, and how about positioning the brand as the uber-generous company that it is? Sunglass Hut sent me 10 pairs of their newest styles from brands including Prada, D&G, Versace, Tory Burch, Ray-Ban and Persol. They also sent an HD mini flip camera and a $250 American Express gift card. Upon sitting at my designated seat during dinner, I looked down to see a gorgeous, brand new iPad, shining ever so brightly and gracing the crisp linen tablecloth with my name typed into the background beneath the various apps.
Yes, they gave me an iPad.
I, of course, do hope (with everything that I've got) that I win this competition, not solely for the sake of winning the prizes, but also to work for a brand that understands the need to adapt to a changing social environment - one that takes initiative to continue to be at the forefront of the industry while maintaining the generality of the audience.
The VP of Marketing also said that the contest website and finalist blogs have collectively attracted more than 75,000 visitors in the first four days of December.
There are three weeks left in the competition, and my strategy is to partner with as many opinion leaders as possible. Targeting the right people can save you time and effort - the greatest advice I received was to "work smart."
I have been attending more events and creating original content for readers to see. I always try to keep the Sunglass Hut brand in mind when writing posts. Because the blogging market is so over-saturated, the need to be original and creative becomes even more necessary. If you want to see stock photos of celebrities, you can search Google Images to find them. My focus is to give people new, fresh ideas on how to feel beautiful about their unique selves - offering event coverage through my lens, inside looks uncovering the unheard of or unknown, and versatile style advice from the multi-faceted chameleon that I am.
You can view my Sunglass Hut blog at http://jinna.fulltimefabulous.com.