Download the Transcript here!Jenn T. Grace – Episode 86 – Insider PR Tips with Communications Expert Jonathan Lovitz
Thank you for tuning into episode 86 of the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast! In this episode communication expert Jonathan Lovitz shares some insider PR tips. We had an awesome discussion about personal branding and how important it is to find your voice, get to know your voice as well as the value of it. Jonathan discussed the importance of authenticity in your personal brand; which, if you’re a long time listener, you know I talk about quite frequently. He also shared how important it is to validate your brand with passion, conviction and data. Have a listen to hear more of Jonathan’s insights on personal branding and relationship building! I’d love to hear your feedback – drop me a line or comment below! To join the mailing list to have these podcasts sent to you, click here, that way you’ll never have to remember! One less thing to worry about! 🙂
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Jenn T Grace: You are listening to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast, episode 86.
Introduction: Welcome to the Personal Branding for the LGBTQ Professional Podcast; the podcast dedicated to helping LGBTQ professionals and business owners grow their business and careers through the power of leveraging their LGBTQ identities in their personal brand. You’ll learn how to market your products and services both broadly, and within the LGBTQ community. You’ll hear from incredible guests who are leveraging the power of their identity for good, as well as those who haven’t yet started, and everyone in between. And now your host. She teaches straight people how to market to gay people, and gay people how to market themselves. Your professional lesbian, Jenn – with two N’s – T Grace.
Jenn T Grace: Well hello and welcome to episode 86 of the podcast. I am your host, Jenn (with two N’s) T. Grace, and today I have another interview for you. So fortunately in the last episode, episode 85, we had a phenomenal interview with Jacob Tobia who taught us about all things genderqueer, nonbinary, non gender conforming, all kinds of just great information. So that was an awesome interview, but today I have an equally as awesome interview with Jonathan Lovitz who is the VP of External Affairs for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. If you are a long time listener of this podcast you will know that there’s certainly a theme with having a lot of folks from the NGLCC on this show. Today’s interview is just fantastic because Jonathan’s background is in communications and he has a ton of knowledge around personal branding. So for those of you who are listening to try to figure out how to improve, or start, or amplify your personal brand, the content that we talk about in this episode is just straight up tactical, as well as just really informative to be honest. So I’m so excited to bring today’s interview with Jonathan Lovitz, and he has a lot of different ways to get in touch with him, but if you go to www.JonathanDLovitz.com, that’s his personal page. And yeah I’m so excited about this interview so if you have any questions for me as a result of listening to this episode, or if you have any for him feel free to hit us up on pretty much any of the social media outlets. If you are interested in hearing more about what we talked, or looking for the links from today’s episode, if you go to www.JennTGrace.com/86 for episode 86, that will give you a page with the transcript of the interview, as well as links mentioned in today’s show. So without further ado, please enjoy this interview with Jonathan Lovitz.
So let’s start off with having you just tell the audience and the listeners a little bit about yourself, and your background, and how you became to be doing what you’re doing right now.
Jonathan Lovitz: Sure, well hi Jenn, and to all your listeners. I’m thrilled to be here. I’m a big fan of your work, and of your podcast, and the incredible energy you put out in the community, and really exciting to be here with you.
Jenn T Grace: Thank you.
Jonathan Lovitz: So I’m Jonathan Lovitz and my official title is Vice President of External Affairs of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which is based in Washington, but I live in New York City where I’m also the Director of our NGLCC NY affiliate because I’m a masochist. This organization is fantastic as you know, we reach every corner of the country and work with every conceivable type of LGBT and allied business, and I’ve known them for years. I now- actually next week celebrating one year with the organization after being a friend of NGLCC for at least the last five. My career got started in New York in a sort of bizarre twist. In my undergraduate I did what all the cool gay kids were doing and I majored in musical theatre, and also because I was a big nerd I got a dual degree in communications focusing on politics. And I’m also one of those really rare people that managed to get the job and feeder first. I graduated college and immediately booked a Broadway show that went on tour, and I went around the country for two years, and then settled in New York, and did some more theatre here, and eventually some TV work. And during that time I got picked up by LOGO, you might remember is an MTV network, it’s for the LGBT community, and once upon a time it had gay news on Sundays, and I used to help anchor and do some reporting on the gay news, and then some other man on the street interview programs about LGBT issues, and that sort of thrust me into being a sort of professional homosexual in a really positive way. I would asked to come be a spokesperson at a fundraiser for great people like GLAAD, and Human Rights Campaign, and the Trevor Project, and what started off as a one month contract became a three month contract, then a nine month contract, and before I knew it, I was doing far more LGBT community engagement policy work than I was performing, and yet I never would have been able to do any of it if I hadn’t been a performer first. The amount of times they threw me up in front of a teleprompter in front of a thousand people and said, “Go, raise us some money,” I never would have been able to do it had I not been trained as a performer for almost a decade. And then they found out, “Oh you’ve also got this background in policy, and you love to write, and you want to talk about these issues to a much broader policy based audience,” that’s how things really get to flip into this full time professional work in advocacy, and communications, and awareness raising for LGBT issues, particularly around economics. I found it really fascinating when I would attend some of these conferences out on the street, and the NGLCC conference which I went to originally as a guest because at the time, LOGO I was hosting a dinner, and doing a live auction, sort of using the public persona to get my foot in the door. And I was really floored by the work that LGBT businesses and all the corporations were doing around the world to create equity for a community that was doing just fine building equality for themselves, and I thought that that notion was really powerful. So I was really, really thrilled when the first time I was asked to join StartOut, another LGBT organization that helps bring funding, and advice, and mentorship to brand new LGBT companies. I started off as their Communications Director, and shortly thereafter became their interim Executive Director and helped run the ship for a while. And that set me up well with all the skills that I needed to quickly learn about management, and organizational structure, and policy work that set me up well when the NGLCC came to me and said, “We’d like to build a position for you.” They’d never really had a VP of External Affairs, and I think what I love most about my job is something that would probably kill most other people, that there are really no bullets underneath my title. It’s a really big net that includes everything from public policy, to PR and communications, to affiliate affairs, and to engagement with the community of doing great public work like this, talking to you and your listeners about all the great ways to get involved in the community both personally and professionally. So it has been a wonderful, incredible, organic, and sometimes mind blown journey that’s gotten me to where I am today, and I still can’t believe I’m here this young, and it’s incredible, I love every second of it. I’m really excited for everything that seems to be coming up next.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, and it’s so awesome to be so young in so many ways, and to have made such a mark already because you still have your entire career ahead of you. So I feel like that’s so exciting just to see what is on the horizon, especially given our political landscape these days, and all the things that are changing so rapidly, and sometimes for the positive, other times not so much, as we’re experiencing right now, but I think that it seriously feels like the sky’s the limit. I don’t know if that’s your impression these days.
Jonathan Lovitz: It certainly does, and I’m actually floored, and it seems like every month something is happening where I’ll speak to my mother and I’ll just drop in, “Oh by the way I’m going to this meeting with so-and-so.” “Wait, do you realize what you just said? You’re my son that used to sing and dance, and now you’re going to meetings at the White House, and making plans at the UN?” I don’t entirely understand how it’s all happening, but it is very much a powerful gesture and point of pride in my life that I’ve ended up here. I look at what I’ve gotten to do, and all the things that seem to be coming when people are asked to be a public servant. The work chose me, I never really sought out this career path, but when the opportunities came to speak for the community, and get involved, and raise awareness for all these issues, and still fulfill everything that I had always wanted to do about being in the public eye for things that I care about; it’s really incredible that these opportunities have come my way. I’m so thankful for them, and now I’m really fortunate to be in the position to help others grow their own opportunities, and that’s even more special.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah it’s interesting that you say that the work chose you. I find that that seems to be the case for a lot of people, myself included, where I remember when I first got involved which was back in 2006 – 2007, I didn’t even know what a chamber of commerce was at that time. So and then fast forward, we all know the history. It’s just insane sometimes when you’re like, ‘Okay I would never have predicted that this is where my life would end up,’ but you know that you’re there for a reason, and sometimes you have to shake yourself at the fact that, ‘Oh yeah I have been in the White House.’ Like it’s not something that everybody gets to experience, and yet you’re there on a pretty regular basis.
Jonathan Lovitz: Absolutely. And a great Mark Twain quote; there are two days that stand out in your life, the day you’re born and the day you realize why. And it’s nice to know that it doesn’t have to just be limited to one day of realization. I feel like every day helps us understand why, and a lot of it is the people, getting to know you, Jenn, and the people I get to know through this incredible network reminds me every day that we’re all doing something bigger than ourselves, and that’s really powerful, and it’s something very exciting to know that everything we do has an impact on others, even when we don’t realize it.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, absolutely. And so the podcast here is around personal branding, and I truly feel like you’ve done such an awesome job at personal branding from just kind of a big picture level, whether you were intentionally doing that or not. But we just saw each other in- I want to say it was the end of March, I don’t even know, in Boston. And we- if you remember when we were sitting around I think having dinner, and you had said- you made some statement about pitching to the media, and just basically writing what you want to be written. Can you talk about that a little bit? Because I feel like that is such- and I don’t know why, that was not my plan to discuss with you today, but it just popped in my head. Because when you said it I was like, that is so genius, why don’t more people do that? Could you just kind of share a little bit about that conversation we were having and then maybe give some tips for folks who are just kind of starting out on this journey?
Jonathan Lovitz: Sure. It’s all about authenticity, right? It’s all about knowing who you are, what you bring to the table, and what you want your legacy- whether it’s a message, or whether it’s your personal statement, or whatever it may be, what you want that to be, and giving people no excuses and no choice but to take that at its worth. So I think step one is really understanding who you are, what you stand for, what you care about, and what you want to do with your voice. And you don’t have to be a celebrity to realize you have a voice that matters. I think that’s one of the great things about something like Twitter; it’s the great equalizer. A tweet from me, and a tweet from the White House, and a tweet from a Kardashian all show up with the same- the same time and the same place on your feed, it’s what you choose to resonate with and amplify that helps decide whether or not that message continues out in the world. So when you and I were having that conversation about just putting out there exactly what you want, I think we were talking a little bit about press strategy and I think it’s all related to knowing your voice and the value of your voice. If you’re a business owner, you’re a representative of an organization, you’re either pitching the press, or pitching the PR company, and you want them to know what you care about. Leave as little wiggle room for interpretation as possible, give them what I always call show in a box. Which is the story, here’s the headline, here’s the quote I’d love you to use, here’s the photo to go with it, here’s the link to the video, here’s all the citations of the research that go with it. I’m trying to make your life- the reporter, the PR company, whatever it may be, as easy as possible because I want you to return the favor sometime if I’m in a jam and I really need the help. It’s all about relationships, and it’s all about helping each other out. But reporters are busy. They’re getting pitched hundreds of stories a day, and maybe only half of one percent are worth anything. And I can tell you from all the blind pitching in the world that you can do, it’s the reporter that you’ve gotten to know by taking them out to coffee and talking to them as a human being, getting to know what matters to them as a person, that will help you when it comes time to extending sort of your personal brand to them, and saying, “I want to work with you as a partner, and help tell an important story. And sure there’s a benefit to my employer, or the movement I’m working for, or whatever it may be, but it’s about people helping people and telling a good story.”
Jenn T Grace: I feel like that applies to sales even.
Jonathan Lovitz: Oh absolutely.
Jenn T Grace: Just it’s really- and I feel like it’s becoming more and more obvious, at least in 2016, that is really is human to human interaction. One person to one person.
Jonathan Lovitz: You couldn’t be more right. I mean think when you’re working with someone who’s calling you on a sales call. They have an objective, and you in your own business, you have an objective to close that deal and meet that benchmark. You could provide all the fact sheets, and all the ROI in the world, but until you really hit a chord with someone on a truly personal level, you’ll never really close that deal because it will just be transactional versus a human interaction. And if you want that sale to come back year after year, you want that relationship to continue growing, you have to have a validation that’s based on human interaction, that’s based on empathy, and sharing and understanding. And it may just be business development, but it’s about how you as people are going to grow your respective sides of that business together.
Jenn T Grace: So would you say that maybe for yourself, you have any type of- I don’t know, weeding out mechanism or some way for you to understand that when you’re building a relationship, whether it’s with a prospective chamber member, or whether it’s with a prospective reporter; do you have a way to- for lack of a better phrase, sniff out who would be the person that you should be focusing on building that relationship with? Because I think that a lot of people could spend each and every single day building relationships with the wrong people, and you want to make sure that there’s a dual win to that scenario where both parties are getting something from it.
Jonathan Lovitz: You know I’m a huge political nerd, so if any chance I can quote the West Wing, I will do it. And there’s a great line in an episode about exactly this question. ‘I need information but I’m getting the run around from all the secretaries, the agencies.’ I said yeah, secretaries have agendas, policy wants to have information, and I look at that in the same way with a sales funnel or anything else. If you’re dealing with a most senior person, they’re accountable for a certain deliverable and a certain report. But they’re not as active in the growth department and the actual interaction with other people, as likely a rowing account executive, or someone who’s responsible for the day-to-day operation, because it’s their job to make that person look good and that’s when they help their own career. So the more we can be building relationships with people one or two rungs down the ladder to help bolster the goals and ideas of the person at the top, that’s how we really build those in roads with someone who’s going to be there and help us out for a long time. It’s helping that junior assistant shine by helping to bring in some phenomenal new business that ultimately helps you, but helps them look like they’re bringing so much value to the company. You’ve now got a friend for life on the inside, and that’s entirely a human interaction. You’ve identified what it is you can do to make each other’s lives better, both personally and in business. So do your research, it’s incumbent upon you, do a little Googling, who’s the Internet machine? Pull up the LinkedIn and find the connections of the senior people you want to be working with, and then look at their orbit, look at their Zeitgeist, odds are you’re going to find someone, one or two steps removed who you share another mutual friend with, or a common interest, or a group you’re both in, and use that as your point of entry. I get calls all the time from reporters saying, “We’ve got to get to Tim Cook, we want to talk to Tim Cook, he’s the top gay CEO in the world, you’ve got to be able to know him.” I said, “You know contrary to popular belief the gays don’t all meet once a week for coffee and a handshake, we don’t actually have a secret club.” I guess that’s what the NGLCC tries to be.
Jenn T Grace: Yes.
Jonathan Lovitz: What I do say is work your way up, talk to the people who have influence and pull, and get into the conversation not because you need something, but because this conversation means something to you, and that’s how you have leverage to make an ask when the time is right.
Jenn T Grace: It’s about building internal champions. I find that the most successful client projects I work on, especially within corporations, it’s always the person that’s a couple of rungs down from maybe the VP who’s signing off on the check. But your ultimate goal is to make that contact of yours look amazing. And the more you make them look amazing, the higher chance that that business is going to continue coming to you. Obviously if you’re doing the job well to begin with, but understanding that that’s an assumption that you’re doing the job well. As long as you’re making sure that your contact on the inside who put their neck on the line to say, ‘Hey this person knows what they’re doing, and they’re going to do a good job,’ then there’s no way- at least in my opinion, that that could fail. It seems completely fool proof.
Jonathan Lovitz: I think you’re absolutely right. Looking at it from with my press hat on, which it’s been a bulk of my day, there’s a great website that a lot of us use to find out what reporters are looking for, what stories are they trying to find a lead on, and how can I help. It’s called HARO, Help A Reporter Out. And I taught that to my team in DC, and I said, “As you’re reading the paper, you’re looking at the blog, and you’re seeing a reporter talking about a really awesome issue, and even if it’s not quite a fit for us, it’s a fit for someone we know, and when we do a solid for somebody, that gets remembered. And we want to help the community out. There’s no prize in being the most selfish in your industry. There is a big prize for being the most collaborative.
Jenn T Grace: Absolutely. So going back to that particular tool- so that’s definitely a tool that I’ve used myself, and helped clients of mine use. What would you say to somebody listening who’s never heard of it for starters, what is it, www.HARO.com? It’s really simple, right?
Jonathan Lovitz: Yeah.
Jenn T Grace: Okay so if somebody has no idea, they’ve never heard of this before, what would you say maybe a top one or top two tips might be for making that actually a usable or a viable tool for somebody who really just is just getting started?
Jonathan Lovitz: Sure. Think of it as an eavesdropping tool. I know this may be a strange way to think of it, but think about sitting on the bus or the subway, or sitting at a restaurant and you overhear a conversation, and you know it’s killing you that you could answer the question that you just heard someone at the next booth ask. ‘Oh my God, I know the person that they’re looking for, but I know an expert that could help them out,’ and it’s just killing you that you can’t help. Well here’s an opportunity to do that. You go to HARO, or you go to MuckRack or some of the other great places where you can connect with reporters, and they say, ‘I’m looking for a personal branding expert to help me reach minority communities.’ Sure I could do that. You know who could really do that is Jenn Grace. And now I recommended a friend, and they see not only am I willing to help this reporter out, I’m willing to help out colleagues of mine. And that matters, and that’s something that resonates with people.
Jenn T Grace: So using that example, how narrow niche do you feel somebody should try to define their brand around- their personal brand? So if we’re thinking about all of the things- because I feel like there are more opportunities for me personally to take advantage of than I have time in the day. Like there’s just so much opportunity these days. And I know that that’s the case probably for even yourself because there are so many things that you hands down could completely and beautifully articulate some response or answer to, but it may not be directly in alignment with what you’re doing. You might say, “You know what? Let me throw that to Jenn, or let me throw that to Sam, or let me throw that to somebody else.” How have you been able to kind of I guess define the lane in which you like to travel in, and where those opportunities make sense to help a colleague out, so that way it does end up coming back at some point.
Jonathan Lovitz: That’s a great question. I think it’s a matter again knowing exactly what you bring to the table, and doing your due diligence to know also what you can’t bring, and what you can outsource to others. I mean it’s the whole point of a supply chain, right? Is I may not be able to do it, but I know someone who can, and we can work together and build a team, and collaborate, and/or just pass off a great lead in the expectation that that’s going to pay it forward the next time around. And that really starts with identifying your skillset, and in some cases being super explicit about it either on your website, or your capabilities deck, or whatever it may be and saying, “I do X, Y, Z.” And you don’t want to say that you are the next iteration- like Judy Garland said, “I don’t need to be the second rate imitation of myself, there already is one.” It’s too early in the morning for a Judy Garland reference, I’m sorry, but it happens. But you don’t need to say you’re the Uber of community service, or I’m the seamless web of PR, whatever the comparative may be. Say, “I am the next thing. I am here to provide a unique service that you can only get from me, and if I can’t do it I am connected to this massive network of-” and then list out all of the organizations you’re a part of, or all the certifications you have, all of the awards you’ve won and say, “If I can’t do it, trust me I’m a phone call away from someone who can and will get the job done.”
Jenn T Grace: You know what actually? An interesting thing happened to me a little bit along these lines. A couple of months ago, it was back actually in January so it was longer than I thought, I was on a sales call with a Fortune company that I won’t mention their name, but we were talking about their Employee Resource Group, and how they just need to help figure out how to make their Employee Resource Group members better kind of sales advocates within the community- so within the LGBT community specifically. And she had reached out to me and I was like, “You know, I don’t feel that I’m the qualified person to be having this conversation with. Employee Resource Groups are not my bailiwick but I know a couple of companies that would be perfectly suited to do this for you, but as the conversation kept going on, we were talking about exactly what they were looking for, and it ended up being exactly what I do, but I just have not specifically done it for an Employee Resource Group, but I’ve done it for a corporation, for a nonprofit, whatever it happens to be. But it was interesting that I started off that conversation saying, “You know what? This is totally not my thing, let me refer you to someone,” and then I ended up getting the business anyway, and I think it really had to do with being very clear on what I was good at, and what I really thought my strength was, and it ended up being that it was in alignment anyway. But I feel like if I had gone into it being like, “Oh yeah I’m totally the expert on this particular subject,” that I probably wouldn’t have gotten the business. It was a really interesting kind of dynamic of what you were a little bit of just talking about.
Jonathan Lovitz: I mean that’s a great example and there’s opportunity everywhere, right? And it may not be apparent in that first interaction, and that’s what’s the beauty of getting to know someone on a personal level first is all about. If you’re constantly looking at someone with the ‘what can you do for me’ goggle, you’ll never actually get to know them as a human being, and you’ll never know what they care about, and what their broader network is, and what it is that make them tick. And then you’ve lost a huge opportunity to find layers of opportunity within. So start with the people, and then build the business on top of it.
Jenn T Grace: Absolutely. Are you familiar with Gary Vaynerchuk to any degree?
Jonathan Lovitz: No but I want you to educate me.
Jenn T Grace: So he has a very confronting style I will call it, like he’s just really brash, he’s loud, he’s in your face, straight up what you would imagine a New Yorker to be stereotyped as.
Jonathan Lovitz: Hey.
Jenn T Grace: You’re so rough. And he has a huge online following and has for years, like millions and millions of people. And he has a book that he wrote, I think it’s a couple of years old now, called ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.’ And his whole philosophy is you have to give, give, give, and then ask, and then keep on giving. So there has to be a far more likelihood of you giving before you’re asking. Because if you just go into any scenario and you just start asking for the business, and you haven’t built the relationship, people are going to be completely turned off or ignore you. But if you’ve been giving, and giving, and giving, when the right time to make that ask comes along they’re going to be far more likely to want to do business with you because you’ve given them so much so far.
Jonathan Lovitz: Right, absolutely right. And again, it’s not that you’re giving for that guaranteed return. It’s that you’re giving because that’s in your nature and you want people to recognize that about you.
Jenn T Grace: Yes and if you are coming off as like ‘I’m only giving because I’m going to ask you for something in three days,’ then I think anyone would see right through that.
Jonathan Lovitz: We sure hope so.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah, right? Okay you were talking about strengths a little bit ago. And for some reason Sally Hogshead popped in my mind in terms of really understanding your strengths. And I’ve been a Sally fan since 2011, and I only remember that because it’s when one of her books came out, and having her at the NGLCC conference last year was legit like one of the highlights of my year because she was so amazing in person, on the stage, in the breakout, and then one-on-one. From a personal branding standpoint, I personally think that she’s truly amazing in terms of the framework that she provides to help people understand where their strengths naturally lie. What has your experience been, since I know you were at the conference obviously, what was your experience with that kind of new framework to really just understand what your brand as a person means and feels like?
Jonathan Lovitz: For anyone who hasn’t taken it, I highly recommend they go to her website and take the personality matrix test that she has, because it’s really eye opening. And if you can, if you’re a part of a team, I recommend doing it as a group. We recently did it at the NGLCC office and we now know who has what traits, and some were really shocking. There were a lot of people who possess these stealth characteristics that make them a great program manager, or even a great leader, and are sometimes so unspoken but it’s nice to see it articulated in this really visual way, in a color coded way, that helps you understand where everyone fits. For me personally I was really impressed by the real clarity of the questions. It was not a super broad Myers Briggs conversation. It was really about what makes you tick, and what qualities about you make you a strong human being, whether it’s for your persona life or your professional life. And the elements about who I was, as a leaders, as someone who likes to take charge, as someone who likes to be- they cleared me out, “You’re a talker, you like to be the public face of what you’re doing.” It was nice because it’s also backed up with an understanding of why; it doesn’t just drop the bomb and say ‘this is who you are.’ It says ‘because you got these five strengths behind you, that will help you succeed.’ And it also outlines some of the pitfalls which is also I think a sign of a great leader and a great business person, is knowing where your shortcomings are and what you can do to actively work around them. I know I can sometimes miss the woods for the trees when I’m really down in a project I’m working on. I’m so mired in the details I forget this can be a little rough around the edges, the big picture is what matters here. And it’s nice to be able to be reminded of that. And a trait of mine, and I should most importantly surround myself with great people who are my opposite so that they catch those mistakes, or that they help me execute correctly. I recently had been given some great help and some staff at the NGLCC to work on some projects, and we worked in completely opposite fashions, and it has made us stronger and more effective than we’ve ever been because we challenge each other. You’re your own best yes man, no one needs another one. I can look in the mirror and tell myself what a great job I’m doing, I need the product to speak for it, and I need my relationships to reveal that. So as much as it’s about discovering your own brand and your own skillset, allowing yourself to be self-aware enough of what you need to get the job done, the people you need to surround yourself with is just as or more so important.
Jenn T Grace: Do you remember what your archetype was?
Jonathan Lovitz: I knew you were going to ask. If you give me one second I can pull that up and tell you. Because I think it’s such a great thing for everyone to know. Let’s see, I do have that here.
Jenn T Grace: I think the key is looking as she calls it the Double Trouble. So when your characteristics are doubled up on each other where you’re actually acting at your worst. So something that should be making you your best, when you go to an extreme, it just makes it harder for people around you to either work with you, or take your direction, or operate. I feel like that was a really kind of eye-opening thing. Because when I was looking at mine, mine is the Maestro which is power and prestige, and it’s kind of the ringleader in a lot of ways of like organizing things, and to me it’s all about getting shit done. So it doesn’t matter how, I will get it done. And I can see now how overbearing that could be to people on my team when they don’t necessarily know what place I’m operating from. So it’s a matter of being really cognisant of where your strength can actually become something that’s hurtful to you.
Jonathan Lovitz: I love that. So mine was the Avant Garde, and it’s the person who likes to work quickly and come up with solutions, and be a leader, and if I don’t like how the game is played, turn the table over and start a new game, that kind of thing. And I really do love that, but again one of my favorite parts was how it helped me identify what the opposites of that highest and best value may be, which are if I’m not perpetually challenged, I’m going to get bored and I’m going to want to walk away from a project. So being sure that everything I’m doing is new, and innovative, and that certainly served me well, and it’s helped me develop unexpectedly I think in my career an entrepreneurial spirit that I didn’t know I had. If you had told me ten years ago when I was first starting out as fortunately a solid working actor in New York in Broadway and television that that foundation I was laying, by building a social media platform, and building my own website, and all of those things that I thought were just helping me get a few more roles; that laid a foundation for the rest of my career because now I’ve converted everyone who ever knew me as a performer into someone who can help me amplify my policy work, and the LGBT stances that we take, and everything begets everything else. And so as it relates to your personal brand, making sure it’s positive and flexible, it’s all about you and what you want to put out there. And I think it’s important for everyone to remember, and I try to teach this when I speak at a lot of universities and I try to remind young people these days you are what you tweet, far more than it used to be when it was your academic record, and your body of work. Now it’s how the Internet sees you because people are going to Google you before they meet you, and you want that digital trail of breadcrumbs to lead to something positive that you’re proud of, and it’s never too late to course correct. So if you want to make that pivot and change your personal brand to be an expert on a certain subject, or a champion for a cause, start right now and get moving, and get help. There are lots of people who know how to do this and you can be that change you want to be.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah and you have to start putting out content that reflects that, and I recently read- it was on LinkedIn and it was some ridiculous number like four out of five hiring managers, the first thing they do is Google your name or go to Facebook and look up your name. And if your profile picture is you with a beer can, chances are you’re not getting the job. So it’s that severe that I don’t think people recognize it, and I actually was looking to hire somebody a couple of months ago, and a colleague of mine said, “My daughter is 22, she’s graduating college, what you’re working on I think would be in alignment with what she’s interested in,” and I go to her social media page and everything is her smoking pot with bongs. And it’s like I’m not going to be a prude and say, “That’s wrong, you can’t do that,” but for crying out loud, like your social image has to be more professional than that. You really can’t be putting that out there, and once you put it out there, even though you think it’s deleted or gone, it’s still floating somewhere in the interwebs which is dangerous, especially when people are looking for- either looking for a job or just looking to grow their brand and grow their following of people.
Jonathan Lovitz: I think that’s absolutely right. And making yourself approachable for the things that you care about also matters. It’s one thing to just drop the bomb and walk away. It’s another thing to say, “I want to have a conversation.” So if you’re using Twitter, for example, to grow your brand, and you want to start a conversation, be prepared for there to be all sides of that conversation, and be prepared to have a- if you want people to reach you, use a Google voice number so it’s anonymous. Or start a Google Hangout where you can keep yourself at an aesthetic distance. But be approachable and don’t just throw a bunch of words out either and hope that it sticks. You’ve got to be able to back it up with passion, conviction, data when you’ve got it, whatever it may be, because that’s also how you validate your brand. The world needs one more YouTube sensation flash in the pan like it needs a hole in the head. But what it does need is someone who’s using their voice along with their fame to do something really great.
Jenn T Grace: Absolutely, and I think it’s important to be paying attention to sometimes maybe the more subtle cues of where your direction should be headed, because you might start off your personal brand and have- think that you have a really clear idea of what people are looking for, but once you start talking with the people you realize that, ‘Oh wow, what I thought they were looking for isn’t actually what they’re looking for, they’re actually looking for this,’ and be able to make those short pivots, and not marry yourself to that original concept, of being open to different ideas and different directions.
Jonathan Lovitz: Absolutely, and don’t let others define your brand for you. It’s your brand for a reason, and I certainly remember this well from back in my acting days. Something I don’t miss is being told, “You’re too this, you’re too that,” you’re at the whim of every director and every casting person saying, “Grow your hair out, be thinner, work out more, do whatever it takes to be the next up and coming star and you’re going to take over for this guy when he gets too old.” I don’t want to take over for him, I want to have my own path, I want to do my own thing, I don’t need to replace anybody else, I want to just be Jonathan Lovitz out there. And finally I was able to find that by ironically enough just being myself. It’s when I was given that opportunity to be on camera, and do the news, and interview celebrities and such as myself, and speak in my own voice, and talk about my own issues the way I cared about them, that’s when I finally began to shine in the way that I didn’t know I was destined to.
Jenn T Grace: Yes I feel like that is probably the biggest piece of advice is to just be yourself, because when you’re trying to fit the mold of what someone else is expecting of you, I feel like that’s where you kind of go off the rails. And I can think back to probably 2011 maybe, and this was when I was actually running the Connecticut LGBT Chamber. For some reason I feel like I completely lost my way, and I felt like I had to be what was expected of me to be, and I completely went away from who I was. And if I look at pictures of me from 2010 and 2011, it shows how far from my original core I really was, and then in 2012 I just kind of had this epiphany one day of like, ‘Screw this. I cannot continue to try to be something that I naturally don’t feel like I am.’ And then all throughout 2012 and 2013 I went on this whole weight loss kick, I got healthier again, and I completely re-changed everything that I was doing to just be very much in alignment with me because it’s so much easier to just be you than try to be somebody that you’re not.
Jonathan Lovitz: I could not agree more; the best advice we could put out there in the world for people.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah and especially with personal branding. So one of Sally’s quotes, I’m trying to think- it’s something of not trying to be others, just be more of who you are. So don’t- I’m going to totally butcher it, it’s like one of her best quotes. But yeah just be more of who you already are naturally rather than trying to add these characteristics or traits that are very unnatural to you.
Jonathan Lovitz: I think that’s absolutely right. And when you are most in tune with yourself, you’re an instrument that’s been primed, and ready, and destined for the spotlight. And that’s when your message takes off. When you get given that microphone metaphorically or literally, and you’re speaking from a place of groundedness and authenticity, that’s when your message takes hold. That’s definitely something Sally Hogshead before- it’s messages that fail to fascinate become irrelevant, and I think that’s right because what’s fascinating about someone is their authenticity, not the facade.
Jenn T Grace: Totally. And I feel like you are probably a living example of this as I feel like I am too. Is that I really pride myself on being the same Jenn. So whether you catch me when we’re having dinner with a couple of people, whether it’s at a conference, or whether we’re having a one-on-one conversation or a conversation that thousands of people are listening to, I feel like I really pride myself on always being that same person, so there’s never that jarring disconnect. And I feel like you are always the same person regardless of what interaction I have with you, and I would imagine that probably carries out through other people as well.
Jonathan Lovitz: Well I really appreciate that, and I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t always that way, and that was a major life lesson and journey for me was figuring out that’s who I’m supposed to be, is myself all the time. And I definitely see this among a lot of young people, and people starting out in their careers, is trying too hard to please everybody by pivoting. That when you’re in the office you’re trying to please the boss, so you’ve got one persona versus who you are with your friends, or who you are with your family versus who you might be when you’re networking with your eye on the next job, and that doesn’t work.
Jenn T Grace: It’s exhausting.
Jonathan Lovitz: It’s just too exhausting, and for anyone who’s ever been through the coming out experience in their professional life, they know about when you can bring your best self to your work by being who you are. Your work has never been better, in fact your whole life gets better because that lead vest comes off. So do yourself the favor and take off a couple extra layers of lead vest and just carry yourself around.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah just being the same person. I just had an introduction from a colleague to a Fortune company, and it was a CMO and it’s not typically a recommendation that I’d prefer written an email, but the introduction was, ‘You need to meet Jenn, she’s whip smart and she gets shit done.’ Like that was exactly the line. And I’m like okay, this was to the CMO of a really large company, I’m not sure that that would be the natural way I would like to be introduced, but it actually is who I am, and when I had that first initial call with this particular company, it set the tone so beautifully because I- and I really even with sales calls and high people in larger companies, I’m still genuinely the same person, but it really kind of was very freeing to be like, ‘You know what? This is how I was introduced, they still wanted a call with me, so I can really just kind of be who I am,’ and it was just such a natural flowing conversation because of that. Even though I wouldn’t necessarily want that to be the way I’m referred frequently, but it worked out so beautifully. So I think that it really kind of comes down to that authenticity, and for me having the moniker of the Professional Lesbian, that immediately weeds out people that would not even want to give me the time of day. And to me that’s a great thing because I don’t have to waste my time or someone else’s for them to see if they even want to build a relationship with me.
Jonathan Lovitz: Oh I think you’re so, so right. We don’t have time anymore to have to chip away and figure out what’s behind the facade. Leading with yourself is the easiest way to make sure people get what they pay for, literally and figuratively. And I can’t tell you the number of times in my career I thought I’ve gotten to know someone under a totally false pretense, and when the mask came off and I was so disappointed with the person that was really underneath, I wish I had known that from the beginning.
Jenn T Grace: Yeah.
Jonathan Lovitz: Because it’s wasted a lot of time and energy and frustration, and I came out on the other side more aware of what I don’t want in my life, which is potentially a great lesson, but again speaks to the value of your own brand and self-awareness. Be aware of what you’re putting out in the world because that’s what people are buying. And in a world where we all look to our Yelp reviews before we buy anything, word of mouth is your living Yelp review, and we want it to be a good one for you.
Jenn T Grace: Absolutely. So I feel like we’re getting already to almost 45 minutes, we’ve already been talking that long, and I feel like we could be talking for days because there’s so much information to be had, and we both have communications degrees which is why I think it’s kind of morphed into what we’re talking about. But I want to ask you what is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given? And not even necessarily related to branding or anything like that, but just kind of in business or in life. What is it and who gave it to you?
Jonathan Lovitz: Well you’ll indulge me I’ll have to say it’s two.
Jenn T Grace: Okay.
Jonathan Lovitz: Because in my personal life it came from my parents when I was a teenager and really struggling with who I was personally, what I cared about versus what was expected of me as a teenage boy in the suburbs, and all the things that I was into when I was far more interested in being involved in theatre and school than I was sports and friends and all of that. And all my- and after all the time talking to school counselors, and all the stress of all of that in your teenage years; sitting down and having a good cry with my parents and them saying, “Yeah but do you like you? Good. Stick with that and that’s all that matters.”
Jenn T Grace: That’s beautiful.
Jonathan Lovitz: And that has served me well in my personal life ever since. It’s just thinking, ‘If I’m unhappy with something, all I have to do is change it. I could sit here and rock back and forth and worry about it, or I could make it better.’
Jenn T Grace: Yeah.
Jonathan Lovitz: So that certainly served me in my personal life, and then in my professional life which I am so grateful as I said at the beginning of all this, very bizarrely and organically led me to such incredible experiences, it’s all been because I never let a door that was closed dissuade me from a path. And anytime that there was a door, I have been told by so many friends, and colleagues and mentors, ‘Build your own,’ and that has always served me well. Between the idea of never letting a lack of an opportunity mean that there isn’t one, just should inspire you to come up with a creative solution, and that usually leads you to lesson number two which is it’s usually better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.
Jenn T Grace: That’s my favorite quote.
Jonathan Lovitz: Yeah, get it done, wow people, and someone will help you get out of any kind if icky situation that arises with it. But it’s better to have done it. Another great Sally Hogshead quote was something to the effect of the world was never changed by people who just kind of cared.
Jenn T Grace: So true, especially in this work, right?
Jonathan Lovitz: Yeah, exactly. And whether it’s your personal business, or community service, or whatever it may be, care with all you have because you’re only going to get one shot to make a difference.
Jenn T Grace: I love that. I love that. I feel like we should end on that because it’s so beautifully articulated. But before we actually end, how do people find you? So tell us all the different ways in which they can get a little bit of loving from you.
Jonathan Lovitz: Well if they ever want to know about our professional work, and the great things we’re doing to make the world a better place for LGBT people to live, and work, and thrive, get involved in www.NGLCC.org. But for me personally I have a website, www.JonathanDLovitz.com. It’s a little bit under construction right now, so anyone out there with some great web skills, do feel free to get in touch. But there’s my links to all my social media are there, I’m really active on Twitter, it’s my favorite. @JDLovitz. I will always write back and get in touch with people if they use the email link on my website. There’s no such thing as a relationship without value, so I hope to hear from everybody listening. I hope to always be a good friend and connection with you, Jenn, I think your work and energy you put out into the world is so inspiring and we need a lot more of you out there, but I’m pretty glad that there’s just one Jenn Grace.
Jenn T Grace: Thank you, I appreciate that. We should just start cloning ourselves and just have a little army. Wouldn’t that be great?
Jonathan Lovitz: Absolutely. I don’t know the world needs another one of me, I think I’m- certainly my partner wouldn’t want more.
Jenn T Grace: I would say the same thing about my wife. Yeah I don’t think she wants another one of me either.
Jonathan Lovitz: Yeah.
Jenn T Grace: They get the best of us, don’t they?
Jonathan Lovitz: They sure do, even at the worst.
Jenn T Grace: For real. Alright this has been great, thank you so much for being a guest, I really appreciate it.
Jonathan Lovitz: It was a real pleasure and an honor, and I hope to do it again. Thanks for all you do.
Jenn T Grace: Thank you for listening to today’s podcast. If there are any links from today’s show that you are interested in finding, save yourself a step and head on over to www.JennTGrace.com/thepodcast. And there you will find a backlog of all of the past podcast episodes including transcripts, links to articles, reviews, books, you name it. It is all there on the website for your convenience. Additionally if you would like to get in touch with me for any reason, you can head on over to the website and click the contact form, send me a message, you can find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all at JennTGrace. And as always I really appreciate you as a listener, and I highly encourage you to reach out to me whenever you can. Have a great one, and I will talk to you in the next episode.