There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. In our continuing series to correspond with the launch of BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent, we highlight some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them.
NEW YORK, United States — As the executive director of online global communications at Estée Lauder, Helane 'Laney' Crowell oversees content creation and strategy for the cosmetics company’s website and social media accounts. Her latest project is The Estée Edit, a daily site featuring stories from Estée Lauder spokesmodels and industry figures like Garance Doré.
BoF: Please describe your current role.
HC: I am an online content creator and social media strategist. Personally, I have blog called downtownromantic.com, where I post photos and recipes. I am also the executive director of online global communications at Estée Lauder. I've been in this role for 3 years and while my responsibilities have changed a lot, I mainly work on creating content for our social media platforms and esteelauder.com.
Since I come from an editorial background, working at magazines like Lucky and Elle, I naturally started working on creating great photos and videos for our platforms (we were only on Facebook when I joined, but we are now on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest). I work a lot on strategy, which I think is the benefit of working for a big brand. I have to think on a global scale and plan how my work will translate in many different markets. While you may get to be more nimble and spontaneous at a small brand, which I often miss, it's much more strategic and ‘big picture’ at a large brand.
BoF: What attracted you to the role?
HC: Before I started working in beauty, I worked in fashion editorial. Eventually I moved online and helped launch a fashion website for a start-up. Being at a start-up was like bootcamp. I learned so much, so fast and quickly fell in love with the concept of social media. The ability to communicate with so many people is fascinating to me and it was thrilling to be in the middle of it all when it first began.
Brands had started approaching me to help them move online and market themselves on social. I even moved to Qatar to launch the social media department for Tribeca Film Festival’s festival in Doha for 4 months! I spent about 2 years doing this and I loved what I was doing, but I hated working for myself. I'm the type of person that likes structure. I craved an office, knowing where I needed to be and when. I missed having co-workers, and of course, health insurance is also nice.
When I was presented with the role at Estée Lauder, I was very excited about how much there was to learn because I had never worked in beauty before. I'm the type of person that likes to be outside of my comfort zone because it means that there will be a challenge involved. There was such a steep learning curve when I first started in terms of learning all the departments, the product names and, most importantly, what the essence of the brand was all about.
I had always been attracted to working in the beauty industry because it felt very positive to me. When I think about beauty products, I have so many happy memories from playing with drugstore finds with my girlfriends, sharing tips with my sister and my first trips to the department store counters.
BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on?
HC: Instagram, both my personal account and the account I run for Estée Lauder, is probably my favorite platform and project. A photo says a 1,000 words and, if you have a lot of followers, one post can have a huge impact. At Estée Lauder we have photo shoots every few months and I get to play stylist, blogger and creative director for a couple days. I have a great team and we've really figured out our groove.
BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?
HC: Two things are happening online right now: content has to be easier to consume, since there is so much of it; and it also has to be better. There is no tolerance anymore for a bad photo, wordy article or lame tweet. So, everything has to be purposeful and easy to consume.
Blogging has been a big part of my life for the last six or seven years. While I've never focused on getting a huge following or making it my full-time job, it has always been a way for me to express myself creatively and practice telling stories. Storytelling is essential for personal social channels and even more so for brands. All of these platforms bring us closer [to brands] and with this intimacy comes a desire for authenticity and access.
My role has changed a lot because of this. I review my blog and personal channels and ask myself, 'Am I telling the right story here? Does this represent me accurately?' Same for the content that I put out for work. Am I telling the right story for the brand? How does this achieve our marketing goals? Is this authentic to our brand ethos?
BoF: Tell us about a time you failed and how you learned from it.
HC: I’ve failed so many times, I don’t know if I can pinpoint one time! I have mini-failures every day, but I try to fail fast and cheap. There is always a photo that doesn’t preform well, a tweet that doesn’t resonate or an article idea that doesn’t fit. Always. But a failure just gets you closer to your success.
BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?
HC: My first piece of advice is to make sure you really love it. Social media is all consuming, so you have to make sure that it’s something you really, really love and that doesn’t feel like work. A good test is to see if you do it in your spare time. In my spare time, I’m still constantly checking Twitter and Instagram, reading as many editorial articles as I can and brainstorming how to create more beautiful and interesting content for myself and for work. If I didn’t love it so much, I would have gotten burnt out a long time ago! Instead, it’s quite the opposite; I love it more now than I did when I first started.
My second piece of advice would be to pay your dues. More often than not, people think they are too good to do the administrative tasks and the grunt work. But this is what will make you great. You’ll build the foundation of your career and be stronger for it. You will become a smart strategist because you will know the nuts and bolts of your job. And you will earn the respect of your co-workers, clients and employees. I’ve met a lot of people who are young and inexperienced, but want to go straight to the top. I understand impatience — trust me, I struggle with it all the time — but the slower you go, the fast you will get there.
Lastly, do your research. I just had a young girl find me through the hashtag #TheEsteeEdit. She saw the hashtag and was intrigued by the launch. So she looked at all the people who used it and found my Instagram. She then found my blog in my Instagram profile and went to the ‘About’ page, where she found my email and emailed me a very professional email asking for an informational interview and career advice. I couldn’t have been more impressed and, while I’m not hiring right now, when I am she will be at the top of my mind.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
To explore exciting fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent.