Columnists

The PR Adviser: Don’t Be Afraid to Fly

ColumnistsJan 23, 2024

The PR Adviser: Don’t Be Afraid to Fly

True evolution often involves taking a leap of faith, Lilian Raji writes upon her return after a personally challenging year.

National Jeweler columnist Lilian Raji
Lilian Raji is a strategic communications and PR adviser who helps companies understand their marketing problems, then designs and executes strategies to solve them.
Dear readers, can I first begin by saying how much I’ve missed you?

Last time I disappeared and reappeared, I spoke to you about resurrection, reincarnation, and evolution.

This theme still holds true as I return after what has been the darkest year of my life, one that broke me in ways I didn’t think I could be broken before putting me back together and making me more powerful than I ever imagined.

In January 2023, I was hospitalized during my annual birthday trip, this time to Peru, where I discovered that a genetic condition that had never bothered me my entire life was very much bothered by Peru’s high altitudes.

In Puno, 12,555 feet above sea level, my oxygen levels dropped to 65 percent and my body stopped producing red blood cells. With the intervention of a wonderful Peruvian medical team, I survived after a blood transfusion, multiple medical treatments, and a five-day supervised bedrest. 

Alas, I returned to the United States only to discover my mother, whom I’d been taking care of following her stage 4 cancer diagnosis, had taken a turn for the worse in my absence. 

She passed away on Valentine’s Day. I entered Mount Sinai Hospital four days later for internal bleeding.

Mourning, grief, and disappointing behavior by people from whom I expected more aside, I returned to Mount Sinai in August for two weeks, this time for pneumonia and a pulmonary embolism.

After almost dying twice on the table during two separate procedures to determine why my pneumonia wasn’t responding to antibiotics, I was finally discharged only to have my beloved dog of 14 years die in my arms two days later from kidney failure.

I think I’ve depressed you enough, dear readers, so I will skip over the rest of my 2023 and get to the point—after losing everything most important to me yet surviving it all to still be here to give you PR and marketing guidance, evolution has arrived for me once more.

When my brilliant editor, Michelle Graff, and I conceived The PR Adviser a decade ago, I had a vision of being a “Dear Abby” for the jewelry industry. I wanted to be a catalyst for evolution for companies that found new direction through my advice.

Evolution is a theme glossed over in business because it’s too esoteric a word to consider. But growth cannot happen without change and change sometimes requires uncomfortable events.

There’s an untold backstory of how my placing Claudio Pino’s jewelry into the blockbuster film “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” almost didn’t happen. 

He hesitated as I pushed him to do something truly uncomfortable, yet he took the leap of faith I requested and discovered he could fly. 

It’s been a decade since “Catching Fire” came out, and Claudio continues to benefit from evolution’s effect. 

Another untold story from the “Hunger Games” era involves a second designer to whom I presented the same opportunity. 

She dismissed my instructions and did what she wanted. In doing so, she ignored the demands of the gatekeeper who ultimately let Claudio in and not her. 

Doing what she wanted to do, ignoring evolution’s discomforting demands, was easier for her than taking a leap of faith. 

 Related stories will be right here … 

Evolution, change, is terrifying. This terror can sometimes keep us from taking actions that would ultimately reveal wings able to fly us to where we want to be.

As I return to you now after clawing my way out of hell, I’ll be advising you to take actions that may not make immediate sense. 

To be fair, since I don’t know each of your challenges personally, some of my advice may not apply to you. But since this is still “Dear Lilian: The PR Adviser,” you’re encouraged to email me questions and I will devote an extra column to answering you in-depth.

So now we turn to another kind of evolutionary journey, that of The Customer Journey.

This journey can find your customers evolving from a state of despair to delight as they receive heartwarming compliments from wearing your gems, especially on days when they really need to hear a kind word.

When we last left off, I introduced you to the Four Superheroes of The Customer Journey.

To refresh your memory, they are as follows:

Awareness, who wants to know, “How does your target customer first find out about you?”

Consideration, who asks, “What are you doing to ensure your target customer buys, whether immediately or in the future?”

Decision, who enquires, “Now that your target customer has admitted to liking you, how are you going to seal the deal, my friend?”

Loyalty, who seductively whispers, “Since your target customer is now your actual customer, what are you doing to keep them coming back?”

We’ll address each superhero individually over the next few columns, but let’s take a peek at awareness and its inquiry, the first way a customer finds out about you.

I still haven’t lost my fondness for Cartier, so we’ll start there.

As a Cartier customer, I first learned about the brand when I worked at Tourneau (now Bucherer) in my 20s.

Retailers are often your customers’ first point of awareness, but since our industry is undergoing its own evolution, it behooves you to facilitate other initiating points.

Online magazines, social media, SEO, advertising, and even product placement as in the case of Claudio Pino—with Stanley Tucci prominently displaying his rings throughout the movie—are all touchpoints you can control.

You can shape the first impression a potential customer has with your brand even when none of your representatives are anywhere in sight.

As we continue, I’ll be teaching you how to do this as well as forge your customer’s journey so they eagerly arrive at the lair of our fourth superhero, loyalty, meaning they are ready to champion your brand with as much enthusiasm as I champion Cartier.

In the meantime, my own evolution after a challenging year (is that an understatement?) has led me to create a new division of my company named—you’ll never guess—The PR Advisor!

Dancing multiple rounds with death as I did last year made me ask myself what legacy I want to leave in the world once my music finally stops.

The PR Advisor is a passion project that allows me to share 20-plus years of wisdom and insight in hopes that promising companies that can’t afford my agency retainer find much-needed guidance through my writing.

And that is why I encourage all of you to send me, at lilian@lmrpr.com, your most pressing PR and marketing questions as it is my sincerest pleasure to point you in the direction of your own evolution. 

See you next month, my friends.

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