July 28, 2014
By La Tasha Taylor
Photo: Canterbury Photography
Sarni Jaye received her Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the prestigious Medill School of Journalism and her master’s degree from the University of Houston. She combined her media expertise with the desire to help people grow, entering a field where both skills are essential—PR and brand development. She has worked with brands featured on top media outlets such as Oprah and helped them to further expand their value, recognition and reach. Sarni loves helping clients identify their passions, develop those passions into compelling brands, and deliver those brands to the world.
You are a PR/Branding Specialist and your self-titled brand, Sarni J, has a motto “A Brand New You™” How exactly do you deliver that to your clients and what should they expect?
A Brand New You™ emerged organically as a result of my work experiences. It’s almost like naming a baby after it’s born so you get an idea of his or her personality. I had so many clients coming to me for representation as a publicist, which I understand because the idea of media attention is glamorous; however, when we’d consult, they often didn’t have a mission statement, they didn’t have a functional website, or they didn’t have a solid business identity or strategy.
Branding is like the foundation to a house. It helps establish the strength and longevity of everything else, especially when storms come. Many people don’t invest in brand development because they see it as a luxury service, but it’s actually an essential one. A publicist can help you get your 15-minutes of fame if your long-term goals aren’t established, but part of what I do is “authentic branding”; my aim is to provide clients with a lifetime of success. I go deep to the core of the client and help them identify who they are, what purpose they serve, and how we can make people take notice. Once their brand is firmly established then they are ready for public relations initiatives.
Branding and PR are different from many services because they are not product driven. You can’t just get in and get out, you have to truly form a relationship with your client. You have to know who they are, what they want, and sincerely have their best interest at heart to promote them effectively. Because of this, I have learned to only work with people now who share a similar value system. My niche market is conscious brands; these are brands that serve to uplift society, whether directly or indirectly. I’ve worked with authors, actors, business executives, and a diverse mix of dynamic brands, but for the most part they have all shared a core desire to create a positive impact through their work.
Describe your journey toward entrepreneurship?
I’m definitely an accidental entrepreneur in the sense that it wasn’t something I ever thought would be my path. I’m that kid who always daydreamed in class but still managed to ace tests. I remember I’d find a way to make every assignment in school my own. For example, we had to design business cards, which are traditionally flat, but I made mine a 3D box. I literally and metaphorically have always colored outside the lines. I think so many entrepreneurs share this same spirit.
I loved the process of retelling people’s life stories when I was a journalist, but I wanted to help them create new stories also. So, I decided to obtain my masters degree in social work. Adoptions was the ultimate public relations job I later realized because finding children forever families involved research, communications, strategy, pitching, and honestly every other skill that we use in PR. My kids were my real clients, not the system, and I had to identify their strengths and help them shine. Having a child say thank you for finding me a home is everything. From there, I moved on because I felt my efforts would have the most impact if I assisted people who had a desire to help the masses. I didn’t immediately choose entrepreneurship; it was thrust upon me. God shook up my life and stripped away everything I thought represented stability. When you are destined for greater, life will activate the process by pushing you out of your comfort zone. You either shrink to avoid the light or you grow towards it. A colleague who I’d founded a women’s group with said to me, “It’s amazing, despite what you’ve gone through, you are still so supportive and encouraging to other people.” Somehow I knew that was my path. We have all had a moment where life felt heavy. I chose to spend my life guiding others to release the burden, dust themselves off, and run towards their destiny. I’ve helped people who were unsure of their path find clarity of purpose, I’ve helped brands expand from just an idea to a national campaign, and I’ve successfully achieved client placement on top-ranked media outlets. In branding and PR you meet dreamers, doers, believers, and passionate people who want more out of life. I love it!
Value is a very important word in your line of work – Public Relations and Brand Development. Why?
Your brand is your identity, so it’s crucial to your success. Think about your last trip to the grocery store, where were the no-name brand items located? On the bottom shelf. They are lower priced, made of cheaper ingredients, and are imitations of more quality items. The brand names, in contrast, are visible, which subconsciously makes them desirable and easy to choose. If you have a business, it’s absolutely important to brand it so you stand out in a world full of millions of others demanding to be heard. The same principle applies to personal relationships as well as professional aspirations. To avoid being overlooked, you must assert your value, stand by it, and live up to it as best you can. Value is a key component of any branding and PR strategy because it defines your strength in the marketplace, your income, and ultimately your lifestyle.
Sarni Jaye presenting at the Brand and Expand workshop
Photo: C. Allen Media.
What would you suggest to the burnt out 9 to 5 [traditional] worker looking for a change of pace?
Oh, I’ve been there and done that! Burn out means something in your life is out of alignment. So many people are burnt out because they are not doing authentic work or aren’t maintaining a balance of mind, body and spirit. I remember a time when I was helping care for my grandmother who has dementia, working overtime at an emotionally taxing job, and just generally investing so much into being a helper that I put myself last. When I paused and reconnected to what brought me joy (travel, laughter, exercise, etc.) all those other things become easier and relationships, money, and peace began to flow.
Taking a break from work, whether it’s a long leave or a short moment where you just stop and get quiet, is key. Ask yourself, “If I could wave a magic wand over my life, what would be different?” I ask this of clients all the time, and it’s amazing to see them light up. When you think from the possibilities and not the problem, a shift occurs. Ask the question; the answers often reveal themselves in the silence.
What advice would you give to the overly eager entrepreneur expecting his/her business to succeed in lightning speed?
Old folks’ wisdom is the best, and as my grandmother would say, “A watched pot never boils”. The more anxious you are, the farther your goal will seem. In addition, people I’ve crossed paths with who want things fast tend to make erratic decisions or lack integrity in their road to get there. Karma comes back around and can wipe out all your perceived gains. When you see the hare running past, steer clear and keep moving forward; remember the classic fable “The Tortoise and The Hare” taught us that the persistent tortoise wins the race in the end.
Everything worthwhile develops in time. Let’s look to nature as an example: It takes months to birth a baby or produce a harvest, and if you don’t nurture those things regularly, they will suffer. I’d advise impatient entrepreneurs to enjoy the journey, and focus on pouring life into their goals daily through thought, words and action. Just like water and sun to a plant, in time it will blossom into something magnificent.
Complete the following in your own words:
I always knew as a little girl that I wanted to…
I wanted to make my family proud, have a creative career…and marry Theo from The Cosby Show. Two out of three isn’t bad! <laughs!>
I believe entrepreneurship is…
Making the commitment to honor that stirring in your soul. Sometimes it’s a whisper that we drown out, sometimes it’s a roar that we can’t ignore, but it’s always a calling.
One of my best experiences as a business leader…
Seeing visions come to life is rewarding. I speak to so many people who have dreams deferred like the Langston Hughes poem describes. One day I made the commitment that I wouldn’t let my ideas dry up. I had a flash of an idea and immediately reached out to a wonderful contact and said, “Let’s do a workshop!” A short time later we had successfully completed a sold out workshop along with a Houston Chronicle reporter, and our attendees have been applying the skills learned to achieve their goals. Seeing my clients succeed is ultimately what brings me the most joy.
Challenging days are best handled…
By affirming that this too shall pass. Instead of allowing stress or emotions to take over, just breathe and ask for the lesson in all of it. There’s such a serenity in realizing a difficult moment doesn’t define your life, but the way you handle it does.
I want my legacy to be…
That I lived my purpose courageously, authentically and unapologetically; and that I helped others do the same.
Connect with Sarni Jaye to learn more about PR and Branding Services through “A Brand New You™”