Aliza Licht Hopes to Mentor Lots of Millennials With Her New Book

The PR guru behind @dkny shares her secrets for social-media and real-world success.
Aliza Licht Hopes to Mentor Lots of Millennials With Her New Book
Photograph by Gerardo Somoza.

“Here’s a fun fact for you: DC Moment is Washingtonian.

Less than a minute into a phone interview conducted between the Donna Karan office in New York City and a desk phone at Washingtonian’s office on 19th and L, Aliza Licht spilled the beans.

She was referring to a magazine referenced in her new book, “Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job, Kill It In Your Career, Rock Social Media,” released on May 5, in which she offers advice through the lens of her career in fashion magazines and as a PR executive.

The magazine titles and character names were changed in her book, but DC Moment–a.k.a. Washingtonian–is described as where Licht gained her first magazine experience. While working towards her pre-med degree in neurobiology and physiology at the University of Maryland, Licht realized that her passion was fashion and that a life spent in scrubs was unimaginable. So she turned to the regional magazine for her first internship–a part-time gig in Washingtonian’s advertising department.

Now the senior vice president for global communications at Donna Karan International, Licht made headlines when she came out on Youtube in 2012 as the mind behind the brand’s DKNY PR Girl (@dkny) Twitter handle, which currently has over half a million followers. The account, which chronicles the life of a New York PR girl, was initiated six years ago when Licht suggested that social media could offer the brand a better way to connect with their customers on a more personal level, one juicy detail about CelebX and sassy career advice snippet at a time.

With a book signing by Licht scheduled for 5 PM this evening at The Front Row at Bethesda Row, Shop Around got in touch to find out what this UMD student turned Washingtonian intern turned incognito PR girl turned one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in New York” has to say about leveraging social media for your career.

Why did you go the career advice route with your book?

Years ago, I told my husband one day that I’m going to write a book about little tips that I know. I wrote a paragraph, and then I never touched it again for maybe 10 years. Grand Central approached me to write this book based on my presence in social media. I was really flattered of course that they reached out, but I was equally intimidated. But as I started to think about it and as I was immersed in Twitter all day, I realized that I was giving a lot of professional advice on Twitter. People would say “@dkny I’m going on an interview, do you have any interview tips?” The community really gave me the spark to head in that career advice direction.

So it’s a book for those at the beginning of their careers.

You get people in New York who say, “I’d love to buy you a coffee if I could talk to you for 15 minutes about my career and my obstacles.” Of course I would want to help, but you can’t just be grabbing coffee with strangers all the time. So I thought, what if this book was my way of grabbing coffee with people? In my mind it’s virtual mentorship.

There’s some pretty Devil Wears Prada-esque sections in the book.

I think in fashion, we all have these bootcamp stories. The fashion industry in general teaches you how to really have a thick skin and work really hard. I started thinking about giving advice and putting it into a format where it wouldn’t be dry, and they call [my book’s format] a narrative prescriptive. It really resonated with me because I wanted to tell a story, and of course all those experiences that I had at those magazines greatly affected me. Looking back as I was writing I was like, okay, I went through this for a reason–what did I learn from it?

You write about how 24/7 your job is running the DKNY PR Girl Twitter handle. How often do you check your feed?

It’s constant. I haven’t checked in probably the past hour, but when I hang up, I’ll check, especially now that I’m monitoring my own personal and the book’s and Instagram–it’s a lot, I’m not going to lie. I acknowledge every single thing whether it’s a favorite or a comment back. I declared very early on that it’s only me and that I don’t have content calendars or draft things in advance, so when I’m sleeping, there’s going to be no one tweeting, but I think it’s what makes it authentic.

Is Twitter still as relevant in the fashion world with the more visually-based platforms that are now available, such as Instagram and Pinterest?

I think Instagram is the number one platform for fashion. I don’t do Pinterest for the company. I had one for PR Girl, but when it starts to feel obligatory, for me personally, I stop doing it because I don’t want the platforms to feel forced. But there’s nothing that comes close to Twitter with regard to live events. Instagram is more of a voyeuristic platform. It’s not talking to anyone–I almost think of it like a store window when the store is closed. You’re really more scrolling through than participating. You can like something or comment, but it’s not a conversation. Twitter is a conversation if you do it correctly.

What are your best tips for building a Twitter following?

My little Leave Your Mark Twitter account (@LEAVEYOURMARKxo) gives a great example. I started that account well before I finished the book because you have to grow your community before you need it. It’s hard to do it, but I started by following everyone who talks about books, people who review books, anyone who has an interest in books. It’s not easy to go from zero to 500,000 followers. That DKNY handle grew organically over six years, and I started it at a time where we were one of the first brands in the space. But my personal Twitter has grown because I really try to share content that I think the people who tune in will care about. I think that good content always results in people wanting to read it.

Meet Aliza Licht tonight on Bethesda Lane for her book signing from 5 to 6:30 PM.

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Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.