Behind the Brand: Camila Crews, Senior Comms & Marketing Manager, Strength of Nature

Behind the Brand: Camila Crews, Senior Comms & Marketing Manager, Strength of Nature

 

Camila Crews
Camila Crews

Ever see someone out at events in your industry and begin to wonder what they do and how they do it? Enter, Camila Crews (@CamilaCrews).

Camila is the Senior Communications and Marketing Manager for Strength of Nature, a global hair care company that is home to brands such as Beautiful Textures, African Pride, Soft & Beautiful, Elasta QP, Motions and more. Being responsible for so many internationally recognized brands isn’t for the faint of heart, but Camila takes it all in stride, describing it as a “dream job” where she gets to combine her loves of public relations, marketing and writing.

I recently caught up with Camila over dinner to learn more about this dream job and the winding road from aspiring hip-hop writer to freelance publicist that led her here.

Hashtags+Stilettos (H+S): You’ve been with Strength of Nature for a little over 2 years and was recently promoted from Brand Manager to Senior Communications and Marketing Manager. Congrats! What responsibilities does this new role entail? And which Strength of Nature brands fall under your domain?

Camila Crews (Crews): I’m so excited about my new role because I’m able to fuse my public relations and marketing skills. It’s my dream job! As the Senior Communications and Marketing Manager I oversee our domestic and international grassroots events, strategic partnerships with media companies and/or celebrities and influencers, craft company messaging and act as a liaison to our public relations firms to ensure that brand and company activities are being covered. As a set of eyes inside of the organization, my job is to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks and our stories are being told. I primarily focus on African Pride, Beautiful Textures, Elasta QP, Soft & Beautiful and now Motions.

H+S: You’ve only been in this new position for a few weeks. Has there been any immediate change in your workload or do you see things gradually increasing? Especially, given the recent multi-brand acquisition?
Crew: Yes, I’ve definitely seen an increase in my workload since being promoted, but it’s expected and exciting. I see it as my boss, Charlene Dance, Strength of Nature’s Global Marketing Director now having more trust in me and my skill set. The key is to set priorities and balance.

For example, I don’t respond to emails throughout the day, I will set aside a certain time to go through my emails and instead of putting together a to-do list I schedule my day for example, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. I will work on ‘x’ project. I also delegate as much as possible because there are always a lot of balls in the air. Believe me, it’s definitely not easy and I’m still mastering it. Luckily I’m surrounded by a great team who help to get the job done.

H+S: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make when you begin managing people?
Crews: The biggest adjustment is realizing that everyone is different and we all require different things to stay motivated. Some people like to be shown that they’ve done a great job by being recognized, others like it in the form of compensation. The biggest lessons I’ve learned are not to make assumptions, every day I work to make deliverables and expectations crystal clear. While it may be assumed that people know what’s expected of them, when you’re running a mile a minute you have to take the time to make sure everyone has their marching orders so that the [entire] team is being effective.

Strength of Nature
Event product display for ‘So Soft & Beautiful,’ a Strength of Nature brand. (Credit: Afrobella.com)

H+S: In this business, I know that there are no typical days. But can you describe a day in your life?
Crews: Like you said, a day for me is never typical and that’s one of the things I like about my job. Last week I was in Atlanta for a focus group at the top of the week, so I was home for two days, then the rest of the week I was in Dallas and then Austin for strategic partnership meetings. Most of my time is spent in airports and hotels.

H+S: Prior to working with Strength of Nature you were a freelance publicist. What made you want to go “in-house” and what would you say are the best things about both being a freelancer and being in-house?
Crews: I like both sides, but I think the most important factor is finding a culture that fits your personality. I really liked the flexibility of being freelance and working on projects that I was passionate about. Being in-house offers a sense of community that I didn’t have as a freelancer. Strength of Nature, although a global company, still feels like a family business. I’ve found that the people really care about you and that’s one of the things that attracted me to the company.

H+S: You recently tweeted that you were an aspiring Hip-Hop writer before stumbling upon a career in PR. A lot of people may be in that same position where they have an idea of what they want to do, but are getting opportunities in another field. What advice would you give to them knowing what you know now?
Crews: Do what you love! Your career should be the thing that you’d do [even] if you weren’t getting paid.

And you’re absolutely right, when I was in college some of my heroes were Amy DuBois Barnett, former EIC of Honey and Mimi Valdes who at the time was at VIBE magazine. I wanted to be a hip-hop writer and I was razor-focused. I became the entertainment editor at my college (Northeastern University) newspaper and we had a co-op program that allowed us to work full-time for six months and then the other six months we went to school.

My first co-op was at a newspaper and I hated it, it was so boring. At that time, in the early 2000’s the route to a magazine job was writing obituaries at a local paper, working your way up into an editor position and THEN you went on to work for a magazine. This was pre-blogs, so there weren’t the same opportunities to create your own voice like you can now. During my second co-op I worked at what’s now called Allied Integrated Marketing promoting films for FOX, Disney, Paramount, that work included going to Red Sox games, organizing screenings and I was getting paid. That’s when I fell in love with public relations and marketing, all of the time I spent there never felt like work. While I still have a passion for writing I found that I loved PR more.

Camila Crews
Camila Crews, pictured with Issa Rae (Awkward Black Girl) and celebrity natural hairstylist, Felicia Leatherwood at the Head Cases screening and Awkward Black Girl book signing sponsored by Beautiful Textures in Los Angeles.

H+S: Also, what advice would you give to anyone who may be looking to get into beauty PR or marketing?
Crews: For anyone looking to get into public relations and marketing I’d say:

  1. Know Your Stuff – As a publicist or a marketer you’re supposed to be on the pulse of what’s happening. You should have a handle on brands, trends and influencers in that space.
  2. Build and Maintain Relationships – Relationships are key, but it’s important that they’re authentic. When I meet with people I want to know what they’re passionate about and ensure genuine brand alignment.
  3. Be Resourceful – If you don’t know the answer train yourself so you’re able to find it.
  4. Be Patient – I find that so many people get in their own way because they’re not willing to work hard and they want to move up the ranks extremely fast. If you work hard it will be recognized and you’ll be rewarded for it.
  5. Let Go – Let go of your sense of entitlement. The only person who owes you anything is you. You owe it to yourself to produce the best work you can.

H+S: From your vantage point, what do you think is the biggest challenge for existing beauty brands?
Crews: I think the biggest challenge is standing out in a cluttered market, particularly in multicultural beauty. Our shelves have gone from a selection of a few items to a plethora of products to choose from. [Which is] great, because now brown girls have so many more options.

H+S: With so much on your plate, what are some things that you do to decompress and try to add balance to your life?
Crews: Exercise! I love to work out and I never thought I’d be that girl. For the past year, I’ve been focused on being healthy and I kicked it into high gear at the top of this year. If I don’t work out I just don’t feel right, now it’s a habit and it’s gone beyond weight loss, it’s a great mood booster and helps me start my day. I knew I was serious about it when I was recently visiting my family in Rhode Island and dug my car out of the snow to get to the gym.

I love a great dance party. I constantly have dance parties by myself and it helps me get rid of stress. The other day, I played Beyonce’s new song “Formation” about 10 times in a row and pretended I was her the entire time. I also like to spend time with my family when I can. I have three younger siblings (21,18 and 11), so getting together with them is always fun.

H+S: Where do you go or turn for inspiration?
Crews: I turn to books “The Power of Positive Thinking,” the Bible and nature for inspiration. I’ve always been a book worm. When I was in middle school I went to the library every day after school and I had the entire “Babysitter’s Club” series of books. I still love to read and visualize based on the words that are jumping off the page. To me “The Power of Positive” thinking and the Bible go hand-and-hand. The book has a lot of references to the Bible and I start my day with both books. I also love the outdoors, something about being outside gets my creative juices flowing.

H+S: What’s the best piece of business or life advice that you’ve received?
Crews: Growing up my dad owned a sheet metal and construction business and watching how hard he worked always made me feel like I could do anything. My dad is an immigrant from Jamaica with a third grade education and he managed to learn a trade, start a business and provide for his family. Watching him always made me feel like I could do anything.

H+S: Name one major goal that you haven’t accomplished yet.
Crews: Going with the flow. I have a type-A personality and always feel the need to plan everything out. I’d like to throw caution to the wind more often.

H+S: What are two things that you’re looking forward to in 2016?
Crews: Professionally, I look forward to evolving in my new role and leaving my mark on Strength of Nature. Personally, learning to dance like Beyonce, but since that likely won’t happen I look forward to traveling to some fun locations this summer.

Rapid Fire Round:

Favorite inspirational quote? My favorite quote came to me from my mentor and boss Charlene Dance: “You can either be pitiful or powerful, but you can’t be both”. It’s a Joyce Meyer quote and it’s something I live by and helps me when I’m being challenged.

Favorite book: The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.

Currently reading: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

I’m most proud of… My sister. She’s 21 and watching her grow into an amazing woman has made me extremely proud.

iPhone, Android or Blackberry? iPhone, duh! 

Top 3 apps? Nike+, Tidal and Snapchat. 

How many unread emails do you have in your inbox right now? About 200.

Fun fact about you? I was a debutante.

Want to keep up with Camila? Follow her @CamilaCrews on all platforms.