Today, a Q & A with the esteemed Pamela Zapata, Founder and CEO of Society Eighteen, who works with multicultural and multiethnic fashion and beauty influencers on branded campaignsfor partners such as IPSY, Sephora, Almay, Fabletics, Urban Decay, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Not Your Mother’s, Macy’s, Foot Locker, TRESemmé, American Eagle Outfitters, P&G, Google, Olay, Unilever, Dove, Lego, and Hallmark. Prior to launching her own business, Zapata was the Senior Director of Influencer Marketing at Starpower where she oversaw multiple campaign and influencer casting initiatives for key beauty brands including Estee Lauder, Bobbie Brown, MAC, BECCA and La Mer.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to participate in our interview today, Pamela. You have an interesting background, and we are pleased to speak with you today. For those who do not know much about content creators and the influencer marketing industry, can you explain what Society18 does?
Pamela: Society 18 is a multi-ethnic, multicultural talent and influencer management agency. We strive to represent a roster of influencers of all races, ethnicities, cultures, religions, body types, and hair textures. We work with creators and brands to maximize sponsorships and optimize campaign performance to benefit both sides. Our agency guides our clients through the complexities involved with brand partnerships while also focusing on personal brand building, channel growth and optimization and new business. Our areas of expertise include influencer and talent strategy, integrated marketing, contracting, negotiations, social channel optimization, ROI + performance evaluation, content production and development, and casting & talent relations.
Q: You started your business in 2019 after many years in the industry. Starting your own business is a massive undertaking, what made you want to do it?
Pamela: Why did I venture out on my own? During my ten years in the industry, I saw a gap in the influencer and talent space as it relates to diversity. I found that not only was there a lack of diversity in various brand campaigns and initiatives, but also that creators of color did not understand their value when compared to their white counterparts. This gap is what fueled and motivated me to take the leap and launch my business. After working on the brand side for several years, I realized I wanted to switch over and become a resource to these underrepresented creators. As CEO of my own management agency, I am able to address that need directly, helping multicultural and multiethnic fashion, parenting and beauty influencers understand their value, while also advising brands and agencies on the importance of diversity and how to do it the right way.
Q: Your background includes talent relations, casting, and production for some of the biggest networks, brands and agencies in the industry. How did that prepare you for managing content creators?
Pamela: In my most recent role, I was the Senior Director of Influencer Marketing at Starpower and oversaw multiple campaign and influencer casting initiatives for key beauty brands like Estee Lauder, Bobbie Brown, MAC, BECCA and La Mer. I was responsible for everything from campaign ideation through concept execution, while overseeing strategy, client management and talent relations. Prior to that, I was the Director of Influencer Marketing at United Entertainment Group, where I led influencer partnerships, strategy, procurement, negotiations and campaign reporting for various personal care brands within the Unilever portfolio including Suave, Dove, Love Beauty Planet, Axe and Popsicle. Before moving to NYC, my roots were in LA at E! Entertainment, Ryan Seacrest Productions, Style Haul, and Sweety High, where my work was focused on integrated marketing, strategy, development, production, talent and casting. During that time, I cultivated valued relationships by successfully and strategically utilizing influencers and talent for digital and on-air programming, brand sponsorships and events that support business initiatives, drive ratings, and increase revenue. These experiences shaped me as a professional and I utilize the skills that I’ve amassed throughout my career, every day.
Q: And how are things going, a little over a year later? Has the pandemic affected your business?
Pamela: We actually quadrupled our roster of clients to 20 since I founded the company last year. Over the past few months, I’ve hired three experienced professionals to expand the business and we are continuing to grow. Thankfully, we’ve been extremely fortunate to see an uptick in business due to the nature of our work in the digital space. We’ve seen brands and marketing agencies shift their approach to content creation and recognize the real value of working with influencers, especially in a time where human media consumption and behavior has shifted so drastically and digital and social media consumption is at an all-time high.
Q: Who makes up your team at Society18? How has working remotely changed your company culture?
Pamela: Jade Brito, Brand Partnerships Manager at Society 18, is a digital and influencer marketing strategist with over five years in experience. She supports the team in negotiations, contracting and various marketing initiatives. Stephanie Spencer, Society 18’s Campaign and Social Media Coordinator, manages our brand campaigns, supports our social media planning and content creation and assists with developing influencer strategy for our clients. Dora Ylli, Society 18’s Partnerships and Marketing Associate, is an experienced marketing associate skilled in digital and influencer marketing, graphic design, visual storytelling, and data analysis. We also have a team of PR and legal contractors that help us work our magic!
Working remotely has been part of our company culture since day 1. All of my hires were onboarded during this crazy time of quarantine! I’m grateful that the business hasn’t been negatively affected by the pandemic and I was able to continue to grow the team, which of course brought a new way of managing. As part of our current remote routine, we make sure to hold daily check-in calls with the team to assure we have the opportunity to chat all things Society 18 and walk-through feedback, brainstorms and upcoming plans.
Q: What about your clients, how have their partnerships or processes changed in 2020?
Pamela: With the development of COVID-19, we saw an uptick in beauty partnerships, specifically in the skincare and haircare sectors. Brands took notice that although consumer spending on makeup and fashion may be down, there is an appetite for self-care and focus on pampering at home. With the Black Lives Matter movement, we looked at all of our brand partners across the board to make sure they had taken a stance, made a statement, and supported causes that were important to us. Our clients also saw a huge surge in interest by many brands during the summer as the BLM movement set off a huge call-out towards fashion and beauty companies for their lack of inclusion and diversity. As a result of this, we had many agencies reaching out to us to discuss ways to partner up with our talent.
Q: Do you have specific criteria for accepting new clients?
Pamela: A few things we look at when vetting creators are engagement rate, content type and quality, audience demographics, and branded content performance. We’ve also implemented a new process where we vet the content creator’s audience for fake followership.
Q: What excites you most about your business and the future of the industry?
Pamela: We have seen a shift in the industry as of late, with more brands recognizing the importance of not only including people of color in their campaigns, but also organically implementing them into their brand strategy. That is exciting! I have always emphasized the importance of working with multicultural and multiethnic content creators, and as someone who is well-established in this space, I am in a unique position to advise any brand that wants to be part of the solution on how to get it right when it comes to diversity, which is something I take very seriously.
Q: Before we wrap up, would you tell us three things that you are loving right now? Perhaps the things that are brightening your day during this uncertain time.
Pamela: The Headspace app has been a great tool for disconnecting in the morning and late evenings. Taking a run along the running path by the Hudson River near my house has also been extremely therapeutic for me lately. I’ve also spent some time catching up on my favorite shows – Ozark on Netflix and Billions on Showtime.
Q: Finally, how can our readers get in touch with you if they want to?
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