I remember at a young age, while most kids were fascinated with cartoons and the latest Disney movie craze, sitting in front of my television set – wide-eyed and enthusiastic – watching The Today Show. At the time, Katie Couric was the lead anchor, and my idol.
My teacher that year asked us – ‘What do aspire to be when you grow up?’ – and with that she encouraged us to dress accordingly for “Career Day”. I walked into class in a white button down, skirt, fake black-rimmed glasses, my hair pinned back into a bun and a reporter’s notebook in hand – a mini journalist was born.
Storytelling has always been my passion – my calling. It is my brand.
My first job in high school was reporting for The Tonawanda News. Those from Western New York now know it as The Niagara Gazette. I was 15 and determined to make it in the field of journalism. I was assigned to stories like covering high school fashion trends and small fundraisers that took place in the Tonawandas. I was thrilled to have my first (small) chance at the world of journalism, but I also learned fast that print reporting wasn’t for me. I wanted to make it in the world of television – just like my Couric idol. This was the influence behind my decision to attend Buffalo State College to pursue a degree in Broadcast Journalism.
If you are a “Buffalonian”, you know the legendary talent of News 4 Buffalo. When I was hired as a content producer at News 4 my junior year of college, I couldn’t believe that I was given the opportunity to work alongside Buffalo greats, like Jacquie Walker, Melissa Holmes and Rich Newburg. They not only inspired me, they believed in me. I knew, no matter the sacrifice – working full-time, going to school full-time and fitting in somewhat of a social life – that I needed to push forward to achieve that very same dream I had as a little girl – a professional storyteller.
You may have heard the phrase – “To be a voice for the voiceless” – and while it may be overused, I firmly believe in the power of storytelling as a tool for good. After graduating with my Bachelor’s in Journalism, I was given my first on-air reporting job, working for Spectrum News – YNN at the time. It was my job, with an alarm set for 2:30 a.m., to provide breaking morning coverage for the great city I call home. While I covered crime, and overnight fires, I gravitated toward the stories that provided a heart uplift. One of those stories, I will forever hold close: a young boy who needed a new liver to save his life. His mother begged into my camera lens for someone to step up to save her baby. With the help of my coverage, he found his perfect match.
I knew, from moments like this, that my brand was one of positivity, hope and community. Although I have since moved on from reporting, now working for the world’s leading wish-granting nonprofit, Make-A-Wish, my brand continues to grow and evolve. Two years ago, I started Hope Rises which has grown exponentially in fans and has raised more than $75,000 for causes, families and individuals in need.
If I can give one piece of advice on the topic of “Personal Branding”, it is to remain true to yourself. If it isn’t genuine to your heart, your brand will never be successful or viewed as sincere by others. Whether that be fighting for equality, advocating for single moms or promoting hope throughout the globe, branding is a powerful tool that can lead to personal growth and uniting communities in ways you may not expect.