5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Monica Wang

You’ve seen Monica Wang’s work before. Her bright, light filled photos have appeared on The Every Girl, Rue Magazine, Glitter Guide and even the Soda Pop PR blog. As an interior and lifestyle photographer popping up on all our favorite Insta feeds, Monica is one of our go-to ladies for photo magic and style inspiration. This week, we asked her to give us a little insight into balance, creativity and why it’s all about the lighting.

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1. You’re an amazing photographer but it’s actually your side hustle. What’s the biggest struggle in balancing photography with your finance career?

I would have to say that my biggest struggle is to maintain a normal personal life with two jobs and it isn’t balancing between a photography and a finance job. I am a workaholic! I can work hours on end and I love the feeling of achieving something and feeling proud of the work I have put together. So after juggling all my work responsibilities the thing that I spend the least amount of time on is with family and friends. I have to remind myself that I can’t complain because I have been given so many amazing opportunities.  However, now I only say yes to the gigs that I really want to do vs saying yes to everything.  Work/life balance is the real struggle for me.

2. Do you have a favorite, or particularly memorable, photo shoot?

My recent favorite shoot was with my dear friend, Anne Sage of City Sage (a previous 5 Questions with SPPR guest). She is a styling genius and I always love working with her so it doesn’t matter what we are shooting together. When you find the right creative partner, that is when you are able to produce the type of work that you are most proud of.  Work doesn’t feel like “work” and it is quite a milestone to find that within your career!  I always have to take a step back to reflect and be thankful that I am able to do what I do and call it my job.

3. Where do you look for inspiration?

I am constantly influenced by what is around me in LA. There are always new shops and restaurants popping up all the time so I try to keep my radar out for all the good ones I want to check out.

The IG accounts that I follow religiously are @garypeppergirl, @lucywilliams02, and @haleboyd for fashion and lifestyle related things.  I try not to look at other photo work so much because when you do that, your work starts to look like theirs instead of your own. I try to do my own thing as much as possible.

4. What would be your dream photo shoot?

My dream photo shoot would be traveling to Anguilla, Morocco or some other magical destination to photograph beautiful homes or hotels for Architectural Digest or Elle Decor. That would truly be a dream!

5. What is your number one tip for amateurs who want to take better pictures?

Find good lighting. It doesn’t even matter if you are shooting with your iPhone or a super high-end DSLR, as long as you have good natural lighting you can always take a good photo! My favorite kind is soft window light in the early morning.

Going Viral: The “Canbassador”

When Union Wine Company shared plans to hire a “canbassador” to drive their wine tasting truck across the United States for pop-up events and music festivals serving the brand’s famous Underwood wine in a can, we recognized all the ingredients for a viral moment. We immediately drafted a pitch with a shareable subject line, crafted a strategic list of writers and editors on the forefront of topical news and assembled assets to fulfill any image or interview requests.

Within 48 hours, we secured 327 million media impressions. Notable coverage included Good Morning America, Time, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Thrillist, Food & Wine, Brit + Co, Mashable, HelloGiggles, Travel + Leisure and more than 50 other digital and broadcast outlets, leading to 1,200 applications for the job. While the position was only open for one week, the viral canbassador coverage created a lasting increase in brand awareness. Union Wine Co. saw a 3,000% increase to their website, 73.4% of which were first time visitors, as well as over 600 new Instagram followers.

Five Things We Learned at the First Potluck Conference

At Soda Pop PR we think it’s important to mix it up and get out of the office to attend industry workshops and conferences. Last week we headed to DTLA for the first Potluck Hospitality Conference, to learn more about the business of social occasions and mingle with some inspiring local and visiting creatives. In the spirit of the conference’s “Bring Something to the Table” mentality, we’d like to share a few learnings.

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1. You Get Back What you Put in: Our day kicked off with a pep talk from the infectious entrepreneur Ellen Bennett of Hedley & Bennett who got everyone on their feet with an early morning dance party before sharing her story. Ellen is the poster child for making things happen and “climbing through a window when you can’t find a door” and we always love hearing her talk about having fun in the process of working hard.

2. Do Your Homework: In a session on “Creating Brands That Connect” Lila Theodoros of Oh Babushka discussed the importance of coming to play. For example if you’re meeting with a graphic designer, come prepared with a mood board, key words, color palate, etc. to help them get to know you and your brand before starting a project.

3. Create Connections: We are such big fans of The Modern Proper, a blog dedicated to restoring the lost art of hospitality and loved having the opportunity to meet founders Natalie Mortimer and Holly Erickson. Hospitality doesn’t just describe our clients at SPPR, it describes the way we do business and like Natalie and Holly we believe in the power of creating a community. It was great to hear them talk about how vitally important it is to take time to build and maintain relationships both personally and professional. In a day when the human attention span has decreased to 8 seconds, hosting a successful event and seeing return on investment for experiential marketing is all about creating personal connections.

4. Encourage Engagement: For many brands, experiential marketing now works harder than traditional advertising strategies. We loved hearing what Lauren Sims had to say about her agency’s experience creating “photo moment” heavy activations and what really works when it comes to engagement. She has three main strategies for securing social posts from attendees: offering tools to further their own personal brand through aspirational content, product giveaways in exchange for shares and highly personalized products featuring the attendees name or photo.

5. Do Something New: Martha Stewart Weddings editor Shira Savada is tired of mason jars and bird cages and we don’t blame her! Whether you’re talking about weddings, social media or client events we can all agree that once you’ve noticed a lot of people are doing something, it’s time to move on. Trends happen because someone tapped into their own creativity to offer something personal and we can all use a little more of that!

SPPR New Year’s Goals: 2017, Let’s Do This

Everyone loves a clean slate and at SPPR we’re filling ours with a to-do list of fun projects and foodie goals for the New Year. Read on as the team breaks down our plans to eat, read and travel our way through 2017.

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(Photo c/o Oh Happy Day)

Dyan:
To Go: Sun Valley, Idaho. My husband and I have been talking about exploring a new winter destination for our annual ski/snowboarding trip for years. Aside from the picturesque setting, abundance of runs for beginners and an outdoor ice skating rink, it also has a rich history (Hemingway was a fan, he completed For Whom the Bell Tolls while staying at Sun Valley Lodge!)
To Eat: My dream would be to plan monthly trips to different cities with the sole purpose of trying the best culinary classics and hot spots in each location.  Realistically? I’d like to hit up the Roberta’s Pizza Pop-Up before closes. I’m also looking forward to my friend Steve Samson’s new restaurant Rossoblu which is scheduled to open soon!
To Read:  Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. I’m a fan of his podcast and this book summarizes the best tools, tactics and learnings from his most notable guests. It’s over 700 pages and meant to be digested in small, manageable doses. It’s safe to say, I’ll be reading throughout the year.
To Do: I purchased a journal over the holidays with the goal of setting aside time to jot down my non-work thoughts and creative ideas. I have dozens of notebooks but they all contain work plans, meeting notes, to-dos, etc. Creative writing was a passion of mine in college (I’d die if you found any of my old journals, so “My So-Called Life”) and I’m eager to pick it back up.

Kelly:
To Go: Sedona! Since my husband recently got his pilot’s license, we plan to do a weekend getaway to this beautiful place neither of us has been to before.
To Eat: Erven in Santa Monica
To Read: I was gifted Big Little Lies, so I hope to read it before the TV series comes out
To Do: My goal is to shop my local Sunday farmer’s market more often in 2017. Shopping local is so important and in California we have an abundance of delicious, fresh food, I need to take advantage of it!

Becky:
To Go: Back to Italy; Our new client Lucini Italia has me missing the land of pasta and olive oil.
To Eat: Belcampo; I met the founder Anya Fernald at an event last year and have vowed to treat myself to an organic, highest-quality-you-can-get steak (or at least a Belcampo Burger) at some point soon.
To Read: I bought J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy a few months ago and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I have so much love for J.K. that I’m feeling guilty for putting it off.
To Do: Refresh my living space. I’ve had the same couch since my husband and I were dating and the same dining room table my parents passed down to me after college. It’s time to make some big girl furniture purchases.

Colleen:
To Go: I am hoping to make it back to Paris this year and spend my days writing in coffee shops and haunting Shakespeare and Company.
To Eat: I know I lose all of my LA foodie cred for this, but I still haven’t been to Gjelina! Definitely need to remedy that in 2017.
To Read: One of my all-time favorite authors Joan Didion has a new book coming out (in 61 days, not that I’m counting) so that is at the top of my list. Also, Infinite Jest. I swear this is the year that I finally finish David Foster Wallace’s epic and exhaustingly long masterpiece.
To Do: In light of our recent election results, I’m committing to take a more active role in opposing injustice and supporting causes doing good work.

Deidre:
To Go: 2017 is all about the U.S.! I have some fun trips lined up, including: Nashville, Austin, Chicago, San Francisco and NYC to name a few. Fingers crossed for an opportunity to go abroad – I’ll even be happy with Mexico if I can make it happen.
To Eat: There are so many in LA I am eager to go to! Especially wanting to hit up the celebrity hot spots, like NOBU Malibu, SUR and AOC.
To Read: The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive
To Do: I really hope to attend another Ellen taping! If not, attend a late night taping like Jimmy Kimmel, learn to meal prep/ spend less money on food and get outside more!

Camryn:
To Go: New York! I’d love to visit my younger brother who’s out there for school.
To Eat: I’ve really been wanting to try Maré on Melrose. You have to use a secret entrance!
To Read: A Gentleman in Moscow, a gift I received through our SPPR holiday book exchange.
To Do: Go to a cooking class!

Food for Thought with Dana Renee Ashmore

As 2016 winds down, we’re excited to share one last interview in the “Food for Thought” series. This week we welcome Dana Renee Ashmore to the blog. After years as a film and television producer, this inspiring lady used her great eye, florist chops and passion for giving back to found Gratitude Collaborative. The L.A.-based company offers curated gift boxes with a built in donation to provide meals to USA children in need. (It also happens to be the perfect holiday gift source if you’re panicking about what to get your boss/best friend/mother-in-law this year.) Read on for Dana’s insights on social media, creativity and what having a mission means for your brand.

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1. What do you look for when you’re searching for brands to include in the Gratitude Collaborative boxes?

We look at brands that we have tried and tested and love, and we love working with smaller brands and knowing the people behind the items we sell. We also trust our friends and people we work with. Every week we sit down and discuss new brands and see if we can find new ones to bring on.

2. How do you find inspiration when you’re in a rut creatively?

Step away and do something fun. Whenever I spend too much time trying to think of something to do, or feel like I’m in a rut, I just get out with friends and take my mind off of it. I think sometimes over-thinking can really make it worse. It’s really doing what feels natural instead of forced.

3. What are challenges you’ve encountered running a small business that aims to give back?

A couple things:  Our brand is that we are a gift company that gives back by providing meals to kids in the USA. In the beginning, our charitable efforts were well-intentioned but unfocused.  We provided art classes, after-school sponsorships and schools supplies to families that needed it. We still do more than provide meals, but at the time, people were really confused by what we were doing. They knew we gave back, but our brand wasn’t aligned with our mission. I think with a company that gives back, you just have to be clear on what you do, and make it easy to understand.

Second, what to do with the little money you have, and how to get yourself out there. Since your profits are not all going back to you or the company, you have smaller margins. It’s hard to make the right choices to help get your name out there. It’s hard when no one knows you and you are just getting started. It’s hard to try to sell yourself in an over-saturated and overexposed market.

4. How do you make sure your social media content is always on brand?

The best advice I have ever been given is to take 90% of my photos with a digital camera and the rest with my iPhone. That’s not for everyone, but for what we sell, we want the flowers to always be consistent in lighting and colors. In the beginning we tried a few things that didn’t work and then naturally fell into a place where we feel comfortable. I also use an app called Planoly; it helps me see my photos in a grid before they post so I can make sure they match with the other ones. This app has helped so much.

5. If you could speak to pre-business starting Dana, what advice would you give? Is there a piece of common advice given to small business owners that you would tell her to ignore?

Trust yourself and Customer Service is a must. Starting a small business is full of small decisions that can cost you lots of money.  You have to know ahead of time that not everything is going to be a win and leave financial space for that to happen.  As for Customer Service, we have someone that checks emails almost 24 hours a day to make sure we are available. Our customers are the reason any small business is running, and you have to remember that even when you’re tired, frustrated and hungry. Some customers will always think you are Amazon and have hundreds of people working around the clock. Instead, you have 3.

Keep up with Dana Renee at Gratitude Collaborative and on her beautiful Instagram.

Friendsgiving with Tillamook

November is the perfect time to give thanks, and we always look forward to sharing our gratitude with loved ones while happily embracing the excuse to reach for second servings and dessert (without judgment). One of our favorite new traditions however, is Friendsgiving, the chance to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with your buds before or after the family festivities. A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to spend an afternoon with some of our favorite creatives, writers, bloggers and photographers, celebrating #RealFoodSunday with a Friendsgiving Brunch hosted by Tillamook.

Old friends and new were brought together at Light Lab to enjoy a beautiful Thanksgiving inspired brunch prepared by Barrett Prendergast of Valleybrink Road while learning more about Tillamook’s #RealFoodSunday movement.

Tillamook launched Real Food Sunday because of their devotion to making food the right way – with the highest quality ingredients, nothing artificial and without cutting corners to increase profits. Real Food Sunday is meant to make choosing Real Food easier for everyone, starting with one day a week. So why Sunday? Sunday is the day when big meals are cooked, families eat together and plans are made for the week ahead. Sundays are special. Tillamook believes Real Food should be a part of that, and we couldn’t agree more.

Seasonal décor styled by Anne Sage provided endless holiday inspiration and major #FOMO.

Guests enjoyed and took home some of our favorite real food goodies that were generously contributed by Alma Chocolate, Bob’s Red Mill, Entube, Health-Ade Kombucha, Hester & Cook, Jacobsen Salt Co., Le Grand Courtage, Mountain Valley Water and QUIN Candy.

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We are so thankful to have clients, partners and friends that value the importance of a shared meal and good food! Cheers to a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Team Soda Pop PR