Jeanne Beker on being ‘a real person in an unreal world’

Canada's chronicler of style looks back as she's honoured by AMA Toronto

Even in an email message, Jeanne Beker sounds like she’s in a hurry. And really, how could it be otherwise?

You don’t host TV shows, write books, run your own fashion line and pen a weekly column without working at a breakneck pace. Fortunately, Beker is getting the recognition she deserves Thursday when she’s inducted as this year’s “Builder” in AMA Toronto’s Marketing Hall of Legends ceremony. She’ll be joined by fellow honourees Joe Mimran and Luke Sklar and honoured for her work in journalism, brand-building and overall contributions to the Canadian fashion industry.

Prior to the ceremony, Beker answered a few questions from Marketing – within less than two hours of acknowledging the initial email.

This kind of achievement will help identify you to others as someone to learn from. With that in mind, what kind of advice would you have for the next generation of marketer who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Cultivate an original point of view for yourself and nurture that. It’s the one thing that will not only help define your brand, but will ultimately serve as an acid test for all the choices you’ll end up making. Dream the dream and savour every step of the “building” process. Sounds corny, but as goal-oriented as you may be, it really is ultimately about the journey, not the destination. Don’t be that married to any one specific goal, unless it’s a very general one. While it’s important to keep your eye on the prize, see the trees in the forest. Opportunities crop up constantly if your eyes are wide open. Be malleable and always keep both your heart and mind open. Never burn any bridges. And cultivate as many skills on as many platforms as possible. It used to be “Jack of all trades, master of none.” That is not the case anymore! Get involved in your community. Be generous and compassionate as much as possible and while it’s important to look back to see where you’ve come from, always keep your focus on the road ahead. Be fearless. And tenacious. Keep the faith. And let your passion be your driver. You’ll never get anywhere worth going without it. But above all, don’t ever aspire to follow in anyone footsteps! Blaze your own trails. That’s the only way to make a real difference.

What do you see as the biggest challenge (and/or opportunity) facing the industry as digital technologies reshape the way brands connect with and nurture relationships with their customers?

The biggest challenge is continuing to dance as fast as we can, because the only constant in life—and technology—is change, and these days changes come at lightning speed. Marketers have to walk the line between hype and authenticity and keep stories fresh, exciting and entertaining while still maintaining an honesty, integrity and intelligence. Customers are super savvy and have untold choices. But, we’re all in a great position to get up close and personal with customers…and it’s that intimacy potential that really needs to be nourished on all platforms.

When you look back on your career, what’s been the biggest and best learning experience?

All the times I was challenged to think outside the box, to push my personal perimeters and to simply leap.

How do you see the needs/expectations of clients changing in 2016 and what are you doing to stay on top of them?

Personal attention to “customers” is becoming exceedingly important. I’ve just hired a PR firm for the first time in my life to help me give the solid attention necessary to all my various projects, and to help connect some dots. I always prided myself in doing everything by myself, when it came to personal brand building. But, while the world is getting smaller in some ways, the potential for strong messaging that resonates internationally is greater than ever. It’s time to get someone to help hold my megaphone for me, so I can scream three times as loud — should I choose to.

Who’s in your personal Hall of Legends, and what’s the most important way they helped support you in your career?

Moses Znaimer. He shaped the evolution of TV—which has always been my favourite medium—and helped me build the thicker skin I needed to survive its slings and arrows. He pushed my buttons and drove me up the wall. He encouraged me to dream and knock myself out. But, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?  He gave me a ball and I ran with it. I hated him once for brazenly asking me what I stood for, but that gave me great food for thought. And once I figured it out, and realized that I stood for being a real person in an unreal world, I had the basis for what would become my personal brand.


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