“Effective personal branding is crucial in today’s day and age. It will differentiate you from the competition and allow you to build trust with potential clients. You only get one chance to make the best first impression and that should not be taken lightly.”
Liana Zavo, a college drop-out, and a single mom turned millionaire, is on a mission to inspire the world, one woman at a time. Zavo is the founder of ZavoMedia Group International PR Agency, based in New York, helping clients globally secure media opportunities. The woman-run boutique agency which launched in 2018, is now expanding to secure placements for clients in Paris and Dubai. Zavo is a Columnist for Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine and is an official member of Forbes Business Council and Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). She is also the first female entrepreneur and best-selling author in her family.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Liana Zavo: Growing up, I received my first taste of entrepreneurship from my family business. My family owns multiple restaurants and catering halls throughout New York. Even though it would have seemed to be the obvious choice to continue in my family’s footsteps and work within the business, I had the dreams I needed to chase. I wanted to create a legacy of my own and not take the easy way out and work for my family. So, I started my PR and digital marketing boutique agency, ZavoMedia Group, on the strength of my industry experience in branding strategies and public relations with the mindset to give voice to female entrepreneurs within their journeys and inspire women to become an authority in their niche.
Additionally, I developed a platform of podcasts and interviews of executive female mentors who offer successful tips and guidance to women as they embark or continue the entrepreneurship journey. These platforms concentrate on personal branding, content marketing, brand awareness, leading with confidence, authenticity, and how to push through various obstacles of adversity.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Liana Zavo: As I remember my journey to get to where I am today, my two primary sources of inspiration are my son and the future generations of professionals. My son is my first source of inspiration because I not only want to provide choices and opportunities for him that I did not have when I was young, but I want to show him that anybody can make a difference in the world.
I formulated my acronym – B. E. P. I. C. – which helped me overcome moments of weakness to this day. I teach this method to my mentees so they can find their confidence and their inner voice to carry them through their journey. At the end of the day, my company’s primary goal is to carve an avenue for women in this male-dominated world continuously. I have stood firm on that goal and stayed committed to not only providing resources to educate women further but also to giving them the tools and skills needed to develop an authoritative voice and become recognized experts. It is also important to me to not only educate but inspire. As a result, I have utilized my network over the years to give solid examples of what could happen with hard work, persistence, and dedication. Today, I am known as a great author, a PR expert, a media mogul, and a branding maven.
Anything is possible with perseverance, hard work, and dedication. My second source of inspiration is providing a successful example to other women and proving that they can make their dreams a reality if they stay focused on the goal. I believe we all have a voice within us that can be powerful and impactful to others when heard. For some, it is life-changing. Speaking up endows more self-confidence and brings in newfound peace and growth. Being in the media industry for over a decade, I’ve witnessed and gone through different scenarios that tested my voice as a publicist and entrepreneur.
It wasn’t an easy journey, I admit, but by learning from my experience and extracting the moral lessons, I didn’t end up empty-handed. There were situations when I felt unheard, powerless, and limited by my surroundings. However, it was in those struggles that I pushed myself to step up. I broke through my limits, and from then on, I didn’t allow anyone to trample on who I am and what I am capable of doing. Fueled with the desire to succeed, I decided to step forward and start speaking up for myself rather than staying in the shadows, and my goal is to inspire others to speak up and become an authority.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. What’s the worst advice you received?
Liana Zavo: When I had the idea to help brands with their branding and public relations, I was told I shouldn’t be giving brands and businesses my expertise due to my lack of studies. I will never deny that I am a college dropout, but that is not the deciding factor in my knowledge and experience of taking personal brand from being unrecognizable to unstoppable. I was told that I need to have a degree in communications to pursue my dreams and that I will only be taken seriously if I get a degree. Oh, boy was that the worst advice! I taught myself everything I needed to know in addition I hired a few mentors and started interning for a PR firm in NYC.
By the end of the year, I learned the ins and outs of PR and hired a business coach. With only $5000 and a spirit of determination, I started my bootstrap startup company in 2017 without any partners to assist. I don’t believe in taking no for an answer, it only propels me forward to knock down more walls. I believe the uniqueness of my company comes from my coaching principles and PR hacks.
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Liana Zavo: I have a burning desire to take my organization global. By Spring 2022, we are expanding our offices into Paris and Dubai. As well expanding ZavoPR Academy to girls in orphanages, high schools and first year of college. We give them the tools necessary to lead with confidence, to develop their authoritative voice, and to be seen and heard as an expert.
Overall, I will remain persistent in creating more avenues and preparing the next generation of successful entrepreneurs for their greatness. I love the idea of giving voice to the voiceless, and I love the idea of storytelling and the power behind someone’s strong message. As a result, I plan to continue creating a mission-driven brand that is aligned with what I am extremely passionate about, which is turning personal stories into brand assets.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Liana Zavo: Effective personal branding is crucial in today’s day and age. It will differentiate you from the competition and allow you to build trust with potential clients. You only get one chance to make the best first impression and that should not be taken lightly. When you Google yourself, what pops up on the first page? Your message has to be relevant and consistent across all social media platforms. Whether you like it or not people will want to learn about you as a person. The most important part of personal branding is taking control of the narrative and not being controlled by someone else who can ruin your online reputation. Today, everyone should build a strong personal brand, especially how fast social media is growing.
Personal branding is how you present yourself to the world. The sooner you realize that authenticity is key in a successful personal brand the faster you will be set apart from your competitors. Most importantly companies should encourage their employees to build strong personal brands to bring more business. When positioned as trustworthy thought leaders, employees can help acquire new customers and retain existing ones. Managing online reputation is key to success and if you are not doing a good job at it, then you run the risk of losing great opportunities.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Liana Zavo: “There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.” – Stephen Hawking
I resonate with this quote because it reminds us no matter how difficult things may seem, or how beaten down we may be, as long as we are breathing there is something we can do to improve our, or someone else’s, situation. Anything can be possible, with that little reminder every day.”