Tiffany Bender is the founder of Y.U.N.G. Harlem and winner of the 2012 Black Girls Rock Making a Difference Award.
During the summer of 2008 she put her knowledge of writing and persuasion to work by creating Y.U.N.G. Harlem; a campaign targeted to end gun violence in the lower income community of New York City. Three years later, it has grown to an organization dedicated to rebuilding a community of people.
In addition to her non-profit, Ms. Bender also works in the media industry with the likes of Sway and The Wendy Williams Show. See her at the #BossMoves NYC Networking Mixer co-hosted by Y.U.N.G. Harlem on December 22, 2012.
When did you begin deliberately building your brand? Probably a month or so after really getting into Twitter. I realized it was a digital footprint that I would never be able to erase. And unlike Facebook or Myspace -- people really cared about what you had to say. It was a way to connect to industries and companies as well as combine your personal and professional life. I tried to have two accounts -- one for "ratchet" me and one for professional me, but as I began to mature I realized that I need to have only one true self. Every tweet I have to make sure I am willing to stand behind it 100% for days to come.
Twitter begins to develop a dialogue for the way people who don't know you will; one-- come to know you and two --use specific language to describe you as a brand. That's the beautiful thing about contemporary social media, we have the power to construct the way people see, talk about, and to us. I began hosting more shows on campus and becoming the face of various programs -- so I had to be careful with the language I was giving people to use to describe me.
How much time, money and energy do you invest to continue building a solid brand? I read a lot, especially my Branding Muse newsletters. It doesn't take much time to skim an article about effective social media practices. Outside of time, I probably invested some where in the low hundreds for my person brand -- between web development and trademarking. In my industry, it's important you have a following and a face.
What has been the greatest opportunity you have been offered? The greatest opportunity for me would have to be winning Black Girls Rock. Although my non-profit organization YUNG Harlem isn't my entire career, I've been able to take something I'm passionate about (ending gun violence and rebuilding my community), in addition to my positive personal brand to effect change in my community. Now with national eyes on both my organization and me as a person -- I have to be responsible and clear about the platforms I support.
How did you get started? Get started? I'm still just starting.
What keeps you going? I'm a very spiritual person and I pay attention to visions God provides for me. I don't think it's a coincidence that I dream of BIG things and then magically I have the energy, passion, and blueprints to do them. I think it would be a disservice to myself, my family, and my community if I have the opportunity to purse my dream and simple decide against it.
What is your typical day like? I wake up at 4:45 every morning and run about 5 miles. I am en route to produce Sway In The Morning by 6:30 AM. We wrap the show at noon and I'm out of the building and running across Times Square to The Wendy WIlliams Show where I intern from 1pm to 6pm. When I get home I touch base with Y.U.N.G Harlem's co-founder on upcoming events and projects. I read a bit (currently reading DeVon Franklin's Produced By Faith) and hope to hit the sack by midnight.
How did you garner press coverage and media attention? Over the past year I've developed genuine relationships with editors and publicists. I emphasize genuine because when people know you're coming from a good place, they're more inclined to want to help you out. I keep them all in the loop about my personal career efforts as well as those of my non-profit -- this way it doesn't seem like I'm just using them for their resources. We have a genuine relationships so we care to keep abreast with one another.
What were the steps you took in college to help get you into the position you are in now? I learned the importance of leadership, humility, networking, and mentoring. I joined organizations, I started organizations, I never pretended to know it all, I developed relationships, and I asked questions.
Personal Branding Ah-ha moment: When a major network executive at a homecoming event followed and RT'd me. Yikes!
Essential Business Tip: Get up everyday and do everything you ever dream.