From professional athletes including Michael Vick, entertainers including T.I. and upscale brands like Bentley Motors, The Barjon Group works with some of the biggest names in sports, entertainment and high-end brands
Founder of the Barjon Group, a public relations firm based in Atlanta, she has had clientele ranging from lifestyle guru Martha Stewart, rapper T.I, football player Michael Vick and Martin Luther King III, son of the late civil rights leader. During her career she has also lead the PR and communications work for major networks covering shows such as Jeopardy Wheel of Fortune, The Oprah Winfrey Show and Inside Edition.
With hopes to inspire public relations students to “follow their passions,” Barjon spoke about the truth in the business and her path to success.
Barjon originally majored in psychology in college, and although she says she had no idea that public relations was her dream when she first started (actually Barjon thought “PR” was short for “people relations”), she has been a trailblazer in the industry since very early on. She was engaging and challenged attendees to become more involved in the lecture, handing out sticky notes with statements for her to address.
Here are some of the things we learned from Barjon’s sticky notes:
“Social media is NOT a career”- Barjon spoke on the importance of understanding social media and how it can affect a client negatively if not used appropriately or if you don’t understand the art of branding. Saying “I have a problem with the word ‘expert’ anyway” she admitted to challenging people guilty of this to explain how they can truly know or measure the extent of their knowledge, or expertise. Instead, she insisted that duplicating someone respected and admired in the industry was the best way to become great at something until you could add more of yourself into it.
“Addressing your ‘back road’ mentality”- Admitting that she came from a family of “back road” mentalities, Barjon described it as a term for people who focus on the not so smart things people do. In PR, the job entails representing all kinds of people that have possibly done crazy things. She chuckled as she told UGA students about a point in her career where possible clients thought they needed a prison background to be represented by her because most of her clients–she’s represented domestic doyenne Martha Stewart, rapper/actor T.I. and football player Michael Vick–had been in prison at some point. While you don’t have to agree with the choice’s someone has made in the past, as long as they are willing to grow, you should help.“I am a person that believes in second chances,” she said.
“You’re talented, but ‘talented’ is overrated” – Talent alone is not enough. The difference between a talented person, and a hard worker, from her experiences, is a job and a successful career. A real “talent” is an added bonus. The competition is real, and its tough. “Talent won’t cut it. Hard work will.”
“You are raising a generation of s*** talkers”- “Started from the bottom… you’re STILL at the bottom” Barjon joked twisting Drake’s song. The hard work never ends. The PR life can get to people easily and make them think they’ve reached the top thank to the parties, the celebs, the lifestyle- but they forget the work. Students laughed when Barjon asked what the most common phrase on everyone’s resume was, only to result in the very ordinary “proficient in Microsoft word”. As common as it is, she was adamant in explaining that no one looks at a resume and reads “proficient in Microsoft Word” and thinks that’s their hire. So when asked what would impress her, Barjon told All Digitocracy that it would be someone expanding their knowledge and skills. This could be achieved by taking classes outside of school, or playing around with Adobe so that she “can get [you] to support the brand in other ways than just coming up with good ideas.”
“You should be getting your butt kicked“- Finally, Barjon seemed a firm believer in “tough love”. She admitted, “I’m brutal with my staff; they get their butts kicked everyday! But I do it with love, I really do.” Wanting to improve her own work as well as theirs, Barjon pushes and challenges her staff to look past their limitations and go beyond their expectations to polish those diamonds in the rough. She ended the lecture saying, “I’m saying a lot of things, I’m throwing a lot of things out there saying talent is not enough, and having passion is not enough. I’m giving you all the keys to what I do everyday, and still do today to make it. Because you can’t do it on your own. You can’t do it with just talent. You can’t do it with just hard work. You really need ALL of the things that I am talking about in order to really make it.”
Not only does Barjon challenge and expect a lot from her team on a day-to-day basis, she is one to “walk the walk and talk the talk”. UGA students were captivated by Barjon’s words and were easily inspired by her successes during the lecture. She exuded confidence and pride in her work, not solely based on her “talent” but thanks to her dedication to work hard and always pursue her passions.