Episode 28: What Caitlyn Jenner Teaches Us About Reinvention
In this episode of Beyond the Business Suit, I cover many of the same points as I did in my most recent article on Caitlyn Jenner's transformation, regarding what we can learn about reinvention from Caitlyn Jenner.
Here are the lessons I cover in this episode:
1. Authenticity. Any brand needs to be authentic to its core. When a brand or person is operating from a place of inauthenticity, it shows. When making a transformation like this, especially if it is to become more authentic, that needs to be at the core of the messaging, which it was.
2. Change Management. I remember when I used to work in Change Management consulting and was responsible for managing large-scale technology implementations and organizational changes. I learned that in order to manage transitions effectively, you need to take people along the “change curve.” This curve included awareness, understanding, buy-in and acceptance. We have all been taken through the change curve, though quickly. From seeing changes in her face, to hearing rumblings in tabloids, to the Diane Sawyer interview, to now theVanity Fair cover, we have been taken through the journey. And even though there are people who are still not quite at “acceptance,” many people are at least “understanding” of what she had been going through and are “bought into” the notion that no one should live a lie.
3. Controlled Narrative. Being in the limelight can be really tough and the media can be undeniably brutal. Us Weekly had been speculating this for months and InTouch Weekly went so far as to add makeup to Bruce’s face using PhotoShop back in January. But for the most part everyone stayed on message – and even ex-wife Kris Jenner – until she was ready to announce it on her own terms. This could have easily come out when Kris and then Bruce announced their divorce (I will acknowledge that with Kris’s media prowess, she was going to be sure to stay on message because it impacted not only Caityln's brand but also hers). But when Caitlyn (then Bruce) was ready, the ABC interview with Diane Sawyer was secured (could not have been a better choice on network TV), the upcoming transition was shared to the world, the transformation was revealed on Vanity Fair and now she will be in an upcoming docu-series where I’m sure she will be executive producer to control the narrative yet again.
4. Intentional Image. Any successful reinvention should include an intentionally crafted image. And given the circumstances, this was incredibly important with Caitlyn Jenner. Here are three most important components of her image:
Physical Appearance: As a 65 year old former male Olympic champion transitioning to a woman, there are many ways this could have gone. One luxury she had was to work with doctors to literally construct her new appearance. From how her new face would look, to how large her breasts would be, to what her hair would look like, and also how she would debut her new look to the world — each aspect was a decision point made with intention.
Name: A part of her new identity is her name and something important to note is the choice of the name Caitlyn. I am certain that the selection of not spelling Caitlyn as “Kaitlyn” was a deliberate decision to separate herself from Kris Jenner and the Jenner/Kardashian girls who all have names that start with “K.” And honestly that helps not only Caitlyn separate herself from them but also helps Kris protect her and her daughters’ empire from being overshadowed by Caitlyn’s story (note: however, Kim Kardashian West’s announcement of baby #2 earlier in the day was indeed overshadowed by Caitlyn’s big reveal).
Social Media: If you are a public figure in 2015, regardless of your age, you need to select at least one social media platform to build your community and show your digital-facing image. Caitlyn decided on Twitter and was immediately on pace to beat President Obama’s follower record. In four hours she reached 1 million followers and as this article and podcast, Caitlyn already has over 2 million Twitter followers.
5. Big, Well-Executed Launch. Can we talk about this incredible launch!? Here are the steps you can take if you want to launch the biggest reinvention of all reinventions in 2015:
1. Start by announcing your reinvention on network television with the best, most respected journalist you can find (yes, Diane Sawyer on a 2-hour program will do).
2. Go underground while you make that transition, but don’t wait too long to make the reveal because you still want it fresh on people’s minds.
3. Make your big reveal as a cover story on the most respected and elevated magazine you can find, preferably Vogue or Vanity Fair, and have the length of the story be at least 20 pages (hers was 22 pages).
4. Make sure the best portrait photographer of our time can shoot it (mmhmm, that would be Annie Leibovitz). And since a cover story in print is so boring these days, make sure there is video captured too.
5. Go ultra glam with hair, makeup and wardrobe. Gather a collection of the most renowned designers of our time to dress you in beautiful garments that showcase your new curves and femininity (i.e., Badgley Mischka, Zac Posen and Donna Karan).
6. Launch new social media account the same day as the magazine cover is revealed. Engage with the audience with grace.
I would love to hear from you about what you think about this reinvention. And to keep things on topic, let's not focus on opinions of whether or not this transition should have been made, but rather the execution of the reinvention. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!