Trenesa Stanford-Danuser: On Chasing Storms, Agency Life, and Building Beauty Brands
Updated: Nov 20, 2020
This episode features Integrated Marketing and Communications Strategist Trenesa Stanford-Danuser. She started her career in Crisis Communications at the American Red Cross and she not only chased storms for a living but all kinds of disasters. She discusses how that background prepared her to be the level-headed one in the room when everyone else thought the sky was falling once she began working at agencies and eventually, Estee Lauder Brands.
But having started my career in really a very serious industry, which was being on the front line of rapid response during natural and unnatural disasters, and really being a part of a cool team that was sort of dropped into environments where literally they weren't street signs because the wind blew them overbot the fire burned them down, or my last assignment was the Oklahoma City bombing. So even when bad people did bad things, the Red Cross was there. And my job is really being a communicator that was thinking on my feet, trying to tell the story of the good work that the Red Cross was doing, but also really being a mediator for the people that were on the ground that were affected by whatever that crisis was. I'm really grateful for that experience. Because when I transitioned into agency and into corporate and when they were having their fires, it was so vastly different from the real thing and it really helped me to be sort of like that constant level-headed person in the room when there were a lot of fan flaming,
My first beauty job was actually an agency job. And when I decided to listen to that nutty old boss that was encouraging me to move to New York, I started kicking around agencies in New York, and one of them that I found was Marina Maher Communications. And I had a fantastic career. Marina Maher to this day is a mentor for me. And she was I had a couple job offers, but the truth is, she was the one who was willing to pay a relocation fee for me. And so I was like, Okay, I'm yours. If you want to help me to pack up my boxes. I'm moving to New York. And so interestingly enough, my first assignment was CoverGirl and Max Factor, and Vidal Sassoon. So everything that I worked on was beauty and fashion came in because, at the time that I was working on Vidal Sassoon, it was a sponsor of New York Fashion Week. So now I'm working with all these crazy hairstylists and getting them out in backstage and retelling those stories.
She explains the differences in working at an agency and working at a large corporation both in proximity to new product creation and company structure and lines of communication.
The biggest difference was that I was on the front line incorporate of actually seeing the product being born, when you're in an agency that sort of plop it down in the conference room and say, Hey, get some sizzle and sound around this. And you know, oftentimes it's a dud. And so being in corporate, I was able to say, I'm looking at the full competitive landscape here. And granted, we need to fill this space in our SKU lineup, but I'm going to manage your expectations. We have 17 other competitors that already have this, let's put it out there so that our consumer can have it. But please don't come to me expecting a lot of excitement around it because it's not new.
Trenesa wholeheartedly believes that you must always bring your whole self to work and points out her reasoning for wearing her big afro to her final interview for a corporate role.
At work, it makes the day so long. If you're putting on an act, I think that you know, there's a lot of work that has to be done and who wants to be distracted with keeping up this persona, and doing the work. So if you're just bringing your full self, then you can have your full focus on the job you're trying to do.
As a black woman in the beauty industry? I think that there's an expectation that you're sort of the spokesperson for the whole race. I can't tell you how many times or I had a swap of like, seven different foundations and moisturizers. I'm like, yep, but I like this one skin. I'm like, this is my skin tone, I can't tell you how that's gonna work on my sister who's several shades lighter, several shades darker, you know, just sort of there is this skill set up sort of this level of advocacy that we have to do on behalf of the people that aren't in the room.
We discuss the current climate and the fight against systemic racism, allyship fatigue, and the truth about Angry Black Woman trope as well as why we may have to fix our faces as Black women.
I mean, I know we're not nice for someone else to say to us, but you know, let's just be honest, there is that but managing that anger is definitely a skill set we all have. Like I said earlier, I do the exercise. What's my face doing? Because it doesn't necessarily have to be vocalized. What's my body language doing? How am I sitting, there is some real, you know, stereotypical cues that maybe your colleagues may be trying to feed into them.
Trenesa also points out why it is important to be the "squeaky wheel" and advocate for your own advancement.
The path promotion is the squeaky wheel gets the oil. And I think that you can work as hard and think that you've done everything right. And I've had this happen in in my own career where I'm like, this is like textbook, kick-butt good work, and then you sit down and you look your boss and you get a satisfactory. I'm like come on now. So I think that the path to promotion is really being a squeaky wheel and what I mean is that you set up a regular time with your boss to say, let's talk about how we're doing. How am I doing? You don't want to wait until your review time and raise time and promotion time to hear for the first time that oh, well, there's this in this area where you could have improved. And I haven't been in an environment yet where somebody was looking out for me, you have to do this on your own.
Learn this and so much more in this episode.