How Julianne Fraser is creating meaningful dialogues with Dialogue New York, a global digital marketing consultancy that specializes in influencer marketing
Describe your business in a few words?
Dialogue New York is a global digital marketing consultancy, that specializes in building influencer marketing strategies for luxury and lifestyle brands.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Over the last decade, I’ve watched as the Wild, Wild West of Influencer Marketing took shape, observing the brands that excelled and others that flopped. Several behemoth agencies began to offer digital consulting services and I quickly saw that many had very little understanding or connection within the industry. I had two options, I could join one of these agencies to build out their department, or I could start my own. I decided to launch Dialogue in 2017, with a handful of clients like Shiseido and Daily Harvest, not certain of the future, but with excitement to support brands in a meaningful way.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I think back on the early days of my career as a series of fortunate opportunities, good timing and chance meetings. I started in a role at Ian Schrager Hotels, around the time Instagram launched and was given the liberty to learn the ropes through trial and error. Back then, social media was in its infancy and gaining momentum, so while my role held little importance at the start, I was quickly given a seat at the table, building strategies for the company’s iconic brands – like Mondrian, Delano and Hudson. I gained an invaluable understanding of the do’s and don’ts of social media marketing, launched one of the industry’s first influencer campaigns and formed relationships with “OG” influencers like Shea Marie, Olivia Lopez, Marianna Hewitt and Chiara Ferragni.
I’ve always had a love for fashion, having studied at F.I.T. and an affinity for sport, so I knew my next move would be at Lacoste, a role that sat at the cross section of these two passions. Managing the brand’s Digital Communications in North America, I worked closely with their Parisian Headquarters, which was my first introduction to French culture. After years working at corporations, I watched how the DTC industry was quickly evolving and felt compelled to work with startup companies. I joined Village Marketing, a startup accelerator at the time, and brought my expertise in influencer and digital marketing to help launch and grow brands like Care/of, Capsule Pharmacy, M.Gemi, Plated and Rhone.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Looking back, I definitely could have never imagined that I would be an entrepreneur. I’ve always had a deep love and passion for marketing, dating back to my university years, but was open to the possibilities of where that passion would lead me. I’ll never forget a conversation I had one Sunday afternoon over a glass of rosé, in Upstate New York, with my good friends Simon and Anaïs. I was explaining a client project I was working on at the time, speaking a mile a minute with passion and excitement and they stopped me to ask “why haven’t you started your own consultancy yet?” I tried to think of a million reasons why not, but at the end of that afternoon, I ran out of excuses and heading back into the city, I knew I was going to start something of my own.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
A mentor of mine once told me that the greatest strength a person can have is patience. Looking at the many successful agencies that existed at the time, I had high expectations around Dialogue’s brand, marketing strategy and reputation. I learned early on that exceptional work speaks for itself and so it was through hard work and a number of incredibly supportive individuals in my life, that I began to grow my business through referrals. Early on, I worked with a talented creative director who designed my logo, website and pitch deck, and those three resources sustained growth for several years. Only this year have I invested in a PR firm, redesigning our social media platforms and building a content strategy. My greatest advice to individuals looking to start a consultancy is to put your head down, produce incredible work and nurture your relationships – it’s truly what matters most.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
This past year, navigating the tides of the pandemic, has by far been my greatest challenge. Prior to this, I experienced endless growth and opportunity, it felt like being on a rocket ship heading for space. When the pandemic hit, our early-stage startup clients paused our contracts first and later in the summer the budgets of our corporate clients were slashed, which led to the scaling down of scope. It was hard not to anticipate the worst, unsure of what surprise would come next, but through the chaos I chose not to give up and found new clients in industries that were booming. The rollercoaster of emotions has taught me to never take things for granted and acted as a good reminder to stay focused on constantly building new and nurturing existing relationships within our industry.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Looking back on the last few years, I’m most proud of the talented and passionate women I have had the fortune to mentor and teach. Ensuring that Dialogue is a place where individuals can find and nurture their passion is incredibly important to me and I do my best to foster an environment with flexibility and endless opportunity to grow.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Hiring is something I have humbly learned a great deal about in the past few years. My first hires were referrals from friends and peer mentors, or students I met while guest lecturing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, my old stomping grounds. This past year, I needed to rethink old hiring practices and leaned on my husband, who has managed a large team at Bandier. Together we crafted innovative hiring techniques, such as asking applicants to record a short video on themselves, their backgrounds and passions. These videos allowed us to gauge an individual’s willingness to think outside-the-box, their on-screen comfort level (something increasingly important these days) and watch how their eyes light up when speaking about their passions.
The single most important factor I’ve learned in hiring is transparency. Being entirely honest about our team dynamic, expectations and day-to-day schedule is crucial to building trust early on.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
There has been a huge change in tides of digital marketing over the last year. Brands have quickly shifted their marketing dollars from events, experiential and retail marketing to digital marketing. This has led to fierce competition on advertising channels like Facebook and Instagram and so influencer marketing has increasingly become more and more important. We’ve been fortunate to experience exciting new business opportunities and increased investments in influencer and affiliate marketing by current clients.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I feel more motivated than ever to grow Dialogue as our industry continues to expand. I am constantly thinking about ways to evolve our work, with the emergence of new platforms like Tiktok and Clubhouse and increased emphasis on tactics like affiliate marketing. Dialogue is a digital marketing consultancy, supporting clients on all elements of their digital strategy and so it’s important to me that we don’t get pigeon-holed within only one category. While we work most closely with brands at the moment, I see great opportunity in supporting the influencer community as well, so dreaming up what our next evolution will look like there as well.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Never take human connection for granted again, whether it’s a creative brainstorm in a client’s boardroom, or a dinner party with peer mentors and collaborators, or team happy hour to wrap up the week, the ability to connect is core to what we do and I will forever be grateful for those connections as a consultant coming out of this pandemic.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Boundaries are crucial to maintain your value and productivity as a consultant. Early on, I tried to be everything for everyone, working hard to be an extension of our client’s teams, available anytime, anyplace. Turns out, this is not an efficient way to work, and when forming boundaries to protect our work as a team, we produce better results. Also, from a personal perspective, these boundaries are crucial to avoid inevitable burnout.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Cooking is something that fuels my fire and helps me stay grounded, no matter the circumstances. I cook a meal nearly every evening, which acts as a nice bookend to my day. It’s an opportunity for me to be creative, use my hands (away from my computer) and unwind with the thoughts from the day. No matter where I am in the world, I cherish family dinners, with my husband, our family or friends, it’s my way of communicating my love and my philosophy is always the more the merrier!
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
As a libra, I am obsessed with finding balance in all elements of my life and am a huge proponent of striking a work-life balance. I’ve learned that you must lead by example and as a leader, demonstrate the necessity of a balanced life, since burnout culture is all too real. I believe in working hard, working efficiently and producing exceptional results- which is key to our reputation as a consultancy, but this doesn’t need to come at the expense of personal passion and happiness. I grew up in various industries that championed working into the wee hours and on weekends and I just don’t believe it to be effective.
I use my calendar to create boundaries and ensure balance in my day. Whether it’s a morning workout or an evening dinner party, I book personal time within my work calendar and lean on my assistant to ensure I honor this balance.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I split my time between New York and Paris and like to think of New York as my motivation and Paris as my inspiration. Spending more time in France over the last two years, I become enthralled by the beauty, tradition and precision of the cuisine and culture. I dipped my toe into French cooking by picking up a cookbook from the famous Paul Bocuse, who was a 3 star Michelin chef with an iconic restaurant outside of Lyon. I also started to watch how the women in my husband’s family poured their heart and soul into cooking and took careful notes on ways to master French staples such as a classic Sunday Poulet Roti or Steak au Poivre. This passion has led me to sign up for a three-week intensive cooking course this summer at one of the world’s best schools, Ferrandi Paris, where I will learn the Foundations of French Cuisine.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1. Craft an Organization Plan that Works for You. Bullet journaling has been a game changer for me. It’s a planner/journal hybrid that I discovered recently – before then, I was the person who carried around five different notebooks, each serving a different purpose. The Bullet Journal condenses it all neatly, allows me to focus on both personal and professional goals and intentions and ensures I don’t miss a beat. Highly recommended!
2. Fresh air does wonders. It can be really difficult to build team morale without the small bonding moments of working in real life, like stopping for coffee between client meetings or having an impromptu team lunch or happy hour. To help recreate those connections while working remotely during this pandemic, I schedule weekly “walk and talks” with my team, where we all get outside for a walk on Facetime and discuss non-work related topics. An effort to stay connected and get outside, not only boosts team morale, but helps reset our creative energy.
3. Don’t be afraid to form boundaries. As a consultant, I strive to be as flexible as possible, acting as an extension of my client’s teams and their calendars. While I used to think this flexibility is what made me a great partner, I’ve realized that carving out a clear schedule for myself and my team is what makes us most efficient. Mondays and Fridays are our creative days, which are crucial given our field of work. We have team touch bases, discuss priorities, focus on execution, and discuss Dialogue marketing + pro-bono efforts. Tuesdays-Thursdays are for client meetings and new business calls – I block off 4-hour windows for meetings, and make sure to leave time at the end of the day to catch up on other work that needs my attention.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Someone with passion for what they do, a commitment to helping others and a constant hunger to grow and develop.