Last week, my mother schlepped me to a taping of The Today Show (she is a LONG TIME fan), which taped here in Montreal, Canada. I watched with pride as they showcased all the incredible talent and highlights that have come out of my unique city… Cirque de Soleil, Celine Dion, POUTINE!
Well, this gal is no different. Shira Lazar, Executive Producer and Host of What’s Trending on CBSNews.com is another great success story out of Montreal, and I was thrilled to interview her about her growth, her advice for budding entrepreneurs and medialites, about social media, and more.
So without further ado, my interview with Shira Lazar…
Shira, as a fellow Montrealer, I’m so excited to spotlight a great Montreal success story. Tell us what you’re up to today, and how it all started.
I am the EP (Executive Producer) and host of a weekly live interactive online show and daily blog around the trending topics, stories and people shaping the online conversation called “What’s Trending” on CBSNews.com. I am also the host and creator of Partners Project, being dubbed the talk show of YouTube. I guess you can say I’m an online and digital renaissance woman.
How it all started? Well it’s a constant process, but I was always obsessed with talks show and news magazines. I studied TV production at Emerson College in Boston and produced/hosted shows there. When I made my way to “the real world”, I had the decision to either pursue production or hosting full time. I always got such an adrenaline rush being on-air and interviewing people. It literally felt like it was my calling.
As I was creating my fake reel I ended up meeting a fellow Canadian who hooked me up with a site called Wireimage. They were just launching their online red carpet video service. I started working for them and meeting a ton of other websites who were creating online video and needed a host. I became the go-to person for hosting content online.
I also started emceeing a lot of LA tech events– and so the world of Hollywood and tech began to converge. Back then (5 years ago) working in digital or online was a throwaway profession to many, but now if you don’t have a digital strategy or presence, you don’t exist.
I’m proud to say I was working in the space before it was deemed hot or cool. Now we’re considered the experts. It’s an exciting time to see both worlds collide and the opportunities ahead.
What have been some of the challenges you have encountered as you have built your career in the media as well as in social media.
In whatever you do or field you’re in, you’ll hear a ton of no’s. You need to stay true to yourself and your instincts to push through that. Everyone has an opinion, so it’s also important to know when to listen to constructive criticism and when to ignore it, because that will ultimately create more negativity for you and your goals than productivity.
Also, it’s sometimes hard to make people understand the importance of digital and social media. That has definitely played a barrier with reaching greater heights with what I do. My world gets it, but more traditional folk sometimes don’t. You learn that you can’t force people to understand things. It will be a never-ending battle that will constantly disappoint. Focus on the people who do get you and want to invest in you. That’s when you can truly flourish.
For a woman starting her own business, or to become successful at what you do, what would be the top three pieces of advice you would give them?
- Focus, know you and your vision. I always say that you need to stay focused and follow your vision through, because there a lot of distractions that come your way. Distractions may actually be other projects or things that seem interesting because they just keep you busy, but don’t add any real value to what you’re doing. Other distractions can be people giving you their opinion, which could help but a lot of times might keep you from advancing forward.
- Be open, know when to evolve. While you stay focused, it’s still important to stay open, and to know when it’s time to veer in a new direction. If you’re not seeing progress, don’t assume failure, but step back and don’t be scared of evolving and figuring out a new plan. Being open also means being prepared for surprise opportunities that may come your way.
- Work hard and keep perfecting your craft. Finally, any athlete practices and trains many hours before any game or championship. Look at yourself like an athlete. Keep working to get better and challenge yourself to perfect your craft. When you feel you’ve reached a plateau, see how you can one-up yourself. Focus on learning and being interested instead of just making yourself interesting. It’s about adding value and contribution to your community.
Having had some great opportunities in your life, what were some of the highlights and fun moments whereby you got to really enjoy your success?
Hosting the officially livestreams for both the Oscars and Grammys (2 years in a row) has been incredible. I’ve gotten to meet and work with some amazing people on and off camera, and become a part of many firsts in the industry.
Being part of the show, Confessions of a Travel Writer (even though it only aired as a pilot on The Travel Channel), was so much fun. I blogged daily for Jaunted.com and met fellow bloggers in Chile, who became my local tour guides.
Lastly, creating “What’s Trending” from scratch and now overseeing it–with employees and all– has been incredibly challenging, but very rewarding. And it’s just the beginning!
For the struggling writers, bloggers and vloggers out there, what is your advice on how to truly monetize what you got?
I always tell people to find that one thing you know way too much about- and that’s the thing you should be capturing in your blogs or video. The true expertise and authentic care for that subject will come through what you do. Finding that niche will allow you to find your audience and your audience to find you.
Collaboration is also very important. You can’t always think at the beginning of simply making money. Contributing what you do to events or sites that already have a following will help you build your experience, portfolio and audience so you can get to that next stage and monetize.
Be consistent- whether you’re blogging or producing video. Consistency creates loyalty and habit with your audience. Whether you monetize on your personal content right now or not, you can find other companies in your field that need those skills now too. The content you create now- whether you’re getting a huge audience or not- will shows brands and possible employers that you’re not just talking, you’re doing, and that is the most vital part of it all in this day and age.
Where do you see social media heading in the future? In your opinion, what must we do today to prepare for the future?
Like I said before, just start doing. Jump on board, contribute and care, but don’t just add noise to the conversation, add value. I see social media continuing to become ingrained in our professional and personal lives.
Remember, social media is there to amplify your voice and message, but don’t forget to take the conversation offline. There is still power in connecting and sharing in person.
What does the future hold for Shira Lazar? And what are the top 3 things on your Bucket List… I always like to know.
Continue to grow and build 360 media properties including, What’s Trending and Partners Project.
And my Bucket List? That’s easy…
1) Make more people happy and contribute to the world through my passions.
2) Meet the Dalai Lama.
3) Travel the world.
SHIRA LAZAR BIO:
Shira Lazar is the Host and Executive Producer of CBSNews.com‘s new weekly live interactive show and 24/7 news hub, “What’s Trending“. She is also the Host and Creator of the talk show of YouTube, Partners Project, interviewing the biggest YouTube stars.
Named one of Fast Company‘s 2011 Most Influential Women in Technology, Shira has been the face of the biggest live-streams on the web including, The Oscars and The Grammys among many others.
A digital trailblazer, she speaks at conferences around the world, is a regular contributor on The Huffington Post and appears frequently on networks like Bloomberg TV, CNN and Fox News Channel discussing Internet culture and digital trends.
If you have any comments or questions for Shira, she just may answer them here! Happy Monday!