Capitol Communicator is running a series of profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “up close and personal” profile, we feature Leigh George, founder of freedom. Photography for this series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Leigh, tell us a bit about yourself.
I founded and run my own agency, freedom, which, instead of billable hours, offers unlimited amounts of personalized, on-demand advice, insight and ideas clearing the way for innovation. Before freedom, I was director of marketing and communications at URAC, a leader in healthcare quality bench-marketing programs, and was responsible for developing and executing the non-profit’s branding and content marketing strategy. Before URAC, I was VP in Ogilvy’s Social@Ogilvy practice, where I led branding, digital and social strategy for public and private-sector clients, both locally and nationally, including Five Guys, Enroll America and the FDA. And, prior to Ogilvy, I led branding and digital strategy teams at several digital agencies in the D.C. area.
Are you involved in any organizations?
With two young daughters who keep me pretty busy, I don’t have a whole lot of time to spare, but I believe it’s important to carve out time for activities that are meaningful to you. I stay sane and energized by participating in networking events and groups.
There’s nothing like meeting people and striking up conversations that spark fresh ways of thinking and new relationships. I also love the opportunity to speak about topics in digital marketing and social media. I’ve presented at SXSW, both Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summits, Digital East, the Seattle Interactive Conference and the Girl Scouts National Convention.
What are the things you are most proud of?
One of the most meaningful parts of my career has been working with and mentoring junior colleagues. It’s incredibly rewarding to see them grow as they learn new skills, achieve milestone accomplishments and advance in their careers.
I’m also extremely proud of the client brands I help create and build. It’s an honor to play a role in such an integral facet of an organization.
Who were your personal role models?
I’ve never modeled myself after others, but I have found inspiration in others’ careers and accomplishments. As I grew up, my mom stylishly balanced family and career with a vibrant social life. She taught me that women can do and be whatever they want on their own terms. I’ve always admired her ability to make time for a life beyond her family and career, whether it was spending time with friends or attending a chamber music performance. She helped me understand how important it is to feed your personal interests and passions no matter how busy life seems.
I’m continually inspired by Diane von Furstenberg. She created the iconic wrap dress, built a business around it, then rebuilt it. Her life is a testament to the power of believing in yourself and your convictions. Her clothes are as much about fashion as they are about confidence and empowerment. To me, DVF is the designer I turn to when I want to convey strength and be memorable. I live by her motto: “Feel like a woman. Wear a dress.”
When I was at Ogilvy, we are always working in the shadow of David Ogilvy. His legacy inspired me to continually strive beyond mere success to greatness. I’ve adopted his words as a mantra: “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark. Aim for the company of immortals.”
What professional advice do you have for others?
– Be aware and listen. The people around you will teach you amazing things if you’re paying attention;
– Never underestimate the impact you have in the lives of others;
– Follow your passion. Understand what excites and nourishes you and focus on that; and,
– Be confident. No matter how you feel or the negative thoughts that might be running through your mind, always leave people with the impression that you’re self-assured.
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire in business?
Clothes help you create an image of who you are in the minds of those you’re around. Each outfit or ensemble is an opportunity to tell a story about yourself. Your look should reflect not just your personality but your professional role, who you are meeting with, where you’re meeting. You should wear clothes you’re comfortable in and that make you feel confident but that are also appropriate for the time of day, situation and the people you’ll be with. As Tom Ford has said “dressing well is a form of good manners,” and this applies to any organization.
Where do you buy most of the clothes?
I do nearly all my shopping online. I like to start at the Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom websites for designer pieces. I’ll also visit the Saks and Bloomingdales sites to see what they have. I’ll mix designer pieces with trendy short-shelf life pieces from Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, H&M and Target. When I travel, I like to visit local boutiques because I find incredible pieces from young designers that aren’t available at national stores.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I have a PhD in branding history and theory and have changed careers twice. What I do now didn’t even exist when I was in high school and college and starting to think about what I wanted to do when I grew up. No one can afford to be complacent in their profession. Technology and industries are changing so rapidly that it’s essential to be open to new opportunities and adventures to stay relevant and valuable.