Thought Leadership

ICON 2021 Recap: Netflix’s Colin Parajon on Being Human

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“Let’s have a human-to-human connection,” said Colin Parajon, manager of global brand strategy for Netflix, as he presented the PRSSA keynote address, titled “Being Human in Big Tech,” on day two of ICON 2021. “Make your own path, and stay human.”

Parajon — who has agency and creative experience working with National Geographic and HBO, and in-house experience at Spotify and now Netflix — is learning what it takes to build a global entertainment brand and keep it at the forefront of culture.

He told students that a great way to start their career is “at an agency with a strategic backbone,” adding, “work on some clients you love already and some that you’ve never heard of before. Try some industries you’ve never dabbled in before, too.”

Colin Parajon That’s how Parajon says he caught his stride, and gravitated toward the entertainment industry, eventually landing at Netflix this past spring.

“Cut your teeth at a big agency, and hone your craft at a small agency,” he said. “Then choose a brand that you really care about and go work there.”

As for his definition of a global brand strategist: “I overthink things for a long time to help simplify them for others,” and “my process is to talk to as many humans as possible and make sure that I am their voice in the room.

“Brand strategy also means “reframing a problem in order to find a better solution, finding the most concise way to express a big concept and holding creativity accountable for business impact,” he said, noting that sometimes something simpler is better.

“Try to find the most concise way to express a big idea in a sticky way,” Parajon said. Begin with the end in mind and discover what story you want people to hear. The best thing you can do in a business pitch is show them the headline you can get with this idea — and how people will frame your brand.

“Start with the press release. What’s the headline we’re after? What’s the new news?” he asked. “Questions about what the hook is, what’s newsworthy and why people want to write about something make my work better — and help claim the position I want my brand to own at end of the day.”

Leaning into our experiences

Parajon said that his path to strategy work at Netflix came from showing that he cares, he hustles and he can build things. It’s important to market yourself to employers, have a unique point of view, be vulnerable and be authentic.

“Everyone has diversity of thought and experience — we should be leaning into that and telling really authentic stories,” he said. “Lean into what makes you different.

“Start with your own press release,” he continued. “What do you want people to know about you?”

Parajon shared several lessons he’s learned along the way:

  • Volunteer. “I would do the job that nobody else wanted to do,” he said. “Be the bridge to other teams — help make connections and be that person for other people.”
  • Start something. “Be known for something; leave a lasting mark,” he said, mentioning how he started a beer club at a previous agency and organized a “plebes” group to commiserate with co-workers. Make suggestions about organization of your team, workshop things with co-workers and be a team player. Later, when you’re no longer at the company, those people will remember you, take your call and help you out. “Hold onto your network and build relationships,” he said.
  • Be your authentic self, even with clients. “Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and show your true self to your clients; it helps build trust,” he said. “It’s all about finding people who know your value. Know your own point of view, and prove that you can add value.”

Parajon also offered these career lessons in closing:

  • The things that make you different not only make you human, they can also make you marketable.
  • This is a relationship business, and good humans hire other good humans. Success isn’t a zero-sum game. Help others to help yourself.
  • Authenticity and vulnerability are skills to be honed. Prioritize these over ladder-climbing. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable because that will make people respect you.

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of Strategies & Tactics at PRSA.

[Photo credit: sitthiphong]

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Amy Jacques

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