Building a Trusted And Beloved Brand

Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn about each of your respective origin stories. Can each of you share a story of your childhood and how you grew up?

Carly: Oh wow, we’re going all the way back there. It’s a lot farther back than any of you have to go.

I grew up in Boston and was a child actor from about age eight. I went to prep boarding school in New England, then on to Columbia University where I spent more time with internships than actual classes.

During that time, I decided to pivot from being in front of the camera to behind it. I started working in casting for Film, TV and Broadway. I thought that was what I’d do forever. But life took me in a different direction and I fell into advertising agencies.

Around 2012 I was introduced to sex work. I was a sex worker while working at agencies — a very double life. The landscape was very different then, in both the adult industry and culture.

I moved to Mexico about six or seven years ago, already retired from sex work. I was in a low period, working toxic, dead-end jobs. I felt really stunted by my experiences. I came to Mexico to reboot. To pay bills, I taught myself website design.

Our agency just organically grew into an uncontrollable runaway train. It went from me in pajamas to over 20 of us now, mostly current or retired sex workers. We’re fully remote and in 5 countries. Most of our team just know better and can do what I can’t. That’s the beauty of a collaborative like this.

Siri got involved a couple of years ago.

Siri: I’m from Minneapolis originally — I’m a Midwest girl. I spent my childhood there, then moved to Texas around the time I started middle school, and I was in Texas through high school and college.

I actually knew I wanted to do porn when I was 19 — I got really into queer porn, and I idolized indie porn performers like Jiz Lee — but I knew I wasn’t ready yet. I had just started college! So I put the idea on the back burner, but I couldn’t let go of it.

Eventually in 2012, the year I turned 23, I moved to LA to pursue porn. I had a whole plan for my career. I already had domain names and social media accounts and everything before I even set foot on a porn set, which was a rarity back then. I started with an adult talent agent who booked my first shoots. Pretty quickly, I realized that he was not doing his job very well, so I fired that agent, and I’ve been self-booking ever since then.

I performed for three years, and had quite a lot of success from 2012–2015, then in early 2015 I announced I was retiring for personal reasons, and I moved away from LA.

When I was retired I had other jobs I enjoyed, but nothing gave me the freedom and control over my time and my future like sex work does. I missed it after five years away from the industry, so I decided to make my comeback in January 2020.

One of the things that stuck with me when I was retired was the way some people would react when I shared that I used to do porn. Some people assumed I must have left the industry because I was exploited or abused, even though I never suggested that was the case. I loved the industry and the career I had. 

Being asked to justify my decisions over and over, to play into other people’s stigmatizing beliefs, changed my perspective. It’s a big part of why, now that I’m back in the industry, I put a lot of my energy into advocating for sex workers rights and destigmatizing our work.

Laura: I’m originally from Toronto, raised by a single dad. My twin and I were encouraged in artistic expression and absorbed pop culture voraciously from my dad’s work in radio.

At 18 I went to the New York Film Academy for producing then left for nightlife and sex work like go-go dancing and burlesque. I performed across Europe and the States then moved back to Toronto for burlesque. Naked News had me teach their anchors to strip for camera, which led to an audition and 7 years as segment producer, writer and host. I got to travel the world exploring sex positivity and sexuality, leading investigations and bringing taboo issues to their audience.

I wrapped up with them in February but have led independent productions like my YouTube series “Red Umbrella Talk,” destigmatizing sex work by bringing workers’ voices to public questions. I’m producing shows for NYC sex venues, bringing cabaret-style erotic theater to the stage.

So Carly, can you share the story of how each of you met and decided to create a company together?

Carly: Well, PS: Group kind of organically grew over the years. I needed to scale up so I reached out to Siri through a connection. I think we met at a Free Speech Coalition webinar and I DM’d her to join us. She took a chance on this new path. At XBiz LA this past January, I sat next to Laura, had no idea who she was but picked up on her energy and knew she had to work with us!

The difficult thing is most of us being active sex workers means juggling a lot of projects. That’s the beauty of a multidisciplinary team — we each bring different strengths. I try to hire people who’ll know more than I do.

Laura, can you share any exciting new initiatives that you are working on?

Laura: I’ve had an amazing experience meeting new clients and doing branding and development calls. It reminds me how brilliant and transformative they are, and how important their work is with huge potential for growth. The desire and ambition is there. Our support and strategy sets them up for success. They’re very savvy.

Siri, can you describe the unique challenges of marketing in your industry, versus others? What are the pain points that you are helping to address?

Siri: A big consistent challenge is social media censorship. We rely on platforms like OnlyFans to make money, but have to bring traffic from social media, which is increasingly difficult. It often comes up when I’m helping new clients navigate having to sanitize their brand for Instagram, without losing that edge that creates sales. It’s a lot of work. To sell content, you also have to constantly produce free content to grow your following on Twitter, Instagram, etc. So social media is both essential but also a huge pain point.

Carly: Siri and I were just talking about how sex worker marketing is like doing traditional marketing backwards and in heels! We have to get really innovative to circumvent the challenges.

Laura: Just call us Ginger Rogers!

Yitzi: So as branding and marketing experts, what is needed to create a successful, enduring brand in your industry?

Laura:

You have to tap into what authentically lights you up. Trying to emulate others won’t work — you have to find your unique offering.
And you need structure and ability to stick to it. We help build that structure to maximize your time.

Carly:

See what everyone else does and do the opposite. If it already exists, that need is filled. The more you commit to your unique positioning and differentiators, the more people will be drawn in by your contrast. And committing to it creates consistency which builds loyalty and trust.

Siri:

Authenticity is hugely important. You’re selling your presence directly to your followers. If you’re fake or contrived, people see through it. It’s fine to have a persona, but there must be an authentic element to it, otherwise you’re painting yourself into a corner.
And take breaks — don’t grind nonstop. To build a lasting brand you have to know when to rest and maintain balance.

Each of you are people of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Laura: I believe exploring your sexuality helps you accept others’ lives. There’s resistance in our culture to explore motivations within the erotic realm due to ingrained shame. But understanding our full selves requires compassionately exploring our sexuality. It would make for a happier society.

Carly: Don’t live passively — give yourself the opportunities and growth no one else will. Forge your own path. We’re applying to speak at SXSW which my old agency never would’ve allowed. Creating your own opportunities can change the world.

Siri: This is such an open-ended question, all I can think of it the most pragmatic answer that pops into my head: Universal basic income, housing for all, and decriminalize sex work. Those three things together would fundamentally improve society. But they require a lot of people with different perspectives to work together. We’re very far from that kind of social change, but wouldn’t it be nice?

How can our readers continue to follow your work?

Siri: I’m Siri Dahl on most platforms and at SiriDahl.com. I also appear in the Netflix documentary Money Shot: The Pornhub Story, which came out earlier this year.

Carly: We’re at WeArePSGroup.com and @WeArePSGroup on social media like Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Wonderful! It’s been delightful meeting you all. I wish you only continued success!

Siri: Thank you!

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