In this month’s "Meet the Aesthetic Expert" column, Will Kirby, DO, FAOCD, talks with Megan Driscoll, CEO and founder of public relations and digital communications agency, EvolveMKD, about the ever-changing aesthetic specialty, reaching the younger generations, and starting her own company.
Welcome to “Meet the Aesthetic Expert,” where, each month, dermatologist Will Kirby, DO, FAOCD, of LaserAway, will connect with select industry leaders to get their expert opinion on the aesthetic specialty. With an emphasis on straightforward, candid questions, Kirby will focus on the best in aesthetics and get the experts’ frank thoughts on where the field is headed.
Megan Driscoll is the CEO and founder of EvolveMKD, a public relations and digital communications agency based in New York, New York.She has 19 years of experience in healthcare, aesthetics and dermatology, and prestige beauty. The key to her success is her ability to always find a way. Driscoll finds potential in every opportunity for her clients through determination, relationships, agility, and sound strategy coupled with creative spirit. She is widely recognized for her work, earning a spot on PRWeek’s 40 Under 40 List and being honored as 1 of 12 women chosen for The Ernst and Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women class of 2018. Additionally, Driscoll was the first ever recipient of the Early Career Achievement Award from her alma mater, the University of Chicago.
Kirby: Hi Meg! Thanks so much for agreeing to sit down with me to discuss the aesthetic industry. Let’s jump right into it with a tough question! What's the single best piece of aesthetic career advice you have received?
Driscoll: The best piece of overall career advice I’ve received is that you meet the same people on the way up that you meet on the way down, so you always have to treat people with respect and be consistent in how you communicate and interact with everyone. Since I’ve worked in aesthetics in some capacity since 2005, I have seen this in action. People have been more or less interested in me based on what my perceived value is at that moment, and I work hard to never make anyone else feel that way.
K: Did you have an aesthetic mentor you revered? How did this person influence you?
D: My mentor, not just in aesthetics, but in business, is Jonah Shacknai. We met back in 2005, when I was a senior account executive on the Medicis PR account. Through the years, he has held me to the highest standard, first as a member of his PR account team, then as a senior executive at an agency and now, as a business owner. His biggest influence on me has been how I treat my employees – he’s a firm believer in taking care of people and being generous to everyone.
K: There have been a number of recent entrants into the aesthetic field as of late, but they didn’t get the positive traction they hoped to garner. It pains me to see these flops. Why do you think we often see companies launch new products or services so unbelievably poorly?
D: When companies are preparing to launch a new product there is a lot for them to consider – creating a good product, clinical studies, designing the packaging, ensuring the safety, and efficacy, etc. Often, they think that PR and Marketing are things you do when you are “in market”, not things you think about as you are preparing to go to market. Often, that lack of foresight puts them way behind when it comes time to launch. One of the things we see all the time is that when companies hire strategic communications agencies, like EvolveMKD early on, we can help guide them on KOLs to engage with, unique styles of before and after images needed for media that can be shot during the studies, priming the market for launch with “disease state awareness” education campaigns, educating key stakeholders within an organization to understand and be prepared to review materials for channels they may not be familiar with—like various social media platforms, and preparing for a fully integrated marketing approach for launch. I think EvolveMKD is one of the only agencies that understands, and has relationships with, aesthetic customers, while also understanding the end consumer. You need to make sure both are primed to have a successful launch and sustaining brand in aesthetics.
K: One could easily argue that the traditional aesthetic dermatology and plastic surgery societies are slow to evolve and that the “key opinion leader” paradigm is far out of touch. What should the aesthetic industry do to increase diversity and inclusion?
D: Like most industries, I think we need to take an honest look at ourselves.I used to joke that diversity in aesthetics was advertising to brunettes or redheads. Representation is important in every aspect of aesthetic medicine. From an industry perspective, we need to reach out to all different types of consumers and show them visuals that they can relate to. We also need to include more diverse patient populations in clinical studies so we truly know how different products and treatments will perform in different skin types and bring into the modern day many of the scales/measurements we use within these trials. I’d also love to see the medical societies increase the exposure of their specialty areas to younger generations, so a variety of people feel like aesthetic medicine is a career option for them.
K: Aesthetic treatments are often implemented by women, on female patients. And who knows women better than other women? But our field is still mired in a sea of affected, “mansplaining” male executives. Your thoughts?
D: My agency just conducted a study around the evolution of communication, to see how mental health has impacted when, how, and where, women communicate in their day to day lives. According to the study, communication is a high driver of productivity—2 in 3 women say that communication with others impacts their productivity and when communication with others is better and more positive, 1 in 4 women say they are more productive at their jobs. Unfortunately, it seems that male to female communication could still use some improvement, across all industries, as the average women reports getting “mansplained” to 6 times a week or 312 times year, according to research done by Self.inc. I can’t imagine that helps women in their mental health or their communications at work. With our knowledge and survey insights, we plan to help current and potential clients tailor their campaigns to create more meaningful content and connections. Whether that is reflected through virtual or in-person activations, digital media, social, or print, we want to help lift women up. We want to help our clients meet their goals while also making a positive impact on the mental health of their female consumer.
K: I’m of the belief that patients will be the big driver of change in the aesthetic industry. Knowing that, what aesthetic patient population is the most challenging and why?
D: I’ve been hearing that men are the “next big thing” in aesthetics for the past 15 years.Men are awesome, but they have pretty much held steady at 10% of the market since I’ve been in it.With so many segments of the female population untapped, it seems like a no brainer to focus on them first, gain wide scale adoption, and then look to men.
K: I’m of the opinion that the field of aesthetics is ripe for disruption. If this turns out to be true then we are in for a transformation. So, what do you think the aesthetic industry will look like 10 years from now?
D: I am really hopeful that the aesthetics industry will be an ecosystem that’s dynamic, from both the provider and industry standpoint. I would like there to continue to be innovation, especially in the areas that are desperate for solutions (like hair loss, hair graying, and fat). I’d also love for it to mirror the beauty industry a little more, not only in how we interact with consumers and drive them into the marketplace, but also the options that exist for consumers to receive treatment. In beauty, I have the option of getting my hair or make up done in a variety of places, with varying levels of expertise and expense. This allowed me to experiment (and afford it) at all my different phases of life and become a savvier and more educated consumer. If the market grows as I hope it does, we’ll need all these different options to ensure we can meet consumers at all different price points and treatment need levels.
K: Let’s move on from patient to providers. What advice do you have for aesthetic providers to avoid ‘burnout’?
D: I think if your aesthetic practice or med-spa can financially afford it, I recommend hiring someone (even virtually) to manage email and/or your calendar. If you are someone that is trying to see patients, attend meetings, conduct research, and participate in marketing activities for companies, you will definitely miss a meeting or an email—it’s too much for one person to stay on top of.I recently took my own advice and hired an executive assistant—I truly don’t know how I would have stayed sane over the last year without him!
K: If you weren’t an aesthetic expert, what would you do for a living?
D: This sounds funny because I cannot do my own hair, but when I was little, I always said I wanted to own a beauty parlor. I think that’s kind of come true through the aesthetic and beauty clients we work on at EvolveMKD. But beyond that, I’d love to work in a wine tasting room—I love learning about wine and meeting new people, so that would combine 2 of my favorite things.
K: What is your favorite aesthetic treatment to personally receive?
D: I love Fraxel combined with PRP. It gives you such improved texture and fine lines and wrinkles. It definitely has a day or 2 of downtime for me but it’s completely worth it with how your skin looks after. I get them at least twice a year.
K: It's time for my toughest question: Meg, what changes would you personally like to see take place in the aesthetic industry?
D: I am so proud of some of the progress that has been made in terms of female leadership within the aesthetics industry. Seeing women at the helm of many of the key aesthetic companies, in an industry that currently focuses so much on the female consumer, makes me proud to work in aesthetics. Compared to what leadership looked like 15 years ago, there has been progress made. Do not get me wrong, there is still plenty of work to be done, but knowing where we have come from, I have great confidence in where we are going.
K: As an expert in the aesthetic industry, people look to you to lead. If you could inspire a movement in our industry, what would it be?
D: I’ve always wished that there was some way in which industry would come together and fund a purely educational campaign around the most popular treatments. Consumers—and some media even—are still really confused about the basics in aesthetics, and I am of the mindset that an educated consumer is a better consumer, translating into better patients for providers. A real, well-funded push like that may be what helps this market really reach its ultimate size potential, and I think now is the perfect time to do it with heightened interest and consumer spend due to COVID-19.
K: This has been unbelievably insightful, and I could pick your brain all day, but all good things come to an end and this interview is no different! How can readers get more aesthetic expert information from you and follow you moving forward?
D: Please follow Evolve on Instagram at @evolvemkd.