In 2006, Phil Pallen and Lauren Moore were two Western frosh trying to make new friends during the chaos of Orientation Week. Within five minutes of meeting each other, Pallen – a shaggy-haired 17-year-old hailing from Belleville, Ont. – and Moore – a bubbly blonde 18-year-old from West Vancouver, B.C. – had rattled off their high school credentials, from Moore’s two-year reign as student council president to Pallen’s stint as head prefect.
There was an instant spark.
A decade later, that friendship has blossomed into a brand-strategy business partnership that’s taking the pair around the world, from working with reality show celebrities in Los Angeles to conducting brand-building workshops in spots like New York, Orlando, Stockholm and London.
“We’re a creative collective that helps personalities, experts and businesses position, build and promote their brands,” explained Pallen, BA’10, who started working in the brand strategy world in 2011 and officially launched his company, Phil Pallen Collective, in 2014. Moore joined the team in Los Angeles full-time in April 2016, after spending a few years working in the writing and social media realms.
It’s a busy lifestyle. Yet, Pallen and Moore, BA/BHSc’10, seem to thrive on constant plane-hopping, while juggling 20-30 projects at a time – and some big-name clients. The pair are tight-lipped when it comes to naming them, but you’ve probably heard of a few. They’ve worked with politicians and television personalities: Reality show contestants on American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. ‘Sharks’ and entrepreneurs on Shark Tank. A Nobel Peace Prize Winner.
To anyone who remembers Pallen at Western, his celeb clientele is hardly shocking.
In his undergrad days, he was a campus celebrity of sorts himself, after trimming his shaggy locks and tapping into Western’s blossoming media scene. “I wanted to become the Ryan Seacrest of Western,” Pallen recalled. “That was my goal.”
With a knack for on-camera chatter, Pallen hosted the American Idol-style singing competition Western Idol, created a talk-show called Big Purple Couch and hosted various shows for TV Western and CHRW Radio.
Through it all, Moore was by his side, working with Pallen behind-the-scenes. When Pallen was asked to co-host the Canadian Asian International Student Association fashion show in 2009 – a massive event with thousands of participants and attendees – he “freaked out” about having to write a script.
"I wanted to become the Ryan Seacrest of Western." - Phil Pallen
Moore stepped in, writing all his scripts and jokes. She was studying Health Sciences at the time but quickly discovered a hidden talent for writing. “That started our working relationship,” she said.
Both friends went stateside after graduation – Pallen heading to Florida for an MA in entertainment business at Full Sail University; Moore to New York to become a writer. She started her career working in DailyCandy’s editorial department by day and freelancing for Time Out New York at night and on weekends before landing social media jobs at MTV and BMI.
In 2011, as Pallen neared his graduation from Full Sail, Moore sent him a link to enter a contest to become actor Charlie Sheen’s social media intern. More than 80,000 people applied for the bizarre gig. Pallen, despite the staggering odds, made it to the Top 50, with Moore yet again working on his scripts and social media posts for the contest. It was a big boost for Pallen’s own social media profile, landing him more than 100 interviews for TV, print and radio around the world.
“A lightbulb went off,” Moore said. Shortly after the contest wrapped up, fast-talking Pallen moved to Los Angeles. In 2013, Moore moved to California as well for a social media strategy job with an advertising agency, where she worked on accounts like VCA Animal Hospitals and Subaru of America.
Now, with the pair officially working together on the West Coast, everything Pallen creates – be it a simple social media post or his 2014 book Shut Up and Tweet – involves Moore’s deft writing touch. (She co-wrote the Twitter strategy guide, for instance, despite Pallen’s name being plastered on the front cover.)
“I often joke that Lauren knows my brand better than I do,” Pallen said.
The pair’s complementary skills might be the secret to their success. While Pallen acts as the collective’s public face, hosting workshops and appearing front-and-centre in all the promotions, Moore handles much of the behind-the-scenes writing and strategy.
“Lauren is actually the brains behind the operation,” Pallen said.
Despite the playful banter – and a knack for finishing each other’s sentences – they’re not a power couple. Pallen married his husband, Diego Esparza-Duran, in 2013. But the pair are undeniably best friends, and even celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their Western-forged friendship in the fall.
“We still work in the same style today that we did at Western,” Moore said.
“Our personalities have complemented each other for 10 years,” Pallen added.
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