How I Started My Digital Agency

what is a digital agency?

Kelli Kelley began her career in communications nearly 20 years ago serving as Public Relations Coordinator for the WalMart brand Faded Glory in their New York office. Over the next 15 years, Kelley would go on to work with several successful organizations across the US in various marketing roles before deciding to launch her own agency: brndMethod Media Group. brndMethod is a digital agency* focused on identifying qualified leads for their clients and then creating digital content to help convert those leads into sales. The company’s service offering includes digital strategy and consulting, content marketing, podcast production, and website design. brndMethod is MBE certified and actively pursues opportunities to partner with minority/women-centric causes and organizations.

How was your University time?

I completed my undergrad at Florida A&M University in the winter of 2002. When I enrolled, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for a career. I assumed I would work in “business” so I went for a B.A. in Business Administration. It wasn’t until my very last semester that I was able to take a single marketing class and I instantly knew I wanted to something in the field of marketing. But I had no idea what. I also quickly developed a love for fashion and decided I wanted to move to New York after graduation and pursue a career in fashion. Again, no idea what job I actually wanted to do. I didn’t even really know what career options were available in fashion outside of being a buyer or being a designer. 

After graduation, I moved back home to Atlanta and met a guy while I was working a cocktail job. He was visiting from New York and we hit it off and continued a long-distance relationship. He would fly me up to NY every other weekend and at first I would just sort of roam the city and take in the sights and the energy which reaffirmed my desire to move there. 

I knew I would need a job before moving there so I started working my local Atlanta connections to connect me with their New York connections. And whenever I knew I was going to be in New York I would set up meetings. 

One of my local Atlanta connections, connected me with her step-mom who worked for the Walmart brand Faded Glory in the corporate office in Manhattan. The nest time I was in NYC, I met with her for what was initially just supposed to be her providing insight on the industry and the best way to build my career. During the meeting I got this very distinct push to ask if they were hiring. I asked and it turns out they were looking to fill their receptionist position. Within 15 minutes, I met with all the decision makers and they asked me when I could start. I told them 2 weeks. And I moved to New York within 2 weeks.

Once there I was like a sponge. I was taking it all in and learning as much as I could. The publicist who worked at Faded Glory took me under her wing and showed me how to work with the media and that’s when I decided I wanted to be a publicist. 

 I moved back to Atlanta in 2006 to care for my ailing mother and once she passed away, I made the decision to stay in Atlanta and try my hand at entrepreneurship by starting my own public relations company. 

And then around 2013 I started to notice the impact that social media was having on businesses and brands and decided to reshift my focus from PR to digital marketing. 

With my current company, brndMethod Media Group we do content marketing, digital strategy, podcast production and website design. In the spring of 2018, we launched our sister media company Digital Dive Media. Digital Dive Media is a curation of digital marketing industry news, trends and other content designed to keep communication professionals informed.

Why did you choose a career in this field?

I chose this career field because I love the idea of creatively communicating a brand message that resonates with people and grows the bottom line. I also like the autonomy of digital marketing. Being able to come up with a message, creative and then deliver that to the end user when we want to is very different than public relations where you are waiting on approval from media outlets. Which may never come. 

I also like having the ability to measure impact. We can launch a campaign and quickly see through reporting whether it’s working or not. 

What was your first job or nuggets from jobs you had that helped you get to where you are today?

My time in New York at the start of my career was pivotal for me. Getting to the city, navigating the city….it really helped shape me.

I learned how to speak up and ask for what I want. I learned how to balance being assertive and being aggressive. I learned not to take things personally when things don’t go my way.   

How did you prepare for the interview?

My very first “interview” was a bit untraditional. I went in for an informational interview, asked if they were hiring and left with an offer. But because it was so untraditional, the lesson I learned was to be prepared for anything and stay calm. When I asked the person I was there to originally meet with if they were hiring, I didn’t really think she would say yes. And if they were, I assumed it would be a long drawn out process that would take at least a couple of weeks. But it was all immediate. My final meeting I was in the office of the CEO, doing my best to stay calm and confidently communicate that I could pack up my life in Atlanta, move to New York and report for work within 2 weeks. 

For more traditional situations where I was interviewing, I would always research the company. Now with LinkedIn you can even research the key players within the department you’re applying for. This creates an opportunity to identify any commonality that could be used as an ice-breaker. Where they went to school, what city they’re from, what interest groups they’re a part of; this is a great way to show you’ve done your research.

Also, be prepared to verbally express your quantifiable contributions in previous roles even though this is on your resume.

Can you provide some book recommendations?

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi is a great book about building your network and the importance of having a diverse network comprised of people at varying levels in their career. 

The Sell by Frederic Eklund. Although he’s a real estate agent, the lessons he shares about confidence and selling (yourself) are applicable to anyone in any industry. 

Things are changing very fast in the industry; how do you keep yourself updated. Please list techniques or newsletters, podcasts, events, etc.

Podcasts are really good for me because it’s passive consumption. I can do other things while I listen as opposed to reading or even video which both require undivided attention. 

My favorite podcasts are How I Built This, The GaryVee Audio Experience, Digital Dive Media Podcast, Marketing School and Your First Million. 

Any advice about CVs?

The best advice I have about CVs is to highlight quantifiable contributions you’ve made throughout your career. “I increased email sign-ups by X”, “I grew the Facebook page by X”….or whatever would be the applicable equivalent in your industry. 

Employers want to be able to quickly see that you are tapped into the impact you’re having and that you’re committed to growth.

Advice for someone looking for a job?

Be proactive and think outside of the box. If you have a shortlist of company’s you want to work for, start engaging them on social media. Reach out and ask about opportunities even if there are no postings listed. Also, start positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Share articles, share your opinion on industry trends, write blog posts either on your own blog or request to write for other blogs. This way, when you a potential employer “Googles” you, the search results will be all of your work and insights. 

Why do you think you were selected among other candidates?

I think I was selected for the position because I was proactive and had ambitious energy. I think now more than ever employers are looking for candidates that are self-motivated and not afraid to step-up and take a bit of ownership. 

Confidence is really important when interviewing. Most everyone is a bit nervous when interviewing but you’ve got to be able to push past that and put your best self forward. 

One thing I’ve learned to do over the years is drill down on why I feel nervous about something. It usually comes down to feeling unprepared. For interviewing, a lot of times the fear is rooted in not being prepared for questions they might ask. If that’s the case then go back through your top selling points and re-review them. Ultimately, they’re asking you about you, your personality and your work history. These are all things you know better than anyone. 

Lessons from jobs that you couldn’t get.

I remember applying for a job that I had zero qualifications for…I couldn’t answer basic questions in the interview. I was at a point where I needed a job to pay the bills and I was applying for all sorts of things, which was a mistake. From that experience I learned to focus my energy on what I was qualified for and grow my skills to position myself for growth in that lane.

Another lesson I learned was sometimes not getting the job has nothing to do with you. There could be several internal inefficiencies that result in you not getting the job. The best advice is to reevaluate the situation and figure out if there was anything you could have done differently on your part. If not, move on. Do not dwell on the disappointment. 

Also read How I started My Own Digital Marketing Company

Notes*

What is a digital agency?

Digital agency helps clients increase their digital presence based on strategies that align with their sales goals

How I Started My Digital Agency

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