Do you struggle to create authority for your brand with social media? Are you constantly wondering how to create content that connects with your audience and engages them? Brand strategist and PR expert, Ashley Graham unpacks how to use social media to nurture and build conversations with your audience while remaining true to who you are. Some themes Ashley discusses include:
Ashley also share’s how she turned a childhood love for commercials into a successful career in marketing. Finally, we swap stories about out “love/hate” relationship with social media and share tactics on how influencers and content creators can focus more on the “love” side of the equation.
Ashley Graham is a brand strategist and publicity expert who has a passion for coffee, media collaborations, and connections. To Ashley Graham, every brand has a unique story that wants to be heard and she is on a mission to be the influence in connecting those stories to the media. Ashley’s creative process is to help her clients filter and enhance the main ingredients of their brand and assist them in facilitating a well-rounded methodology on how they need to execute their social media content & strategies, media outreach plans, story angles, and additional content strategies in-between. Ashley is an influential publicity expert with 11+ years of experience bringing the “buzz” to innovative content & people-relations strategies! Ashley Graham has been exclusively featured in several media outlets including but not limited to BossBabe, Markets Insider, BuzzFeed, Medium, Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global, and many more.
Jacinta Gandy is passionate about small business and a champion of women’s entrepreneurship. She’s the founder of Social Circle, a branding and marketing agency that helps service based solopreneurs turn their passions into profitable businesses.
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Welcome to Hustle with Purpose, the show that encourages us to leave the busy life behind and focus our time and energy on the things that fuel our passion and align with our purpose. I’m your host Jacinta Gandy, let’s get to it!
My guest today is Ashley Graham. Ashley Graham is the founder and creative director of Brandesso, a modern day branding and marketing agency that infuses brand authority, caffeinated strategies and communications to Brands. So every brand has a unique story. Their creative process is to filter the raw, unique details of a brand and incorporate a well-rounded methodology and strategy that brews the brand to stand out in their industry as an authority figure. Welcome to the show, Ashley. Today we’re going to be talking about how you can use PR and social media to establish authority, which is a super important topic, but before we kick things off, I’d love to know more about your journey to entrepreneurship and how you ended up launching Brandeesso.
Ashley : (01:15)
Yeah, so I essentially have been in marketing for over 11 years. There was something about my personality and just things that I noticed as I was growing up. I loved anything when it came to marketing, and there’s a little joke that I’m trying to incorporate more into my story as well. But growing up when I was a kid I loved listening to any type of radio commercial or watching advertisements on the TV. Most kids find those things a nuisance. They don’t really like listening or watching them because they interrupt the show that they’re watching. But there was something about me, when I was a kid, that I loved listening to jingles on the radio, loved watching advertisements and thinking back on it, I was like, okay, I knew I was going to be a marketing maven since I was a young girl because what kid prances around the house singing jingles all day.
Ashley : (02:15)
You know, you just don’t, you don’t normally notice that. But with all that being said, I just feel I was always naturally gravitated to marketing. So I started a marketing class in high school with a teacher that I just respect so much. I’m still in a lot of contact with her. She’s bringing me on as a guest to talk with her students about marketing and kind of where I’ve come from. Just taking her class as a high school student and where that’s taken me now, which I’m really, really excited to kind of step into that position to talk about because it is from, you know, a senior position in high school up until now. I’ve been in the industry for a while, so I’m really excited for that. But I don’t know, there’s just something about marketing and the way that you can take a brand or even an individual and find very unique aspects about them and what makes them either an expert or what makes them unique from everyone else.
Ashley : (03:18)
Which is why I focus more on the PR and influence side because everyone does have a story and everyone has a voice. And if there is one thing that I can do from an expert marketing perspective to kind of bring that towards other people, it is one of the best feelings that I think I can have. And I think that that is in alignment with your podcast too of focusing on Hustle with Purpose. And a lot of my purpose is to bring what I’ve noticed over the years and things that I’ve become an expert in and how I can help other people kind of step into that light to be an authority figure of their own.
Yeah, that is such a great background. I was kind of laughing when you were talking about how you were that kid who used to dance to the TV jingles. And it’s so funny how we can really find clues of our career from our childhood. Like when I was a little kid, like I used to gather all the neighborhood kids together and we would look for rocks, paint them, and sell them door to door. It’s so funny because I was talking to someone about this, like once I started my own business, it was just like a memory that, you know, I brought up and they’re like, Oh, so you were a business owner when you were five years old. You were already in entrepreneur mode!
Ashley : (04:40)
Oh my gosh, I love it. Yeah, like you mentioned, there’s so many little clues that you can get as a kid like thinking back and reflecting. And there’s another kind of story in, not necessarily in conjunction with that, but something that I noticed that I was always a hustler. And so before I kind of stepped in to doing in house marketing roles, I worked for a few cosmetic companies doing more in person marketing. But on top of retail. And so one thing that I noticed even throughout that whole process was when I was a kid, one of my favorite things that I did with my good group of friends that I have, which I’m going to share this with them and Oh my gosh, it’d be interesting to hear them chime in, but we would always have a collection of makeup, whether that was face glitters, you know, whatever makeup you realistically can have as you know, an eight to 10 year old.
Ashley : (05:34)
Cause it’s not like you’re putting on foundation blush or anything crazy. But you know, we had, you know, a number of nail polishes, facial glitters, lip glosses and one of my favorite things to do was I would take potentially the, the items that I had that I didn’t really want any more and I wanted to trade it for something else that one of my other friends had. There was just something about, I knew how to market the benefits of why they needed that and why I needed one of their items in return. So going into marketing and, you know, showing the benefits of things. I mean, I was a hustler. I was trying to purge the makeup that I didn’t want to sell it essentially to my friends to get something of theirs in return. And it was one of the things that we did every single weekend. Anytime we would have our sleepovers. And I’m like, wow. Interesting.
Yes. I love that. Yeah. It’s so funny how those things often show up when we’re children, you know? I also think it’s impressive that like you’ve been doing marketing since high school and I feel like most people’s careers have evolved and changed. Right? It’s like you go, I think when I went to high school, I wanted to be an actress. You know? I love it. It’s funny just how typically people evolve and I love that. Like you, you’ve really been so passionate about marketing and so committed that like you’re going back into your high school to speak to students.
Ashley : (07:04)
Yeah. And you know, once you know that piece comes around, I don’t really know exactly the length of how we’re going to distribute the talk. I would assume we’re just going to do a zoom with this teacher and her class, but the reason why I respect her as much as I do, even to this day like she is somebody that I think about consistently. When I think about how far I’ve come and kind of where it all started, but I just essentially I took a marketing class my senior year because I needed something to fill up my credits to get through school, so it was nothing that was in the back of my mind that I initially wanted or thought about doing. But when I came into this class, I think she saw just kind of the natural elements or just the way that I talked or maybe the work itself, how easy it came to me and how passionate it became, even though it wasn’t necessarily a passion of mine at the time.
Ashley : (08:01)
But she was a big influence into my marketing career because she was also the leader of a group called DECA, which is more popular in the Midwest and the East coast. It’s essentially an organization where they bring in high school and college students to go to seminars to learn more about every aspect of marketing. And we even had opportunities to become part of competition panels where we would choose a topic where we wanted to go and compete in. I was the secretary of the group for my school and we were traveling all around the state of Missouri (which is where I’m from just to put that out there). Next thing you know, I’m competing with DECA for the entire state of California. And I ended up taking home a bronze medal from one of those competitions. And if it wasn’t for the influence of this teacher, who knows where I would be or if I would have fallen into marketing the way that I did.
Yeah. That’s great. Amazing. I am familiar with DECA.
Ashley : (09:17)
I love it. Anytime someone says that they’ve heard of it, I’m like my people.
Yes. I got to run like the school store in high school. It really is a fun program. There’s a lot of value in it. I think it’s awesome you had a teacher that was so influential for you and continues to be influential for you now.
So that’s amazing. So yeah, let’s, let’s talk a little bit more about, you know, how we can use social media and PR to establish ourselves as authorities. Such a hot topic. Right? Because social media is always hot because it’s always changing. And I feel like this year, maybe it’s just a feeling, I don’t know if you feel the same way, but I feel like this year more than ever, people are freaking out about social media. Like, people just don’t, everyone I talked to you, they’re just like, I don’t know what to do. Like there’s so much going on. Like, you know, you have like Instagram, like removing likes and like how does that affect influencer. You also have platforms like Tiktok that are on steroids and everyone and their mother is on them overnight.
Like I’m just curious like what’s your perspective? Like what do you think people should be kind of focusing or thinking about as they go into 2020?
Ashley : (10:50)
Yeah. So, oh my gosh, there’s so many thoughts I have on everything that you just said, but I’m like, we’re going to be talking about this for an hour. Um, so maybe we’ll have to do like a second series or third series or maybe we’ll just get on a phone call. We can talk about all that because I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, but I don’t know. I’ve always had a love hate relationship with social media. And I think as you were talking about the pain points of no one really knows where to start or there’s so many changes that it’s hard to kind of keep up with it. So I think that’s where the hate part kinda comes from. There’s always this confusion. But the best part about social media, as long as you look at it and you utilize it the right way, you can kind of focus more on the love aspect of it versus the hate.
Ashley : (11:38)
But when it comes to PR, social media has become one of the biggest media monitoring tools that even, you know, large PR agencies or people of influence in the PR space. That’s one of the best ways that you can find other talent. So there’s a certain way that you can look at social media and utilize social media to kind of help your PR efforts. But I think ultimately, and this kind of ties into what you were mentioning about Instagram, removing the likes is having a healthy mindset around social media and PR is very important. So kind of what I mentioned in the beginning when I was talking about my story is, and maybe this is where the confusion comes from no one, like maybe potential users not knowing what they need to post. Well I think ultimately and understanding and knowing that you do have something to say that’s going to resonate with somebody can make the biggest impact.
Ashley : (12:36)
It might not always be immediate, but the more that you nurture and build more conversations with people, as you get more into your strategy and the process of how you use social media, it makes the bigger impact in the end. Which kind of leads me to another point that patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to social media as well as PR. And so I’m just kind of like focusing on a lot of the PR mindset stuff. So everyone has a story, a value in conversation of the content that you’re putting out there and actually responding to any type of engagement that you’re getting can make the biggest impact long term. Um, being patient. As you go through the process and entrepreneurship, we kind of understand this, that you have to be patient and you have to go with the flow or it’s kind of the same with social media because you do have all these external factors and you know, things that are changing that you have to keep up with and you have to be, um, informed about.
Ashley : (13:35)
But just, you know, staying true to your story and being patient with the process can take you pretty far. And going back to the value aspect, it’s not always necessarily about you, so I’m trying to figure out how to say this in the best way possible, but it’s not always about you necessarily. So when you’re thinking about influencer marketing, obviously a lot of influencers put themselves on the forefront to garnish and attract media attention. But thinking about the way that you align your captions and you align your content, it’s almost, you have to structure and curate that in a way that it attracts attention obviously from, you know, the imagery that you’re using. But thinking about the why and the purpose of what someone else kind of receives by reading your captions or coming to your posts or seeing your videos.
Ashley : (14:29)
Um, I think a lot of that is the bulk of it, but then there’s other aspects to maintaining authority and influence on social media is just being consistent with your messaging, creating really good content that again, it puts yourself in the expert’s position, but you’re giving away tangible things that someone can take back and start incorporating into their social media process. And then frequency and showing up is a big part of it too. And being more proactive versus reactive with the changes that are always evolving.
Yeah, I completely agree. I mean I have to second the love hate relationship. Yeah, that is absolutely where I’m at. It’s definitely a real thing. Um, and I agree with you. I mean, I feel like, you know, not to say that I don’t freak out because there are definitely times when I do, but I think that I default to what has worked for me in the past. And try not to worry as much about the platform. I worry more about whether the platform works for the way I like to get my message across.
There was a funny example about this woman whose target demographic was senior citizens yet she was talking about how she needed to get on Tik Tok because she heard everyone’s on Tik Tok now. But if your audience is not on Tik Tok and recording funny dance videos doesn’t feel authentic to you maybe that’s not the right platform for you.
Ashley : (16:27)
Yes. It’s, it’s focusing on staying true to who you are and what you want to focus on. I always kind of throw this into a lot of my captions of my post and I get a really great response rate to the stuff that I put out there. You know, a lot of people will comment and they’ll just give me bragging rights even more that I can use for the next post. And I’m like, keep like chiming in so I know what whatever I’m doing is resonating. But ultimately, you know, going back to the mindset is I just focus on what makes me feel so happy and comfortable putting out there because we kind of have to shed our own layers to put out personal things out on social media.
Ashley : (17:12)
But it’s the personal things that really resonate and that’s essentially my role is I like to connect with purpose-driven and more influential people and to build influence. It’s melding that emotional connection. So, you know, there’s kind of that whole emotional approach that I have to use in a lot of my content. Whatever makes me feel fuzzy and fluffy and just feels good to put out there or caffeinated or energized (if I’m going to throw in a lot of my brand words), it feels good to me. So I put it out there and I think if it feels good to you, people can sense that cause it’s like if you’re just posting to post and you know that it’s not really what you want to do and it doesn’t really resonate with your brand and you’re just like something’s off, there might be a little bit of a disconnect that’s going to show later on. Maybe not immediately, I can go on a tangent on that for hours, but I’ll just leave it at that.
I feel like another thing you mentioned, which is really, really important but basic is consistency.
Ashley : (18:16)
I feel like, you know, I talk to so many small business owners that are frustrated with social media but yet they’re not consistent with it. And so it’s kind of like a self fulfilling prophecy. They’re like, I’m not having any luck with social media, therefore I am not doing it. It’s like a revolving door.
Ashley : (18:40)
Yup and consistency doesn’t always necessarily have to be the type of posts that you put out there or you know, the frequency of posts themselves. I think consistency can be a lot of things. And I did a video about this recently that if you can make one big difference in the type of content that you’re putting out there now, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be video content or posts, but if you want to throw up a photo and in your brand messaging, have a few key words that you use consistently. It just makes a bigger impact when it comes to building your brand authority. And just more of the recognition of who you are and what your brand identity is. For example, a lot of my brand identity is coffee lingo. I use a lot of coffee words.
Ashley : (19:37)
I’m throwing caffeinated and energized in there all the time. Um, there’s been a few times that I’ve even had other people chime in and I’m really like a pun person. If you want to get my immediate attention, just start throwing some puns out in your captions and I’ll be like, yes, you’re my bestie. It’s like more content for me to use later. Um, but yeah, consistency can even be just a few messages or a few words that you use in some of your brand messaging and the people who pay attention and they can recognize that, it just helps your brand identity.
Yeah, I love that. And I love your caffeinated branding. I think it’s just so cute and it’s obviously something that a lot of people are very fanatical about. Coffee is something that a lot of people can relate to but I was curious about what your favorite coffee drink was.
Ashley : (20:39)
Oh, this is a good one. I feel that even as I’ve evolved as a person, my coffee has evolved as well. Anytime that I go to a craft coffee shop, we have a lot of great ones here in San Diego that I’ve had to just like fight and resist to go because I spend a lot of money on coffee and like my accountant can tell you it’s probably, it’s really embarrassing, but I don’t know, I just normally gravitate towards lattes for some reason. There’s just something about how they’re made. They’re just so good and it’s just so simple too. But yeah, I’m a latte girl forever and always.
Yeah, I have to agree with you. I absolutely love lattes. We recently got an espresso machine. And I’m like am I just going to drink espressos every day now. Can I do that?
Yes you can. Yeah. That’s awesome.
Thanks so much for coming on this show. Before you sign off, can you tell our audience where they could find you?
Ashley : (21:49)
So I am found on all social media under your brandista and just to throw more coffee lingo in there that’s um, branding barista made into brandesso. So that is where I put out a lot of my influential content and you know, videos to just give out some fun insight as to what I do on my end and how that might potentially help you in the future when it comes to your content.
Yes, that sounds amazing and I’m definitely gonna follow you.
Yeah, girl, let’s get connected.
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