Yolanda James recently
joined the Nashville Health Care Council where she serves as the director of
initiative and content strategy.
In addition to managing Fellows, James plays a key role in
strategy development and works with staff in program planning, addressing
subject content and speaker selection.
Before joining the Council, James was the director of public relations and strategy for the Tennessee Hospital Association. She also provided oversight of THA’s Agenda 21, an internship program for minority students.
James has nearly 20 years of experience in
public relations, social marketing and grassroots advocacy. She holds a
bachelor’s in journalism and a minor in women’s studies from Miami University
Ketner Group: You have a long history in public relations and marketing through a variety of industries. Clearly, you love what you do. What is your favorite thing about PR?
Yolanda James: My favorite thing is the problem-solving, finding that solution to your client’s problem. It’s that constant task of making the puzzle pieces fit. The solutions are equally as exciting. Often, I’m asking questions, such as:
Do you want to do press conferences? Will you meet with
community organizing and public affairs? What’s your target audience? How can
we draft impactful bylines? How can we reach ideal publications and use the
right channels to achieve your goal?
KG: What do you
think differentiates really great PR professionals?
YJ: The true greats are flexible, especially those on the agency side. In PR, you have to expect the unexpected and embrace it. In many instances throughout my career, I’ve worked with professionals who were able to pivot and deal, revise talking points or take new information and then draft a news release or document accordingly.
Secondly, the truly greats write and edit well. They know
when to add a transition and when to delete a bunch of fluffy run-on
In my new role at the Nashville
Health Care Council as the director
of Fellows and content strategy, I still use all of these skills every single
day (even though I am no longer responsible for PR).
KG: How do you
see the PR/marketing industry in Nashville evolving in the next five
YJ: Nashville is a growing city and it is growing not just by population, but by industry. Health care accounts for more than 270,000 jobs locally, with Nashville-based companies operating in all 50 states. Facing unprecedented growth, the city will need more PR and marketing professionals who are effective at promoting their companies at a regional and international scale.
incredibly involved in your community. What is one of the biggest challenges
Nashville is currently facing and what have you been doing to address it?
YJ: Top of mind is the massive growth that’s happening and making sure that everyone — native Nashvillians, women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ community — continue to experience advancement from it. Nashville has an opportunity to not be like other growing cities that have reached their peak only to come up with excuses for why the rising tide is not lifting all boats. We’ve built healthcare, tourism, music and entertainment dynasties. Surely, we can figure out how all Nashvillians can not only be invited to the table but also given a piece of the pie and a fork to eat and enjoy it.
To help with this, I am a Board member of the Tennessee Diversity Consortium. TDC focuses on creating positive community impact where
peers gather to offer support, exchange best practices and become better
KG: When you’re
not in the office, what do you enjoy doing on a personal level?
YJ: I love
reading. Besides my Bible, I have 7 books on my nightstand right now: Michelle
Obama’s “Becoming”; Mindy Kaling’s “Why Not Me?”; “O’s Little Guide to Finding
Your True Purpose”; and Jasmine Guillory’s “The Proposal”.
For my business
brain, I have “The Memo”, “Multipliers” and “The First 90 Days”. They will all
be completed by November 1, possibly before then!
I also love
music and dancing, especially to hip-hop and 80s and 90s music – any genre.
include hiking and people watching. There are so many cool places in Nashville
for both of those.
KG: What’s the
best piece of personal or professional advice you’ve been given?
YJ: I have
received a lot of great advice. The best PR nugget I’ve been told is “No matter
the typo, no matter how many misplaced commas or semicolons, nobody
The most useful personal advice comes from my dad:
“Yolanda, people’s reactions to you are not about you. It’s about
Remembering that keeps me grounded and humble on my most
amazing days, and that motivates me to keep smiling and moving forward on my
worst days when I really want to crawl home and listen to B.B. King on
Interested in learning more about our thoughts on storytelling? We always love to chat about the topic over a cup of coffee. So don’t be shy, just reach out.
Read the Transcript
Goodlett: I want to start with Brittney. I am curious to hear from you. Why is
Storytelling is so important, especially to me because I feel like it gives
everyone an opportunity to share their truth, right? We all have our own, all
our story that deserves to be shared. And I see the impact impacted needs,
especially for under represented communities, right? So if you’re a minority
business owner, having your stories old can do understory. For example, I have
a colleague whose book came out this week. When she received her book deal her
publishing house was kind of nervous because she didn’t have a large social
media following. They really want to make sure that she could sell this book
and the book, it’s called, The Memo, and it’s about women of color and
workplace. It’s a great topic but it’s always hard to pitch opportunities or
stories around people of color, right? It really is. So her publisher’s
feedback really meant some of these are hurting. So I wrote about her for Fast
Company. Once that article went live, her publisher gave her a date for her
book to be released. That’s how much a story being published can make an impact
to someone’s life.
Goodlett: So I want to jump off of that point and pass it over to Nicole.
Nicole, I’m curious to hear from you how you see storytelling being important
to businesses. Because Brittney’s example is such a great example of like
someone who’s clearly making money from writing, but we also have sometimes a
harder time telling stories about companies. So why is story telling important
Delger: Storytelling gives people to talk about your company and you know,
share pride in the things they find. There are so many different things that we
can invest in or bring into our lives and it’s harder to be discerning some
times as a consumer. So when I think about storytelling, I always put my
consumer hat on. What are the brands that I like, what are the stories that I
rally around? How are they interesting? And I think it’s important for
companies down on what their story is so that people will talk about them. I
love your example, Brittney. I just saw another one in the news yesterday in
the Shelbyville Times about Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. Have you seen this
one? I thought that was so beautiful and it is inspired by a slave that taught
Jack Daniels how to distill whiskey. And they are saying, this is the Godfather
ofTennessee whiskey. And I think that is really exciting for people who are
entrepreneurial, who are wanting to make something meaningful, wanting to
create a brand that’s meaningful to go out and find these stories and be
inspired by these stories to create something new. So I think it’s made from an
entrepreneurial perspective. And so typing into your own story or the story
that you want to tell it from a creative business.
Goodlett: So, what do you do then if you don’t have that? So, like how does
storytelling money vary then between business to business or business to
consumer? And what do you do from a toolkit perspective to think differently
about those different types of companies or services?
Delger: Yeah, I mean not to immediately pitch hiring someone. I think it’s not
necessarily about hiring communications. company to tell your story. It’s about
having conversations with people and starting to look outside yourself, get
outside your business, get perspective on what might be interesting. For a
story, you might not recognize these really interesting people. I remember
Catherine talking about that person that you work with…
Goodlett: Yeah, that’s great. That’s a great leeway. Right. Catherine, can you
speak to this example or maybe some others that you’ve seen when it comes to
finding ways to tell stories about businesses?
Seeds: Sure. I think with our clients, we work with B2B technology companies,
so we’re always looking into why we’d be interested in stories about the
products and the services that our clients are providing. And that’s what their
marketing is for, of course, but we want to dig deeper. All of us here are
storytellers in some way. So you want to take deeper. And what I love to do,
what we love doing for our clients is figuring out what has inspired the
executive and founder of the company to start that company. In my experience, a
lot of CEOs and founders don’t give themselves enough credit for the
inspiration for their own companies. One of our clients, we sat down with the
CEO and founder to get the backstory. He is from Germany. He went through his
story about how when he was 16, he worked in the salt mines and how he
remembered the sweat coming down his face, working in the mines, the salt
mines. He remembered how his superiors would check on him to make sure that he
was okay. And he remembered that and he carried that with him. When he started
his own company he decided he was always going to treat everyone the same, no
matter what level and that was because of his background in the salt mines. So
we put together a pitch to the media and we’ve got some interest in that, which
is great because CEO stories are always interesting to tell. You want to tell
those stories about the products and services and how they’re affecting end
users but we want to go further, we want to dig deeper into telling more
interesting, more human inspired stories for our clients.
Yeah. So that leads me to a good question for Kelley. When we were preparing
for this panel we were talking about, how do you identify interesting stories?
Kelley you had some interesting things to say about that. You remarked that
when you consider stories, you say, is this interesting to me? So can you speak
to that a little bit?
Griggs: So that’s sort of the question I would ask. I would ask, hey, we are
seeking stories about startups. We happen to be seeking stories about startups
in the south. That’s like a pretty specific topic. And one of the reasons why
we were doing that was because we were looking for the types of things that
other people might relate to, both in business and in life. So, I think that
one really, really important part of telling your story is just asking
yourself, is this an interesting and would it be interesting to somebody else
if they were to read it? And what is really the, the hook of the story? If you
think about the hook of your story or you know, the reason why you love it so
much and emphasize that hook, I think that others are more likely to grab on to
whatever you’re talking about. They have to work on, you have to work on that
hook. So that’s really, you know, that’s really subjective. Everybody would
think a little bit differently and your story is not for everyone. So, I do
think though, as a journalist that something I would always think about if someone
was pitching me a story is, you know, is this interesting to my audience? And
that went back to my topic about startups in the south.
Goodlett: That’s a good point. So as a journalist who chooses which stories to
write about, can you speak to tips about someone may pitch you to get written
Griggs: Sure and I think, I think Brittney and I will have different
perspectives because when you’re, when you’re pitching to me, I have my topic,
I have startups in the south and that’s what I’m really looking for. And those
stories are very, very interesting to me because I’m telling you a human story,
I’m telling the story that a lot of people around here might relate to. I’m
telling a very different story than stories in Silicon Valley. So my stories
might have more grittiness to them. They might have more culture in the way
that we might understand it in our area of the country. They might not be so
much about scale and getting investment from, you know, getting millions and
millions of dollars. They’re not going to be the story of Silicon Valley.
They’re gonna be the story of what I’m used to. But, but my blog is about a
beginner, you know, a founder who’s just started a company, who is in the area
of maybe Nashville or Atlanta or Raleigh or global or Memphis. And I might be
your first person that you’ve reached out to. I think I’m way more likely to be
the first or second or third person you reach out to and say, Hey, I think I’m
writing to pitch somebody a story. So, people are out there starting
businesses. I’d love to hear from you.
Goodlett: And what do they say to you?
Griggs: They usually say something like, Hey, uh, I just started a company.
This is what it’s called. Here’s the website. I think my story’s really
interesting. I wouldlove to talk to you about it. And that’s how we start a
conversation. You know, there are little things, like details like time and
getting our schedules right. Then usually I am willing to speak with most
people as long as it’s in my topic area; most people who reach out to me as
long as they’re legitimate.
Goodlett: Brittney, would you say that that’s true for you? Like what does it
take for you to get pitched and to write about it?
Oliver: So I just want to let you know some of the outlets that I contribute
to. So I work where I contribute to the career money, entrepreneurial segments
for Fast Company, Essence, Nashville lifestyles, and other one line
publications. So I have a national reach, so I’m not limited to a region. But
to what you’re speaking, you need to pitch it within someone’s vertical, right?
So if your topic is on business or entrepreneurial endeavors or innovation at
your company, you want to target that specific staff writer or contributor for
that particular vertical in your immunity. You want to target the beauty
writer, right? So those are some of the tips that you would need when you’re
pitching yourself. Also, people don’t realize that you’re so much more than
your bio. You’re so much more than your bio. Really dig deep to different
angles to pitch yourself. You’ll never know when your experience, your life
experience will intrigue somebody. So for example, if you run a company, a
cheese company, right? But you have this really interesting background and how
you grew up and somehow it impacted the way you run your business. That’s
something that made it yourself. Is your company 50% minority? That’s something
that’s interesting because right now DNI topics are important and trending. So
also think about trending topics in your industry as well. What’s trending?
What is some leading data around your industry that you could leave with when
you’re pitching publicists? I mean, when you’re pitching publications, those
are things that are interesting. Lead with numbers, the data doesn’t lie. It
really backs up your story.
Goodlett: Yeah. So that leads to a great comment I think from Catherine. So,
Catherine, we have done a number of stories where we use data as a way to pitch
B2B, which sometimes has difficulty finding a human element. So as Brittney
said, that could be another way in. So I’d love for you to share some more
insight about how data can be used to help provide pickup.
Seeds: Right. The clients that we’re working with, we’re always looking for data,
whether that’s data with your own customer base or if you’ve gone out and done
some consumer surveys or research studies. You know, folks like Brittney and
other trade or business media are gonna be interested in that as well as a good
customer story. We have an interesting use case about how we were able to use
data very successfully in Kirsty you can keep me honest on this one since you
were on the team. We have a company in Austin, they’re an ad tech company. We
worked in collaboration with them to put together a consumer study around
Amazon Prime Day. We were looking at things like, you know, from a consumer
standpoint, you know, what are they shopping for during Amazon Prime Day? Have
they shopped before? What are they going to be shopping for this year? So we
kind of looked at that. It was focused all on Amazon Prime Day. We got really
lucky because we have really great data. We also had really great luck from a
timing standpoint because the day that we released our was the day that Amazon
had announced the date of their official Prime Day. So we have all this amazing
data out there. And what we found in that data was that Amazon Prime Day is
like the next big holiday shopping event, like back-to-school or any other sort
of micro-holiday. So, we have some really great data, but we also had really
great timing and our team had been pitching top tier and trade media, up until
that day. So the stars aligned in PR world that doesn’t happen very often. And
so we’re really glad that it did and we were able to get some awesome media
coverage: Bloomberg, Market Watch, Ad Week, and all the trade and ad tech
trades. Am I missing anything, Kirsty?
Goodlett: No, that’s good.
Seeds: Okay good. So from a success standpoint, it was a good day for us at
Ketner Group when that happened and the client, obviously was very happy. And I
know that the team is still being able to use some of that data moving forward.
Goodlett: Yeah. The other thing that I’ll add to that, which is interesting
from a story perspective is the one thing that was like the hook for the media
was Amazon Prime Day is the new back to school holiday, right? Like that’s an
interesting hook. But additionally Adlucent is an ad tech company, so we were
able to say, okay, it’s the new holiday and what are you doing about it? Right?
Like, are you making sure that your advertising is prepared in order to meet
this holiday? So that’s another example of how the data is great for getting
and securing that trade or that top tier pickup. But then from a business
perspective, you want to consider, okay, the data’s going to get me in and then
what do I do once I’m in, right? What’s my story after that? So in terms of
that logistics stuff, Nicole, I’m curious to hear from you regarding what
things you need to consider about stories that you might not expect. One thing
with you in particular, and knowing your background, how do you take a story
and integrate a brand identity. How do you take that and translate it into
Delger: Yeah, so I do marketing and communications, but my main client right
now is a pencil factory, a hundred year old pencil factory. And I’m now all
about pencils. I have a bunch in my bag if you want one from Musgrave Pencil
factory there in Shelbyville. So I mentioned that because if you don’t know
about the pencil industry, they’re notoriously secretive. So when they came on
and wanted to rebrand, they were a hundred year old company and nobody knew
anything about them. So it was of like, oh my gosh, I have this like chest of
things to just uncover. And I think the thing that’s surprising is they have
such a great story. They have so many vintage things. I didn’t have to tell it
all at once. It didn’t have to just go out there with this really long piece of
coverage. I can find a vintage advertising pencil and take an awesome photo of
it and find a business that it was advertising 50 years ago and tag them and
tell a little story. So especially if you have a company where you feel like
there’s so much to tell and share, it’s okay in your storytelling to tell
little nuggets, and little Easter eggs along the way and know that over time
you’re building that brand identity, you’re building that larger narrative. It
doesn’t all have to happen at once. And starting to know when you’re talking to
people, what details you can leave out just as much as what details should you
put in for whatever that exchange might be. And so I think you can find one
story on Instagram through a visual platform. Or another story if you’re doing
the longer piece of media, what you might talk about regarding your CEO, and
you don’t have to get into that, all that other stuff. And so really thinking,
matching the media, matching the story with it.
Delger: So something else that we were discussing earlier that was something
that came up that we wouldn’t expect so much was that Brittney talked about
thinking about SEO and what stories people want to hear. So can you speak to
your experience, Brittney, regarding from the publication side. What are
publications thinking about that would be surprising to companies?
Oliver: So everything is about clicks, right? A lot of people blame Buzzfeed
for the way the media is, but it’s true. It’s about clicks. Let’s, it’s
click-baity, right? How are we going to drive traffic? Everyone wants that
traffic. And so when you’re thinking about telling your story, think about
things that are trending, right? For example, I feel like this is the month of
Serena Williams. And the reason why I say that is, one, it’s tennis month,
right? Today’s the US Open. So anything tennis relating related is going to
pick up some traffic, right? Then she’s someone who advocates equal pay. And
that’s been a big topic this month, women’s equality day is today actually. So
she is someone who’s trending, circulating. If you have a story idea in those
little pockets you’re going to drive SEO. So tell that story, if it is sports,
or you know, Serena Williams related, you can tie her in somehow. Any of those
things. Think about those holidays that are coming up, the holidays that you
were talking about. Those things attract SEO. So when you’re pitching, really
think about that because that’s what media companies are looking for.
Goodlett: The other thing that I found surprising when we were meeting earlier
was that companies aren’t always ready to tell their stories. So, Nicole and
Brittney, you were both talking about what to do as you keep telling stories.
Kelly, I’m curious to hear from you, when do you know that you have a story to
tell in the first place?
Griggs: So some of you might be wondering like, Hey, I am just getting started.
I don’t have any customers yet or I don’t have, you know, my business is less
than a year old or the things that I want to share with the world just
happened. And obviously it depends on your personal preferences and
circumstances, but, I will say you wouldn’t believe how many pitches I get that
are pre-revenue, like barely have a put together a pitch deck, they just want
to reach out to me and like get on my radar. I don’t want to give advice
because I don’t know if bloggers find that annoying or if they if they like it.
I don’t really know. I only know how I feel and I’m just naturally curious and
I like stories. So if you were to send me the pitch deck, even if I were to to
turn you away. Or even if I said like, hey, this isn’t ready yet or I would
really like to see, you know, some other things. Come back to me again. You
should still send them to me because odds are I’m interested because I’m
interested in startups because I truly like starting businesses and I like
talking about it and I thoroughly enjoy that world.
Goodlett: What do you put in the pitch deck?
Griggs: So if you have a deck…something that should be included in the deck
is your information, what your business is, where your website is, what it
does, you know, the 32nd elevator pitch of who your competitors are. What is
your revenue plan, if you haven’t made money yet, ..if you do have customers, I
would like to know that you have customers. But remember, you have to be
careful with what you share with me because I am a writer and I will want to
write about things. So if there’s something that you just don’t want to share,
you don’t have to share it even if I ask for it. So just always remember,
Goodlett: Is it a PowerPoint typically or a pdf?
Griggs: It’s usually a pdf. Sometimes it’s like on a different website, but
sometimes it’s just an attached pdf like in keynote or it could be PowerPoint.
I get a wide range. Some of them are very well polished, they look like they’ve
been in front of investors, others are like done with them in PowerPoint. And I
think all this is to say that some of my favorite startup stories in Nashville
are people that you may have heard of now like ** for example, like they have
raised millions of dollars. Now they’re an instrument that, uh, you can put
your phone into and you can play any instrument using their device. Some fans
in Nashville have used the ** on stage and they’ve now gotten to the point
where they’re probably written in big publications more often than I would
write about them. But you know, when they just started out in Nashville, like
somebody had to find them. So I wrote about them a long, long, long time ago.
Another Nashville startup, there’s one that does lawn care. It’s almost like an
Uber for lawn care. Um, they started very young. When they started out, they
pitched me with like, I think just like maybe a one sheeter or a pitch deck or
something very light. And I had to sort of go out and keep following them and
dig for those stories. So I don’t know all this to say that I really like to
encourage people to just get started. I’m probably a little bit more
approachable. Like I don’t think that other media should or will give you
feedback like I do. And I try to keep it non-biased and according to my own
rules of my blog. But I will say that I would love to hear your stories in
Goodlett: So now we’ve heard about about what’s happening now. Catherine, I’m
curious about your perspective regarding how storytelling is evolving. Like
what do you see in terms of new ways that people are telling stories like
podcasts or social media? And also what are you seeing staying the same?
Seeds: So we are spending a lot more time looking at podcasts. I don’t know if
there’s any podcasters in the audience but we are starting to put you guys on
our media list because our clients are asking for that. It’s another new
interesting medium to, for our clients to tell their stories and also to share
on social media platforms inside. So we are really taking a close look at
podcasting. They’re more and more popping up every day especially in Austin. There’s,
there’s a ton of podcasts, a startup focused podcasts in Austin. Social media:
social media has always been there for us, but we’re really, um, trying to
build better relationships with the media that we work with on social media.
And not in an annoying way, but you know, if they are tweeting about something,
you know, or if they wrote an article about something interesting that had
nothing to do with any of our clients we might want to say, oh, that’s really
interesting or share that. It always goes back to developing really great
relationships with the media that you’re working with. Social media is a really
great, great way of doing that. And so we’ve been able to really kind of deepen
our relationships with the key media and also we get, you know, first insights
into people that are moving around. So someone that may be at Fast Company and
has moved on to Bloomberg and this and that, so we’re able to keep tabs of
what’s going on in there to help us tell better stories and tell the stories of
the right people.
Oliver: I just want to say that’s, that’s the most organic way to build a
relationship with someone who is a journalist, what you’re doing. And for me
personally, I don’t like pitch decks or pdf. If you can’t send like a quick one
paragraph blurb, then it’s probably a no go for me. But the most organic
relationships that I’ve built are the people who usually get features from me.
Like if you come to support me at an event and you need to spend a moment of
time with me afterward. And you tell me something interesting. I keep that in
mind. I’m also always listening to podcasts. If I hear someone on there and I
think, oh, that was really unique. I’m going to reach out to them for an
opportunity. So journalists are looking everywhere for the next story. So if
you don’t have, you know, an Essence or a Fast Company, that is fine. That
blog, that news letter, that podcast is another way that someone can be seen.
Seeds: I was just going to say one more thing. As far as things staying the
same and we kind of touched on it a little bit, but building the relationships
with the media is so important, no matter how you’re communicating. You know,
with you guys building those relationships and not, you know, just coming to
them when, when you need something. We found that we have better luck and I’m
sure you guys, you all are communicators, you find better luck in getting
things that you would want for your client or for yourself if you have that
relationship. It’s a two way street. So I really encourage you all to do what
you can to develop those relationships, whether it’s again, you know, talking
with them on social media, going to the events that they’re going to. We go to
a lot of trade shows for our clients and it’s a really great way to get face to
face. But again, all of this ties back to like, how can I help our clients or
my company tell a better story? And it really is ties back to developing really
Goodlett: Awesome. Thank you. I’m going to switch gears here. and pick up on
the Austin Nashville theme for the event. So, Kelly, I’m curious to hear from
you how you see storytelling supporting the growth of Nashville.
Griggs: That’s a great question. Look, we’ve been growing as a city far before
I came to Nashville. So I feel as a writer, like I am an observer and I’m only
telling the part of the story that I know how to tell. The part that I see in
the world. Back when I moved to Nashville in 2012, that happened to coincide
with the tech scene starting to grow really rapidly. Some of that was due to
local and regional investments. Some of that was due to accelerators starting
up. So that was due to coming off the flood and the last recession. People were
getting really comfortable and some of it was due to the success and the
stories that people heard from other places in the U.S. So, you know, when I
think about growth and where, where we go from here, I think there’s so much
opportunity. Part of the thing I get excited about when I’m telling a story is
that we are all part of it. If you’re here in Nashville right now. And I will
add that location really shouldn’t matter if you’re on the Internet, that
you’re in the conversation, so that kind of goes against like my, my regional
focus. But, in reality, you know, we all exist no matter where we are. And
since, you know, people are more interested in things like remote work and
longer maternity and paternity leaves and different people are interested in
different benefits that might apply. And that is really exciting for people who
live in places like Nashville. I think that is a very important emerging story.
So for us here, you know, starting a business, I don’t know, to me it’s never
been more exciting. But I would say that every year, since I’ve lived here, you
know, since I moved here in 2012. And I think the most important thing that I
see is that we are in charge of our own story. And that doesn’t have to be the
same as other places. It can be really our own brand and it can come from our
own place and it can come from our own history and our own experiences. And it
should be that way because we have our own identity.
Goodlett: Yeah. So that leads to a nice pass off to Catherine from Austin. So,
Catherine, I’m curious to hear from you how you’ve seen storytelling support
the growth of Austin.
Seeds: Well, I mean, I’m sure you all know it’s a huge tech hub, much like
Nashville is and is becoming. And it’s been that way since the 80s. I mean, um,
Dell computers started there, Twitter, got its start at South by Southwest. I
mean there’s a ton of really cool startup stories in Austin. And I think from a
storytelling standpoint, if like when we’re talking to companies and pitching
our clients, especially those that are based in Austin, that comes with a
certain cache. Oh, I’m from Austin! Or that comes from Austin! Oh, that’s cool.
Oh, I love Austin. Yeah, it’s the same thing with Nashville and we’re so glad
to be here because I feel like there is a lot of similarities between the two
cities. Because, again, you say, Oh, I’m from Nashville, I’m starting a company
in Nashville.. Oh, that’s cool. I’ve heard great things about Nashville. You
know, it doesn’t really change so much of like how we tell the story, but I
feel like it does kind of give us a differentiation when we’re pitching for
business because a lot of our clients that we’re working with are either global
or across the U.S. and so for them having someone in a tech hub like Austin or
Nashville is important to them.
Goodlett: Great. So the other thing that is true about this panel is that we’re
all women. So, Nicole, I would love to hear from you regarding why it’s
important for us to discuss diversity and inclusion as it pertains to the
future of storytelling.
Delger: Absolutely. You know, stories are how we make sense of the world. It’s
how we cooperate. It’s how we work together. I don’t know if has anybody read
the book Sapiens, it is a fantastic book. And you know, his whole thesis is
essentially, you know, we’re an animal and the reason that we were able to be
the dominant animal is our ability to work together, to cooperate and to tell
stories. So when we talk about the importance of inclusivity and whether it’s
women or people of color or people who have been disenfranchised, when they
don’t have the ability to tell the story and to shape the narrative then they
don’t have the opportunity to create the world that we all want to live in that
is different than the narrative that we’ve been told for hundreds of years,
thousands of years, by whoever was in charge at that given time. I think that’s
really interesting. We have to make sure that a lot of voices get to shape and
get to tell their stories so that we can create a better world for everybody.
Goodlett: So then Brittney, I’m curious to hear your response to that same
question. Where do you see diversity inclusion being important to the future of
Oliver: It’s important because it’s impactful. Like I said earlier, it really
makes a difference for a minority owned businesses when your story is told. And
so I want to give a, a quick story about just my experience moving back to
Nashville. So I lived in New York for seven years and diversity and inclusion
is such a big topic in New York. It’s something that everyone’s talking about.
All the companies are really trying to make changes. But when I came back home
a year ago, I noticed that conversation wasn’t happening here. It wasn’t loud,
people weren’t really making noise. And when I looked at the publications here,
I didn’t see a lot of black owned businesses featured in the publications. I
kind of made it a priority to be that vessel for those black owned businesses
and for minority businesses. So for example, Ashley is here today,. She has a
website called Urbanite and she really highlights a lot of the businesses that
are left out in those major publications here in Nashville. And because I’m a
subscriber to her newsletter, I came across Nicole, who is the owner of
Clarity, which is a candle shop. And I loved her story. I pitched her to
Nashville Lifestyles and she’s in the current business, women in business
issue. That’s something that was important to me to see more diversity in that
magazine and to see more diversity just throughout Nashville, but it’s so it
will change her business being featured in that and it will change other
people’s businesses. And so diversity inclusion, really being able to tell
those stories is impactful. There’s a Nashville mother and daughter team, Mixtroz,
well, they just moved but I featured them in Essence. I featured them in
Dssence and they were really close to hitting the million dollar mark raising
money. After essence, they hit that mark the next week. You know, so you can
leverage those things. That’s how much your story being featured being featured
in major publications as a minority can help. And so when people say no, it
doesn’t matter if you have press or not, it does. It really makes an impact.
Delger: I love what you’re doing. The voice you’re bringing because we talk
about how Nashville is booming and we want to make sure that it’s booming for
everybody, that everybody is, you know, because there’s so much industry coming
in here, like tech, and I love that you’re telling those stories and you have
that forum because it’s so critical at this key time for Nashville, for
everybody to get that lift.
Oliver: Yeah. Nationwide, nationwide, the numbers don’t lie. You know, we’re an
all women panel, but in business and major companies, you don’t see women on
the C-suite like that, right? So telling those stories are important. It really
can change the game. It starts to challenge what’s happening in corporate
America, right? And it starts to make people see different things about what they’re
doing. And so the numbers don’t lie. You want to be impactful. We want to make
change in our culture, in our communities. So definitely diversity and
inclusion is a big deal.
On August 27, after seven months of preparation, we officially launched Ketner Group Nashville. I don’t mean this as hyperbole: our launch week was one of the best weeks of my life. It started with a bang and ended with magic. To really soak up all the goodness, I think it’s only fair to offer you up the day-to-day highlights and takeaways.
But additionally, the discussion dug into more inspirational topics such as the ability storytelling has to generate unique opportunities. Brittney shared an example of a tech startup she covered who procured the funding they needed after earning a great article in an important magazine.
On a personal level, it was emotional to see so many people from Nashville – who have and who will make such an impact on our success – show up to celebrate our launch with us!
With Catherine Seeds in town for the week, we headed off to the 36|86 VIP Launch Party in a fun speakeasy in Printer’s Alley, Dirty Little Secret, to celebrate over a glass of champagne.
Winning Press and Earning Influence: Wednesday, August 28
Wednesday morning, we kicked off 36|86 with a panel featuring Ben Kurland, Lisa Roberts and me. Seeing a packed room excited to learn how to win press and influence customers thrilled me. The engaged audience asked some great questions, including, what exactly is “the wire?”
Lisa and Ben dazzled with their insights about the best ways for entrepreneurs to highlight their stories to the media. Lisa recommended data as a great approach, a soundbite highlighted in a Nashville Entrepreneur Center blog: “Looking to win press? ‘There’s nothing that will get reporters’ attention faster than compelling data that tells a story.’ This will build trust and credibility.”
Then we wrapped up the day getting a chance to speak with Clark Buckner for the 36|86 podcast. So, stay tuned for that great content!
Learning and Magic: Thursday, August 29
Finally, on the last day of 36|86, Catherine and I attended separate sessions to learn as much as we possibly could from the experts in attendance. The vulnerability and openness of the speakers blew me away.
A number of female venture capitalists (VCs) spoke about the challenges for women founders and women funders. Kerry Rupp of True Wealth Ventures and Jessica Peltz Zatulove of MDC Ventures, among others, highlighted this theme in their sessions. In fact, did you know that only 15% of venture capital funding is allocated to female founders, despite female founders outperforming their male counterparts (more stats in Forbes)?
But my favorite session was “How I f*cked up and you can too!” The panelists spoke candidly about the challenges and joys of entrepreneurship. Marcus Cobb of Jammber brought me to tears as he emphasized that we are all made of creative magic.
And with that, Catherine and I headed off to experience Nashville’s House of Cards and to celebrate the week with a little bit of magic ourselves.
There’s no rest for the weary when launching a new office in an exciting new town.
After beginning the week hosting an outstanding storytelling panel at our new We Work office in East Nashville, we continued the week-long celebration of Ketner Group’s Nashville Office launch by modering a great conversation at the 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival about how startups can win press and influence customers.
The room was packed with a host of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, marketers, PR people, executives and more for the first session at 36|86. Kirsty said the atmosphere at Ole Red in Downtown Nashville was “electric, packed full of people, and a great overall experience.”
The panelists included Ben Kurland and Lisa Roberts, experts with years of experience in entrepreneurship, marketing, and PR between the two of them. Every attendee took away valuable tips and tricks to help take their business and career to the next level.
Ben, a Nashville local, spoke on his experience generating press on a local scale. He highlighted the value of creating good relationships with reporters and having a strong network in your area. He shared two key pieces of advice when interacting and working with reporters, the first being: “Be friendly, come prepared, and make the job easy for the reporter.” His second piece of advice: “Don’t ignore the power of Twitter; don’t be another buried email.”
Lisa is an Austin native and provided a great perspective on how to make the most of your PR and use it to the best of your ability. She offered valuable advice and personal experiences on how she uses PR to generate leads, create brand awareness, and differentiate her brands in the eyes of consumers. Lisa’s advice to entrepreneurs and growing businesses: “think about your business opportunities as headlines. If it’s a headline no one cares about, it’s probably not a good priority.”
Welcome to Nashville
The festivities are only just beginning here in the Music City and we can’t wait to share all the news and surprises with you. We are so excited to join the 615 Family and make an impact on the Nashville community. Based on our experience so far, we expect that there are lots of good things in store for us in Music City, USA.
Get to know Ketner Group’s fearless leader in Nashville as we open our newest office in her favorite city.
Tell us a little about your background with KG.
Kirsty Goodlett: I met the kind folks at Ketner Group seven years ago when I was a client of Ketner’s while working for a retail tech company, Digby. There, I found Ketner to be a true extension of our marketing team, and I really relied on our partnership to create successful campaigns and achieve our goals.
When I moved to Nashville five years ago, I joined the team part-time while I additionally ran Seamless Marketing, the company I founded to help small businesses with their marketing efforts. This February, I returned to Ketner to open our Nashville office, an opportunity so amazing it has at times felt like a dream.
What new opportunities are available to you and KG now that we have an office in Nashville?
Nashville is a wonderful city! Being here provides us access to a whole new set of B2B tech companies to partner with. One thing I love about Nashville is that it’s a great city for relationships, and a lot of those are built over good cups of coffee.
Additionally, Nashville is known as the
“Athens of the South” because of the large number of universities and colleges
in town. I believe the city will set us up for success from a hiring
How would you describe Nashville in comparison to Austin and New York?
Great question! I could go on for ages,
so I’ll work to be brief.
Weird and fun, Austin is a city that
welcomes folks with open arms and features a tech scene that is constantly
innovating. Austin is a super hub for our headquarters because it’s a true
representation of the companies and employees we attract.
The friendliest city in the country,
Nashville has a diverse, growing economy that attracts people from all over the
world. Nashville will provide opportunities for us to grow in new markets and
ensure a lovely quality of life for our team. Not to mention, it’s the best
city to host clients. Who doesn’t want to come to Nashvegas?!
What is your favorite part about living in Nashville?
My favorite thing about Nashville is the people. Everyone is collaborative, kind and really supportive. That attitude makes opening an office here ideal, people are excited about your efforts and look to help you through challenges. I am so grateful for all of the people and communities that have shown up to help us prepare for and then celebrate our launch!
What are the top three spots in Nashville everyone should visit?
Marche: hands down my favorite restaurant in town, Marche is a French classic with lots of local flair and the best food.
Robert’s Western World: you can’t come to Nashville without going to a honkytonk and Robert’s is a classic, old-school joint with the best music and plenty of locals in addition to tourists—a rarity these days.
Monell’s: not only does Monell’s have my favorite fried chicken in town, but it also features the added bonus of sitting you family style so you can get to know your neighbors.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a HUGE Walt Disney fan. I try to sneak in a Disney-themed Easter egg from time to time in my blogs – mostly for my own enjoyment! Without a doubt, he is one of my all-time heroes. Big shoes to aspire after, I know, but the global entertainment empire Disney created is a marvel. Above all, he was a storyteller at heart. He never stopped dreaming, never stopped creating and always pushed the limits of what was possible in order to make us (his audience) feel that Disney magic.
One of Disney’s most famous quotes, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths,” has been one of my mantras here at Ketner Group. It was my guiding light when we opened our New York office this past January. And it currently plays over and over in my mind as we officially mark the opening of our new digs in Nashville today!
A City On The Move
We’ve known for some time that Nashville is a force to be reckoned with, and when the perfect opportunity came along to create a presence there (read Kirsty’s Q&A), we knew that it was the right move for Ketner Group. Consider this:
Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and has added 200,000 jobs since 2014.
It was recently ranked as a top city for young professionals
It is also ranked as the top city in the U.S. for business conventions, and one of the best cities to buy a house.
In addition, multiple national and start-up companies have launched their regional headquarters in the city including Amazon, Mitsubishi, Clover Health, Pilot.com and many, many more.
The list of Nashville’s accolades goes on and on, with more to come!
Just Keep Growing, Just Keep Changing
In any business, growing, changing and evolving is the key to long-term success. Walt Disney knew that, and so does the team here at Ketner Group Communications. Expanding into both New York and now Nashville is an exciting and strategic next step in the life of our agency.
Nashville and New York allow us to continue opening more doors and creating new ways to tell our clients’ stories. We are thrilled to join the ranks of growing companies in the greater Nashville area.
As we said in our press release, “Ketner Group is committed to being a part of the growth, and we’re excited to play a role in telling the compelling stories coming out of these innovative businesses.”
The first exciting moment in our launch week took place on Monday night, when we hosted our official launch party in our WeWork office in East Nashville with a great group of female communicators offering super tips on how to tell stories that build your brand. Read our recap to learn more!
We are also thrilled to have launched Ketner Group Nashville during the 36/86 Entrepreneurship Festival. Kirsty Goodlett, our director of Nashville, was joined by Lisa Roberts, seasoned executive marketer and Ben Kurland, co-founder, BillFixers, to speak on a panel to provide PR, marketing and storytelling best practices to startups and entrepreneurs. Our recap of that event will fill you in on all the goodness that took place!
As we “take the stage” in Nashville, I’m reminded Walt Disney once said that Disneyland would never be completed, that it would grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. I feel the same way. Ketner Group’s mission is to tell great stories. I’m excited to plan where we will go next! After all, there are still plenty of stories left to tell.
With more than 60 entrepreneurs, marketers and communicators of all ages were in attendance, we met fascinating people with unique backgrounds and perspectives on brand building and business development.
very special thanks to our panelists Nicole Delger, Kelley
Griggs and Brittney Oliverfor lending us their time and expertise.
A sincere thank you to all who joined us – we
hope every attendee learned a little something that makes their story easier to
tell and more powerful for their brand.
The storytelling didn’t disappoint. We loved hearing about how an unknown author was able to secure a publisher for her book after Brittney wrote a Fast Company article about it and put her on the map.
Meanwhile, Nicole discussed how her reliance on telling stories has helped Musgrave Pencil Co., a more than 100-year-old business, develop a modern brand voice.
And for all of the PR pros looking for some insights into the secret sauce… Kelly spilled the beans on how journalists identify stories that will resonate with their audience (it’s all about personal connection to a story’s presentation and impact).
Our engaged audience asked great questions and kept the conversation focused on driving and measuring value – the real reason we spend so much time on creating our stories.
Third location of Austin-based PR agency marks the second office launched in 2019, and will be made official with presence at the 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Aug. 27, 2019 –Ketner Group Communications, a public relations, marketing and communications firm serving clients in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., today announced its continued geographic expansion with the opening of its office in Nashville, Tennessee. As the second satellite office to launch in 2019 – following the announcement in early 2019 of its New York City office opening – Ketner Group’s Nashville presence positions the company to work more closely with the area’s emerging business-to-business (B2B) technology players.
“There’s a reason why Nashville is listed in Forbes Top 20 for both job growth and business, and it’s because of the emerging technology scene and supportive atmosphere that’s ideal for building game-changing companies,” said Jeff Ketner, president, Ketner Group Communications. “Nashville is a great place for startups and small business owners, with a good deal of support in place for entrepreneurs to accelerate their visions. The city is also attractive to national companies looking to launch new regional headquarters and Nashvillians who are returning to their roots after career stints in Silicon Valley or other tech hubs. In launching our next office location in Nashville, Ketner Group is committed to being a part of the growth, and we’re excited to play a role in telling the compelling stories coming out of these innovative businesses.”
“The growth Nashville has seen in the technology space has been significant in the past five to 10 years, but we are seeing an explosion now that CKE, Nissan and Schneider Electric have opened their U.S. headquarters here, and Amazon has announced a new office with 5,000 high-paying jobs,” said Greg Buzek, founder and president, IHL Group, a Nashville-based retail technology analyst firm. “As a long-time resident, I believe we are uniquely poised for continued growth as a result of our friendly atmosphere, creative pool of talent and sheer geographical space available for business.”
Ketner Group’s Nashville office is led by Kirsty Goodlett, who made her return to the agency earlier this year to begin laying the groundwork for the new location. Goodlett first worked with Ketner Group seven years ago as a client, and later came on board to serve as an Account Manager with Ketner Group for two years. Now as Director of Nashville, Goodlett will continue to lead several key accounts while developing new business relationships in Nashville’s flourishing tech scene.
Tomorrow at the 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival, hosted by Launch Tennessee, Goodlett will be joined by Lisa Roberts, founder, Great Catch Consulting, and Ben Kurland, co-founder, BillFixers, to speak on a panel titled “How to win press and influence customers.” During this session, Goodlett, Roberts and Kurland will speak from their experience working with startups, entrepreneurs and seasoned tech companies to provide attendees with best practices for generating media pickup, incorporating PR into the overall business strategy, and crafting stories that resonate.
Please allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Kirsty. That’s like thirsty, but with a K.
I’m thrilled to be back at Ketner Group. KG has always been full of the kindest, cleverest, most fun people I know. How could I not want to be part of a team like that?
Over the years, I’ve worked with Ketner in a variety of ways. I began as a client, finding KG to be an extension of our team at Digby. When I moved to Nashville, I joined Ketner Group as an Account Manager, while simultaneously providing marketing services to small businesses through my company Seamless Marketing. Now, after a detour working with Rustici Software to help rebrand their company and re-launch their websites, I’m back at Ketner Group!
But okay, okay, enough about business.
Making Things, Writing Things and Cooking Things!
If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s this: I love to make things.
I studied film and electronic arts at Bard College, the culmination of many years practicing visual arts, theatre and music throughout my childhood years. At Bard, I learned how to create installation art pieces and began the process of learning how to write and think, two things I plan to learn more about as I age.
I love to cook. I’ve had the fortune to learn how to cook from two fabulous self-taught cooks: my mother and my dear friend and cookbook author, Pam Anderson. These women have taught me that food is a way to show your love, express your creativity and create the fuel of a very good party.
Outside of that, I’m an avid reader and will consume pretty much anything you put in my hand. I can’t not finish a book. And I love yoga. I’ve been practicing for more than fifteen years. I use yoga as a tool to learn more about myself and give myself an excuse to dance.
In Nashville, I’ve found that there are two types of people: those who are born here and those who arrive here by accident, but then never leave. My husband is the former, I am the latter. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, particularly since we’ve set ourselves up in a pretty cozy fashion. We bought our first house two years ago and are about to celebrate the third birthday of our very nice dog Charlie (or Chuck, Cha-Cha, Chewie or Chicken for short).
All of this is to say that I’m very happy. And I am very excited for this next big adventure.
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