I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle “Dani” Wright, founder and chief strategist at Wright Relations LLC, a boutique public relations and branding firm. A company that started in the freelance realm quickly developed into a firm that works to provide powerful branding solutions for authors, speakers, small business owners, churches and other non-profit organizations.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I initially launched Wright Relations as a freelance company while working full time in athletics communications. I have always been passionate about helping others and wanted to use my expertise to do just that. Unfortunately, I got caught up in trying to fit in, rather than creating my own path and niche. When I started out, it seemed like every woman of color in PR/branding was in entertainment or health and beauty. While neither of those industries truly interested me, I thought it was the only way I would make it. I nearly killed my own brand trying to fit in. I had to reflect on who I was and why I wanted to get into the industry at the entrepreneurship level. In 2014, I lost my job and that was the catalyst for me launching Wright Relations. It was a natural transition for me. I took all that I learned and taught myself while working in athletic communications and developed my business using those skills.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
One of the most interesting moments since I began my company was the opportunity to work with a contestant on CENTRIC’s competition-reality series “Queen Boss.” It was a week before Christmas and one of my clients sent an email referring me. I worked with Lucinda Cross for a week — we were literally crushing it over the Christmas holiday — to get her press release written and disseminated. I remember watching her debut on the show from my friend’s house in Kentucky and taking pictures of the television and screaming, “That’s my client.” The client that referred me to Lucinda was Squeaky Moore, who, along with her partner Kenneth Todd Nelson, I helped launch and promote the trailer for their documentary Face of Darkness: Journey to Healing.
The documentary (still being filmed) chronicles the lives of three black men who battle mental health issues and seek healing and to dispel the myths surrounding mental illness. Squeaky and Kenneth were referred by my first client when I launched Wright Relations, Kristen Pope, who I helped launch her website, production company and web show The Positive Controversy. What makes this all interesting is that all these contracts began with a relationship — Kristen and I met in college and for years tried to find ways to work together and once I launched Wright Relations, the timing was right for both of us. We’ve been working together since then and most of my clientele are a result of her referrals..
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m not sure if it’s necessarily funny as much as it was just silly on my part. I was still freelancing, but decided to take on a golf tournament by myself. I had “help,” but nothing really solid. I banked on getting things done just by having verbal commitments. I learned from there to take on only what I can handle by myself or to ensure I have committed people around me to help with each project.
How did you scale your business to profitability? How long did it take? Please share the steps you took.
I’m still working on this. Wright Relations is four years old right now — five in February 2019 — and the growth is really just beginning. What I love is that our growth has come from referrals/word-of-mouth. To ensure growth and that I never have to take out loans or large lines of credit, I have invested in small chunks and used contract payments to secure anything needed for Wright Relations. I have built my clientele by offering services at a reasonable price — my clients need the help but not at the price of larger firms. I wanted to offer services that everyone needs and do so at a fee that would attract the exact people I wanted — startups, non-profit organizations, speakers, authors and people who needed help strategizing and executing their branding.
I also have been very cautious about what I jump into with my business. I take advantage of free courses and resources and if I outsource anything, I use reputable people and make an investment in my company and someone else’s. Profitability comes slowly. Getting there is a marathon — actually, more of a steeplechase — with highs and lows and some moments where the water rises and you feel like you might drown. Somehow, you stay afloat and finish the race.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am working with a children’s book author and a non-profit organization focused on infant mortality prevention. The author is also a Harvard-trained urologic surgeon.
Based on your personal experience, what advice would you give to young people considering a career in PR?
My greatest advice is to know who you are and be yourself. Do not be a copycat. There is enough room for everyone to grow and prosper. Make sure you have a mentor for where you have been, one for where you are currently, and one for where you want to be. Finally, never give up. If you give up, you will never see just how far you can go, how much you can achieve and how high you can climb.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
Honestly, I don’t like the term networking. I believe it’s all about building relationships with people. Be genuine and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
One of my favorite books is the The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz because it speaks to effective communication, being a man/woman of your word and building relationships on a solid foundation. I love podcasts, so I listen to everything from sports talk to politics. I think having a good mix of reading and information helps in my career because it gives me a more broad perspective on current events and things that may need to be addressed. It also provides insight on what clients/potential clients may be dealing with. A healthy mix of information sources also allows you to better develop your own opinions and voice. For me, I have learned the different causes to advocate and how I want my business to be involved.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
This is difficult for me to choose just one. Right now my focus is on two major issues that are immensely important. First — mental health awareness and wellness. I want people to know it’s okay to not be okay and it’s okay to get help. I want the stigma removed from mental illness and from seeking help to handle our issues. I want people to know it takes more strength to admit there is something wrong and to seek help than it is to pretend you’re okay. Secondly, I want a movement where diversity is not just talked about , but we celebrate it, champion for it and understand there is no diversity without inclusion. I want to show diversity in books, photos, boardrooms — everywhere you look! What I’ve learned is the two are connected. People feel more connected, healthier (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) when they can look around and see others that look like them. Representation matters and is, in my opinion, an integral part of combatting some of the issues we see today with people feeling like they do not belong in various spaces.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
- Not all money is good money. I learned that not all clients are beneficial for me. When I first began, I would accept anything that came my way and called it an opportunity to grow. I quickly learned that I should not contract just anyone — I need to have a niche, and within that niche ideal clients to help direct my work.
- You are not superwoman. It’s really easy to get caught up in trying to be the superhero for your clients and prove your worth to every single person you come in contact with to get a contract. Work your own magic and the clients will be attracted to you. You prove yourself and your worth by the work you do, not by overwhelming yourself with a multitude of projects.
- Get financial advice frequently and have an accountant. I understood that profitability would take time, but I didn’t really understand all it takes to run a business. When I launched, I had minimal experience and really did not understand everything I needed. You need someone on your team that can oversee your finances and ensure everything is in order. I now make sure that I have someone to do just that. Be frugal, plan for financial hardships and be diligent about setting up your business for profitability.
- Getting help is not easy. As Wright Relations turns five, I wish someone would have shown me from start how to build a team. It has been a struggle to find solid, committed help because people do not want to work for free or as an intern. Initially, I found many interns were looking for a well-established business, but as time went on, I circled back to those who I already had relationships with. I now have a network of people with whom I have very solid relationships and can tackle the things I need to.
- Keep your main thing your main thing. I used to dabble in some of everything with my clientele. I was offering services that really didn’t match where I was in my business. After a couple years, I learned to keep the main thing. While I wish someone would have shown me exactly how to do that when I first started, I really wish I had reached out to someone to help me, not just learn by trial and error.