By: Brianna Valleskey
Let’s be honest: “Content marketing” and “Detroit” are words you don’t expect to hear in the same sentence. I certainly didn’t. And I definitely never thought that sentence would involve me running my own business.
Plus, a former journalist pivoting to a career in marketing is like an old joke your dad tells every year at the family Christmas party: groan-worthy. I get it. No, really, I do. Leaving journalism was a move I used to self-righteously label to as “Going to the dark side.” What I didn’t anticipate was falling in love with the art of business, where only the most skilled storytellers prevail.
I’ve always been a writer.
The two things I loved most growing up were helping people and putting words to paper. That’s why I became a journalist, after all. It took only one semester of journalism as a high school freshman for me to decide that providing U.S. citizens with factual information so they could participate in our democracy was my calling. Journalism was a respectable career that would allow me to both write and help people (I thought). So, I quickly joined the school newspaper and was the news editor by the time I graduated, at some point during which I even won second place for the best student news story in the state. I hustled throughout high school, participated in extra curriculars, wrote an kick-ass essay, and received a full academic scholarship to Wayne State University.
I got my first journalism job by copy editing the university’s newspaper for fun, then worked my way to editor-in-chief by my junior year. It was fun. And scary. At the ripe old age of 19, I hired and managed a staff of 12 -- which was great because I knew nothing about managing or leading a team. I interned for a hyperlocal news website, a parenting magazine, an automotive trade publication, and an NPR affiliate. But journalism jobs are scarce, and I knew that I didn’t want to spend my career covering the regional police beat or community art fairs. (No offense to those who do; it just wasn’t for me).
So I took a gig with a financial media startup in Detroit. The editors asked me to produce their stock market radio show -- which was great because I neither knew anything about the stock market or producing a radio show. But my favorite things about starting new projects is the opportunity to learn as much as possible. So, with the help of two veteran traders, I doubled the show’s traffic in six months and hosted multiple CNBC regulars. It was a ton of fun. And scary. Then I got another job.
A journalist in marketer’s clothing.
A SaaS company specifically looking for a journalist hired me for what was at the time a cutting-edge trend: B2B content marketing -- which was great because I knew nothing about content marketing or B2B lead generation (I’m sensing a trend). I was fortunate enough to work with a fantastic manager and marketer who taught me about effective leadership and personal growth, as well as the in’s and out’s of inbound marketing, buyer personas, lead generation, landing pages, customer journeys, email nurturing, content marketing, webinars, case studies, analytics, automation, SEO, and — most importantly — writing well. That last part is what made me the marketer I am today.
My journalistic approach to content marketing made it stand out. The blog I ran was named one of the best in the industry, and other entrepreneurs started asking if I’d write for them. By this time, I had also fallen in love with the process of running a business. So I did what most millennials in this situation would do: started a side hustle. It was going really well, but things at my day job took a turn for the worse. The manager I looked up to had left a few months prior, and I realized that the company was no longer a fit for me. So I quit.
Content marketing, Detroit and an accidental entrepreneur.
I’d never quit a job in my life without another one immediately lined up after. It was fun. And scary. I decided to run my content marketing business full time in Detroit — which was great because I’d never run a business before. But this time, I did knew a bit about how to run a small business, the types of companies I could work with and the problems I would be able to help them solve. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some fantastic organizations both nationally and internationally, all from my little coworking space at Bamboo. Every day is a miniature crash course in entrepreneurship, sales, finance and customer success. Some days I feel like a rockstar. Others, a noob. And I think all of it is totally ok, because this is just life and we’re all making it up as we go along.
I started a content marketing company in Detroit because I saw a need from the strong startup and small business ecosystem for experts in inbound marketing, lead generation and thought leadership. It's as simple as that. Modern buyers expect companies to have a deep understanding of their needs. Content marketing allows businesses to create value beyond their product or service, as well as demonstrate their expertise in serving their customers and leading their industry. When your message is clear, your sales go up.
I'm grateful for this journey. I absolutely love the clients I serve and the work I get to do, whether it’s editing a webinar or formulating a drip campaign or drafting an eBook or even ghostwriting for a CEO. I get to run a content marketing company in Detroit, and that’s f*cking awesome.
Fearless Thoughts are my insights on marketing, entrepreneurship, growth, mindfulness, creativity and whatever else comes to mind on any given day. Writing is how I make sense of the world.