Winning three grand Stevie awards has shone the spotlight on Annette Densham and she is owning it.
As a teenager, Annette aspired to be an investigative reporter uncovering big stories and making a difference to the world. She spent most of her years through high school trying to fulfill that dream and started out as a journalist. However, working in the media soon made her realize that the newspaper world wasn’t meant for her. She shares, “Working through the 80s and 90s, the old boys’ club was alive and well. Women were still (and still are) not paid their worth. I was often asked to get the tea or run errands even though that was not my role. I would always push back, often to the detriment of my career. I am not good at playing games and being nice to people who are horrible to you. It was a cutthroat world dominated by men and I did not fit.” Walking away, Annette started working in corporate communications for non-profit organizations where she felt more at home. According to her, this is where purpose met practicalities. Here, she could finally use her key skills, mainly storytelling, to make an actual impact. She began loving her job and found herself driven to share the stories of the innovators and trailblazers that were making other people’s lives better with their products and services. However, a certain turn of events pushed her to come out of her comfort zone and strive for something much bigger.
“Never give up. No one knows, even with the best business plan, if an idea will have legs but I kept putting one foot in front of the other, learning from my mistakes and here I am seven years later still going strong. That is what success is to me.”
The day came, when due to financial limitations, the company she worked for, downsized their marketing department, leaving her at crossroads. This experience gave her self-confidence, especially living in a city that was facing large scale public service redundancies, a hit. Annette looked for any kind of job she could find. Setting up a business was the last thought on her mind, as without experience it seemed a non-viable option. Luckily amidst these circumstances, one of her friends took her to a weekend seminar about employing one’s expertise to build a business using webinars. Annette soon realized her years of experience in the media and communications had real value and she could use it to build her own venture. She shares, “At this weekend seminar, the host asked those who thought they were experts in their field to stand up and pitch an idea you could turn into a webinar that would lead to an online program. I stood up and told the audience “I can show you how to pitch stories to the media and get publicity.” The audience went wild. Their reaction was so positive that I was chosen to be the program’s ‘guinea pig’ for the day. Within 36 hours, I created a 5 module do it yourself the PR training program for small business and ran a live webinar. I was shaking in my boots I was so scared I would sound stupid and people would find out I was a fraud. I made $5,000 that weekend and realized I DID have something of value that I could start a business with.”
She went on to launch Publicity Genie, her PR agency in 2013. She carries on, “It was not too long after launching it dawned on my businesses and entrepreneurs do not want to learn how to do their PR, they want someone to do it for them. I changed my business model to that of an agency and have grown year on year.” In the past seven years, Annette has worked with hundreds of small businesses to help them gain publicity through media stories, blogs, etc. In addition to this, she helped them find the best ways to enter and leverage awards. According to her, the biggest challenge here was her lack of knowledge specific to marketing. She only had the practice of working in corporate teams with a huge budget and numerous specialists who did all the niche work. But this didn’t stop Annette, instead, she decided it was time to learn some new exciting stuff. “When you go into business for yourself, this is all up to you; you have to be the admin manager, finance person, marketing specialist, and customer service rep. No one person can do all of those things well, especially me. I had to learn how to market myself,” shares Annette. “I was used to making other people look good, always in the background and here I was thrust in a position to promote myself. That felt awkward and uncomfortable for a long time.” Annette did everything, from going to workshops to learning how to network and market herself, to gain appropriate momentum as a new business. “I slowly but surely grew my brand by getting over being modest,” says Annette. “Never give up. No one knows, even with the best business plan, if an idea will have legs but I kept putting one foot in front of the other, learning from my mistakes and here I am seven years later still going strong. That is what success is to me.”
Watching and learning from the upcoming entrepreneurs in every field, made her even more determined to make a difference in people’s life. Following her drive, she has launched her second business -The Audacious Agency- this year along with a branding specialist, Lauren Clemett. This agency is based in Australia and works with clients across the world. Their job is to help their clients understand their brand voice by tapping into Neurobranding and finding out how their customers feel about them. Eventually, they help them develop strong personal brands and present them as an expert in their respective industry using every channel possible. Annette exclaims, “We believe everyone deserves to be well known, well paid and wanted. There is no room in business for modesty. Hence, we dig deep into brands to understand the pain points for which they can provide solutions and then we create brilliant stories or content to place on multiple platforms, so it seems like they are everywhere. We solve the issue of brand overwhelm and cut to the heart of the brand.”
Working with women, all these years, has given Annette the courage to handle her inner clamor. This inspired her to set her legacy to be one that speaks of unity, strength, and audacity. She asserts, “I know the things we tell ourselves that stop us from shining brightly. Many of us suffer imposter syndrome, believing we will be found out for being a fraud. We don’t put ourselves forward for awards or to be featured in the media, scared of being too successful or vain. The legacy of The Audacious Agency is to encourage and support women to be bold and brave and audacious. To embrace their skills and expertise, charge and ask for what they are worth and to step out of the shadows, so people know what they do and why they do it. Our end game is to have women not even question whether they deserve an award or pay rise or leadership position, that is just a no brainer that they have to and will.”
In the end, as a female leader, Annette wants the women behind her to know that it’s okay to value yourself and strive for greatness even if no one approves. Therefore, she has a piece of pretty straight and simple advice for fellow women who wish to run their enterprise someday, she says, “Do you. Be you. To be a leader, you have to step out of the pack to be heard. This may not make you popular with those who love the status quo but great things don’t happen in a void. You have to make some noise. Show through your actions that you a tenacious, courageous and willing to succeed without compromising your values and ethics. People like to play games, but don’t you play games; be clear in your intentions and bold in your actions. Leadership is not always about the position you hold but the way you hold yourself.”