Ep #45 | Wake Up Every Day Curious

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Danica Kombol is the CEO of the Everywhere Agency, a leading social media & content marketing firm that works with Fortune 500 companies crafting and executing successful campaigns. She founded the blogger network, Everywhere Society to power the agency’s many award-winning influencer campaigns for clients like Macy’s, Carter’s/OshKosh, Coca-Cola, Cox Communications, Moe’s and others. As a social media marketer, Danica draws on her extensive background as a television producer and PR executive. She began her career at Sesame Workshop and went on to become a successful television producer working on such legendary shows as Saturday Night Live and Kids in the Hall. She’s a frequent speaker at social media conferences and global forums. Danica serves on the board of WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association), and National Black Arts Festival. She’s a graduate of Leadership Atlanta and an alumna board member of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation.

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Shantel: Hi Danica. So, welcome to the show. 

Danica: Oh, thanks, Shantel. So great to be here. I love the podcast.

Shantel: Yeah, we're eager to learn more about your company and how you got started, and I suppose to kick things off, can you tell everyone a little bit more about Everywhere Agency?

Danica: Sure. Everywhere Agency, we're everywhere. We're a social media strategy and influencer marketing agency. We're based in Atlanta, but we work with Fortune 500 brands like Macy's, Carters and Osh Kosh, Autotrader, Mattress Firm, Charbroil, brands like that.

Shantel: That's great. How did you get into starting your own company? Let's dive a little deeper.

| THE MARKET CRASH |

Danica: Well, you know what the motherhood of invention is, right? Necessity. I really didn't have a choice. I was working at super big PR firm in 2008. I had just taken the job, and two weeks later, the economy collapsed, and I had a big job, big office, floor to ceiling windows, big title, and I was like, oh, yeah. This is not gonna last. So, there I was working at Ketchum, as a matter of fact, in this big job, and I got laid off. But before I got laid off, I had taken some clues from being there which this is around the time that Obama got elected, right? The economy collapsed, trust was at an all-time low, but all the clients are walking in and saying, "We want that thing. We want that social media thing that got Obama elected." I looked around and I thought, wow. Second largest PR firm in the world and they have a couple of people on staff that do that thing? Maybe I should do that thing. So, I hung up my own shingle and decided to go into the wild, wild west of social media and turned out it worked.

Shantel: Wow. Love to dive a little bit into the influencer side of things, because I know in the community and the brands you're working with, influencers seem to be where it's at. So, can you educate-

Danica: Absolutely.

Shantel: Our followers a little bit about what maybe is an influencer for those listening who don't know?

Danica: Yeah, yeah. So, definitely back in 2009 when I launched my agency, the word influencer marketing didn't exist. Back then, it was called blogger relations. The truth about influencer marketing is it's nothing but good old fashioned storytelling, or what we might have called word of mouth. It's just that today's influencers happen to have a digital platform and really what we try to do at my agency is pair big brands with influencers that love to talk about brands in natural and organic ways. Does that make sense?

Shantel: Yeah. Certainly. I think that's really interesting. I think the organic and natural ways is something that I haven't seen many people do pretty successfully, so do you help guide some of these influencers into best practice of how to say something, or-

Danica: It's interesting. I would say we have to guide the brands. Our brands are so used to an advertising model where we've emerged out of the Mad Men era kind of sort of, but brands today still want to control the message, right? When you're hiring an influencer or when you're working with an influencer, if you're doing it right, you're letting them tell their story about a brand or a product or a service in their own voice, so most of the schooling we have to do is more with the brands to say, we've chosen an influencer that already loves your brand, and they're not gonna regurgitate your advertising message, and they might not say it exactly the way you'd like it to be said, but they are gonna say it in a way that really encourages their readers and followers to take notice. So, let's give them some freedom. Great influencers are great content creators. Great influencers got their following because they know how to create content that their followers like, so with them, you don't have to guide them so much. What we do have to do is provide them with a clear story architecture to let them know, these are the brand messages we want you to share, but go forth and create content in your own way.

Shantel: Mm-hmm. Powerful. Did you grow up in a family of entrepreneurs?

Danica: Oh yeah.

Shantel: Okay. 

Danica: That's all I know.

Shantel: So, it's never been too scary. It's always been something that a little bit was encouraged?

Danica: I don't think it was encouraged or discouraged. I would say if anything was encouraged was success, and curiosity, and education. My mom didn't go to college. My dad didn't graduate from high school, and they did very, very well in life. So, if anything they wanted me to explore the world and find my passions, and it was clear that you've got to go out and make money. I'd seen my parents do that in their lives, and achieve great success and be able to send me to college and provide me adventures, so that was really important to me, was both to find a living I was, find something I was passionate about, and make a good living so I could continue to have adventures.

Shantel: Speaking of adventures, is that something you integrate as a core value or something that's really important for you and your team as you build the team?

| FASTER HORSES |

Danica: As I look at our core values, I don't think adventure is necessarily a core value. Definitely one of our core values is something called faster horses. It's based on that Henry Ford quote, which is, "If I ask people what they wanted, they would've said faster horses." So, I would say more of a core value for us is to be adventurous about innovation and trends in the industry because we're in an industry that's constantly changing. So, we have to be two steps ahead. 

Shantel: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I certainly can relate to that in our company as well, and-

Danica: Yeah. Your agency and mine have so many synchronicities and similarities, so.

Shantel: Mm-hmm.

Danica: I'd love to do a podcast with you.

Shantel: Yeah, just talking-

Danica: If I had a podcast.

Shantel: Well, yeah. Let's start one, just about social, because it is, just even on the influencer side, I imagine you guys are starting to think about, okay, the algorithm changes, and yeah. That is really thing.

Danica: Yeah. The algorithm changes, and we've got a blog post coming out about that very, very soon, so. Because it's affecting the influencers and how their content is seen, and ...

Shantel: Yeah. Absolutely. I'd love to talk about a day to day for you, and I know sometimes that's such a silly question because there's no typical day for entrepreneurs, but what hat are you wearing currently in your business?

Danica: Oh, what hat am I wearing? Well, for me, I really focus on defining the culture, inspiring the team, and then my primary focus is business development and leading strategy.

Shantel: Great. Okay. Is that where you hope to be long term as well, or do you hope to have someone in to do the business development, or the strategy piece, or are those your true strengths?

| #ITSHANDLED |

Danica: I really love what I do, but I also love travel, so if I could figure out some way that I could travel more, that would be a dream for me. I just got this amazing team that one of our core values I could share with you is it's handled, so I have this amazing team. Not intentionally, but it just turns out that my team is primarily female, or they're all female, actually, so an amazing team of girl bosses, and one of the things that we agree upon is that when you've taken on a project, you take it on with a philosophy of hashtag it's handled, I got it, it's taken care of. If it's not, I'll come back to you with questions. So, to me, the aspect of leadership that I love is mentorship, but when I think of mentorship for me, I'm not just mentoring them. They're mentoring me.

Shantel: Mm-hmm. 

Danica: So, we really have this kind of back and forth mentorship going.

Shantel: Yeah, I can certainly relate in that every day, from everyone I'm around, I'm learning something new. Whether that's clients and partners or a team and approach, or how they problem solve, so it's certainly a two way street, every time.

Danica: Yeah, and definitely the world I grew up, in a much more hierarchical model, didn't have that. I could never imagine my boss coming to me necessarily for mentorship or guidance, but.

Shantel: Speaking of Ketchum and some of those previous experiences, is there something that really stuck with you when you were that you've either made sure you're not doing in your current role that really kind of rubbed you the wrong way when you were there, or something that you've taken with you? Maybe that's an organizational system or a way to ... what is maybe the biggest takeaway from some of these larger companies that you've brought over to your agency?

Danica: Well, I wouldn't necessarily, I was really on at Ketchum for a skinny minute, so there wasn't a lot for me to take away from that experience, except to know that I don't do really well when I have to show up at a big building at a publicly traded company. That's just kind of not my jam. But for me, I really think as a woman in business, you take kind of the tapestry of all your experiences into what you do and you're constantly pulling from maybe something your mom or your grandma told you, or ... the truth is, most of my career was spent as a television producer, right? And that's not a corporate structure at all. I worked at SNL. There's nothing less corporate than that, so there are sometimes when I'm sitting in the "CEO suite" and I'm like, there's ... I wasn't trained for this. But I am able to access creativity, collaboration, really knowing how to ferret out a good idea, knowing how to move an idea down the chain, those things I pull from my past career.

Shantel: I love that you just touched on sometimes reflecting and being honest and saying, "I wasn't trained for this." 

Danica: Mm-hmm.

Shantel: I love that you were vulnerable and said that there because I often find myself in this role saying, I'm just trying the best that I can, and I'm trying to soak up as much information and I'm just making decisions like I have to make the decision, but it's what I think could be best, and I just sometimes wish I could wear a sign, "I'm doing my best and I'm just trying to figure it out."

Danica: Yeah.

Shantel: Because it can be pretty lonely when you don't have someone in that moment to just relate or level with you and say, "Hey, I feel the same way, but that's a great decision," or "Good job there."

| THE TWO-BY-FOUR APPROACH |

Danica: Well, definitely for you and I, because we're both solopreneurs, there definitely is that challenge of it being lonely at the top because it's not you've got a boss or suite of bosses to go to who are saying, "Hey, you met your goals. Great," or, "You really need to stretch in this area." So, you really do have to rely, either you've got it within you and you just figure it out on your own. For me, I'm constantly trying to create basically a circle of advisors that can help me figure out, to give me feedback on how I'm doing. I work with a business coach, and that has been a huge difference for me in terms of the build of my business. One thing I like about working with that business coach is he gives me something which is called two by four therapy, and-

Shantel: I would love to-

Danica: Do you know what to know what that is? He knocks me on the side of the head with two by four. He's like, "You know that your problem is? This is what your problem is." So, he gives it to me straight. Really, really honest feedback. 

Shantel: Does that, in moments of frustration or worry, does that true honest feedback, does that resonate well or sometimes do you put your guard of like, "Well, you don't know the whole situation, " or, "You're not here to make this hard decision." 

Danica: There's that old saying that advertising messages, it takes seven, if you're putting a message out, you have to put it out seven times before the consumer hears it. I think I'm the same way. I think sometimes it takes hearing the message seven times before it really sinks in, before I truly have that aha moment and where I actually take aha and move it into action.

Shantel: Yeah, and then follow it by a two by four. That may help.

Danica: Right. Knocking me on the side of the head with a two by four.

Shantel: How did you find that business coach and how often are you working with him now?

Danica: Well, actually, here's what funny about the business coach I'm working with. His name is Keith Speers. He's actually based in Columbus, Ohio, and he was recommended to me by kind of a sister similar agency to me in Columbus, Ohio, and I just, her business was doing swimmingly well, and she'd had a lot of kind of personal issues in her life, and I was like, "How?" She said, "Honestly, it was working with a business coach keeping me accountable." So, when I first started working with him, I actually had never met him. 

Shantel: That's so interesting. 

Danica: But aside from business coaches, there's mentors. It's funny kind of seeing who you've had on your podcast and seeing people that are people I've reached out to ask for advice. Liz Lapidus, Jeff Hilimire, these are all people I've gone to and said, "Hey, I'm trying to do this. What do you think of that?" 

Shantel: Yeah. It's certainly nice to have a network of friend entrepreneurs and I'm certainly glad that we were connected as well.

Danica: Yeah.

Shantel: What do you, and I know you've talked on travel. Is that what you do to recharge and to balance, or is there something else that comes to mind day to day that really helps you stay focused?

Danica: Oh, travel's not recharge.

Shantel: Okay.

Danica: Travel is adventure, explore, climbing a mountain, seeing new vistas. If anything that makes me hungrier, and more wanting to take more in. My recharge is a little strange. I bake pies. It's something that my mom, my grandma, my aunties all did, and I grew up watching them bake pies, but I could never quite figure out how to do it. Partly because I didn't listen and I thought the pies should be pretty, and I would fuss with the dough and finally one day, it just clicked, and I figured out how to do it. But the whole act for me of baking, of rolling out dough, of the pacing of when you do different things, chilling the lard, chilling the dough, rolling it out, watching it bake, that to me is meditative. I do actively meditate. I'm a junkie for every possible meditation app on the planet, so I'm constantly trying out different meditation apps and I use those.

Shantel: Do you have a crowd favorite right now?

Danica: Well, of course the Calm app, and I'm gonna have to look at my phone, because there's a new app that's a free app and it's called Insight Timer.

Shantel: Okay.

Danica: Okay? It's got literally thousands of different meditations on it, and they're all crowd sourced. So, when you go to Insight Timer, this is what I do. I look and I see what's popular, okay. So, if I go to popular right now, it's like, what's popular in sleep? What's popular in music? What's popular, and so I just kind of, I randomly try different things.

Shantel: How long have you been meditating?

Danica: Oh, meditation is one of those interesting things. When you first asked that question, I was gonna say a few years, but the truth probably is more like a few decades because I didn't understand that the practice of meditation is also the practice of failure, which is that you try to meditate and you get distracted. So, for many years I would try to meditate and think, "I can't meditate," because I get distracted. But I had to really kind of learn that the practice of meditation is realizing that you're constantly gonna get distracted and you just have to go back to the meditation.

Shantel: Well, I'm glad that you mentioned that because I, and I asked how long because I do continue to, I keep getting defeated a little bit of I want to meditate, I hear all these people are meditating, but for some reason, I just can't calm the brain. So ...

Danica: Yeah, it's funny because I think if you're a success-oriented person, and if you treat meditation like exercise, like, "Oh, great. I just ran, I ran for 20 minutes and I ran faster than I did yesterday," that's the wrong approach to meditation. Meditation is understanding that it's truly an effort to listen to your breathing, to get to this stage of calm, and you're just gonna constantly be distracted, and that's why I kind of, working with apps for me helps because typically the apps, the good apps will say things to me like, "It's okay if you get distracted. Just bring it back to your breath." Okay good, because I just got distracted for seven minutes of this meditation. But it does help me think better. I'm a really high energy person, and learning how to be present for my team has been a challenge, particularly as an entrepreneur because you've got 17 things coming at you, your to-do list is endless, and I think when I really focus on meditation, and really focus on trying to be present with my team, my business began to prosper even more.

Shantel: Even just thinking about being present, and it's certainly a challenge that I'm trying to work on, is that especially in our industry, there's so many distractions on top of ... we have to be on social media.

Danica: Mm-hmm.

Shantel: We don't really have the option to unplug sometimes. 

Danica: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It's annoying for the people in our lives. Even my kids, they're "millennials," and they're like, "Mom, get off your phone. We just want to eat that meal. Don't take a picture of it. We want to be in the moment. Don't take a picture of us."

Shantel: Well, I have a few more questions for you to wrap up. 

Danica: Oh, good.

Shantel: The first is, what do you see as next on the horizon for your company?

| WAKE UP EVERY DAY CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT'S NEW |

Danica: Oh, gosh. Great question. Well, we're building our team. We've been kind of on a hiring jag, so with that really comes this, you expand the team but you want to keep that awesome culture, so can you grow and keep the culture? So, we've kind of got our eyes on the prize of that. Definitely for us, staying ahead of the curve when it comes to trends. That is, that's a constant game that we're playing is never feeling complacent. I remember one mentor I met with said to me, "You have to wake up every day scared," and I hate that notion. I don't want to wake up every day scared, but I do want to wake up every day curious about what's new. Not frustrated that things are changing, but welcoming of the fact that things are changing. For us, we're always on the lookout for influencers to join our network of influencers that are right for the brands that we work with, so I'm constantly going to influencer conferences and meeting new influencers, and if they're a right fit for us, inviting them in.

Shantel: I really loved the wake up every day curious as opposed to, it almost feels like the fearful piece, or kind of just creates a different kind of connotation or a different feeling. Being scared, and yeah.

Danica: Yes.

Shantel: I like the curious piece. 

Danica: Yeah.

Shantel: This may be a tough one, but speaking of pie, do you have a favorite flavor that you cook?

Danica: Oh. My favorite pie. Okay. So, I love cherry pie. I really do. When it comes to pie, I'm really a traditionalist. I like to make the kinds of pie that you kind of remember from childhood, so if it's pear hazelnut, I'll make it, but people don't love it. It seems that great food is also great memories. You want food from memory and pie is one of those kind of iconic dishes, so I like all the classics. Apple, peach, blueberry. For me, also remember, I like to make the pies. It's not so much about eating them. So, I'll typically take two bites and that's it. I want to know that my crust tastes good, but I don't necessarily need to eat it. It's more-

Shantel: Well, if you ever need a buddy to eat it, I'm your gal. Yes.

Danica: Well, maybe we should do a pie podcast. 

Shantel: Well, I think I've talked to you, but that's how we started as a company, and it was over a piece of pie. Mm-hmm. 

Danica: That's right. 

Shantel: So-

Danica: That's right.

Shantel: Equally love pie.

Danica: Yes, we talked about that.

Shantel: Of me on the side of eating it, not so much making it.

Danica: Yeah. 

Shantel: Lastly-

Danica: Yes. Okay. Well, we'll have to eat pie together. What's your favorite pie?

Shantel: I really fell in love with chocolate ganache pie that I had from this company, but I do think a favorite would be a mixed berry or a raspberry. Yeah.

Danica: Raspberry pie. Interesting. What about strawberry rhubarb?

Shantel: Maybe. 

Danica: Just not for you.

Shantel: Just made my mouth water. Then last question-

Danica: Yeah.

Shantel: If people would like to get in touch with you and learn more about your company, journey, or perhaps they're an influencer, what's the best way to reach out and get in touch? Okay?

Danica: Well, good old-fashioned email. Yeah? So, my email, I've got a challenging name to spell, but it's Danica, D-A-N-I-C-A, @everywhereagency.com.

Shantel: Great. Well, we so appreciate you being on the show and carving out some time to inspire us with your wisdom. Of course.

Danica: Well, I appreciate you inviting me.