Ashley Graham is the founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief at The Conscious Publicist, a public relations and thought leadership concierge that helps purpose-driven brands share their stories and methodologies. Graham has always had a passion for writing, communication, and storytelling, and after working at traditional PR agencies and in in-house director roles, she wanted to do something more meaningful with her career, creating The Conscious Publicist
The ever-expanding media ecosystem means that today “everything serves PR because it’s a public perspective.” When refining your brand image in the public, how can you create a conscious voice that authentically resonates with your target audience?
In this interview, we spoke to Ashley Graham, the founder of The Conscious Publicist, to learn about what it takes to break through the PR haze and resonate with audiences through meaningful stories.
Listen to our full discussion to learn about the power of intentional digital space and the role of self-mastery in fostering deeper connections within the PR landscape.
Vianca Meyer: When did you first know that you want to pursue a career in PR?
Ashley Graham: I always say that I did not really find the PR life. The PR life found me. I initially started over 15 years ago, just learning everything from the traditional marketing sense.
Throughout my career, it was just a natural pivot to PR. I'm not surprised by that at all because when we think about how the marketing landscape has changed over the last 10 or 15 years, everything now falls under the PR umbrella because it all comes down to influence, promotion, and visibility. Everything that we have in the digital space really serves the PR umbrella these days.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your journey as the founder of The Conscious Publicist? What inspired you to create a brand and organization like TCP?
The Conscious Publicist is actually a second business entity for me. I had launched a previous business in the PR space that also incorporated content creation and branding. I started that business in March of 2016 and naturally, over that five-year mark, I noticed that I had changed as a person through the process.
The brand changed and my approach to business changed. So, when I launched The Conscious Publicist, it was a testimony of taking all that I had learned over those five or six years in the previous business and applying it in a way that I knew the business could then grow beyond me. My business previously was solo driven.
If an entrepreneur has one purpose, it's to grow something that can become a legacy-based brand that impacts and serves others outside of their own influence and their own sphere. The Conscious Publicist was to serve a bigger purpose than just me being an entrepreneur.
Were there any initial challenges that you faced when you started The Conscious Publicist and how did you manage to overcome these?
The biggest challenges were the personal hurdles of not wanting to make the same mistakes of rushing into the process, like I had done with the previous business. There was a lot of patience that I had to sit with to not rush into things. For example, not to just get a website up because I needed to have a digital presence. I really waited for the right time and partners to bring into the creation part of the process with me, to make sure that it was done the right way, and not just something that I was creating based off urgency.
Right now, the challenge that I'm experiencing is fine tuning the messaging and fine tuning our offer suite to bring in that legacy component of serving clients and the community in a different way than what was done previously. I'm having to fight with the patience and making sure that all of that is tailored and curated in the way that is going to make the most impact.
As a PR practitioner, what would you say are the key characteristics one needs to become a pro at PR?
I believe that there is a level of interpersonal skills that come to the table when somebody is stepping into the role of a publicist or PR practitioner. Having a personality that leads with connection can serve you in so many ways.
The biggest component of PR is all about relationships. If you perceive those skills of wanting to connect and build relationships, that can get you very far.
The other tail end of that are the more tangible skill sets. Another component of what makes somebody good in PR is bringing that connection from interpersonal skills and knowing how to connect that in a written based format. In PR, you're working with news cycles and stories, and knowing how to bring the level of connectivity to those stories speaks immensely for someone's skillset in this role.
What is your process of helping your clients discover their conscious inner voice, particularly for those that don't feel like they have a story to tell?
I talk about this in The Conscious Publicist podcast a lot. There's self-mastering, voice activation, and the conscious voice. When we talk about that inner voice, that's what I perceive as the conscious voice, and I call this the leadership voice as well.
We all have this inner critic voice that wants to keep us in our comfort zone. Well, the conscious voice is not that voice. The conscious voice is the voice that wants you to thrive in your life. It wants you to step into the roles that make you feel uncomfortable because it's going to serve a bigger impact and change your personal fulfilment, whether that is in your career or just personally as a human being.
Self-mastery and voice activation are the process of what gets you to really understand how that conscious voice works and what it's trying to tell you. If I'm going to put this over to the thought leadership perspective, since The Conscious Publicist works primarily in thought leadership PR, self-mastery is the understanding of how us evolving as people can make for an incredible story to share in the media's perspective.
Then on the tail end, say for instance, I've worked with a client, and they've already gone through a very honed in self-mastery process. They understand what their voice is, but they need to know how to package it up and articulate it when it comes to PR and media. This is where our methodology really comes into play. We have this ideation to transformation process where we go from an ideation phase, a creation phase, an implementation phase, and then to the transformation phase. Within the ideation phase, I take on an ideation coach role where I work with the client to understand their past, present, and future of what got them to this first initial connection with me.
Some of the questions and how I filter the information with my clients can go in several different directions. It's unique to the client, their history, and their background.
They are simple questions like: “Why do you want to serve? Why do you want to impact? What led you to this role? What's your big picture vision? What are some of your smaller visions that we can bring to life in six months to a year? What's your 10-year plan?”
Moving through the methodology, we go into the creation phase where I take all thisinformation that I've gotten from them in the ideation process and understand how that's going to match with their ideal audience and media profiles.
We continue throughout the process by putting it out into the world, seeing how it sticks, and what conversations we're able to pick up. The transformation that comes from that is where they've gotten visibility and how they can nurture the audience perspective of what they've been able to attract through the PR and the media initiative that we're a part of.
Watch our full interview with Ashley Graham on YouTube.