As the Co-founder and CEO of the WBE Certified WITH/agency, Blair Brady is an ambassador of the movement for female entrepreneurship and leadership as well as in diversity of talent. With her leadership, the award-winning agency has received recognition for its work in brand strategy, creative and advertising.
WITH proudly serves as an agency partner for Atlanta’s iconic brands such as AT&T, The Fox Theatre, Georgia Power, Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, EarthLink and others. Blair has also led the expansion of the agency’s business and Atlanta’s creative talents to new markets through the agency’s partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric in California.
Blair co-founded the WITH/agency in 2012 to find a better way to serve Atlanta’s brands. When Blair assumed majority ownership of the agency in early 2018 and became CEO; her mission for WITH was realized: to reveal a world that works better together by creating unmatched creative work for clients while progressing a vibrant culture focused on cultivating and empowering diverse talent contributing to the rise of Atlanta’s creative community. As a trailblazer, Blair’s leadership style is centered around her intentionality to be the change she wants to see in the world around her.
The WITH/agency is an Atlanta born and based agency with service offerings including creative, strategy, advertising, video production, and branding. As a purposely small agency serving big brands, WITH is making its mark on Atlanta’s creative scene.
Blair also advocates for Atlanta’s creative community through participating in key professional organizations including:
- The Forbes Agency Council – Member
- Metro Atlanta Chamber – Board of Advisors
- TimesUp Advertising – Board Member – Atlanta Chapter’
- Network of Executive Women (NEW) – Member
- Atlanta Advertising Club – Corporate Member and Event Host
Connect with Blair on LinkedIn and follow WITH on Facebook and Twitter.
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of Open for Business, part of GWBC’s radio show that we run here at Business RadioX. Our guest today is Blair Brady, and she’s with the WITH/agency. Welcome, Blair.
Blair Brady: [00:00:33] Hi, Lee. Thank you.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:35] Well, before we get too far into things, can you tell us about the WITH/agency? Who do you serve?
Blair Brady: [00:00:41] I’d love to. We are a full-service marketing, advertising, and design agency right here in Atlanta. And we proudly serve a lot of Atlanta’s greatest brands AT&T, Georgia Power, Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, and another wonderful client that is really Atlanta’s gem is the Fox Theater.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:07] So, how-
Blair Brady: [00:01:07] Other clients … sorry about that, Lee. Our other clients include Pacific Gas and Electric in San Francisco. And also, a wonderful re-emerging Atlanta brand of EarthLink.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:22] Oh, wow. I was with EarthLink when they were MindSpring. I have a-
Blair Brady: [00:01:27] You have?
Lee Kantor: [00:01:27] … an email address, MindSpring email address, probably still. I’m probably still paying for that. Yeah, that goes.
Blair Brady: [00:01:34] Yeah. I mean, that’s a throwback. That’s a good one. Hang on to it.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:38] So, now, how’d you get into this line of work? How’d you get started in your career?
Blair Brady: [00:01:43] I have always been on the agency side of business. I began early in my career with an agency that was born really out of sports marketing. But then, moved into general, a full-service, integrated marketing. And I was fortunate enough early in my career to serve really big brands from a young stage. So, I got to learn how to navigate corporate culture, which can be really, really rigid for a lot of good reasons as why they’re rigid. But as a marketer, you have to find a way to breathe life and creativity into those structures. So, I got to see that up close and personal early in my career.
Blair Brady: [00:02:28] And then, about eight years ago, my co-founder, Jamie Sims, and I decided that we wanted to make a new kind of agency. We thought that there was a better way. So, we founded the WITH/agency in 2012 and really bootstrapped from the very, very beginning, and years of really hard work and trying to align ourselves with the brand-forward companies who believed in creativity and really believed in brand strategy and brand storytelling was how we approached it. And we are, as you know, a proud, certified women-owned business.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:13] Now, why was it important for you to become a certified women-owned business?
Blair Brady: [00:03:20] That’s a great question. There are a couple of reasons. One, we believe that you need to be the change you want to see in the world. And, especially, in the creative industry, this rings very true. I believe that the best creative product that is really going to connect brands to people has to come from a diverse set of talent and has to come from several perspectives. And the old framework of doing things that limited female voices, diversity, that was not going to allow brands to reach the hearts and minds of people in the ways that they needed to.
Blair Brady: [00:04:12] So, we restructured, and it was important for us to certify because that meant that we were committed in going about this. And a lot of our corporate clients, they have a real need for diverse suppliers, especially in the creative industry, because a lot of really big multinational agencies are held by large companies, large holding companies that are predominantly male. And so, they are getting that. We were able to provide them a unique service and a unique perspective to serve today’s brands and what they need to reach their audience.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:51] Now, speaking of today, right now, we’re going through this coronavirus. And it’s a challenge for a lot of businesses. I’m sure you’ve had to make some adjustments. But from putting in your marketing hat on, how are you kind of consulting with your clients to help them kind of re-strategize or maybe pivot in order for them to continue to stay relevant during this?
Blair Brady: [00:05:16] That’s a great question. It is a real challenge right now because we live in a world of connection. And right now, we’re isolated physically. So, it’s a whole new way of working. And early on, in the first week of this, I challenged my team to think about the plans that we had for our clients for the year and consider that those plans were probably not going to happen. And what we needed to do to serve our clients the best way was not found in those plans because we’re in a new world. So, I urged them to take each of our clients, strip them down to their brand’s purpose and their brand’s promise. Why do they exist and what do they deliver? And then, put the new filter of today all over that. So, how are we going to exist and deliver based on this new on this new world?
Blair Brady: [00:06:19] And three of our key clients are essential business. Health care in Kaiser Permanente, obviously, they’re more essential now than ever. Pacific Gas and Electric and Georgia Power in energy and utility. Specifically with Pacific Gas Electric, we are working on how they position themselves to best help and speak with small businesses because, right now, they are in dire straits. And then, third would be in EarthLink, an Internet service provider. Everyone is at home right now working, trying to keep their kids engaged in school, and we are relying more heavily on our internet connection than ever before and in more ways. And so, we have to stay connected. That’s the way that we stay connected now. We can’t physically be connected. So, those three clients, we really leaned, we really pivoted strategy, and we quickly got in front of them to say, “You know what? We’re here. We have you. We understand that everything’s changing. But we’re ready to change too.”
Lee Kantor: [00:07:22] Now, what about when it comes to the messaging, when those people are going out to the world and saying, “Hey, we’re still open for business. We still are here to serve you. While our business may have been executed in this manner yesterday, today, we’re still here and we’re executing in this new manner,” is there any advice for those business people out there that maybe have to kind of re imagine themselves, but they don’t want to go out there, and be salesy, and yet want to be sensitive? It seems like a tricky time for marketers to communicate what they need to communicate and in what maybe a more elegant way.
Blair Brady: [00:08:07] Right. You’re so right. There is such a delicate balance right now. And you’re seeing, as you turn on the television, or Netflix, or anything, and you’re watching, brands are putting out all kinds of material that is pivoted now to the world that we’re in. And you’re starting to hear vocabulary that’s becoming cliche a little. You continue to hear words like, “In these uncertain times,” and “We’re all in this together.” And it’s difficult for marketers because we do want to speak and connect on a human level. We do want to serve the brands who are relevant to this crisis. But you can’t come across in a disingenuous way or kind of way that sounds like you’re pandering to a bad situation. You’re taking advantage of a crisis. So, it’s a very delicate line.
Blair Brady: [00:09:04] The way that that we approach it and the way that we advise our clients is that we should only put a message out there or we should only engage with consumers when we are directly relevant to what we’re talking about. We do want to pander. So, when you do put out a message, first, you have to say, “Is what we’re talking about, is our service directly relevant to what is happening in people’s lives right now?” And then, how do we make that message ring true and be genuine, so that they don’t feel like they’re being sold to and taken advantage of in a time of crisis.
Blair Brady: [00:09:44] It’s interesting. I’ll give you one more example. Our client, the Fox Theater, obviously they cannot operate right now. Their doors are closed. And we’re not sure when they’re going to reopen. But their purpose in the world is to or their promise is to create a grand sense of occasion. It’s all about coming together. It’s all about people experiencing something amazing. How can we do that? How can we come together and say something amazing when we’re apart? So, that’s been our creative brief as an agency to help them make people feel like they’re connected and experiencing something wonderful while they’re not apart. And it’s not because they’re looking to sell tickets. It’s because they’re an Atlanta icon, and they’ve made a promise to the city a long time ago to remain that way. And so, they have to continue to tell Atlanta that that promise isn’t gone. But certainly, there’s no ticket sale message at the end of that. It’s just articulating that our promise still stands.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:49] Now, when you’re working with especially a client like that, where their business is in person, people physically going to their location, is there any kind of, I don’t wanna say therapy, but it’s kind of therapy to help them kind of focus on the long haul and to help them just not panic? Because at some of these, like even the Fox as an example, I mean, the Fox is an icon to many that they’re a little special, but if you’re just like kind of Joe and Mary’s theater, this is a tough time.
Blair Brady: [00:11:26] You’re right. And so, I have to say that part of being a really good agency partner, there is a percentage of therapists that’s in your job. One of the things that we always say is that we believe in a world that works better together. And that goes in good times and bad times. And so, I spent a lot of time on the phone with my clients talking about their personal lives, talking about their work lives, talking about what they’re concerned about. And it’s just because we genuinely love to be with people. I mean, that was how our agency was built. And so, a lot of it is time spent just listening because everyone feels so disconnected. So, we don’t even have to have conversations that are directional towards a project or a campaign. Sometimes, it’s just to catch up.
Blair Brady: [00:12:26] But what I do find when … because we do need to look towards something. So, for for some of our clients whose business is a little bit on a hiatus right now, what we started doing is working with them on re-emerging plan. So, when we come back into the world, what does that look like? And though we don’t know when that may be, there’s no date on the calendar necessarily, having the actual plan there not only give a sense of something to look forward to, but it makes them feel like somebody is at them, or they’re not alone, or when the time to reopen comes, they aren’t left saying, “Well, what do we do now?” That when the time comes to reopen, that we’re ready, we have a plan. We’re not just sort of slowly starting to get going. We’re already catching our pace.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:18] Now, how have you been working with your own team to keep their morale up? And maybe you can share some tips for others that are dealing with this with a team that’s working remotely. Maybe you’ve been already working remotely prior to this, but if you weren’t doing a lot more now.
Blair Brady: [00:13:39] Yeah, I can definitely share some on that because that has been one of the biggest things for me personally. In our office, it’s a very open office. We are a very close knit group. We are together a lot. We’re a very family-like environment. So, almost overnight, we were completely separated and isolated from each other. It was really difficult at first. It was a really heavy feeling for me. So, things that I had done and we have done together since then that have really helped, we do a lot of video conferencing. I know everyone does that.
Blair Brady: [00:14:21] But one thing I will say is get in the habit of always turning on your camera and showing your face because when you see each other’s faces, it makes it so, so, so much better. That, to me, is so important. I always want to see everyone’s faces. And we do quick morning check-in meetings every morning where we just see each other’s faces, write down a quick connect for what is going to happen that day, what’s really important, what somebody needs help on, what someone’s stuck on, any updates that we had got overnight. So, that’s been really helpful.
Blair Brady: [00:14:58] Another thing is that first week I was mentioning, I felt really disconnected. It felt really heavy. On the Sunday night of that first week, I just turned on my web camera on my computer, and I talked to the team. I just recorded a video of me talking about what I talk about, and then closing it with a fun … I played like a fun song. And so, I have done that every Sunday since the first week. So, we have seven episodes of what we now call the Sunday night sit-down. And it goes to my team every Sunday night. It just goes to is. It’s not posted on social media anywhere. It’s just a message to the team. And that’s been a really great way to connect. I’ve gotten really good feedback from them that they enjoy those.
Blair Brady: [00:15:50] And then, the other thing is we’ve done just agency polls. Like just fun things. What’s a new hobby you picked up during this time? What music are you listening to? We made a quarantune playlists on Spotify. So, finding those ways have really, really been a great way to keep everybody connected.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:13] Now, you had some great advice earlier about coming up with that kind of how are you going to emerge plan with your clients. Is that something that you’ve also done internally? Like how are you going … like how does the future you’re going to see yet the work you’ve done? And are you doing work that matters? Are you looking ahead to yourself as well?
Blair Brady: [00:16:38] I am. And that’s something that that we are addressing currently and recently. I’ve been referring it to as a mental box that I’ve just sort of been putting my thoughts in and keeping to the side, and I will address them when the time is right. But the time is right. We are going to be coming out of this. And that plan is not going to look like what I thought our year was gonna look like in January. When we started this year, we had a very, very robust plan for growth. It was going to be a very transformative year for the agency.
Blair Brady: [00:17:28] And so, I think in the first few days of this crisis, I probably personally merged that a little bit, that that was probably not going to go the way I wanted it to go and the way that I really wanted our team to that had gotten. Everyone was so excited and we were ready to go. And so, it took me a while to mentally adjust to that. But I have now. And we’ve been working on a plan to reemerge. And I think a lot of the ways that we were going to transform this year will still happen. They just may happen a little later, and they may happen in some different ways. We’ve learned a lot through this.
Blair Brady: [00:18:16] And I don’t think it will change everyone’s business. I don’t think anyone will just hit the on button again and just go on as usual like they did before. I think this crisis will challenge everyone to rethink the way they operate internally and with their customers, or clients, or who they serve. It’s just the plan is there, and it’s an important one, and it has to be done with with such intentionality, and we certainly can’t rush it. But I am immensely proud for the way that my team has conducted themselves through all of this. I’ve leaned into them hard, and they have stood up and done so much more than I had ever had in mind. So, I am immensely grateful to them. And I just think that the promise of reemerging is so much brighter.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:14] Now, what’s the ideal client for you? And what pain are they having where the WITH/agency is the solution?
Blair Brady: [00:19:23] Oh, that’s a great question. So, our ideal client doesn’t come in the shape of any specific category or vertical. We are not B2B, exclusively B2B, or exclusively B2C. Our ideal client is a brand-forward company. So, a company that believes in their brand and their brand’s ability to connect with people. And so, we start every piece of work, every project, everything with strategy. The strategy is really at the centerpoint of what we do, whether that manifests itself into a television campaign or manifests itself into a new visual identity for a brand. All of that must start with strategy. And so, companies that really invest in their brand and in their brand story, that is our ideal plan.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:27] And if somebody wanted to learn more and have more substantive conversation with you, what’s the website?
Blair Brady: [00:20:34] We’re at thewithagency.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:38] Well, Blair, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work.
Blair Brady: [00:20:43] Thank you, Lee, I appreciate you.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:45] All right, that’s a wrap for this episode of GWBC Radio. We will see you again next time.
About Your Host
Roz Lewis is President & CEO – Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®), a regional partner organization of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and a member of the WBENC Board of Directors.
Previous career roles at Delta Air Lines included Flight Attendant, In-Flight Supervisor and Program Manager, Corporate Supplier Diversity.
During her career she has received numerous awards and accolades. Most notable: Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2018 Diversity & Inclusion award; 2017 inducted into the WBE Hall of Fame by the American Institute of Diversity and Commerce and 2010 – Women Out Front Award from Georgia Tech University.
She has written and been featured in articles on GWBC® and supplier diversity for Forbes Magazine SE, Minority Business Enterprise, The Atlanta Tribune, WE- USA, Minorities and Women in Business magazines. Her quotes are published in The Girls Guide to Building a Million Dollar Business book by Susan Wilson Solovic and Guide Coaching by Ellen M. Dotts, Monique A. Honaman and Stacy L. Sollenberger. Recently, she appeared on Atlanta Business Chronicle’s BIZ on 11Alive, WXIA to talk about the importance of mentoring for women.
In 2010, Lewis was invited to the White House for Council on Women and Girls Entrepreneur Conference for the announcement of the Small Business Administration (SBA) new Women Owned Small Business Rule approved by Congress. In 2014, she was invited to the White House to participate in sessions on small business priorities and the Affordable Care Act.
Roz Lewis received her BS degree from Florida International University, Miami, FL and has the following training/certifications: Certified Purchasing Managers (CPM); Certified Professional in Supplier Diversity (CPSD), Institute for Supply Management (ISM)of Supplier Diversity and Procurement: Diversity Leadership Academy of Atlanta (DLAA), Negotiations, Supply Management Strategies and Analytical Purchasing.
Connect with Roz on LinkedIn.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
GWBC® has partnered with dozens of major companies who are committed to providing a sustainable foundation through our guiding principles to bring education, training and the standardization of national certification to women businesses in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.