This week on An Agency Story podcast, we have Brandi Sims, CEO and Founder of Brandinc PR – a full-service boutique public relations agency based out of Austin, Texas that specializes in public relations, media outreach, publicity campaigns, events, and general marketing specifically related to social media and online engagement.
Brandi has accumulated over 14 years of experience in the realm of marketing. Initially focused on collaborating with nonprofit organizations, she ventured into the finance sector before gradually transitioning into the captivating realms of entertainment and lifestyle. In an unexpected turn of events, Brandi unintentionally founded Brandinc PR amidst the challenging circumstances of the pandemic in 2020.
Over the past three years alone, Brandi and her agency have successfully catered to a diverse range of clients, spanning beyond the nonprofit space, and venturing into the exciting waters of entertainment. Their portfolio includes public figures and individual brands, showcasing their versatility and wide-ranging expertise. Brandi and the agency have had the privilege of working with some renowned clients such as Dolly Parton, former Seattle Seahawks player Kam Chancellor, and many more.
On this week’s episode, Brandi discusses an array of compelling subjects. She reflects on the impact of MTV on her professional journey, explores the complexities of imposter syndrome, and emphasizes the importance of stepping aside from our own limitations.
She also shares valuable insights into how her experience with the military has shaped her work ethic and transformed her perspective on life.
Enjoy the story.
You can listen to this episode of An Agency Story on your favorite podcast app:
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Welcome to An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. From the excitement of starting up the first big sale, passion, doubt, fear, freedom, and the emotional rollercoaster of growth, hear it all on An Agency Story podcast. An Agency Story podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, successful agency owner with an eight figure exit turned business coach. Enjoy the next agency story.
Welcome to An Agency Story podcast, I’m your host Russel. On this episode of An Agency Story podcast, we have Brandi Sims, CEO and founder of Brandinc PR, a full service boutique public relations agency based out of Austin, Texas. Brandy’s agency began in the COVID era after an unexpected turn of events. Catering to a wide range of clients. Brandi has found considerable success in the entertainment space, working with some of the biggest names in the business. From MTV to the difficulties of imposter syndrome, Brandi opens up about the importance of overcoming our own limitations. Enjoy the story. Welcome to the show today everyone. I have Brandi Sims with Brandinc PR on the show today. Thank you so much for joining us, Brandi.
Thank you so much for having me.I’m excited to be here.
If you don’t mind, start us off here. Tell us what Brandinc PR is, what do you do and who do you do it for?
My name is Brandi Sims. I am the founder and CEO of Brandinc PR. Brandinc PR is a full service boutique public relations agency. We specialize in public relations, media outreach , publicity campaigns, events, as well as general marketing specifically related to social media and online engagement. Been doing this for a little over 14 years now. Started off working with nonprofit organizations and finance business side of things, and then slowly graduated into more of the entertainment and lifestyle space. Started this agency back in 2020 during the pandemic, which, I promise it wasn’t intentional. It was intentional to start a business, but certainly not anticipating a pandemic to happen shortly there after. Since that time, just in the last three years, we’ve been able to represent a host of clientele that range not only from that nonprofit space, but also into the entertainment space, public figures to individual brands. We’re loving and enjoy every minute of it. The opportunity that it has allotted us to be able to represent these clients that are just as passionate about their brands as we are about public relations. It’s such an important space. It’s such an important industry, and it’s one that many forget is essentially an umbrella of all of the industries. Whatever industry that you serve or clientele that you serve, public relations and communication is essentially that umbrella over all of these things because your communications is everything. How are you communicating to your audience? How are you sharing your messaging when it comes to your products and services? How are you communicating your brand itself? What do you do?What do you offer and why is it something that we need to have? All of those things are essentially what we do for our clients. We help them to become better storytellers of what it is that they do and what they offer. In turn, we put it out into the places where it needs to be.
14 years,certainly a long time. Imagine so many great stories. Go back in time a little bit. Tell us what young Brandi was thinking as she was coming up in the world and getting started in her career.
How I got into PR wasn’t the traditional route. I didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t have somebody that was guiding me on, this is what you need to do for PR if you wanna be taken seriously in this industry. I actually came across it during the early two thousands and the reality TV era. At that time, there were all these new reality TV shows. It wasn’t even, I think, called a reality TV show, it was just, this is something that we’re doing here. MTV had a show called Power Girls. The premise of the show was basically following interns that were working for the Lizzie Grubman PR agency. Those of us that are a little seasoned remember back in that time, Lizzie Grubman was known nineties, early two thousands as the top PR celebrity agency to go to. She was representing Halle Berry around the time that she had won her Oscar, as well as the super crisis communication scenario when I think she had been involved in vehicular accident and it caused a fatality. My preteen self looked at that and was just like, man, this is so crazy. Look at them almost breaking their neck trying to run around to these meetings. Gotta get here, gotta host these events, gotta come up with ideas and brainstorm and serve the client. I looked at that and I was like, these are my people. This is what I wanna do. I committed to myself that this is what I wanna do and I’m gonna follow the steps to get where I need to go. I continued to study as I got older ,made sure I paid attention to certain things. Okay, what does a publicist do? What does a public relations practitioner do? What do they offer? Where can I go to intern? Where are the best colleges? I went through that process, went to school, got my bachelor’s in public relations, followed it with an MBA with a public relations focus. And then currently, wrapping up the doctorates in strategic media communications because I do teach at the college level on these specific areas in education for PR. But it all started with an MTV reality show. And I think it had, like, a season, it didn’t even stay long.
Well see parents, MTV’s not all bad. Look what it’s led to in Brandi’s career. Obviously a lot of experience you’ve brought to the table in different realms, but let’s go back to that day you woke up and said you were gonna start your own business. What was that like? What led you to get to that point in time?
It’s something that was always on my mind. Speaking to more entrepreneurs and other business owners, it’s something that is like an urge. You just know it’s in you, and those that have experienced it, those that have that entrepreneurial mindset, they know it as well. It was always something that was of interest in me, but I’ll be honest, I never had the confidence to actually go for it. I always thought, oh man, I would love to do that, but it couldn’t be me. I couldn’t own a business. Really psyched myself down anytime it came up. Sure enough, during the pandemic, was working as a vice president of communications for a corporate space. At that time I had learned that I was being very undercompensated. For women in the workforce, it’s one of those things that it is a challenge, even more so with women of color. At the time, I looked at it and I was like ,okay, let’s lay all the cards out here. I know I’m being under-compensated. I did say something and I did push the issue and it’s looking like it’s not going anywhere here. I could stick around, keep doing the nine to five and be comfortable or safe in that, okay, it’s always coming, that paycheck. It’s always gonna be here. Be in that cushy lifestyle that I’m used to, or I could go do something different and see what happens with that. Of course, with this story, we all know how it ended, I went B route. I was like, I’m outta here. I’m gonna take my chances and bet on myself. That’s exactly what I did. Having an MBA absolutely helped In this instance, because I already understood the basics of operation. It was just actually doing it. Once I got into that really good footing, I was able to retain my first 10 clients within the first month. It was very quickly that I was able to get moving. When I look back at the situation and I look back at the steps to get to finally opening this business, I look at it as a lesson learned, but also one of those things that you could see how you can be your own barrier. You can be the barrier that’s preventing you from getting to where you need to be. A lot of the times, what I see when I speak to other entrepreneurs, other small business owners, or those that have that idea in their mind, the first thing they say is, oh, I don’t have an MBA. You don’t need that. What is it that you need? Then it goes into, oh, I don’t have these resources. Guess what? Internet’s got plenty of them. You need an assistant? They’ve got virtual assistance online, and they have many different ranges that you can do that with, and it’s affordable. Accounting, can’t afford an accountant. Quickbooks. There are so many different alternatives and ways and options that you have available that wasn’t accessible20,30years ago. You have that right at your doorstep and literally right on your phone. All of these things, as I went through that process, it returned back and I was like, it really was me. That was the barrier. I had to have that confidence within self to say, no, I can do this. Let’s get outta bed, let’s go.
I think most owners I talk to, not all, but most have that imposter syndrome. Can’t be me or even, especially once they get into the business, what did I do? There’s always that barrier aspect. One of the interesting things too is I feel like a lot of owners, it comes from different places in terms of reasons why they’re like, I can do this better or, I hate how this is done. Is there any lessons that you took away from all your previous experience that you’re like, I’m taking this into my business and this is how I’m gonna be different?
I think the early lesson was understanding how to delegate things. I said that before, previously about, the importance of looking for those resources, those things that are readily accessible. I’m saying that because that’s something that I did, but there were certain areas too that I didn’t do a good job in. The first thing, of course was the delegation. I started the business. I was running everything. Like many are, you’re pretty much everything. You’re the fry cook, the burger flipper, the customer service, the janitor. You’re all of the things, and when you get started, yes, you’re gonna be all of the things until you start delegating those things off. I don’t care what anybody says, there’s no way and to do it effectively and at a high efficiency rate. That was one of the early lessons that I learned.
One of the interesting challenges that I imagine you had to face was that Covid was in full swing when you were starting the business. What were those challenges that you faced that you don’t think you would’ve faced otherwise as a new business owner during this time?
The first thing that comes to mind is events. In public relations, part of our job is creating publicity events. Think brand launches, activations, press conferences. When Covid happened, all of that was shut down. We couldn’t do any events. One of the neat things that came of it was opening up the world to more virtual and hybrid events, and that’s how we were able to combat that. But in the first few months, it was very difficult because no one knew what to expect. We’d never dealt with something like this. The expectation was, a couple months in was, okay, we should be back to normal by fall, winter, and then fall. Winter gets here and it’s uh ah, everything is still shut down and no, you can’t go outside. Still gotta wear your mask. It was one of those things that, we had to get creative as to how we were putting out their information, what things our clients had going on, as well as how we would navigate events, which largely shifted either to a hundred percent virtual or it was a hybrid mix where we had some virtual and we had a limited capacity of individuals that could participate in a physical event. Even then, you have to factor in the cost of venue space. It has to make sense. When you’re operating at almost 25%of their normal hundred percent capacity, but you still gotta pay that hundred percent as if, that makes it a little difficult when you’re talking to the client about whether or not we should have this event. That was a big challenge for us. Events, being able to host events, being able to support events when everything was ultimately shut down during the pandemic, but we got creative in it, and I think that’s what happens in those situations. Get creative, get scrappy.
Something else that sounds like it’s been a big part of your life,and very near and dear to my heart as well,is your connections to the military and how has that impacted you and even entering into the business.
My military connections, parents were both Army, served 20plus years. My husband served in the Navy, was medically retired back in2019.Military essentially has been my whole life. I’ve always been associated around it. Lived on a base most of my life, I think outside of maybe one year, but went right back onto a base. A base or a post. Clarification because they always correct me when I go visit.
For our Army listeners out there, she said post.
I’m including Army too,post and base.It’s been encompassing a big part of my life and I’m very thankful and fortunate for it because it has afforded so much opportunity,even for me being a dependent and then eventually being a spouse because of the access. With my husband being in the Navy, being affiliated with the special warfare, we had access to even more things that normally would not be accessible. With those experiences, it definitely led me to incredible relationships that I continue to this day. It led me to education, those resources that helped with my family as we were growing and navigating the military lifestyle now as spouse and active duty, as opposed to just being the depending kids. One of the first things I recall, being surrounded by this lifestyle is the sense of loyalty, the sense of duty, the sense of respect, some of my earlier foundational values. A lot of that comes from being a military kid and being affiliated in that way. Some of those early values and those foundational values I certainly bring into the business. We always respect our clients and it goes both ways. We always deliver on what we say, if we’ve given you our word, it’s our word and we’re getting it done. You have to quickly adapt and get moving. It’s not talked about enough, but it’s something that is very important that people are aware of that being a civilian, it’s got its challenges. It’s very much a challenge too, for service members cuz there’s some times where we don’t know where they’re gonna be or we don’t know if they’re coming home. That’s a reality. There are days that I remember just him being active and not knowing, okay, they’ve said they’re around this area, but they can’t say exactly where he is. Tying in those values there and making it a part of this structure that we have as we approach anyone that’s involved with us. Past, present, that’s the values we stand on and our support for military is, a thousand percent.
Wonderful. Thank you for sharing all those details from that perspective and thank you as well for your service and support of a service member and what you and your family had to endure through. Switching gears for a second, it sounds like you’ve been able to leverage the capabilities of interns in your business. How has that worked for you? Any pro tips for those that maybe also want to leverage interns?
Started the Remote Internship program very early on.It was something that was very important to me to incorporate into the business because I’m not that far off in years. Again, not sharing age. I remembered those days, what it was like being an intern and hoping for the chance to, let me try something. Let me do a press release. Let me do something other than grabbing you coffee and your lunch. Let me get that experience cuz that’s what I’m here for. I one wanted to make sure that there was some kind of educational element to it. Also, I wanted it to be accessible, so that’s why I left it as a remote internship program. Being able to leverage those opportunities, especially with interns, has been very beneficial, especially when we first got started because ,as many small businesses, startups, as you’re getting started, you’re working on very few folks, if any as you’re getting your business going. Interns offer that opportunity for you to have some of those areas fill in the gaps, but it’s very much in an educational space cuz you have to remember these interns are here to learn and here to shadow. Those are the things that we focus on. Social media is another big one. Thankfully all of them, in growing up in the social media age, they absolutely love that part because then they’re allowed to be creative. They’re allowed to create their own copy and content, and from there we actually grade it and give them some feedback, give them some recommendations and ideas as they move forward. They take that information and they run with it, but we make it that way so that they not only have that opportunity to learn, but we’re also fulfilling a need that we may have as well. We try to put them in spaces where they can do well and if there’s a mistake that happened, it’s not gonna be something that, now it’s going to take my business. Cuz we don’t want that. We want this to keep going, but there’s plenty of room for learning.
What a good perspective, not only for how you should think about internships, but also even entry level positions. There’s certain things that you’re gonna let them do in the real world, but also giving them some of those practice opportunities to try on some bigger, more higher level projects. You don’t have to suffer if there’s mistakes, but they also get the experience. You mentioned a lot of your clients are public figures or even celebrities. Any cool clients or projects or stories you can share relative to some of the work you’ve done?
The first one that comes to mind, last year we worked with a hybrid concert venue called Live On Festival, they were a New Hampshire based business. They had created this app where artists could perform, they could have their concerts streamed through the app, but they could also have their physical events as well. If you guys remember, this was early2021,I wanna say January, when we were working with them. We were still very much in pandemic, which birthed this app. They came to us as a startup, and were like, hey, we need some help with promoting our first event. We’re still fairly new, but we know there’s value in PR and we absolutely need it, especially because we’re new and nobody knows about us. With this project, we took what they had, took their budget, and we were just brainstorming. We said, okay, so what can we do to help leverage media and also opportunities for them, to get them the most exposure that we can?First things first, we did our research. We were able to connect with local media as well as some national media in order to share what was going on, what was happening and we were able to get some amazing hits very early on with the concert itself. It was awesome too, that we had a country artist, April Kushman, and she’s amazing. If you haven’t heard her music, you definitely gotta check her out. Having that connection and having that opportunity to have her perform was an amazing experience. Not only for us, because this was the first time that we had to handle a concert to that magnitude, but also, we’re based here, originally it was Oklahoma and now in Texas, we’re south, we’re warm and we’re chilling out here. At that time, they’re snowing. I think they were going through a blizzard or something like. It was a lot of stuff going on. We had to think smart and prepare strategies that made it effective and was going to allow us to do as much outreach as we could, and the result of the event, it was a sold out event. They ended up scheduling more activities, more events following that. I think the last correspondence I had with them, they were planning something with Dolly Parton, which, we already raised our hand and said, hey, we are here and available. Cuz I’m originally from Nashville, so Dolly is like a Demigoddess, and I would love to meet her. That was one of the coolest projects I got to work on, this hybrid concert venue app inaugural concert in a very small market in New Hampshire, and being able to get some really successful results in it. Another one, I think it was around the time that I was working at another agency and we had put together a three day event for a former Seattle Seahawks player Kam Chancellor, he was a huge deal at that time. It was a three day event, thousands of people attending. It was a gala, it was a community event portion to the three day. The final day was hanging out at the local skating rink where he got to go out there and attend with the kids and get some really good press opportunities there. That was another really exciting event to support and be a part of. Largely because of all the celebrities that would pop in and out and say hello. I met the guy from Maze Runner, I forget his name off the top of my head, but I was like, oh my gosh, that’s the guy from Maze Runner. And then there was another NFL player. Who does he play for? Oh,that’s Giants. Oh,there’s Dallas Cowboys. Oh,you must have came in. Oh, there’s Alan Iverson. Apparently, I had no idea, Alan Iverson is from the Newport News area in Virginia where we were at. He just attends events just at random, he’ll just pop up because it’s like his hometown. It was like, oh snap. I remember you on my poster in my locker with the milk mustache. This is amazing. I’m not gonna fan girl because I’m professional right now, but I am jumping for joy inside. These are all my nineties and two thousands people that I’ve seen and this is really cool. That was a fun opportunity too, just to be able to work on something to that level with the amount of folks that were involved with it.
Did you in fact, get to meet Dolly Parton?
I have not gotten to meet her. No.
There’s still time. Apparently she’s gonna live forever, so there is still time.
What are you most proud of thus far as your time as an agency owner?
I would have to say what I’m most proud of is our resiliency ,and the team behind Brandinc PR. I would not be able to be successful without the team. It’s only been three years, we’re still growing, we’re still getting out of that toddler phase, if you will. To be able to have the resiliency that we’ve had I think speaks volumes about the vision that I had for this company, what it was going to do and who it was gonna support. The first things that I think of is those early days, in the pandemic, having to navigate and try to build up a team. Not everybody stayed along for the ride. There’s some that were there for a little while and then some that stuck around. To go through all of that, it really speaks to the resiliency because we’re still here and we’re still growing. We’re adding services, adding new industries that we’re supporting. We’re scaling, and that, I think, is the important thing. You never wanna be stagnant. You never wanna be in one space. I feel like for us ,that’s where that resiliency comes in, where we have continued to bounce back. I owe it all to the team that’s behind all of these things that make it happen. I’m the face, but there is, trust me,10,sometimes20people,depending on what project we have going on that are right behind me. Making sure that these things go according to plan. We get the results that our clients are looking for and we’re making it happen.
Where do you see Brandinc PR going from here?
I definitely see it growing. That of course is the goal of every entrepreneur and business owner, you wanna see your business grow and continue to scale. I see in addition to Austin being our new office space, going back to Nashville and doing something there because Nashville is such a hub for music, entertainment, as well as startups. There’s been a lot of growth in those areas. We want to essentially ride that wave. This is where the innovation is happening, this is where the new things are happening, and we wanna be a part of that and help support those businesses as much as possible.
Last question for you today.Are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
I personally think that they are made,but there is something in an entrepreneur that is just innate. It’s that drive, it’s that passion, that independence. Not everybody is going to be that person to go against the grain. I think that’s where your entrepreneurial mindset comes in. That person knows what that feels like. They’re not gonna be excited or ready to jump into that nine to five. No,they wanna look at the other option. They’re gonna be that person that, let me see what I can do. Let me put some ideas together. They’re gonna be that one that goes outside of the box a hundred percent. There are probably those that have a nine to five now that are sitting there thinking I’ve always had this idea. You’ve got the entrepreneurial mindset. Now it’s up to you to do something with it. But for the most part, outside of that piece there, that sets entrepreneurs in a different space, I do think that they can be made. It’s something that you have to learn. You have to go through those experiences. Everybody learns different. There’s visual, there’s audio. There’s those that like, show me what you’re talking about. However which way you learn ,you can get to where you need to go when that information is presented and you’re willing to go for it. That’s where it comes from, is you can go through that education and get those experiences that you’re looking for to get yourself going. Some of the best business owners in history have not had formal education. First thought, Zuckerberg, he’s one of them. He went to school, but he didn’t finish. Bill Gates, he didn’t finish, I think Warren Buffett’s on there too. Some of the most notable names that we’ve grown to recognize for their business savvy and their entrepreneurship, they didn’t get formal education. What that tells me is a lot of what they learned was through experiences. Let’s try it out. It works great. If it doesn’t, I’m not gonna do that again. The same way that we learned in life as toddlers.
As a history major, I can tell you how much that worked out for me in business. Not a whole lot. I went to school and didn’t major anything remotely related to business. If people wanna know more about Brandinc PR, where can they go?
They can head to the website, brandinpr.com. Also check us out on social media. Our handle is brandincPR as well. I would love to connect if there’s any questions that you have about services or just wanna find out a little bit more about PR.
So many great takeaways from the show today. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing all those wonderful stories. I appreciate you being on the show today, Brandi.
Absolutely. I’m happy to be here and definitely enjoyed this conversation. This was fun.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. Are you interested in being a guest on the show? Send an email to email@example.com. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction.Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to 5million dollars and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.
One of our first tech clients, got them onboarded, got them set up, an idea of this is what our process is gonna be, this is what we’re gonna be working on, this we’re gonna be doing to help kickstart your campaign. They were super excited, ready to go, had all their materials. We were hitting the ground running ,so started off getting really good press. Building up from the local all the way up to the national level. One day we actually locked down an interview, one of their first interviews live with a nationally syndicated program through iHeartRadio. Huge, major opportunity. Prior to every interview, what we do is we’ll have what we call a media brief and it’s basically our opportunity where we break down, okay, here’s who’s interviewing you. Here are the questions. This is what we’re discussing. This is the information they have about you and any additional materials and things that they need to know. Sometimes we’ll practice too, if they don’t feel comfortable with interviewing, we’ll practice with them just so that they can get a little bit more confident in answering questions and how they need to respond and behave with those things. Next day we’re getting ready to jump on this interview and everything’s fine. Tech is fine. Mics are good. They’re getting on, and the interview starts. It’s going great. Everyone’s talking, everyone’s engaged, going back and forth. Here he is, kid you not, just sitting froze on camera. The worst part about, it was almost a 45minute long interview. Literally you’re getting all of this great sound bites and information, but very little from him. It’s like ping pong, you can see him smiling, you could see him going back and forth, watching everybody else responding to things, and we were just sitting there, say something, you have to say something. You cannot let this interview go off without saying anything otherwise, why are you here?This is not what we practiced. As soon as they were doing the call, okay, what would you like to share? Giving him that space to talk about it, he opened up and started talking about what he was doing in tech and what was going on with his app and all of these wonderful things. But it wasn’t until the very end. We were able to get him, with some pushing, you have to say something, you cannot sit on here any longer. It has gone on too long. You’ve gotta get in there. Thankfully, we reached out to their team and just asked hey, he was a little bit nervous and froze up there, but can you cut it and make it look nice, please? They were so awesome about it, they were just like, oh yeah, no, it’s no problem. Something about the red dot and that now recording, it makes people freeze up. I did talk it over with my team and was like, maybe we should practice with something with red dots so it’s not triggering for them.
Red dot therapy.
Red dot therapy.
Thank goodness for the power of editing.