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Aniesia Williams is the heart and soul of brand integration and content

Aniesia Williams is the heart and soul of brand integration and content
Photo Credit: Aniesia Williams

Aniesia Williams knows the fabric of what makes a company move and a brand become a household name. She’s a brand strategist, journalist, and content creator for multiple industries. Her resume includes working relationships with companies such as Lincoln, Lionsgate, Mercedes Benz, and more. She also runs and was recently named director of content at Barkley, which is an integrated marketing and ad agency in Kansas City.

How did your career start in communications?
My career was fueled by my education from NC A&T State University and the University of Phoenix. However, I’ve built the substantial part of my career experience in brand strategy, new media marketing, and lifestyle entertainment by working with major brands and organizations. I’ve always been laser-focused on becoming a “branding beast.” So the groundwork for my career which included internships, event hosting and heavy networking coupled with my tenacious drive to be known for my media mastery built my platform for where I am today.

Companies such as Lincoln, Family Dollar, and HP have all come to you for insight. When working with your personal brand, how do you implement your expertise to get the job done?
I’m a hands-on type of director. I like the “dirty” work as much as I like the recognition. From our first engagement, I’m digging for information on the brand from multiple angles. I want to know what they think of themselves and what they think their consumers think of them. I also want to know the “truth” about what consumers think of them, so I spend tons of time on social media investigating and observing. The rest is a trade secret. But none of it could be done without trusting myself and what I bring to the table and relying on my peers and colleagues to do the work that supports the brand’s goals.

Barkley is one of the biggest ad agencies in the nation. As the director of content, what are some current issues that you see in the marketplace of advertisements?
While I think the advertising industry is working towards inclusiveness and diversity, it certainly hasn’t gotten “all the way” there. And ironically, even when the industry is being inclusive, the storytelling content isn’t really speaking the appropriate language to the audiences. I think Barkley is definitely one of the agencies that are looking at these issues internally and externally. Their workforce is diverse and welcoming, which is an internal gesture. And externally, they’re paying attention to the minority-owned brands and treating them like the “big players” that they are. There’s so much work to do in this industry, but I’m glad to be a part of a team that doesn’t mind getting the job done.

How did social media change the way we view major brands and companies?
Social media shows us that consumers are the folks in charge of the major brands. When you sit back and observe how consumers publicly speak about a brand, react to their advertisements and potentially impact the bottom-lines of these brands, then you can see that social media is the tool that propels where a brand can and should go. When consumers want insight and feedback about a buying experience, they don’t turn to the testimonials page of the company’s website; they hop on social media and let their peers guide their buying decisions. That’s pretty powerful.

How important is it for people of diverse backgrounds to have a seat at these important companies tables, especially considering racially insenstive ads produced by Dove and H&M?
In my opinion, you can’t focus on the brand and ignore the audience. If all of your work is about “what makes our business better”, without questioning how your consumers are engaging and perceiving your brand, then you’ll run into some serious complications. This is so true when it comes to how you market to and build relationships with diverse audiences. Without diverse people at the table who know what it’s like to interact with and represent their own people, companies are assuming that the messages and images they’re sending are correct. It’s impossible to be an authority or true representative for another culture without respecting where they’re coming from, hearing their voices and reflecting their needs. So if you’re going to include diverse people in the ads, also include them in the messaging, the development of the ads, the strategy and the nuts and bolts of the whole conversation.

Tell me about your website, is a microsite that highlights brands, entertainment, and destinations around the world. It really focuses on how brands are engaging with their audiences and creating experiences that set them apart from others in the marketplace. I like to think of it as it sets the trend instead of talking about the trends. It has a heavy branding and marketing overlay that’s relatable to everyday casual readers. So, while you’re reading a post about New York Fashion Week, you’re also becoming educated and enamored by the brands that we highlight which participated in NYFW. There’s a residual effect happening simply by reading a post/or scanning our galleries. You see it, get educated on it, become curious and eventually become a consumer—no matter where in the world that company is located.

What are three things entrepreneurs can do to garner more revenue and awareness for their company?
While there’s no “formula” that I can offer, especially without knowing their business and engaging with it, I can say that three things to benefit your brand are 1) spending significant time understanding your business and what it sells. This goes beyond the product or service that you’re offering. You’re also selling a message, an experience, an opportunity and a story. Get to know what those things mean for your brand. 2) Paying attention to what’s going on in your industry. This means paying attention to the consumers, competitors, suppliers and the entire marketplace. Don’t only look inward (within your organizational goals), look outward and see how you can impact and capitalize on the current and future market. And finally, 3) Invest in branding + marketing strategy. Investments include time and money. If you’ve been ignoring your story and your positioning then you’re missing out on critical opportunities to make money and drive the attention to your brand.

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