Behind The Click: Amber Allen Tackles Digital Communications With Her Firm, Nella House
LdC: Were there any digital strategies to implement at that time or was it simply too early?
AA: I concentrated my studies in digital comms and social media at Georgetown, and before ASP I worked on a social media project for the U.S. Army. I love, and think I get, digital. Yet, having to implement a digital strategy with a lean-to-nonexistent team is difficult. I created a digital strategy for our organization that was basic and community building-focused. My most impressive achievement was using a digital tool (SlideShare) in a creative way to convey messages about one of our major nuclear security education initiatives. It was a platform that the community had not really used and it definitely made ASP stand out in the consortium of similar organizations who were not largely using the gamut of social media tools to convey and easily share messages to the greater public online.
LdC: What lead you to start your own firm?
AA: It happens: organizations struggle financially, and then layoffs. I fell into this category, but the entrepreneur has been burning inside of me and an opportunity came. I also became part of ColorComm: Women of Color in Communications and I kept meeting successful business owners who kept saying, “You can do it, Amber! You can do it!” So with faith, a plan, and a leap, I did it. I started Nella House this year.
In just seven months, I have worked with songwriter-producer Terri J., Precious Joubert and the Sound of the City Band, Urbane Lifestyle & Entertainment Group, Guardian Six Consulting, author John D. Steinbruner, nuclear security expert Dr. Janne E. Nolan, wellness expert Dr. Roger Jahnke, and many individuals and job-seekers looking for branding assistance, social media training, and communications consulting.
LdC: So what are the biggest challenges in creating digital strategies for your clients?
AA: Clients have to understand that returns on digital engagement take time… and that you have be strategic and interesting. I mean, I’m looking at the companies and clients from my past and I see they are doing well gaining tons fans and followers, whereas when I was working with them, we were happy to see a few trickle in here and there. Capacity and time can be a challenge when you’re an independent consultant, so you train and advise your client on how to participate and streamline their engagement independently. The best consultants have special strategies and tactics that make the client stand-out and interesting. In just seven months of operation, Nella House is building its success stories, with branding and community-building as the focus.
LdC: So now talk to me a bit more about the professional organization that you mentioned earlier. How did you learn about ColorComm?
AA: My Spelman sister, Lauren Wesley Wilson, founded ColorComm: Women of Color in Communications. Lauren is a young visionary. She set out to create a networking group for women of color in communications to gather and connect in an intimate setting (lunch), and discover more about one another. Colorcomm’s mission is to personally connect women of color in the communications industry with other like-minded individuals and to build a strong network of leaders by creating mentors, mentees, business relationships, and friendships. I am the director of operations for this amazing organization.
LdC: How important is it for women of color to belong to organizations such as this?
AA: There is value in connecting with like-minded professionals that are successful and/or are striving for success if that resonates with you. Women of color in the communications share a similar professional experience in that we are an underrepresented community in the industry. So, there’s that connection with others who share a similar experience that is also valuable. It’s that feeling: I can be in that VP, CEO, or board position because she is there, and she’s like me… She’s breaking barriers for me. We connect over weekday lunches in varying restaurants. We have early morning power coffees. We keep our events rather small in size so everyone gets to know others in the room. We ask our members about their needs so we can connect them with the right people. And, we have chapters in D.C., Chicago, and New York.
LdC: What advice do you have for readers trying to better prepare themselves for work in digital communication?
AA: Read relentlessly. That’s just the world we live in today. All the information is available, you just have to find out where it is. Google helps with that. So does Mashable, Social Media Examiner, All Things Digital, Harvard Business Review, all the tech sections in the major newspapers online, all the business magazines, and all the entrepreneur magazines. The info is there, but I didn’t say it wasn’t overwhelming.
But, you need the experts to sift through the junk for you, and help make social media and digital work for you. You need a good PR person to weed out the barrage of awful gurus out there. You need to connect with someone who knows what they are talking about so you can at least follow what they’re reading, posting, and discussing. You need a custom digital strategy designed for you to make you successful. You need Nella House (Smile).
LdC: What’s your biggest goal for the remainder of 2012?
AA: I’m on that new business grind! I’m constantly trying to network and engage with good people and businesses who are looking to work with a company [like mine] that engages strategically and creates compelling, creative, stellar products.
Nella House is also taking a different approach to the changing nature of the communications industry and the way it does business, and I think I have a model worthy of investors. So, one of my goals is to acquire investors. This entrepreneurship thing requires ambition (hence @ambitiousamber).