Annette Densham: Setbacks Are a Steppingstone

The Path-breaking Journey of 10 Inspiring Businesswomen

She was a book worm as a child. Her family moved around a lot when she was small, and they were never in one place more than a year so making friends was always challenging. Being shy and quiet, she would retreat to the library to be with her ‘friends’ – books. Books never judge you, make you feel small or say nasty things to you. By the time she hit 10, she was asked about her career options.  Like many children of her generation, she had dreams of being a nurse, a doctor or a lawyer but when asked this question she started to think about what she like to do. It seemed to her that if she was going to do something all day then it would have to be something she enjoyed.  She researched the types of jobs that let you write stories and read for a living and she came across journalism. It ticked all her little 10-year-old boxes.  This decision started a journey that led her to starting a PR agency, and Publicity Genie followed by the Audacious Agency was born.  She is a woman of power, she is a leader of passion, she is Annette Densham, and this is her success story.

The Challenges Could Not Stop Her

Annette’s dream was to be an investigative reporter, uncovering the big stories that made a difference to the world. Everything she did until she left high school (beside a few wobbles along the way) was dedicated to getting a job as a journalist. She worked in the media for a while, but the newspaper world did not suit her – “I am not good at playing games and being nice to people who are horrible to you. It was cutthroat world dominated by men and I did not fit.”, she says.

She walked away from her dream and started working in corporate communications for not for profit organisations, which suited her a lot more. This is where purpose met practicalities. Annette loved being able to use her storytelling skills to make an impact, to share the stories of the people the organisations she worked for represented. Until the day came, where her role and others in the marketing department were ‘downsized due to financial changes’. A fancy word for ‘we don’t want you and are going to find someone cheaper to do the work’.

Annette was at a crossroad. She was in her mid-40s, her confidence had taken a beating and the city she lived in was facing large scale public service redundancies. She felt she had no hope of getting another job in her field.  Having never ran a business or been part of running a small business, Annette did not see this as a viable option. She started looking for any type of job she could get…until her friend took her to a weekend seminar about how to use your expertise to build a business using webinars. She finally realised her decades in the media and communications had value and she could use it to start a business to help others and generate an income for her.  The Audacious Agency was created and over the past six years she has worked with 100s of small businesses helping them generate publicity through media stories, blogs and other content and how to enter and leverage awards.

She Endured Every Setback

After almost three decades as an employee, working for organisations backed with systems, processes, procedures and resources, Annette had no idea how to run and build a business. All she had were her skills and expertise in journalism and writing. She had no skills in financial management, administration or customer service. Annette had to learn all of this on the ‘job’. She made many mistakes and it took her longer than she would have liked to get to the point where business ran smoothly.

“On a personal note, my youngest son is on the autism spectrum. This has caused a lot of challenges as our school system is not geared to nurture people like him.” For the first eight years of his school life, there were many interruptions to his education; suspensions, flexible hours and support appointments that ate into business building time.  For the first few years of her business, her son was suspended from school losing over 250 days of school. Family comes first and ensuring he was cared for and supported through these hard times was her priority. It did hinder the growth of Publicity Genie; work was delayed, jobs not finished on time and many hours of lost productive time.  However, they got through it and he is happily settled in a school that is empathetic, understanding and nurturing. Eventually, the business picked up speed and started growing.

The Services of The Audacious Agency

Their job is to help their clients be the go-to experts in their field, to be the authority and leader in their space. They do this by taking their stories, tapping into their skills as journalists and writers to create compelling media angles and content for guest contributions to blogs and online magazines, writing award winning submissions, securing interviews with podcasters and online TV programs, promoting their books, service and products on as many platforms as they can. They liken it to dropping breadcrumbs that lead a prospective customer back to the business, so by the time you are ready to buy, know, like and trust is well established. Content is such a great way to build relationships. They believe Modern PR is all about subtly and creating the perception that a person is everywhere providing helpful useful and inspiring content.

The Growth Strategy of the Company

This year, Annette has joined forces with Lauren Clemett, who is an award-winning personal branding specialist. They orbited around each other, crossing paths at networking events and online, but it wasn’t until Annette suggested Lauren, she should enter an award, that they really got talking. Of course, having worked for award winning advertising agencies, Lauren thought awards were ‘just an ego trip’, but Annette cleverly convinced her otherwise as she had been writing winning award entries for many years for corporate clients and now PR clients. Annette knew the power of an award for PR leverage. One silver Asia Pacific Stevie Award later, Lauren suggested to me ‘there’s something in this!”. They partnered to develop the Award-Winning Accelerator program, holding events and webinars, helping people enter, win and leverage awards.

Two years ago, they attended the Stevie Awards for Women in Business in New York with a group of women, coming away with armfuls of awards for themselves and the businesses they helped. It was interesting getting back through customs with all that metal. On a cool day early this year, they had a brainstorm in a teacup (at least it was over a pot or two of tea) and decided ‘why are we doing this separately, we should join forces.’

So, they did. The Audacious Agency was born. The rest is history. Offering the entire personal branding journey from brand identity, target avatar and brand story through to online presence, best-selling authorship and awards, to planning content and gaining publicity to stand out, be seen and heard, it’s the ideal agency (multi award winning) for SMEs and entrepreneurs who want to stand out from the competition.

Leading Her Company to Success

Annette was a stay at home mum for 10 years, raising two boys. But as a woman, it was not a high paying job, in fact financially they went backwards. For Annette, it was important to be home for their children. She was the child of a single mother, and as a latch key kid, she would come home to an empty house. “I am not complaining because it made me resilient, tough, independent and resourceful but I feel both mum and my sister and I missed out on important connections with each other.” In her true resourceful way, she found jobs that she could do on her computer or from home. Annette delivered newspapers, folded flyers, did casual government work and was a call centre operator …and got back into journalism as a freelance writer.  She did what she had to, to make ends meet.

By the time her youngest was six, she was itching to get back to work. Annette got a job as a publication’s editor with a large not for profit and her learning continued. She became a better writer with this organisation because her boss, who was a stickler for details, pushed and pushed her. At the time, it annoyed her but looking back Annette is so grateful to her boss for seeing the talent in her and for helping her hone it. She went onto work as a communication manager with another not for profit managing internal and external communications until that fateful day, she was told she was no longer needed. In hindsight, it was the best thing to happen to her which led her to becoming a woman who defined her own path.

“Because we are a new agency, a small agency, my role two-fold – I am responsible for marketing an promoting the business to secure leads and new clients and to produce the work for those clients.  I love the writing aspect of my role; there’s nothing better than sinking your teeth into a good story from start to end, teasing the details out of often reluctant businesses who are uncomfortable with being in the spotlight (who love the results when their story appears in the media).”, Annette, shares.

“I get a real kick, even after all these years, of seeing stories I have helped create get a run in the media or a client who wins an award or does a podcast interview or whose sales increase because they are easier to find because of the content we have created that helps with their SEO.”, she adds.

The Vision of a Growing Company

Next year they are launching an authority building package for entrepreneurs who want to make a massive dent in their marketing and PR. This package is a 12-month program that takes them through the personal branding process, to writing a book, entering and winning awards and securing media placements to lock in third party credibility. By the end of the 12 months, when the client or a prospective client Googles the person, they dominate in their space, keywords and pages and pages on Google.

They will be building their team, bringing on another PR person and an award writing specialist as Lauren and Annette focus on client relationships and encouraging more and more people to enter awards. They will continue marketing the business the same way they do for their clients – publishing bestselling books on their area of expertise, winning awards that reflect their specialties, having articles published in well-respected publications, being featured on podcasts and online TV shows, showing up in social media groups providing helpful and useful knowledge for free, hosting their own webinars, through their Weekly Rocket subscription service and leveraging all they do.

“It is going to be an exciting few years as Publicity Genie folds into The Audacious Agency; seeing where we are going, what we want to do and how we are going to do it is highly motivating.” She works with business coach Anthea Horvat and she has encouraged Annette to write goals – looking at those goals on paper for financial success, personal success, wellbeing success and the success of her family and the things we they do together is thrilling. “I can see where I am going. It amazes me that in my middle years, I am finally where I always thought I should be. The vision I had of myself as a younger woman is the one, I see when I look in the mirror now.”, Annette, exclaims.

A Message from a Leading Businesswoman to the Aspiring Businesswomen

“Unless you take charge of telling your stories, someone else will. You have to dictate how you show up in the marketplace, how you use social media effectively, how you place your stories in the media and how you celebrate or acknowledge your wins (which you should by the way). Remember that business success is driven by two things – your bottom line (and making money and sales isn’t dirty or wrong; it’s called business) and your purpose – when things get tough and the roller coaster of business has dropped you to the bottom of the loop, that is what will keep you going. But you must be working towards both. I come across a lot of women who shy away from sales because they don’t want to be pushy or it makes them feel uncomfortable. That is not going to put food on the table or give your family great holidays or whatever it is you want out of life. Money is how we help others and ourselves. If you authentically show up, do your best and provide great service, it is ok to prosper from this.”