An Exclusive Interview With Emerald-Jane Hunter, CEO and Founder of myWhy Agency
Q: What inspired you to want to launch a business?
EJH: At the core of who I am, I think I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I think I was born to be an entrepreneur. I enjoy the autonomy. I enjoy being my own boss and being able to make an impact. I’ve got a lot of heart and a lot of passion for what I want to see happen for other entrepreneurs in their businesses—and I’m just so happy that I’m able to do what I do.
I was inspired to launch this business after 15 years working in television, where I’d been in touch with a lot of publicists and people in the market and the industry, trying to create awareness for their clients. In the last show I worked on, publicity pictures from publicists had to come through me, and I found that something was missing—at the core, there was a lack of storytelling. A lot of traditional publicists were so focused on just landing the pitch that they were missing out on the opportunity to weave a great story—the founder story or the brand story, for example—into the pitch. I saw that as a missing link and felt really passionate about it because I think storytelling is the key to marketing success.
So, I was inspired! After leaving television, I worked a short 6-month stint for a local marketing agency. I observed what they were doing with their clients and the impact that could be made. I oversaw 40 brands while I was working there, and the management level just totally re-energized me. I knew this was something I was passionate about, something I would be interested in doing. Primarily, as a woman of color—there aren't many of us in this industry—I really wanted to leverage my Rolodex and my skill set to make an impact, not only for Black-owned businesses but also for brands and businesses that truly care about knowing how to communicate to a diverse audience.
So, yes, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur—but what I really wanted was to make an impact. I named my agency “myWHY Agency” because I read this book by Simon Sinek where he just said, “Start with why.” People who start businesses with a solid why are usually more successful. Focus on why you’re in business, not necessarily the what or the how or the money behind it. I’m so passionate about what I do that if I didn’t need money, I would do what I do for free, just to help other businesses get the visibility they need and help them grow.
Q: What type of business do you operate?
EJH: myWHY Agency is an integrated marketing agency—Black-owned and women-led—and based on lessons I learned as a four-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer; I’ve chosen to focus on a few specific industries.
When it comes to brands, myWHY Agency is niched in working with organic and natural CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands, which includes organic and natural food, beverage, lifestyle, and beauty products. We’re also passionate about working with BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and other people of color)-owned and female-owned brands, and we've got a few nonprofit organizations as well. I’m really passionate about the nonprofit space, knowing that that industry could really use our support. A lot of nonprofits are doing such great work but, just by nature, money doesn’t always funnel through to them the way it really should, especially as compared to for-profit organizations.
Q: What are some of the key challenges in PR that most startups face?
EJH: For a startup PR agency, one of the key challenges is communicating why people need PR. The marketing and PR industry has been so diluted in recent years; anybody and everybody out there is a publicist now, thinking they can just make the connection and make things happen. But true PR takes much more than that.
Truly effective PR is rooted in strategy and planning—and in creativity and storytelling. It’s not just saying, “Hey, I know this person; I’ll make a call, and I’ll land you on there,” and that’s it. You’ve got to understand what the client’s goals are, what their KPIs are (key performance indicators). You’ve got to understand that once that placement has been landed, you’ve always got to be asking yourself what else is there that that placement can do for the brand. With everything you place, you want to be holistically guiding your clients in the right way.
So, the key challenge for a startup PR agency is really communicating and sharing with potential clients why they need PR and helping them understand the impact that PR can make for their business—and helping them understand that PR is not sales. Everybody wants instant sales, but they need to understand that PR also has an amazing role to play.
Q: Can you give us one example of how you took a brand and made it successful?
EJH: I can give several examples on this. One example that I'm going to choose to use is a brand called MadeGood. It's a Canadian brand, and I started working with them January of 2018. And this was my first brand client, and it was a brand that I was very passionate about to the core. As in, I would lose sleep, I would not sleep, I would do everything I could because I was passionate about the business and wanting to see it grow. When I first started with that account, and I would pitch to media - I did PR and influencer marketing for them - I remember when a lot of media outlets and reporters had no idea what MadeGood was. And to see the work that we've done, obviously in partnership with other marketing tactics and other people within the company - not just us alone. But to see where we've been able to support the brand to get to, and now, you know, MadeGood can be found anywhere and everywhere – Target, Whole Foods, people know the name. And I'm really proud to say that I supported the launch of that brand into the US marketplace, as well as their Canadian PR and influencer marketing efforts, as well.
And then, at some point, we took over the entire social media, organic social media, and then we took over all their paid social media, as well as creating content - video and photography content - for use by the brand for social media. So, it was great to see how I started on as just one brand client, just doing one tiny little service, and seeing the expansion that came from honestly my team and I doing good work.
Q: How can people reach you?
EJH: People can follow me personally on Instagram at emeraldjanehunter (all one word). Follow the agency at myWhy Agency, follow both of us on LinkedIn - look us up on LinkedIn. I'd love to connect that way. And yeah, check out our website at www.mywhyagency.com. We've got lots of case studies there, and samples of brands that we work with, and stories that we tell, and I'm looking forward to being able to tell more of these stories across the board.