Aniesia Williams was once named one of The Network Journal’s 40 Under Forty honorees, but that was just one of her achievements. Williams, an LA-based global senior brand strategist and expert multimedia journalist as well as TEDx speaker, is not one to rest on her laurels. She was recently named director of content for Kansas City, MO-based ad agency Barkley. She is the only African-American woman in a leadership role in the independent creative agency, which counts clients such as Applebee’s, Dairy Queen, Vanity Fair, March of Dimes, Hearst TV, among other top tier corporate clients on its roster.
Williams actually landed the post through social media, when someone reached out to her via Twitter. She tells TNJ.com more.
TNJ.com: How did the job opportunity come about?
Aniesia Williams: If anyone ever tells you that social media is good for nothing but social commentary, they obviously don’t know the power of these platforms. I’m heavy on Twitter (literally on the site most of the day, every day) and that’s how Barkley found me through #blkcreatives. The combination of my relentless tweets, passion for media and knack for understanding how brands become successful caught Barkley’s interest. Barkley knew that the best place to search for a new Director of Content is in our native habitat: social media. It’s that kind of foresight that got me excited about joining forces with the team here.
TNJ.com: What are your duties as Director of Content for ad agency Barkley?
Aniesia Williams: Create. Communicate. Collaborate. Those are the pillars of my duties. I work with brands such as Wingstop to create visual and written advertising pieces that communicate the power, uniqueness and story of their business and products. I collaborate with artists, marketers, content developers and other team members to come up with ahead-of-the-curve approaches to building, scaling and leveraging content and engagement thinking.
TNJ.com: What does it feel like being the only African-American woman in leadership here?
Aniesia Williams: I feel like a unicorn: this magical thing that sparks curiosity and encourages creativity, except that I’m real. A Black woman in leadership is almost elusive when it comes to the corporate world, and especially when it comes to the advertising industry. However, I’m welcomed and acknowledged here. They know what I bring to the table, which is why working with Barkley is a good fit. My agenda, however, goes beyond my work here. The brands I manage and the influence I have will serve as a stepping stone for highlighting the work and contributions of other Black women in this space as well.
TNJ.com: You have done a great job in building your own brand. Why did you decide to do this?
Aniesia Williams: Simply put, I know what it takes to build a brand and make it work, so I want to see the fruits of my labor on a larger scale. I put the legwork in within this industry and built a nice portfolio for myself. That portfolio continues to open doors for me. But really, my passion is the actual work. I joined Barkley so I could take on bigger challenges than I could tackle as a team of one.
TNJ.com: How did this lead to your new job?
Aniesia Williams: I’ve always been laser-focused on becoming a “branding beast.” After I completed my MBA, I began building my career experience in brand strategy, new media marketing and lifestyle entertainment by working with major brands and organizations. Social media has been my power tool. I’ve used several platforms to engage with celebrities and organizations and position myself as a media maven with the sharp ability to develop brands from the inside out. I leveraged all of my assets to get to where I am. By being vocal, going above and beyond, consistently delivering quantifiable and high quality content, I was introduced to this opportunity with Barkley. While all of the work I did on my end certainly qualified me for this opportunity, Barkley has had a steadfast initiative to diversify their workforce. So coming on board as the Director of Content really fulfilled both of our professional agendas. I think our relationship is a great one because we’re aligned with our efforts creatively and socially. We’ll be able to incite change and inclusiveness in the advertising industry. My voice is valuable to them. And their platform is valuable to me. I’m very appreciative and excited for what’s to come.
TNJ.com: What advice would you give to others wanting to brand themselves?
Aniesia Williams: Be your best client. Look at yourself the same way you would look at a high-paying, highly influential client and advocate for yourself from that perspective.. If you play small and shy, you’ll get swept under the rug. Become known for something—and that something should authentically represent who you are and what you want to do. The moment you try to brand yourself as something you’re not, people will be able to see right through you. Your brand, personal or professional, will begin to suffer a crisis. Avoid all of that by treating yourself like the best client in the world.