Why She Left a Successful Corporate Career to Start Her Own PR Agency — PR Pro Spotlight ft. Anika JacksonJan 25, 2022
“When you find that thing that really sparks and makes you want to work hard every day, you have to follow that passion.”
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live a life you love running a PR agency and working with your dream clients? Our PR Pro Spotlight Series interviews our students and community members who have made the leap into PR and found huge success!
We’ll be covering all the juicy insider details, from their biggest challenges and favorite parts of the job to their best advice for aspiring PR pros.
Today, we’re sitting down with the amazing Anika Jackson, Founder of Anika PR! She’s a mother, community volunteer, philanthropist, and brand strategist...and she left a successful corporate career to start her own PR agency.
Tell us a little about your business and niche!
I’m the founder of Anika PR! I’ve bounced around and done lots of different things in my professional life, but I really felt like PR was where I wanted to be. That’s why I left my corporate career and started my agency.
When it comes to choosing a niche, I feel like when you first start an agency (or you’re getting back into PR after time away), it’s kind of like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
But for me (and the team I’ve built), what “stuck” is values. My niche is focused on working with clients who are in the social justice and equity spaces, and within those, we cover lots of different types of businesses, like tech products helping people with healthcare and mental health, products that help people build financial equity, nonprofits, and even entertainment clients who focus on building awareness for different movements.
So really, the way that I niched down is to focus on my values and the values that my team and I promote...and that shows up in working with minority entrepreneurs, nonprofits, tech businesses, and entertainment clients—but all on projects that have a positive social impact.
What were you doing before you became a PR pro?
My previous careers include being a stay-at-home mom, working at a marketing and PR firm, handling sales and marketing at various magazine publishers, working in property investment and management, and owning a retail pop-up and social club.
It’s a little all over the place, but basically, I started out on the marketing side of things almost three decades ago! I really loved working with publicists that we’d hired while I was in my corporate and magazine publishing roles. So I made a decision and left the corporate world.
After I made that choice, my life changed pretty significantly with some twists and turns. I didn’t end up coming back to Los Angeles until 2019...but when I did, I realized that what I really wanted was just to focus on PR and marketing again. I started my agency, hired my first team member in May of 2020, and have been growing from there!
Can you share some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a PR pro?
I'm going to be super transparent here—there have definitely been challenges along the way. I’m a single mom raising my daughter. When I moved back to the LA area in 2019 and had to basically start over, I didn't get alimony or have child support. I had a place to live and I had a car to drive...but there wasn’t much else.
At that point, I knew I wanted to stay in PR and marketing. But even finding a job and working for a company (because I've had different life experiences, different jobs, and even worked for myself) was a challenge because so many companies really want somebody who is a specialist. They don't want a generalist or to work with somebody who has done a whole bunch of different things...and that’s me! Once I realized that was the situation, I decided to just work independently as a PR agent, and then eventually I built an agency.
But raising my daughter on my own meant that I had to be sure it would work out...and after being away from PR for several years, the landscape had changed a LOT, and I felt like I had to prove myself all over again.
This caused a lot of self-doubts. I was on food stamps at the time, had poured money into moving back to LA from Houston...it really was time to start over. I worked with really low-paying clients just to get my foot in the door, show my value, prove myself, and become an integral part of their teams and structures.
That was a huge challenge, but it’s gotten so much better. Now, I’m much more comfortable and confident charging what I know I’m worth.
How did you find the Profitable PR Pros Community, and how long have you been a member?
I found the Profitable PR Pros community through two amazing women I met in a Boss Babes group. They were (and are) members of this community, and they recommended that I join!
Now, I’ve been a member for a few years and love the community as a whole.
What’s your favorite part about being a member of the Profitable PR Pros community?
I kind of have three favorites: the trainings, transparency, and templates!
There are so many resources, tips, and trainings shared inside the group. Everyone is so supportive and transparent, and it’s really just a refreshing community for the PR industry as a whole.
What inspired you to join our programs?
Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been in marketing and PR for a LONG time, but then spent time away when my life changed. I remember the days in PR where we’d write a press release and have to print it, fax it, and then call to confirm that the recipient actually received it. The internet was in its infancy then...and there definitely weren’t instant resources at your fingertips! (I know, I know—I’m totally aging myself here...but it’s important to understand just how much things have changed).
I had joined a group that wasn’t specific to PR at all. I met two lovely ladies, Tanya and Natasha. One day, Natasha mentioned Jen and that’s how I found the Profitable PR Pros community and all of her programs.
When I started looking through everything that she had to offer, I was totally like, “Oh my gosh!” I knew it was the component I’d been missing to help teach me what’s happening in today’s PR world, how I need to structure things, how to make sure that I’m building a viable business, how to think things through for clients, and how to handle everything more seamlessly from pitching to reporting.
Have our programs helped you experience positive transformations?
I’m a member of The Pitch Lab and The Agency Accelerator. And through this community I have been able to form so many amazing connections with other PR pros. We give and receive feedback, input, and assistance. Truly, the other people in this community have become my friends!
I love seeing people work together collaboratively—there’s no competition in the group and everyone approaches PR from the abundance mindset that there’s plenty of work for everyone.
What do you love MOST about the work you do and the clients you work with?
I love the work we do to promote our clients and their important causes—primarily social justice, mental health, and equity in education, healthcare, mental health, and finance.
When you find that thing that really sparks you and makes you want to work hard every day, you have to follow that passion. To be successful in PR, you have to not only love PR but love your clients, too. That’s the key to avoiding burnout!
In my agency, we used to take a lot of different types of clients, primarily in those spaces, but also some that were kind of outliers because they were friends or referrals. But what I've really realized (Jen, thank you—this is a large part due to your programs and the camaraderie and helpfulness inside them!) is that you don't have to take every client...and honestly, you shouldn’t.
Instead, you really do need to focus on finding clients that are intentional and aligned with who you are and what you're doing (and who can afford your services). Being able to say “no” is one of the HUGE things I’ve learned in your programs, but also, it’s one of the foundations of why I love working with our clients so much. They’re all aligned with our mission and niche, so work actually sparks joy.
What are some outlets you’ve secured features in for yourself and your clients?
We’ve secured features in Al Jazeera, on the Amazon Studios’ show Regular Hereos, and on Good Morning America. Those are some of my favorite features!
What advice would you give to aspiring PR pros?
Ooh, I like this question. The first thing would be to find a community like the Profitable PR Pros. You need to find a community of PR pros who are welcoming and willing to share advice and best practices with you.
As a new or aspiring PR pro, you have a different outlook, so you want to be a part of a community where people are supportive and won’t dismiss your ideas or viewpoints. There is so much information out there...so seek out those who are willing to share openly, but remember to give and take, not just take.
My second piece of advice is that if you're interning or working for another agency to get some additional knowledge and practice, just be a person of your word—show up when you say you're going to show up. It’s been really eye-opening as an agency owner trying to onboard interns lately...I’ve been shocked how many people don’t show up for scheduled meetings (and have really flaky excuses).
When you’re new and interning, take everything that’s thrown at you as an opportunity to learn...even if it doesn’t seem that exciting. That’s how you stand out and grow! Remember, you have a lot to learn, so listening is key. If you want to thrive in PR, you have to be willing to put in the work and constantly grow, learn, and evolve.
My final piece of advice is to take your time selecting a niche that works for you and lights you up. It took me a while to hone in on my (and my team's) zones of excellence, and it has changed over the course of the last year. And that is okay! It just means we’re focused on continued growth. It is important to narrow down your niche, but if you need to refine it, that can actually be a good thing.
We’re so grateful that Anika decided to share her story with us! We can all learn a lot from her passion and the way her journey in the PR world has been so unique. It’s a great reminder that although life takes twists and turns, it’s always possible to do work that truly lights you up.