283 Ashley Crouch: Breakout Buzz

Ashley Crouch knows how to build buzz for women entrepreneurs and experts by crafting compelling storylines that capture the imagination of national editors. Founder of Appleseed Communications, Ashley shares why it is never too soon to go for placement in the top titles:  It creates instant credibility and a proliferation of “as seen on” logos that make everything else easier from there, whether landing clients, raising your prices, or getting that Facebook ad campaign to convert.  We also talk about her passion lifting women in the developing world as the first 1-for-1 agency.

Melinda Wittstock:         Ashley, welcome to Wings.

Ashley Crouch:                  Thank you for having me, Melinda.

Melinda Wittstock:         I’m so excited to have you on the podcast, because we as founders can get so easily confused and overwhelmed by all the tactics and strategies out there to build our personal brands, to market our companies, to even price ourselves and all of that. And you have a very different way of looking at it, and I want you to explain why getting in mainstream media is really the foundation, one of the earliest things you should be doing in your business.

Ashley Crouch:                  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Perfect. Let’s dive in. Okay, so Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, says, “An individual can become a business in 60 seconds today.” Which is an extraordinary opportunity that we’ve never before seen in the history of humanity, and it allows so many people to leave the cubicle and work from home and purse financial freedom, which is super exciting. But here’s the deal. Once you say goodbye to the nine-to-five, you start to get a lot of advice. Advice about how you should be positioning yourself, and how to get your first client, and you need to be posting on Instagram everyday, and Facebook ads, and blogging, and the advice is never-ending.

So it’s very confusing for the new business owner to know how to set themselves apart when there are more freelancers and small businesses than ever before. What happens is they often get mired in the low-to-mid-tier crowd of noise, where everyone sounds exactly the same. And so what I say is when you have no platform you need to leverage another one. But you leverage a platform before you can build your own. And in the world that we live in today, one glance at a Facebook Newsfeed indicated that people know how to pay for Facebook ads, right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep.

Ashley Crouch:                  Every other post is an ad. Sponsored. And the consumer is getting smarter than ever. However, national media outlets still retain a level of gravitas and respect and trust and loyalty that not only gets you noticed, your friends share the article for you. So because of that, I say the number one thing you need to do when you get started in business is position yourself as a premier expert by landing national media feature as a breakout story. So what do I mean by breakout story? A breakout story is a profile on you or an article that demonstrates your thought-leadership and expertise, that you can then leverage to get clients, customers, et cetera.

And the awesome thing about this is it is the foundation of your business growth. Let me walk you through why that’s the case. People are probably thinking at this point, “But what if I don’t even have a website? I don’t even have a distant blog mention, I don’t even have head-shots. My LinkedIn looks terrible.” You can still get featured in national platforms using a system and formula that I’ve created in 30 to 60 days, even if you’ve never been featured anywhere before and you’re an entrepreneur with no tech skills. Here’s the benefit, I could teach people how to do that. This is the benefit: when you get featured in a breakout story, let’s say you’ve never been featured anywhere, all of a sudden you’re in Fast Company. You’re in Forbes.

Have you ever noticed how some people tend to come out of nowhere?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, absolutely. No, it’s true, right?

Ashley Crouch:                  That’s how. They suddenly are in all the right outlets, everything they touch turns to gold, they’re working with all the right influencers. Meanwhile, you’re spinning your wheels, competing on price in a feast or famine cycle, and you wonder what they know that you don’t. And what they know is a system, it’s a system in how to leverage national media to propel your business. So what happens when you land a breakout story, let’s say it’s in Fast Company or Forbes, you trigger what I call the domino effect. The domino effect is that suddenly all these other outlets get in line to feature you because they want to be seen as relevant, interesting, successful media platforms as well.

So how nice is that?

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. I love it when people talk about leverage, because it’s a concept that I’ve just noticed a lot of women entrepreneurs in particular, but entrepreneurs generally don’t understand. You do one thing that’s going to have a multiplier effect in advancing your business. And so it totally makes sense, I can see how all the dominoes fall. So you get into Fast Company and suddenly you have this like, “Wow, that’s cool.” And then everybody else … Suddenly you get a whole bunch of invitations onto a podcast, everybody else wants what Fast Company has. It goes on social media, all that gets done for you.

As long as you get that first article and making sure that it’s positioned right.

Ashley Crouch:                  Exactly. And let’s say … Okay, people … Oh, but I could never get in Fast Company because I’ve never been featured anywhere. And I’m from Illinois, or Indiana, I’m from some small town, I don’t even have a single contact. Let me give an example of how this works: a woman came to me, she’d been in business two years. Okay, so she’s still very much a startup, her first year was a failure, she restarted the second year. She was really struggling because she had no website traffic, barely any clients, she’s not profitable. And she was frustrated. She came to me and said, “This is now or never, I really need to get out there with my business, and I believe in it.” That’s the thing, you really …

She had something that could be life-changing for people, and that’s the case for so many of your listeners. You truly do have a system and a solution, but no one’s heard of it. So she came to me and said, “But I just don’t know if media’s going to work for me, I’ve never been featured anywhere.” So we started working with her, her name was [inaudible 00:19:10], we started working with her around her story. So many people do not know how to craft a story, and this is the confusing part of PR. People say, “Oh, tell your story, tell your story.” Well, Melinda, I’m self-taught, okay? I grew up on a farm in Arkansas with 100 chickens.

Melinda Wittstock:         You did? Okay, I’m going to have to ask you more about that in a moment. We’ll go back there.

Ashley Crouch:                  Okay, we’ll circle back to that.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes.

Ashley Crouch:                  When people … When I was first getting started in PR, people said, “Tell me story.” I had no idea what a good story was from a bad one, and a lot of people just getting started in media probably feel the same way. So what I’ve done after almost a decade of doing this is develop a special system of story archetypes that work again and again and again to get to a yes in national platforms. So I took that system, I started working with her; we crafted her story angle. Within 24 hours, she’s getting feedback from Inc. and Entrepreneur and Fast Company, and within a matter of weeks her first full profile on her ran in Fast Company.

That’s her first media feature ever. It doubled her traffic overnight, she got clients and customers immediately, started to develop partnerships with national organizations, and get this, Melinda Wittstock: Oprah Magazine saw the feature.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, my goodness. Right, yes. Oh, that’s … I totally get it.

Ashley Crouch:                  I have chills when I tell the story because Oprah Magazine reaches out to her and says, “We want to feature you as our Featured Trailblazer in our print magazine in the September issue.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh my goodness, so the September issue is always the big issue, right? People are back from the summer, they’re getting serious. Those are the magazines to be in, it’s kind of like if you’re in fashion you want to be in September Vogue.

Ashley Crouch:                  Exactly. So she gets featured, she didn’t even pitch Oprah Magazine. They came to her, and it goes from there. And that’s why I want people to know it’s never been easier to do this, but this is why the time is now, and I’m excited about it. Because I’ve seen it work time and time again, I can teach people how, and that’s just one example of how powerful it can be.

Melinda Wittstock:         So you said something interesting though, it’s about your story. And stories sell, because it’s really the experience, it’s the emotional connection that people remember, not the information.

Ashley Crouch:                  Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         And there’s so many entrepreneurs who get stuck in this like, “Oh, my product or my service does this, and we do this, and we do this, and we do that.” And it’s not … It’s not about the benefit to the customer, it’s not even about the customer. It’s kind of about them, and there’s no way to connect with that. So what sort of stories work? I mean I’m assuming they need to be really authentic, they need to be true to you.

Ashley Crouch:                  Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         But is the story about you, or is the story really about your customer? Or both? How does that work?

Ashley Crouch:                  Right. So you’re asking what happens when I open my mouth? Then what?

Melinda Wittstock:         Yes, you asked it in a much more succinct way. That’s really the important thing to know here.

Ashley Crouch:                  Yeah, okay. So let’s say you have a big goal to get featured in Forbes this year. Or Inc., or Entrepreneur. And you are so passionate about what you do. Here’s what you need to do: number one, this is why I’m different from everybody else who trains at PR. Number one: you need to start with empathy.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Crouch:                  Okay? You know your story better than anyone, but no one cares about it unless they know how it’s going to help them.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Crouch:                  So I build all my media campaigns based around empathy for the target customer. So you provide such a resource with this podcast and all your training programs to teach people how to market and find their target customer, so I’m assuming most people have a general idea. And with the target customer you need to drill down to think about what headline would my target customer click on? And when you start with empathy, all of a sudden you start to discover so many struggles, so many pain points, what keeps them up at night, what they are hoping for, the solution that you provide.

And from there, you craft story ideas in the form of a headline. Okay? So just imagine you’re … Melinda, I’m sure you read a magazine on a flight, or scrolling through your Forbes or Success Magazine, or Entrepreneur in the morning before work with your coffee, whatever. What are headlines that you typically like to click on? I’m sure there tends to be a pattern. And I’ve developed a system of story archetypes that anyone can plug and play to create winning, clickable headlines time and time again. So what headline archetype? I’ll give you … How about this, I’ll give you three examples right here.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, yeah. Great, awesome.

Ashley Crouch:                  Okay, awesome. So the first archetype is the low-to-high arc, okay? So this is the rags to riches tale. We loved it when we were children, and we love it now. And that is one of the most powerful archetypes that exists, even in national platforms today. And once you see it, you cannot un-see it. It’s the story of the person who went from broke and homeless to billionaire, or lost their job and became a Fortune 500 CEO out of revenge. Or they were an unwed mother and teen mom who became a founder of a multi-million dollar company and helped 30 thousand children.

These … The low-to-high arc, it gets to a yes nine times out of 10. So for all of your listeners, you may have a low-to-high arc in your personal story, or in your company story, or in your clients’ that you help story. And you can package that into a headline that you can pitch, that’s the first one. Okay? The second one is high-to-low. Now this is an interesting reversal on the traditional rags-to-riches, this is the person who … They had it all, they had the dream job, they had the dream partner, they had the perfect house, and they gave it all up to paint pottery.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Yep.

Ashley Crouch:                  Right? So let me give you an example of a client of mine. She worked for Bloomberg. She had it all, fast-track to success through the corporate ladder and she went to Kenya, and realized the inequality that still exists in the world, and she gave it all up to launch a jewelry brand that gives a percentage of the proceeds to widowed women in Kenya. And using that high-to-low arc, we were able to get her in Success Magazine, International Business Times, and all of these top ones that significantly generated business growth and found her so many clients and customers. So high-to-low is the second one, okay?

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Crouch:                  And number three is going to be so perfect for so many of your listeners, because you have a lot of experts that tune in, and whether that’s launching a company or authors of a book, I say everyone’s an expert in something. But when you’re an expert, you have volumes of wisdom that you can teach, and the third archetype is practical and actionable. This is the archetype that … Where you make a promise to teach something, and you teach it. So this could be seven strategies to wake up by five a.m., even if you love the snooze button.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Crouch:                  Okay?

Melinda Wittstock:         Right.

Ashley Crouch:                  Those are so popular, and they work in so many top, national outlets. One client of mine, she was a specialty in how to streamline divorce. Okay? It’s a difficult topic, but someone’s got to do it. And it’s becoming more prevalent, so she comes to me, she has a competitor who’s getting featured in tons of outlets, and she’s getting left behind. No one’s even heard of her. And we start working with her around a practical and actionable angle, people probably have so many secret questions about divorce, or maybe they should get a divorce, or maybe not, or how do you know when you’re ready? Or how do you be a good friend to someone who’s going through a divorce? All of these different things.

She made a list of practical and actionable, and she was featured in Mind, Body, Green in seven days. Full article. And then she was featured in Entrepreneur, and BritainCo, and Tango, and so many more based on this practical and actionable angle. So those are the top three. Low-to-high, high-to-low, practical and actionable. Using those alone, people should be able to come away from this and get featured, I would say, in just a couple weeks. If not earlier, I have some people featured in 24 hours, so it’s super powerful.

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, that’s amazing. So when you’re starting out in business, a lot of people don’t necessarily have their kind of story worked out, and they haven’t necessarily thought about their customers. I’ve mentored so many founders who you get on the phone with them and they’re like, “Yeah, and my product does this and it does that, and it does this, and it does that.” And you say, “Hey, that’s great. How can I help?” And it’s like, “Yeah, well my product, it’s amazing. It’s does this, and this, and this.” It’s kind of like you build it and they’ll come, and there’s no real thought about who the customer actually is. And sometimes they honestly just don’t know.

Like you’re testing out, “Who’s my ideal customer?” In that really, really early stage of building a company. And so how do you work with founders to get them into what their actual story really is? Is it from their personal life? Is it from … When they don’t know who they’re serving, how do you help them find that?

Ashley Crouch:                  Wow. Such an interesting question. So the way I would answer it is you get into business for some reason, right? There’s something that propels you forward into this unknown to take a risk to launch a business. Now usually, that’s a sense of mission. You have a contribution you want to make in the world. The way to start, if you have zero idea, first of all we have an empathy tool that we’ve created that walks people through an exact questionnaire of … Helps them answer some of the things that they could keep in mind to match their target customer. But ideally, what I say is you want to blend them. So you want to blend your story with the solution. Okay?

Now, let’s give you an example. You’re in an elevator, let’s talk about the elevator pitch for a second.

Melinda Wittstock:         All right, yeah. Because … You know, what do you have? 60 seconds max.

Ashley Crouch:                  You have 60 seconds, and you have no idea if this person is your target customer, and you have no idea what to say. So this is what … I coach people on how to do this because elevator … An elevator pitch is very similar to pitching to media, so many people don’t do it right. So usually when I ask people, “What do you do?” They do exactly what you said, Melinda. They say, “Oh, I am …” Let’s say for me, “I am a publicist.” That is the most boring answer in the world, no one cares about what you do. No one cares about a product, and no one cares at all about your job title, or your years of experience. Okay?

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Crouch:                  And so for that, I start with Simon Sinek. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right.

Ashley Crouch:                  If you have no idea who your target customer is, start with your why. Say, “I’m on a mission to …” Or, “I believe that …” And by starting there, with your story, you enroll people in your vision. And even if they’re not your target customer, they become your advocate and they find your target customer for you. So, if you say … So for example, you Melinda. What’s your mission? How would you answer, “I’m on a mission to,”?

Melinda Wittstock:         I’m on a mission to catalyze an entire ecosystem where more than a 100 million women are lifted all over the world to find their true purpose and passion, and create the ecosystem where women lift each other up as we climb by buying from each other, promoting each other, and investing in each other.

Ashley Crouch:                  Oh my gosh. Listen to how powerful your vision is. Okay, I still have no idea what you do, but I’m already in. Right?

Melinda Wittstock:         Right. Because there’s a lot of stuff that goes into that, right?

Ashley Crouch:                  That’s a lot.

Melinda Wittstock:         [crosstalk 00:32:55] this podcast.

Ashley Crouch:                  Exactly. There’s so much that goes into that, but you wouldn’t have time to tell me all the pieces of what you do, and if you did my eyes would glaze over.

Melinda Wittstock:         I would make your head explode; trust me.

Ashley Crouch:                  But you have just enrolled me in your vision, and all of a sudden I have five women that I want to refer to you.

Melinda Wittstock:         You see, that’s great, and then I’m like, “Yeah, bring them on.”

Ashley Crouch:                  Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         But no, but you’re so right. So like I remember that amazing talk by Simon Sinek because the start with why, and then … Hearing his Ted Talk and then getting the book, and how that revolutionized everything. Because most … You think … And I think he uses the example of Steve Jobs, that’s [crosstalk 00:33:34] … He didn’t say, “Hey, there’s this thing and I’ve got this really cool … This glass that I got from Cornell University, and I’ve got this really cool thing, here’s how it works.” He was like, “Wow, I have a thousand songs, a thousand movies and my emails and everything in my pocket.”

Ashley Crouch:                  Yes. Yes! And everyone wants that. So, if we could use me for example, I’ll be the guinea pig too, I could say I’m a publicist. But personally, if I told myself that, my eyes would glaze over, because that’s extraordinarily boring. But what I say is, “I’m on a mission to help women be heard.”

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, I love it.

Ashley Crouch:                  Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And that’s so succinct, too, it’s just so clear, and we all crave that.

Ashley Crouch:                  Right. And then I say something like, “The world changes when you speak up.” And then I say the what, so first comes the why, then the what. So then it’s, “I’m an award-winning visibility strategist, I help you package and share your message for maximum impact.”

Melinda Wittstock:         I love it.

Ashley Crouch:                  So it’s the why, it’s the what, and then the solution that you offer. And that’s a quick and easy way to deliver extraordinary impact, you could do it in the elevator, networking event, cocktail party, and if people need help drilling down into that, I’m happy to help. But that’s the formula.

Melinda Wittstock:         That’s awesome. So I remember being a boot camp for technology entrepreneurs, female founders called Spring Board Enterprises, and we went to this boot camp and we had to learn how to do a two-minute personal pitch as well as our two-minute investor pitch. And I swear to God, in the personal pitch we all forgot huge triumphs that we’d had in our lives, like there was a woman who was an astronaut who forgot to mention it. There was a woman who had a 500 million plus exit in her business, forgot to mention it.

Ashley Crouch:                  Wow.

Melinda Wittstock:         And so, when you’re working with women, do you find that sometimes we think that personal branding like that, just saying our accomplishments, we confused it with personal bragging? Or we think we can’t actually say, or we hold back, we’re afraid to shine too bright?

Ashley Crouch:                  So, I wrote a whole article about this on Forbes, because it’s a massive issue.

Melinda Wittstock:         It is, isn’t it? I mean, I see it all the time. [crosstalk 00:36:00]

Ashley Crouch:                  I love that you asked that, yeah. I love that we’re going there, because here’s the deal. The women that I work with are extraordinarily talented, but none of them would say so.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right! Why? What is it, why is this?

Ashley Crouch:                  Right, and it’s like we’re groomed to over deliver and undersell, and here’s the deal. We need a massive wake up call around the power of celebration. Okay?

Melinda Wittstock:         I love that.

Ashley Crouch:                  This is a little pivot that I found that’s really helpful for women, and it’s been helpful for me. Women have been groomed to avoid tension because … Well, there’s a volume of reasons. We may not go into it. But usually, we don’t like tension. And so, oftentimes, we fall into people pleasing tendencies.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Crouch:                  However, when someone brags or owns their accomplishment, or says that they won five awards or they’re an astronaut, or they had a 500 million dollar exit, there’s a concern that they may be seen poorly, make others feel uncomfortable, and what not. However, when you do not own your accomplishments, you are no role model to anyone else. And you rob yourself of the ability to integrate the win so that you don’t burn out.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ashley Crouch:                  So, what I say is, if you’re concerned about bragging, shift to think of it like celebrating. You are celebrating this wonderful thing that just happened, and you want to share it with people. So, an easy way for women to step forward and tell their story and own their expertise is first, there’s an exercise that I teach people how to do, which is journal and fill in the sentence, “I am an expert in …”

And people here on this podcast, too, that could be a great action step coming away from this call. Or if they feel like, “Huh, I might be ready to answer this challenge.” Go ahead, fill in the blank, “I am an expert in,” and see if you can start with the why. Or see if you can start with the solution that you provide for your target customer, with empathy. Really start to reimagine how you are describing that. Okay?

The second thing, is that when you do want to share something powerful but maybe you feel a little bit uncomfortable, you can preface the sentence by saying, “I’m so excited, I’m celebrating this.” Then people know they’re invited in to celebrate with you, and it’s not a competition. You just want to own the fact that something really great happened, and they will then celebrate with you, and you don’t have to feel as concerned about making them feel inferior.

Melinda Wittstock:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s very, very good advice. So I’m going to turn the corner a little bit and ask you about one for one, that you’re the first one for one agency to exist. And so, you do microloans for women in poor nations, so some of them, Kenya, Nicaragua, Malawi, Cambodia. And I love this, we do a really similar thing, like five percent of our top line revenue goes to providing solar panels for women in Afghanistan, and bookkeeping for women in Malawi. So, we do something really, really similar with Wings.

And what was it that inspired you to create that in your business and make that part of the founding aspects of the business?

Ashley Crouch:                  I’m so inspired by what you do, and I love that Wings has that process, so I’m glad we’re talking about this. The concept of Appleseed was first to help women feel heard, and a couple of years in, I realized that all of these companies that I was working with was a very strong mission driven company, female founded, and woman are visionaries. And we often see problems and solutions that other people do not, so I wanted to add a new layer, an additional layer into my company to have an even greater impact.

And I think business is the fastest force for social change, where not only does it provide employment, but it also provides vision and a path forward, and solutions that previously did not exist. So, in my company, I realized that so many woman in resource poor nations had no opportunities, and the horizon line was so low, and Michelle Obama says 62 million girls don’t receive an education, secondary education. I just got back from Sri Lanka, I was told about 50% of girls there don’t even go to high school.

So, seeing first hand what’s happening and all of the stats around it, I wanted to make an impact. And it’s well known that if you provide a woman with financial resources, you impact generations, because women naturally reinvest in their families. So not only would my company provide a platform for women to be heard in America, and now eight countries, it could also provide financial support and generational change in exponentially more countries.

I had no background in this Melinda, I was trying to figure out what to do, and I launched the Seed Fund Project, and it was built off of Appleseed. Now, Appleseed is inspired by Johnny Appleseed and it’s around stories in the media that help companies grow. But the Seed Fund Project was around purposefully planting funds, microloans, in the right hands. And after much research and many consultations, I decided to go with an organization called CUBA that has an infrastructure in place in dozens of countries to screen applicants who need microloans, as well as provide ongoing financial support and mentorship to make sure that those loans continue to be paid, but also that have the meaningful impact they could have.

So, we partnered with them.

Melinda Wittstock:         I love it that you’re doing it as microloans, because instead of just giving fish, through a microloan, you’re teaching to fish. Because there can be, in the whole evolved enterprise conscious capitalism, buy one give one, there can be some unintended consequences. Like you think of TOM shoes, it’s great giving away all these shoes, but then it puts cobblers out of business.

Ashley Crouch:                  Right.

Melinda Wittstock:         Right?

Ashley Crouch:                  Yup, that’s exactly it, and that’s what happened. When I was traveling, I just got back from Morocco and Sri Lanka, and many different countries, and seeing on the ground firsthand, there are a lot of people going without jobs because now there’s universal access to water. Now, of course we want them to have universal access to water, but then the local water man no longer has a position, so he just takes photos. There are certain things we cannot see, so it was very important to me to partner with an organization that was close to the problem and understood the solution so that the funds we provide could be sustainable, and provide a lasting change and true benefits.

So, CUBA’s been an amazing partner, we just did 11 loans last week. We’re up to 21 countries now that we’ve partnered with and helped a lot of women. We’re almost at 100 women at this point, so [crosstalk 00:43:55]-

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh my goodness, I’ve got to join this, it’s so interesting, because the other part of my mission that I didn’t share was to invest 10 million dollars in female founders in the next 10 years. So this shouldn’t only be in the so called first world or developed world, it needs to be everywhere. We need to lift as we climb, you know? So I love that you’re doing this.

Ashley Crouch:                  Let’s partner, I mean, this is such a path forward, and these countries … We’re just beginning to see the impact they’re going to have, because now not only are more and more girls getting an education, but also have access to internet, and basic advantages that we enjoy here. They’re just now getting access to it, so just imagine the brain power and innovation that is about to just explode from all of these different countries. So, let’s do it!

Melinda Wittstock:         Well, that’s great too, and I think women also are more hard wired … This is a theory of mine, but are more hard wired to create the sort of businesses that solve big societal problems. Like we’ve got this issue called climate change, you know? Some problems with our education system, there are all these different issues that we really are very good at thinking of new ways to apply existing technology, say. And you see it in the fem-tech space, you see it in fashion tech, you see it in ed-tech, fin-tech, all these different things.

And using what exists to create really interesting societal change in a way that’s very beneficial for people. And I see so many more women stepping into that kind of role, so how can we empower them? How can we get women to invest in women who are doing this work?

Ashley Crouch:                  Well, I would be more than happy to partner with you, and the key [crosstalk 00:45:51] has been …

Melinda Wittstock:         Okay, it’s done. [crosstalk 00:45:54] It was done on this podcast, absolutely.

Ashley Crouch:                  That’s the thing, is coming together and realizing that the old way of doing business didn’t work anymore. It doesn’t work anymore. So, what worked before works no more, that’s what I say, and I see it in PR, the old way of doing PR was, send a press release to five key outlets and is only for the celebrities that get featured. That’s just not the case anymore. Now it’s about sharing resources, it’s easier than ever to contact national journalists. It’s easier than ever to ask for a connection or a resource, or avail yourself of training and tools and mentorship to make these connections. And the world benefits, so I see the path forward as one of collaboration, where not only is there knowledge sharing through the wonderful platform that you’ve created and all of the different training programs, and really, you’re creating an online university for people to build their businesses and change their lives, and better the future.

But also, I think people are waking up to realize we have big problems, and there’s a lot of people ready to do their big work in the world. We just need to link arms and connect with the people who are true experts and move forward together.

Melinda Wittstock:         Oh, I agree. I was thinking about this too, in terms of moving women from scarcity thinking, where I think a lot of us have been trapped, into abundance. That for a long time when women entered the workforce, the real generational thing were there were so many women who were the only woman in the room. And how it’s to succeed, we were competing only with other women, which is ridiculous, because it’s an actual fact that we all do better when we really collaborate with each other. But that really requires more of an abundant way of thinking.

Ashley Crouch:                  Yes.

Melinda Wittstock:         And I see this in younger generations of entrepreneurs, particularly women entrepreneurs, but I think some of the women who came up having to fight for every scrap or feeling like they did, have a bit of a transition to make. Do you sense that too? Is that your experience?

Ashley Crouch:                  It’s been so interesting to see, really in the past three to five years, how the sharing economy has entered center stage and how everyone has navigated it. I remember you know, Seth Godin’s been a part of this from the beginning, he writes a blog post every day, and he’s all about generating free value. Gary Vaynerchuck is the same way, jab jab jab, right hook, keep giving free value.

But I heard that in the early stage of my business, but yet still felt the competition, right? Well, if I give away all my free value, then why would anyone pay me? Why would anyone hire the agency? Why would … And that’s just not the case anymore at this point. So I don’t know if it’s a generational thing, but I do think there is a large awakening of people saying, “Hey, we’re ready. We’re here, we’re ready to show up.” And at least on my part, I can tell you, that I’ve recently started offering completely free training videos. I just traveled the world to five continents in five weeks and did a whole global training series in every different country.

I created free training, I’m offering it for people, I’ve been creating so many new blueprints and training guides, because I want the world to change as quickly as possible with this value. And [crosstalk 00:49:25]-

Melinda Wittstock:         Yeah, it feels like we don’t have a lot of time.

Ashley Crouch:                  Exactly!

Melinda Wittstock:         We got to wake up and get going fast. I mean, I feel that, I feel there’s an urgency. Not only with your mission, but also with mine and they’re very similar, and I love it. So Ashley, I promised that I would get back to the farm in Arkansas. And so what gave you that entrepreneurial spark? Did you always know that you were going to be an entrepreneur?

Ashley Crouch:                  No, I had no idea. I grew up on a farm in Arkansas with a 100 chickens, couldn’t even see my neighbors, and at the end of a dirt road. But I always loved media, and I always read magazines, I would steal my mom’s magazines and read them in secret. And I always loved fashion. And so, I was invited to be on the founding team for a fashion magazine after college in New York City, and I moved out. Had no experience in being an entrepreneur, but took a deep dive, ran the marketing and PR campaign for the launch of that magazine back in 2011, and we wound up getting 180 media features in eight months in all the top outlets, including Harper’s Bazaar and New York mag, an entrepreneur Queen Latifah show.

And the magazine’s name is Verily, and it still exists today seven years later, they closed four rounds of funding and they have a million views a month. So, [crosstalk 00:50:47]-

Melinda Wittstock:         Wait, wait, wait. So you got to slow down and just say … A million views a month? I mean, that’s huge. You can’t just speed through that.

Ashley Crouch:                  Thank you. Yeah, we’re very excited, and grateful that the content really touches and reaches people.

Melinda Wittstock:         I mean, it’s fantastic. I think it’s so great, just that giving women permission just to be themselves, their authentic selves, no masks. No Photoshop, fashion magazine is just so disruptive and so wonderful.

Ashley Crouch:                  Thank you. And that’s when I had the wake up call where if every woman knew how to raise national media attention at the onset of their launch, they could reach the same kind of results. So, at this point, I was like, “I need to develop some training programs and teach people how I did what I did,” and so I’ve created a cheat sheet for everyone that is totally free, and it teaches you the top kind of outlet that will have the greatest impact for your business type.

So if you’re a coach, you need a certain outlet type. If you are an author, you need a certain kind of media outlet. If you’re a product provider, you need a certain kind of media outlet. So for maximum results, if anybody wants that cheat sheet, they can text “Media,” to 66866, that’s it. “Media” to 66866, happy to give that to people and it’s a great launchpad to get started and take action.

Melinda Wittstock:         Wonderful, and we’ll have all that in the show notes, and Ashley, thank you so much for so much practical, but also very inspiring advice for everybody listening today. And I am so excited to do some amazing, inspiring things with you and can’t wait to talk offline! Thank you.

Ashley Crouch:                  Thank you Melinda! I love what you do and I’m so grateful, and I hope this helps people.

Melinda Wittstock:         Likewise, it will, I know. And thank you so much Ashley for putting on your Wings and flying with us today.


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