Forbes Agency Council members work with a diverse set of clients across numerous fields. To share their expertise on everything from marketing to branding and more, we’re profiling Forbes Agency Council members here on the blog. This week: Genia Stevens.
Genia Stevens is the managing partner of Belwah Media, which specializes in brand management services, content development, content distribution and social media marketing services. Founded in 1999, the agency is co-owned by Genia and her wife, Andrea Stevens. Genia is also the founder of BizTechWomen, a live streaming virtual conference.
How did your career as an agency executive take off, and what do you attribute your success to most?
I started my career in high school when I won my first advertising award, “Best Creative Advertisement by a Student.” I was editor of my high school newspaper and my favorite job was creating advertisements for businesses that didn’t have an in-house graphic designer. I knew then I wanted a career in marketing and advertising, I just didn’t know how I would get there.
I joined the Navy because a recruiter told me the military would pay my college tuition. As soon as my four-year commitment ended, I immediately entered college and started learning as much as I could about the internet. My first marketing business was teaching eBay sellers how to use search engine optimization to drive traffic to their seller pages. I remember using bulletin boards and blogs to help sellers with branding, link building and what we now call inbound marketing.
I attribute my success to being a lifelong learner. Anytime I felt I needed to learn a new skill to grow my business, I would find a job working for someone else and let that person teach me what I needed to know. When I felt my business development and selling skills were weak, I found a job developing the first internet sales department at a local General Motors dealership. I learned both sales and business development – and I received paid on-the-job training.
How do you keep yourself creative and driven regardless of how busy you are day to day?
This is always challenging, however, I like to stay in-the-know. I subscribe to more than 20 marketing newsletters. Even if I don’t read all the content, I scroll through all of them and read the headlines. Great headlines give me ideas.
Also, I spend quite a bit of time talking to a few industry professionals I know personally via text message, WhatsApp or Skype. It’s usually just a quick, “So, I have this idea. What do you think?” These services make it so easy to send quick messages as ideas come into my head. For me, bouncing ideas off of people keeps me on my toes. I really enjoy collaborating with other industry professionals.
What do you see as the future of media strategy or advertising?
I see brands looking at their consumers to guide their messaging. Instead of creating the message first, then forcing the consumer to simply accept it, brands will listen more and respond to consumer interests – creating a brand message that aligns with their organization’s strategic plan and their consumer’s interests.
What is your best PR, marketing or advertising tip for businesses?
Remain nimble. Be prepared to change when change is necessary. Leave room for growth and stay alert.