When to build your own company

Jenny is a global strategic storyteller with over 23 years of experience helping brands find the perfect balance across paid, earned, and owned channels + tactics to effectively and efficiently intersect and engage with the audience they’re trying to reach. She’s held leadership positions at Weber Shandwick, MSL Group, Edelman, and FINN Partners, and most recently Jenny was the EVP Head of Influencer, Entertainment, Talent & Music at Ketchum. She’s also an influencer marketing professor at DePaul University in Chicago where she teaches students in a first-of-its-kind course that she designed, helping develop the next generation of influencer marketers.



Jessy: Hey guys, what is going on? I always feel like I never have my microphone set up properly and I’m always like, oh shit. We’re recording. Let me move it anyways, guys, welcome to the pod. If you are new here, giant warm, warm, welcome. I’m really happy to have all of you here today. Today’s episode is an interview episode and it is particularly good.

I was literally tearing up toward the end. Yeah, we talk about everything. I mean from influencer marketing strategy, that was not bringing me to tears. We were talking about what it is to be a professor in influencer marketing. That was fun. Going out from agency life to doing your own thing and your own consultancy.

Two, what it is to be a working mom and have gone through the process of infertility. And so trigger warning towards the end of the episode, we do talk about pregnancy loss. We do talk about IVF and successful pregnancies, but we get into all things mom talk.

Jenny Heinrich is our guest today and I’m really excited for you to hear from her. So she is a global strategic storyteller at this point of recording. She’s got over 23 years of experience helping brands find the perfect balance across paid earned and own channels plus tactics to effectively and efficiently intersect and engage with the audiences that they’re trying to reach.

She’s held leadership positions at Weber Sandwick, MSL Group, Edelman, and FINN Partners, and most recently Jenny was the EVP head of influencers, entertainment, talent, and music at Ketchum. She’s also an influencer marketing professor at DePaul University in Chicago, where she teaches students in a first-of-its-kind course that she designed, helping develop the next generation of influencer marketers.

I think it’s so dope that she’s a professor. I low-key, like probably wish I asked her more questions about that, but we did get into it a bit. I’m so curious about it. I’m hearing more and more women who are like becoming professors at universities. What an interesting path to go down and she’s an adjunct professor, so she’s doing it in real life professionally.

And then she’s going in and having students who probably eat up every single thing that she says, cuz I was eating up everything that she was saying during our conversation. 

So speaking of Chicago, which is where Jenny is based, she will be at our event and so will, so many others of you. So fun fact, we actually had, one of our first in-person events in Chicago. I wanna say it was 2018. So we’re going back a bit of time and Chicagoans, if that’s how you say it, y’all turn up like show up. 

You guys were incredible. The enthusiasm and the number of people that were there, it was like really magnetic. So when we have been leaning so heavily into in-person events and experiences this year for Wiim in 2023, I was like, all right, where do we go? 

So we’ve been on a tour, you guys, we have been to Vegas, New York, LA. We just went back to LA that was amazing. For the second time this year, we are doing New York again on July 27th. You have to come. 

And then we are also coming to Chicago. Don’t forget, buy your ticket. On September 14th, it’s gonna be beautiful weather. I’m so excited. I love Chicago. I’m like booking my hotel and airfare probably this week, and I’m just super excited to come and meet with all of our Chicago community.

So you’re not gonna wanna miss out on a promise, promise we’re gonna have a panel discussion, activities, giveaways, gift bags, dinner drinks like it’s going to be incredible. Check out our website, of course, iamwiim.com/events to get your ticket. And keep in mind that members with all of our in-person events, get half off on their tickets.

So if you’ve been like, should I become a member of Wiim? Am I that enthused about influencer marketing? And if the answer is yes, and you’ve been debating it for a while and you’re in Chicago where you’re traveling through, or you’re in New York and you’re traveling through, we’ve got these events that are incredible, and now might be the time to join.

So check out again. iamwiim.com/events and it’s I A M W I I M.com/events. Okay, guys, I’m so excited for you to enjoy this episode with Jenny Heinrich.

Jessy: So welcome to the pod. It’s really nice to have you here. How’s it going today?

Jenny: You know what? The sun is shining. It’s been so, so summer weather over here in Chicago, so today’s a great day. Thanks for having me.

Jessy: Your hair looks fabulous. So I was gonna say, I hope everyone’s watching the video version cause your hair looks amazing.

Jenny: Thank you. I’ve been called, the Carrie Bradshaw lookalike. I’m a tiny little human. I’ve got this giant big hair. I love the humidity, so thank you. I hope it’s showing up well for my podcast appearance today.

Jessy: It is. It definitely is. And I’ve been like looking forward to our chat today. We’ve been like, I don’t know, we’ve gotten to know each other, the littlest bit, just like online and it’s really nice to sorta put a face to an online presence and just get to know you today. And I’m excited for our audience to get to know you too.

So we heard a little bit about you on paper in the intro to the show, but I personally love to hear it from the person directly. And I also wanna take it back like further from you know what’s on paper beyond that, I wanna hear a little bit about Jenny as a kid and like how you think it shaped you as the professional that you’ve become today.

Jenny: Jenny as a kid is very similar to Jenny as a grownup or a grownup as I call myself now. I’ve always been a storyteller. I come from a really long line of storytellers. I like talking, I like finding out, what makes other people tick and I like connecting with people. So I think, that’s directly representative of what I’ve done professionally because influence is all about storytelling.

It’s about content, and it’s about connection. So that’s the first thing that I thought about. I was always the one to ask a lot of questions, sit and think about it and then add my own 2 cents on top of that. So that is the first thing that I think of when I think of myself as a kid.

Jessy: Are you an only child?

Jenny: I’m not, I have a younger sister, who is quiet. She was a little quieter when we were growing up, which gave me, center stage. I love being on a stage, I’m very outgoing. I can walk up to anyone, and strike up a conversation. I’m not shy. Shocking, I know. 

So I love doing that. I love being on the stage. Even now, whenever I get an opportunity to chat and connect with other people, I jump at it. The other part of me as a kid, which has translated really well to me as a grownup, is the strategist’s brain. I’ve always been a strategist. My parents will tell you that I was always looking for a way around, the things that they wanted me to do. I would always, be a little bit argumentative.

Okay, this is what you want to happen, but have you ever thought of this plan? and I do that now with, my clients with brands direct with my team, the different agencies I’ve worked at. I really, listen, I evaluate what people are trying to do, and then my strategist brand kicks in and I try to figure out the best way through it. So that’s, some of the ways that I’ve really translated me as a kid and to me as a grownup.

Jessy: Do you also think like strategy, does that also equate to you as thinking outside the box? I guess it doesn’t necessarily, but does that resonate with you personally?

Jenny: Absolutely. There are so many, I call it the sea of the same, where a lot of people they go into, their career, they go into their personal and they just wanna go with the flow. I was an absolute wild child, really late too, into my mid to late twenties, probably longer than I should have been a wild child.

I was definitely, thinking outside the box, doing things that probably I shouldn’t be, that I would never let my children do PS. But I like breaking the mold. I like forging my own path and, I all the team members, and my students that I’ve mentored, I always encourage that too.

Don’t just go with the grain. The most amazing things can happen when you break outside of that and you forge your own path. So I absolutely did that when I was a kid, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Jessy: So real talk, do you see people around you in influencer marketing, thinking outside the box, do you think that they’re thinking outside of the box enough? do you see around you in terms of the influencer space? 

Jenny: It ebbs and flows, right? So I think right now, the most kind of hot topic with brands, clients, and agencies is brand safety, and we’ve seen what can happen when a brand, takes a risk and they do something and it explodes, right? And we’ve seen it explode for the better, and we’ve seen it explode for the worse.

So I think right now, brand safety is the number one concern in influencer marketing, and I think that prevents some from thinking outside the box and taking risks because risk could be absolutely disastrous. 

So I would love to say yes. So many brands are taking a risk and they’re doing really innovative things, and they’re thinking about this, at least this practice in different ways.

But right now, I’ve seen a lot of brands go back to the basics. Vetting, I’ve never done vetting how I’m doing it now, and how I’m counseling my students, my team members, and my clients and brands on how to vet. Because you need to do your diligence, and so yes, think outside the box. Yes, do something innovative, but also, make sure that you are holding true to what you need to and that you’re really researching before you jump into anything. So that’s what I’m seeing.

Jessy: And I just feel like that uses two different, completely opposite sides of your brain. So much so that some people aren’t even capable of doing both. And so agree with you. I’m wanting to not lead the answer, but that’s definitely what I’ve seen as well. I wish more people thought outside the box a bit more, but I wonder if the box is too well-defined and too restrictive for them to be able to do it.

Like in order to be creative. I don’t know. I’ll just be personal, like I have to have this space to be able to do that, or else, it’s like literally not even possible for me. Do you feel like there’s a world in which, you can be that, regimented that, do all that due diligence, do all that research and everything, but also have the space like, to truly think outside the box and if so, how is that possible? How does it happen?

Jenny: So, the way that I approach it, is that you’re always gonna have your dos and don’ts. You’re always gonna have your brand like mandatory things that you’re gonna have to say and have to include FTC, LDA, there’s all the governing bodies that control what we do.

But then on the other side, you know the agencies that are counseling their brands to do this well. They’re leading with creator first approach, right? They’re leading with co-creation. The minute that you over-direct an influencer, and say, this is what you have to do and this is how you have to say it, and this is, the way that we want the content to look, it’s exactly what you were saying.

It stops creativity right in its tracks. But co-creation, think about it, right? You found an influencer because you wanted to access their audience. You found them because you love the way they create content. You love the way they tell stories. You love their look and their tone and their aesthetic.

You love how they connect, with their various communities across the different platforms they’re on. So, having said all that, don’t stop them from being them. Don’t put all these parameters in place that limits creativity. That’s why yes, you have your money, and yes you have your guardrails, but give them all the information that you need to give them. And then let them riff. 

And that’s where kind of the magic happens, right? It’s in that riff where, you go back and forth and you’re like, okay, here. Oh, that’s a great idea. What if we incorporate it here? That breeds creativity and that also, makes sure that you’re getting the impact out of any content that’s created, because the second that you have too much control, the creative is gone, it becomes an ad.

You’re almost casting the influencer in this piece of content instead of really letting their voice and their tone and the way they wanna tell that story come to be. So I think there’s a world where you can seriously do both. I just think that you have to find that balance, and where I’ve seen the best content come to life across social.

Jessy: And so let’s talk about the impact and the best content you’ve seen. Who’s done something that’s really impressed you lately? Give them their flowers. It could be a brand, a company, an influencer marketer, or an influencer who has really stood out to you these days.

Jenny: So one brand that I’ve been watching, and I can’t wait to see how they’re gonna bring this to life, is Land Rover. So Land Rover Automotive, out of any category out there, they’ve got their enthusiasts. Like the BMW drivers, the Land Rover drivers, of them, buy, car after car after car. Once you get into that, brand, oftentimes you stay there unless there’s a really valid reason why you wanna leave.

Land Rover’s doing something extremely interesting right now. They realize that their badge, Land Rover holds no weight. Instead their enthusiasts, their community, and the people that drive their cars, never say, oh, I drive a Land Rover. You say, oh, I drive a Range Rover, or I just drive a Defender or a Discovery, or whatever it might be. 

So they’re actually dropping Land Rover. So you won’t see the Land Rover emblem on any of their cars moving forward. You’re just gonna see Range Rover. 

That to me is a really modern take on community and enthusiasts. A brand actually drops its brand name and instead goes with the model because that’s what they see from the people who drive their cars. I think that’s brilliant. 

And when I saw it, I was like, that makes all the sense in the world. I’m surprised it took you until 2023 to think of that because it’s true. So that’s one brand I see doing amazing things.

Another in the automotive space is BMW. I have been watching BMW forever and ever and ever. They have mastered the art of storytelling whenever they’re launching a new car, they have the best tease campaign. They show just enough. It’s always covered with a cloth, and they show just enough to get their enthusiasts excited and then they roll through their programming.

They unveil it, they invite, a select group of VIPs to experience the car and to get in it because they know they’re gonna spread word of mouth, which is the essence of influence. I love BMW for what they do and for the stories, they tell. I think their brand is strong. The people that drive their cars are very unique type. And they appeal, to a lot of different audiences, but the way they tell stories. 

So those are two examples. Same category, but I’m gonna stay there for today. I love what they do. So those are two, modern brands that are really looking at, community and the way that people talk about them and the way they engage and connect with their brand, and they’re innovating as a result.

Jessy: Obsessed with BMW as well. I was actually at CES this year and like most CES, like a lot of car companies will, show their latest tech. But we had just gotten a BMW like before we went and we’re like, oh, they’re gonna have this whole like presentation. Let’s go check it out. It was so good.

First of all, the tech that they were showing was just like, it was a color-changing car. It was like the coolest thing ever. So but like Arnold Schwarzenegger was part of it and it was a whole presentation. It was like the storytelling part. A hundred percent. 

And they had their CEO there and yeah, I mean I can personally relate to that, like just wanting to be part of that community. And then the Range Rover thing, that’s so funny that you mentioned that literally the other day we were walking through our neighborhood and we saw this nice looking car parked in some neighbor’s driveway.

And my boyfriend Paul was like, oh, that’s a, looks like a Range Rover. And he is Oh no, it’s a Defender because that’s all that was on the car. And like it makes you like think about it a little bit more too because it’s thinking outside the box. It’s something that you don’t see every day where you’re so used to seeing, BMW or Toyota or whatever it is on the car, and you’re like, Defender do I know that?

What is that? And maybe it makes you research it a little more and be like, oh, it’s something outside the box. I think it’s really cool. 

Jenny: I think about it this way too, like the heart of what we do with the audience. I am a data first, science to art, right? Always. And what Land Rover’s doing is they’re actually zoning right into the audience. They know that the Range Rover driver, the giant Range Rover versus the sport versus the Evoke, versus, they’re all different drivers, same with the Defender, the Discovery.

So what they’re doing is they’re tapping in, they’re going really direct into those different audiences. So that they can target, their communication, their content, and their engagement directly to you, instead of having that umbrella of the Land Rover drivers. I think it’s so, so smart and really modern. 

Jessy: It is and what it jogs in my mind is just going a little bit more niche. Sort of what you’re saying like it’s not just like these broad strokes, this umbrella brand like it’s focusing on your niche audiences, which of course can be relatable in, the influencer world.

I’m curious when you work with brands and you’ve worked with so many throughout your career, like when is a niche strategy the best strategy? Or like, how do you figure out whether it is the right strategy for the brand?

Jenny: That’s a great question. And I’ve been thinking a lot about niche audiences lately. I totally understand brands that wanna dive into a specific group, and really, drive impact there. My caution to brands, when they do that, is don’t make it a one-off. If you wanna intersect with a niche audience, make sure that you’re doing it consistently, you’re doing it authentically, and you’re doing it over a way longer period of time than that one-off.

Cause if you go in and you try to connect with a niche group and you’re doing it as a one-off and you’ve never done it before, It won’t make any sense. And we’ve seen what happens, right when you know different brands do that. It makes complete sense in the world that you’d wanna, to be appealing and have that connection to a niche audience that you know you’re trying to attract. Influencers are great for that, right? 

In a lot of the different brands, the strategy is, oh, I really wanna intersect with this audience, how am I gonna do that in a really meaningful way? Oh, partner with a creator that has that audience, and then they can be that storyteller to connect you.

But doing it as a one-off and doing it, In a really non-consistent way that’s not authentic, right? People see through that in a second. They’re like, oh, that’s marketing. And I think that the trick is that if you want to start developing that relationship with a niche group, you need to do it, with a long tail.

Do it with authenticity. Make sure that it aligns with the values of your brand, and you have to make sure the way you’re doing it aligns with your broader audience. Because the minute that you alienate your most salient, your biggest audience, your advocates and enthusiasts, in order to attract that niche group, you’re gonna lose that, connection and that rapport with your largest audience.

And they might come back and say, hey, that’s not okay with me. We’re here, we’ve been buying your products, we’ve been talking about you for X amount of years and now I feel like you left me alone. So I think the best way to, intersect with niche groups is to have it, be a strategy, and have do it trickle.

So till you build that affinity and you build that trust, and then you continue it so that it doesn’t feel like a one-off, that you’re doing it, in a specific season because that’s what everyone else is doing. And it’s no, that’s not the way this works.

Jessy: That’s so interesting. I’ve never really heard anyone’s take on that. What you just said, is, you don’t wanna forget about your most loyal people and they feel abandoned or they feel not as appreciated. And they’ve been your most loyal fans and, for however long they happen.

But, yeah, I think that a lot of businesses, you wanna keep growing. There’s such pressure to just continuously grow and capture new audience members and follow trends perhaps, which is I think what you were alluding to and I think that’s valid And maybe the way for it not to feel so performative is, like you were saying, just incorporate it fully into your strategy.

Don’t make it a one-off thing and also, retain the focus of your firstborn. Don’t forget about them. They’ve been there since the beginning. How else do you think that brands can, be better at influencer marketing? Are there certain traps that you see people fall into, or what would you like to see to have like brands improve and do better?

Jenny: We talked about it a little bit before, right? Co-creation, everything should be co-creation. When you’re working with an influencer, for all the reasons I said before. The minute that you overstep and over direct it impacts the content and the community, right? The followers, wherever they are, they can see it a mile away.

I always tell my students when I’m talking to them, I’m like, look through a feed of an influencer, any influencer, and you’ll immediately be able to see the piece of content where the brand had too much input. Because it doesn’t look, it doesn’t sound, it doesn’t feel like that influencer anymore, and that content doesn’t perform as well.

Jessy: Or the worst is and you see a bunch of them, these influencers that you follow and all do the same posts for the same brand, and they all sound the same. It’s so cringy. It’s so cringy. When you see that.

Jenny: It is, it’s canned. It’s oh, I can read the brief. I knew exactly what the brief was that this influencer got delivered because they’re delivering it. Exactly. Uniform across social. So that’s one thing I caution, always create. I think another thing that brands really need to look at is, again, the one-offs or campaign-focused activations.

The brands that I feel are doing the best really, truly have an always-on approach to their creator’s storytelling. Owned content, the content that brands are creating themselves and posting across social will only get you so far, but that third-party storytelling where can have, it integrates into your own channels so that you have other people telling the story of your brand or your product, or whatever it is you’re doing, lean on that.

Don’t do it, only during back to school or only during the holidays, or only during, the big game. Because that’s when you think your, product or you really need to lean on influencers to start telling your story. Have them throughout, storytelling, and social content. That’s always on.

That doesn’t stop. It’s not seasonal. It happens all the time. And so should your approach, so that’s something that I would really caution at, go in, yes, you can have your marquee influencers that maybe plus up, during really important moments during your season.

But always have, your micro-influencer level who are continuously telling stories, and some of that content, this is what I tell brands, you’re gonna get so much value to add because what it does when you have more of an always-on approach is that yes, you’re gonna contract them for X number of posts. But they’re still gonna use your products in between.

And every single time you’re building affinity, you’re building that trust. The authenticity is way stronger because you see, yes, here’s the branded post, but here’s a bunch of times that this influencer still uses this brand, throughout the year.

That’s what this is all about. It’s about driving that trust and that authenticity. So my one caution to brands and my one, I’ll advocate it till I go to sleep at night. Treat it like an always-on channel. Influencers are there. There are people that love your brands. Go find them.

Bring them in and get them talking about you, continuously. Not only when you really need to plus up, but have them talking about you all the time. Those are some of the things that I’ve been telling brands, especially over the past few years since the pandemic, when digital usage and social media attention skyrocketed, and the number of creators skyrocketed. Treat your content like that.

Jessy: We’ve had a lot of conversations recently in the community about challenges of somebody further along in their career are very different from the challenges that, you know happened when you were like one or two years into an influencer.

And not enough people are talking about what it is to be, like a senior level, the person at your company, and you’ve held like these really great titles and been at like really well-known companies, and I’m curious, what are some of the like struggles that you’ve experienced, further along in your career that you think maybe not enough of us are talking about?

Jenny: Sure. It’s a really good question. I’ve worked at a lot of PR firms, over the past dozen-plus years. Weber Sandwick, MSL Group, Edelman BIM Partners, Kechum, and some midsize and smaller agencies as well. 

One thing I’ve noticed is that the specialist capability, you can’t treat that specialty like you do a PR client. It doesn’t fit into the mold. Especially in our industry, there are so many influencer-specific agencies, technologies with managed service, and other companies that are very specifically doing influencer work. So when you take that influencer practice, And try to fit it into, a very traditional agency model, it becomes inefficient. Your working versus non-working dollars becomes too balanced, and that’s not the way that our business works. Our working dollars versus our non-working dollars, our fee needs to be lower because we have so much out of pocket, because that’s the essence of our business, right?

We’re partnering with people who need compensation. So that’s one thing that I’ve really noticed, that’s pretty consistent across big agencies, is that you need to treat this specialty differently. Otherwise, you’re gonna be non-competitive because you can go to an influencer-specific agency.

They are way more efficient, that know exactly, what clients want, and how to deliver it in a competitive way across the landscape. And the minute that you’re not working and non-working start to become balanced, which is very typical for PR clients, that’s where you’re gonna lose the game.

And that’s really the most salient thing that I’ve seen, at big agencies, which was one of the reasons, I chose to go off on my own and be a consultant because I know the way this work needs to run. I wanna give, my clients the most value, right? In order to do that, you gotta cut out a lot of the agency stuff.

A lot of the admin, a lot of the meetings, when you sit in meetings from 8:30 to 5:30 every day and the work happens in the evening, and that’s what happens when you become really senior, that’s not sustainable, so that’s what I see from agencies. I’ve built practices from zero up to be, millions and millions of dollars, from a team of one to a team of 35 within a year and a half, I’ve done those things.

However, you need to apply a different business model to your specialties, to that capability so that you can, capture the marketplace and you won’t just get, thrown to the side in favor of another agency that’s doing specifically this and who can provide that value in a different way.

Jessy: So are you excited that you’re now doing your own thing? Are you nervous? Like how do you feel about, having worked for some of these huge companies with, resources and, lots of things that are just gonna naturally come to you working at an agency and now you’re going off on your own?

Do you feel like all of that has prepared you for where you are now? Do you feel like it was the ultimate plan, or do you feel like, this was just a decision more in the moment and you’re seeing if it’s the right fit for you?

Jenny: Yeah, those are all great questions. I’ve been working in influencer marketing for over 23 years and I teach it, at the university level. I probably know this more than, being a mom and being parents are like, I know this, like the back of my hand.

I feel really well prepared and it is exactly what I said. I wanna provide that value. I wanna provide, a big agency, with big-level thinking, but I wanna do it in a really, more kind agile, and nimble way for different clients. And, I tell my teams, I tell my students, there are three things that you need in order to be successful.

You need recognition. Oftentimes you need a reward. And you need resources. For this practice, the best resource you can have is the most amazing tech, right? So as long as you have the most amazing tech, you can use it for discovery. You can use it for campaign management. You can manage your business in your workflow in a really seamless way.

You’re ahead of the races, being on your own, there are fewer layers. Like I’ve worked at giant, big agencies with a whole executive leadership team where oftentimes the reward and the recognition, get kind of shadowed.

So, being on my own, if I do something amazing. I’m gonna get that recognition or I do something terrible, I’m also gonna get that recognition. But it’s mine to create and it’s mine to lose.

And then reward, I think the reward is not just financial. It’s not just compensation, it’s not any of that. I get rewards from seeing happy clients. I get rewards from having amazing relationships with creators. Ones that have lasted for years and years cause I’m wicked old and I’ve been doing this for that long. So I’ve seen them from like follower number five up to millions and millions of followers across channels.

When you become really senior in agency land, as the executive vice president, the director of all these, you get farther away from the work. And it’s the work that I love. I love negotiating. I love doing influencer discovery. I love looking at the content and going back and forth with influencers but as an executive vice president and a managing director of a huge global practice. I have a team of people who really focus on those things, and that’s been my world for the past however long.

So the beauty of my consultancy is I get to do those things that I love again. I get to become, a senior account executive again, doing the work that I love, that I’m really really good at but because I’m so old and I’ve been doing it for so long, I can do it fast and I can do it with precision.

So I’m giving value to my clients with expert thought, quickness, the efficiency, but I also, for me, get to go back to the basics of what got me into this industry in the first place, and it makes me so excited.

Jessy: So for someone who is tuning into this conversation, and they have the entrepreneurial itch. They’re like, what Jenny saying sounds good. I would love, to fill in the blank. Whether it’s that freedom or that ability to be nimble or to just feel the wins even more because they’re yours to feel. If it’s your company, but

 they’re on the fence, they’re nervous, or they’re just not sure if it’s the right timing, what advice would you give them to determine whether it’s the right moment to start their own thing?

Jenny: Is there ever really the right moment? I remember when I was having babies like I don’t wanna get pregnant now because X, Y, and Z. There’s never a right moment. You just have to jump in. Really. You have to take a look at where you’re at and what your pie looks like.

What is the pie of work? The pie of family, the pie of friend, the pie of my interest. How is it all balancing? If you wanna re-shift that balance, this might be the right time to go on your own because you’ll have more control of all of it. There have been times in my world where work has been the biggest pie and all the other things started getting slivers.

And that’s just not a way that I wanted to live. I have three kids, they’re all under 11. So, I’m a mom life to the max over here, and I’m a professor and I’m a professional, and sometimes a wife, not always a wife, that’s the one thing that ebbs and flows and how good I’m being as a partner. But those are the things that I wanted to fill my life with. So, in a different balance in a different way. So this was the right time for me to go on my own

The way to do it and the way to do it, right? And I’ve had lots of conversations about this, the number one thing you need when you go on your own is one anchor account, and I call an anchor account one piece of business, one client, that’s not short term, that’s maybe six months long, that is X percent of your hours that you just know you have. 

That will keep you interested. It’ll keep you motivated. It will help with the financial panic where it’s oh my God, I gotta go find my next, gig cuz I have bills to pay and I got three kids and I have camp coming up and all the rest of the things.

If you have that anchor account, the minute you go solo, it will take a lot of that pressure off and a lot of that stress. And then if you’ve got that one anchor account, you then get to pick your projects that fill the rest of your hours, right? And those could be passion projects. Those could be more seasonal and campaign based.

But as long as you have that anchor, you’ll be fine. You’ll feel that security that you once had at your full-time job, but you’ll also have more bandwidth. Within your week, so then you can go fill it up with different things. That’s my counsel. To anyone that wants to break out on their own, go get your anchor and then redesign your pie, so that it fits with what you wanna do and how you wanna live your world.

Jessy: And do you see from your purview more and more people going off on their own? Were you inspired by other people to do that or do you feel like people are more nervous to do it and aren’t quite pulling the trigger?

Jenny: Yeah. Going into recession, like this is the thing is there a right time? This was not the right time, on paper, right? We’re going into a recession. There were massive layoffs across every industry you’ve seen. I felt like it was the right time for me. I’m seeing a lot of people in our world, there are a few different ways you can play.

You can either be on your own and you can be a consultant and you can do your own thing. You can go within a big giant agency that has an influencer marketing capability and discipline and a team. You can go brand direct. If they have an influencer, team that they want someone in-house on the ground running that work.

Or you can go over to tech, you can go to a SaaS platform that specializes in influence, a SaaS platform with managed service if you wanna actually do the strategy and the execution as well. So there are a lot of different avenues that you can pursue, with influencer marketing, I’ve been at them all, and they all have their benefits.

They all have their challenges, as you can imagine. But I’ll say this much, there’s never a right time. There’s never that time in your career where you’re like, oh, this is the perfect opening for me to do this, because the economy changes, our industry changes. Social media platforms change influencers are the most trusted, comms channel, and then something happens and everyone retracts and they start doing their budgeting differently, and it’s like, ooh, I’m not gonna plan full year. I’m gonna make it more agile or more opportunistic, and how is that gonna impact agency budgets or my own work, or all those different things?

So I think that, if you understand the landscape and you know what’s happening in the world, think about that side by side with yourself, like with what you wanna do and what fulfills you and where you wanna play. Do you wanna be in a big agency, one of many, do you wanna be at a smaller, mid-size where you might be able to wear more hats and you might be able to yes drive the strategy and the execution and to have the relationships with the creators and do the contracting and all that stuff. 

Or do you wanna be higher level? Do you wanna get into the technology of it all so that you can really connect with the platforms and understand their API and all the different things that they’re coming out with, and how to use that for the benefit of the clients?

There are so many different ways you can play, understand each of the options, and then pick the one that I think you know is most exciting to you. We spend a lot of our time working. If you look at how much time you actually work, versus how much time you don’t, whoever thought of the five-day work week, like no.

If we could go back in time and rejig the week, but think about it, we spend a lot of time doing this and a lot of years. So make sure it’s something that you love. You can taste tests, you can go to a buffet and you can try them all out. But I tell my students, in your thirties, taste test in your twenties, it’s like dating, right? But in your thirties, think about getting married. Pick which path you really settle down and dig in and then grow that, it’s like a relationship.

Jessy: Oh my God. I co-signed that so much like that. Does that what your twenties are for? My cousin recently just graduated from college and she has a degree in marketing and so she’s asking advice and I’m just like, try all the different things cuz you just don’t know.

I’m sure you have your own opinions about this, but I personally feel so strongly that academia can feel like such a bubble and it’s like its own thing. And oh God like I wish I can go back to school as an adult, I feel like it would be such a different experience.

Jenny: Same as some of the classes that I took back then I went to McGill, University of Montreal, which is super, super academic. In some of the classes that I took, cuz I studied cultural studies, I wish I could go back so badly and like I’m in a unique position that I do get to go to school cause I’m a professor, so I get to have that experience too.

But from the flip side, and I can tell you this much, the adjunct professor, which is what I am, cuz I work in my practice alongside teaching it. The students are obsessed with the adjuncts because you’re not learning out of a textbook. I remember the first year I taught at DePaul, they were like, okay, what’s the textbook we need to order for the bookstore? Am like there’s no textbook in influencer marketing, back in 2018 or whatever year it was, I was like, I’m just gonna bring my work. I’m gonna bring the slides. I create, I’m gonna bring the case studies of work that I’ve done. 

I’m gonna bring real-life stuff. That I deal with every single day, and that’s how I’m gonna teach you so that when you walk outta my class, you can put together an influencer strategy.

And I will say this much, especially my last quarter, some of the influencer strategies that my students put together. Blew me away. I’ve hired my students, based on their final. I’m like, oh my God, your final is amazing. Do you need a job? Yeah. Come on over. Because it’s just phenomenal, like even when you’re going to more of the theoretical schools and the kind of, you don’t get that hands-on experience like some of the, more practice schools.

Be able to walk out of university and be able to like actually create an influencer strategy where oftentimes people that are already working in agencies don’t know that and they need to learn that. Such a skill, such a benefit. So I love school. I wish I could Google back.

Jessy: Same. Same. But I wish it was, I don’t know about you. I have a degree in theater, so even let’s say I, went out to be an actress or be a director. Like I wanted to originally, I also feel like I was ill-equipped to actually. Do it because it was all about the techniques. It was too internal.

It wasn’t bridging the gap between the technique and like the real world, practice of it all. And it’s cool that I see more and more, colleges and universities that are implementing, programs where there’s specific conversation around influencer marketing, not even just marketing broadly.

So it’s really cool cuz that didn’t, certainly did not exist many years ago at all whatsoever. And I hope that there’s more of that educational experience, which is learning from people who were doing it on a regular basis because it’s just like social media and especially influencer work like it’s just changing so rapidly that you need somebody who’s like in the thick of it to really speak to it from, that honest, current perspective or else honestly, I feel like it’s doing such a disservice otherwise.

We can go off on a tangent, but that’s just part of my issue personally with academia. I just feel like I want all the students who are spending tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. I just recently paid off my own student debt and I’m 36 years old.

I just wanna set people up for success as much as humanly possible. And I don’t think you do unless you have people like yourself who are just like in it on a regular basis that can speak to it from a very present perspective. But it would be fun to go back as an adult too, because I just don’t think I appreciated it half as much as I would as an adult.

I think it would be so much more fun to theorize about it and just like test and learn and what’s a safe environment to do. So that’s what college should be, at least theoretically. So you working in influencer marketing, you’re teaching influencer marketing and you’re an educator. What do you like to do for fun? What do you do in your free time?

Jenny: All my free time. So like mom life to the max over here, I have three kids. They’re under 11. I have two, almost six-year-olds and an almost 11-year-old. So I cook. Honestly, like I cook so much because usually every night I cook about three dinners.

I’ll cook something for the babies, which I call the babies, the five-year-olds. I’ll cook something for Zoe based on what she wants. Sometimes she eats what I cook for my husband and me, so I’m like a cook. I love cooking. I love creating, my mom is an amazing cook. So I, spend a lot of time in the kitchen with her growing up.

So I love cooking, I love creating. I’m also a crazy reader and this is like, whenever I tell people how many books I read, they’re like, when the heck do you have time to read that many books? Like already this year I’ve probably read over 45 different books. I love reading. It’s my strategist’s brain.

I move so fast, I talk a lot, clearly. I’m always out doing things, socializing, connecting, reading is the only thing that gets me to stop. It gets me outta my own life. It gets me outta my own head. It stops overthinking. I’m a Virgo. 

So I read a ton. Like I don’t have a book that’s on the go. I just read, I love all types of, genres of books. So I pick up anything, that I can get my hands on. And it, honestly, it’s like meditation to me. It stops me in my tracks. If ever I’m feeling anxious or I’m feeling uncertain or upset or whatever it is. I just pick up a book and I dive into someone else’s life.

It might be a little bit of escapism, right? I’m gonna dive into someone else’s life so I don’t have to think about my own. But, there are worst habits that you could have as escapism. So I’m gonna take my reading. Those are the kind of things that I do. 

But really, it sounds so bizarre, I’ve been in working in this for so long, and I’ve seen it evolve, so much in like over two decades now that, teaching it’s one of my passions, I do it because I love it, so it’s something that I do for fun. I hardly call it, a second job, even though it is. But it’s something that I just love. I love, mentoring, and connecting the students. Anyone who has any questions about this stuff, I’m like, go grab a coffee. Let’s talk about it.

So I love that. Those are the things that I do for fun. I love shopping. I’m, unfortunately, I’m not very good at it because I don’t really go out as much as I used to, ever since the pandemic. But jewelry is my jam.

Talking about jewelry, it’s one of my most passionate, kinds of accessories, so to speak. But here’s the weird thing about jewelry, my sister makes fun of me. She’s you know what? You just say that so you can buy more. And I’m like, okay. Not true, but maybe true. But I know the story behind why I bought anything.

I remember like the time I remember who I bought it from. I remember what I was feeling or thinking about when I bought things. So I attach a story to every single piece of jewelry that I have. And I love, vintage and antique because they came packed with a story already and then I got to create my own.

So, yes, I love jewelry, but I love the story behind it. I like the meaning behind it. And it’s a bit of an emblem. That you can carry with you, you can pass it down through generations if it’s that kind of jewel. And so I love that. You know about jewelry. I’m not a very good accessor, but that’s one thing I do make sure is on point.

Jessy: No, I love that so much. And when it comes to kids, did you envision yourself having three? Always or no. Did you always want kids even?

Jenny: Yes, I always wanted to be a mom, for sure. I thought I would land at two. I have a really interesting baby story. I’m an open book, clearly, you probably gather that already. But I miscarried twice before my first child, her name’s Zoe. And then I tried to have more babies after she was born.

I couldn’t get pregnant. So then my husband and I went through a giant IVF journey. We did eight rounds of IVF four years back to back. Midway through our journey, we got donor eggs because they said my eggs weren’t good, and that could have been the problem, why I wasn’t getting pregnant.

So we got donor eggs, we made embryos, I transferred a stack of them in me, and I miscarried every time. And then finally at the end of that, I was like, okay, maybe my body is just no. So, we then explored using a gestational surrogate to hold all the donor eggs plus embryos that we had made.

We matched with the most magical surrogate who was in Canada. We shipped her our embryos. She transferred one. And then three weeks later I found out I was pregnant. So in 2017, I managed surrogate pregnancy, international pregnancy. I managed my own pregnancy. My sister also got engaged that year.

So I was the maid of honor planning, engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and then her wedding. And we had two babies in 23 days. So that is the story of my almost twins. They’re not twins even though they’re both five. They were born 23 days apart.

So that’s, the story of my kids. Mimi, who’s the little one I carried, our surrogate carried Leo. All my kids are magical. And I love this story because clear I’m a storyteller, but that story gives people hope. So many women and families and, they’re having babies later, right later than my parents’ generation for sure. We were having babies in their early twenties. I can’t even imagine being a mom in my early twenties.

Like I was still a wild child then doing all sorts of terrible things. A lot of people are waiting until later, and that’s why we’re having such an infertility kind of crisis, if you will, because our eggs are getting older and it just becomes harder the older that you get.

So I love telling that story because there are so many different ways that you can build a family, that you can be a parent, that you can be a mom or a dad. So I hope you know anyone listening to this who’s going through it. There’s definitely a path for you. It might not be smooth and linear, but any path you know is magic. Magic can happen.

Jessy: Totally. I can speak personally, it’s like very inspirational to hear your story and I do hope that it gives those of us who are not spring chickens anymore, but would love to have kids. It gives us hope for sure. It’s a hard journey to go through. That many rounds of IVF and what it does, not only on your body but the mental toll that it takes and then to, miscarry that many times.

So to have that much hope and then to have it, deflated, I can only imagine what that feels like, but, I don’t know. It’s like one of those things in life where it only takes one time to have a child. 

Jenny: One good egg. All it takes. 

Jessy: One time when it takes, but it’s hard man. It’s so hard. And I appreciate you sharing your story so, so much. I wish so many more women would and would just be more open about it. Cuz I feel like that’s half the struggle is just feeling like nobody else understands. Or what advice do I take? What steps do I take? I appreciate you telling your story, and I really hope that it inspires other people even to just tell their story about what they’re going through, successful or not. 

Jenny: It’s so important. Honestly, the first time I ever miscarried, I didn’t think I knew anyone who had miscarried. I was embarrassed. I felt like something was wrong with me. I kept it really private, cause I was so excited about being pregnant, and then it was gone.

I literally felt like I was alone on an island. And then, I opened up, I started talking about it after my fifth miscarriage. I was an open book with all my journey and it’s a community of people that are going through this, and it can be helpful, we can be inspiring. We can just be a shoulder to cry on or just to chat through or listen.

Sometimes people don’t want advice and they don’t want your opinion. They just want you to be able to listen and understand. So, anyone who’s listening to this wants to talk to me about influencer marketing. I’m absolutely game. But if you also wanna just talk about life, I’m here. I love sharing. I love making sure that people don’t feel as alone as I did after miscarriage number one.

Jessy: I know that there are so many people listening that appreciate that so much, myself included. So, thank you for that. So, when inevitably people who are listening today want to get in touch, whether it’s to talk about influencer marketing, learn how to be a professor and what that’s or talk about motherhood or just they wanna work with you, what’s the best way for our audience to get in touch with you?

Jenny: Sure. I have a website so I’ve made my name. So this is like early influence, right? Where people have really fancy names and they’re kitchen and cute. I didn’t do that cause I started at the beginning of it all when you know there were bloggers and it was just your name. So I’m really findable just.

Search for me, Jenny Heinrich, and you’ll find me, on my website jennyheinrich.com. I’m Jenny Heinrich on LinkedIn. I’m Jenny Heinrich on Instagram. Be prepared on my, Instagram, it’s heavy mom life, so unless you don’t wanna see like, all my kids, don’t go there, go to my LinkedIn instead. 

But I’m pretty findable so find me, reach out. I love meeting other people and chatting with other people in our industry. Even sub-industry, like digital marketing, and social media marketing, like I started there, right? I’m a digital strategist. I just happened to flex, into really the creator space, and very early days.

I mentioned Jessy to you before, last year I was named one of the 30 pioneers in influencer marketing and I was like, pioneer. I’m like, oh my God. Like I’m not 25. Like what? I’m not 25, but the word pioneer through me. I’ve been around forever. I’ve seen how this industry has changed.

So if you wanna talk to me about that, I’m game. I have a lot of different things that I talk about on my website so you can see the things that I’ve done and things I’m doing now, or if you just wanna connect and be my friend. I love making friends. So, that’s probably the best way to reach out. Go to my website or go to LinkedIn. You’ll find all the info.

Jessy: Perfection. And we will link all of that in the show notes to make it easier. Pick your poison wherever you enjoy the most. She’s there and easy to find. So Jenny, thank you. It’s been such a pleasure chatting with you. I’m so happy that you took me up on coming onto the show. And for those of you guys listening, we will see you next week.

Thanks for tuning in.

Jenny Heinrich


Jenny is a global strategic storyteller with over 23 years experience helping brands find the perfect balance across paid, earned and owned channels + tactics to effectively and efficiently intersect and engage with the audience they’re trying to reach. She’s held leadership positions at Weber Shandwick, MSL Group, Edelman and FINN Partners, and most recently Jenny was the EVP Head of Influencer, Entertainment, Talent & Music at Ketchum. She’s also an influencer marketing professor at DePaul University in Chicago where she teaches students in a first of its kind course that she designed, helping develop the next generation of influencer marketers.

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