Kellee Johnson is the Principal of The Ballast Group, an award-winning, integrated communications strategy firm. The Ballast Group helps leaders shape and articulate stories while reaching audiences and channels that matter. They have helped well-known companies such as Hyatt, Kaiser Permanente, Stericycle, Safeway, Target, and Cisco in all aspects of marketing, consumer products, healthcare, and high tech. Kellee founded The Ballast Group after serving as Director of Corporate Marketing for Abbott Laboratories and managing corporate communications for Tropicana, a multi-billion dollar division of PepsiCo.

Kellee’s company also excels at positioning these organizations and others as thought leaders, featuring them on the US News, News and World Report, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and other traditional media. In addition to her work at The Ballast Group, Kellee is a mentor for DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center and 1871 Chicago, a board member of the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation, and a former member of the Rollins College Board of Trustees.


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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Kellee Johnson got into branding and storytelling
  • The story behind ‘Ballast’ and how they help other brands tell their stories
  • How soon should you seek PR for your next big event?
  • Understanding paid, earned, shared, and owned media
  • The Ballast Group’s six steps for putting your brand on the news
  • What does it take to earn media?
  • The power of shared media
  • Common mistakes brands make when they are trying to get on the news
  • The different types of content for the media
  • Case studies: how The Ballast Group helps brands stand out

In this episode…

You’ve done the hard work of starting a great business but still face the struggle to create your story and put it in the news. The thought of it leaves a sour taste in your mouth and makes you think: ‘why do I have to do that? Shouldn’t I just wait until my brand gets noticed and talked about organically?’

Today’s guest, Kellee Johnson, says the chances of getting in the news organically often require you to do something beyond being a fantastic business; you’ve got to earn it. It starts by knowing how to create your story to make it newsworthy and knowing who to share it with.

Learn more about branding and storytelling to take your brand to the next level on this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast. The host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz, sits down with Kellee Johnson, Principal at The Ballast Group. She explains their six-step process of getting brands on the news using the paid, earned, shared, and owned media model. Stay tuned to catch the details about it — and lots more!

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx Bars, YPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk, and many more.

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Episode Transcript

Jeremy Weisz 0:19

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, Founder of InspiredInsider.com where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders. And I’m here with Kellee Johnson, The Ballast Group, I’m going to introduce her in a second. I always like to mention past episodes, which are interesting. And I think last time we talked this is actually I rarely have someone on for a second time. So if you haven’t checked out the other interview I did with Kellee, check it out. This is going to be really she just gives us rock, solid, amazing piece of information and presentation on branding and storytelling strategy. So I was like, would you be open and usually she presents in kind of smaller group private settings. And I’m like, would you be open to sharing that on my podcast? And she said, Yes, so this is gonna be amazing. She’s gonna actually present this and it was super valuable when I watch tonight. I could probably watch it several more times. So I’m appreciating Kellee for sharing this. You know, check out you can check out Andrea Heuston of Founder Artitudes Design, she hosts Lead Like a Woman show. And Andrea Herrera Boxperience which delivers customized wooden crates filled with goodies. I’m always looking at what interesting things I could send to people Kellee that creates a bit of a while experience and so that’s the one thing that is on my list. And before I formally introduce Kellee, this episode is brought to you by Rise25. And at Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships by helping you run your podcast in, you know, for me, if you haven’t listened before, if you have you know, I really focus in on relationships and in my number one thing in my life is relationships. So I always look at ways to give to that my relationships and over the past 10 years of podcasting. I can profile the people in companies I admire, like Kellee. So if you’ve thought of podcasting, I believe you should. And you can check out Rise25.com and Kellee Johnson, she found The Ballast Group. It’s an award winning integrated commission communication strategy firm, and she has served on some really big companies. She was Director of Corporate Marketing for Abbott Laboratories, managing the corporate communications for Tropicana, which is a multi billion dollar division of PepsiCo, I remember as a kid, you know, having huge containers of Tropicana or frigerator. The Ballast Group helps to build domestic brands of global companies and provides lead generation and growth strategies for startup companies as well. They’re focused on all aspects of marketing, consumer products, health care, and high tech services. They’ve helped companies like Hyatt, Safeway, Target, stericycle, Cisco, and so many more. And there’s a lot of different case studies they have on TheBallastGroup.com slash case studies. And they basically position companies also as thought leaders through media relations, including US News and World Report, Associated Press, CNN, Wall Street Journal, and so many more. So, Kellee, thank you for joining me, and I’ll let you kind of take it from here with branding and storytelling strategies.

Kellee Johnson 3:29

Sure Jeremy, thank you, I had no idea that I was you barely taking on a guest twice. So thank you. It’s quite an honor to be here. And we have we had fun, so much fun the last time you probably put your interviewees at at ease. So I appreciate that. And thank you for the kind words. So as you’ve mentioned, I started balas group, it’s been 17 years now, which is so hard to believe. I came out of Fortune 500 and then I got into startup world and I moved back into fortune 500 thinking I was cut out for it after 15 years and realized, you know what, I love the startup world. And so I kind of got back into that with consulting to a gentleman by the name of Keith Ferrazzi who wrote the book Never Eat Alone. And I it’s a book I principles. I love that book it Yeah, it’s uh, you know, you never want to do anything alone, whether you’re working out or going to get some quick bite to eat or networking, whatever it may be. Always make sure you think of others and how you what you can do for them as well as what they can do for you. So his book, you know, we live that for 18 months. And then I decided I was going to start the balance group because I wanted to do something different with especially with PR it’s it’s a it’s a field I love. I’ve been telling stories since I was a kid. I’m actually an identical twin. And so I feel like I’ve spent my life trying to dig deep to find the unique in somebody or a product or service or solution. And so I can kind of geek out about that because I always want to find the differences and that’s what we love to do. And mostly like you mentioned, it’s with well funded healthcare and entrepreneur, healthcare and technology entrepreneurs. So they’re disruptive there. innovated, or we help them put things on the map, sometimes overnight, and I’ll share a couple examples of how we do that. It’s, again, why I love what I do. And I think another thing to note too is that when we go out on our own, you know, you’re on your own, I’m on my own, it takes a lot of guts to do that. I didn’t think I had it. And I didn’t start my business till I was probably 38. I wish I had done it 10 years earlier, but you don’t know until you go after it. So having a set of values kind of reshaped the way I think about things, and I mentioned this on the first cast, if anyone is able to listen to that, again, as you mentioned, ours our curiosity, because in our field, if you if you don’t have it, you You’re dead in the water, and then teamwork is a big one got to have each other’s backs. And then accountability, do what you say you’re gonna do. And if you can’t, you know, get a good another pant plan quickly. So and then, of course, transparency and honesty, but sometimes they take those forgiving, but not everybody does them. So having a set of values was what set the foundation for the Ballast Group. I love sailing in the water. I’m an Aquarian, and so Ballast is a nautical term, right? So I’ll I’ll move, I’ll move down a slide here to show you

Jeremy Weisz 6:07

want to point something out Kellee for a second, if you are listening just to the audio, that’s fine, I would encourage you to go to the post on Inspired Insider or where there will be a full video because she is actually going to be going through some slides. So