Nathan Imperiale is the CEO of NJI Media, an award-winning creative agency solving complex public affairs challenges with fully orchestrated, elegantly crafted content. He uses his insider knowledge from Capitol Hill and the White House as an asset when planning campaigns and the associated digital assets. Nathan also acts as a partner at FamousDC and FDC Media.
Josh Shultz is the Founder and CEO of NJI Media. He is an experienced leader with a demonstrated history of managing creative and digital media professionals. As a seasoned executive and communications professional, Josh has a unique blend of public affairs experience, business savviness, and digital marketing expertise that has helped shape the creative concepts, architectures, and strategies instrumental in helping clients to succeed online. He is also the Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of FamousDC, one of the most widely-read and talked-about blogs in the Beltway.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [03:32] What problems does NJI Media solve for clients
- [05:57] How Nathan Imperiale and Josh Shultz got digitally creative in the public policy realm
- [08:12] Working remotely before the idea went mainstream
- [09:41] How to attract and hire top talent
- [16:39] The value of co-CEO ing
- [21:41] NJI’s journey going international
- [29:08] NJI’s customer success stories and how they acquired them
- [41:08] How public policies helped female entrepreneurs
In this episode…
Are you struggling with digital content and audience engagement in public policy? Where can you get the support to remove the complexity from campaigns in this niche?
Many companies are challenged by public policy-related issues in the business world. Nathan Imperiale and Josh Shultz recommend partnering with creative agencies that combine best-in-class creative, technical expertise, and exceptional client service to help businesses navigate their way. They share their journey as co-CEOs running a global creative agency in public policy and beyond.
Listen to this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast with Dr. Jeremy Weisz featuring Nathan Imperiale and Josh Shultz, co-CEOs of NJI Media, to discuss how to be creative in the public relation space. They talk about the issues NJI solves for people, how they got into creative and public affairs, how they attract and hire top talent, co-CEO ing, and their customer success stories.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Second Bite Podcast
- Paul Lindsay on LinkedIn
- Daniel Eubanks on LinkedIn
- Sheryl Sandberg on LinkedIn
- Rebecca Miller Spicer on LinkedIn
- “[Top Agency Series] Tools and Tech for Business Growth in Tough Times With Lisa Larson-Kelley of Quantious” on Inspired Insider
- “[Top Agency Series] Most Valuable Advice When Selling Your Agency With Todd Taskey of Potomac Business Capital” on
- Inspired Insider “[Sweet Process Series] How to Save Hundreds of Hours a Month Using Top Productivity Tools with Adi Klevit of Business Success Consulting Group” on Inspired Insider
Sponsor for this episode
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We’ll distribute each episode across more than 11 unique channels, including iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We’ll also create copy for each episode and promote your show across social media.
Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90x, Atari, Einstein Bagels, Mattel, Rx 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.
Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.
Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Insider Stories from Top Leaders & Entrepreneurs…
You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.
Jeremy Weisz 0:22
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of inspiredinsider.com Where I feature top inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I’ve Nathan Imperiale and Josh Shultz of NJI Media. I’m excited because I always like to mention other podcasts people should check out. And episodes and Lisa Larson-Kelley of Quantious. She works with big tech giants, I know you have a few that you work with. So we’ll talk about that. And also, Todd Taskey is always a fan favorite among the agency top agency series because he actually helps pair agencies with private equity. And he has a Second Bite Podcast. So he has found that sometimes the agencies will make more on the second bite than they do off the first and he talked about valuation and what he’s seen in the agency industry. So that’s a good one Also Adi Klevit, she does SOPs for companies and like an easy button. And we geek down on all the productivity and tech tools we like to use because we like to be as productive as possible. So I go back and listen to that one. Because I always like to see, am I implementing all the stuff that she recommended or not so that many more and inspiredinsider.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that we actually help you run your podcast, we’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast. We do accountability strategy, and the full execution and production behind the scene. We call ourselves kind of the magic elves that work in the background to make sure everything works and is happening and it makes it look seamless for the host. So for me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way to do that than to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world, what they’re working on. And hopefully, they make some more connections through the podcast as well. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, go to rise25.com. And I’m excited to introduce today, we have both Nathan Imperiale and Josh Shultz, they’re co-CEOs of NJI Media. And we’ll talk a little bit more about the co-CEO thing. And they found this back in 2007. And their insider knowledge of Capitol Hill in the White House is an asset when shaping campaigns and compelling digital assets. Josh, I know has guided the US House representatives in the NRCC in the digital age. And they both specialize in strategic communications, brand development, web design, often with public policy, or commerce objectives. And they’ve helped companies such as Home Depot, Ventec Life Systems and General Motors, Intuit, C Span and many, many more. Thanks, both of you for joining me.
Nathan Imperiale 3:09
Thanks for having us. That was the nicest introduction I’ve ever gotten to anything. So I appreciate that.
Jeremy Weisz 3:14
Maybe because Josh has been introducing.
Josh Shultz 3:16
That’s true. But if I would, I would also introduce Nathan as an elf. I think I’m more like the easy button.
Jeremy Weisz 3:25
I got you. So just before we get started, tell people about NJI Media and what you do.
Nathan Imperiale 3:32
Yeah, I’ll jump in before Josh does, because I like to do that. We are a creative agency at heart. But we have a specialization in public affairs and public policy, which makes us unique, at least to me, it feels unique. We work with organizations across the globe. And like you said, Home Depot, Intuit, Meta and dozens of others to help them deal with complex public affairs challenges, both here in the US and abroad. Everything from helping them think through how to best tell the story of their economic impact to what their role is in promoting female entrepreneurs and everything in between. We do some really, really exciting and interesting work. And like I said, I think we’re a unique snowflake. In a certain regard when it comes to public affairs.
Jeremy Weisz 4:33
What issues do people come to you with?
Josh Shultz 4:37
That’s a great question. I mean, it kind of runs the gamut a little bit. A lot of them there. It’s a wonky, complex or just kind of dense policy issue that these corporations or trade associations are having, and they’re not able to resonate with consumers and the public at large. And if it’s something that is basically driven by legislation that might change, or something that’s impacting the success of the companies, because there is a regulation that needs to be tweaked. Sometimes it’s hard to explain the complexities of that public policy. And so what they ask us to do is basically distill it in a meaningful way, and create content solutions that are fully orchestrated, and beautifully crafted, that we can then deliver back to the public, so they better understand it. So we’re able to kind of distill a lot of the complexity that they have, whether it be a white paper, or report or other data, and serve it up in a meaningful way. So people better understand it.
Jeremy Weisz 5:42
It seems like there’s just so many moving pieces with what you do and so much complexity that I would probably run from this personally, like, it just seems difficult. How did you get into this type of work?
Josh Shultz 5:57
By accident. Nathan and I both cut our teeth on Capitol Hill, effectively doing the same thing on the early days of digital when we were called New Media Experts. And he was doing it in official capacity. I was doing it more in the political committee capacity. I was doing it better. Nathan was doing it, well, actually slightly better. And it’s so true. Anyway, so basically, what we were doing was building websites. This is on the onset of blogs, and trying to communicate effectively with blogs and creating graphics that worked and trying to impact on social platforms, albeit early on Facebook and Twitter, and then doing video production. And Nathan had started the LLC, again in an official capacity, and essentially spun it up overnight, to make things easier to hire a bigger team. And then one evening asked if I wanted to join his team. At the time, it wasn’t a great fit, because I was chasing my then girlfriend now fiancé, then fiancé, now wife to Chicago. But it was a unique ask of him because we were doing the same thing. And there weren’t really many shops in DC, doing it well, Nathan was frustrated, because the level of creative that he was getting from his vendors wasn’t good. I was frustrated because the level of customer service I was getting wasn’t great. And his focus in college, and he’s a great designer and video producer was exceptional creative. And mine was more kind of connecting people and making sure that we’re doing right by our clients. So I was excited about the prospect bummed out, we couldn’t do it. And then he called me a week later and said, look, our designers in Thailand, our web team is going to be stationed in Atlanta for now, there’s no reason you can’t help me run this out of Chicago. And there we were. So it was good timing. But we were effectively doing the same thing.
Jeremy Weisz 8:03
So Nathan, did it take convincing him that he could work virtually originally, he was thinking he’d have to be stationed where you were?
Nathan Imperiale 8:12
Definitely. It was well before remote working was popular. And Josh felt like he wasn’t going to be able to be effective. At least at first working from Chicago when our business was really based in DC for the most of our clients were at that point. But we quickly realized that our network expanded well beyond DC and our business has grown beyond DC. And that happened relatively quickly. So it’s been an asset to have team members stationed all over the place. Obviously, at first, we started small in the US, but now we’ve got a 65-plus-person team and based all over the world.
Josh Shultz 9:02
I thought he was gonna say it was an asset to have Josh on the team. But that’s not where he was going.
Nathan Imperiale 9:06
No, actually, I convinced you to come on board. And I’m still wondering whether or not that was a good decision.
Jeremy Weisz 9:13
16 years later, exactly. Let’s talk about attracting top talent and how you attract top talent and start with Josh, actually, was there any other convincing that you needed to do I mean, outside of the location wise, because I mean, Josh, you could have gone off done your own thing. There was some dialog of why you thought it was a good idea to team up beyond the location part. What other convincing did you have to do or what else was on the table?
Josh Shultz 9:41
I mean, anybody would tell you, Nathan can convince anybody to do anything. So I was duped a little bit. But honestly, he’s brilliant at what he does. And it was advantageous because we both were doing essentially the same thing. But concentrating on kind of two different sides of the business again, I was more focused on people management and customer and client service. And he was focused on kind of pushing the limits of creative, whether it’d be a website design, or video production. So that alone was a good match. He’d already had a small team, which I met, and they’re all exceptional humans. And they’re just Nathan will say this, he just wants to work with nice people, we want to hire people who are a good fit for our family. We want partners and other vendors that we work alongside and hire to be just good people. And if you can work alongside people who you love showing up to work with each day, the rest will kind of take care of itself. And unfortunately, we’ve been lucky 16 years later that we’ve been able to do that.
Jeremy Weisz 10:25
What do you do now to attract top talent?
Nathan Imperiale 10:53
Yeah, it’s evolved. It’s definitely changed over the last 16 years. Working with a progressive, young team that’s excited about great creative, we need to provide them with the work that keeps them going and excited on a day-to-day basis. So, our job, at least for Josh and I is to make sure that the work that we’re providing and being able to showcase to potential new team members is is exciting enough to keep them going. And I think that we’ve done that. But we’ve put a huge focus on growing a diverse team that’s built up of exceptional individuals, we spend a lot of time going through a really thorough interview process, to make sure that everybody that we bring on to the team is going to fit well with the team that we already have. Like Josh said, I put a special star next to the goal of just liking the people that we go to work with every day. And that goes for our clients as well. And just as important as it is for the work to be great that our team is working on, it’s also important for them to be working with clients that they enjoy working with. And so we put just as much emphasis on making sure that our clients are a good fit for us. And that’s incredibly important to Josh and I.
Josh Shultz 12:26
Yeah, I mean, 16 years later we have an advantage, we can be a little pickier in terms of who we’re able to hire just a really good place to be as a company. And we have a portfolio that backs up our work. And in a culture that really aligns, we’re an LGBT-owned company. And we just we have the luxury of being able to be a little bit more picky with who comes on board. And Nathan will say often, that allows us the advantage of making sure that we hire people smarter than Nathan and I, which let me tell you, it’s a very low bar. But that’s allowed us to grow as a company and our entire team is exceptional. Everybody and Nathan and I talk about this all the time how we got so, so lucky, having such a team who not only cares about each other, but genuinely cares about the work and the clients and how to push ourselves and how to challenge the status quo each day. It’s quite lovely going to work each day with that kind of environment surrounding you.
Jeremy Weisz 13:31
I love to know, what is one or two things that’s baked into the interview process to make sure that you hire right. Hiring is not easy. And I just want to point out if someone’s listening the audio, if you’re watching the video part, you can see I’m on njimedia.com and the careers page I always like to look at, you can kind of see get a sense of people’s companies from how they list out and how they describe their core values here. And you’ll see that why NJI here, we love what we do. And there’s just like a sense of humor to what you guys have in here. There’s flexible, there’s interesting people vacation bonus, community opportunity, wellness. And then there’s a office sword-swallowing performance. So what is that about.
Josh Shultz 14:17
Yeah. We’ve hosted, we do a lot of event production. And Nathan is brilliant at hosting events. And we’ve been fortunate enough to host three of them. We have a really old grain warehouse, former grain warehouse of an office, and we’ve hosted three events for clients in our team and each of those have included a sword swallower and a fire-breather. So that’s been a lot of fun. But to kind of touch back on your question, what we ask of people, Nathan and I let others ask the good questions. You know, what is your biggest failure and all those typical questions? I Want to know more about whether or not I connect with that person and how they think. One of the questions we’ll ask is, you know, if you woke up one morning and there was an elephant in your backyard, what would you do? And it’s fun to hear people’s answers. Well, first, there’s some people that would say, well, the first thing I would do is document and take a picture, then I’d call animal control. And this would be a good project manager. And then things are like, well, I’d first of all, I’d go outside and try to climb it and ride it. I’ve always wanted to. And so you learn a lot about a person or we ask how many tennis balls can you fit in a limousine? And it’s fun to watch people react. And then some people were like, well, can I ask some clarifying questions? How big is a limousine? It’s just like interesting to kind of see people react in a way I’ve asked them if they’ve ever jumped from a moving train, which generally gets a strange response, or if they’ve ever been stuck in an elevator? And if so, how do they handle it? So we try to have a little bit more fun. And by the time they get to us, the decision is essentially kind of already made by people way more important than we are. But that’s a good way to really get to know somebody before you hire them.