From talent management to an obsession with technology and a knack for negotiations Jessy Grossman’s work has led to the creation of new opportunities for hundreds of influencers and brands.  Jessy is a long time entrepreneur in the entertainment and digital media space. She’s been quoted in Forbes and was awarded a spot in the “Influencer Top 50” by Talking Influence in 2020. In less than two years she created one of the fastest growing new talent agencies in the country. Amidst unprecedented growth, the agency was sold in early 2020 and she pivoted to focus on her long-time passion project: Women in Influencer Marketing. WIIM is a non-profit networking organization that was founded in 2017 and provides numerous resources to its members. Due to popular demand, WIIM recently launched a membership collective that offers even more resources than ever before including casting services, job recruitment services, virtual events, an exclusive Facebook community, even more networking opportunities and much more. A great introduction to the group is through WIIM’s podcast that can be found on iTunes and Spotify. Check out iamwiim (double i) .com for more information.

Your LinkedIn profile headline says “eternal optimist”, tell us more that headline and how you stay so positive

Oh, my goodness. What has been an insane 2020? I’ve heard a lot of people say 2021 is a little too similar to 2020 so far. So being the eternal optimist that I am, I’m like, I’m incredibly optimistic that that won’t last too long, too much longer.

So yeah, one thing that, you know, we actually highlight so much as part of WIIM even is how to optimize your LinkedIn. So it’s so interesting that that stood out to you. We have a whole article on it, but essentially I think you’re referring to the headline on my LinkedIn page, which is. Such a great opportunity.

I just want to catch people’s attention. I’m so glad I caught yours and you know, just a tagline about you. So many people don’t utilize that as much as possible. They put, you know, their job title and everything that’s repeated, you know, that’s already listed below, but an eternal optimist, where does that come from?

I’ll be real for a second from being through a lot of shit and coming out the other end. Right. And, and, and still being in a good mental head space and, and still, you know, coming out on top. It’s, it’s a little bit of a triumphant story cause I’ve been through a lot. So that’s that’s  , if you’re looking for the honest answer, that’s where the eternal optimism actually comes from.

Tell us a little bit about WIIM. What does it stand for? Tell us more about what you created.

So women and influencer marketing is WIIM. It’s the acronym for Women in Influencer Marketing.

You know, we’ve got the explicit part of it, of course, which is very self-explanatory. We are a women’s only networking nonprofit organization. That’s. Supports women in the space. Basically all women who touch influencer marketing. So from your ad agency, people, PR people, brand tech companies, talent managers, and so many others.

And, and we support them in a variety of different ways. Obviously we’re a networking organization, so we monthly. Host live networking events last month was fun cause we not only did it on zoom, but we did it on clubhouse. I don’t know. I need help. Can you give me, sorry. No, you should join a lot.

Everyone in our clubhouse rooms, we’ve been doing a ton of events on there. If you have a little party hat on there and identifies you with someone who’s new to club house. So we are, well-versed in getting people acclimated to this new, exciting platform. But yeah, so we are on clubhouse where on zoom, obviously.

But in addition, we have this incredible Facebook community, which from the beginning you know, four plus years ago when we started Wim, that was always sort of the epicenter of. Our community element where people are networking, information sharing and being so incredibly supportive. You know, we were a women’s first organization, so there’s so many like pillars that we’re really looking to to focus on and, 

  we’re always looking to support our members and to create a, you know, a comfortable environment, a supportive environment that really truly supports each other. So we have castings where we support our wonderful small business talent managers and get their clients more work.

And our brand partners. Get an incredible resource to be able to streamline their castings, to reach all these talent managers of one space. We have recruiting services, we have all these educational events. We just had a one about YouTube, these networking ones. I mentioned how to, you know, be the Jack of all trades working for a, an agency.

So. The topics vary widely. We’re always adding to it, but you know, my goal, as you know, as founder of this organization is just to bring an incredible amount of value. So people not only feel like they’re meeting wonderful people because our members are incredible, but also they leave and they’re like, Oh my gosh, I could implement what I just learned tomorrow.

I can, I can implement it right now. We try to really always bring the value. I mean, I will say, you know, being, doing what I do, I’m in a lot of Facebook groups and I, I would say that WIIM every time, just the kindness, there’s no competition, there’s no bath. Like just, you really built a wonderful, supportive and nurturing environment there.

How did you get started in this space?

So my background, my entryway point has been in talent management. I used to represent actors in commercials and I worked for this very large agency for like six, six years.

And towards the end of my tenure there. I was like meh like actors are great. I’ve always worked with actors. I used to be a director and I wanted to sort of represent a different type of talent, something a little bit new. I don’t know, something a little bit more exciting, something that resonated a little bit more with me, so yeah.

I give, I always give credit my best friend who used to work at the talent agency. She went off and started working at a casting agency and she was like, Jess, you gotta look into influencers. She was like, we are like, the brands are coming to us, her casting agency. And she’s like, we don’t even know where to go.

Like where, what, like, we don’t even know who to reach out to. We, we don’t know how to like, make this partnership happen. And it seems like we’re getting these across all the time. You got to look into it. So I, to this day, give her a hundred percent of the credit. She tipped me off. You gotta be a good listener to be good at business.

I’m a great listener. I get tips, hot tips from people all the time. And I listened and I ended up starting a division at that agency. Wow. I had it for like two years that I was there doing that division and it still exists to this day. And I only left because I went to go start my own agency.

And so I left we had that for a few years that recently sold and now I am so fortunate that I’m able to be doing Wim full-time and when was started, what I was at that agency. And it started because I was looking for something like this, I was starting out. Yeah. I was like, there’s something here.

There’s something in this influencer space, but I have so many more questions than I have answers. And I was looking know online. I’m obsessed with Facebook groups, myself, like just information sharing, right? Like, let’s help. Let me help you, help me, help you. Right. And I couldn’t find anything like that.

So we started it and that’s evolved into what WIIM is today.

Most recently, with COVID, I’m having a lot of college graduates reaching out to me asking how do I get into this space and what can I do? Do you see a lot of that?

I love that. That’s such a great age group, like high school to college. They’re like sponges and. I used to run internship programs at like every single company that I used to work for, because I love that age.

And especially young women, you know, they, there’s, there’s a lot of wonderful role models for them, but there are so many more role models that they could have. And there’s so much more valuable information that we should be sharing. The first thing I always say is like, success looks different to everybody.

And just because you see somebody who’s quote, unquote successful, like that might not be. The success for you. And so, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s beneficial to see what’s out there, but then I always coach young women to like really dig deep and say like, what do you want with your life? And what does that look like to you?

And take a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and yeah. And make your life what you define success to be, but that’s a whole other story. We, we do get reach outs from young women and I’m actually excited. We just come to this in a couple places. But we are soon to be releasing scholarships for premium membership, which it sounds like you love that age group too.

 I know I do. And you know, WIIM is full of really successful women, but we want to be a place where it could be the next generation and the next generation of successful women. So we’re going to be offering soon to be announced scholarships for, you know, women who have just graduated from college, who are starting to enter the workforce and who want to be a part of an incredible networking organization.

And it’s a great place for them to start. And so then the scholarship would be like free membership, basically. Exactly. We’ve had a lot of influencers on the flip side, cause we worked with a lot of influencers saying, can you create some kind of scholarship program? And we thought about it, but again, we don’t, we’ve worked more on the strategy brand side.

With COVID, there’s been a lot happening and it’s impacted our, our industry. Where do you think is going to happen after COVID? How have your members been reacting to COVID you think influencer marketing has increased in terms of the amount of campaigns that are happening?

Yeah. So we’ve tried to have a finger on the pulse throughout this entire last year. We have like our engage, the engagement in within WIIM has increased like 10 fold in the past year. And it’s just because everyone has all these same questions, you know? We are regular regularly creating polls in the group to say, you know, how was your Q3, how was your Q4?

Was it busier than you expected? Was it, was it less busy? Like what is now Q1 look like? And overwhelmingly the polls that we’ve taken is that Q4. Or was more busy than was expected. People said they were swamped. I had a couple people say it wasn’t busy. When did you know everybody has a unique experience, but overwhelmingly it was that it was busier than they expected.

 Overall, my impression is that like, Holy crap, influencer marketing is pandemic proof. Which is I thank my lucky stars every single day. Cause I’m, I’m so cognizant of all the people out there who have had, you know, their jobs taken away who have had industries decimated, I mean, there’s no.

Unlike that cannot be overstated. So thank goodness that we’re in this industry. I think that advertising is changing. I think that, to be honest, it really stems from how do we get this economy back? Yeah. And how do we do it in the most efficient way. Right. And so and in cost effective way.

So when it, when you compare influencer marketing to some more traditional forms of marketing or advertising influencer marketing, nine times out of 10, is that choice is that most efficient cost-effective solution? I will say that I, my. Just in my opinion, is that there’s going to be more demands on influencer marketing in terms of results, ROI.

You know, the world is is heat. It’s like on fire right now as well. Right. And so even when looking for influencers, I think gone are the days where brands are only looking for quote, brand. Influencers who don’t talk about politics. Don’t talk about hot button topics in the world. I think that influencers aren’t going to get engagement anymore, unless they talk about those things because it’s just, it touches so many people in the world.

And I think that brands are going to be talking about those things more than ever before. So you know, I’m talking about two different things here, like the content itself, but also the analytics and the ROI on it. But. I definitely see those going in that direction. I’m personally really pleased to see it go.

Those things go in that direction. I think that we need to talk about these things and influencer marketing is absolutely it’s like it’s been here to stay. I think it will absolutely continue to be here to stay. And I think that in order to see longevity in it, we really need to just fully embrace what it is, which is.

It’s there’s such a human element to it that really separates it from so many other parts of advertising, like so many other areas of advertising and for too long, I think people have sort of been afraid of that or kind of. Scripted around it. And I just don’t think that’s possible anymore. I think that people need to just fully embrace it for what it is and that’s what makes it so special and therefore can be so much more effective.

So that’s kind of my, my summary or, you know, my opinion on it on where I think it’s going. I could go in so many different directions because I’m so curious about what people said about Q1 or January, but I’m also curious in terms of like some of the other things that you said. For us. I mean, again, yes, we’re very fortunate, but there’s so many other things apart from budget that we saw, right?

Like you could turn influencer marketing in a minute. So if you have to do a whole photo shoot or a video shoot and have people coming in, all these places, You can’t really do that remotely, but you can’t rally that many people, you need a hundred people to create a message for you and a hundred pieces of content that can be done really, really quickly with influencer marketing.

Are there any things that you could think about that needed to be added to kind of regulate, not just that this was a sponsored post, but anything else that regulatory wise we, we should be thinking about?

Yeah. There are so many things. You know, we, I think we have this copy somewhere on our website, even it’s like, if, if one more person says that influencer marketing is the wild, wild West, like I’m gonna like, you know, punch them. Like, it’s just, it’s. Such a like that, that was said like 10 years ago, when it made sense, you know, it’s 2021 now guys, like let’s get over that.

Let’s like elevate this whole thing to be a mature industry. Like we can’t be kids anymore in this and, and, and in doing so there has to be more. You know, regulations or just like standards. That’s sort of what I would, I want to lean into a little bit more. So, you know, I, there was a conversation in our Facebook group just the other day.

And I seen this in a few other groups, which is, you know, Oh my goodness, this giant brand is approaching all these influencers and not offering to pay a penny. Right. But of course it was like this allure of, you know, wanting to work with this giant brand. But I know they P people like what the heck?

And I just, it, it, we, I think that fundamentally and of course I come from the talent backgrounds, you know, I used to manage influencers and have an agency, et cetera, et cetera. But I think that no matter what way you approach. Influencer marketing. There has to be a core respect of your talent all the way around, like a full respect of them.

These people are doing this for a living. I like now I’m creating content for WIIM. And, you know, we were our own little mini influencers in such a different way, but like, I have so much. Respect for influencers who have created these brands for themselves. They are no different than, you know, your bar to Stuart.

They are no different than, you know, giant, whatever giant brand do you want to fill in the blank there? And there’s this. Just bizarre, lack of respect that I’ve absolutely experienced from so many people. Like I’m a brand side on the agency side as like, well, you’re a dime a dozen, like we could just replace you with anybody else.

Oh, that kills me when I hear that. So, you know, I bring that up because you know, when it comes to rates, when it comes to usage rights, it’s ridiculous. When people ask for, you know, usage rights and perpetuity and ridiculous, you know, fine ask for that, but you gotta pay for it accordingly.

Like, you know, you can ask whatever exclusivity you want. That’s fine. But. But, you know, you gotta pay for it. That kills me. I think that there absolutely needs to be more transparency, like a glass door of sorts. What is that like in terms of rates, like. You know, the rate could be based on your reach, based on the creativity, based on the fit with the brand, based on how many channels you’re going to post on based on a thousand different things.

And they’re very hard to figure out like what it is  is hard. You know, I could say my background again, working with actors, there’s a union there SAG-AFTRA as a union, we actually just had a, a whole virtual event with somebody from SAG-AFTRA because. They’re working a little bit more in the influencer space and there’s, there’s so few, I mean, look, I live in New York city, so there are a lot of unions here in full transparency.

There’s like very few unions that I could really get behind for a lot of reasons. I’m happy to go into offline, but sack aftermath, that’s one of the unions that’s really, really. Stayed true to its purpose. And I feel like it brings a lot of good, which is there are minimum rates that are acceptable. You know, I don’t think that, like, I feel like it would be overstepping to say, okay, and Instagram posts with this amount of followers and this type of reach and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, equals this price.

I don’t think that’s possible. Because it also depends on the engagement. It also depends on if you’re in a specific niche. So if you’re agreeing mom was a baby, who’s two, I mean a child who’s two. And that’s what the brand is looking for. They might pay you more than if you’re, you know, so yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

I, I priced thousands of campaigns. I, you know, it’s, it’s half calculation and math and half of it is, you know, the, yeah, absolutely. The objective, the, the value of that influencer that is a little bit less tangible. I mean, there’s so much to it, but I think a very reasonable place to start is there should be minimums.

And you can go up from that. And let’s say an influencer is fine going below the minimum. That’s fine, but they should meet. They need to explicitly say that. And the other part of this, and this is such a longer conversation is, you know, I, I, when I’m. Advising influencers when I’m speaking to them. I do some consulting as well.

When I speak with influencers and we’re talking about, you know, what rates should I be charging? I tell them like, do not post for free because the more people that give it away, it’s literally like diminishing. Everyone’s value and it’s, it’s an industry-wide problem. And that’s just another kind of sweeping change that I really think needs to happen.

So when I started in this space, which was more than a decade ago, I was one of the first people to say, we’re not doing this, you know, for just products, you have to pay me in the brands that I was crazy. I’m like, I’m going to pay the influencers. We have to get paid. But what I see now, and it’s a debate, even with our own influencers, there might be a project where a brand will say, and we don’t do this often, but a brand will come to us.

It’s it’s commission only, and some influencers want that. They want the commission only, and it’s not tiny influences. It’s not the nanos. It’s people who have 40, a hundred thousand followers. And I would write about that cause I might get commissioned and I need content for my calendar. So that’s the hard thing is that some people are saying no don’t ever do that.

And then there’s a lot of influencers who rely on affiliate deals because they’re making commission. So what’s your thoughts on that? I think affiliate deals are perfectly fine if you’re fine with it. I mean, some people just know they’re like they’re innately salespeople and that’s great, but similar similar-ish to what I was talking about before, I think there just needs to be a minimum guarantee.

You need to be able to cover your costs and that a little bit some, and then if, and then if you know, you’re blowing it out the water with all these extra commissions. Okay. Fantastic. But I think like, I dunno, I’m I’m I used to negotiate for a living, so I always see sort of this gray area where it’s like, that’s fine, but I think there should be this as well.

We meet in the middle and everybody’s a little bit more, you know, satisfied. Yeah. It’s just such a, I feel like there’s affiliates and then there’s influencers and a lot of the companies don’t really get the. The difference. So that’s Noah a hundred percent. And I think that, you know, who’s to say there couldn’t be tiers of affiliate paybacks, right?

So like, maybe it’s like, you know, you start getting 50% and over time after such, you know, this many sales or this much time passes, it sort of diminishes, you know, I, again, I, I always sort of think of a million different scenarios to make it. More palatable for everybody. I feel like the affiliate is such a topic of debate of conversation, for sure.

I feel like, you know, there absolutely is a scenario that could totally work for the influencer, but I have a feeling that what you’ve seen is, is maybe not that it’s, it’s a, it’s a scenario perhaps where it’s like, you know, well, we don’t pay you anything. And we pray. You’re like, you know, five to 10% maybe, and we don’t do them.

We don’t do that, but we do have a lot of influencers saying, no, we want to do that. Which is interesting. Yeah, for sure. How that was super interesting and talking a little bit more about, you know, the fact that it’s women based. How can women in the influencer marketing space better support one another?

Do you think. Oh, my gosh. Well, one is by being open and knowing that professional networking is never one way. It’s never one sided. I am so happy and pleased to hear that within our group, you’ve seen other women be so supportive. It’s it’s really. It’s people inspire other people, right? So like, if you see that from someone, it pays, it, you’ll pay it forward in, in droves because it’s a chain reaction.

And just knowing that, you know, you sharing something with someone else, like they’ll. You know, they’ll give it back, pay it forward to you. It’s it’s and I’ve seen that firsthand and there’s this, you know, I’ve experienced it. I’ve have mentors of mine who are from different generations where, you know, women had to be a little bit more proprietary about things.

It felt like they were always competing with each other. There weren’t as many. Seats at the table. So you, you, they did. I wouldn’t say you had to, but they, they did. And I’ve witnessed that I’ve experienced it firsthand. And I just always said there’s absolutely a better way. And I would rather not be just at the top.

By myself. I would rather be at the top, be successful amongst all of my best friends who are also equally as successful, if not more successful so I can cheer them on. And again, like, look, success is different depending on who you ask. But you know, this was interesting when we were talking about the polls that we, we regularly do in the group and we asked.

What’s your number one goal for 2021, we had some touchy, feely ones, you know, goals. Like I want to better the world. And then we had, I want to make more money and guess, guess what? The number one answer was. It was, I want to make more money in 2021, you know? So we, we talk, we keep it real. Like it’s not, it’s very much let’s help each other out and all that, but it’s like, no, let’s like actually make more money together.

Let’s get better business together. Like we also get real as well. And it’s just sort of fully embracing all the wonderful things that that make women, women were, were. Community oriented. Like I think that we feel great when we’re able to help people when we feel supported and return. And we’re, I don’t know, I’ve, I’ve witnessed so many incredible women who are entrepreneurs in the group who are like killing it, you know, creating these businesses within businesses.

And it’s just incredible to see it’s inspiring. I’m inspired by our members every single day, honestly. Well, I will say that it’s you because not everyone would run the group the way you do. So the way it has turned out in the nurturing environment is because of the standards and protocols you’ve set in place.

Oh, it’s all on you. I appreciate that. Thank you for being a member.

So tell us how people can join WIIM

Well you can go to, I am and that’s double I, because it’s a women in influencer marketing. So w I Am and you can check us out there. We have all the resources, again, like casting recruitment all sorts of stuff, Facebook group, or on clubhouse.

Now, all the things we have a podcast. Two, which is so fun. And you know, we have a couple of free resources, like the podcasts, which are wonderful. I’m so excited to launch that scholarship though, which we’re doing really, really soon. But the, we wanted the barrier to entry to be low. So our monthly membership is $29 a month.

So we kept it very affordable. You know, we have tons of testimonials on the page because, you know, I just want our members to speak for themselves to share their story. Experience with the group. We’re not new. It’s this paid membership is new. And the reason we launched it in November of 2020, and again, the group launched about four and a half years ago people were just asking us for more is arguably the most difficult year for people.

And they’re like, I feel like Wim could even help us, like help us even more, bring more, bring more, bring more. And again, we’re a nonprofit networking organization. And so we, we have a strong mission, which you could see on the site, but it’s all about support. So we wanted to bring more resources and do it better.

And so 29 bucks a month, three 48 for the year. It’s super affordable and the value for SU you know surpasses that. So we’d love to have people join. We’re excited to have more people join.

Who’s an influencer you love to follow, but hate to admit that you do?

So I don’t know about, I would hate to admit it because whatever, cause I love her, but it’s a little bit, I don’t know. I just don’t know that people are so into that. So. This is like, like, like to me it’s like your dirty secret of like what reality TV you watch or something, that sort of thing.

So there’s an influencer that I’m obsessed with. I’ve been for years. Her name is Kendall Ray. And the she’s just a little off the beaten path. So she like talks about like conspiracies and true crime is like her bread and butter. She talks about like astrology and like, I don’t know, all sorts of stuff.

She has an incredible podcast. Two mile higher with our husbands and our cousin. Like I literally watch her YouTube channel all the time, watched her for years and I’m obsessed. I just love her stuff. I think she’s so cool. She’s a people I just don’t think know about that side of me and I, I love her stuff.

I’m so into it. It just, it makes you think like, she’ll talk about anything from like true crime to like do aliens exist and like, And she’s not, and they, Oh, I love that. They always leave it sort of up in the air. You’ll never really know how they feel, but they’re all about just like, I don’t know, open your mind and like take the ride with us and see, like, let’s just talk about it.

Let’s just go there. And I’m like, I love it. So I love Kendall, right? She’s my fav.

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