Stephen J. Bailey

Stephen J. Bailey, owner of PH Digital Marketing & Development, likes to keep his client base in northeast Indiana so he can focus on the community.

What were you doing when we named you one of our 2015 Forty Under 40?

In 2015, I was working my same business model. I was working in digital marketing for over a dozen clients, volunteering and giving my time to boards and committees.

What’s changed since then?

Everything. I thought I was busy then but I look back on that and had no idea how much our region would grow in four years. I feel like my career has simply grown in tandem with it. Now, I work with an average of 30 clients each month and many of them are on a daily basis. Those clients have teams that range from a handful of people to hundreds of people and when you have relationships with people for this many years it’s only natural to then get close to their staff.

My level of connection and friendship with so many people in our region is probably the biggest and most beautiful surprise. Northeast Indiana has given me a real career, real friendships, real motivation, real connection, and real inspiration. I don’t have a single friend in any city from Chicago to California that has moved away and found that kind of all-encompassing feeling and stability from their career. I am not lost on how incredible that is and my gratitude for this is very sincere and real because I know that things can change in the blink of an eye.

What got you interested in social media as a business?

It was a natural progression. My business opened in 2006, and around 2011 is when I started offering social media options to clients. It was a natural partner to the web and SEO (search engine optimization — a way to create greater visibility of web items) work that I was already working in and loving.

Any high school or college classes that prepared you?

Unfortunately, nothing from high school or college prepared me for what I do. I have never worked for an agency, and everything I have learned is self-taught.

What’s makes an interesting social media post?

The most interesting social media posts are the ones that capture a moment that connect a feeling with the audience. You cannot fake authenticity or vulnerability. I am always on the hunt for that.

My client, Trinity English (Lutheran Church), went to Fort Wayne Pride and gave out free mom hugs and dad hugs to anyone that wanted them. They had the idea and willingness to do it and they are incredible people. It’s my job to take their idea and give it life. I planned out the time and location, gave feedback on the shirts, photographed, edited, and then crafted those posts. That one post reached over 170,000 people in three days and had over 50,000 people click through on the photos. They had people across the country reaching out to them because of what they felt from those posts. You can’t fake those moments and it’s my job to connect a feeling to an audience.

What’s a typical way you cover an event for (your clients)?

I really believe in pre-promotion, active coverage while it is happening, and post-promotion. When this is done correctly, it can allow the event to be much more successful from a marketing point of view if it turns into an annual event because you will have all of the digital assets you need to make it a success in the years ahead.

What services do you provide compared to the average person posting?

Heart, time and devotion. I live and breathe all of the content for my clients. I use each channel for specific purpose and I generate the photos, video, information, and sometimes the webpage connected with it. I don’t believe in linking accounts or posting the same things to all platforms unless it’s a good fit. Facebook is used for informational purposes, Instagram is used for visual purposes, Twitter is used for conversation purposes, and LinkedIn is used for professional purposes. These do overlap but that is the starting point for creating a post.

How far is your client base?

I prefer to only work in northeast Indiana because that is where my heart is and that is the economy I want to boost and impact. I have worked on projects in the Midwest from Chicago to Indianapolis to Michigan and Ohio but only take those projects if it doesn’t take away from the great things we are doing right here in northeast Indiana. Right now, I can reach around 175,000 people in northeast Indiana and beyond if I combine the reach of everyone I manage and work with.

How many people do you employ and in what roles?

My husband works with me full time but he never meets with clients and is completely behind the scenes. He left his job a little over five years ago to help me with things because it got to the point where I wasn’t sleeping because there was so much to do. We make a great team. He handles all of my data, invoicing, reporting, and back up information for clients. I have four offices in Fort Wayne that I work out of (main office in downtown Fort Wayne, a video studio in downtown Fort Wayne, my home office and my office on the north side of Fort Wayne) and he works out of two of those locations. There will never be another employee. I want to touch and create everything I work on.

Where do you see the future of your business going?

I see my business as always being a representation of who I am and my belief in our community. I will also continue to add things as they are needed. What started as web design then included SEO and then social media management and then photography and then drone work and then videography. Each laid the step for the next one. Aside from that, I have a weekly segment on television with the Fort Wayne CW and also do public speaking and plenty of volunteer and committee involvement to keep my ear to the ground and my connections strong with what is happening around me.

How do you separate your work activities from your recreational?

To be honest, I don’t. It’s all part of me. I haven’t taken an actual week vacation since my birthday in January of 2015. I have to make my job enjoyable because it is all-consuming and non-stop. That is why I love everyone I work with. Whether it is dining at a great DTFW restaurant, spending time on the rivers, exploring a city in a county outside of Allen County, or being part of an event that connects people with their neighborhood, it’s all really fun and interesting to me.

What do you like to do off the clock?

Sleep! I also love sushi, vodka and spending time with my husband, my dogs and my close friends. I love well-written movies, a really connected conversation with a friend, and getting my hands dirty in northeast Indiana by getting on a kayak or being outside in the grass with my dogs.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in doing what you do as a business?

Everyone can be a story teller and everyone can bring something to the table. How I see the world is not how the next person is going to see the world and that is why it’s important to have other great people doing this in northeast Indiana so that all sides of the story get told. There is so much good going on here and I can only be one place at one time. My biggest advice would be to fall in love with it or don’t do it at all. Don’t do it for the money. Do it for the love.

—Interview by Lisa Esquivel Long

To suggest a Career Path, contact Lisa Esquivel Long at 260-426-2640, ext. 3311, or llong@kpcmedia.com.

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