Q: Welcome, Marji! Thank you for joining us at Truescope Talks. With an extensive career spanning over a decade in the social and digital marketing arena, we would love to know more about your journey. Can you please share with us how it all began and what motivated you to pursue this career path?
A: Thank you for having me. My career in social and digital marketing began when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and I moved to Miami to be closer to her during her treatment. At the time, I was working in public relations research, but I did not enjoy making cold pitch calls to radio stations. Unfortunately, I could not find a research job that didn't require fluent Spanish or Portuguese, so I applied for marketing positions.
I interviewed for a social media manager position with a popular sports company where I lied (not recommended!) and said I could get them to 25K followers in a month, even though I had no social media experience. The VP and President of the company made a deal with me that if I could meet the target, they would raise my salary by $10K. This was before paid social media, so I had to work hard to achieve this goal. I stayed up all night, studying bodybuilders' behavior on social media and analyzing the content that they interacted with the most.
Fortunately, I exceeded the 25K target, and this helped me to find my niche in growing social media for companies just starting to dip their toes in it. I developed the first social media department for the company and went on to do the same for many more corporations.
Q: You mentioned in a recent post that your career began around the same time as the emergence of brand presence on Facebook, and you spent quite a bit of time persuading executive teams to give it a shot. Can you share a specific memory from this time, and how should communicators approach the Meta-world in today's fast-changing digital landscape?
A: One specific memory that comes to mind is when I was sent to a hospital in Philadelphia to do a Twitter chat with the President, just two weeks into my job at a national cancer hospital. My team warned me that the President opposed social media, and I was worried that he would not answer the questions during the discussion. When he arrived, he said he could only stay for a few minutes, which was not enough time as I could not answer the medical questions.
I noticed that he was getting alerts on his Apple Watch, and I suggested that we set up Twitter alerts. This helped him to engage with the chat and stay for an additional 20 minutes. Every chat after that was successful, even making the Top 10 Twitter Trends multiple times. From this experience, I learned that it is essential to meet executives where they are and make social media valuable to them. You need to explain it in a way that fits into their busy schedules and crazy world.
In today’s world, communicators must keep up with new trends and emerging platforms and be ready to quickly adapt their strategies. To succeed, communicators need to deeply understand their audience, create relevant content and use data to measure their campaigns. The right decisions require accurate and real-time data, and this is even more critical today as we are challenged with exhaustive amounts of both trusted, and mis-information.
Q: What technologies should be on the radar of communications professionals in 2023?
A: ChatGPT! Artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT can be used to create drafts of press releases and communication plans that professionals can then edit to their liking. A ChatGPT Plus account and a tool for cross-checking should be utilized and not rely solely on AI-produced content, as Google will soon penalize such content if it can be identified as AI-produced.
Professionals should also encourage their clients to use and speak about ChatGPT and AI, where applicable. Even if a client has a negative perspective on AI, it will still get traction in this environment.
Q: How important is data in today’s landscape and how should communications professionals utilize it in order to interpret information about their brand, customers, and competitors?
A: I started my career in the research side of public relations where I lived and breathed data, so it’s always been part of my world and played a big part in my digital marketing success where it plays a critical role as it does in all types of communication.
Communication professionals need to utilize data to interpret information about their brand, customers, and competitors. They should dive into data to understand the target audience's behaviors and preferences, which helps them create actionable and effective digital marketing strategies with engaging content. Data also helps professionals to measure the return on investment (ROI) of social and digital marketing and continuously improve upon it. Competitors' data is essential to watch because professionals can glean ideas based on what is and is not working for them.
Data also comes into play when discovering influencers and I always advise clients to assess potential influencers’ data before deciding to work with them, to ensure they’re a good match as some may have “fake” followers or followers not applicable to their industry.
Social listening is one of the most important ways for companies to use data in today’s climate. News is often breaking on social media channels, and catching the first tweet about a news story can ensure you join the conversation as soon as possible. Social listening also plays an important role in crisis communications. Monitoring for mentions, sentiment, and the scale of the crisis online is critical for keeping the situation manageable.
Q: You've experienced some extremely challenging times and you've talked about using painful experiences to make a positive impact on the world. What inspires you?
A: When I was at college I saw a tattoo that read, “My life is my message.” That saying has always stuck with me. What message is my life sending others? It’s vital for me to show others that you can survive trauma. You still have a purpose. God still has a plan for you. You still have to get up in the morning, even though your heart hurts and your head is throbbing.
The abuse I endured in my first marriage inspires me daily to live a free life full of grace and kindness. You never know what someone else is experiencing. My family, coworkers, and friends had no idea what I was enduring at home because I hid it from everyone. The night I packed up to get out of that situation was one of the proudest moments of my life and strangers on social media have told me that my strength inspired them to leave their abusive situations.
When my blog about my sisters’ suicides was discovered by one particular man, he shared that he was moments away from committing suicide himself and after reading how their suicides affected my mom, he realized he could never put his mom through that much pain. He lived through that moment.
Our life experiences are important to share because you never know who you will help on the other side. Now, I aim to be kinder to those hiding their trauma and take more time to get to know someone’s story. I count every day as a blessing and feel lucky to wake up every day. Be honest, authentic, and brave with your words – and watch the world change for the better.
Q: A huge congratulations on the recent birth of your first child! What challenges do women face in balancing family and career, and what work needs to be done to achieve equality?
A: Thank you so much! I never knew I could love so much.
There is a stigma attached to becoming a mother in the workplace; I left my previous role because it became clear the organization did not support working mothers. Women can still produce valuable work whilst being excellent mothers.
The work of supporting women with families ties into the conversation of whether or not working remotely is productive. Companies stuck in traditional thinking are bound to see high turnover rates as remote working becomes the status quo and mothers continue to speak up more about their employee rights.
I did not know how I would feel about my career once I became a mom. As my son, Séb, gets older, I feel my career is essential to keep on track so I can provide a healthy work ethic example for him. I want him to understand that you need to work for what you want and continuously pursue your dreams. I will vigorously pursue having a career and a family, and that means standing up for myself as a mother and having clear boundaries around my work/life balance.
As a new mother, I am still figuring out how to balance work and family, but I hope to inspire others to find ways to make it work for them.