This week for my Interview Series, we have Dan Fonseca, Content Creation Specialist at FirstGiving. I had previously interviewed Dan back in June 2011 when he was still completing his degree. This time around, Dan discusses what’s happened since our last interview, his role at FirstGiving, his thoughts on content marketing and more.
Oh woah, a ton! Well for one thing, I finished up university in December of 2012. I graduated from Northeastern University with a B.A. in Mass Media Communications and minors in Music Industry and Business Administration. It still feels weird being done but I’m getting used to it. I wake up everyday feeling like I’m 13 and realize I’m actually 23 with a job and bills to pay. I guess I’m a “real” person now.
About a year ago I had the pleasure of interning at FirstGiving with the marketing team. That was a true education. I was given the opportunity to hone my content and social media skills. It was also a great lesson in critical thinking and resourcefulness. I learned a lot of great skills on the fly. It was a baptism by fire I guess you could say.
2. Can you tell us more about your current role as Content Creation Specialist at FirstGiving?
Sure! As the “Content Creation Specialist” I’m in charge of creating all the “sticky” content FirstGiving puts out. This means social media, blog posts, ebooks, webinars, website copy, email marketing, etc. I spend most of my days writing, brainstorming, and even dabbling in the visual/design world. They even let me shoot a promotional video for a new initiative we’ll launch in early April. I’ll let you know when it’s live!
The great thing about working at FirstGiving is the balance between right and left brain activity. A lot of my work is very “right” brained. I get to talk about fuzzy emotions and deal with irrational relationships everyday. However, hard data and analytics drive my content. The marketing team uses Hubspot, Sales Force, and Insight Squared to help hone our marketing efforts. It’s really great to be able to cater to both parts of your brain. I’m lucky to have that opportunity.
3. You’ve worked at a number of different organizations prior to FirstGiving – can you give us an overview of what it’s like to work for a non-profit? What sort of opportunities and challenges are there?
Glad you asked that question Hao. FirstGiving is an interesting case. We’re a for profit company dedicated to helping nonprofits. Working with nonprofits has its unique challenges. They generally don’t have the investment funds you see in for profit companies. It limits their effectiveness and scope. There’s a recently published TED talk about that very idea given by Dan Pallotta. I highly encourage anyone interested in nonprofits to take 20 minutes out of their day to check it out. Dan’s a great speaker.
4. After finishing your degree last year, how do you stay on top of continually educating yourself and developing professionally?
I’ve been cooking up a personal motto recently, and if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to publish it for the first time. For now, my personal motto is “be a critical and creative creature.” I think if you’re simultaneously critical (not cynical) and creative, you’ll be okay. You have to be passionately curious about the world around you. My favorite word is “why.”
Do you want a more specific and concrete answer? No sweat. I watch a ton of TED talks, read blogs, hang around Twitter, and talk to other peers. To me it’s about participating in meaningful and engaging conversations – be it online or in real life. Self education is allowing yourself to make “good” mistakes, not silly ones. Mistakes are learning opportunities.
5. Is your current role on par with what you thought you’d be doing when you first started your degree? Or have there been a lot of pivots on the way?
I started as a Music Industry Major so no, I’m a little ways off but I’m very happy that I strayed. I don’t think I should be anywhere else right now. The responsibility and autonomy I’ve been given is wonderful. FirstGiving has a start up feel that’s fast and flexible. Those are things I value in my life. I’m allergic to unnecessary bureaucracy.
6. Lately there’s been a lot of talk around content marketing – as someone who works alot with content creation, what sort of trends are you seeing emerge?
Quality over quantity. There’s a lot of noise out there and you will only cut through if you craft engaging and sticky content. You have to positively contribute to the conversation you’re in. How can you bring the group (and yourself) up? Be helpful.
Visual content has also continued to grow in importance. Visuals are great for engagement. It’s a fantastic conversation starter. If you think about it as a sales/marketing funnel, visuals are very “top-of-the-funnel” activity. It’s the first conversation. It’s your credibility and emotion, it’s ethos and pathos.
7. What’s next for Dan? Where do you see yourself in five years?
I wish I could tell you Hao! I haven’t the slightest clue. I joke (not really joke) that once I’ve paid off my student loans I’ll do something irresponsible like some fantastic art project or start a business. I’ve done some aggressive calculations and in five years I should be ready. Ask me that question again then! I’ll have a better idea. Maybe I’ll travel or start a new religion. I have no idea!
***To contact Dan, get in touch via Twitter @whoisdanfonseca***