Interview with Dan Fonseca, Content Creation Specialist at FirstGiving

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.

headshot twitter1. When we had our last interview in June 2011 you were completing your degree and working at HypeGenius – what’s happened since that interview?

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***

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Interview with Wai Chim, Writer & Digital Content Specialist

This week for my Interview Series, we have Wai Chim, a digital content specialist and published author. With her experience as Head of Content at digital marketing agency, Switched On Media, Wai had a lot of interesting things to say about content marketing and strategy as well as some of the emerging trends in the industry.

profile_pic_bw1. First of all, can you give us a bit of background on yourself and your career path to date?

I’m originally from New York City and have been living in Australia for over six years.  After graduating from university in the US, I took some time off to teach English in Japan and then completed a post-grad degree in Creative Writing at the University of Sydney.

I always knew I wanted to write and after I finished my graduate degree, I landed a job working for a small environmental publication producing quarterly magazines. After a year, I realised that digital was really the future for content and moved to online only. I then moved into a digital content role at Switched on Media, first as a Journalist and then as the Head of Content looking after a team of journalists and graphic designers to produce a range of digital content.

2. I’m really keen to discuss your role as Head of Content at Switched On Media — can you tell us about what sort of work you were doing there?

At Switched on Media, a lot of the projects we worked on were in conjunction with our other digital offerings such as search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media. We’d do anything like write articles that would become guest posts on blogs or write content for clients’ websites. As the team grew, we began to integrate visual elements into our content offering, such as making infographics and e-books and eventually including a more technical side to include widgets and interactive infographics.

3. Were there any standout projects or campaigns that you worked on that you’d like to share with us?

I think the infographics we did were among some of the best in the market. We used our journalists to research and pull together an interesting story that could then be interpreted by our graphic designer. Because the journalist and graphic designer worked really closely together, we could deliver a great end result. Some of our best infographics we produced for Commonwealth Bank (some examples below). Meanwhile, the infographic we did for ActionAid captured a silver medal in Magnum Opus awards, which recognises standout projects in content.

http://www.commbank.com.au/about-us/news/media-releases/2012/kaching-research/

http://blog.commbank.com.au/your-business/easter-trading-hops-off-the-page/attachment/commonwealth-bank-infographic-3/

http://www.actionaid.org.au/blog/sexual-violence-can-affect-women-n-girls-throughout-their-lives

4. Outside of the clients that you worked on at Switched On Media, are there any particular brands at the moment that you find are really great at delivering content to their audience?

I think a lot of companies are embracing content marketing now, which is really great to see. Internationally, big brands like Virgin Mobile are putting together fantastic content hubs, like Virgin Mobile Live. The fashion and beauty industries definitely lead in this space as well, such as L’Oreal that started with a simple content marketing site makeup.com and this year have partnered with Rolling Stone and leveraged social media to deliver undiscovered music content to their audience.

On the Australian front, companies like Carnival have great editorial websites like Discover Cruising which I think is a good example of providing useful editorial content that’s relevant to a brand. I love some of the interactive infographics that are coming out by brands as well. They really help to draw in the audience and deliver information in a smart, sexy and engaging way.

5. It seems as though a lot of businesses are talking more about content marketing and strategy these days — what are your thoughts on the industry and some of the emerging trends?

As social media becomes more of the status quo and not the shiny new marketing tool, brands and marketers are finally figuring how important it is to integrate all of their efforts, which is why content marketing and content strategy has become so fundamental. Now that companies understand how to build communities on channels like Twitter and how to make quality videos on YouTube, there will be a greater focus on the substance of all of these mediums – and that’s the content. Brands will want to be more efficient, consistent and holistic about the messages they put out on these various channels, so content strategy will become critical.

6. In that case, what sort of skills to you think will become increasingly more important for content strategists?

I think the best content strategists will come from two sources: either a great web designer/developer who knows how craft a good story or a journalist who has a deep understanding of the technical aspect websites and how digital channels work.

The key to a good content strategy is to have a solid understanding of the nitty gritty technical stuff (and that doesn’t mean you have to know your PHP from your PERL but knowing some general HTML and how search engines work) and also the editorial ability to distinguish engaging stories from the riff raff. These two worlds have been pretty siloed in the past but as creative projects move increasingly into a more technical realm, a good content person will be able to make the best of both.

7. As someone who is constantly producing quality content, I would love to hear more about how your creation process works. Are you at that stage where you’re able to just sit down and write when you need to?

For me, it comes down to a lot of time to read and research, to connect the dots between things and come up with something new. I think I have come to a fairly basic creative process where I can pretty much sit down and write a blog post/article/write-up some stats for an infographic when I need to and have it be “good” or “quality content”. But the challenge is that “good” is often not good enough.

For example, bloggers are pretty picky about the articles they post on their sites and just because your article has some good information and facts and a little bit of personality, it might not be good enough for a number of reasons. The bar is pretty high now, especially for the more popular channels and for bigger audiences.

Having said that, the process of creating something that’s GREAT – well that can still be a bit of a hit or miss. Sometimes, awesome ideas come at random times (the shower and Friday night drinks are popular ones) or they might not come at all. And that, I guess, is the mystery of the creative process.

8. I know your book — Chook Chook: Mei’s Secret Pets — was published in August last year. Can you tell us a little about the book as well as your next steps as a published author?

Chook Chook is a project that I had started working on about 5 years ago in my own time. It’s a kid’s book for ages 7+ and is about a little girl growing up in rural China and her love for her pet chickens even though she’s not really allowed to have animals on the family farm. It’s largely based on some of the stories of my parents growing up in semi-rural Hong Kong and village life in China.

I was so amazed when my manuscript was plucked out of the slush pile from the University of Queensland Press and my now publisher actually loved it – it’s a pretty difficult hurdle for many aspiring writers and I’m still really surprised and thrilled that I got in. Being an author is a bit of a steep learning curve although my digital marketing experience has definitely proven useful. I’m currently working on the sequel to Chook Chook as well as a few other stories that have been boiling in the back of my mind.

***If you’d like to get in touch with Wai, visit her website or say hello on Twitter @onewpc***

Interview with Ross Simmonds, Digital Strategist at Colour

This week for my Interview Series, we have Ross Simmonds a Digital Strategist at marketing and advertising firm, Colour. Ross has had extensive experience working in the digital / social media industry and provides some great insights into a lot of content-related topics.

1. To start off, can you tell us a little about yourself and your career path to date?

Definitely. Well, I’m passionate about a lot of things. Whether it’s sports, technology, hip-hop, social media, camping or super heroes – I’ve got a long list of interests. Of all these things I’d say technology and being outdoors doing new things are where my true passions lie. My passion for these things developed along two very different paths in my career. I fell in love with the outdoors while working as a camp counselor and fell in love with technology when I was kid trying to hack into the back end of video games to customize the games to my liking.

My career started with our public broadcaster the CBC out of University where I developed and implemented a Social Media strategy throughout the region. From there I started my own consulting company called Altego Marketing Solutions. I ran that company for a few years before catching the attention of an agency called Colour who hired me on as a Digital Coordinator where my role further developed into being a Digital Strategist.

Beyond consulting and marketing, I’ve also started a company called dreamr that focuses on bringing unique social experiences to the inboxes of young professionals looking to get out and do something new. As a result, I’m in a lucky spot where I have a chance to embrace both my passion for technology during the day and my love for the outdoors at night (and weekends) – It’s a win-win situation.

2. As a Digital Strategist at Colour, what’s a day in your life like?

It’s actually never the same.

I’m sure you’ve heard that before but it really is different every day as the questions change, technology changes or the challenges change from client to client. An average day starts with a cup of caffeine followed by tackling the first item on my checklist. I like to ignore email for the first hour and focus on the one item I know I need to finish before getting sidetracked with anything else. From there, my work can range from developing a strategic game plan for a client or reviewing the success from a recent campaign. Throughout the day I’m also tasked with project management, campaign development, content strategies, SEO/SEM management and strategic planning. Overall, the days vary depending on the day but one thing for sure; each day is exciting and gives me a chance to provide clients with meaningful measurable results.

2. Your work involves a lot of content development and I just recently read a great blog post you wrote — 4 Ways Obama Won the Election with Content Marketing — which highlighted the importance of content marketing. What are your thoughts on content strategy and the impact it can have on a business?

Everyone says “Content is King” but no one really knows what that even means. It’s a catchy phrase but something that people are still overlooking today as they develop their digital marketing plans. A lot of people are not embracing content as content is one of the most effective ways to generate traction for products and ultimately drive potential leads for services.

I believe that content marketing needs to be deeply injected into every businesses marketing strategy. Whether it’s developing persuasive and optimized content for their landing page or developing captivating or compelling content to make their Facebook posts go viral – Content is key.

Of all the things an organization can do online, ensuring that they have optimized their content is one of those things that can ensure success for their brand. I’ve seen organizations double their traffic and their sales by changing the way they look at content and ultimately embracing the role it plays in todays landscape. I think it’s still underestimated but it’s really the key to standing out and telling your brands story.

4. What sort of content creation skills do you think will become increasingly important in the near future?

I feel reactive storytelling is going to be the biggest game changer over the next few years.

Reactive storytelling is the combination of a top of mind idea and a brand marketing message that is put in front of a relevant audience. It’s an easy way for businesses to make their content go viral but it requires some work.

The biggest challenge for marketers is the fact that you need to be listening and monitoring trends to identify these opportunities. The marketer also needs to understand and embrace the worldview of their target audience. Further more, you need to be willing to take risks and put efforts into reactive storytelling. The best story isn’t going to happen tomorrow, it could happen at anytime and you must be ready to use it for your marketing efforts before the idea goes stale.

If you can share a message that is aligned with your customers worldview and is relevant to your marketing message they are more likely to press “share” or “like”.

5. I was really excited when I found out that Forbes would start publishing content from Quora, I know you had one of your posts published — What Are Some Valuable Business Lessons One Can Learn From Jay-Z? What are your thoughts on Quora and its position in an era where quality content is king?

I love Quora. I think it’s a channel that many marketers are still trying to figure out but one that needs to be embraced.

I’m a huge fan of learning and I think that’s why I spend so much time on this network. The amount of educational content that can be found on here is unbelievable. In many cases, you have any opportunity to receive information right from the horses mouth instead of from a biased third party.

6. You’re also the founder of dreamr, can you give us an overview on what your vision for it is?

In a nutshell, I want to help people optimize their lives for happiness. The team and I are dedicated to creating experiences that are memorable and leave people with something to talk about when they walk in the office on Monday morning. The overall vision is to create a platform that delivers unique social experiences from around the world. I love the idea of doing new things and my hope is that we can share with the world the importance of getting out and doing new things.

A lot of people ask the question: Can Money can Happiness? Well, I think it can. The biggest issue is that too many people are spending their money on things that don’t actually lead to happiness (things) instead of spending it on things that do (experiences).

7. Ok – so you work as a Digital Strategist, you manage your own blog and you have your own business — how do you find the time to do it all?

Adderall.

***To get in touch with Ross, check out his blog at rosssimmonds.com***

PR Word of the Week – Content

Earlier this year I had the pleasure to write a guest blog post for Kristine Simpson, a PR professional based in Canada. The below blog post, which touches on my favourite PR word – ‘content’ – originally appeared on Kristine’s blog – Running a PR life.

My favourite PR word: Content

There used to be a time when PR mainly meant media relations, i.e. you have a story that you push, you send out a press release to your media contacts and hope that you’ll be able to score some coverage. I’m exaggerating a little here, but that was the gist of it.

Nowadays, with so many platforms, channels and publishing tools widely available, PR professionals no longer have to just rely on the media to get their story out; they can also create their own content. Don’t get me wrong, media relations and press releases will always be important to PR, but now with creating your own content being so simple and mostly free, it allows the PR industry to really take hold of a story and run with it.

Shoot and upload a video, snap and share some photos, publish a blog post, create a podcast. All these things can now be done so easily. Then you’ve got channels like TwitterFacebookGoogle+TumblrQuora, etc., where you can just as easily distribute content.

It’s such a cliché isn’t it – “content is king.” But how else can you describe it?

Content

(kənˈtent)
noun

Something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts: a poetic form adequate to a poetic content.

Example:

Okay, so long story short – I was a university student, working part-time at a place I hated, looking to jump into my PR career as soon as possible. So to put a little spark in my job search, I decided to start up a blog where I wrote about my thoughts on the communications industry.

Slowly I built up my blog, reaching out and interviewing PR professionals, getting their perspectives on a range of topics until one day, one of the people I interviewed offered me an internship. Three months later I’m working as an Account Coordinator for her agency.

There wasn’t an application form, cover letter or resume – just one little blog with a steady stream of content and it scored me a job.

So for the PR students out there job hunting – don’t sit there and send out resumes while waiting for the phone to miraculously ring. Get out there, set up a YouTube channel, set up a podcast, build a blog, start a portfolio of writing samples – just keep churning out content and show potential employers how proactive you are.