Interview with Adam Boland, Director of Social Media and Strategy at Channel Seven

This week for my Interview Series, we have Adam Boland who is currently the Director of Social Media and Strategy at Channel Seven. Adam has been in media  his whole career and he provides some great insight into the TV industry, social media and his career path.

1. You’re currently the Director of Social Media and Strategy at Channel Seven which sounds like a pretty cool role. Can you describe what a typical day’s like?

I basically hang on twitter all day.  I’m joking!

There’s no such thing as a typical day in television, which I think is what many people find attractive about the industry.

It’s a happy merger of being proactive and responsive.  Every morning at 8:30, we all wait anxiously for the previous day’s ratings and then dissect them down to the minute.  What worked and what didn’t?  That’s the responsive bit.  The proactive element is to try to influence the following day’s ratings.  There’s an old saying in television that you’re only as good as your next ratings – so we are truly accountable each and every day.

I spent ten years running shows here at Seven where my day-to-day was very micro.  I would be across every element of those shows from the writing to the promos to the marketing.  You don’t get much sleep and the pressure gets rather intense.

These days, my focus has shifted to the broader media climate and how our shows can exploit that new world.

So, much of my day is spent learning.  I meet people from all over the world about things they’re doing with social media.  Lots of it is experimenting.  We then figure out what works for us.  I hang with producers and directors – mostly in the news and current affairs department – and develop ideas.  I also spend lots of time with the team at Yahoo!7 which is our sister company.  They are very bright people with so many great online ideas.  We’re developing things now which you’ll see come to life over coming months.  The goal of course is to be ahead of the curve.  The reality though is that this sphere moves so fast, it’s a really big challenge and needs companies to move much quicker than in the past.

2. Before working at Channel Seven, you spent some time working as a producer and reporter at several media outlets, what was your career path like? Have you always wanted to work in media industry?

Media has been my entire life – which is rather sad when you think about it.  Always wanted to be a journo.  Went to university in Canberra to study politics and journalism.  At the end of my first year, my lecturer recommended me for a cadet’s gig in Brisbane.  Even though it meant dropping out of uni, I jumped at the chance.  I couldn’t wait to work – and I never regretted it.

That job at 4BC taught me so much.  The senior reporters there were ruthless with me.  It made me tougher, knocked some arrogance from me and gave me the ultimate crash course.

From there, I went to 3AW in Melbourne before making the switch to TV at Sky News in Sydney. I was one of the founding producers there – which was such a thrill.  We essentially got to write the rules for Australia’s first all news station.

After Sky, I joined Ten as a reporter in Cairns until I got sacked for being an idiot.  Long story.  Seven then picked me up in Sydney and the rest is history.

Seven gave me a chance to experiment.  I surrounded myself with some really smart and energetic people and we got to work on shaking up breakfast and then morning television.  Loved every second.

That said, the media can take over all elements of your life.  It took me way too long to figure out the work-life balance and when I had, I realised that my twenties had vanished.  So, be careful!

3. With digital technology and communication platforms evolving at such a rapid pace, where do you see the TV industry headed in the next 5 years?

Television is changing.  No doubt.  But claims that mainstream TV is dead are just so silly.  I think rather than replacing the big boys, new forms of media will work WITH the big boys – making the experience even better for the user.

So, we’re now seeing shows that integrate social media into their formats.  We’re seeing new apps that allow viewers to have conversations while watching their favourite shows with other fans of the show.  Accompanying content and broader integrated conversations are the way forward.  And that’s really cool.

You’re also seeing more options for users – whether they be online or on-air.  So brands are evolving.  Sunrise is a good example.  Sure – our main game is our broadcast time from 6am to 9am but we now have producers who are constantly pumping content out via our website or the apps 24/7.  It’s about ensuring that users get more out of us.  There shouldn’t be a disconnect at 9am.  The conversation simply continues.

4. You’re currently juggling multiple projects on hand; working at Channel Seven, opening up The Ginseng Baths, on the board of the Griffin Theatre Company – how do you manage your time? Do you find yourself planning everything out?

I think everyone needs to look at their schedules – no matter what work they do.  Sorry about getting philosophical, but life is so short.  I like the idea of jamming as much in as possible so I can contribute as much as possible and gain as much as possible.  I also like variety.

I think too many people fall into a default position: get up, go to work, come home, eat, go to bed. Repeat.  I am probably allowed more flexibility than most – but I also insist upon it.  Variety gives your mind much more energy.

5. And lastly, for students out there aspiring to carve a career in the media industry, any tips on how to make it?

Enthusiasm.  No point getting into this industry unless you have passion.  I meet too many people who expect to be fast tracked to fame.  Firstly, most of the fun happens OFF camera.  Secondly, you need to earn your stripes.  Expecting to simply get work at Sydney’s biggest agency or station is unrealistic – and frankly, no fun.  The journey is cool.

Oh, and everyone in the industry should be getting their heads around social media.  I’m not just saying that because of my role.  Engagement is the future.  Actually, engagement is the present.  So, people need to know how to engage.  Not that frightening really and you could just make some new friends!

***To contact Adam say hello in Twitter @adamboland7 or on Google+ ***


Interview with Dan Fonseca, Blogger and Communications Student

This week in the Interview Series, we have Dan Fonseca, blogger and communications student from New Jersey, talking to us about blogging, time management, personal branding, internships and job hunting.

Q1. What do you think was the one main reason you chose the media and communications industry?

Essentially, music was my gateway drug. My high school years were spent writing, playing, recording, and promoting my own music online. That was when I really first got exposed to social media. After initially going to Northeastern University for Music Industry, I found that it was too limiting and that I wanted to think about media on a larger scale. I had watched how the Internet had disrupted the music business and began to see the trends take hold in other industries. I guess my curiosity took over from there.

Q2. Looking at your LinkedIn profile, you’ve got quite a lot of things in the pipeline with your studies, blog, HypeGenius. How do you manage your time?

Lists. I am a self proclaimed stickie junkie. Until I starting using Evernote, my physical and digital desktops were stickie war-zones. I find that I free up “intellectual space and processing power” when I write things down as weird as that sounds. It also makes it easy to take a macro or micro view of a project or my life if need be. It essentially puts things into perspective and focus, I find that helps manage my time and priorities.

Q3. I’ve been reading your blog – Synapses – and judging by a few posts, it’s not your average communications student diary now is it? What are you aiming for with Synapses?

Synapses is really about breaking down mental models. I find that the disorientation that comes with the initial breakdown and the subsequent rebuilding not only forces me to understand ideas and notions better but also gives me more insight to them; sometimes even the opportunity to challenge them too.

Since it’s online for the world to see, it forces me to have a better grasp on it than I would generally have. In a way it is a check against my laziness. I am also reminded that it’s my reputation that I am playing with. In another light, it’s great to archive your thoughts. I can’t wait to look back a couple of years and see where I have grown.

Q4. In your opinion, how important is a blog for a communications student on a job hunt?

Personal branding is everything. I’d like to challenge everyone to develop a blog no matter how in depth they would want to go. The blog does wonders for the job search in my mind. The resume is great when you want to aggregate credentials and experience points but truthfully that is only part of the overall employment equation.

Company culture is critical. How will a resume and a short interview really get a grasp on whether you are a good match or not? In my mind, a blog communicates your thought process, values, and communication skills, all vital components to a proper employment situation. Let your blog separate you from everyone else. After all with competition always on the rise, what else are you doing to do?

Q5. Rank these in order of personal preference: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Personal Blog

Ouch that’s like picking a favorite child but you leave me no choice…

1. Personal Blog

2. Twitter

3. Facebook

4. YouTube

5. LinkedIn

Q6. What was your internship at Glassnote Records like?

Fantastic and terrifying. New York City can be overwhelming in all aspects. Getting used to the city’s speed and the people’s personality was initially tough. My time at Glassnote taught me a lot about the music industry but the real education take aways were in regards to small business relations, power dynamics, decision making, and ultimately how I felt towards what I learned.

It was more of a personal development opportunity than a traditional “experiential learning” internship. Loved it but I don’t think I would jump into it again. I would, however, recommend it to anyone. The people at Glassnote really know what they are doing.

Q7. What do you think are the top 3 most important things to keep in mind when looking for a job in the communications field?

  1. Learning and personal growth opportunities. Companies invest time and resources in you and you do the same. What are you getting from your “investment” apart from the unimportant, possible, monetary reward? How will this job help prepare you for the next chapter in the industry and your life?
  2. Freedom from the work place, you work to live not live to work. You need a proper balance between the both. You decided what that means to you.
  3. Play up that personal brand. Use all the tools available to communicate who you are, your strengths, dreams, and personal conflicts. What are you passionate about and how can you channel that towards the employment and self actualization process?

Q8. And lastly, for all the students out there looking to intern, what’s your number one advice?

Think of an internship as the safest way to fail miserably. Internships are a great way to “taste” industries, departments, companies, culture, and management. It’s better to find out that you HATE something before it’s too late. That gift is invaluable.

Nothing against the music industry and Glassnote Records but thanks to my internship I found out that I did not necessarily enjoy the record label atmosphere. For that, I can’t thank them enough. The opportunity to learn and bail after a period of time in any employment setting is rare outside of an internship. Don’t overlook this opportunity.

***To contact Dan, get in touch via Twitter @whoisdanfonseca or check out his blog Synapses***