An interview with Emily Garner

Emily Garner

We had a few moments with Emily Garner, Content Specialist at Blueclaw, about her journey into digital marketing, how best to unplug and what it is like being a female professional.

Emily always loosely knew what she wanted to do for a living, but like most of the women we’ve spoken to over our issues, she wasn’t fully aware of the digital marketing industry.

“In a way, yes, although I didn’t know at the time that it was called digital marketing, or specifically content writing. I’ve always been academic and enjoyed collating research and writing to disprove or support an argument, so I started applying for careers related to English Literature after completing my MA. Digital Marketing came up on the list, so I looked into it, and it seemed an ideal fit.

Considering how perfectly suited my position is to my interests and background, I didn’t apply for it conventionally. I was still in university completing my MA and found a job advert for an SEO executive and applied without really knowing what it meant, but knowing I was interested in digital marketing. Then, I received a phone call from the Head of Content and PR at Blueclaw saying that he didn’t think I was suited to SEO but my CV perfectly lent itself to a content executive position. 

I did one interview (my first one outside of retail after finishing university) and was offered the job. I’ve loved it ever since – even though I was working full time while still writing my dissertation for the first four months!

My advice to other women looking to break into a similar industry is to be tenacious, confident, and don’t undersell yourself! I believe that as women too many of us expect to already be at a disadvantage due to our gender and therefore often write ourselves off before we even start. 

Digital marketing is such a competitive and quickly expanding industry that you can’t afford to be humble or meek, because nobody else will be. I think it’s also important to be able to point out what makes you different and why you’re the best choice for the role – even if you know other applicants will also share that skill.

What I love most about my job is that no two days are the same, for better or worse. I also love that I’ve become someone who people around me trust with representing their brand or executing their content needs, as in university I faced the typical English Literature stigma ‘oh it’s just reading and writing, can’t anyone do that?’. 

I also absolutely adore my team, as cliche as that sounds. Content and PR is a competitive and high-stress department in any agency, and I’m extremely lucky that we’ve rallied together to become like family as a result.

In 2020, I think there’ll be more of a push into creating dream job-like campaigns – we’ve seen a significant rise in that over the past few months but I’d be interested to see where else it goes as more brands get in on the act. 

I also anticipate there’ll be a bigger focus on producing easily-digestible viral content for social media, as brands try to appeal to a generation that is heavily invested in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

I can see emissions continuing to be a key focus, particularly in the travel and auto sector, and I’m excited to see what other sectors begin focusing more on their carbon footprint – for example, I’d love to see more eco-friendly household products on the market. 

Of course, I’d also like to see more value given to brand mentions and no-follow links when it comes to outreach.”

Career Challenges – and how Emily overcame them

“The biggest challenge of my career so far has been how the industry views experience vs dedication when it comes to progression. I’ve seen instances of someone coming into an agency who has years of experience and therefore is granted an influential position but takes it for granted and then doesn’t pick up the slack when they’re called out. In such a competitive industry it makes sense that experience is crucial, but there are some real diamonds lower down the chain just waiting for their time to shine.

There is a lack of female role models and mentors in the industry on the whole, but there are certainly some sensational women in my current agency who just blow my mind on the daily. I think recognising the women who are making a difference in the industry right now, regardless of their current position, is crucial, as well as being ready to shout about our own successes on social media and LinkedIn like so many male colleagues do.

I’ve never felt discriminated against for my gender to the extent of being overlooked for a promotion or position, but I’ve felt as though things would be taken more seriously were I a man. I’ve had meetings before where a client or colleague has opted to address the man in the room rather than me, regardless of who has more knowledge on the situation or holds the higher position. The best way I’ve found to get around that is to answer questions directly wherever possible, but also make sure anyone in a meeting alongside me is informed to the same extent to ensure that things aren’t misconstrued as a result of gender preference.

I think everyone in this industry feels a need to prove themselves, regardless of their gender, but there have been instances for me day-to-day both professionally and personally where I feel I’ve had to try harder to get recognition as a result of my gender. I’m a very ambitious and work-oriented person and I feel that often gets overlooked as people assume a woman’s primary focus is around relationships and home. I often find myself reiterating how much I care about my career and my work in order to receive the same respect as my male colleagues.

I have two inspirations – both women, and all for different reasons. My first is my mum, as she’s always interested in what I’ve been doing and ready to offer her opinion if needed, being a freelance writer and journalist herself. My second is my manager, Hayley, as she’s fearless and I feel we work incredibly well together. Since she started earlier this year, we’ve executed so many campaigns between the two of us which have done much better than anticipated, and we just vibe when it comes to idea generation or off-the-wall press release creation.”

Digital Burnout and Mental Health

“I’ve experienced digital burnout – I think it’s hard not to if you’re devoted to your job. I’ve always been a suckler for working wherever possible and pushing myself, but the reality is that often leads to more harm than good. My coping mechanism is making sure that I’m proud of what I’m doing and know when to ask for help, as well as trying to switch off when I’m not at work.

In my case, I go for little moments of self-care wherever possible, whether it’s a nice bubble bath, a phone call with my family when I’ve done well or just buying my favourite lunch when I need a pick-me-up.  

I struggle to unplug and have done ever since high school. I’ve found that the best way for me to unplug is to completely remove myself from any environment that I could do any work in and do some other activities. I often go bowling, to the cinema or restaurants when I know I need a break.

My advice is to try to integrate it into your day-to-day life where possible, but in a way that seems less like work. That way you have access to the constant insight needed to succeed in the role but you’re less likely to burn out. I’ve found that watching the news when I’m getting ready in the morning, checking trending stories on social media and having competitions to find ridiculous news headlines among friends passes the time while also keeping me informed.

I can see that discussion about mental health has improved massively in terms of workplace reception than it was previously, but when it comes to HR procedures or regulations there’s a long way to go. I think there needs to be a focus on separating mental health from physical health issues, as it’s not constructive for employees to be told they’re classed as ‘off sick’ when perhaps they’re taking a mental health day, as it subconsciously contributes to the stigma and seems like a punishment.

I have suffered from my mental health in the past and have been through a rough few months this year, so there have been bouts of poor mental health, along with digital burnout.

Ironically, I work a lot to give myself something else to focus on wherever possible, and also keep those around me informed when I’m not doing so great. I try to be kinder to myself day to day and take a moment at the end of every day to check in with my mental health and see if there’s anything I can tackle to improve it. I also attend counselling every month or so to work through some of the things I’ve gone through in the last few months, just to ensure I have a space to vent if needed.

I think for sure a better understanding of how mental health impacts people differently, as well as a trained mental health responder in every workplace. Flexible working must be implemented to not burn already suffering employees out, as well as optional 1-2-1 sessions so any concerns can be raised before they become unmanageable. 

I also think just more sensitivity around someone coming back to work after a bad mental health bout, as too often it’s treated with the same clinical efficiency as a sick day, annual leave or even unexplained absence.”

You can visit the Blueclaw site 

@blueclawmedia on Instagram and @blueclaw on Twitter

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