01 Oct CRUISE CAREER COACH: INTERVIEW WITH SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIST – BRIGID COTTER
After working for Onboard Media, in a variety of positions after starting as an intern, Brigid Cotter packed it all up for New York City, relocating with her sister. In the spring she started at 7th & Wit, the digital-strategy arm of J Public Relations, a hospitality-focused public-relations firm, as an account supervisor, digital strategy.
“They wanted to do something different than having a digital person at J Public Relations. They wanted to make a splash. We’re a small team with just two of us right now. We’ve had up to 15 clients at once, all hotels and travel,” says Cotter, who supports hotels by handling their social media.
With one client—Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa in Montauk, N.Y.—the social-media engagement has doubled due to posts on Facebook and photos on Instagram.
“I’ve always been on the digital side,” says Cotter. “I was at Onboard Media for five years. I started as an intern, doing online marketing for a handbag line.” She later became a social strategist for Onboard Media and worked in the company’s corporate communications division.
Much of your professional career has been dedicated to managing positive and consistent messaging for brands on social outlets and corporate websites. Why is it important to take the initiative and manage your professional online reputation?
There is no longer a divide between professional and personal online presences. They are one in the same. Every future employer is going to look at your social media before they hire you. We need to be proactively capitalizing on this. Everyone from your grandmother to your future boss will judge you based on what you put online. Even if you delete it, it’s always there. People can take a screen shot.
What steps do you take to insure your personal branding remains polished and professional online?
I just always keep it top of mind. Every time I post something or tweet out an article or upload a photo, I always think that someone’s going to see this. It could be my mom. It could be my co-worker. You shouldn’t be posting a photo of yourself with a cocktail the night before you have a big presentation. Everything you do in the online sphere is a reflection of who you are.
A big thing about personal branding is to watch for over sharing. Just because you can upload a photo every five minutes doesn’t mean you should. People don’t need to see that, they don’t care to see that, and you’ll be looked upon a lot and judged.
Snapchat is a new social-media tool. People take videos in the moment and post them. A lot of brands are slowly getting into it. You take a photo and after 10 seconds it disappears, after you send it to someone. You have to be very careful with that.
What mistakes do you think Millennials are making with social media that might damage their professional reputation, giving employers reason to bypass their applications?
Millennials realize that a recruiter or a future employer is looking at their LinkedIn account. But I don’t think they realize they’re looking at other social-media channels. Your social media-presence is literally an employer’s first impression of you. We actually require all applicants to send us their social-media handles. I’m friends with all of my bosses on Facebook and Instagram. They follow me everywhere. It’s not only about what you’re posting—it’s what you’re getting tagged in. That’s another angle you have to think about—who you’re surrounding yourself with and how serious you are about your career. You can change your privacy settings so you approve what posts you’re in.
What advice can you give to emerging professionals about branding themselves professionally online?
If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, make one. And be active. Don’t just have a static page. Comment on articles in your industry. Share relevant information. Act like you’re on the top, in the know, in your industry.
I highly recommend a professional headshot. You have to look at it as an investment in your future. It takes it to the next level. You’re there to find like-minded people and future jobs and opportunities. That one photo is extremely important. But don’t just stop at LinkedIn. Delete photos of you and your college friends taking shots at the bar. If you’ve just graduated college and your Instagram or Twitter or Facebook isn’t putting your best foot forward, delete the photos. Clean up your brand and your image.
I’ve sat down with all of the interns at J Public Relations and looked through their Instagram and Facebook. I do a whole branding process with them. They want to make sure they’re putting themselves out there the way they want to be seen.
What do you enjoy most about your role as a social-media strategist?
I like being on the cutting edge of a digital industry. As strategists we have to know what’s going to be the next new trend or the next new app. The hospitality destinations we support are all so beautiful: it’s such a great platform to show off in photos or videos. I enjoy traveling to the locations and building a brand. I enjoy gaining a better understanding of our client’s customer and their demographic.
Social media is a brand at play. It’s very hard to see direct results. Are viewers booking a cruise or buying flights? We build a long-lasting strategy. When a resort or destination has a quarterly sale we push that through social media. If you post three weeks of beautiful imagery and then a quick discount on a one-day sale, we help the client realize amazing results, and that is incredibly rewarding.