For anyone, living in a foreign country often comes with its own set of challenges: acclimating to a new culture, absorbing new customs and traditions, and of course, learning your way around without looking like you’re new to the place.
But living abroad as an American citizen (especially in this particular moment in history) is an experience that more than likely comes with all of those things, but also a breath of fresh air. The relationship Americans currently have with the media has flipped 180 degrees since the 2016 Election – with “fake news” resting at the helm of daily television broadcasts, podcasts, and print and digital stories. This in turn creates a picture for our friends across the pond and elsewhere that isn’t always the most pleasant, and cause unwarranted anxiety and stress right here at home.
As Manager of Creative Strategy for Branded Content in Mashable’s London office, Elisha Hartwig has found a way to detach from the American media circus, yet remain informed. She uses her unique media perspective to her advantage by developing innovative branded content solutions across several media verticals (11 to be exact) that yield profitably for her global clients.
Having lived in Europe for the last four years, Elisha hasn’t missed much – but she does recognize that times here on the homefront have certainly changed.
In this interview, Her Agenda sits down with Elisha to discuss her day-to-day responsibilities at Mashable, how data will continue to play a major role in how consumers digest media and why it’s important to have a mentor help guide you throughout your career journey.
Her Agenda: As the Manager of Creative Strategy for Mashable Brand X, what does a typical day look like for you? What are some of your responsibilities, and what do you think are some key components in effective storytelling?
Elisha Hartwig: A typical day for me starts with going through any new RFPs we’ve received from clients, and scheduling times to brainstorm with the wider team. Then throughout the day I’m essentially project managing all branded content campaigns from the pre-sales all the way through post-sales executions and measuring performance or out at meetings with the sales team to talk to agencies about Mashable’s capabilities.
As far as my responsibilities go, I’m the head creative for Mashable’s international branded content so I’m balancing the creative demands of my job with all of the admin that comes along with the role. One of the most important parts of my job is making sure that the content that we create will work for the Mashable audience. When it comes to branded content, it can be easy to let your standards slip and take on campaigns that aren’t the best fit just to get the revenue — but part of my job is doing that gut-check and making sure that we don’t take on partnerships that just aren’t right.
Regarding key components of effective storytelling, two things are important: one, making sure that your brand should be telling that story in the first place. This means doing a real gut-check and making sure you’re not jumping on a story because it’s going ‘viral’, rather making sure every story has your brand’s take on it; and two, be relatable. You want to ensure that your readers or viewers leave your content with something, whether that’s knowledge about a topic or that they feel good.
Her Agenda: Let’s talk about data for a second. With all of the recent changes in Facebook’s algorithms on their news feed, many social media strategists and journalists alike are worried about their content not being seen by the appropriate audiences. How have you and your team approached this challenge, and what would be your advice to other content creators?
Elisha Hartwig: With the latest Facebook algorithm change they are prioritizing engagement, so content creators need to be more discerning about the content they’re publishing. Just like I said before, doing a real gut-check to make sure whatever you’re publishing is going to ring true to your audience is so important — because without your audience, you’re nothing. And part of that process is making sure you’re bringing something unique to the table. I think as publishers all battle for eyeballs, we’ll be forced to take a long hard look at ourselves and really figure out who we are, and how we’re going to create content that stands out.
Her Agenda: Social media uniquely gives us the opportunity to share our truth, as well as to help elevate causes and issues that matter most to us. When you are considering thought leaders and innovators for branded content, what are some characteristics that you and your team take into consideration? How can influencers properly approach big brands that they may want to collaborate with on branded content?
Elisha Hartwig: When considering thought leaders or influencers for branded content, an engaged following is one of the characteristics we look for first. Surprise surprise, people can buy followers! It doesn’t take long, but have a read through the comments on someone’s social media page and you’ll know right away if the person is legitimate or not. Secondly, the person needs to be the right fit for Mashable. As a site, we’re positive and empowering, not negative or degrading. So we need to make sure that whoever we partner with has the same values.
Her Agenda: You’re from America, but you’ve lived in Europe for quite a while. Have you noticed a difference between your relationship with media living overseas compared to when you lived and attended school here? When building out creative strategies for potential clients, how much does news media play a role, if at all?
Elisha Hartwig: Yes, absolutely. It has felt like such a relief to escape the toxic relationship that Americans have with media. I found it difficult to try to remain an informed citizen of the world without getting anxiety and depression from everything I was reading. Part of that is a reflection of the world we live in today, of course, but another part is our media’s inexplicable standard for what constitutes something as ‘newsworthy.’
Her Agenda: What have been some of the biggest lessons you have learned thus far in your career?
Elisha Hartwig: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my career thus far is the importance of over-communicating and documenting. For the last two years of my career my manager was based in NYC whilst I was living in London, and it was really difficult to navigate that relationship at times. Tone of voice can get lost over email or Slack so easily, and I think people have an easier time thinking the worst of someone when they don’t see them everyday. That leads me to the importance of documenting. Miscommunication is guaranteed when you’re working across time zones, so it’s important to mitigate that as much as possible by documenting everything. Also, when it comes time to discuss promotions, etc. you’ll have records to work from.
When faced with the challenges in your career, how have you been able to overcome them? What keeps you inspired and motivated to move forward?
Elisha Hartwig: I cannot stress the importance of mentors enough. Ideally someone who doesn’t work with you, but someone who is knowledgeable within your industry and can provide some much-needed perspective or guidance.
Her Agenda: What is the best career advice you have ever received?
Elisha Hartwig: This is more life advice than career advice, but it is the best advice I’ve ever received. You know when you’re on an airplane and you watch the safety video in the beginning, and it says to put on your own face mask before you help others? That. Is. A. Metaphor. For. Life. Self-care is so important. In order to be a good manager, colleague, friend, sister, partner — whatever — you need to manage your relationship with yourself first. And it doesn’t mean that your selfish, but you can’t help someone else with their face mask if you’re passed out from oxygen deficiency, can you? SEE, IT’S THE BEST METAPHOR.
And one more piece of advice, I think our generation is under so much pressure to have a job that is well-paid, fulfilling in some life-affirming way, gets you respect and recognition from your colleagues, and oh yeah, you love working with all of your colleagues too, they’re your BFFs. Although it’s all well and good to want those things, and I’m not advocating an apathetic attitude, but I would encourage everyone to have a bit more perspective when it comes to the big J.O.B. Be ambitious, yes. Want the best job you can get? Absolutely. But if your job doesn’t have everything you want, it’s okay. Being able to do a job that you love is a privilege, not a right. And I think we’d all be better off remembering that.
Her Agenda: What is your personal motto?
Elisha Hartwig: Be kind to yourself, and slow down. I’ve always been a perfectionist, and with that comes a lot of anxiety. I don’t say that in an ‘I’m perfect’ way, I say that in an ‘I’m always setting myself up for disappointment and stress’ way. I’m trying to say no to things that don’t positively add to my life, and just giving myself a break. Actually, not just a break, all the breaks. As many breaks as I need. Didn’t make it to the gym? No sweat (literally). Didn’t write the most amazing creative proposal in my life? It’s okay, I did the best I could at the time. And regarding slowing down, that’s pretty straight forward — but through meditation I learned how much of my life I’m not really present for. I mean, I’m living it every day, but I’m not fully experiencing it sometimes and that’s a real shame.
[Editor’s note: This interview was published on March 26th, 2018. It has been edited for length and clarity.]