How can you find, and more importantly – keep hold of job satisfaction in the marketing industry? Jess Peace joins me on this episode to share really useful tips and advice on how to do just that, for people of all skill levels and experience.
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Claire Carlile is a Local Search Expert at BrightLocal and Head of Pencils at Claire Carlile Marketing, and is someone who is incredibly well respected in the industry. It was a pleasure to interview her.
In this episode, we discuss:
What finding and carving out your niche means.
What impact she thinks the pandemic has had on the way people work and find their niche.
Why finding a niche is important.
Her thoughts on the theory that people should be generalists over specialists.
Advice for someone who’s just starting out in terms of finding their niche.
…and much more!
As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!
Azeem Ahmad: Hello. And welcome back to the Azeem Digital Asks All-Round Digital Marketing podcast. Very, very, very excited to bringing my guest today, Crystal Carter, who I will let her introduce herself properly in a moment. We’re talking all about how SEO is a team sport. Generally, I always give a bit of a blurb about the guest. Crystal is basically everywhere at the moment. So I am very, very pleased that she has agreed to give me, and you when you hear this, up to 20 minutes of her time. She’s absolutely everywhere. A woman in demand. So thank you very much, Crystal. Welcome to the show. Please give yourself a better introduction.
Crystal Carter: I’m really honored to be here. I’m a real fan of the show. I think you do great interviews and make great content. So yeah. Thank you very much for having me along. I am Crystal Carter. I am the Head of SEO Communications at Wix, working alongside the incomparable Mordy Oberstein, and trying to bring you more goodness for all of the SEOs of the world. And basically I am really interested in talking to people about how to use SEO strategically and to use SEO from lots of different angles. And one of the reasons why I was really excited to join Wix, because I joined them recently, is because they have a really holistic approach to digital marketing and to SEO and how it touches on lots of different areas. So I think that’s kind of one of the things that’s a theme of what we’re talking about today, and I’m really happy to get stuck into it.
Azeem Ahmad: Awesome. So let’s just dive right in. The episode is all about how SEO is a team sport. So right from the off, what makes SEO a team sport?
Crystal Carter: Yeah, so what I mean by that is I think there’s historically been a sense that an SEO, and I’ve definitely done SEO in this way, where an SEO can sort of just get their head down and do the SEO. One person does the SEO for the website and at some point the SEO is done. And you can do your meta descriptions and do your alt text and do your internal links and that sort of thing. But I think that the way that algorithms are working at the moment, and I think that the way that users are using websites and accessing content is changing so much that it requires many hands to make light work.
Crystal Carter: And I think that certainly if you look at something like the Core Web Vitals update, that huge experience update, you can see that is not a one person job. That’s not something that involves one team in particular. That involves the SEO, that involves your dev team, that can involve server teams, that can involve legal sometimes if you have to move around what your cookie notice says, and things like that.
Crystal Carter: So that’s something that comes to mind. Another one that comes to mind is around things with like Google Shopping, Google Merchant. The local inventory ads, for instance, that involves local feeds, that involves a what’s in-store, that involves the website, that involves Google Merchant, that involves coordinating with the ads teams to make sure that’s all up to scratch. And so I think that in order for SEOs to provide value, we need to do more sort of team management and not just focusing on sort of say, delivering SEO tasks. And and I think that really involves SEOs taking a leadership approach, which I think a lot of great SEOs really do that.
Crystal Carter: But I think that sometimes you can go into a project or go into an SEO client situation where you might not expect to do that, but as I’ve been working recently, and certainly it’s different from when I first started. It seems to be that in almost every case, you’re managing a team of stakeholders. You’re managing the developer team, you’re managing the social team because you might have to, particularly with tech SEO, sometimes you have to say, “Abby there’s a server can’t actually cope with the traffic that you’re getting from the social ads. We need to readjust our servers so that we can actually serve these ads. So can you just hold on while we sort that out?” And things like that. So I think that there’s someone, I can’t remember his name him off the top of my head, but he’s running an SEO MBA at the moment. That’s mostly it’s talking about not necessarily soft skills, I guess, but around that sort of management, team coordination skill. And I can see you want to come in, Azeem.
Azeem Ahmad: No, absolutely. Please, please carry on. This is solid gold. We’re five minutes in, and already it’s clear to see why you’re so well respected in the industry. You are full of knowledge. So I’m going to shut up and just let you carry on.
Crystal Carter: So, yeah. I think that certainly what I’ve seen from making SEO more of a team sport, I think there’s always a few different elements; which include bringing in people who are competent, but not necessarily SEO capable. So there’s lots of people who know their business, they’ve started a business, they’ve got things going on. They might not know the term for a conversion, but they know when they’ve made a sale. They might not know the term for what we call a soft conversion, or whatever, but they know somebody watched a video and they can tell whether or not there was value in an ad, or some something to that effect.
Crystal Carter: And so it’s very important that we’re able to, as SEOs, communicate the value of that. And it’s very important that we’re able to educate people along that way. So very often in order to make SEO team sport, if you think about a team your bench is deep. You need to make sure that you’ve got everybody there. You’ve got your star players who are out at the front. Now I’m getting really into the sports metaphors. But you set up a 4-4-2, it’s a game with two halves, hope nobody breaks a metatarsal. I don’t know, I’m running out. But basically, you want to make sure that you’ve got the conversions, the star players. I’m going to get into a metaphor now. I’m going to try not to go too far in the weeds.
Crystal Carter: But if you think about something like PPC, that’s very much like somebody who’s hidden goals, right? Their main aim is to get the goals in. And then you got the people who are setting all that up, right? The person can’t score the goal at the end without those people setting all of that up. And then you’ve got the coach who’s thinking about how to arrange everything and how to make everything work and all that sort of stuff. And I guess the server teams is like the groundskeeper to make sure there’s no holes or something, I don’t know. But I think you just need to make sure that everybody’s working all together and that you recognize at what stage you need each player in your team.
Crystal Carter: But I think that things are getting really competitive. I think particularly for the way that the algorithms are, and the way that the SERPs are, there’s so much going on on a single SERP result. You’ve got your ads at the top. You’ve got dropdowns with a bunch of results there. You’ve got your plain blue links somewhere in the mix. You’ve got videos, you’ve got blah, blah, blah. All that different stuff. And really, you need to make sure that you’ve got as many bases covered as possible. And in order to do that, you need to have a good, solid SEO team.
Azeem Ahmad: I love that because I’ve literally got a million more questions. But as I’m thinking of the next question to ask you two second later you answer it. You literally the perfect guest. I could end the episode right there and literally it would be a hit.
Crystal Carter: Mic drop.
Azeem Ahmad: But no, honestly, there are so many things that I’d just love to pick apart there. But I think the main one, really, is we’re talking the whole episode is about SEO being a team sport. But how can SEOs ensure that their team players, it’s very easy from what you’ve just said there, let’s say the SEO is a star player for argument sake, it’s very easy to focus on the self. How can SEOs ensure that they’re team players?
Crystal Carter: Right. So I think this is something that I found a challenge. I certainly found this challenging. I went to my previous team and I said to them, “I want to take management class. I have no plans to be a manager at the minute, but I want to take a management class and I want to learn management tactics.” And I literally did a day course, and it was transformative. There are tried and tested management techniques for how to assess how your team will work together, how to assess either things like Myers-Briggs and things like that, which will tell you that you’ll get more positive results from one person if you approach them in this way, that you’ll get more positive results than if you approach them in the other way.
Crystal Carter: And I think also if you go into the situation of managing SEO as being part of a team rather than being someone who has a task to finish, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes that’s what’s required. With clients in particular, there’s some clients who are happy to just let you go and do whatever and they’re just like, “Here’s the website. Do some stuff.” And there are some clients who they want to ask questions, and they want to be involved, and they want to do the thing, they want you to add value. And they want you to be proactive with all of the different ideas, and all of that sort of stuff.
Crystal Carter: And in that way, it’s very collaborative. And I think that if you’re able to work with people in a collaborative space, then that opens up more opportunities for the types of clients that you can get, the types of clients that you can retain as well. And it’s really a skill that’s worth investing in. Additionally, a lot of SEOs that I know will have, particularly freelance SEOs, will specialize in a particular segment of SEO. So be it content, or technical SEO, or e-commerce, or what have you.
Crystal Carter: But it’s very seldom that a client that you have, that is a good client who respects your opinion, is only ever going to do that one thing, right? They may very well decide that, “Okay, we want to get into social soon.” Well, your client values your opinion, thinks you’re great. That’s cool. So they’re going to come to you and they’re going to say, “Who can we get to help us with social?” This happens all the time. And so if you have good networks, and if you’re able to work with people collaboratively, then they will recommend you and you can work alongside them, and you will recommend them and they will work alongside you. And then you sort of have this sort of back this sort of back and forth.
Crystal Carter: So I would say that it’s worth investing in some management time. And again, like I said, I did a day course. Sometimes I can be quite literal, and I was finding I was like, “Well, I sent him the email and he didn’t send it back.” That’s not good enough. There are things you can do. There are tactics that you can do that people know, like NLP and like lots of different things. And so yeah, if it’s something that you’re struggling with, invest in a management course which talks to you about how to manage other people and how to manage yourself and will make it much easier for you to work as a team. And it will open many, many doors.
Azeem Ahmad: This is solid gold. I’m trying to think of there’s two areas I’d love to explore further. I’m trying to think of the best one to go with first. I’m going to do it this way. This type of thinking that you are displaying now, where did that come from? What made you think to start moving in this direction? And here we are now on a podcast talking about it. But what made you think, “Right, I’m going to start thinking like this?”
Crystal Carter: Well, I think that really it came down to clients really. At the end of the day, particularly if you’re working in an agency or a freelance space, if your clients aren’t getting good results, they won’t stay with you. And sometimes even if your clients are getting good results, or even if you are getting good results, if they don’t feel like you’re on their team then they might not stay with you anyway. And what’s really important is that building that relationship can really make the difference. I’ll tell you one thing, I’ve never shared this. So this is an exclusive.
Azeem Ahmad: Exclusive.
Crystal Carter: I was once doing a site audit for a potential client. And we didn’t actually land the client. We did the audit and stuff, but we didn’t actually let land the client. When I did the audit, the website was a mess. It was a mess. And the client had had their guy, who was their current website person who had been working with them for years, and he sat through the meeting with us and we were going, “Well, there’s this wrong and that wrong. And this doesn’t work. And this isn’t any good.” And afterwards, we didn’t get the account. He’s still on the account. He’s still on the account. You know why? Because he works with them and he’s on their team, right? And they feel like he’s part of their team.
Crystal Carter: So sometimes you’re like, “What is this? This doesn’t make sense.” But I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it so many times. And I think it’s because people feel like they’re on the team. It’s very interesting because I feel like you can take a lesson from everything. After that I didn’t think, “Oh, I’m not going to do a good job.” I didn’t think that. But I thought that this is a valuable skill. Being able to be on someone’s team, and for them to believe that you are on their team. And for them to know that if I’m stuck, I can go to this person and they will help me. And if I’m stuck, this person will do their best to help me. Then when you come to them, you’re like, “I’ve got this great idea to do this thing on the website. I’ve just learned all about this. And we need to be moving over to like this and this and that.” They’ll go, “Okay, cool. Yeah, let’s do that. Let’s go with that. I trust you because you’re on my team and you help me.”
Crystal Carter: And I think also when the pandemic first hit, because I had invested all that time in nurturing client relationships and making sure that they knew that I was on their team. So I’ve had it where people are like, “We’ve got a new person, a new agency, that’s going to be working on this part of the thing.” And I’m like, “Okay, that’s fine. We’re all on a team. Hi there, other agency person. Let’s do all the thing.” I just did a conversation with Google talking about developers. And I do the same approach when I meet new developer teams. So, client comes to you and they’ve got whatever developer situation they’ve got. You don’t wait until things go wrong to say hello to the developers. Developers are constantly fighting fires all the time. And everybody wants something from the developer and everybody wants it yesterday. And everybody thinks whatever their problem is the most important thing in the world.
Crystal Carter: And sometimes you get clients who are like, “Oh, the developer’s terrible. Oh, we ask him for things that he never does anything. Nobody ever does this.” And I’m like, “Okay, all right. Okay.” What did I do? I email the developer and I go, “Hi, I’m crystal. I was wondering if I could just set up a call with you just to say hello. I’m going to be helping out with some SEO in the next little while.” We set up the call and the developer’s there expecting this at the very beginning.
Crystal Carter: And it’s no. Just, “Hi, I just wanted to introduce myself. I take this approach generally speaking. How do you guys work? How do you like your tickets? Do you outsource? How do you all work? Cool. Thanks. Bye.” I want nothing. I’m saying hello. I want nothing. I’m saying hello. You’re setting up that relationship. You’re building trust. Because we’re all a part of the team, right? And then the client knows that you’re working with them. You’re working with these other people. You’re all part of the team.
Crystal Carter: So when the pandemic hit, because I’d spent all that time working with all of those things, I had very little client turn. Very, very little. Yeah, I had very, very little. And actually, when it happened, I know that there were lots of businesses who as soon as it happened everything stopped straight away. Lots of things picked up. We all know it all picked up. But lots of people said it happened straight away. So many of my clients, and God love them, I busted my butt for them during all of this. But they all stayed. You know why? Because they knew I was on their team. They knew that my team was on their team. And we all worked. We were like, “We are here for you.”
Crystal Carter: And one of the things, shout out to my team at Wix, Wix works like this as well. They are there for the team. They want everybody to win. They want everybody to do well on the platform. They work really, really hard to make something that is good. And they spend a lot of time with that. And I think that that’s one of the things that really attracted me to the team. And that’s one of the things that I really value about SEO. Because the other thing is, when your clients feel like you’re on their team, when you win they win. And I remember doing this before back in the day, I’d be like, “Look, I just got us 10% more traffic.”
Crystal Carter: Well, I did nothing. I mean, I kind of did. Obviously, I did what I did, I changed the code, all that sort of stuff, but I’m not doing it by myself. And I had it one time where I was like, “We improved conversions by 10%.” Or, “We doubled conversions. It’s the highest we’ve ever had.” And they were like, “Oh, we didn’t see that.” And I was like, “What do you mean you didn’t see that?” And they were like, “Oh, Julie was on holiday.” “Oh, this, that and the other.” Oh, we didn’t get the thing.” And I was like, “See, if we were on a team, if we had been all working together, I’d know that you didn’t have the infrastructure to handle such a big increase in the first place.” And we could’ve been working.
Crystal Carter: So then we had to work on that part of the funnel, as a team. It makes a really big difference. It gets buy in because people feel like we are all helping. So I stopped saying, “I’ve done this.” And I started saying, “This contributed to X, Y, or Z.” Because, of course, there’s going to be various different things that happen across. They could have gotten a sponsorship. I saw I had one client who had everything go crazy on their site because somebody was on a reality TV show. And the normal traffic was like, “Oh.” And then it was like, “Whoosh.” So I couldn’t be like, “I got this much.” It was nothing to do with me. It’s nothing.
Azeem Ahmad: But you know, people will claim that. People will hundred percent claim that.
Crystal Carter: But clients will notice it. Clients are like, “What?” And you sat there and you’re like, “Look at my chart.” And they’re like, “You’re cuckoo land.”
Azeem Ahmad: Honestly, this is gold. I’m sad to say that we are nearly come to the end of this episode. But I think we can genuinely talk for hours about this sort of stuff. Well, before I ask you the penultimate question, I will say for the listeners, if you are only listening to this in audio format, you can get this video on Spotify and you can also get this on YouTube. I strongly recommend watching because you can hear the passion in Crystal’s voice. You need to watch her when she speaks. Because honestly, she needs a TV show by herself. But yeah. Look back to the point of this episode. Just one question. Perfect way I think to wrap up before you share your contact details. I’m absolutely positive there are either individuals or businesses who will be listening to this and are yet to work in the methods and ways that you’ve just described. What advice would you give them to start adopting this approach?
Crystal Carter: I would say that what’s really important is to focus on the end goal. So if the end goal is to increase sales from a certain channel, then that’s what you should focus on. And you should think about what pieces you need to make that happen. SEO will certainly be part of that. There might be other things that are part that. There might things on the ground that are part of that. And you should be working towards the goal.
Crystal Carter: I’ve definitely seen people who make SEO recommendations for SEO’s sake. They’ll be like, “Oh, I’ve seen this on the report. And I ran this crawl and it says that this is wrong.” It’s like, yeah. But is that actually going to help us get to our goal? And sometimes it’s a case that you need to do those things because obviously nobody wants a bunch of 404s for no reason, or whatever. But you can put them in a sort of a different priority of things ticking along and things that need to be actioned in order to drive the business goals.
Crystal Carter: But I would say, focus on the end result for your client and it makes it a lot easier for them to understand the value behind what you’re doing. We are doing this because it’s going to help us to increase our seasonal sales, or we’re doing this because it’s going to help us get more traffic into the bricks and mortar store, for instance. And then they can go, “Oh, we can also do something to help with that.” And we go, “That’s great. Good. Do that.” And then you can bring it all together.
Crystal Carter: So if you focus on the end result and don’t get too hung up on terminology. It’s great to be smart, it’s better to be effective. So don’t just say a bunch of words that make you sound really clever for no reason. One of the things I always say is if you ever read Albert Einstein, or the theory of relativity, it is written in completely plain English. It’s all a train on a ball, the people on a train. Super plain English. If Albert Einstein can do it, you could do it. So that’s what I’m saying.
Azeem Ahmad: Honestly, this episode is not about me. This is your episode. But I worked with a guy who would just constantly say “Circle back.” Blue ocean marketing.” What the f**k is that? Anyway.
Crystal Carter: There’s funnels and flywheels and 7 Ps and 4 Cs. And there’s…
Azeem Ahmad: What is reminds me of, is.. If you’ve ever wrote an essay and you’re just trying to fill up the word count. It’s just verbal diarrhoea. But yeah, I’ve digressed. Listen, this has been a fantastic episode. I am positive the listeners are going to take incredible value from this. And I cannot let you go with asking you to share your contact details. Where people can find you on social media. And if they would like to learn more about anything that you’ve discussed in this episode, how can they do that?
Crystal Carter: So my main, my main point of contact is Twitter. On Twitter I am CrystalOnTheWeb. And my secondary contact is LinkedIn, which I go on once a week. Although I did change my notifications so I might be on there a little bit more because the notifications, there’s too many. So I’ve reduced them. So hopefully that’ll be better. I am going to be at brightonSEO at the beginning of April. I think you’re going to be there as well. We’re going to hang out. It’s going to be cool. And I’m going to be full on paparazzi mode. So I’m going to be taking as many selfies with everybody from my Twitterland as well. So that’s all going to go on my Instagram, which is also CrystalOnTheWeb_ with an underscore at the end I think.
Azeem Ahmad: Amazing. Yeah. And I can’t believe we have yet to mention on the recording that we both share a birthday. Incredible.
Crystal Carter: Yes. Twinsies. Yes.
Azeem Ahmad: So yeah. Look, I can’t think of any better way to end the episode. This has been absolutely full of gold. I’ve enjoyed listening to you share your wisdom. I’m absolutely positive the listeners will too. If you have listened and you’ve enjoyed this episode, please do the usuals: like, write, share and subscribe. And if you wouldn’t like to do any of that please take some time out. Message Crystal and say, “Wow, you are so full of wisdom. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.” But that’s it from me. We will catch you on the next episode when I can find the stop button, which is here. Peace out. See you soon.
Use a different listening platform? Choose it here. (Full transcript at bottom of page.)
In this episode, we discuss:
-What Digital PR is, and the changes she has seen since she has been in the industry. -The things she has learned from changing jobs in the last 12 months. -What routes are available for people working in Digital PR to progress into. -Advice for a junior level Digital PR do to gain those management skills . -What she things makes a good Digital PR manager, and leader. -How to balance being friendly with professionalism. -Her idea of ‘how you can help yourself and make sure you’re helping your manager help you be promoted’ – and how to do it. …and much more!
As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!
Azeem Ahmad: Hello. And welcome back to the Azeem Digital Asks, all-round digital marketing podcast. Who would’ve thought that a little project that I started in the first lockdown a couple of years ago would come back to a third season. Thanks to incredible guests like the one that I’m about to introduce you to, and awesome listeners like yourself.
Azeem Ahmad: And hopefully for the first time, all being well, I now have access to video podcasts on Spotify, and I’ll get this on YouTube as well if my editing skills are up to scratch. So if you are watching, hello!
Azeem Ahmad: I have a wonderful guest for you today, so I will shut up in a second. We’re talking all about progression and management within digital PR. My guest is the awesome Jasmine Granton, who’s the digital PR team leader at Evolved Search. Co-founder of Chalkboard Creative. She’s spoken at Brighton SEO and she’s basically a celebrity in this industry. So I’m very pleased to have her on the show. And if I could rate her out of 10, solid 9.9. The only thing that really lets her down is the fact that she chose to support Tottenham Hotspur. So if you do know her, just ask her about that decision. But yeah, Jasmine, welcome to the show.
Jasmine Granton: Thank you very much for having me. I’m glad we’ve got the Spurs stuff out early. Our relationship is built on mutual hatred for each other, so it’s nice to be doing something that isn’t just abusing each other about football for a change.
Azeem Ahmad: Absolutely. And joking aside, thank you so much for joining me. For those people listening who do not know who you are, their loss. Would you mind giving a quick intro to yourself for me please?
Jasmine Granton: Yeah, sure. I think you did a great job. But I’m Jasmine. So I’m the team leader at Evolved Search. Previously I worked at Aira Digital for a couple of years, making my way through the different roles there in digital PR. And as you said, I’m also co-founder of Chalkboard Creative, which is a video production company. So spinning quite a lot of plates at the moment, but it’s all good.
Azeem Ahmad: That’s what we like. So yeah, even after hearing that, I’ll say it again, thank you so much for joining me. So let’s just dive in right to the meat and bones of the episode, talking about progression and management within digital PR. For those listeners who’ve got a broader digital marketing knowledge, would you mind giving a quick intro to digital PR. What it is, how long you’ve been in the industry and the changes that you’ve seen throughout your time in digital PR?
Jasmine Granton: Yeah, sure. So I think it’s worth saying that a lot of what we’ll be talking about today is really transferable across all of digital marketing, and even non digital roles to be honest, because management is a big part of a lot of different people’s careers.
Jasmine Granton: I myself have been in digital PR for about four years now. So I started off in traditional PR and then, like I said, went to Aira. For me, the biggest changes has been, I guess, how we look at digital PR. It’s gone from being link building, which was a small part of an SEO strategy, into something that’s a broader topic. So for me, it’s still an integral part of the SEO strategy and we link build for that purpose. But it’s also part of content marketing as well. It’s become far more creative.
Jasmine Granton: So when I first started, it was a case of outreaching, infographics and giving journalists linkable assets. And whilst that’s still a key goal of ours, we also look at other metrics like search visibility, relevance of links. And really just the change has been the change with Google and making sure that those links are as strong as possible and that they’re read by Google in the best way. So there’s been a huge amount of change.
Jasmine Granton: I think the understanding from clients as well, it’s still a relatively new industry. And again, it’s changed from the old school link building techniques that people used to use to what it is today, which is straddling the SEO as well as the traditional PR content marketing side.
Azeem Ahmad: Love that. Perfect. Thanks very much for sharing that. So in terms of progression and management, somebody listening to this in terms of where they are in digital PR, what routes are available for people to progress into?
Jasmine Granton: I mean, I think it depends if you’re looking at agency or in house. I’ve been in house quite a few years ago now, and then I’ve stayed in agencies for the last few years. So I guess it depends on what your skillset is.
Jasmine Granton: So within digital PR there are a ton of different heads you need. So there’s a really creative side, which is coming up with the ideas, and working with designers and developers. And then there’s a stage which is very almost journalism focused, of writing up the story, the press releases, the copy. And then there’s the reporting, the delivery, the working with the SEO team to work out whether a campaign was successful. So it really depends on whereabouts you sit on that spectrum of skill sets. And you can be quite niche and narrow down your specialism.
Jasmine Granton: So I was an outreach specialist for a while and really built relationships with journalists and aimed to build the links. Versus some friends of mine who are more data and research driven and they’ll come up with the ideas. So it very much depends on your skillset, but it also depends on what your end goal is.
Jasmine Granton: So there are ways that you can go down the management route, which is what I chose. But it’s a great industry, that you don’t have to be a manager to progress. I don’t think everyone should be a manager. There are certainly some really poor managers that I’ve experienced in my time.
Jasmine Granton: So there’s also strategy roles, where again you can focus on what the bigger picture is for the client. What do those links actually mean for them. I think sometimes in the industry, we get a little bit caught up with being like, oh, I built 300 links on this campaign. But you need people to actually tell you what that means. Is it even a good thing. Because that can sometimes lead to negative things on sites too.
Jasmine Granton: So I think there are strategy roles, there are creative roles, there are outreach specific roles. So it really depends on what you enjoy doing, what your skill sets are. And then you can hone in those niches or do what I’ve done, which is go down the management route.
Azeem Ahmad: Brilliant. I’m going to put you on the spot and just pick apart and pick on something that you just said there. So in a second, I’ll ask you about people who are junior and new to the industry. But thinking back to something that you’ve just said there, if I, for example, am listening to this and I’m just about to finish uni and I really want to get into digital PR, but it seems overwhelming. As you mentioned, you’ve got to be creative, you’ve got to be data driven, you’ve got to be X, Y, and Z. What are some of the most common misconceptions in your mind about digital PR that you’d like to just address right now? So for anybody listening who’s thinking about getting into digital PR.
Jasmine Granton: I think the biggest one is that you have to be good at all of it. I mean, if you’re a freelancer, that’s why, I mean, I hang my hat to freelancers if they’re doing all of those areas. I personally am absolutely terrible with data, numbers, it’s just not my bag. I’m definitely more on the writing side. So it’s really important to remember that you’re going to be part of a team. And that whatever skills that you are lacking, somebody else will make up. But you’ll also bring a set of skills that somebody else struggles with.
Jasmine Granton: So finding those teams where you are going to bring something and you don’t have to have the whole skill set. If someone’s equally as good at finding data sources and turning them into stories and building relationships with journalists and writing, amazing. But that’s not me. And I don’t know too many digital PRs who can do all of it. So whilst it might feel a little overwhelming, I think it’s important just to recognize your own skills and know that there’s going to be somebody who takes away from your weaknesses if you do have some.
Azeem Ahmad: Seven minutes in, and this is absolute gold. Thank you so much. So elaborating on the point about juniors then. Thinking about management specifically, the topic of the episode, if there’s somebody who’s quite junior in digital PR now, what would you advise to them to get their management skills, what would they do?
Jasmine Granton: I think there’s quite a lot of things you can do within the role that you’re in. So mentoring is how I started. I don’t personally believe in just given someone to manage and being like, see if you can do it. Trial and error. Because that could be really damaging to the person who’s on the receiving end of that management, if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Jasmine Granton: So I would speak to your line manager and show interest in the fact that you like to mentor or potentially think about putting together a training session on something that you’re really passionate about, and deliver to the team, show that you’ve got the strengths of training and mentoring and helping people progress.
Jasmine Granton: I’d also be reaching out to other people on the team and seeing what support they might need. Check in on people if they seem a little bit off or down, it’s really building those skills that come naturally from empathetic people. Make sure that you’re being a team player.
Jasmine Granton: But more than that, I think it’s really important to mention that there are management courses out there. I personally, haven’t been on one. I think that would’ve helped me early on.
Jasmine Granton: Paddy Mogan, who I used to work for at Aira, is currently putting one on. Definitely check him out on Twitter. I don’t think it’s live yet, but it will be going live quite soon. He’s been working super hard on that. So definitely take a look at that. And any other management training programs that are out there.
Jasmine Granton: And also, I think you can learn a lot from your manager, so speak to them and say, can I talk to you about the one-to-one process? Can I pick your brain on how you deal with certain situations? And I think when somebody is getting to that point where they’re thinking about management, try and think solution focused. So I think the biggest difference between a service provider, whether you’re a consultant or an exec, to a manager, is that quite often you need to be able to solve the problem yourself, or at least come up with a solution. So to start thinking in that way.
Jasmine Granton: And also thinking about delegation, how many tasks do you have? Is there anything that you could be passing down to juniors, and showing them how to do it, and giving them the extra level of confidence and responsibility. I think with a lot of progression, it’s about starting to do the job you want before you’ve got it. And showing that you’ve got those positive attributes that make a good manager or whatever the next step is for you.
Azeem Ahmad: Nothing to add. Absolute solid gold. If I was personally in digital PR in a junior role, I would hit pause, rewind, press play again, and just make tons of notes. This is amazing.
Azeem Ahmad: So I wanted to go back to something that you said at the start of the episode. And you don’t have to go into detail, feel free to share whatever you’re comfortable with sharing. But you mentioned earlier on that you’d been through a few jobs last year and you’d been through different types of managers. Good and bad. What for you makes a good digital PR manager or leader, what qualities do you look for?
Jasmine Granton: I think it’s the same thing that makes any good manager a good manager. I think my number one is trust. I know that the people on my team are better at their job than I would be at their job. And it’s knowing what their skillsets are. And it’s about realizing that everyone is really different. There are some people that I’ve managed who absolutely know where they want to be. They know what their skillsets are. And there’s other people who are slightly more reserved about it. And they don’t really see how strong they are. So it’s about giving everyone a tailored management experience. I don’t treat anyone on my team the same as somebody else necessarily because everyone needs something different from me.
Jasmine Granton: So it’s about, I think for me, a good manager assesses that and changes their approach and adapts their approach to individuals. But I think trust is the main one.
Jasmine Granton: Micromanagement is one of the main reasons I’ve left jobs because I don’t want to be spoken to in a condescending way. I’m an adult, I’m being paid to be here, it’s not school. So I think attitude of managers is really important.
Jasmine Granton: And also giving people the freedom to change their role if they want to. And I think retaining people is all about letting them grow and letting them adapt and not holding them back. If someone says to me, I want to do this training course or in six months I want to be here. It’s my job to help them figure out how we do that. And it’s we, it’s always a we. It’s not, okay, well, go off and do it. So I think it’s about giving enough guidance that they feel supported, but also giving them the freedom to be like, where do you want to be? Tell me where you want to be and we’ll get you there.
Jasmine Granton: So I think the managers I’ve had in the past that haven’t been so great have definitely made me feel that I’m in my place, you stay in your lane, you do your job and you get on with it. Whereas I encourage people to try new things, to fail. There’s never any telling off. I never hold things back for one-to-ones or anything like that. It’s a very honest, open communication at all times.
Jasmine Granton: And for me, it’s being vulnerable as well. I don’t hold back when I’m a bit stressed. If I’ve got something personal going on that’s going to affect me and my working day, I tell them because I expect that level of transparency to be both ways.
Jasmine Granton: So it’s just treating people like humans and having respect for your team. There’s obviously some situations where being a manager can be really challenging if somebody is not performing super well. It’s also not being scared to have difficult conversations and acknowledging that, look, if someone’s not doing well in my team, a lot of that responsibility is down to me. How can I help them? Do they need more training? It’s probably not that they’re just not trying, it’s that they’re struggling. And that’s when I need to step in and do something about it rather than just letting them drown.
Azeem Ahmad: Absolutely. I don’t want to talk too much because this is your episode. But that human side of it is so, so important. So I’m really glad that you touched on that. I’m going to put you on the spot again, apologies. And there’s no way to ask this question without making it sound like it’s a job interview. I promise it’s not. But for me, I’m thinking about what you’ve just said. And certainly in my experience when I’ve managed people, there has been this moment, but I’d love to hear from you, there must have been a moment where you’ve had a really difficult situation and you’ve overcome that. And you’ve thought, okay, I can, I’m ready to become a manager, I am a manager. So essentially it’s a long winded way of asking, what’s the most difficult management experience that you’ve personally had? How did you get through that? And how did you feel on the other side?
Jasmine Granton: I think for me, the harder management experiences is when someone is going through something really personal. Because it’s quite hard as a manager to have the boundary of not overstepping and asking too many questions, but also being supportive. But I mean, at Evolved Search now we have such a great culture of, look, if you’ve got something going on in your life, you deal with it, work isn’t as important as your mental health. Work isn’t as important as family things going on. And the last few years has taught us that even more so.
Jasmine Granton: So for me, I think the hardest challenge is making sure that the team’s wellbeing is strong. Because agency life can be really stressful and work does need to be done and deadlines need to be hit. But it’s balancing that with people’s mental health and with their personal lives.
Jasmine Granton: So I think for me, I don’t find it too challenging to deal with workplace scenarios, but when someone’s got something going on outside of work, I find it hard not to take that on and take it home. And I think, again, that’s something that you need to be prepared for as a manager is that you are everyone’s sounding board, you’re everyone’s counselor to an extent some days. And you need to be able to manage all of that stuff with delicacy whilst also, I’ve got a manager, I’ve got a boss to pass that information up. So it’s making sure that there are processes in place that the team feel they can come to me and talk to me about anything. And that there’ll be a level of confidentiality whilst also explaining to somebody else why someone’s not going to be in for a few days.
Jasmine Granton: So I’ve definitely had situations like that where it’s just taken me a little bit of time to have a think about, right, what is my approach here? How do I have this conversation with them? If they’re off for a few days, do I check in with them or do I just give them space? And I think all of that is dealt with just by communicating and that transparency that I was talking about before.
Azeem Ahmad: Brilliant. I’m quite enjoying putting you on the spot here. And I realize that we are coming towards the end of the episode, so I’m going to give you one more. Everything you mentioned there about being personal and the human aspect, how do you ensure that there are boundaries between being personal, but also making sure that the job gets done?
Jasmine Granton: I think that’s probably the biggest challenge to be honest. But again, I do think it just comes down to communication. In one-to-ones, I have a section on how are things in your life? Not everything is work related. So I always ask, are you okay? How are things going? And that’s not, how are your clients doing, that’s how are you? And making sure that people are okay. And being hyper aware of whether people seem off. And for me, I work predominantly remotely, but I make sure to be in with the team at least once a month. So I can really have some face to face time because I think that’s important.
Jasmine Granton: But in terms of client delivery, that needs to be done too. So it’s making sure that people have the resource. People are so overstretched in agencies and so overworked that they burn out. So it’s making sure to catch that earlier on. So again, letting them know that negativity isn’t a bad thing, you can come to me and have a moan. Let’s figure out, reprioritise, so that we don’t get to that point where you are completely burnt out. And it’s so hard to wind back.
Jasmine Granton: Yeah, I think that’s a long-winded way of answering your question. But essentially the boundary is, they’re a human, they’re a person, to an extent they’re my friends. But also the client’s work is really important. So, me having a good relationship with the client services team, with the account managers, to make sure that I’m accountable for the success of the clients as well, even if I’m not directly working on them.
Jasmine Granton: And I stay quite close as well. So I’ll do my best to be in the client reviews. And I’ll check over the work regularly. I’ll look through link trackers and make sure that the standard is high.
Jasmine Granton: I mean, I’m super lucky that I have an incredibly talented team. It doesn’t take a lot of checking to be honest. They just crack on with their jobs amazingly well.
Jasmine Granton: But it has been a challenge at times. And again, it’s just about being open and honest. And I think when you’ve built that foundation of trust with the people you manage, when you’re giving them criticisms, or when you’re telling them, look, you need to pull your socks up a little bit, we need to see a little bit more. Hopefully it comes from a place of, I want you to do well, I want to help you progress, and I want you to help yourself progress. It’s not a telling off because they’re not performing.
Azeem Ahmad: Amazing. Solid gold. And you mentioned it there. I was going to say it towards the end of the episode, but given that you’ve mentioned it, I’m just going to add to it. I think already from what you’ve shared so far, your team must be incredibly lucky to have a manager like yourself.
Jasmine Granton: They’re bloody amazing.
Azeem Ahmad: And even though this episode is literally about progression and management within digital PR, you’ve already shared so much stuff that’s so transferable across all the disciplines of marketing. Which I think leads me nicely on to my next question. So when we were talking about the episode, you mentioned about how you can help yourself and how you can make sure that you are helping your manager to help you be promoted. How would somebody do that?
Jasmine Granton: I think there’s quite a few ways. Again, you need a good manager in order to do this because they need to be putting in one-to-ones, PDP sessions. They need to be actively working on it too.
Jasmine Granton: But for me, I always was looking at the job spec above me or the job spec I wanted. And a great task is to highlight in green all the things you think you’re already doing, highlight in orange the things that you think you’ve maybe done, but need to work on. And red are the things, okay, I’ve never tried that before, I’ve never done that. And the red things are what turn into your goals or your objectives. So those go into your PDP.
Jasmine Granton: So if the next step up from you is leading on a client, and you’ve never led on a client call, leading a client becomes goal number one. And you speak to your manager, how can I take on this responsibility?
Jasmine Granton: And being open about where you want to be. Not holding back because you think it’s boastful. And bragging, you need to do your own PR. You need to come into one to ones with evidence. You don’t need to be writing constant notes. But I think especially as we’re quite polite when we’re in these situations, but you need to be a little bit tougher and be like, look, I nailed this, I did this really well. I tried this and actually I didn’t do so well at this, so I know I need to work on that.
Jasmine Granton: It’s coming with a level of self-awareness. Because I manage a team of eight, and it’s quite hard for me to have tabs all the time on how amazing they’re all doing. I’ve got so many Slack channels and so much going on. So if you can come to me and be like, hey, this month I’ve done this, this, this, and this. I want to work on this, this and this next month. Then I’m a step ahead and can help you do that rather than having to draw it all out of you.
Jasmine Granton: So make as many notes as you can, have a spreadsheet with monthly wins, have a spreadsheet with your goals and when you’re hitting them. And for me, that’s the best way.
Jasmine Granton: And also, and it’s quite scary to tell your team to do this, you’ve got to have quite a lot of faith in the company you work for, but tell them to look at other job specs. If they’re going to be looking at other roles anyway, if there’s a role at another agency that looks like your dream role, and we don’t have that role, tell me about it. What about that role is really exciting for you? Because we could mold your role into that. You don’t have to leave in order to get it. Progression is not linear, there are so many different ways you can go as we started talking about at the top of the episode.
Jasmine Granton: So it’s just about being really, again, transparency and open conversation about these things and being really clear about what you want to achieve.
Azeem Ahmad: Amazing. Honestly, we could literally talk for hours on this. Digital PR, it’s not something that I claim to know a lot about. But literally in the space of 20 odd minutes, you’ve taught me so much. This has been incredible.
Azeem Ahmad: As I mentioned, sadly we are coming towards the end of the episode, but I always give my guests a chance to sound off, so it’s basically free reign. Anything else that you want to discuss? The floor is open. Within reason of course. So no Arsenal bashing. But is there anything that you want to discuss that we might not have covered already in the episode?
Jasmine Granton: I don’t think there’s anything specific based on management. I guess in terms of what’s going on, obviously Brighton SEO is coming up. I can’t go unfortunately. But I would definitely encourage anyone who is junior to get to events like that, meet people in the industry.
Jasmine Granton: I think the reason I enjoy this industry is because of the people in it. And I think the reason that I did manage to progress quite quickly was because I made connections. I learned so much. There is a ton of free information out of there. And I know that events like Brighton can be quite expensive. But again, speak to your manager, tell them that you’re interested in going to network and to learn.
Jasmine Granton: And there are tons of free events, long, long lists of them. So it can be quite daunting, especially if you are an anxious person or you’re slightly introverted, it can be quite scary, but everyone is super friendly. So I would encourage anyone, especially juniors, to just get out there, talk to people on Twitter. I’ve made so many friends in this industry and have learned a huge amount from them. So yeah, I would definitely encourage that.
Azeem Ahmad: Hopefully I am one of them. Fingers crossed. This has been brilliant. Before I let you go and enjoy the rest of your evening, the most important part is if people are listening to this and they would love to find out more about you, follow you on social media or connect with you, how could they do that?
Jasmine Granton: @GrantonJasmine on Twitter, I’m on there far, far too much. So if you’ve got any questions. I will say as well, whilst it’s not about me recruiting, I am always there to sound any ideas from … if you need anyone to look at a CV, especially young women in the industry, I’m very passionate about helping young women make sure that they’re getting a fair wage and that they’re not being treated poorly as I have in past roles. So if you do need someone to talk to confidentially, just send me a DM.
Azeem Ahmad: That’s brilliant. And I know that she means that because she really is genuinely one of the kindest people in this industry. I’ve got a lot of time for Jasmine. Although I do poke fun at her and I’ll continue to after recording, on the recording I will say that.
Azeem Ahmad: Listen, this is it. This has been an absolutely brilliant episode. Thank you for giving me some of your time and the listeners to share what has been absolutely awesome. I could not think of a better way to bring in the new season of this podcast. The next guest has got a very high bar to live up to.
Azeem Ahmad: So from me, thank you very much for being a brilliant guest. I’ll make sure to put all of your details in the notes of the show. And to the listeners, thank you so much for listening. We will catch you on the next episode.
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