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Digital Communications Specialist Talk with Liz Pittman
Liz Pittman is a freelance digital communications specialist in Victoria, BC. She works with clients across North America on social media strategy and management, content creation, web writing, and podcasting.
Liz is also a part-time instructor at the University of Victoria, where she teaches a couple of days per week. Her main courses are Social Media Marketing and Digital Communication, which are credit programs that are applied to Business Administration Certificates and Diplomas.
Her formal education is in broadcast journalism. She worked in that industry for six years before moving into digital marketing and communications.
Advertising, marketing, public relations and e-business managers plan, organize, direct, control and evaluate the activities of establishments and departments involved in commercial, industrial and e-business advertising, marketing and public relations. They are employed by commercial and industrial establishments, government departments, and advertising, marketing and public relations firms or consulting businesses.
n order to determine the expected outlook of an occupation, the magnitude of the difference between the projected total numbers of new job seekers and job openings over the whole projection period (2019-2028) is analyzed in conjunction with an assessment of labour market conditions in recent years. The intention is to determine if recent labour market conditions (surplus, balance or shortage) are expected to persist or change over the period 2019-2028. For instance, if the analysis of key labour market indicators suggests that the number of job seekers was insufficient to fill the job openings (a shortage of workers) in an occupational group in recent years, the projections are used to assess if this situation will continue over the projection period or if the occupation will move towards balanced conditions.
The analysis of key labour market indicators such as job vacancies and employment growth as well as the unemployment rate suggests that the number of job seekers was sufficient to fill the job openings in this occupational group over the 2016-2018 period.
For Advertising, marketing and public relations managers & Other business services managers, over the period 2019-2028, new job openings (arising from expansion demand and replacement demand) are expected to total 19,400 , while 19,900 new job seekers (arising from school leavers, immigration and mobility) are expected to be available to fill them.
As job openings and job seekers are projected to be at relatively similar levels over the 2019-2028 period, the balance between labour supply and demand seen in recent years is expected to continue over the projection period.
A university degree or college diploma in a field related to electronic commerce, Web site content development, or Internet services and Experience in Web site design, interactive media development, data administration or information systems analysis or experience related to Web site content are usually required.
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What is the best educational path if you’re looking for a career in social media? I have worked with a lot of people who took the route that I did and went the journalism route or the public relations route and got a foundation in that sort of storytelling perspective before moving into communications.
in that sort of storytelling perspective before moving into communications.
But I also know that taking the business and getting a marketing education is a great way to go as well.
The Job Talk Podcast shares stories from people who are passionate and love what they do in their careers.
Through conversation, we explore their careers, past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
We are putting together a career crisis Ultimate Interview series.
We are asking experts to give their best advice and guidance around work anxiety career pressures, career goal setting, and ultimately career transformation.
To learn more about this special interview series and get notified when it’s available, please visit our web page at thejobtalk.com/help Today’s guest is Liz Pittman.
Here’s our Job Talk with the digital communications specialist and as I’m talking to you, I’m looking out at a blizzard outside.
Where are you in this world and are you experiencing snow right now? I am lucky to not be experiencing snow.
I live in Victoria on Vancouver Island.
So that’s a that’s a rarity in my life these days.
Do they even own a snow plow on Vancouver Island or.
Some parts of the island do? It’s it’s not really a thing in Victoria. No.
I guess. Let’s start.
Where did you grow up? I am originally from Alberta, Southern Alberta.
I grew up around Lethbridge Rural Community, so I’ve spent lots of time in Alberta growing up and various parts of my career throughout the prairies as well.
So I’m familiar with all of Western Canada. Yeah.
And you know all about winter. So.
What was your first post-secondary experience? So I attended Lethbridge College.
I went to school for broadcast journalism.
So my education is in broadcast journalism.
So TV, radio and that’s what I did for the first five or six years of my career.
And was the idea that you were going to be a broadcaster, or were you looking at a career behind the scenes? No, my.
What I wanted to do originally, I wanted to to be on TSN.
That was what was my original goal.
And then transitioned that into into working in news and doing more storytelling.
So are you a big sports fan? Is that why you’re looking at TSN? Yes, definitely.
And are you an athlete? Were you. Were you playing sports as well? I feel like athletes are strong term, but I did play sports in high school and in junior high stopped once I graduated high school, but always have been very active.
Yeah, not necessarily talented but active on. Okay.
So journalism school.
Did you say is that a two year program? Is that what you took? Yeah.
So the program has actually changed since I attended it when I went, it was called Communication Arts and I specialized in broadcast journalism.
They have changed the program since I graduated several years ago into being much more of a digital program to reflect the changes in the industry.
Okay, so cheers.
You graduate from journalism school.
What was your first job? What was your position? My first job was in Cranbrook, B.C.
and I was a radio reporter.
I worked there for a year, so I did lots of City Hall reporting.
These are a bit of crime reporting, and I did the Saturday morning news every weekend.
So it was an interesting shift.
A great learning opportunity to be in East Kootenay covering Cranbrook and Fernie and Sparwood and and all of those communities with quite a big area that we had to to tell stories for.
So I was there for about a year and learned a ton on the fly.
It was a really great experience.
How nervous are you when you’re first starting a broadcast job, when you’re when the light goes on and your live on on radio? It can be pretty nerve wracking, I think more dependent on the circumstance to do a Saturday morning 9 a.m.
Didn’t feel too intimidating, but I remember reporting live on election night that was nerve wracking to be at a candidate’s at their election night party and giving status updates about what the feeling in the room is.
There’s just a whole other level of nerves with some of those sorts of things that you get into so much of a routine that being behind the mic is so normal that the nerves for me anyway, they dissipated pretty quickly.
Yeah. Did you ever have any moments? And I’m starting to experience this as I’m producing a podcast where there’s a little bit of silence and you don’t know what what to say next.
The thing about silence is for the reporter or the storyteller, it feels so much longer than it actually is.
One second can feel like nine or ten.
And now there’s something we I learned in college is to let the silences happen sometimes because they’re not as bad as as you think they are, the listener doesn’t really notice them as much.
So I really tried to remember that.
But there are moments where all of a sudden your heart rate just spikes and you’re like, Oh my God, I have to say something.
No specific examples, but I’m very familiar with the feeling for sure.
Okay, so we’re talking we’re going to lead this interview into talking about social media.
Are there programs at or degrees or diplomas that are focused on social media? Or do you think social media is tacked on to a business education? I, I guess my question would be what is the best educational path if you’re looking for a career in social media? It’s a it’s a really interesting question because I think there are there are two routes that you can go.
I have worked with a lot of people who took the route that I did and went the journalism route or the public relations route and got a foundation in that sort of storytelling perspective before moving into communications.
But I also know that taking the business and getting a marketing education is a great way to go as well.
I teach business programs and I teach a social media marketing course, so I know that that’s ingrained in a lot of that education.
But when I worked in organizations because I’m a freelancer now, when I worked with in organizations, I often would have interns who came from broadcast programs.
So I think one of those two routes is a great way to go.
You get a really great foundation regardless of the route that you take.
You mentioned working in an organization, I imagine with a job like yours, you’re getting lots of advice from colleagues on on how to get maybe a something to go viral.
In fact, I remember working at an organization and a communication specialist set up a meeting and the title of the meeting was Let’s Produce a Viral Video, which seems tricky when do you do you have that experience? Do you have a lot of people giving you advice when I know you’re a freelancer now, but when you worked in the organization, everyone’s got an opinion.
Not so much advice on how to go viral, but always the the desire to let’s go viral.
And it’s like, well, that’s so much easier said than done.
And viral is not always a good thing.
So less so.
These are the things that we should do to become viral.
But more so people asking me, what can we do? So we make sure we go viral.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had the word viral come up in a meeting, I’d be a rich lady.
When did you decide that you can shape a career that involves social media or early 2000s or.
Actually, I’m probably quite a bit older than you, so.
I realized the power that social media had when I was in my broadcasting career, I was working in TV and I was the morning news weather presenter for a TV station in Saskatchewan.
And people love to talk about the weather, especially in Saskatchewan.
And I would do my regular weather reports and then I would see the chatter happening on Twitter or on the radio station or on the TV stations, Facebook page.
And it kind of clicked for me how much potential there is for community growth and for bonding and for storytelling on platforms like social media.
And that kind of kind of started it for me that there’s so much more potential here than than I once thought there was.
So for me, that was like 2014.
So you’re working in an organization and then you decide to take the leap to become a freelancer.
How has that experience been? And maybe if you could tell us what you’re doing and what your job title is.
So I decided to go freelance at the end of 2019.
So just a few short months before everybody was working from home.
I did it before. It was cool.
So I call myself a freelance digital communications specialist.
I call myself a digital communicator or a digital communications specialist because I do so many things within that space.
I do a lot of social media strategy, a lot of social media management, but I also do a lot of writing, a lot of podcast production and other little bits of storytelling like newsletter writing.
So I always find that Digital Communicator wraps it up really, really nicely.
So yeah, I’ve been doing full time freelancing for for quite a few years now, and it’s pretty wonderful.
So you’re not risk adverse.
I mean, you were probably in a fairly comfortable position in the organization you were in.
Did you ever consider I’m going to run 20 years in this job and then retire to the island then? No. And I mean, the island was always the goal for me.
My partner and I knew we wanted to move out here at some point.
Yeah, but I have always been someone who I need to keep learning and I need to.
To to be kept on my toes or have things still be exciting.
And I have left opportunities in the past with in my broadcasting career when I started to feel like things were really stagnant and I wasn’t advancing.
And so staying in a job regardless of the job for 20 years is probably not something that was ever going to fly for me.
So being a freelancer now, all of the people I work with and all the industries I work with are so different that I’m learning something new every day, which is really exciting for me.
And that’s what I hear from a lot of people that agree to come on.
This podcast is every day can be different and they’re always learning.
Let’s talk about some of the specifics about what you’re doing.
Let’s let’s talk about some of your favorite social media platforms that that you manage.
What are your go to platforms? My go to platform is Instagram.
I mean, all platforms have their challenges.
Instagram is included within that.
But I think that there’s a lot of potential for storytelling in Instagram just because there are so many different facets within the app.
With your your photos on the grid, or you can do short videos, you can do a little bit of live or behind the scenes things.
I just think there’s so much potential there and there’s such a large audience on on Instagram.
I’m also starting to play around with TikTok more.
I feel old while on that app, but it’s something that I need to become more comfortable with just because video video is king or queen, and that’s a good one to be familiar with.
It’s it’s a time suck that TikTok app. you open it and then an hour has gone by.
So it’s a really fun one to consume and I’m doing much more creation on that platform as well.
Is that an appropriate platform for businesses? Because when I go on Tik Tok and I’m old, so I grew up, I’m the generation that didn’t have the Internet when I was graduating from high school.
So my kids are constantly telling me what’s what’s new and I’m always amazed with Tik Tok at how many funny people are out there.
So is it an appropriate platform for a business or do you think it’s just humor and fun? So whenever someone asks me, is this the right move for whatever, my answer is always it depends.
It depends on who you’re trying to reach.
So who is your audience? If you’re trying to reach 70 year olds, Tik Tok is not the place for you.
But if you’re a business who maybe has a little bit of a younger demographic or you have a business that naturally lends itself to creativity or is more visual, it also depends upon what your goals are.
So if you are strictly about making sales, Tik Tok might not be the place for you.
But if you’re more into are more concerned about brand awareness or community building or that storytelling component.
Tik Tok might be the place.
So it really just depends on asking yourself the question What am I trying to accomplish by being online? And if the answer is align with how Tik Tok is built, then it might be the platform for you.
I’m finding with Tik Tok as we’re releasing short clips from the longer interviews that we’re doing with our podcast, sometimes a video will take off and maybe you can tell me.
So I have one video, one clip on Tik Tok that has 36,000 views.
And then I have another video that has 67 views.
I guess maybe this can get me into the question about could you talk a little bit about SEO and how that works with social media campaigns? So social media is really interesting and has really evolved since we were all introduced to it many years ago.
It used to be that you just posted your stuff and most people saw it.
Lots of times videos.
Our photos appeared in chronological order.
Now we have the algorithm, which is the word of the day so often, and no one really knows all of the factors that make up the algorithm.
But now the way people use social media has changed.
And so often Gen Z millennials are using social media platforms like other people use search engines.
So we would go on to Google and type in a phrase we’re seeing younger, younger people do that same action, but type it into the search bar on Tik Tok and on Instagram instead.
So you want to think about some of these keywords.
Are these main phrases that people are looking for as part of their search and incorporate some of that language into your copy for your posts on platforms like Tik Tok, because that that can help with how you appear in in the algorithm.
This is a two part question.
So how do your clients find you? I guess maybe answer that first.
Part of my clients.
Finally, I am really lucky to have a lot of word of mouth, so I work with a lot of clients, really.
Western Canada, I would say.
I work with some businesses on the island, lots of businesses in Alberta and kind of sprinkled throughout the rest of western Canada.
A lot of my business comes via referrals.
I get the odd bit through my website, but admittedly the SEO on my website is not as strong as it should be because I’m spending more time doing SEO for other people than I am for myself.
So yeah, referral is a big thing because I’m always committed to doing the highest level of work that I can so that other people will tell their friends.
Yeah, that’s that’s a big thing for me.
In general terms.
Could you take us through the initial meeting with the client when they come to you and what they’re often asking you for and basically how you start to attack it? Yeah.
So it’s so the meeting will vary depending upon if they need social media support or writing support or podcast or whatever that digital communication is.
Sometimes it’s a combination of all of those things.
But just like your question about whether Tik Tok is the right platform, I always start a conversation with, okay, what are your goals? So you’re on Instagram and you’re on Facebook.
Tell me why. What do you what are you hoping to accomplish? And then that gives us some strategic direction about what are some of the things that could be done.
Sometimes businesses will come to me because they either don’t have the resources to do social media or digital comms internally, or it’s a business owner or an entrepreneur team of one or two.
And they just hate doing it.
They just detest being on Facebook or Instagram or whatever it might be, and they just want someone else to manage it.
So if I can have the perspective of what are you trying to accomplish? How does Instagram or your newsletter or whatever it might be fit into the larger picture of your business priorities that can lend us into or lead us into a conversation about what the tactics might be? Okay, I’m old, as we’ve discussed.
How do you stay up on all the trends and everything that’s that’s changing? It’s not easy because it changes on a dime.
It’s the world of social media is evolving so quickly, it’s hard to keep up.
I subscribe to a lot of newsletters from industry experts or organizations that put together these sorts of resources.
I feel like I’m constantly reading and as I mentioned, I’m also I’m also a teacher.
So I need not only do I need to know these things for my clients, I need to know these things so I can share the most recent information with my students as well.
So I do a lot of reading and I also follow a lot of these sorts of experts on digital platforms like LinkedIn or like Instagram, so that I can try and stay on top of these things as much as I can.
It feels impossible some to him, but I’m doing my best.
Do you have any prediction? Is like is is there anything on the radar that people are talking about that’s going to come out next.
In terms of new platforms? I don’t really know what’s going to be the next thing.
It seems like the app Bereal is is increasing in popularity.
Are you familiar with Bereal? No. Again, I’m old so. Well, that’s okay.
So be Bereal.
Is this app that you’re really starting to see lots of Gen Z, lots of younger people using and you get a notification a couple of times a day and you have a limited window in which you have to take a photo and publish it to your feed.
Like we’re talking, you have 60 seconds or a very small window of time, and the idea is you capture a photo of what you’re doing right now.
It’s not edited, it’s not curated.
You’re being real.
And so that’s increasing in popularity.
Is some of this less edited, perfectly curated sort of perfection that you see on so many social media platforms.
So in terms of esthetic, we’re starting to see a little bit of a change that way.
I’m not aware of any other platforms that might be emerging.
I’m sure there are several.
I think there’s going to be a conversation about how Twitter is going to change over the next little bit with the new ownership.
Yeah, Elon Musk now owns Twitter and already seeing proposed changes there.
So that’ll be a really interesting thing to keep an eye on.
But yeah, I’m sure.
I’m sure that there will be something as soon as we hang up today.
I’m sure there will be another change to incorporate into social media strategies everywhere.
What brands or influencer do you know of that you feel have a good social media presence? There is a Canadian influencer or her name is Sarah Nicole Landry.
She is known as the Bird’s Papaya on Instagram.
She is based out of Ontario, and she has a really wonderful approach to her Instagram channel in that she is really real and I feel like that’s a silly word to use, but authentic is so overused in this space, she is really upfront, really honest with her followers, which I think is hard to come by sometimes.
So I always kind of think of her first.
When I think about who’s doing a good job, she stands out above the rest because she she seems to just be herself on platforms as opposed to more of this curated, edited persona.
Yeah, I don’t like to call these failures, but I will refer to them as learning experiences.
Have you had a social media campaign that didn’t take off the way that you thought it would? And what did you learn from that? Of course I have.
There’s always there’s always going to be something that doesn’t go according to plan.
The wonderful thing about social media campaigns, though, is you can always adjust on the fly.
So if if you launch content and it’s just crickets, nobody cares.
There are things that you can do, whether it’s rewriting or trying different photography or trying a different creative approach.
Often when you’re doing what’s called an organic campaign, so that’s a campaign that’s unpaid.
You’re not promoting any posts.
You’re not giving Mark Zuckerberg any money to show your content.
Sometimes organic posts flop because these spaces are becoming increasingly pay to play sort of spaces.
Mark Zuckerberg wants your money, so he prioritizes paid content, sometimes organic stuff, flops.
So you have to be willing to experiment because more often than not you’re just not getting the eyeballs.
So having flexibility built into a campaign can really be helpful in making sure that people end up seeing it because the cards are kind of stacked against you with organic stuff sometimes.
How do you handle the trolls and negative comments that can be associated with some of your posts for a company too.
Or trolls are the worst.
I’m lucky to work with clients and within industries that we don’t see as much of that.
I have definitely worked with business businesses in the past where it’s been more of a thing.
It’s a matter of having a discussion internally about what you’d like to do, determining whether or not these are if this is feedback to be taken seriously.
If it’s not, then I usually will just ignore or delete.
If it is something that is feedback that the company can actually use and move forward with, then I usually will do my best to come up with a thoughtful response.
Typically, when you’re dealing with negative feedback online, you want to acknowledge it publicly, but then deal with the issue privately.
So so as to not air any dirty laundry for the world to see.
So it’s about having a conversation with the business or whoever is in charge about how to do that and how they would like to, to proceed depending upon the severity of the comment.
Yeah, that’s the negative.
Let’s talk about one of your greatest successes.
What can you talk about? A project that that is your favorite or you had a lot of viewers on? Oh, that’s a good question.
So hard to pick a favorite. Oh, I worked with a early on in the pandemic a client of mine that I’ve had for a long time.
She when everyone was sort of starting to figure out what they needed to do at the beginning of the pandemic, how to run their businesses, how they were going to make money.
It was this really big panic.
She developed these like business, almost business therapy sessions where she was meeting one on one with business owners to try and figure out what to do, whether they just wanted to cry for a half an hour to be like, I don’t know what to do next, or if they wanted to, to sit down and strategize about the next moves.
We she pulled that together really quickly.
I pulled together a promotion plan pretty quickly and we saw quite a bit of success with it.
She got a little bit of a lot of media attention out of it.
She had a lot of positive feedback from the community and she supported a lot of business owners as well.
So that’s the first one that comes to mind is is not only to support her as my client, but she was supporting so many people as well.
It was it was just a really wonderful thing to be a part of.
What what are some of your biggest challenges in your day to day work.
As a freelancer? I’m just me.
My only coworker is my dog.
So and it’s a pretty one sided conversation when her and I chat.
So that can be kind of isolating.
I’m sure people who work from home or have worked from home over the last couple of years, can you understand what I’m saying? That would probably be the most challenging thing is it’s like it’s just me and that can be pretty rough sometimes to not be able to chat with someone at the WaterCooler or you miss out on little bits of information that get mentioned before or after a meeting, that sort of thing.
So that would be one of the biggest challenges.
I was really lucky when I started my company full time that I already had a pretty well-established client base.
I had been building it on the side while working at my last job, so I’ve been really lucky to not have to deal with too many lulls in business.
I know that that is often a difficult thing for freelancers.
There’s lots of peaks and valleys in the freelance world.
I’m very lucky to have been remaining mostly in the peaks, but I know that that that can be a stressful thing as well for people considering going the freelance route is is thinking about who are my next clients and where is next month’s revenue going to come from.
That can definitely be a challenge as well.
Is there anything that you wish you knew before going out on your own as a freelancer like day one of when you became a freelancer? Is there any bit of information you could give yourself that would have been helpful to this point now? Hmm. Such good questions.
Or do you think you nailed it? Liz, do you think like you did everything perfectly? No, no, no, never.
I mean, a piece of advice that I had seen but didn’t take seriously was not everyone’s going to pay you on time.
And I’m very lucky to not have to deal with this too often.
But, man, does that suck when I do have to deal with it, just.
Just pay your your your people on time.
Just pay your freelancers and your contractors on time again.
Not too often do I have to, but to have to chase down your income.
Just like send another reminder, send another email, leave another voicemail.
And when people talked about it on LinkedIn or I saw it on Twitter or or people told me in person that this is a thing that happened.
Sometimes I didn’t take it too seriously and didn’t really have to deal with it for the first year or two of my business have had to deal with it a couple of times within the last year.
And it’s not fun to have to to act like a bank and ask for money from people.
So that that’s a challenging thing.
Every once in a while.
Yeah. Such good advice for somebody to think about before they go out on their own.
What do you love about your career? Oh, man, so many things.
But one of the biggest things is, is that it is new and exciting all of the time.
There’s so many things that I need to keep learning, not only from the social media and the storytelling side of things with changes in apps and whatever.
But there’s so many different industry things that I work with that I learn something new every day.
Like just this week I have to write a blog about bitcoins, which I know nothing about, and we’ll have to do a ton of research to, to understand that I’m doing something about gum disease with a dental practice.
I’m working with a post-secondary school, rewriting some of the stuff about the programs they offer.
Like within one day I get to cover so many different subjects and I’m such a nerd.
Like that’s so exciting for me to be able to to know so many different things as a result of the work that I do, that bar none.
That’s the best part.
Well, my next question was going to be about why should somebody consider a career in working in social media? But I think you answered it with with what you love about it.
So, Liz, congratulations on choosing a career that is exciting.
You’re learning lots.
Every every day is different.
And thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.
My absolute pleasure, Kim.
Thanks so much for having me.
Thank you for tuning in to The Job Talk Podcast.
For more information, please visit us thejobtalk.com Our podcast music was created by our friend Mike Malone in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.