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A day in the life of a Social Media / Digital PR Director

Current Position:
Social Media and Digital PR Director

Industry: Media/Communications
Company: Red Marketing
Years in position: less than 1 (recent move)

Degree/Courses Studies: Honours in Industrial Psychology (Bachelor of Social Science)
Institution: University of Cape Town
Graduated: Bachelors: 2005; Honours: 2006

How I chose my career?
My current career has evolved out of a few years of high impact and focused career path in consulting in corporate and communications consulting.
I began my career fresh out of varsity in the banking industry as a graduate in business operations. Although this experience was invaluable to me and me development, I was quickly able to identify that what I thought I wanted to do, and what actually drove me to get up in the morning were 2 very different things. I was able to focus my interests and capabilities better and moved into management consulting with a global firm. For around four years my work consisted of consulting to some of the largest industries in South Africa, including their operations in various other countries around the world. I worked in the fields of talent management, change management and communications. It was through this work that I discovered my passion for communications, and more specifically for digital and social media. I began researching the concepts of social media in the corporate environment and its practical applications for some of my firm’s clients. Through on-going research and capability development, I slowly became involved in our global technology and social media team, and started representing our firm at conferences and global knowledge sharing events. After a few years in the corporate world, I made the move into starting my own business and partnered with an established PR firm that was well renowned in the industry and began building the social media business I am running today.

My expectations:
I have 3 very different career stages to-date, and I can say that each one came with its own set of expectations. However across the board I would say that the expectations are usually at least slightly different to the reality, and it is your ability to adapt and embrace the career situation that renders you a success or not. For management consulting my expectations were intense work and a steep learning curve, but along with it a glamorous life of travel, planes and boardrooms. For my Social media business, I expected more freedom and greater creativity with working with retail consumer brands rather than corporate communications.

The reality:
The "reality" is an interesting concept. We all focus on the excitement and potential challenge of a new career, but a new job, much like anything, come with hard work and development. The management consulting career was all intense learning and lots of travel, but that also meant sitting in an office until 3am working on a proposal to be ready for a new client, and the disappointment when it all needs to change, or the client does not chose your company’s services. Running global teams also means endless hours of travel, and spending time in airport waiting rooms between your 3 flights to the central States for a total of 36 hours of transit for 3 days before doing it all over again to get back. At one point in 2011 I spent more time out of the country than I was spending in it. These are all great experiences and wonderful developmental opportunities, but it takes its toll on your relationships, your health and your routine. The social media business is slightly different. Being my own company, and the first time that I am wearing the “entrepreneurial hat” the learning is greater but the freedom is greater too. The difference here, is that unlike when I worked for a large corporate, if something doesn’t work or a deal isn’t closed, it directly impacts my back pocket.

A typical day for me includes:
My new business has brought with it all the things I was looking for out of life. I only allow myself to be in an office 3-4 days of the week, and the rest I spend working from different locations around the city (Johannesburg) and occasionally the world (worked from London for a month), because the virtual environment I have created allows for it. I choose this as it allows me to be more creative and also allows me the flexibility of not being confined to “office hours”. I spend a portion of my day interaction with clients and media, and then rest I am developing content for my clients online profiles (digital PR) or building relationships with their audiences and other brands (social media).

I love/hate this career choice because:
I love this career choice because it allows me to be who I am and do what I love. It took me 5 years of doing what I thought I love to find my real niche, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that niche changes and adapts with me over time. I very much doubt I will ever be the kind of person who can be in a single job/position for decades, but I am the kind of person who can continue to build and develop is the environment is open to growing with me. And that’s what my new career is capable of.

Contact me
You can contact me via luke@redmarketing.co.za or on twitter via @Luk_ism