My Work in PRogress this week is the wonderful Katheryn Watson, who is the Senior Digital PR and Outreach Manager at Jellyfish.
Katheryn taught me the ropes, back when I first started out in digital PR, not knowing what PR was, let alone SEO. I remember Katheryn telling me how she loved digital PR because it never felt like work – “it feels like you’re doing fun coursework” she said.
Since then Katheryn has gone on to work on some amazing campaigns with huge brands, and built a team of PR superstars as the head of digital PR at Kaizen. Now starting a new venture at Jellyfish, I can’t wait to see everything Katheryn will be working on moving forward.
I absolutely loved this conversation about all things campaigns, spicing up your outreach, and looking after your mental health in an always-on industry.
What is your ultimate shower song? (The song you can give a 10/10 Grammy-worthy performance on in your shower on a Saturday morning).
I like to have a boogie in the shower as well as a sing-song so it would definitely have to be something dancey. Anything Bowie or Britney, but I can’t choose between them!!
So I think When You Were Young by The Killers.
What are your top three favourite campaigns that you’ve ever worked on?
- Literal Translations of Cities for On The Go Tours – It was so simple to produce from the dataset we found but it worked much better as a map visual. It’s the perfect example of reusing data in a different format and presenting it better.
- Most Chilled Out Countries for lastminute.com – This was my first campaign at the agency that I really owned and it fleeewwww! It was my version of a spin on the happiest countries and it worked so well. It went viral on Twitter too which was super fun to see. One of those ‘sweet spot’ campaigns.
- Kids Design Holidays for lastminute.com – Can you tell who my favourite client was? Although this campaign wasn’t a big performer in terms of links, the client truly loved it and I was trying to persuade a client to do a ‘kids draw x’ style campaign for ages.
It’s not really any surprise that they’re all travel campaigns – they’re what I originally specialised in about 3 years ago! They’re still my absolute favourite type of digital PR client to ideate for and travel brands will always hold a place in my heart .
Did you always know you wanted to be a PR? Why do you think you’re good at the job?
Not in the slightest! I studied to be a fashion designer for 5+ years and eventually graduated as a stylist. I kinda fell into this industry after an agency took a chance on me.
I like to think I’m good at my job because I come from a creative background with designer experience, but in reality I think it’s because I have a flair for spinning a story and being original. I also love being a team leader – I’ve built some incredible teams.
“I find it so rewarding to help other people and teach them how to do what we do.”
What mistakes did you make early on in your career and what lessons have they provided you with that you use in your career today?
My mistake was that I thought that outreach was boring and that the same tactics would work for each campaign and client. This must of come after a sprint of campaigns that smashed targets so I thought I must have been doing something right. But then that would all come crashing down when the outreach tactics I was using then started to not work.
It’s taught me to look at each digital PR campaign differently and strip them back to basics.
“Each campaign needs to have a unique pitching strategy.”
There is an unbelievable amount of factors that come into play when considering campaign success: time of day, news cycle, seasonality, and tone of voice just to name a few.
I honestly don’t think there can ever be a 100% foolproof formula that can be replicated to the same exact detail for every single type of digital PR campaign and client. That’s what makes my job so fun and keeps me on my toes.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out in the industry?
I’ve been asked this a few times and it’s usually something generic like “follow this person” or “absorb everything”. I think my current advice would be don’t rush and don’t compare.
The way the digital PR circle is evolving means that newbies to the industry feel like they have to be hitting insane KPIs and creating award-winning campaigns straight off the bat. This could not be further from real life and I’d like new starters in the industry to understand that they don’t need to compare themselves at all! Even a piece of coverage without a follow link should be celebrated, all the small wins add up.
The industry we’re in often requires digital PRs to have a thick skin, and also to be “always-on” in order to spot opportunities for campaigns and coverage. How do you manage your mental health while working in the industry, and what are your fave ways to switch off?
I feel that too many of us feel embarrassed or awkward to admit that our job takes so much out of us. When you’re working in a high-pressure environment it can be easy to feel overwhelmed trying to juggle all of the tasks of a digital PR campaign alongside general life admin. Whilst we like to put all the effort that we can in for our clients, we need to consider ourselves and our mental capacity too.
“We can’t do everything at once and we shouldn’t be expected to either.”
For me, I like switching off by either putting on some lashes and heading out for wine and a dance. Or, if I’m really stressed, it’s all about a new pair of pj’s, all the skincare and chuck a wax melt on! Taking time for yourself is the most important thing when things are feeling really crazy and I’m a big advocate for mental health in PR. Too many times I’ve gone to bed dreaming of media lists and emails and no one’s health is worth that!
I think we can all agree, that regardless of the industry you work in, the global pandemic COVID-19 produced some real challenges, and has completely transformed the way we work. For you personally, what were the biggest challenges and learnings you took from this period?
I think some of the biggest challenges were keeping my team’s morale up and discussing job safety. Let’s be honest, no one really knew what was going on and having to save face for them was tough. While the senior team were prioritising clients and restrategising our activity, my team were holed up at home feeling totally isolated and confused.
I found it really helped to just listen and support everyone where I could. Whether it was an informal FaceTime, a check-in text over the weekend, or discussing priorities and to-do lists. Essentially just making sure that I didn’t lose the human element and could be available for all the chats!
Finally, what does being a work in progress mean to you? (Both professionally and personally).
Professionally, I think it’s important to keep learning and developing. I’d hate to be in a role where I was feeling bored or not challenged – I seem to work best when I’m interested and excited so I tend to follow projects that make me feel that!
In terms of being a WIP on a personal level, I’m a big believer in positive energy and that everything that is meant for you will be.
“I think it’s important to do things that make you feel happy and not feeling stuck in a rut.”
I saw a quote once which was “If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree”. And I couldn’t agree with it more! Nothing is permanent