Creative Lives — Content manager Bridget McKernan: “Be proud of what you put out in the world”

Posted 07 February 2019 Interview by Marianne Hanoun

How do brands get seen on social platforms and reach new audiences? This is exactly what Bridget McKernan spends most of her time thinking about. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, while travelling, Bridget initially set out to land a job at PR – but shortly after meeting the CEO at social content agency, Wildfire, her plans took a detour. With a then-untapped passion for social media, after her interview, Bridget secured a role as the company’s community manager – a job that came with over eight million followers to look after. Since then, Bridget’s position has morphed into her current one as content manager, working across company-wide content strategies for clients like Amazon and Sainsbury’s. She spills on working life in Shoreditch, some of the ups and downs of working in social media, and why completing an internship halfway through her studies proved to be a defining moment. 

Bridget McKernan

Job Title

Content Manager, Wildfire Social(2017–present)

Based

London

Previous Employment

Account Manager, Hatching Communications (2014–2017)

Place of Study

BA Media and Communications, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia (2011–2014)

Social Media

Bridget

Day-to-Day

How would you describe your job? 
We’re a social content agency that produces content and distributes it across a range of social channels (from Facebook fan pages to influencers) to reach targeted online audiences. I’m the branded content strategist half of a content management duo. We’re like a comedy or crime fighting duo, except we spend our time talking in old Vine quotes and thinking about how clients like Amazon, Sainsbury’s and Visit Scotland can get seen on social. I’m also the go-to for copywriting, editing, and proofreading because, well, I like words.  

What does a typical working day look like? 
I spend Monday to Friday in an office overlooking Shoreditch where people-watching can be both the greatest inspiration and source of distraction. My days are inconsistent and unpredictable – I love it. 

I can be neck deep in briefs, wearing multiple hats to understand audiences and client needs with tight deadlines, to sitting back and going over client-facing work with a fine tooth comb, and working out what can make us better. It’s important for me to be proud of what I put out in the world. Social media is unforgiving, you have to be confident enough to own what you say and do.  

Some of Wildfire’s work from the last year

How did you land your current job? 
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, I landed in London after months of travelling in 2017. I spent a lot of time applying for PR jobs, but the second I started meeting people I realised it was the social media side that I couldn’t shut up about.

Luckily enough, I was introduced to my now CEO at Wildfire and we clicked. I actually applied for another role but after spending half the interview talking about the importance of understanding target audiences, content creators and what resonates, I found myself as their latest community manager, looking after over 8 million followers. I now contribute to the wider team and work across branded content strategies – questioning the who and why of what we do.

How collaborative is your role?
Incredibly. Each member of the team offers skills in an area that strengthen our responses and campaigns. I also join forces with my work partner in crime, Iain Fergusson, on the daily to ensure every concept works from a strategy and production point of view for our network and the client. 

Outside the Wildfire office

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
Working with a group of creative, inspiring and hilarious people that I consider friends definitely helps me get out of bed in the morning. I also love that moment after you’ve thrown a million ideas around – the good, the bad, the downright ridiculous – and all of a sudden, it just clicks. But, once the ideas are out of our hands, there can be a lot of silence, back and forth and, at times, rejection that you have to just cop on the chin and learn from. 

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Can I just say the whole whirlwind of being with Wildfire?! It’s been 12 months of learning and evolving with the absolute best in the industry. The people I’ve met, the insights, the ups and downs – it’s invaluable. I didn’t know what would happen when I landed in London and now I wouldn’t change my path at all. 

“Social media is unforgiving, you have to be confident enough to own what you say and do.”

What skills are essential to your job?
Adaptability and resilience. The way people are consuming content is constantly changing so it’s important to be open and immersed in new updates, platforms and trends, as well as being willing to let something go. No matter how much time you’ve invested, sometimes things just don’t work but, there will be another opportunity that will. Learn, grow, move on. 

What tools do you use most for your work?
Google Docs is my saviour. And, all the things that make the social world go around: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp and Canva are the regulars. 

The Wildfire offices

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up?
For a large part of my teen years, I wanted to end up as an editor of a major magazine. All I knew was that I loved writing and a journalism-to-editing path seemed logical. By the time I had to pick a degree, journalism suddenly didn’t feel like the right thing for me, but I had heard about a little thing called PR so thought, why the hell not try that?

What influence has your upbringing had on your work?
I’m lucky to be the youngest of four kids with incredibly supportive parents. My Dad taught me that the best way to improve my writing was to read, and it really was as simple as that. My eldest brother also always worked in marketing and understood the world I wanted to enter with social, I just had to adopt his ‘trust your gut’ attitude. 

“The modern day media and communications worker is expected to be the master of all trades.”

What were your first jobs?
My first job was the direct result of an internship I needed to complete as part of my degree. This was with Hatching Communications, a boutique tourism and lifestyle PR agency in Melbourne, Australia. In the space of three years, I grew from an intern to a graduate and finally, an account manager working with some of the best tourism boards, attractions and lifestyle products in Australia. 

Having to complete an internship right in the middle of uni, has been one of my most defining moments. Rather than fading into the back of a large company, being in a small agency allowed my writing skills to be recognised by the director early on, which led to working up to four days a week whilst completing my degree with mostly online courses. It meant I had the faith of directors who saw skills, not age and experience, to let me take on the work.

The Wildfire team

What skills have you learnt along the way?
Ah, so many! The modern day media and communications worker is expected to be the master of all trades. This can be really overwhelming but, since being in this role, I decided to only own and build on what I love - strategy, copywriting and audience analysis. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I am or want to be every other role in the room. 

What’s been your biggest challenge? 
A startup agency environment in a social media landscape can be inconsistent at the best of times but, I’ve always been the person to laugh in those ‘laugh or cry’ moments because, in the end, it’s going to be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end – we all know the saying. 

Is your job what you thought it would be?  
Definitely not. Studying PR can be a blessing and a curse with how adaptable the skills can be: writing and pitching, event management, partnerships, client, media and influencer relations, crisis management, audience analysis and reporting, the list goes on. I had to understand what I was not only good at but, what I enjoyed. My job isn’t what I’d thought it would be but, I also don’t think it will be what I plan it to be in five years’ time either and, I’m okay with that.  

The Wildfire offices

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
Trust your instincts and learn by doing. Volunteer, intern, ask a lot of questions and simply do whatever feels right. You’ll eventually find where you’re supposed to be and there’s no rush in getting there.  

Posted 07 February 2019 Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Advertising, Digital
Mentions: Bridget McKernan, Wildfire

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