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Rejoice Ojiaku podcast interview – how brands can get Black History Month right

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I invited Rejoice Ojiaku back onto the podcast to discuss what Black History Month is, and how brands can get Black History Month messaging right, without sounding tokenistic.

Listen now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

Spotify: Click here
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 Click here

Use a different listening platform? Choose it here.
(Full transcript at bottom of page.)

This episode was recorded during the week of another period of individual attacks on Black people in our industry, for wanting a more diverse and inclusive space for us all.  Rejoice is a content SEO creator, and co-founder of B-DigitalUK, a digital marketing platform which showcases Black talent in the digital industry.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What is Black History Month?
  • What value does she see in brands highlighting Black History Month.
  • Where in the past have brands got Black History Month wrong.
  • How to sound genuine/authentic when using Black History Month in messaging.
  • Advice for brands thinking about posting content for Black History Month.
  • Advice for agencies/in-house companies who are considering highlighting the importance of Black History Month to their staff.
  • Staying resilient in the face of racial adversity and attacks online.

Useful Links:

Episode sponsored by Absolute Digital, check them out here: https://absolute.digital/

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/azeemdigitalasks

My Twitter page: https://twitter.com/AzeemDigital

My website: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/

Sign up to “The Marginalised Marketer” newsletter: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/the-marginalised-marketer-newsletter/

Rejoice Twitter: https://twitter.com/RejiYates

Episode Transcript

Azeem Ahmad:
Hello, and welcome back to the Azeem Digital Asks podcast. What a brilliant guest I have got for you today. You may have heard it on a previous podcast episode of mine, and she’s probably, I think the first person who is coming back on again. So she’s now an Azeem Digital Asks record holder. You can’t see her, but she’s fist pumping the air right now. We are talking all about how brands can get Black History Month right. And my guest is the awesome Rejoice Ojiaku. Say hello, Rejoice.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Hello. Thanks for having me, again.

Azeem Ahmad:
You are more than welcome. Right, before we begin, a quick word from the sponsor. This episode is sponsored by Absolute Digital Media, a leading UK based digital marketing agency, specialising in search, pay per click, and digital PR. With seven award wins under their belt already this year, they understand what it takes to make a business stand out from its competitors and generate greater visibility in return. Check them out and I will drop a link to them in the show notes.

Right. Rejoice, Reji, legend. Welcome to the show.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
That’s so funny.

Azeem Ahmad:
How are you doing?

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Good. Good, good. I’m really, really good. How are you?

Azeem Ahmad:
Living the dream, my friend. Right, listen, let’s get straight into the meat and bones of this episode. We are recording this during Black History Month and we won’t go too much into it on this episode, but it has been a bit of a wild week on Twitter for people of color and the marginalized in the industry. We can dig into that later on if we want, it’s your episode. But first of all, let’s start with the very, very basics. What is Black History Month?

Rejoice Ojiaku:
So Black History Month is essentially a month to kind of reflect and celebrate, empower people from the African and Caribbean descent. It’s really kind of to show how black people have contributed to the world, especially in the UK, how black people have contributed in so many aspects and how we have a history that goes beyond slavery and all those things. Even though we have slavery as part of black history, but there’s so much more to it. So that’s why the element of celebration, empowerment kind of comes into it and how we acknowledge a sense of appreciation. So, that’s essentially what Black History Month is all about.

Azeem Ahmad:
Brilliant. Thank you very much for sharing that. So the title of the episode is how brands can get black history right. So before we dig into how brands can get it right, I’d love to know from you, what value do you see in brands highlighting Black History Month?

Rejoice Ojiaku:
I guess the value we see in it is one, acknowledgement of black people and real acknowledgement, accurate acknowledgement. I guess the value comes from we are now seeing that these brands are kind of thinking past the usual preference of whiteness. You understand that if you want to be diverse and inclusive, you can’t only just celebrate white holidays with white history. You have to incorporate a lot of other people’s history and black history being so prominent in the UK, brands kind of highlighting it. Also, it shows your black employees, “Hey, we know this day is very important to you. We want to do our parts” in pushing that empowerment, that acknowledgement about black history in a positive and accurate way.

Azeem Ahmad:
Lovely, thank you very much for sharing. So the natural question for me, that pop was something in my desk just potentially breaking. So if I suddenly scream out, I have fallen under my desk during the recording, but we move. Naturally what you’ve just said has led me on to, to my next question. So it seems like it can be quite tricky to get Black History Month right. So I’d love to know and learn from you where in the past you’ve seen that brands have got Black History Month wrong.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
I don’t know about particular in black history related, but brands have got things wrong in so many ways. I remember KFC doing a whole chicken and the shadow is showing the fist going up now that is so stereotypical. Well, black people like chicken. Ooh, so we’re going to use chicken. Again, that’s so wrong. Pepsi during the whole black lives matter placed Kylie Jenner to solve the whole injustice, is to drink Pepsi. That is wrong. I think the most one I can remember about black history is when there was a conversation. I think it was a university during a black history talk and black history conversations and the person they put the face as was Sadiq Khan, an Asian man.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
So it was outrageous. It was just like what? He’s not black. And then they were trying to spin it off as Black History Month is now all ethnic minorities’ history. No, it’s not. Black history does not stop people from creating your own history or months surrounding that history. So, that’s when brands totally got it wrong. You’re trying to overcompensate. You’re not asking, you’re not socially involving the right people. You’re not involving black people in that decision making because they would’ve told you this doesn’t make sense.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that. So naturally I’m led to authenticity, right? Because from what you said there, especially about Sadiq Khan, it didn’t come across as authentic. I’m sure as somebody seeing that messaging, you would’ve thought, well, this doesn’t sound genuine or authentic. So how can you sound genuine or authentic when you’re talking about Black History Month in your messaging,

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Tell the real story whatever you are celebrating, tell the real story and use real voices. The only way it can really be authentic if you actually involve people from that demographic and actually hear them. So they’re doing the story telling, they’re shaping how the story should look like that is real authenticity because you wouldn’t get someone who’s not involved in a community to tell that story for them. Especially if you are brand around content and you hear this key was about storytelling. How can you tell a story from someone who doesn’t know anything about the history?

Rejoice Ojiaku:
I think for you to sound genuine, authentic, actually show you’ve taken some time in involving parties or actually part of this history actually show how you are trying to, and sometimes you don’t have to be the one telling the story amplify other people’s voices. So brands, you don’t have to be the one doing it. You can collaborate with a black organization and it can be just something that you allow them and you sort of supporting or sponsoring or putting effort and time into it. It will still look great for your brands. And actually that’s more genuine than anything else.

Azeem Ahmad:
Yes. I couldn’t agree with you more there. I’m going to start to step for a minute and say, if brands are thinking about posting then and collaborating with black individuals, then above all else, pay them, pay them.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Pay them. Yes. Not, it’s not free education.

Azeem Ahmad:
But anyway, this is your episode, sorry for hijacking it for a moment there. So we’re talking about brands posting. So if a brand is listening to this and they’re thinking, right, I’d love to get involved in blacking history month. I’ve just learned from you right there how I can sound genuine and authentic. What advice would you be giving to brands who are now thinking about posting Black History Month related content?

Rejoice Ojiaku:
I think my advice would be first try utilizing your employees within your company. So maybe show representation of how diverse your company is. That’s great content to kind of see how these different things look within from an internal organization. I guess if you want to sort of, then again, collaborate with other people about pick a theme of around black history, pick a theme, it could be black mental health and how that has played about in, in the UK. So partner up with black psychologists, black therapists and let them come to webinars, invite people and have an open space where other people from other organizations can come in and listen to it. So you are not just kind of keeping all the fun within your company, but you, you want to educate the masses. So maybe do it that way.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Pick things that you want to kind of support, whether it’s black media, black presentation, black mental health, black finance, black pounds day, pick something. Then that way it’s easier to kind of create content in terms of what people want to see. I’ve seen companies do a thing where they publicize black owned business lists around this stuff. They do fairs and all these things where people can actually now put their money into, towards black businesses. So that’s how you can think about posting for content collaborate. What do you got internally, what theme do you need to use for Black History Month.

Azeem Ahmad:
Fantastic. This is absolutely gold. I just wanted to go back to something you said at the very start of that answer. Where you were talking about engaging with your stuff? I want to just pick into that a little bit more with you. So, when you see the agencies and in-house companies are considering highlight writing the importance of Black History Month to their staff. What advice would you be giving them? How can people and brands approach this internally with their own staff?

Rejoice Ojiaku:
It would always be good to plan ahead because no one likes. I think, what companies do is, Ooh, first all they say comes around means we need to do something. No, plan ahead, if it is that important to you, you would put it into your plans. Like let’s be real and maybe let people know what events are coming up again, forward thinking, ask people who would like to be involved, who would like to present something or who would like, who has an idea?

Rejoice Ojiaku:
One cool thing can be can you have different black cuisines and stuff like that, black music around all those things. I guess to sort of bring your staff into it, actually seek the opinions in terms of what can we do? What do you think is great to do? What would you like to be involved in? What would you like to hear or listen to? And that will be great. One thing I would like to stress is, if you are doing something for Black History Month, make sure that your black staff are looked after. Because sometimes I feel like companies don’t really care for their black staff internally, but will want to do this tokenism and look great on the outside. It has to be reflective from both ends.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that. I’m glad you talked about tokenism there because it’s something that I have seen in the past. In previous workplaces, in my professional life. Plot twist, I’m not a black individual, but having seen black individuals being mistreated just for the sake of a brand, posting the message out very much, like you said, because October comes around and people think right, I need to get a messaging out. So that’s super, super important as we’ve got time left before I end the episode. I’m just going to put you on the spot now and give you some questions, which I have full disclosure, not prepared you for. So I am going to love the answers that come from you. So, first things first, now we’ve got time. Let’s spend a couple of minutes talking about everything that’s happened over the past week. So…

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Yay!

Azeem Ahmad:
The fact that you’re excited means this is good. So as someone who is incredibly passionate about helping young black individuals progress and get equal opportunities throughout the marketing industry. For the context of those listening, to aren’t aware what has happened in the last week, there has been attacks, very public attacks on individuals who are black in the marketing industry in various different countries, from people who have displayed pretty much what I describe as over white fragility, feel free to disagree, but it screams white fragility to me. For black individuals who are in the marketing industry, Reji and they’re experiencing these types of attacks and unnecessary and unwanted hate, especially during Black History Month. Not that it’s okay at any other time of the year, of course. What advice would you give to those people? How do you stay strong and resilient?

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Oh, that’s tough. I think one thing is, I would say it’s good to stay strong, but you don’t always have to be strong. The reason why I say it, is racism is violence in any shape, any form, whether it’s a slur, whether it’s a invalidating your experience, it is violence. It can ultimately make you feel as though your existence is not important enough for people to acknowledge your experience. So it’s, you don’t have to always be okay, some days you can have a really bad day and some days you can kind of find a way to move forward.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
But I would say to always remember that at the end of the day there are still real allies there and there’s always power in numbers, especially within your own community. Reach out, talk to someone say what this person said has really put me in a bad space. I would like to vent how, give your child yourself a permission to vent and say what you need to say, but always remember that it’s not your fault. It’s not just your problem. It is a problem. It’s a systemic problem that we need to sort of deal with and you’re not alone in it. Your feelings are valid. What you said is valid. So kind of always remember that.

Azeem Ahmad:
That’s brilliant. Thank you very much for sharing before we part ways sadly, and you share your contact details where people can connect with you and follow you. I am going to open the floor to you. So I’m literally going to give you 30 seconds. You can talk about whatever you want within reason. Something that we haven’t covered off yet, that you want to just get off your test. The audio virtual floor is yours.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Great. So one thing I want to cover is in the height of Black History Month it is great that brands want to do what they feel they need to do for Black History Month. But also remember that it doesn’t just stop in October, whatever you do and whatever you are preaching and saying has to be continuous across the board. It has to be a policy change. It has to be tangible changes.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
If you work within media and you care about diversity and inclusion, you care about Black History Month and you truly want to make a change. Then think about how you are telling stories. Think about how you are showing representation, how you are contributing, especially with some of the clients you work with, how you are contributing in either perpetuating stereotype, perpetuating different viewpoints that is not accurate. Sometimes as a brand and as someone in, working for a brand, sometimes this is for lack of a better word. Sometimes it’s okay to just shut up and let people who are knowledgeable speak about these things without you feeling as though it is an attack on your existence because it’s not an attack or not exist. It is just plain and simple truth.

Azeem Ahmad:
Boom, perfect way to round out the questions there. Thank you very much. If people are listening to this and rightly thinking this human being is sharing some absolute wisdom, how can I find out more about them and follow them? Where can they find you?

Rejoice Ojiaku:
LinkedIn, I’m on LinkedIn, Rejoice Ojiaku. You can find me there. You can find me on Twitter at Reji Yates. But please be advised that on Twitter. I don’t always speak about SEO or whatever. I do have a life and I do banter. So I’m happy if you don’t follow me there because you don’t want to see what I see. LinkedIn is a perfect place because yeah, I’m very professional on LinkedIn.

Azeem Ahmad:
The only thing that I will add to that is should you decide to follow Reji on Twitter, any time after hitting follow before you then go on to tweet, check that spelling, check that grammar.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Because I will find it and I will expose it.

Azeem Ahmad:
Because you could get cooked. If you log on, one day, and see that she has a strange username it’s because somebody has made some sort of grammatical error, which she decides to share.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
It’s so funny.

Azeem Ahmad:
But yeah, listen, this has been brilliant in all seriousness. Thank you so much for being a great guest. Thank you so much for coming back onto the podcast. And most importantly, thank you so much for helping share your knowledge and wisdom all around Black History Months and hopefully helping to educate the industry. I think, in all seriousness the industry is a far richer place for having you in it, my friend. So for me to you, thank you very much.

Rejoice Ojiaku:
Thanks for having me again, love up this pod it is actually one of the best pods out there.



Itamar Blauer podcast interview – why people should practice sustainable SEO

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To mark hitting Episode 50 of the podcast (still can’t believe it!) myself and Itamar hopped onto a recording, with just a topic – Sustainable SEO – and no agenda. In this episode, you’ll learn lots of things – but mostly, why you should be considering SEO as a long term strategy, and not chase quick wins.

Listen now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

Spotify: Click here
Apple Podcasts:
 Click here

Use a different listening platform? Choose it here.
(Full transcript at bottom of page.)

Itamar describes himself as an SEO Consultant, Trainer & Manager, author, and a YouTuber since 2008.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • What sustainable SEO is
  • Advice for industry practitioners when working with clients
  • Advice for clients, and business owners around developments in SEO
  • Why the industry shouldn’t chase after the latest shiny new development blindly

…and so much more!

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!


Useful Links:

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/azeemdigitalasks

My Twitter page: https://twitter.com/AzeemDigital

My website: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/

Sign up to “The Marginalised Marketer” newsletter: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/the-marginalised-marketer-newsletter/

Connect with Itamar:

Website: https://www.itamarblauer.com/ 

Work: https://www.curemedia.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/itamarblauer

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZjZzsFU-vtcj21xmvb2aRA

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/itamarblauer/

Episode Transcript:

Azeem Ahmad:
Hello, and welcome back to the Azeem Digital Asks podcast. I’ve got a brilliant guest with me today, Itamar, who is going to introduce himself because I am not going to butcher this. But I need to tell you all something. This is the first time we’re going to do a recording where there’s literally just no agenda, just a topic. We are just going to shoot the heck, as my American friends call it, and we’re going to be talking all about sustainable SEO.

Azeem Ahmad:
Before we get into that, as always, please like, rate, share, and subscribe. Tell a friend to tell a friend, and then tell that friend to tell their next door neighbor about the podcast. And also, shameless plug, please sign up to my newsletter, The Marginalised Marketer. You can find all that information about the podcast, the newsletter and more at iamazeemdigital.com.

Azeem Ahmad:
Anyway, onto the topic, sustainable SEO. Itamar, welcome to the show, my friend.

Itamar Blauer:
Thank you very much, Azeem. It’s an absolute honor to be here.

Azeem Ahmad:
All being well, you are going to be episode number 50, the big five-O. So no pressure to deliver on the no agenda, but tell the audience who you are and why you’re going to smash this episode out of the park.

Itamar Blauer:
Yeah. So hello everyone who’s listening. My name’s Itamar Blauer. I’m an SEO consultant trainer and I’m currently the SEO manager at Cure Media, which is an award-winning influencer marketing agency for fashion brands. There’s a lot I can say, but I don’t really want to talk too much about me. I want to kind of get onto this topic because I think it’s very interesting. Obviously, being episode 50, there’s no pressure, right? No pressure. We’re just going to go with it.

Itamar Blauer:
Sustainable SEO, right, and I’m kind of asking my own question here, Azeem, unless you want to ask me one, but when I think of sustainable SEO, the reason why I want to talk about sustainable SEO, is because I feel like a lot of people in the industry, they’re always trying to think of what’s hot right now and then tackle that, and then wait for the next thing.

Itamar Blauer:
So the best example I can give you with that is something like Core Web Vitals. So we’re talking about, I think it was May 2020 when Google started announcing Core Web Vitals. Everyone was like, “Whoa, this is the big thing. This is something that we’re going to jump on.” So a lot of people did. When you look into the nitty gritty of the whole concept, websites were always meant to be user friendly, right? They were always meant to be performing well for the user.

Itamar Blauer:
The reason why I link this to sustainable SEO is that essentially the core of sustainable SEO is if you’re planning to be in business and have a website for the next five to 10 years, it’s about the activities that you do that really future-proof your website and your business to be able to succeed, no matter what happens. No matter what kind of new buzzword comes out, no matter what kind of algorithm update gets announced.

Itamar Blauer:
The reason why I say the Core Web Vitals example I think is great because nobody needed Google to tell people in May of 2020 that the content shouldn’t be shifting and causing a bad user experience. It’s not like a light bulb went into people’s heads, and they’re like, “Right, now is the time to sort this stuff.”

Itamar Blauer:
So when it comes to sustainable SEO, for me, it’s always about trying to plant the seeds that will grow your website into the kind of mid to longterm, so that you’ll always be able to benefit from strong, organic performance that you can get from having a very good website.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that. I mean, we could just end the episode right there. Thanks a lot. Let’s dig into that a little bit more. I’m really interested to learn more from you. So you’re talking about being sustainable in the medium to long term. Why is it that you think that there’s such a short-term mindset in parts of the industry?

Itamar Blauer:
I think it’s because things change quite quickly. So in my eyes, I’ve seen this a lot over the years. If you think all the way back to the 2000s, when link-building was like, you buy a bunch a huge volume of links, you’ll be able to rank. That was the thing that worked then. And then, over time, that didn’t work, but something else worked. Do you know what I mean? And I feel like SEO in part has had this kind of hurdle approach where there is always a hurdle that you reach, and then there’s always this new way of doing things or a new term that comes up or a new algorithm update that causes people to change that perception on certain things. And then they just try and address it one by one.

Itamar Blauer:
So that’s why I think, and I’m not trying to generalize, I’m not saying everyone does this, but I just see it a lot when something new comes out and then people like, “Okay. Yeah, this is the big focus. This is exactly… This is what is going to increase your rankings.” Then it just becomes more of a checklist where that checklist keeps on getting bigger and bigger as time goes on. So once you’ve done something, there’s always going to be something else in the next month or few months, that is new to you, that you’re going to have to address.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that, love that. I’m immediately drawing comparisons to a shiny new thing syndrome or likening it to spinning multiple plates at once. I guess one of the things that I wanted to ask you, I was going to ask you this later on, but I think you’ve led me mostly to it. Imagine for a second, Itamar, I am listening to this and I am work with an agency. So I’m paying an agency to do my SEO for me, but I’m listening to this podcast. I’m thinking, well, a lot of the things that this guy is saying resonates with how my website is being managed. Where can they start to address that? How can they start to address this issue and bring this up with people that they work with?

Itamar Blauer:
Yeah. That’s a very good question of course, because it’s the reality for a lot of people or a lot of business owners that use agencies. I think this is a whole nother topic in general, in terms of work agencies. I know a lot of great agencies, I know a lot of very bad agencies. That’s just something we have to deal with. I think if someone’s, like you posed that, if someone’s listening to this, and the kind of stuff you could ask an agency that’s doing your work for you is, I think it’s important to understand methodology, because a lot of times an agency will go to you and they’ll kind of tell you the checklist, or they’re like, “Well, we’ve done an audit. These are the things that we need to fix.” But I think SEO is much deeper than looking into audits and looking at the X, Ys and Z, these are the things you need to do.

Itamar Blauer:
I think methodology is very important because if you have a good methodology, it should be able to portray that this agency is going to be doing things that are still going to be benefiting you in the longterm. I think that’s a very important thing to address. I’ll try and think of an example. It’s like when people try and flag… Let’s have a think… Even with Titlegeddon, like Google changing the metadata and all that kind of stuff.

Itamar Blauer:
If an SEO agency tells you, and not even titles, if they’re going into, let’s say, meta descriptions, and they’re telling you, “We’re going to do this thing for you where we’re going to create new meta descriptions.” This is absolutely critical. It’s quite hard as a business owner to really be able to be very critical about when you’re hearing these things, because it’s like, “Well, as SEOs, we know that. Google most of the time rewrites meta descriptions anyway.” The only new stuff they have is to impact click-through rate. So it’s not even a direct kind of ranking factor, right?

Itamar Blauer:
I think this is why it’s important to anyone listening that a good methodology for SEO, it’s pretty much anything but the kind of checkbox approach of, “We’re going to do this, this, this, and this to get you these results.” It has to be more something like, “We understand your business, and the things that we’re going to do are going to be able to sustainably and positively impact your business on your website so that you are able to get the returns that you’re looking for in the long-term.”

Itamar Blauer:
I think that also involves being able to speak with an SEO agency. And I’ve said this to SEO agency owners a lot. When you’re pitching out for sales and stuff, that jargon, firstly, it’s very unlikely to work or resonate with a business owner because they’re not going to know what the hell… You can tell. It’s like, “Yeah, yeah. So I’m going to address the whole Titlegeddon situation going on.” And they’ll just look at you and they’ll be like, “What the hell does that mean?” So I think language is very important when you’re communicating this. That’s from an agency’s perspective.

Itamar Blauer:
But from a business owner, you’ve got to probe. I think you just have to probe the agency. It’s like, “How can you confidently be able to tell me that you are going to show me the results in the long-term?” I think that this is where you can weed out an agency that’s great versus an agency that might be a bit mediocre, where it’s like, if somebody is just going to be like, “Well, we’re going to get you these results because we’re going to do this whole checklist approach.” That to me is kind of mediocre way of thinking about it, because of course these things can change over time, with any kind of new algorithm update. That’s when you’ll get these mediocre agencies who will be just chasing this whole check-mark scenario.

Itamar Blauer:
But if you get somebody who’s able to really talk to you about their methodology, about how they think about organic search, how they think about, first of all, understanding your business and understanding your website to be able to drive these results in the long-term. I think that’s a very important thing to discuss with them.

Azeem Ahmad:
Brilliant. Absolutely gold. Thank you so much for sharing that. I wanted to flip the script a little bit then, and not talk about it from the customer’s point of view, but from the SEO point of view. I mentioned earlier on it, it’s probably a bad analogy, but that shiny new thing syndrome. What advice would you give to SEO as practitioners, people in the industry who are in the weeds, shall we say, to stay focused on sustainable SEO in the longterm and not get distracted by the shiny new thing? What advice would you give to those people?

Itamar Blauer:
Yeah, that’s a brilliant question. I think the first thing I would say, and I say this a lot, is that you have to be critical. When you hear things online, especially if it’s something new that comes out, I think you have to be very, very critical. Don’t just take things at face value because that will just lead you to tunnel vision on whatever that thing is. If you end up finding out over time that you’ve wasted so much of your time and resources trying to go for this brand new thing that didn’t work out, then you would have wasted time for yourself. You would have wasted money from your client. They’re not going to be happy, and all in all, it’s just a lose-lose situation for everyone.

Itamar Blauer:
So the first thing I’d say is be critical because a lot of the times when you hear about these new shiny things, you’ve got to ask yourself, it’s like, what if I try and do the opposite? Or what if I try and take a different approach? I’ll come back to the Core Web Vitals example. I’ve heard people say in the industry that, Core Web Vitals are absolutely fundamental to ranking well on Google. I’m just thinking to myself, if I took that at face value, all I would do is try and improve a page speed score from 80 to 95.

Itamar Blauer:
And even that, like page speed insights or the metrics, they always change. Every time you rerun a test it changes slightly. Do you know how much time could be wasted on doing that and to something that might not really impact you at all in terms of the ROI or the KPIs that you’ve got? If I take a different approach and be critical about Core Web Vitals, and I’m saying actually, you know what? I think content and relevancy is far more important than how fast a page loads.

Itamar Blauer:
So number one, be very critical of anything that you hear online. If you really want to make sure, do tests, experiment, have your own site where you can run these tests and be able to see for yourself what differences or any kind of correlation you can see between things. So I would say for SEOs it’s very important, be critical, experiment with things. Don’t always take things at face value. I say that as well, not to be like, don’t simply discredit or disregard things that people say, but just always try and have a bit of an open mind in terms of, well, they’re saying this, what if I tried the opposite? What if I tried it slightly differently and see what happens?

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that. Love that. That’s a brilliant way to think about things. I guess one thing that cropped up in my head, which I wanted to ask you, sort of put you on the spot really, because it’s something that’s just came to me. So let’s say, for example, that you were working on my website and I didn’t know a lot about SEO or anything. I am paying you to do this for me. You have explained to me your methodology, you’ve explained to me how you work, and it makes sense. I’ve gone away, done my own Googling. I’ve come across an article that somebody else has written and they are saying something that’s completely different, without using Core Web Vitals, for example, but some that along those lines. I’ve brought that back to you and I’ve said, “Right, why are we not doing this?” How do you explain that to the person that you’re working with or for?

Itamar Blauer:
Yeah, and I think you’re most likely to find scenarios like that. And the reason why you’ll find scenarios like that is because SEO is a subjective field. There’s very little that’s completely objective about this industry. I think that’s one of the reasons why I love this industry, but then also it can cause some controversy in terms of what you’re saying. So if you, a client, was going to come back and show me something that said something different, I can be like… Well, you can do many things in this scenario. Either you could tell them, be like, “Look, I’ve tried this myself. I’ve tried different approaches. This is what I found to work.” I think something else that’s very important and business owners and clients care about is proven results or testimonials or any recommendations.

Itamar Blauer:
So you can show people, and some people have problems with the confidentiality of showing other clients. You can get the screenshots of a Google Search Console performance graph or something like that, where it doesn’t include any info about the other clients or websites, whatever. But to be able to at least try and convince them that A, you’re a critical thinker, which I think is important in an industry where there are so many differing opinions, but also to show them that you’ve got the goods to back it up. If you’re able to kind of showcase any previous work that you’ve done related to maybe something, even if it’s something very close to the kind of topic they’ve brought up to you and say, “Look, I’ve approached it my way. This way worked. If you want to try it this way…”

Itamar Blauer:
At the end of the day, and this is something as well that clients need to understand, at the end of the day, it’s their money that they’re spending. So if they’re very adamant on you doing or working in a particular way, sure, but at least try and educate them. I don’t want people to start taking people’s money and just messing around, not really doing… Education is very important in an industry that’s so subjective. So at least try and explain your methodology and try and explain whatever that scenario is in the sense that, “I’ve done it this way. It has worked. If you want to do it another way, I can do it, but I’m just telling you, I’m warning you in advance, I can never make any guarantees and this and that, but I still think that the way that I approach is better.” At the end of the day, if you phrase it like that, there’s a higher chance that they’ll trust you, because at the end of the day, they’re paying money for somebody who has the expertise to go and do this.

Itamar Blauer:
You should never belittle clients or laugh at them or call them out because they’re just curious as well. I feel it’s a good thing if clients are curious, because it means that they really care about their own business and their own website. So just trying to be nice and just explain to them that based on your testing or experience, this is how it works. Show some testimonials or charts of progress, stuff, just to make them feel a bit more at ease. That’s the way that I would approach it.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that. I’ve said that a lot this episode, but yeah, generally I love that. Especially the part about encouraging curiosity. Couldn’t agree with you more. 100%. I could genuinely talk to you for hours, my friend, but I’m sure you’ve got a proper day job to do.

Azeem Ahmad:
Before we part ways and you share your contact details, I’m going to open the virtual floor for you. So if there’s anything that you want to share, talk about, or continue to talk about, I’m going to give you 30 seconds to do that right now.

Itamar Blauer:
I mean, to be honest, you said that this episode, you first said to me, 10 minutes, and then I look up and I’m like, “Wow, it’s almost 20 minutes.” How did that happen? To be honest, I just want to say thank you to you personally for giving me the chance. I really appreciate being on here, especially with the big five-O. I’m personally very happy about that, and yeah, I don’t really have too much more to say unless there was any last bits that you wanted to add.

Azeem Ahmad:
The only last bits, and probably the most important bits, because if there are people listening to this thinking, I’m really valuing the insights that this guy is sharing, I want to find him on social media, follow him and learn more from him. Where can people do that?

Itamar Blauer:
Aha. Yeah, so everywhere basically, because I think I’m the only person in the world that has my name. So if you search for me online, if you type in Itamar Blauer, and if you’ve spelled it right, of course, then you should be able to find me. I try and upload useful content so that people can help improve their skills and learn more about SEO and other digital marketing disciplines. So that’s on my website, itamarblauer.com. You can find me on YouTube as well if you search for Itamar Blauer, and find me as well on LinkedIn, Twitter, all that kind of stuff.

Azeem Ahmad:
Top stuff. Thank you very much, my friend, for being an absolutely brilliant guest. The only last thing I will say is don’t forget to like, rate, share, subscribe, and also pick up the newsletter. But more importantly for this episode, just as we hit bang on the 20-minute mark, Itamar, you’ve been a brilliant guest. Thank you so much for giving up some of your time and sharing your wisdom with not only me, but also the people who are going to listen to this show.

Itamar Blauer:
Thank you, Azeem. Been a pleasure. Cheers.


Shomi Williams podcast interview – mental health and seeking therapy in marketing

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The amazing Shomi Williams, a psychological therapist, joins me on the show this week, discussing the important topic of mental health and seeking therapy in marketing. You really do not want to miss this incredibly powerful episode.

Listen now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

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(Full transcript at bottom of page.)

Shomi runs a platform online called Lafiya Health that focuses on delivering mental and physical health education and services in a culturally competent and accessible way. She also works with people on a 1:1 level to support them with their emotional well-being needs.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Why she thinks looking after mental health is important.
  • What (if any) differences does she believe exist between white professionals and POC professionals in marketing who need help with their mental wellbeing?
  • What she thinks the perceptions are of mental health and wellbeing in the POC community.
  • What she thinks holds people back from taking that first step and seeking out a professional to have a conversation with.
  • Advice for people listening currently struggling with their mental health.
  • Tips for approaching the issue with colleagues who you may feel are suffering from poor mental health.
  • Her thoughts on people having therapy and either being open about it, sharing with the public, or being guarded and saying nothing.

…and much more!

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!

Useful Links:

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/azeemdigitalasks

My Twitter page: https://twitter.com/AzeemDigital

My website: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/

Lafiya Health Twitter: https://twitter.com/LafiyaHealth

Lafiya Health: https://www.lafiyahealth.co.uk/

Episode Transcript:

Azeem Ahmad:
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Azeem Digital Asks Podcast. I know I say this all the time, but I really am excited for this episode because I genuinely believe that there’s a massive space for this type of topic to be discussed, which has not been discussed. And I’m very glad that my guest has agreed to join me today.

Azeem Ahmad:
She’s Shomi Williams, a psychological therapist, who runs a platform online called Lafiya Health, which focuses on delivering mental and physical health education services in a culturally competent and accessible way. She also works with people on a one-to-one level to support them with their emotional wellbeing needs.

Azeem Ahmad:
If you haven’t gathered already by the name of the episode on what I’ve just discussed, we’re talking all about mental health and therapy in marketing. So Shomi, welcome to the show.

Shomi Williams:
Hi, Azeem. Thank you so much for having me.

Azeem Ahmad:
More than welcome. How’s it going?

Shomi Williams:
It’s all going well. The weather’s good, so I’m happy. That’s all I need really. How about you?

Azeem Ahmad:
Very much the same. I don’t want it to get too hot though, because hay fever.

Shomi Williams:
Oh yeah.

Azeem Ahmad:
It’s real out here, which causes problems. But yeah, listen, that’s enough talking from me. I would love for you to give a quick intro to yourself for the listeners to learn more about you.

Shomi Williams:
Okay. Hi, everyone. My name is Shomi. I’m, as mentioned, I’m a psychological therapist. And I do a lot of outreach work to, I guess, broaden the education around mental health, to demystify it, destigmatize it.

Shomi Williams:
I run online workshops for different topics that would be beneficial for a lot of people, and then group therapy courses. And of course just general therapy as well. Yeah, so that’s essentially what I do. I also like playing video games.

Azeem Ahmad:
Oh, now I have to ask before we get going. Favorite video game?

Shomi Williams:
Ooh, that’s a really hard one. Do you know what? Just because when I look back of everything, I will say that my favorite of all time is Grand Theft Auto. Yeah, or Tekken, one of the two.

Azeem Ahmad:
Good, good answers there. Good answers. I’ll have to pick your brain some more about that after recording, because this is not what the episode [crosstalk 00:02:10].

Azeem Ahmad:
So let’s dive straight into it. I’d love to hear from you, why do you think that looking after mental health is important?

Shomi Williams:
I think it’s important just because it just, it contributes to everything really. Our productivity is down to our mental health, our social connections, how well we are in a community, how well we are in a family. And how well we feel in ourself is all down to our mental health.

Shomi Williams:
So it’s even linked to our physical health as well. When your physical health is good, your … Sorry, when your mental health is good, you have a better immune system, you’re less susceptible to pain. So it’s just good all around. Good mental health means good life, good living satisfaction levels are high, your immunity’s high. Everything is hunky-dory.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that, that’s a great answer already. I’m very glad that I reached out to you. So again, thanks very much for agreeing to join me on this.

Shomi Williams:
No worries at all.

Azeem Ahmad:
I’d love to learn from you, because you must speak to a variety of people from all different backgrounds. So I’d love to learn more from you about what, if any, differences do you believe exists between white professionals and people of color, POC professionals, in this space who need help with their mental wellbeing?

Shomi Williams:
That’s an interesting one, because a big component of what I do is about being culturally competent, because there are gaps in the understanding of mental health between different types of people. And then that’s just down to what actually contributes to our mental health.

Shomi Williams:
Some societies are more individualistic, I guess, in a Western society, we’re a bit more individualistic. The connection that we have to our parents, it’s a lot less dutiful, whereas where I’m from anyway … So I’m West African, I’m Nigerian. What you might find as well is the way in which people relate to their family is very different. Very, what I guess over here, might be seen as unhealthy is just the norm over there.

Shomi Williams:
And I guess with mental health things are very … It’s very subjective. What is a problem in one area isn’t a problem in another place of the world, or what was a problem 100 years ago considered … For example, hysteria in women was a mental health problem, now it’s just life.

Shomi Williams:
So there’s just a difference of understanding of, I guess, just what’s important to everyone. And sometimes that can make people feel very overlooked when they’re speaking to a professional about something that they hold near and dear to them, and the professional is from a society where it isn’t held in the same way.

Shomi Williams:
Yeah. Sorry, I know I’m being a bit roundabout. But yeah, sometimes there can be a bit of a disconnect when it comes to what’s important to you, based on where you’re from in the world.

Azeem Ahmad:
I love that, and you’re absolutely not being roundabout at all. It’s really interesting. So thank you for sharing that.

Azeem Ahmad:
I’d love to dig a little bit deeper then and say, specifically looking at the POC community. From my own personal experience I’d love to know, I believe that there is a specific perception around mental health and wellbeing. I’m absolutely not going to put words into your mouth because the episode is about you. So I’d love to learn from you. What do you think the perceptions are of mental health and mental wellbeing in the POC community?

Shomi Williams:
I think at the moment in the POC community, it’s very secondary. It isn’t a priority in the way that physical health is. I think because a lot of people have come to the UK, and they’ve had to have their immigrant mentality on where it’s all about the hustle and building some kind of generational standing for their children. Thinking about mental health and how satisfied and happy they feel and self-actualization, isn’t a priority.

Shomi Williams:
And when their children are in a better position due to their hard work and the children are not functioning to a certain level and they’re like, “I’m not feeling great and quite depressed in uni,” the parents can very easily be like, “What are you talking about? I’ve just come here on a boat and survived the brutality of severe racism, and university is getting you down.”

Shomi Williams:
So there’s a massive disconnect where it’s not a priority. As long as you have two legs, why aren’t you walking forward? They don’t understand that your mind is slowing down those two legs. So I think it’s seen as very secondary, very frivolous, and something that only the privileged can focus on.

Azeem Ahmad:
Completely agree with you. And I’m glad that I didn’t put any words into your mouth, because that’s exactly the experience that I had when I was younger. When I was younger and I was in that space where I wasn’t feeling great literally, my parents would say exactly the same thing.

Azeem Ahmad:
A lot of similarities like, “Oh, I’ve dealt with X, Y, and Z, and you’re only dealing with A, B and C. You just needed to get your head down, work harder and get on.” But I truly believe, as you alluded to, that we are slightly more culturally aware that our parents are, slash, or were. Which is brilliant, so thank you for sharing that.

Azeem Ahmad:
Which leads me very nicely to my next question. I’d love to draw on your experience. So without being too specific, I’d love to know what you think holds people back from taking that first step and seeking out a professional like yourself to have a conversation with?

Shomi Williams:
I think one thing that holds people back is the fact that they need to acknowledge that there’s a problem. And who wants to have a label, who wants to acknowledge that, “There’s a problem with me. I need help.” Especially if you’re still able to function. The problem isn’t stopping you from functioning, so you’re still able to somewhat do the things that you think are important.

Shomi Williams:
It can feel a bit humiliating, especially when you’re conditioned to see it as a weakness. Nobody wants to say, “Hey, I’m weak.” And I think already there’s such a stigma. People can very easily use depression to insult each other or anxiety to insult somebody. So it’s almost like claiming in insults to a lot of people, because of the way in which it’s stigmatized. So they find it very hard to say, “I am this thing that I find to be so negative and I need help to not be it.”

Shomi Williams:
And also, it takes a lot of work as well. And I guess as well, just being a person of color, the services have historically not been the most favorable to us. So we’re very used to being dismissed from, for example, if you’ve grown up in schools where being black means that you are more likely be expelled or you’re more likely to be put in certain classes despite your ability. And then your encounter with the police is negative as well. You’re kind of conditioned to not have that much trust for, quote unquote, white services.

Shomi Williams:
So already you’re less likely to even go to the hospital, even if there’s a physical problem wrong with you. Let alone a mental health problem, which is invisible. There’s already that distrust that’s been ingrained. So first we have to admit that there is a problem, then you have to go to people that you are conditioned to not really trust and to try and avoid. So it’s not easy to do, it’s not easy to confront that.

Azeem Ahmad:
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Again, you’ve led me very nicely to my next question, specifically drawing on, and calling out POC marketers.

Azeem Ahmad:
If there are POC marketers who are listening to this that are struggling with their mental health, but have not yet taken that first step to seek help, what advice would you give to them? And then separately, if there are any marketers, not necessarily POC, in the same situation, what advice would you give to them?

Shomi Williams:
I would say it’s very easy to think … When you’re in that fog, it’s very easy to think that whatever you do, isn’t going to work. But it’s good to at least give it an attempt, and then you know if it’s going to work or if it’s not going to work. And at least cross that off your list that, “Okay, I’ve tried this. It hasn’t worked out for me.” It’s really important to advocate for yourself. You know that you’ve had times when you’ve been better and you deserve to go back to a time where you’re feeling better.

Shomi Williams:
So it’s definitely possible, these mental health problems are not … They’re not definers of you or your destiny. It’s just, it’s a very human thing. Just like having the common cold doesn’t mean that you are now a cold-haver and that’s it for you. If you do get help, you’re on the right track and it’s possible to get better.

Shomi Williams:
So I would just encourage people to advocate for themself. Seek help, give it a go, continue trying. Even if it doesn’t work, try again, reach out to … You can speak to your GP. Some work places, they have their own therapy systems within the workplace that you can call up. Go to people that you trust. Obviously not everyone is so clued up, but people that you trust and you believe are clued up. Go to them, speak to them about it as well.

Shomi Williams:
Try and reemerge yourself into things that you used to do. If now, because you’re quite low, you’re not doing the things that you enjoy and you’re not socializing, try and take baby steps towards re-immersing yourself into that.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that, that’s absolutely brilliant. And I’m about to throw a question your way that I haven’t prepared you for, so apologies.

Azeem Ahmad:
Contacting a GP right now, in my experience, is pretty much impossible. I’d probably have more joy going back to the first ever house I lived in, finding out where my next door neighbors have moved to and if they’ve got any pets or not, it’s that hard. So if there are people considering taking that step but are finding it very hard to speak to a GP, what alternatives or what other options would you recommend?

Shomi Williams:
There’s a national service called the IAPT service, so I-A-P-T. If you’re based in England, you should have a local one. Just Google your area and the word IAPT, see what’s available. And a lot of the time, most places allow you to make a self-referral. Some places you can only refer through your GP, which should change, and I think a lot of them are trying to make self-referral accessible. But as of now, I’d say about 70% of them do already allow you to make a self-referral, so do that.

Shomi Williams:
There are charities that can support you as well. Even like Lafiya Health as well, I do workshops to, I guess, get you kick-started. And I know it’s not always helpful because I know it’s not the most accessible, but if you can try low-cost therapies, there’s counseling directories that are available and people that have different prices as well.

Shomi Williams:
Some people really benefit from books. So there’s actually therapeutic books and it’s a cheaper alternative. You can buy a book for 15 pounds and that has given you a lot of therapeutic advice and tools and tips and workbooks. If you’re someone that operates in that way that’s a very cheap way to access therapy.

Shomi Williams:
Yeah, I would say IAPT service, speaking to people, trying to reintegrate yourself into activities that you enjoy, possibly using a self-help book or a therapeutic book. And then there was something else that I … And private therapy or low-cost therapy are alternatives to contacting your GP.

Azeem Ahmad:
Absolutely brilliant. Thank you very much for sharing that. I should have mentioned much earlier on that this entire project, this podcast, was something that I started to protect my mental health last year during the lockdown because I could have quite easily … I think I’ve even put it on my website, I could have quite easily just watched nonsense on YouTube over and over again and not actually doing anything. There was one point where I felt like I was burning out and doing this every single week. So I stopped and I started reading, so a plus one for books. Absolutely brilliant.

Azeem Ahmad:
Got a couple more that I haven’t prepared you for.

Shomi Williams:
No problem, go for it.

Azeem Ahmad:
It’s always fun. This one is interesting, because I’ve spoken to people who are in this similar situation. So hypothetical situation, I work in an agency and I’m concerned about one of my colleagues who are throwing themselves into work. I think they’re overworked and I think they’re burning out. I don’t think that they recognize it.

Azeem Ahmad:
How can I approach the situation? How do I get them to see what me and other colleagues are seeing?

Shomi Williams:
I think that honesty is always the best policy. Say, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you’ve been really, really in work mode lately. Is everything okay? How are you feeling?” Just a check-in, let them know that you care.

Shomi Williams:
I think what’s really important when it comes to checking in on people when you’re concerned about their mental health, is having your concern, understanding where your concern is coming from, communicating it to them. But at the same time, you still need to let go. And they’re going to do with that what they’re going to do. Some people will take it in and maybe reflect and maybe dial it back, and some people won’t.

Shomi Williams:
So know that because you’ve noticed it and you are bringing it to their attention, it doesn’t mean that you have to then save them. You can’t save somebody that doesn’t want to be saved. Sometimes for some people it just takes a little check-in and that’s enough for them to reflect and dial back. Some people, they do need to crash and burn before they reflect.

Shomi Williams:
Either way, continue showing that you care and that you’re concerned. Mention it once and then if they continue down that path, maybe bring it up a week or two weeks after. But just gently, continuously let them know that your presence is there and that you care. That you’re available if they do want support, or that if they do … Not even necessarily support, you don’t have to make it so formal. You might say, “Do you want to head out for lunch one day?” Or just to let them know that you’re there essentially, that’s the most that you can do.

Azeem Ahmad:
Fantastic. Thank you very much for sharing it. I promise, this is the last one that I’m going to throw your way.

Shomi Williams:
No problem.

Azeem Ahmad:
When it comes to having therapy or seeking a professional’s help, for me, it’s very binary. And you may disagree, but for me, people either come out and say, “I’m having therapy.” Or the complete opposite, they’ll have therapy in silence and get on with their lives.

Azeem Ahmad:
What do you think specifically about the former, where people come out and say, “I’m feeling a bit low and I’m having therapy, and I feel great for it.” I’ve seen people jump into each other’s mentions quite rudely and say, “Oh, I thought you were stronger than that.” Where it’s an admission of you might be seen as being weak publicly.

Azeem Ahmad:
But the question I want to get around to, is what you thought some people who are open about having help professionally with their mental health and wellbeing.

Shomi Williams:
I think sometimes, when it comes to taking care of your mental health, because it’s not a new concept. Or because it’s newly popular I guess, some people they find it almost like joining a new religion. They’re so excited about it. There’s this new discovery of their inner world, and they’re making all of this progress and they want to share it.

Shomi Williams:
And I think there’s nothing wrong with that, but obviously it’s unfortunate that there are people in the world that are going to interpret it really poorly or might make you feel down about it. If you feel like you want to share it regardless and you can withstand that, go for it. If you feel like it’s quite sensitive for you but you still want to share it, I’d say share it with people that you care about. Share it with your friends, with your family members, maybe not somewhere so public that it’s easy to attack if you’re in a space that you’re quite sensitive.

Shomi Williams:
But ultimately there’s nothing wrong with sharing it. If you’re happy about something, celebrate yourself, celebrate it. But just be careful the way in which you’re doing it, and just be aware that it may possibly rub people the wrong way. How prepared are you for that if they retaliate? If you’re able to withstand that, go for it, put it on all the social media and to the world. If that’s something that you’re a bit worried about, just keep it with the family and friends and the people that you care about.

Shomi Williams:
But there’s no reason to … If you don’t want to share it, absolutely don’t, it’s up to you. It can be as private as you want. You’re in control. That’s the most important thing, do what you want, but just be aware of what may happen.

Azeem Ahmad:
Absolute gold. Honestly, this has been brilliant. I could genuinely talk to you for hours. Thank you very much for sharing this.

Azeem Ahmad:
Before I let you go, I would love for you to share how people can contact you, follow you on social media or connect with you.

Shomi Williams:
Okay. So the main social medias that I’m most active on would be Twitter and Instagram. On Twitter, I’m Lafiya Health. I’m also Shomicita, but I’m less therapeutic on Shomicita and more talking about TV shows.

Shomi Williams:
And Instagram, that’s Shomicita. So S-H-O-M-I-C-I-T-A. And there’s Lafiya Health as well. Lafiya spelt L-A-F-I-Y-A. Yeah, that’s how it’s spelt.

Azeem Ahmad:
I love how you had to double-check that. Shomi, thanks for being a fantastic guest. Before I hit Stop Recording, literally the final word on this episode goes to you, so you can say whatever you want within reason. But once you’re done I’m going to hit Stop Recording. So no pressure, you get to end the episode however you want.

Shomi Williams:
Okay. I think my takeaway word would be for everyone to just be kind to themself. To give themself a bit of grace, because I think naturally we’re a bit inclined to be a bit harsh, be super-critical, expect ourself to be further than we are. And just beat ourself up for whatever we’re doing or whatever we’re not doing.

Shomi Williams:
It’s really important to just let yourself be … Let yourself make mistakes, let yourself explore what works for you, what doesn’t work for you. Be honest with yourself, be honest with those around you, and just accepting of whatever it is, let it be. Because at the moment, there’s just a lot of pressure on everyone to do whatever for this person or for themself, or whatever expectations are on them. And at the moment, especially in this time where things are particularly difficult and very different, the pressures getting to a lot of people.

Shomi Williams:
So yeah, my takeaway is just to be kind to yourself. That’s the most therapeutic thing you could do.

Enjoyed this, and want more content? Sign up to my newsletter “The Marginalised Marketer” right here.

Sean Page podcast interview – how marketing companies can improve recruitment processes

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Joining me on this episode of the podcast is the fantastic Sean Page, discussing how marketing companies can improve their recruitment processes.

Listen now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

Spotify: Click here
Apple Podcasts:
 Click here

Use a different listening platform? Choose it here.

(Full transcript at bottom of page.)

Sean is a non-traditional Recruiter who works in the tech space. He was born and raised in Washington, DC in the United States. His passion is all things recruiting, people ops, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) – which we touch upon in the episode in relation to recruitment.

In the episode we discuss:

  • Where the recruitment process is broken for marketing companies.
  • What differences he’s noticed when working with POC talent and non POC candidates.
  • His response to the comment “we don’t need more POC at this company, we need more talented people?”
  • Why he thinks companies are so reluctant to change their processes.
  • What changes does he think the industry needs to make to be better.
  • Thoughts on interview processes that are several stages long.
  • Advice for companies considering changing their processes.

…and so much more!

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!

Useful Links:

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/azeemdigitalasks

My Twitter page: https://twitter.com/AzeemDigital

My website: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/

Sean’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/SeanTalentW

Sean’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sean-page-capm/

Episode Transcript

Azeem Ahmad:
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Azeem Digital Asks podcast, the all-around digital marketing podcast where I touch on the usual stuff: Facebook, Instagram, SEO, all that normal stuff. And then topics like today, which I am really excited about. Today’s topic is all about how marketing companies can improve their recruitment processes to ensure more POC talent comes through. And nobody better to discuss this and my brilliant guest today, Sean Page. So I’m going to steal his Twitter bio and then let him give himself a proper introduction. So Sean is a talent brand manager for diversity equity, inclusion and belonging DEIB specialist. This is what I show up loud. Sean, welcome to the show.

Sean Page:
Yeah, no, thank you so much for having me, Azeem. I’m really excited to be on today just for your audience. And just so you can kind of learn a little bit more about myself. My name is Sean Page. I’m a non-traditional recruiter who works in the tech space. Currently I work for a company called Webflow and right now just a little bit more about my background. I was born and raised in Washington, DC in United States. And then prior to switching to tech, I actually worked in the nonprofit and government sectors. So I did a lot of cool work where I was like a communications professional for union. I also worked as a project manager for NGO that worked for the centers of disease control and prevention.

Sean Page:
And then also I worked for my first startup role, which was at a resume writing company called Let’s Eat, Grandma. I started off at that company and I worked my way up to becoming their first HR director. And so that’s just a little bit about my career history and then just overall myself. I’m very passionate when it comes to all things, recruitment, people ops and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, which I tweet about often.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that, perfect introduction. And as I said, no better person to discuss this very, very important topic. So really looking forward to learning more from you. So let’s dive straight into it. Where do you think the recruitment process is broken for companies?

Sean Page:
Yeah, I think that’s a really heavy question. I think there are just so many areas in which recruitment processes are kind of broken today, but I think it really just fundamentally starts with leadership. So, a lot of times leadership looks at recruitment as transactional at a lot of organizations. And I’m sure the people who are listening who are candidates, I’m sure you feel that way a lot when you’re in hiring processes. And so, you have a lot of CEOs who will say that recruitment’s are number one priority, but then when you look at their glass doors, you go on fishbowl, you go on all these like whisper channels, people were saying otherwise. And so there’s this disconnect between leaderships and the actual on the ground recruiters who are going through and doing these processes every day with hiring managers.

Sean Page:
And I think a lot of that fundamentally comes down to the fact that many recruitment processes don’t censor their primary customer, what should be the candidate. And so there’s a lot of times people who are going through recruitment processes often times, they don’t feel as though they’re being listened to. They don’t feel like they’re being treated properly as a candidate. And then on the hiring side of things, a lot of times companies are really leaning into their systematic biases, and wonder looking at candidates. And so there’s just a lot of disconnect between how people are identifying talent or how people are calling talent in their pipelines.

Sean Page:
And so at the bottom line, I think a lot of the problem stands for the fact that companies really focus too heavily, I think on their own timeline and bottom line and their hiring manager needs and their interviewer’s time, instead of also factor in candidate experience, understanding what candidates want, understanding what their drivers are. And so when you de-center candidates, this just causes a lot of bias to be the primary driver of decisions when it comes to hiring. And so who’s the loser in that situation? Candidates. And so I think that is just really the heart and the center of why these processes are really broken today.

Azeem Ahmad:
That answer right there really solidifies the reason why I reached out to you and wanted to get you on the show. I’m quite happy to end the episode now. Thanks very much for calling. I’m joking. Look, there’s so much to unpack. Thank you very much for sharing that. One of the things I want you to unpack a little further is where you were talking about talent and separating talent. So I’d love to learn from you soon. What differences have you noticed when you’ve worked with POC talent and non POC talent?

Sean Page:
Yeah, so I would just say from my personal experience, I find that POC talent tends to have a better understanding of their own experiences, their biases and abilities. Because, POC talent are constantly in homogenized spaces or white spaces in which they don’t see a lot of themselves. They tend to be more self-aware and they understand how to navigate difficult situations and personalities better, because they are the other in that situation. But also too, another thing that I wanted to mention I think, also there’s other identities that kind of ties into that self-awareness as well. Because, when we talk about diversity, I think POC is just one dimension of that diversity. So, POC talent that also come from other underserved backgrounds, like gender sexual orientation, disabilities, social economic classes, they also exhibit even higher instances of self-awareness as employees in my experience in periods to their counterparts.

Sean Page:
And so inter sexuality just plays an important role in understanding that difference between those different PO groups experiences. But I would say overall from my experience, POC talent tends to be more self-aware and tends to be more collaborative in their approaches because they understand the otherness factor that they’re bringing into the organizations that traditionally are homogenous marginalized.

Azeem Ahmad:
Brilliant. Thank you very much for sharing that. And yeah. Plus one, completely agreed. There are so many different facets of diversity, which I’m trying to learn and educate myself about some of which I will definitely get out of this episode. So again, a huge thank you. Thanks you twice. Now I’m going to stop and thank you. So sticking with POC, and this is a question that I’ve asked a previous guest on the podcast. And I’m always keen to hear different perspectives on this. It’s a common saying over here, certainly I’ve heard this from colleagues in previous employment as well. When we talk about getting POC in terms of higher levels into the company, a common pushback is, we don’t need more POC at this company. What we need is more talented people. How do you respond to a comment like that?

Sean Page:
Yeah, I mean, I think as someone who identifies POC, that really is a contentious comment to make, right? And I think from my perspective, the way that I kind of enter these conversations, because I’ve also heard this numerous times in my own experience as a recruiter. And a lot of times I tell those people to really pause and reflect. When we make statements like this, we make these absolute statements. They often don’t hold water because in actuality, when you’re talking about people, we’re talking about a diverse range of experiences. And so when I hear someone say that, always ask them, why are you decoupling POC people from talented people, right? What is the bias behind why you’re doing that? Because, oftentimes the people who are making those statements don’t recognize their own individual personal bias in making that statement.

Sean Page:
And I tend to, from my experience, the people who are making those statements to typically talk about meritocracy. They usually talk about the fact that like, “I got here because of my own merits and I had pulled myself up from the bootstraps”. but let’s be for real, merit is often bought. It’s not given, right? And so people of color often have to fight to get the same amount of merit and the same amount of recognition as their white counterparts. So we also have to acknowledge that. And also too, at the end of the day, there are many several talented people who are POC that are just not given the opportunity to be able to shine and to have access to that merit. So again, I think a lot of times this question is very rooted in that person’s individual biases and in their mind they don’t think we’re ever going to be talented, right?

Sean Page:
They’re already making an absolute statement, thinking that no person of color that they’re going to interact with is going to meet their standard of talent. And so when you’re dealing with someone like that, that can be really insidious because, that person often is someone in power. And so how do you change and morph that person’s mindset when they’re in a position of power, they have control over other people’s lives and they’re making a statement like this. And then we wonder why a lot of companies are in this situation where they’re at today, where they’re desperate to find diversity. Because you’re hiring people who are making these statements who make uncomfortable environments for people like us on this podcast. And then you’re asking the people on this podcast to then be comfortable with those people. How can we, if they’re being contentious by making statements like that?

Azeem Ahmad:
Absolutely. Couldn’t agree more. Thank you very much for sharing. Definitely things that I will come back and listen to when I edit this back and just nod furiously. Let’s move on and let’s talk processes. So I gave you a heads up before the recording, and here is the first opportunity I’m going to put you on the spot, which I haven’t prepared you for. Tell me about your thoughts on recruitment processes that are several stages long. I’m talking 4, 5, 6 stages long. What do you think about those?

Sean Page:
Yeah, I think a lot of times, when we’re seeing multiple stages of that lane, a lot of times hiring managers or hiring teams are looking for particular signals that, for some whatever reason, they weren’t able to find that at first three sets of interviews. And so from my perspective, a lot of times that’s an indication of a poor hiring process because it’s not like your questions weren’t intentional enough that you didn’t capture enough signals. So now you’re wasting more of your candidates time to identify those signals. And I find that, obviously there is exceptions, right? There’s other factors in this seniority, in other things as well. And so, if you’re saying for instance, someone who’s a entry-level role and they’re going through five interview process, really that’s five different people’s time that you’re incorporating into that process.

Sean Page:
You have to break that down into their actual salary. And once you start to really think and start to add things up, does that five step process really makes sense for that entry-level role? Probably not. And so I think a lot of it comes in sense from the fact, and especially I’m going to speak on startup environments, that people are allergic to structure environments. They purposely don’t want to be in a structure environment, because they want to be flexible in their own time. But the reality is you have to also be flexible in the candidates time, right?

Sean Page:
The candidate is talking to multiple other companies that are also going through a very different types of interview process. And so, your interview process also talks about your brand. It also shares your culture. So when I’m in a process where entry-level role and they’re making me go through five stages, that makes me think, “Okay, internally do I have to go through five different people to get something done?” That is also indication of that. And so I think there’s a lot of lack of attention that’s going on in those hiring process that a lot of people need to stop and reflect on.

Azeem Ahmad:
You’ve just led me very nicely then to my next question. When you talking about companies stopping and reflecting, why do you think companies are so reluctant to change their processes?

Sean Page:
Yeah, that’s a really great question. So, I think it really just sends from a place of fear, like when we’re going to go into psychology, right? You have in-groups groups and you have out-groups. So in-groups are typically the group that’s creating the culture. And then you have people outgroup kind of, interacting with that culture. And a lot of times they’re coming into and interacting with that in-group, right? And so that’s kind of the way that companies have set themselves up where the in-group are white people, right? White people are all in these environments and then people of color are the out-group, they’re on the outside. And so there’s all this contention, this confliction going on from this root of fear of this out-group is going to come in and change the culture that we set as an in-group.

Sean Page:
And it’s just a classic psychology example where a lot of people don’t understand that by being reluctant to change, you’re actually leaning into your biases by being reluctant. And so, because of that I think a lot of companies say they are open to change. But in reality, it’s always often changed that’s on their terms, right? So, anyone who is seen as an outsider that also has an idea around change, a lot of times leadership will then retack or retaliate or make it so that that person doesn’t continue to be outspoken about that change. And so, because that happens often, I think a lot of leaders see people who challenge the processes as troublemakers rather than what they actually are, which are innovators, right? People who are willing to innovate and approve your process are gift to your company, right?

Sean Page:
They are people who actually care and are passionate about the longevity of your company, about the people that you’re bringing in. And so I think a lot of the issue between short-term gains and long-term change. I think a lot of times companies lanes too heavily into short term goals, instead of really thinking about that long-term and that longevity of. You’re building up a brand, you’re building up a system for people to be sustainably, hopefully to be at your business for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. And so I think there’s just a lack of foresight there.

Azeem Ahmad:
Absolutely. Give me 10 of those types of people who want to make change of a one quiet person who just follows the crowd any day. Brilliant answer. Thank you very much for sharing. Let’s continue on with the topic of change before we bring the episode to a close. Specifically, what changes do you think the industry needs to make to be better moving forward?

Sean Page:
Yeah, I mean, I’m going to be straight up honest. I think it starts at the top. We often try to lean into grassroots movement. We often companies believe that their ICS or their individual contributors should be the ones to really be driving these changes. But in reality, those folks don’t have power, right? They can create programs, they can be creative, they can be innovative, but without power you can’t create sustainability. And so it really has to start at the top and leaders have to take the charge and the rains to do better, right? And to be better. And so I think it starts in the exec teams. It starts in the board or director meetings. And, I think they really just need to start by looking at their own boards and their own teams and seeing the lack of diversity, right?

Sean Page:
How are you championed diversity for the entire company when your whole team isn’t diverse, right? Like you have no people of color. You have no other marginalized identities. There is all white men. And maybe, if you’re lucky there might be some white women, right? And so I think because it’s so monochrome, it explains why the culture then trickles down to everyone else. And then it creates this message to everyone that, we actually don’t care about diversity. We’ll say we care about it because we know it’s great for marketing, we know it’s great for our product. We know that these are things that fundamentally we’ve been told in our business classes and what other of our CEO colleagues say. But at the end of the day, we’re not willing to bend or to be comfortable with change in order to create these more sustainable environments.

Sean Page:
And so I think it really just starts at the top. And, I think a lot of leaders need to remind themselves that you can’t say that workers matter, or you can’t say statements like we believe workers should be able to come as their full selves when you don’t knowledge their full selves, right? You don’t actually like, you listen to their voice quote, but you actually put no actions behind what they’re asking for. And so, I think it really just starts with a lot of reflection on the leadership team. A lot of just hard work. And honestly, I think a lot of leadership teams need to invest in leadership training to really better themselves and to validate their knowledge and invest in having a VP of DNI on their board as well, to help cultivate those ideas and to really help them get to that next level when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion.

Azeem Ahmad:
I love that the answer so much purely because, a few of the things you’ve mentioned now, I’ve said it in the past. And I feel like that, me saying it over and over again, dilutes the message, but hearing it from somebody like yourself, people will definitely have their ears prick up and think right. We actually need to do something about this, which leads me very nicely to my last question for you. So I, the person in charge of making changes for my company and I was listening to this podcast, it seems daunting. There’s so much to change and using your own words of short term gains and long-term change. What advice would you give to somebody like that who are considering changing their processes? Where do they start? There’s so much to do. Where would they begin? What advice would you give?

Sean Page:
Yeah, so I always tell people like, shiny objects are always the most interesting, but they often are the ones that get dropped first, because once they stopped being shiny, people lose interest, right? And so I think a lot of times it starts with people, right? It’s really like doing a roadmap for a product. It’s the way that I always like describing people. Like your company culture is actually very similar to how you run a product, right? And it’s like, when you’re doing a product, yes, you have all these inputs, but do you do and run sprints on every single input every single time? No. You prioritize, you figure out what areas are the first focus, other product before you move on. And I think a lot of times and why organizations end up being burnt out.

Sean Page:
And I can also speak about this from my own experience of why I’ve been burnt out by organizations is the fact that a lot of times it’s like, we have 20 different shiny objects that we all wanted to complete within this short period of time, because we want to make people satisfied. But in actuality, what people are looking for is slow, sustainable change. And so you really need to address it by really identifying where are the top three priorities that we can accomplish this year that we know is going to make our employees happier, that’s going to give us the survey results that we’re looking for. But while at the same time, isn’t going to burn out or add extra burden to certain people’s plates so that their other duties aren’t being overshadowed by this work. And so I think it’s like finding that healthy balance and really understanding again, what are you working towards?

Sean Page:
A lot of times people say that really diversity, equity inclusion is important. But when I ask them to dive a little bit deeper, what do you mean by that? What does that look like to you? Because D and I looks very different to every single company. A lot of times I get blank stares, right? Because they actually haven’t thought about it. They know it’s important. They hear the catch word, but they have no idea. And they have not done a personal reflection to figure out why does this matter to me? And why should this matter to our company values? Why should this matter to our bottom line? And if you haven’t done that soul searching to really figure it out, then you’re already setting yourself up for failure. So you need to really start from the beginning, start from within, really understand what you want first, then prioritize, figure out the top three things that you can do in the next year or so.

Sean Page:
And then from there forecast, it’s just like recruitment. When you first start hiring at a company, right? You don’t have a hiring plan, you’re kind of ad hoc and doing stuff. And then eventually you get enough funding, sustainable funding, where you can then hire a certain amount of people. So then you create a hiring plan. So then you have a hiring plan for maybe six months, maybe a year, and then you get really good about it after a few cycles. And then you end up being able to have a hiring plan that you can forecast in five years, right? So it’s like working up to your goals so you can continuously build on that muscle. So by the time you’re able to see yourself in five years, you can reflect back and say, “Wow, we actually did a lot of change around DNI”. And it wasn’t performative because this stuff is actually sustainable. And people today are still using these same programs.

Azeem Ahmad:
Wow. Literally. Wow. Fantastic way to answer that question and definitely food for thought. I am positive that when the audience listens to this, they’ll come back, make some notes and come back to it again, and then again, and then again. So brilliant. Thank you very much. What a fantastic way to close out the show. Before I let you go, I have to ask if anybody’s listening to this and they want to get in touch with you, follow you on social media, or just generally connect with you, how can we do that?

Sean Page:
Yeah, sure. So you can definitely follow me on Twitter. I’m very active. My Twitter handle is at Sean, S E A N, capital talent, so T A L E N T and then capital W for Webflow. So, that’s my handle. So at SeanTALENTW. You can also follow me on LinkedIn. My name is Sean Page. You should be able to find me. I have my credentials afterwards, so my CAPM and my PHR. So it should come up. But, yeah. Thank you just so much for having me on the show today. I really appreciate this conversation and yeah, I’m just looking forward to listen to it.

Azeem Ahmad:
Now, from me to you a massive, massive thank you for giving up some of your time, sharing your knowledge and expertise. I’m very, very glad that I researched you. So thank you for being a fantastic guest.

Sean Page:
Yeah, no problem. Thank you for having me.

Janet Machuka podcast interview – creating a great social media strategy

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Joining me on this episode of the podcast is the brilliant Janet Machuka, discussing everything you need to create a great social media strategy.

Listen now, right above the subscribe button, or pick your favourite listening platform from this list:

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(Full transcript at bottom of page.)

Janet is a social media marketing strategist, trainer, and founder of Africa Tweet Chat. She boasts over 100k followers on her social media with high levels of engagement on her posts, and was also recently listed amongst the top 200 of the most influent African women on Twitter. When it comes to social media, she really knows her stuff. It was only right for me to pick her brains and learn from her about how she does it.

In the episode we discuss:

– Defining a social media strategy.
– The benefits of having a social media strategy in place.
– Where she see’s most people making mistakes with this.
– Advice she would give to someone who is creating a strategy for the first time.


…and so much more!

As always, if you enjoyed this, and previous episodes, please like, rate, share, and subscribe to the podcast – it all helps!

Useful Links:

Podcast Anchor Page: https://anchor.fm/azeemdigitalasks

My Twitter page: https://twitter.com/AzeemDigital

My website: https://www.iamazeemdigital.com/

Janet’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/janetmachuka_

Episode Transcript

Azeem Ahmad:
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Azeem Digital Asks Podcast. I have got a brilliant guest with me today, Janet Machuka, and we’re talking all about creating a great social media strategy. Now, for those who shamefully do not know who Janet is, firstly, an absolute legend. Secondly, she described herself on her Twitter bio, the social media marketing strategist and trainer. She’s the founder of Africa Tweet Chats, tutor at Platzi, and she’s been featured pretty much everywhere. But I will let her introduce herself properly, because that was probably terrible. Janet, welcome to the show.

Janet Machuka:
Thanks you for giving me this opportunity. It’s a pleasure, thank you.

Azeem Ahmad:
No, you are more than welcome. Right, so that was probably a bad introduction, so let the listeners know who you are, what you do and what your expertise is all about.

Janet Machuka:
Hi, everyone. I hope you’re listening from your car, from your home and whatever you’re doing. My name is Janet Machuka and I’m so glad to be part of this podcast. Actually, we’ve been planning quite some time with Azeem on how we are going to engage with you, give you something that is so amazing to you. But before we get there, my name is Janet Machuka, as I said, and I am a digital marketing strategist. I’ve been actually doing a lot of social media, not just being a strategist.

Janet Machuka:
And, what I love about social media is the community in it, how it can be able to engage with people, share with them tips and teach them on what I’ve learned through my journey and through working with different brands. So, you’ll have to learn about me as we talk through with Azeem, at the same time, I can’t wait to see you on my social media so that you could know more about me. Yes.

Azeem Ahmad:
Brilliant, thank you very much. So, it’s well versed that you know a lot about community. But, I wanted to pick your brain specifically about social media strategy, because you seem to have a fantastic one which I would love to learn more about, or I think the listeners would as well. Before we get into it, I would love to hear from you directly, how would you define a social media strategy?

Janet Machuka:
Well, when it comes to social media strategy, I don’t want you to think about just applying as most of these articles telling you about. I want you to look at what are you doing on your social media, what activities are you doing. What efforts are you putting into these social media accounts in order to make yourself be seen more, be interacted with more and of course engaged, because that is why we are on social media the first place. At the same time, creating now that impact.

Janet Machuka:
So most of the time, I don’t just pick social media strategy as a plan, but those activities, the how-to, how am I engaging with my people? How am I giving them the best? How am I gaining from them at the same time? But ultimately, what kind of relationships am I creating from the kind activities that I’m doing, the way I’m engaging with them? Can it give me some referrals? The way I am sharing, creating my content? Does it excite them? Can they learn from it? At the same time, can they be able to share their opinions or more knowledge that I didn’t know about?

Janet Machuka:
So the essence of the plan is not just you putting it down, and putting aside but is the how to get from point A to point B. And this is where we bring in the KPIs, the deliverables and even the goals that you want to achieve at the end of the day. So, I just define it as those activities efforts. And at the same time, the kind of work that you’re putting into your social media every single day in order to make yourself be see grow, at the same time be able to help other people.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that, brilliant answer. Thank you very much for sharing, so I would love to learn from you. What do you see as the benefits of having a social media strategy in place?

Janet Machuka:
Well, when it comes to social media, if you’re very keen from how I described it or rather how I defined it from the way I usually do it, I talked about you being seen more. When you say you’re being seen more, at the end of the day you just don’t want to create for those two followers. You want people to be able to engage by even sharing, by even talking about it or by even adding more information about it. That shows that you are seen. So the essence of our strategy is to make you seen, is to make you be interacted with, be engaged with.

Janet Machuka:
At the end of the day, who wants to post a photo on Instagram and then after two days, three days no like, no comment. It’s worrying, because the essence of this social media is that aspect that can people see that I’m posting this? Can people comment on it? Why else do we have the buttons? Why do we have the likes? Why do we have the comments? Why do we have to check on our impact in terms of the analysis, in terms of what is happening with our accounts? So, how are you creating the content? That’s another way that it’s going to help you. Like I’m going to create this today, and this is how am I going to post this and this is the way or the manner in which I expect it to excite my audience, at the same time give them a reason to engage with me.

Janet Machuka:
One thing that I usually tell, not only the corporate brands but personal brands, you need to stay focused. And, by being focused and staying focused you need to have a plan. You need to have a strategy. You don’t have just wake up in the morning and they’re like, “Oh, today I have no idea what I’m going to write about. I have no idea what I’m going to talk about.” And sometimes you find people that are like, “Okay, yesterday I said I am a finance expert, but today I don’t have anything to talk about the finance sector or the industry.” But, what about the client? What if you planned? Maybe you will have already done a deeper research about that niche, that topic so that it can help you know exactly what you’re going to post.

Janet Machuka:
For me as a social media trainer, I’ve been able to at least create flexible strategies for myself of which I have to look at what is happening today, or what is new on social media? At the same time, how can I add or rather involve what I do into the strategy? At the same time, am I focused? Can people identify me from my content? What I’m posting, can they tell that I am a social media trainer, or I love content, I love marketing? Can it talk about me? So, the essence of this strategy is to make you stay focused. But for most of the brands, especially the corporates we talk about, you knowing being what kind of budget are you going to use. Who are you going to work with? Who is going to do A, B, C, D in terms of the content creation? Who is going to focus on community management? Who is going to do the different activities that we’ll like to put together?

Janet Machuka:
At the same time, looking at the aspect of this corporate brand, we also want to know which kind of tools are we going to use from the auditing to even the managing the content through and through writing, creating it and sharing it on social media to the point of analyzing it. Because, these are some of the things at the end of the day we want to do. We want to see, does this strategy that we created that we have now executed made an impact? Has it given us the kind of deliverables that we wanted? Have we attained our objectives? Have we met our goals? Those things that we usually put it then you’re like, “Okay, I want to create awareness for this brand. I want to like create a lot of engagements around the content. At the same time, I want the leads, I want the customers to come in. I want to see a lot of reach, you know?” So, those are some of the things that you need to look into.

Janet Machuka:
And if you have a strategy today, trust me, every week you’re going to do your reviews. Every month you’re going to check, you’re going to realize that whatever that you are putting into, it’s also giving you a community and audience that is targeted, that is engaging with your content because they understand it. There’s relevance in it. At the same time, they’re becoming your fans and also they’re becoming your customers. And so you’re growing a community that is healthy, that’s trusts you and you also growing your authenticity as a brand in the long run. Yes.

Azeem Ahmad:
Love that, fantastic answer. Thank you very much for sharing, so I would love to learn from you, where do you see most people making mistakes with this?

Janet Machuka:
Exactly, now when it comes to social media strategy, most of the people feel like it’s not necessary. Especially in the world of social media where things happen, like whatever happen today might not happen tomorrow. Everything is coming in a different way, news is being shared all the time. You talk about the features of social media are changing all the time and people feel like, okay, let me just go with the flow. Let me just go with the way the day happened, or breaks and then to the end. But that should not be the case, why? Especially with your social media as a brand, sometimes there are days you feel like you don’t have anything to post. You don’t have ideas to talk about, you actually sometimes feel fatigued because you don’t feel like going to social media. You just want to have a break. And, you want at least to make sure that your audience is seeing you, whatever you’re doing or the constantly and actively engaging with their context.

Janet Machuka:
Some of the mistakes we should actually avoid when developing these strategies is creating rigid strategies. And by rigid, I mean, you could have a strategy today and you want it to be used three months down the line. You’ve never changed it, you have never thought about adding something new. You haven’t even checked what kind of features have changed or how is the algorithm working. If it’s Twitter, if it’s Facebook, if it’s Instagram, how has it changed? How far are people? Are you updated with the current happenings around you?

Janet Machuka:
And that is why I usually say, “Look at Twitter, when you start tweeting, it asks you what’s happening?” Not what happened yesterday, or what is happening two months down the lane, you know? You have to state what is happening at that time. So, your strategy should also be like that, what is happening? If you meant to post something or you have planned to post something today that you planned last week, and you realize that something has changed and you need to adapt it to the current situation, please be flexible as you can. Another thing I have realized is people don’t actually think or don’t know, or rather feel like when I’m creating a strategy and I have putting it in place, I have to follow each and every single thing that I’ve written.

Janet Machuka:
Who say so? Who told you? Nobody. That is just a calendar of ways of your contents and how you want them to appear. But, it doesn’t mean that you have to write exactly the same way or the way you have put them. Sometimes words change, and that’s why I sometimes jokingly tell people, “You know what? As much as I have a strategy, I usually like being there to type something at that moment.” Yes, I wrote an idea about it but if I write to the complete tweet today that I’m going to post two weeks down the line, I don’t think people will have that. I will connect my feelings right there, I will add the emotional right there and they will create that connection better. So, it should give you an idea of how are you going to add more into the human connection into building relationship, and even into the engagement.

Janet Machuka:
And remember engagements are not just the likes, the comment, it goes farther. You have to trigger the psychology of a person to the point that you’re making them comment, follow, retweet and all that. So, you don’t have to follow it to the latter. If it doesn’t hold water, and if it doesn’t have the connection, please put it aside a bit and create something fresh. So be flexible, okay. And something else, I will actually remind some people who are still creating and who are thinking of creating strategies. Remember, you are creating the strategy for people not for yourself.

Janet Machuka:
I am a personal brand, I create content for people in social media. As much as I’m talking about what I love doing, as much as I’m talking about myself and what I’ve been able to achieve, remember I’m drawing people into my community. So I’m not creating for me to consume it, no. Then why should they post it anyway? So I have to think about the people, how can I involve them? How can I make them feel part and parcel of my brand, of this content, of this strategy that I’m laying out every single day?

Janet Machuka:
And then something else is, of course, there are people who think strategy is all about just the budget, the content, and even the tools that you’re using or the audience that you’re talking to. What about the unnecessary, unnecessary things? Can you single out the unnecessary stuff, so that you can focus on the necessary things? Sometimes people say, “Oh, you know what? I can’t create up a strategy for my brand, because I don’t have a budget. So, I can’t pay for a graphic designer, I can’t pay for ads. I can’t give somebody ideas to create for me the content for my social media. I don’t have time to post on social media.”

Janet Machuka:
But, what about the tools? What about the content creation tools? What about the content management or social media management tools? What about listening tools? What about the tools that help you be able to analyze it? Sometimes you can do it alone. You don’t need a team for you to create a social media strategy. If you’re a small brand, actually, the better. And even a personal brand, the better because there are so many free tools that you can make good use of. So don’t give excuse that, you know what? I don’t have the budget to employ this and this person, so I’m not going to achieve this strategy. Go ahead and create it.

Janet Machuka:
Something else is do your research. Most of the time we ignore this part, you know? What the kind of audience you’re talking to? How are the people in the same industries doing the same thing, offering the same products, the same services as you doing it? How are people creating a lot of impact, a lot of engagement on social media without that strategy or with that strategy? So, that you can be able to create a better strategy at the end of the day. You don’t want just to create a strategy for the sake of creating one, because at the end of the day you want to show the impact. You want to gain something out of it, so do your research.

Janet Machuka:
Lastly, people forget this all the time. Before you do any strategy, before you think about even starting from what’s my audience, or what’s my budget, or what kind of content am I going to create? Can you audit your social media profiles? Check the kind of engagements you have, check the kind of content that people are interacting with the most. Go ahead and find out if you posted videos, how did people engage with them? If you post content about your brand or you bought your itself, which days do they engage with your content most? And this is why sometimes I usually say, “As much as on social media we have statistics that can tell us, you know what? From this time to this time, that’s when people go on social media and engaging with content. Also, you should go ahead and check on that.”

Janet Machuka:
What if you monitor, you audit your own social media platforms every single time? Not only before you create the strategy, but also in the process of executing it. Find out when are your audiences on this basis? How can you know that this particular time, that’s when my audience is online. Don’t just go with the crowd because they said, “You know what? At 2:00 AM or 2:00 PM, that’s when most of the people are on social media.” But, have you found out from your profits? Yeah, so that’s the bit I can give in terms of the mistakes I realized so many people do make, especially the personal brands.

Azeem Ahmad:
Wow, that is amazing. Thank you very much for sharing. I can’t believe the time is literally flown by so quick. So much knowledge you’ve shared there. Before we part ways and we have to end the episode, I want to make sure as many people who have listened to this, have the opportunity to find you on social media and to follow you. So, where can people go to learn more about you? Where can they follow you?

Janet Machuka:
Well, I’m on all social media platforms, but not all. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Well, I’m not on TikTok because I don’t know how to dance yet. That was a joke. So, I’m more active on Twitter because I find it easier for me to coordinate with people, at the same time being an ambassador of communities. I find Twitter easy to find people, you know with those hashtags.

Janet Machuka:
And for me, I usually say, “Twitter algorithm is the best.” It helps you search, it helps you find better content. It helps you follow topics, it helps you create lists and everything there. I can talk about Twitter from now until tomorrow, but I won’t to finish. So, on Twitter you can find me @Janetmachuka, and I believe I’m the only Janet Machuka on Twitter. On Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn the same, but I interact more with people on the LinkedIn and Twitter. For you to find me easy, kindly Google me. I can be seen from somewhere.

Azeem Ahmad:
Amazing, thank you very much. The last thing for me to say is thank you very much for taking the time out to share your knowledge, your learnings, your wisdom. Really, really appreciate it. I know this is an episode that is going to go down well with the listeners. So for me, the last thing I’ll say is the boring part, which is please like, right, share and subscribe to this podcast. The most important part is one more time, Janet, thank you so much for giving me some of your time today and some of your knowledge. And I’m sure the listeners will love this episode, so thanks very much for that.