There are a variety of things that go into building up your brand but being able to effectively market and advertise it to the masses is crucial. In today’s world, being a smart strategist plays a huge role in how you draw people into not only who you are as a person but to whatever your brand/product is. Not to mention, the importance of visual representation has become much more of a challenge for brands due to the rapid evolution of social media. Erin A. Simon knows a thing or two about content strategizing and growing a vast audience for your brand through your social media presence. After putting the time in for companies like REVOLT TV and Cycle, Erin has been able to build a strong following of people who turn to her for tips and tricks on how to properly introduce themselves and their brands to the world.
Erin opened up about the importance of marketing and advertising, being an effective content strategist, living in a world where content can sometimes be overly saturated and a lot more in our interview below.
1 – What inspired you growing up that made you want to get into the entertainment industry?
Honestly, growing up I never aspired to work in the entertainment industry haha it just naturally happened that way. I was a big science kid so I wanted to work as a Physical Therapist, Psychologist or Forensic Pathologist. I was always interested in how the human body works and how people think and etc. But, once I created my website called boxofmess.com at the age of 16, that path completely changed. I had a platform that allowed me to talk about sports, music, interview athletes and celebs. What started as a hobby eventually grew to a platform that had over a million unique visitors and over a million YouTube video views. From there I continued working in the sports industry until my mentors told me to move more over to music for various reasons, so I did. Now, I’ve found a way to be in both music and sports, which is exciting but unexpected back when I was growing up. That’s the great thing about life, things that are meant to happen just happen and I’m glad it happened this way. And even still, my career is changing, I went from being a journalist to now a content developer. This new adjustment has allowed me to exercise both my creativity and strategy/business side.
So, growing up, I was just lucky to have two parents who believed in me and helped support me in any way. Those two in addition to my family inspired me to chase after my dreams, wherever it would take me. And I so happen to end up in the entertainment industry!
2 – Was being a part of this industry something you were striving for throughout your time spent in school?
I never really strived to work in the entertainment industry, I strived to be one of the greatest in content development and creation. For me personally, I saw the ability to cross over into any industry as the most valuable asset that anyone could have. No matter where you go, you are doing great work. Personally, I felt that aiming for a goal within my self will always have a positive outcome, no matter where I was.
Building my morals, values, self-confidence, skill-sets, problem-solving skills and more within myself has helped me to maneuver within this industry. I think doing this first helped me avoid any negative temptations that come with this industry and also to handle any and all expectations.
It’s great working in this industry, I’ve met so many wonderful people, mentors and have worked on some great projects. But, I think striving to be a better person at the end of the day will always positively surpass the drive to work in any industry.
3 – Aside from the music part of your life, you’re also a huge sports fanatic. Which one of these do you enjoy covering or talking about more? Why?
I enjoy covering both, I think ultimately it is about the stories. Each person has a unique story, angle, experience that could shed some light on things. Since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by the way people think, play, work, live life, tell their stories and more. So, having the chance to do that in both fields is wonderful! Music and sports have always been great passions so I don’t think I would ever just pick one. There are so many connecting factors between music and sports, so in some form, they often have similarities. Goes back to that saying, rappers want to be athletes and athletes want to be rappers. And it’s fairly true haha but that’s because sports and hip-hop or black culture have always been interconnected in various forms. And not just that, people of all walks of life come together for both music events and sports events, so to see how similar the music and sports industry are has been very interesting and has definitely made it a greater experience covering both. So, at the end of the day, I love talking about both! Just don’t talk crap about my Eagles though lol kidding I don’t care if you do, go ask my Giants and Cowboys friends.
4 – You’ve always been someone who constantly talks about proper marketing and advertising a brand/service and also execution. What are some major factors that contribute to successful marketing and/or advertising?Great content. But, the content is only king with quality, context, and distribution. I think people may not see that ultimately content is anything in audio, video, written or visual form. Developing the most effective content to market yourself is important and necessary. I’ve helped to create content for media platforms, for NBA players, for small businesses and at the end of the day all of them are looking, seeking and needing content. Now, as a creative strategist, I can’t speak to all forms of advertising and etc, but at the end of the day, some major factors are context, quality, and distribution.
5 – For those who aren’t fully aware, what exactly is a content/creative strategist?Creative Strategists are ambidextrous thinkers who utilize both strategic skill sets (research, consumer insights, data, critical thinking, etc) and creative skill sets (content creation, art/design, concepting, writing, video editing, journalism, etc) to develop the most effective content that will assist their clients or company to reach a specific audience, achieve a certain ROI or even to get a certain amount of views per month.
We come in all shapes and sizes and can specialize in different fields, like myself, I focus more on content development within media but, I’ve also worked with others who are creative strategists in advertising. It’s a wonderful role and more companies are starting to seek individuals like this. This year I plan on doing workshops in various cities teaching fundamentals of creative strategy + content development to hopefully get more people interested in jobs like this.
6 – In your opinion, what is a good content strategist?A great content strategist is someone who is able to both thrive and succeed off of success and failure when it comes to content. Content creation takes time, research and effort. With the changing times of social media and platforms having to adapt constantly, the best content strategist are those who are able to analyze the changes, understand their audience and develop an effective concept based on the information that they have in hand.They are someone who isn’t afraid to go against the grain and try something new or far out there when some companies say no. They are able to effectively be strategic and creative simultaneously and last but not least, they are able to work in a collective group. Some of the best creative strategists, content strategists, and strategists, in general, have been those who’ve been able to work with others and work with people who are smarter than them in another field. You never want to be the smartest person in the room, always strive to be around others who are smarter than you in other fields so that you learn more. The knowledge you get will only strengthen your ability to be a better strategist.
7 – How important has digital content/creative strategics gotten over the last few years based on the evolution of social media?It’s become extremely important especially since the first line of defense or action is social media for most companies. People consume content in different forms and mediums such as podcasts are still being explored. Everyone craves content and looks at content all day since it’s easily accessible thanks to cell phones. The need and importance for content, ownership of data and distribution is going to become greater. More importantly, those who develop platforms that allow other content creators to easily create are going to win even more. Strategies for content will continue to adapt but will always be implemented. People and businesses are starting to understand that content and strategy/business go hand-in-hand. No longer can you keep them separated, they must work together. And now we are seeing a shift where creators are becoming the powerful influencers and they are the ones that are creating effective content not only for themselves but developing platforms for others to create content and for businesses.
8 – What would you say are the pros and cons of being a content strategist? Secondly, how do you keep online content relevant in a world where everything is fleeting so rapidly?
Pro: You create content
Con: You’re surrounded by content all the time
Haha I know that sounds weird but as a content strategist, you get to create content, amazing content that people could see for days, weeks, months, years or a lifetime. But, the downside is you are constantly looking at content all the time. So, it can sometimes be overwhelming and you need a break from social media and other platforms. But, every day is exciting and seeing updates for social media and etc is always a pleasing challenge.
9 – You’ve worked for some pretty reputable sites such as REVOLT and you also had a hand in creating content for Hypefresh Magazine. Now, you’re over at Cycle. At this stage of your career, how are you constantly inspiring yourself to be better than you were before as far as strategizing what your audience likes to see?Actually, I’m no longer at Cycle. However, right now I’m building up a podcast that I co-founded with my friend Brandon and also working on some other opportunities. But, I continue to inspire myself by looking at things that others may not think is important to content development but it is. I look at art, I watch the Discovery Channel, I read literature, I find inspiration in all different forms and things in life. I think opening your mind and expanding it beyond what you know or think you know is important for growth. It helps you understand so many different audiences when you jump into their world and learn from people in their world. So, I strive to be better and become better by doing this and exploring different communities. We may think we know what our audiences want but how do we really know if we don’t interact and engage with them? or even ask them! So, making myself step out of my comfort zone, talking to people, and exploring different cultures and readings has inspired me to become better.
10 – There have been multiple debates about people calling themselves content creators, journalists, digital strategists, etc. Social media has created this thin line between all of these and people are beginning to box everyone in as “bloggers.” What are your thoughts on that?I think naturally the worlds have come together as one. There isn’t this sort of “elitist” or “exclusive” level as much as it was before when it came to journalism, content creation and etc. We’ve moved away from traditionalism and have moved into a place where anyone can become the next best thing because of these more easily accessible platforms. And I do think that anyone can call themselves a content creator because everyone creates content, but there are certain titles that come with a lot of experience, degrees, and knowledge that shouldn’t be used so freely if you do not have any of those.
This thin line has caused problems though, it confuses some people in knowing, for example, the difference between a personality and journalist. We see this issue often even on ESPN. There is a difference and especially in how someone covers a story or industry and sometimes someone can be both. However, social media shouldn’t be viewed as the definite truth of everything. There are people on that platform who have no titles on there but are some of the greatest at what they do. I think those titles just help people identify those within a community to either engage, work with, and etc. But ultimately, the work speaks for itself and should always speak for itself. And that ultimately determines someone’s title. Don’t call yourself a digital strategist if your work doesn’t back that up, don’t call yourself a content developer if you haven’t developed content for a company, a brand and etc for a few years and simply put it for specific motives. Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t what you are, you will get called out for it and ultimately social media is just social media, simply one view or example of ourselves, nothing more and nothing less.
11 – Tell me a little bit more about the Grass Routes Podcast. How did that come about?
Grass Routes Podcast was created when Brandon “killabh” Hall and I met in an Executive MBA program at Rutgers University. What started as a fun project has expanded into something unique and great. We are able to tell our stories and showcase other people’s stories, which is something that I’ve always been interested in. We’ve accomplished some great things, going viral twice, building a core fanbase, and even having our episode placed on every major music website. I’ve never explored the world of podcasts in terms of content development so this is definitely a new territory and challenge for me but also very exciting! We have personal and collective goals for this podcast and I hope others enjoy it and are a part of our grassroots.
12 – What is the rest of your 2018 looking like? Should your fan base be expecting anything special?
For the rest of 2018, I have plans to work with several brands and create great content! I’ll be doing content development + creative strategy workshops in both Philadelphia and New York City soon and plan on working with a few professional athletes within the NBA, boxing world and more. So, you’ll see a lot more diverse content coming from me this year.