Lindsey Row, a St. Ambrose University strategic communications graduate, hasn’t strayed far from her college roots. Row currently works as the Social Media Marketing Specialist for Communications and Marketing at SAU.
Row graduated from SAU in 2016 and then worked for a small business in Davenport, handling all social media efforts. In November 2018, Row joined the Communications and Marketing team at SAU. Row had significant background knowledge of the university from the perspective of a former student, making her already aware of the organizational values and part of the culture.
When Row was 15 years old, home from school on a sick day, she scanned the television channels for something to watch. She landed on Sex and the City, a show she had never seen before. The show captivated her and she ended up watching reruns the entire day.
On the show, one main character has a PR firm. She is often seen planning events and networking. The career interested Row, as she had never heard of anything like it previously. Pretty quickly Row realized that a career in PR isn’t quite the same as it may be in a TV show, but she was still determined to explore it. At SAU, Row took the Introduction to PR class. It was no Sex and the City PR firm, but Row was interested in the material. She especially liked the aspect of understanding an audience and an organization’s publics. She continued her courses and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and strategic communication.
Learning Outside of the Classroom
Outside of the classroom, Row was highly involved with SAU’s HerCampus chapter. Row was a writer for the club during her sophomore and junior years. For her senior year, Row served as the Campus Coordinator, the highest role in the organization. She would edit articles by other writers, coordinate events and giveaways, recruit students and manage the social media. While in this role, the SAU HC chapter rose to the highest-ranking (top 10% in the country), and their social media following increased by 30 percent. This experience is what Row credits giving her confidence in PR and preparing her best for working after graduation.
She ended up teaching herself nearly everything she knows about social media including social media software, listening, writing and strategy. She did this by reading many articles and blogs, watching a variety of videos on the subject and also paying more attention to how other organizations do it. She said that ideally there would be at least a few courses that taught more specific aspects of social media and also the basic psychology and ethics behind it. With so many people addicted to social media, it would be interesting and beneficial to students.
A Day at Work
No day looks quite the same for Row. Each day she arrives to work at 8 a.m. and immediately checks her email to respond to any urgent matters. She then utilizes social media listening software to reply to any messages sent to the SAU accounts and comments made on SAU posts. She also visits the listening inbox which allows her to see any social media or news articles that mention the university without tagging them. On Tuesday mornings, the entire C&M team meets weekly to talk about any campaigns, upcoming event coverage and anything else that brainstorming could benefit.
The rest of her day varies and could include a variety of things. She spends time strategically planning, creating and scheduling out content. She will post organically on occasions, such as at an event or even just campus images. Row also consults with others to help them improve their strategies and practices by sharing her own experiences. She is currently teaching herself video editing and has been implementing that into her routine more often. She never quite knows where a day will take her and she often finds herself changing her strategy for the day.
Challenges and Rewards
Row shared that the frustrating challenges she has faced in her role largely relate to people forgetting that a real person is behind an organization’s social media. This occurs when students, parents and community members comment or message in a rude manner and often take their frustrations out on social media rather than directly communicating with the subject of their anger. Even university employees have contributed at times. Row believes that some members of the SAU community don’t fully understand the value of social media as a full-time position, despite how important it is for recruitment, campus communication, public relations and more. Row’s goal is to change the narrative and educate faculty on the importance of her work.
On the more positive side, Row greatly appreciates any positive feedback she receives either on social media or to her directly. When people go out of their way to thank the university and say they appreciate communication efforts she feels rewarded for the long days, overtime and hard work she puts into her job.
Connections and Networking
Row commented on the importance of being friendly to everyone on campus within internal communication, even when they don’t see the value of communications and marketing. She also included that the connections she has made outside of higher education have provided her with the most benefits in networking. In her experience, relying on relationships within the same organization or even type of organization can often lead to confirmation bias. It then often turns into a feedback loop without progress being made. She prefers relying on connections she has with individuals working in marketing positions in different industries for their more broad perspective. One mentor she had through Lead(h)er worked in marketing but worked for a law firm. The advice she shared applied but was different advice than she would typically hear. This allowed her more success in her performance.
Working as a Woman in PR and at SAU
Beyond the more traditional networking, when a new employee begins at SAU, they are assigned a mentor. The mentor usually ends up being the same gender if possible. The mentors help newer employees with anything they need or if they have questions about the university. Row still frequently catches up with her mentor and they even had lunch together last week.
Within the C&M office specifically, Row said that it has been nice to work on a team that is mostly women and that she enjoys the atmosphere. Unfortunately, she has still faced certain challenges throughout the university as a woman. She brought up that sometimes when she is concerned about something, rather than hearing her position and reasoning, she has been called emotional or told that she was overthinking things.
Within PR, but especially when managing social media, it is important to always be one step ahead to react to anything that could contribute to a negative image for the organization. Row has learned that following her intuition has always paid off and it is worth trusting your gut over believing any rude comments.
The change she strongly urges the university to adopt is more parental leave. As a woman, she knows how this aspect has affected many other women, in and out of the university’s careers. Although she personally doesn’t have any plans soon to have children, she still advocates for this alongside others at the university, who are currently insisting on a better policy.
Her advice to other women entering the field is simply put, don’t make yourself small. She mentioned that she wouldn’t completely stick up for herself in the past to avoid disturbing the situation, but that looking back she regrets it. Even with passive or inappropriate comments or salary questions, it is always best to speak up for yourself to be heard.
Row plans on continuing her education to receive an MBA from SAU in the near future. This has been a goal of hers since starting at the university. After that, if she decides to leave the university, one workplace factor she won’t negotiate on is respect. She said that having a leadership team that wholeheartedly understands the value of social media and her worth as an employee to the organization is something she can’t compromise on. She wants to be hired because of her skills and be supported by her team. If she could work anywhere, it would be for America’s Test Kitchen’s social media team. She loves how much time and energy the team puts towards all of their content and personally follows all of them on social media. She would also enjoy working with other cooking or food content.