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Digital Mums Student Stories: Victoria Harper

Student Stories: Victoria Harper

Welcome to the first in our Student Stories series where we hear from Digital Mums about their experiences completing our training and their thoughts upon completing it. First up is Vicki Harper, a very recent graduate from our Associate Programme.

It's week 20 - final report week. My Programme Partner is very happy with the campaign, I've uploaded my analytics to Moodle and my cohort of JK Rowlings are a mixture of shattered and giddy with the excitement at this week’s final hangout.

If you're a Digital Mum you'll know what I'm on about, if not - quite simply this translates to…I'm in the final week of a six-month social media strategy course run by the M&C Saatchi-backed Digital Mums. I have completed the campaign for the skincare start-up that I was matched with at the beginning of February and am reporting back on the successes and fails (none epic thank god) of an eight-week campaign that kicked off at the end of May.

My peer group with whom I have met over weekly Google Hangouts from the outset and has proved to be an absolute lifeline, are meeting for the final time tonight - we will all have a glass of fizz in hand to toast each other's efforts and determination for getting through to the end. This is not smug satisfaction but sheer elation that we're due to graduate in two weeks. It has been hard work but we’ve had an absolute giggle navigating our way through the Digital Mums journey of assignments and tutorials, analytics and critiques and supporting each other throughout. The work/family/course triumvirate has been a challenge - it's undeniable - but I am thrilled to be able to call myself a social media strategist and the pain of the late nights and super-early weekend starts to cram it all in, forgotten.

After 20 years in PR it’s added a new dimension to my career. From the most basic of points that I’m now fully elucidated - social media is no longer a dark art, a murky mystery that happens in another part of the office – to the confidence that the course as given me to seek out new projects and challenges to extend my working life.

While I've been on the course I've talked about it to anyone who'd listen - from the small business owners that I'm surrounded by in my home city of Bath, at the school gates, to colleagues and friends looking for a rocket up their backside to get them back into work after a career break to have kids.

I've introduced ‘project partners’ too - an artisan chocolate company and specialist comms agency among them. Everyone I have spoken to are convinced by the proposition of a Digital Mum in training being let loose on their business. They have the security of students being vetted by owners Kathryn and Nikki and the knowledge that they are being paired with someone with a communication.

In fact, not everyone has been positive. I have had one but significant negative comment that I think needs addressing. It was along these lines:

Social media should be done by someone young and cool not mums.

There are multiple business and societal rebuttals – from encouraging more women and girls into tech industries, contributing to continued professional development, having as much as you want (if not all). I am certainly not a digital native and nor could I ever pretend to be. I don't and will not ever have that instinct but what I can do is put social media in the context of wider communications and formulate a strategy that will deliver, enhance and amplify a business’ core comms proposition. It’s up to me to embed myself in the client’s business - seek out trends and insight that will fuel a social media campaign. ‘Cool’ content is the last part of a process - the coal face, the front-end bit everyone sees.

It’s still hard to find a compact, grabbable argument to this so I defer to author and Times columnist, Caitlin Moran who was speaking at Cannes Lions 2016. Interviewed by Johnny Hornby of The & Partnership she says:

Social media is like a baby, young and untrained. Infinite opinions, infinite information, infinite reporting social media is ruled by kids. Where are the grown-ups to stop the fighting?

She goes on to talk about the hard facts - that something like 94% of programmers and people in tech are men and so of course a male mindset prevails. ‘If more women were involved, it would be more discursive.’

I completely agree with her point that we have not yet begun the social media revolution and so while ‘the kids’ play mums are tuning in, wising up and readying themselves to referee. With enablers like Digital mums, initiatives like the Women of Silicon roundabout and DevelopHER supported by the almighty fanfare of cheerleading from Caitlin Moran and Lady Geek’s Belinda Parmar never before have women had the support we need to bring the ability to understand social media in the context of a wider comms conversation.

I think that's pretty cool.

Victoria is now a social strategist - you can follow her on Twitter here

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