So far this month we’ve heard from Kate and Sarah about life since the Digital Mums Social Media Marketing: Associate Programme and this week we are catching up with the brilliant Jenni Page, 42, from Whistable. Jenni is mum to Sam, six, and co-founder of Chilli PR and now Chilli Social. Here she shares why she feels upskilling has had such a positive effect on her career and business.
Tell us about life pre-kids, what were you doing work wise?
“I certainly prepared for the 'no sleep’ part of motherhood in my career. I studied fashion journalism and PR at The London College of Fashion and went on to work for a small agency where I specialised in music PR for TV. It was six crazy years of working with record labels. I did everything from organising early morning TV appearances on shows like CDUK and Live & Kicking to chasing errant DJs around festivals with crews from MTV & T4. I then went on to set up Chilli PR in 2004 with my business partner, Helen Stokes.
Tell us a bit more about Chilli PR…
Helen and I had worked with each other for five years and had always dreamt of setting up on our own. It was from small beginnings - we started by sharing a desk in her tiny living room in Crouch End, with one landline between us. We’d jokingly ask people to hold while passing the phone across the desk to ‘transfer the call.’ But most of our labels followed us so within a year we had moved into shared offices in Camden. Over time we got bigger clients, and took our experience to the next level via events like the Brits and the Baftas.
What made you want to do the Digital Mums course?
Although we specialise in TV, we slot into the wider marketing strategy/PR team so the importance of social media marketing became clear to me a few years ago. I’d also had Sam and my partner Jon, 43, and I had decided to move from London to Whitstable. My plan was to do the Digital Mums course and then be able to offer social as part of the services we provide. But interestingly since I’ve finished the course we’ve not been targeting the same music clients that we work for in a TV capacity. Chilli Social, as we’ve branded it, is more about moving into ‘lifestyle PR' and widening the scope of our business.
What were your impressions of the course?
I loved the flexibility and how I could do it from anywhere and at any time. I also loved having a community of other students to talk to for ideas and support. My client was a designer baby wear business called Little Moppets. It meant I could flex my new ‘mum community’ knowledge and tone of voice and combine it with my history of studying fashion - a win win!
How did you use what you had learned from Digital Mums and add it to your business?
We realised that record labels generally used in-house departments , or really only big agencies for social, so this was very much about diversifying. First up I wanted to cut my teeth so in November 2015 I agreed to do an initial four month campaign for Mentoring Harrow to set them up on social media. I wanted to really embed my learning and in fact I still consult for them now. Then two months ago we used the principles I had learned on the course to launch Chilli Social via social media. We came up with a social campaign, to raise brand awareness, called #TagYourLocal. The idea was to encourage people to champion local businesses with a thank-you for good service, or a shout out for being generally brilliant using the hashtag. We also re-vamped our website to include a page about the new services we could offer. We got a lot of leads from the campaign and also the first local social media client, The East Coast Dining Rooms.
How else did you start using social media in your business?
As well as giving us the chance to add to our existing services, doing the course has still been incredibly useful for the Chill Music PR side of the business. I use the Digital Mums learning to run our own Chilli PR platforms and it means we have become a reliable source for industry information and interesting content. We even found out about a No 1 record on Twitter in its very early stages. We were able to pitch for it before anyone else and the project has expanded into an artist project with more singles and album to come!
Anything that has come out of doing the course which has surprised you?
Our #TagYourLocal campaign revealed a number of smaller businesses that wanted help with their social but simply didn’t have the budget for a social media manager. The result is we’ve been offering workshops to small businesses on how they can get the most out of their social media. I give them pointers on strategy and how to get better results. Digital Mums has given me so much expertise and it's good to pass that knowledge on.
What do you think has been the best thing about doing the Programme?
It was really important to me to do some kind of formal training. It’s given me a greater understanding of how I can use social media for Chilli PR, and more importantly the chance to diversify into a new area that will hopefully take me through the next 20 years. It’s also opened up a fantastic community of women, who like me are juggling and 'doing the hustle' like never before in history. It’s great to know you are not alone and to gain support from all these fantastic women, as well as being able to offer it in return.
What would you say to someone who is in PR or already a freelancer and thinking of doing the Digital Mums course?
Social media is now an integral part of the PR process, and it’s so important to understand how to use it properly and the scope that it has. The course is definitely going to benefit you and most importantly make you digitally relevant. Not everyone will choose to take the classic road afterwards of being a freelance social media manager from home but the skills you learn are so important. It might help your existing business, it might lead to you adding social media management as a service like I have, or it might lead you to a new full time job. The possibilities are endless!