Social media platforms have killed the gatekeeper. An entire generation of wanderlusters, storytellers and duck-faced moment-capturers now dab their way into the collective consciousness with content-based jobs that allow them to pursue fun, creative careers.
To gain a better insight into this trend, we couldn’t think of a more fitting and perceptive Career Guru to interview than the one and only Valentina Primo. A woman of many talents and endless creativity, Primo is an exceptional creative writer, travel blogger, and relentless idealist who has helped craft the online presence of Cairo Scene, one of the main online content platforms in Egypt. Throughout our interview with her, she dropped some insightful truth-bombs on content creation and taking chances.
Content is now king in terms of how brands rely on it and consumers engage with it. What’s the future of content amid all the content noise out there?
The future is video, and it has a human face. In the midst of all this noise, audiences are tuning more and more into the sounds and the voices they can identify with; they are seeking content that is relatable, genuine, and fundamentally, that has a story to tell. There is no content without storytelling, and no message without a relatable face. Social media remains key: people don’t follow a brand but the ‘personality’ of that brand; they cherish the flawed, the spontaneous, the responsive and interactive brands that know how to engage the audience and make them part of the conversation.
More and more graduates are joining the path of digital content each year. What one piece of advice would you give them?
Take chances. You like to write? WRITE the freaking best piece you’ll ever write and post it online. You like to film? Get out there and create the most ambitious teaser you’ll never have enough funds to complete. Go big. And put it up online. If that is really your passion, and if you’ve tried over and over again until it’s stunning enough, clever enough, or shocking enough, then someone will notice it. You’re not sure? Follow those you admire, approach them, get their advice, and learn. And work really hard for what you want. This is perhaps my best kept secret, but I remember that in order to get my first internship as a journalist, there was a really tough exam. It was the largest newspaper of the city, and the exam was practically impossible to get right; you’d have to be reading the newspaper EVERY SINGLE day, and who does that at 17? I took it once and didn’t make the cut. I wanted it so bad. So the following year, I developed this very simple calendar and read the newspaper online retrospectively, checking it day by day, from December to January. I must have spent all my summer mornings; but I got the job in the end.
“THERE IS NO CONTENT WITHOUT STORYTELLING, AND NO MESSAGE WITHOUT A RELATABLE FACE.”
They say artists are high maintenance, egotistic and divas to work with. And most of your employees are writers, designers, videographers or photographers. How true is this stereotype?
Hehehe, some of them can be. But to be honest, it’s harder to work with someone who is frustrated and won’t just put the best of themselves to get things done in an amazing way – the way everything should just be done, AMAZINGLY. So I guess I’d rather work with someone who’s got a bit of an ‘artist complex’ so to say, but who I know is so passionate that will come up with nothing that’s not the best. It just takes a bit of humility to find a middle ground to collaborate.
Let’s talk about click baits. Many content creators go for provocative titles or fake news to pull readership. People have become thick-skinned to all the baits and content noise. How does a content creator cut through this?
Fake news is not an option, and that’s the end of it. Because that would mean the end of our profession as journalists. With click-bait, there’s a thin line (a very thin line) between adapting to ‘writing for the web’ and simply fooling the audience with a promise you will not deliver. But I find it extremely interesting and fun to be forced to constantly update to the changing world of journalism and content creation – it’s like challenging yourself; the reader is actually your ultimate test.
Reasons that would make you want to hire a candidate instantly.
Showing interest in learning; passion, even if it’s not passion for the task or role they are given, but passion and willingness to create. Taking the initiative.
Reasons that would make you want to fire someone instantly.
An entitled attitude; you should always stay humble, even more so when starting a new job. Lying or plagiarizing content. Disrespect for my time (cancelling appointments with excuses such as ‘I got sick’).
What are your “Things I wish I knew as a fresh grad”?
I wish I had understood the power of networking. I remember, back in Argentina, seeing a colleague going to these networking events and thinking: “why the hell does she bother, why meet new people when you already have friends.” Thank God I travelled. That’s when it happened, just naturally. No book, no manual, or university will EVER teach you the things you can learn from other people; those random strangers. Doors just never cease to open, and you realize that all those people you crossed paths with end up coming back in one way or another. That guy you helped in a train station. That friend who asked you to host an acquaintance. That colleague you thought was your exact opposite. It all sounds too romantic put this way, but we are talking business as well. I literally just had a job offer from a girl I clicked with on her visit to Cairo. I’ve gotten freelance opportunities just because I was in New York and decided to pop by some social good summit and tweet from there. It all comes back to you, one way or another. But it’s really important to be GENUINE and never act out of interest.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is not to be afraid of change. At university, I was taught that journalism was going to die, because people were not buying newspapers anymore. Newspapers! They failed to see all the things the internet would bring. But when the people you admire fail to give you hope, it impacts the way you see the world. Yet, some 10 years later, there are more jobs for writers and content creators than there were at the time. And it’s never been this easy to reach an audience who reads your words.
With your line of work, all news/content has to be up to the minute. How do you cope with constantly working under pressure?
Having fun. I love my job; sometimes I can’t sleep and suddenly get an idea for the first paragraph of my next article, and I just have to get up and write it. But that’s because I ABSOLUTELY love what I do; and that’s the key. Loving it so much that to you it’s not a chore, but more like play. Planning also helps (all those new apps come really handy), taking a minute to breathe, and remembering it is never (no matter what happens) the end of the world, because our profession keeps reinventing itself; and that’s a challenge, but also a big, big chance.