AFL-CIO’s Social Media Guru : Test Drive My Job Danielle Hatchett

me_jimiDanielle Hatchett, 32

Greenbelt, MD (a suburb of Washington, DC)

Web Project Coordinator and Social Media Community Manager, 2 years

American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO),

Twitter : @dyhatchett

Mopwater: Describe your path to PR.  DH: Since I was named after author Danielle Steele, I was destined to be a writer and communicator. I started off on the journalism track as editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook and newspaper and went on to intern for my hometown newspaper, The Newark [New Jersey] Star Ledger as a feature writer. I majored in English through graduate school and considered becoming a college professor. However, I decided academia wasn’t for me and after obtaining my MA, I landed a job under contract with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a web developer. After five years, I became the technical project manager.

A year and a half later, I moved on to the AFL-CIO where I coordinate and process all content on our 7,000+ page website. We started integrating our social media platforms into our communications strategy about a year ago and I’m responsible for posting all content and for community interaction. I also train our affiliate unions and allied organizations on how to best use social media tools to spread their message.

Mopwater: Describe a pivotal moment in your career. Did you have a mentor or internship that really solidified your interest in this field or helped you hone in on a specific focus area? DH: While pursuing my MA in English at the University of Maryland College Park, I had an internship with the Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities. One of my tasks was to maintain the website for a course I was taking on digitizing literary history. I learned the basics of web development and became fascinated with using web technologies to tell stories.

Mopwater: Describe a typical workday including your work hours. What do you do all day? DH: Honestly, there is no typical workday for me. We are always cooking in several pots at once at the Federation. Over the course of a work week, I may be asked to help develop content for a new campaign website we have to launch yesterday. Or I may need to chase down content for an existing website from someone in our legislative department who is up on the Hill most of the week. I may need to develop a social media strategy for a campaign event we’re having in the next couple of days. The next minute, I may be asked to live tweet a big health care rally. It really varies.

I usually have a 9-5ish day but I was up past midnight a couple of weeks ago spreading our response to the health care vote across various platforms. In this job, I learned early on that you have to be ready to shift gears at a moment’s notice.

Mopwater: Describe your office setting and workplace. DH: In my last job, I shared a cubicle with 4 other women! One of the perks of this position for me is that we all have our own offices. I work better with music playing so although my door may be closed, I have an open door policy. My work space is decorated with all kinds of artwork and statues. I have photos up of family and friends. I’ve tried to make it feel like my home away from home. The communications department is broken down into web, media, online mobilization, broadcast and speechwriting but we all work collectively on various campaigns. Everyone is extremely busy but we manage to find time to come together for birthday cake!

Mopwater: What are your favorite and least favorite PR tasks and why?  DH: I love the interaction on our various social media platforms with the progressive community. Some days I regret that my attention is pulled in so many different directions that I’m often not able to focus more on listening and spreading others content to our audience.

If I had to choose a least favorite task it would be working with our content management system to manage the website. We use Commonspot and I find it to be a painful system to use for such a large website. I pray daily that we upgrade before more gray hairs pop up on my young head!

Mopwater: Who are some of your organization’s clients, and what kind of projects do you take on for these clients?  DH: We don’t have clients. We serve our affiliates unions, state federations, central labor councils (clc) — and most importantly working families. In my role, my interaction with our affiliates may be posting content from our blog to some of our state fed and CLC websites. I also may help them get set up on Facebook or Twitter — either individually or through group training sessions. I also run a social media roundtable group where we share resources and best practices.

Mopwater: Describe a recent project where you produced results of which you’re really proud. DH: I recently had the opportunity to go back to my reporter days and cover the big health care rally in downtown DC on March 9th. I live tweeted from the AFL-CIO account and took photos of the entire rally from the time we left our headquarters through the entire march over to the Ritz Carlton. The live feed also ran on our blog.

Personally, I was proud of myself for managing two Blackberries and getting great coverage in the midst of thousands of people on an unusually warm day. It was my first time doing this and I had some slight reservations about being able to accurately capture everything! Surprisingly it turned out very well and I received lots of accolades on a job well done.

Mopwater: What is your favorite thing about this job and do you think you’ll be in this position in 5 years? DH: I love the fact that it wasn’t extremely difficult to get buy in from management on the use of social media in our communications strategy –since that is my favorite part of the job as it allows me the most creativity. They don’t see it as a gimmicky fad. I expect as resources become available, we’re going to take our social media efforts to the next level and start utilizing custom resources and tools to empower our growing community with richer content to share. I look forward to leading those efforts.

I definitely expect to continue on this path and move into a full time community manager role within the next five years. I also want to get back to my roots a bit and do more writing. My ultimate goal is to become the CEO of me by the time I blow out 40 candles on my birthday cake.

Mopwater: What aspect of the industry are you most excited about? DH: I love the fact that the field is rapidly changing. There’s always so much to stay on top of and learn. It can be overwhelming at times but I see it as a challenge.

I also love interacting and exchanging ideas with social media professionals and thought leaders (not necessarily the “experts!”).

Mopwater: If you could work on any dream project of your choosing, what would it be? DH: This is a bit off topic but when I think about what kind of work I would be doing if I didn’t get paid for it, it would likely be working with independent progressive music artists on the best ways to use social media to reach out to fans and promote their music. Perhaps I may even do some “ghost-blogging.” That would be the perfect marriage of my two loves –social media and music.

Mopwater: What if anything would you have done differently in your career up to this point and what advice would you give someone who is trying to break into your field? DH: I wish all this conversation around building your personal brand had been around when I was just starting out! I would have started working on my foundation a lot earlier. I would also have monitored myself more in my first position to make sure that I was still learning, growing and continuing to challenge myself. It’s TOO easy to get comfortable.

I would advise anyone looking to enter this field to take full advantage of free or low cost webinars, chats, trainings, conferences and social media events to further your knowledge about the field. I have a pile of books, articles and blog posts waiting to be read that I’ll probably never get to. They are there as resources. You can easily listen in on a free webinar a company is giving. Or participate in a Twitter chat about a topic that interests you and connect with the thought leaders in the field. Seek out networking events with panel presentations. Learning opportunities are endless once you know how to tap into them.

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