GLOBAL DIGITAL EDITOR | THE CLIMATE GROUP
What do you do?
I manage editorial, social media and digital content for The Climate Group, an international, not-for-profit organisation which connects the world’s most powerful governments, brands and public figures to drive what we call a 'clean revolution': the rapid scale-up of low carbon energy and technology to reduce emissions and secure a safer future for all. We work with our partners on high-profile events, visual reports and technology pilots, to help develop the finance mechanisms, business models and policy frameworks we need to achieve this. Our corporate partners include Arup, Bloomberg, BT, Dell, Google, HP, IKEA, Nike, Philips and Swiss Re. We officially launched our core 'Clean Revolution' campaign at Rio+20 in Brazil with very high-profile business, government and thought-leaders. Beyond building the three-year #CleanRevolution campaign, our communications work is both strategic in terms of being driven by our own events and key moments in the world policy and business calendar - such as WEF, COP and national budget announcements - and reactive; sometimes something will crop up in the media that we couldn't have planned for and we have to urgently respond to.
My job is to drive campaigns like this digitally. For example at Climate Week NYC 2012, our annual climate summit in New York, we released our American Clean Revolution report, which I supported with a new microsite, infographic and Twitter campaign - reaching 1 million users. I then doubled this to reach 2.1 million in 2013, geo-trending #CWNYC!
Mainly though, I'm responsible for writing daily news stories that show evidence of the global clean revolution - I write and edit climate policy and clean energy news, blogs and other content for TheClimateGroup.org, TheCleanRevolution.org and ClimateWeekNYC.org - as well as copy for e-newsletters, printed collateral and event invites to (and from) VIPs.
I manage our social media strategy, which includes Twitter, where we've had a lot of success. I've grown our followers to 60,000+ on @ClimateGroup through initiating projects such as live-tweeting from events, infographics, launching staff profiles and hosting our famous live Q&A sessions with top guests such as Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC and Connie Hedegaard, the EU's climate action commissioner. I also edit and project manage the production of our brilliant printed reports on themes including global leadership, sub-national governments, electric vehicles, LED lighting, India, North America and China, which means I have to coordinate a lot of Chinese translations. Generally, my role is to spread the word about what we do, what our partners are doing, and share the worldwide evidence of the fast-growing low carbon economy in order to get more powerful businesses and governments on board so we can all work together to stop climate change and build a better future.
How did you get there?
I've long been an environmentalist - at 7 I became a vegetarian and won a Friends of the Earth competition for my story about a worm that saves the world by being green! Editing and digital are in my DNA too. I used to write magazines for my little brothers and got addicted to Internet forums way before social media was invented. So what I do is my passion, however cheesy that sounds. Professionally it has been a winding journey that has all led to where I am now. I worked for companies that weren't quite the right industries for me but that gave me the skills I needed to apply to something I really cared about. A good example is Mydeco.com, an exciting start-up from the people who set up LastMinute.com; I learned so much about SEO, HTML, e-marketing, community management and social media there. But I didn't want to get into interior design! So in the meantime, I also wrote for free for places I did care deeply about - an eco-conscious lifestyle website called GreenMyStyle.com for one. It was fun writing reports from London Fashion Week and finding ways to reposition ethical clothes as 'the norm', but I knew when I first heard about The Climate Group that this was a place I'd have the biggest impact. Obviously consumer choices are massively important too, but I think targeting the most powerful people in the world is going to have a much larger-scale, visible impact in the climate challenge. Huge corporations pretty much dictate consumer spending after all. That's what gets me out of bed every day, that's for sure.
What does a "typical day" entail?
The first thing I do is check global news, using an open Google Spreadsheet I've set up that uses a simple 'scraping' code to automatically import the latest headlines via RSS from all relevant newswires, publications and government websites. I also check member mentions I've set up on email as well as special Twitter lists, newsletters and Reddit's sub-reddits. If there is anything we should cover, I'll write about it, with a quote from one of The Climate Group's policy or technology experts from around the world. We have offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, New Delhi, New York and London, so we have a lot of ground to cover and no 'quiet' time zone! The news to cover is endless, so I'm basically on deadline from the minute I sit at my desk. But it's good to know there are so many positive things happening in the world! At the same time, I'll keep our main social media feeds populated with the latest external news, and infographics that I write and shape with the design team. We know that graphics prove very popular with our audience so we try hard to always include an interesting photo, visual data or infographic with each social media post, as well as inside the news stories themselves. Seeing info visually helps people digest information easily and encourages them to share it with their audiences too. Our biggest ever RT was a map of the tiny amount of solar it would take to power the whole world. It's staggering to see information displayed that way - it makes you realise how the low carbon economy really is a no-brainer!
We're very driven by innovation at The Climate Group, so it's important we stay ahead of the curve on digital media, which is why we're currently hosting regular Google Hangouts, researching data journalism and developing mobile-friendly content. Obviously we don't want to just share other people's content on social media, so as well as daily news, on our website we produce regular Quick Facts which are stored in our huge Clean Revolution evidence base. We hope government advisers and CSOs will use it to help write speeches and research for papers. I also spend a lot of my day writing and editing printed and emailed documents, which will be seen by everyone from potential famous speakers to high net worth donors. My job could be seen as very repetitive, but I'm very competitive with myself, using Google Analytics, newsletter stats and social media reports to constantly try and improve our click-through rates, time spent on the website, retweets and page views, by experimenting with more compelling copy, images and content. It's important to constantly improve, otherwise what's the point? We need to reach a bigger audience if we're going to get the #CleanRevolution message out in time for global climate talks in Paris next year. So my work feels very urgent, which is exciting!
What are the career perspectives for a digital editor?
I see my job as being very varied. As a next step I could probably choose to go into a more editorial or journalistic role, further into social media marketing, or even digital management or development. There is also a big campaigns and media element to what I do. But I think the fact it's so varied is why I love it so much! Eventually all jobs will have digital sides, so while this role is fairly future-proofed in most sectors, I can see it being split up into different areas.
What are the most and least rewarding aspects of your job?
Most rewarding is hearing through other people that high-level individuals have raved about our digital work: recently I was told that some MPs and government departments rely on our Twitter feed. And the UN and EU even came directly to us to ask to take part in a Q&A based on our past success! Seeing my work on a big screen, such as live tweets, behind speakers at an event is awesome. I also rate holding a printed report I've spent hours editing in my hands, seeing our stories' quotes picked up by the mainstream media, and achieving a big reach on a particular digital campaign - last month we got 1,000 RTs on a tweet, which is more than Obama often gets! Earlier this year I wrote a quarter page advert that appeared on the front page of the global Financial Times newspaper. That really was a massive reward to me.
The least rewarding aspects are the tedious, admin-type jobs in digital; the repetitive meta-tagging of images on Flickr, obsessive keyword typing on Google+, endless hyperlinking and formatting in CMS... but then fiddling with code until you fix it is VERY rewarding! I have had RSI in my wrists a couple of times though...
You studied English at university - how does it help in your job?
One of the main uses aside from writing, proof-reading, researching and creativity, is learning how to see patterns in a narrative - and pick out the most important data and headline. If I could go back to university now though, I'd have done something more vocational. It's hard to know exactly what you will find most useful which is why I wanted to study English to keep my options open, but now I'd consider digital or policy communications, and definitely computer programming. I always wish I'd studied computer science from a younger age. I'm also trying to learn Mandarin. I wish I'd studied that at university, as it would definitely ease communications with our Beijing office! I'm currently addicted to MOOC sites such as Coursera, Canvas, MITx and EdX. It's just finding the time to study. And when you're younger, you have a lot more time. But I'd definitely recommend them, as well as Codecademy.
What advice would you give to somebody who would like to do a similar job?
Check out our careers page! We also have lots of internships throughout the year. I'm always looking for volunteer freelancers to write for us. My best advice is to get as much experience as possible, as it often counts for far more than education in more hands-on jobs like this. Whether that's working for free, starting your own blog or becoming a super-networker on social media, just get online and do it. Don't be afraid of what people will think of you. Write about what you care about, and people will see how passionate you are. Share your work on LinkedIn - and connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn and Twitter - you never know how useful their knowledge could be in the future!
What is the toughest lesson you have learnt?
Work hard and people WILL notice, but don't be afraid to share your achievements too. My work and ideas have been overlooked before because I'm shy, which is frustrating. But if you're not the extroverted type, then email your achievements to people who matter. That's what I've learned the hard way - sometimes you have to come out of your comfort zone to make an impression. But I've also learned that it's OK to be yourself too. Too many people, especially women I think, feel like they have to warp their personalities, their intellect, their age, their backgrounds, their physical style, in order to fit into a corporate workplace. But they shouldn't have to. People accept me for who I am because I have my own form of confidence, not because I'm trying to be someone I'm not or because I shout the loudest.
What is the mistake you wish you hadn’t done?
Worked so hard on a project that never saw the light of day! I regret working weekends, nights and through illness to achieve something that nobody will ever use. I hate wasted effort. I can't seem to shake the memory of that project, no matter how many successes I've had since!
Do you have a role model and if so who and why?
Business AND ethics-wise (because I don't believe they should always have to be separated) I admire Christiana Figueres, Arianna Huffington, Angelina Jolie and Jeffrey Sachs, as well as innovators like Elon Musk. There are also a lot of very strong women (and men) that I work with at The Climate Group, who I see as role models for many different reasons. Working with passionate people is one of the perks of working in the third sector that makes up for the long hours!
How is climate change a foreign policy issue?
If we don't keep global temperature rises to below the agreed safe limit of 2 degrees Celsius and keep climate change in check, we're facing widespread disaster, especially in the developing countries, as it is there where impacts will be first felt - and they already are. We're seeing history's first climate refugees leave their livelihoods behind to face an uncertain future in countries that may not accept them. We're seeing crops affected by drought, a situation that contributed to the Syrian conflict. Floods are damaging infrastructure, economies and homes. Climate change will continue to cause more extreme weather, tropical diseases, cross-border energy conflict and food shortages. Like poverty, foreign policy is severely central to the climate problem. We need to work as one planet to solve our greatest challenge yet.
How can digital help solve climate change?
With social media, everyday people can come together to amplify their voice. And leaders are beginning to take note of what they're saying. Something like 85% of the world's heads of state are now on Twitter or the equivalent platform now. Digital is giving the world the power to change. And I'm proud to be part of it.