Hi everyone and welcome to AQ’s Blog & Grill. We’re excited today to have Jane Barkley with us. Now Jane is the founder and CEO of [email protected] which is kind of a really cool concept that’s happening right here in Waterloo Region so we’re going to really grill Jane on this to find out what’s really going on. So welcome Jane. Thanks so much for having me, Alan. It’s a pleasure. Now tell us about [email protected] What’s up? Sure, absolutely. Well [email protected] is really the culmination of years of experience. I originally started out building my personal brand. I moved into consulting and I found that there was a real niche, there’s a real lack of service in the event industry. So that’s something that we sort of naturally went into and [email protected] really grew out of that. And I saw a need in events to produce, to execute coverage from front to back so we go in, we own the channels for the event, we provide all of the customer service, we’re the buzz creators we’re the excitement generators so, you know, we really pump events up and engage with people online through the events’ actual networks. So we’ll do that for, you know, depending on the event, two to three months leading up during the event itself. We’re on-site capturing the event and then we summarize all of that with social data as well afterwards. So that’s our key thing. We also work with clients ongoing in social media management as well and something that’s a little more recent because I’m a social media educator I teach as well. We’re doing a lot more training with clients as well so that they feel empowered to sort of do their own social media in-house. Well sure, and I guess if people become more familiar and comfortable with the social media which really doesn’t have to scare anyone, right? No absolutely. So is this a young person’s game or I know you’ve written about this.
Well I’m you asked. I have written about this and it’s something that I say to absolutely every group that I speak to that I say to my classes as well, we have this concept that young people just innately do social media well because it’s a space that they hang out in all the time, it’s something they’ve grown up with, it’s second nature to them and that’s not untrue. But you know I have an 18-year-old son and social media is absolutely second nature to him. I would never hand over the client reins to my 18-year-old son just because he uses social media a lot, right? There’s a difference between use and then the maturity and the understanding, all the subtleties that go along with managing a brand. The strategy. Absolutely so you know use or youth in itself is not entirely enough. Right. You know you have to have so many other skills and and traits that you bring to the table. So being a young person, we see that on the client side a lot, you know people go out and they sort of grab a young person and go okay, you know, go to. You get this; I don’t. And that can be a dangerous sort of situation depending on the skills that that young person is bringing to the table, right? And that’s been proven I think in a couple of very famous cases that oops well we put an intern in charge of a huge brand on the social media well because we didn’t know. Yeah. That could be really unfortunate and it’s unfortunate for everyone. Yes. Now you’ve also written, Jane, now you have some great posts on LinkedIn – thank you – so you’ve obviously spent some time on crafting those – absolutely – and one of the things that you said in your four social media myths that must be busted is that content is king? Is that what you said? I’m not quite sure. So I’m very adamant that content is not king and part of the reason is that in social media in particular, marketing more broadly, but definitely in social media, you know, we have a lot of thought influencers in the space. We also have a lot of people who get into social media because they can and so that muddies the water a little bit and so sometimes we fall back on these sayings, these catchy phrases and content is king is definitely one of those catchy phrases. But at this point it’s almost become cliché because we use it so much and so that’s part of it. The other part of it is that content in itself means nothing without your community, without the people that you’re trying to communicate with. They are king. They dictate the relationships. The dictate the scenario. They dictate the context a lot of the time as well and I know that’s something that you’ve talked about on the show before as well is context and how important that is. So I think we have to shift away from using catch phrases like content is king and towards what really matters which is always our online communities and the people we’re trying to engage with. They’re really the people who rule. Isn’t that so? I mean the customer is king or queen. Yes. And yet in some ways, you know, they’re not because they’re more like princes and princesses. They’re more fickle than, you know, because Queen Elizabeth walks around and you always can predict what the Queen is going to do – she’s going to have a matching handbag and a matching hat and she’s going to stroll and her husband is going to be trolling along five or six behind. But princes and princesses we don’t know what they’re going to do and I think that’s more what our current customer situation is. We’re not quite sure how they’re going to behave so there you go. Now how did you become so interested in social media? How did you make this your vocation, your business? Really my background is writing. I’ve always been a writer. I care very much for words and communication so this is such a natural extension of that, being able to connect with anybody anywhere and, you know, share moments and figure out how, you know, using different words and phrases influences people and the impact that that has. So it really started very much from a place of personal brand building and evolved out of that. And the interest comes so much again from human communication and wanting to connect through written words certainly but I’ve also done YouTube vlogs for years and so that vlogging experience has been really monumental for me in discovering my voice and how to connect with people in new ways, so. There you go. Now, where do we find you on YouTube? Well you can type Jane Barkley. You’ll find me very readily. Yeah. My username is The Jane Eden which I’ve held onto from the very beginning but I talk about a really wide array of things. Really the central theme for me is figuring out how to make that human connection. So for instance I’ve done a vlog about being afraid to die. Well that’s a very broad topic and there are a lot of people who carry that same fear and so you know I’ve had 15-year-olds from across the world message me in the middle of the night who are experiencing that feeling and you know you can almost hear them and their emotion on the other end of the keyboard. So I’m never afraid to go into emotional spaces with people and share that connection and make people feel like they’re not alone either. Well that’s important. Now you’re a graduate of the University of Waterloo with a degree in literature. Yeah, my B.A., yeah, is in English. And was that helpful in determining your pathway forward Jane? Yes and no. I think that having a broad sort of array of interests and experiences is what you need to be successful here. Part of what you can’t underplay either is a desire to connect with people, you know? And whether you’re an introvert or not or you know the term i really like right now is ambivert. You know you can be both actually and you’re really able to be anything online and still, you know, but you need to be invested in human connection. Right. Right. One thing that I will say for me is that I’ve always been a reader and so I’ve certainly, you know, I did a lot of reading at U of W and you know the written word again when I hire I actually look for writers, that it’s the central trade. I know if you’re a writer then you’re going to be able to do well as a content creator – right – and it’s also a skill that you can’t entirely coach into people either so if you have a really good bedrock of being able to write and articulate and communicate I think that’s extremely helpful. So certainly I don’t think that it in particular prepared me for this but in a lot of ways that the subject matter and yes a nice progression. Part of your journey so far. So far. You’ve got a long journey ahead of you. Don’t be afraid of that. You’ve got a long journey. Yeah okay. So Jane, working in digital media, working in social media how are you finding balancing your professional life with your personal life because the social is on 24 hours, seven days a week. Yes, absolutely. So how are you able to take yourself out of that and find some balance to your life? You know a couple of key things for me that really helped are fluidity and boundaries. So fluidity to me is being able to, you know, go out and spend time with family and friends, devote my attention to them, but also I mean they understand what I do. They know that I have to check in, that I can’t be unavailable and so it’s creating spaces where I’ve never, you know, talking to someone I’m looking at my phone at the same time, you know? I give my relationships respect and then I also give myself time to check in, you know, see what notifications, see what trending, understand what’s happening at any given moment. So fluidity is important for sure but boundaries too are insanely important. Yes, so tell us about your boundaries. My boundaries, so it ebbs and flows. I will say that especially when we’re experiencing times of crisis in the world it can be exhausting to be online. You know when you’re getting a constant barrage of negativity or trauma or crisis it’s very, very difficult to be constantly connected. We really, really need to give ourselves permission to disconnect and to feed the things that, you know, we need offline as well for sure. Now one of your specialties has been teaching public speaking helping people do presentations – I know that’s part of event. What kind of advice would you give somebody that’s just graduating from school that really doesn’t have that personal brand yet should be developing it, but also how do they communicate better with everyone? Sure, well this seems like odd advice I’m sure but start doing video. Okay, yes. It’s enormously effective and I’ve seen this in my classes too. One of the things that I force them to do and it’s a great equalizer is a YouTube video. And they don’t have to post it online but I really counsel them to shoot video, practice, practice, practice, talk to that camera. It really helps you to open up and figure out what is my thing? What is my edge that I carve out? And that’s something you absolutely need to develop. Like, get clear about that really early on. What is the thing that I bring, the energy, the personality, you know? What is the edge that I have over anybody else because there will be something very unique to every individual. To explore that though you need to practice it. Most people are not really comfortable practicing that to people they know but video is a really easy way. All you have to do is flip on your camera and take video of you talking about things that you’re passionate about and start carving out your voice. Figure out what you want to sound like and how you can bring your energy up so that people get drawn in, right? That’s really, really important that you can have a great story, you can have a great product, you can have a great whatever the thing is, but if you can’t really get someone excited about that, you know, it’s sort of all for naught. So…. Exactly. So I totally agree with you and it’s great advice and I think we have to remember that developing a personal brand or developing brands in the marketplace, They’re called “brands” not “blands” and you know if you don’t take any risk, if you don’t put any sort of personality or energy then you will have a bland. Yes. And you know that’s not a good thing Absolutely. So I’ve heard. Very good. Now of all the social platforms that you’ve been using at [email protected], what seems to be the favorite platform for you to use in helping build the – Sure, so I would say that Twitter hands down is because we do so much event work, you know, and Twitter is all about velocity and it lends itself so well to events so it’s always a primary, primary tool. Having said that I have to go back to YouTube because it was so monumental for me in helping to gain more confidence in my voice and, you know, the way that I wanted to convey my message, the way that I wanted to speak to people. And that transfers into everything, you know. It transfers into public speaking if that’s something that you want to do, it transfers into your client relationships or, you know, potential job interviews, whatever it is. You know, having confidence in your voice is so important. So for me, you know, I have to say YouTube has been a big thing but on the client side and certainly at a business level Twitter would be, I would say, hands down probably the favorite tool. You know there’s a fellow in the United States, lives in Manhattan, has kind of an orangey complexion and a rather interesting hairstyle. He seems to support your passion for Twitter. He’s usually on, though, about three o’clock in the morning. You’re familiar with Mr. Trump? Yeah, familiar, yes. If you were his campaign manager would he still have a Twitter account? Oh man I would never be…. I, you know, I don’t, I don’t think that I could put myself in that position. And, you know, it’s something that you have to think about in terms of who you work with as a brand. And actually that’s something that my students have talked about as well as they go out into the workforce and they’re deciding, you know, who do we want to work with? And that’s another piece of advice I would give anyone starting out is be very careful about how you align yourself with other brands and who you work with because I think our tendency when we start out, especially if you’re starting your own firm or you’re starting your own business, you want to work with everybody, you want to build your portfolio, you know, you want to get the experience under your belt and sometimes we sacrifice quality for the sake of that. But ultimately when you align yourself with quality people that feeds back into the quality and trustworthiness of your brand, right? Now the event business, it’s had its ups and downs. I think it’s on an upswing right now. I would agree with that. So why is that? I think that what I’ve seen happen in the event industry over the years is that what we’re really trending towards right now is creating experiences. So events have really had to change as a result of that. It’s not just about, you know, having a venue and filling it with some stuff that’s cool. Yeah. You know what’s happening now is that event organizers who once were really ahead of the curve are really thinking about a holistic sort of experience that people are going to have and so social media has to align very closely with that. How are we creating that experience that you want people to have, that you want – the feeling that you want them to walk away with, you know? There has to be something that really gels that whole thing so that to me is where the event industry has sort of taken up again, taken off again as people realize that we want experiences now. And especially because I think that on the consumer side we’re also in this sort of interesting place where a lot of people want experiences not things. Right. Right? So there’s a real opportunity there to create cool experiences that people walk away feeling like I would do that again in a heartbeat. Yeah, so what kind of event now is really interesting for people? What’s drawing people to a central place whether it’s from an online perspective or an in-person perspective. Is it a learning experience? Is it theatrical? Is it musical? It really varies because, I mean, there are groups of people and communities of people who are very different and they want something different so it’s really about connection for sure, you know connecting with a group of people who are similarly minded, who are all of, you know, a similar energy and that varies so much from space to space – Right. – so I wouldn’t say that there’s any one particular event style that’s going to win out over others but it’s always through that mindfulness of that group of people – who are they, what’s the experience that they want to have, how are we providing that and taking it over the top a bit too, right, like exceeding the expectations that that particular community of people has. Yeah. So what’s next? What’s next for you personally Jane Barkley and what’s next for your organization? Well so up next for me I’ve been doing a lot of speaking lately and that’s something that I really, really love and not something I’d say I’m even honestly that natural at. I get nervous anytime I have to go up and speak in front of a group of people – yeah – that’s part of why I do it. And you know there’s things – I’ve been getting away from my YouTube vlogs for a little bit so I’m always sort of, you know, cracking the plan for the next series of things so there’s certainly things on the personal brand side that I would love to do. In terms of [email protected] we have so much going on behind the scenes right now and I’ll give you a little bit of a taste of that. Please do. The training is one thing — Okay. All right, guys, this is on the Q.T. Jane is letting us in on the back story. Please go ahead. Well so you know i did mention training and that is something that hasn’t really been part of our forward-facing messaging, you know. We have this niche of events which I love that we’ve carved that out. But training has become a much larger part of what we do. So we’ve been developing our training program doing one-on-one sessions with people so that we can start delivering that training online to anybody anywhere. So that’s something I’m really excited about getting going. The other thing that nobody knows about us is that we’ve actually been doing social media investigations as well. Oh, tell us about that. Well there are any number of reasons why, you know, a person or company might need to be investigated and we have the tools to be able to do the online component of that so that’s been a service that it’s been very much behind the scenes, not part of what we openly kind of advertise or disclose that we do but it’s a really interesting field right now. It’s very interesting work, but the field itself again it’s an area where there aren’t a lot of people who have sort of vibed into it yet so that’s pretty exciting work for us as well. That’s innovative and I’m now very worried. Please disconnect me from everything. I actually have a MedicAlert bracelet i’m not allergic to anything or anything. It just says, “Please clear my browser history.” It says that right there and hopefully somebody will read that. I’ll take care of it. Yeah well Jane, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today about Jane Barkley but also about [email protected] because I think you’ve got a real neat opportunity here to have a lot of fun, create a lot of value and retire very wealthy. Yeah well we’ll see about that. So I think we have, you know, a picture of entrepreneurship where it’s going to lead to riches and fame and for me the fun that we get to have and the people that we get to work with I mean on absolutely every end of the spectrum. Again I’m really privileged to be in this field and and so thankful to have the chance to talk to people like you. Well we’re thankful for people like you. Thanks for coming in. Thank you. Well, thank you Jane and thanks for tuning in everybody to AQ’s Blog & Grill. Now you can find Jane online at [email protected] You can also check her LinkedIn profile which has got some great posts on it and check out her YouTube channel because I think she brought up some very good points on how we can use that to develop our own personal voice, our point of view and our personal brand. Key things. So thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you next time. AQ’s Blog & Grill