Tara is a Marketing Manager at Benecomms. She is the team’s resident social media expert and masterfully helps her clients elevate their campaigns, marketing presence, and leads.
Originally from New York, Tara is currently based in Charlotte, NC, where she obtained her Master’s in Communication Studies, graduating with honors.
Passionate, dynamic, and always ready to jump in, Tara recently sat down to take us through her role and experience.
Q: What led you to Benecomms?
For a long time now, I've known that I wanted to do marketing and public relations on behalf of the climate. When I was in school and I was thinking about the industry that I wanted to work in, I knew that environmentally conscious work would make me most fulfilled. I didn’t think that I’d be able to work in climate so soon in my career, but then I saw an opening at Benecomms. Benecomms is oriented in sustainability and serving companies that are in the climate space, and I knew that I had found something special.
You mentioned that a giant motivator of yours is advocating for the environment through your marketing work. What are your other top few motivators in work and in life?
Climate change is the biggest ongoing problem we are facing collectively. Long before working at Benecomms, environmental protection, sustainability and ocean conservation were such big motivators for me. My favorite movie growing up was Free Willy — it made me bawl so hard. I started developing more of a passion for land conservation and environmental protection as I learned more and more about the environmental issues of our time. My aunt is a geologist and we shared that passion together. Before I was doing this professionally it was a personal passion of mine for a really long time.
Professionally, what drives me is making a difference. When I was younger, I knew that I wasn't going to be happy doing work for the sake of having work to do. I knew that whatever was to come, I wanted it to mean something and contribute to the larger environmental narrative. Whatever I do, I want it to make a positive impact in the world around me.
When did you know that marketing, social media, and branding would combine with your passion for the environment?
I didn't know initially. I went to school for my first dream, acting, but I decided not to get a degree in theater arts because I didn’t want the extremely grueling hours and constant uphill struggle. I knew that my primary strengths were my communication and storytelling skills, and a natural alternative for me when I decided on changing my major was marketing and public relations.
As I finished college, I realized that I didn't have to market shampoo or cat food and that I could tie the stories I had been telling through marketing, social media, and public relations to my environmental passions and use my platform to do good. What’s more, I learned that there aren't many public relations and marketing firms that are solely dedicated to environmental protection.
Q: What advice would you give someone just starting out in your field?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to approach marketing. What we’re taught in school is extremely valuable, but don’t get too caught up with figuring out “the right way to market,” because marketing is different in every situation.
If you have the foundational skills, understanding and vocabulary needed for marketing, you’ll find that there's a surprising amount of creative freedom in, for example, deciding on strategies for certain kinds of clients or industries. What's really important is being knowledgeable about your brand and understanding its voice and identity. For instance, not every social media platform is going to be the right fit for your brand, and it might not have a presence on some. I want to ease the minds of people just beginning in the field - there are lots of ways to approach this work.
Are there often differences between what you expect from a company and what they want from you as a brander?
Sure. With Benecomms, when clients come to us for public relations and ask us to improve their visibility, they’re often only focused on building awareness. In the early stages of the marketing funnel we focus on spreading their messages and introducing them to the public, with the end goal being to ultimately make them conversions or sales.
Some companies come to us with an idea of where they most need support, and it's our job as marketing professionals to take their objectives a step further, analyze their situations and identify what steps of the marketing funnel they’re really in. A client might think that it needs public relations, but our job is to realize that a lot of people may already know about the brand and that we need to focus on sealing the deal with an existing audience, which is more in the marketing lane. That's where there can be some dissonance between abrand’s ideas of what they need versus our knowledge as marketing professionals.
Q: What is one of your biggest marketing or social media management successes?
A giant personal success of mine was my development of a white paper on social media tools, trends, and opportunities. I conducted primary research with professionals that are in the social media, marketing, and public relations industries, and I was able to interview people from different states, of varying ages, social media job titles, and experience levels in order to survey the outlook for social media over the next few years. I asked them about trends they were seeing in social media and the tools they were using. I'm really proud of that project - it’s one of my best pieces of thought leadership.
Q: What are some of the newest changes in social media? What should the layperson know about using social media?
There’s been a recent shift in the way that we view certain social media metrics and analytics. The average social media user is conditioned to think that the number of followers or likes they receive speaks to how well they're doing on a given platform, but those attributes are considered vanity metrics; they really don’t tell the full story. They don’t show real engagement.
Somebody can like your post in passing or by accident, but if they're not sharing it, commenting on it, having conversations about it, tagging you, downloading from links, going to a landing page, or making conversions off of your content, they’re not truly engaging with your social media presence.
One trend that most of the professionals in my research indicated was that brands are now much more focused on engagement rather than vanity metrics. That also speaks to the importance of quality over quantity. Users used to put tons of posts in front of their audiences in order to overwhelm them with sheer volume of content. Now, brands are focused on creating quality content that's going to result in conversions and manifest the level of engagement that's actually going to produce market-qualified leads.
Q: What’s one memory that stands out from your time at Benecomms?
We did a StoryBrand workshop at the Benecomms headquarters in Wake Forest, NC, in May 2021, during which I met almost all of the Benecomms team in person. Benecomms does mostly virtual work, so although we see a lot of each other on-screen, it was my first time meeting most of my coworkers in person.
We had a great time, and the StoryBrand workshop format has now become a staple of a lot of the communications that we do and content that we create. The Storybrand process helps brands reimagine the way they write content with specific target audiences in mind. It's often tempting as a brand to try to deliver to too many people at once instead of targeting the one or two audiences that drive your revenue. It's important to cater tothose audiences specifically, based on their needs.
On my way to Wake Forest, my tire popped and I was stuck on the side of the highway for a few hours before getting there. Crazy trip, for sure.
Q: What are two or three of the most difficult parts of your job?
One of the more challenging, and simultaneously exciting, parts of my job is oscillating between clients in my daily workflow. That's typical of any agency — the work is satisfying and it fuels us to get things done, which requires skillful multitasking. Connected to that is the fact that each brand has different needs, and being able to shift between completely different clients and tasks can be tricky.
One client that I'm working on right now needs CRM and workflows, and it doesn’t need the deliverables like email newsletters and social media that some of our other clients are leveraging. Being able to shift gears from one minute to the next can be challenging, but the sense of success and accomplishment that comes at the end makes it well worth it.
Q: If you had one year to write a book, what would it be about?
Explaining climate change in a way that children will be able to understand and will educate them about environmental advocacy at a young age. It’s been a challenge convincing adults to care enough about climate change to do something about it, and I hope that I can make a difference in how future generations think by helping parents raise children who will be environmental changemakers. If I had a year to write a book, that's exactly the book that I would write, and I'm in the process of doing that!
Q: If you had one comic book superpower, what would it be?
I like to go big or go home, so if I were to have a superpower, it wouldn’t just be talking to animals (though that would be super cool). I would probably want to be able to manipulate all of the elements! Think Thor, but not just thunder and lightning.
Q: What is one principle that you live by?
A few years ago, I read a study that found that our personalities are set when we reach a much younger age than I would have expected. I took that as a challenge. I didn't like the idea that our personality traits are determined so young, and somethingthat I live by is that it’s never too late for us to be the best versions of ourselves. We should be working every day to be the best that we can be because when we believe that our identities are set, we give ourselves excuses to act however we want with no regard for how we treat other people. We should acknowledge our less-favorable traits and work hard to improve them, every single day.