Recently set up as an independent consultant, Julie Jamis is on a mission to help the organisations and businesses that are addressing climate change to amplify their impact through digital communications.
1. As a woman working in communications within the sustainability sector, can you tell us a little about your background?
When I graduated in 2015, I wasn’t very familiar with sustainability, but I wanted to put all that I had learned at the service of a good cause. I got an incredible opportunity to lead the communications of Bayon School, a French NGO that provides education and career opportunities to underprivileged youth in Cambodia. It was an eye-opening experience on many levels.
At the same time, climate change was becoming an increasingly important issue to me. When I returned from Cambodia, I decided that I would only ever work for organisations that are helping to protect the environment.
In 2017, I moved to the UK and worked with the Soil Association on their annual Organic September campaign. I then joined Greenhouse PR’s digital team and for three years, I worked with some amazing organisations that are addressing the climate crisis – from tackling deforestation in agriculture to protecting wildlife and offering sustainable alternatives to everyday products and services.
2. You’ve recently set up your own business as a Digital Communications Consultant with a focus on sustainability, can you tell us a bit about that transition into working for yourself? What have been some of the challenges and how did you address them?
Going freelance had been in my mind for a while, but it felt like a big move with lots of uncertainties and I lacked self-confidence (impostor syndrome certainly played a part there)! But a few months ago, I wanted to do something new and felt it was the right time to take the leap.
I’ve been enjoying my new way of working a lot and I realised my agency and account management background has really prepared me for this new venture. One of my life goals is to have a good amount of free time for personal projects – especially now as my partner and I are doing up a house – but time management has been a challenge. Achieving a good work-life balance has been a key aspect of my transition but I soon realised that by working for myself, my personal involvement into my work was stronger than ever, and I was working more than before. To protect my own time, I try to be super organised and I work on a fixed part time schedule with allocated working days.
As a freelancer, I also realised I didn’t pause and reflect. When you work on your own, you easily just get your head down and do the client work, without taking a step back and thinking about your own development. I now have a positive routine in place, with a “Power Hour” first thing on Mondays. From 9-10am every Monday, I focus on setting my objectives and priorities for the week, identify an idea or a skill to explore and read a personal development blog (which often takes me to the WINS blog!). I also log off for the weekend on a positive note by listing 3 wins and achievements.
3. What advice would you give to anyone considering setting up their own business? What have you learnt and what would your tips for others be?
Be really clear on your vision and who you’d like to work with – that’s actually a super important learning from a WINS freelancer meet-up! If you know who your dream clients are and how you can serve them, then go for it.
Going freelance and finding your first client can be scary. I spent lots of time creating my website, thinking it would help secure my first few projects, but in the end, it was all about networking and connecting, and one client can lead to another. Get yourself out there and talk to people you know, attend online events, engage with your dream clients on social media. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself about getting clients immediately. You may not make a living in the first few of months, but invest that time into yourself and your business by preparing, building your profile, networking and learning.
4. ‘Purpose’ is huge these days – it seems everyone wants to make a difference beyond profit. How can a truly purpose-driven business rise above the noise and get seen?
Words like ‘purpose’ or ‘sustainability’ are becoming overused and in some ways, can sound meaningless. Instead of talking about commitments and policies that they’re planning on implementing, businesses should just start doing them. Then they can communicate about their actual actions and impact and invite customers and stakeholders to embark with them on a positive, change-making journey.
Employee advocacy is also a unique way of amplifying a business’ messages and building trust. Through their complex algorithms, social media platforms are making it increasingly difficult (and expensive) for businesses to be seen, so employees and spokespeople’s own profiles offer great alternative channels. Messages from individuals often sound more personal and engaging than those that come from businesses. That’s why on LinkedIn, many companies now communicate more effectively via their CEOs and employees’ channels, than via their own company page. Empowering individuals to become advocates, by providing the right tools and training, can have an incredible impact on a business’ communications.
5. Social media and the digital space clearly have a huge impact in how brands can reach people with their messages, what do you think companies should be thinking about for their marketing strategies?
The social media space is crowded, and while a company may offer an amazing idea, product or service, it may not be a scroll-stopper. Attention span on social media is tiny and you only have a few seconds to grab your audience’s attention. The way a business uses branding and visual assets can make a massive difference, so companies should think this through from the start and build powerful visual identity.
Another important aspect to consider is the reciprocity of communications. While many brands talk ‘at people’ and about themselves, I see more and more brands use digital communications as a conversation. Those brands tend to receive more engagements. To do this successfully, learning about your target audience is super important. Research what your audience likes and does, what’s holding them back and what motivates them. Everything you learn will serve your marketing and content strategy.
6. What are the biggest mistakes you see others make when it comes to using social media, either for personal brand awareness or for their business? What should we all be doing instead?
At the early stages of developing a digital strategy, many companies and organisations think they should be on all social channels so that they don’t miss an opportunity. But it can become resource-heavy for little impact. Identifying the best channels and prioritising help ensure time and money will deliver the best results.
In terms of content, we see a lot of posting for the sake of it, with social media posts that don’t answer a clear objective. A simple tip to strengthen a content strategy is to think about the goal and the call to action before creating a piece of content. “What are we trying to achieve here?” can be a powerful question.
Wording is also crucial. Some social media posts can be quite jargony, written in a way that assumes everyone already knows and cares about the topic. One of the things I love doing the most with my clients is helping them pull out key information from complex pieces and turning them into engaging and digestible bites. Twitter’s character count definitely helps with that synthetic approach, and a good exercise is to try and fit a message into a tweet.
7. What is the question you wish people would ask you, and what is your answer?
I wish more people who aren’t taking steps to protect our planet (yet!) would ask how they can do so, because there would be a million answers to that, and while reducing our carbon footprint can seem overwhelming at first, there are many easy ways to do our bit.