Today's featured PLANOLEADER is rewriting the rules when it comes to building a dynamic and digitally- driven career. Enter Lydia Mansel, a writer at heart, who is currently lending her expertise in storytelling in the social and editorial content departments at Draper James. Founded by Reese Witherspoon, Draper James is a Southern-inspired lifestyle brand which has presented new and exciting opportunities for Lydia to truly get creative. While Lydia spends the majority of her day planning, producing, and creating content across the brand's social channels, she kindly made some time for us to spend a morning observing her in action at the Draper James New York office. There, we got a chance to learn more about Lydia's professional background, along with her thoughts on managing social media for a brand founded by a celebrity. Enjoy the full interview below.
Please introduce yourself!
My name is Lydia Mansel, and I'm currently the social + editorial manager at Reese Witherspoon's Southern lifestyle brand, Draper James, as well as a freelance editor and writer for a couple of different publications. I've been in New York for a little over three years now, having moved here from Virginia after graduating with a degree in American Studies from the College of William & Mary. When I'm not working (which is rare since I work in social media!), you can find me reading the latest best-seller, running through the West Village, or rewatching "The Office" on Netflix.
Before Draper James, what were you up to professionally, what role did digital play in your job description, and what have been some notable moments throughout your career so far?
My first job out of college was a copy editor position at Elite Daily. I'll tell anyone who will listen about how crucial this role was in my career; I had an amazing boss who taught me the ins and outs of grammar, writing headlines and producing content on the Internet. It was a solid foundation block I've been able to constantly build on over the years. After ten months as a copy editor, I became the senior news editor--a position that really allowed me to grow as both an employee and a leader. I hit the ground running and hired a team I ran for a year before eventually transitioning to the social editor position at Elite Daily. Leaving my news and entertainment team was definitely a tough decision--I loved every second of finding stories, developing angles, and writing headlines that would guarantee thousands of clicks--but I knew it was time for a change. A couple of things influenced this decision and pushed me in the social direction:
- I had stopped learning in my position as the senior news editor; I was no longer challenged and no longer adding to my skillset.
- I had the chance to work with a new, experienced boss I knew I would learn a ton from.
- I needed to make myself more valuable on the job market.
What would you say are the biggest differences between your role as a social editor at a media company versus a consumer goods brand? What do you love the most about each of these environments?
The biggest difference between my social role at a media company versus a consumer goods brand is the amount of planning each job requires. As the social editor at Elite Daily, I would wake up each morning, not sure what I was going to post, and create and share a meme on Instagram from my bed. I'd come to work, where I'd post three times an hour on our Facebook page, not knowing which breaking news or entertainment story would "blow up" on Facebook that day. At Draper James, it's a completely different story. We have our editorial calendar planned out months in advance, and my social calendar is usually (if I'm all caught up!) filled out for the next couple of weeks. While I certainly appreciated the independence and flexibility I had at Elite Daily, the structure of Draper James has refined my organizational skills, as well as my data and project management skills.
"We have our editorial calendar planned out months in advance,
& my social calendar is usually filled out for the next couple of weeks."
What is your favorite element of crafting the social identity for the Draper James brand? Who is the Draper James woman and what role does social media play in her life?
I love creating a consistent story. Since I also plan, produce, and write all of our blog features and compose our email copy, it's exciting when everything (product, influencer seeding, Reese's calendar, etc.) perfectly aligns to give our audience and customers an interesting, cohesive message. The Draper James woman is well-educated, family-oriented, and loves to dress well. For her, social media is all about a place to escape, a place to see something pretty, and a place to see her life reflected in a larger channel. My job is to strike a balance between actually selling the product and making the Draper James social platforms, particularly Instagram, a destination for all things Southern and pretty.
What would you say is a career highlight from your time at Draper James that really embodies the essence of your role?
Taking over the Love, Reese blog and email copy have definitely been the biggest highlight so far. I love the challenge social media provides (particularly in the current digital landscape), but at my core, I'm a writer. Right now, my role combines the best of both worlds.
What is the most unique aspect of crafting a content strategy for a celebrity-founded brand? Do you find it challenging to seamlessly speak to the customer while also keeping Reese's POV or voice in mind?
We're very lucky because Reese's POV/voice is the reason Draper James was founded, so creating content and posting across the Draper James channels naturally aligns with everything Reese is about. We do have the challenge of making sure our social calendar stays close to the inventory; whenever Reese wears something, it tends to sell out almost immediately. The "Reese factor" is just something we always have to keep in mind, especially when it comes to when and what we post.
When it comes to planning, what are your top tips for those who may be looking to refine their content strategy?
1. Know your audience. At Elite Daily, I was the audience (a 20-something female who loved the Internet and memes). At Draper James, I had to get to know our audience. Although I am Southern, the Draper James woman is slightly older and has a style different from my own. But through testing out different types of content on our social channels, I've learned what she loves and responds to.
2. Never underestimate the power of a quote, witticism, or meme. When you hit the nail on the head, the engagement will pour in.
3. Be flexible. Build a content strategy that is rock solid, but also nimble. You never know when some unexpected event or factor will change your posting cadence or schedule.