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The desire to publish premium content is at the top of the list for today's leading marketers. At PLANOLY, we've made it our mission to build these tools and resources so that we can empower professionals and businesses to create dynamic (and memorable) social content. Today's PLANOLEADER is a leading example of the opportunity that comes when blending a thoughtful brand narrative with beautiful visual storytelling. Enter Courtney Denton. Throughout her career, Courtney has garnered a unique understanding of how to capture the hearts (and likes!) of modern content consumers across a myriad of industries. Her varied experiences in PR, strategy, and art direction have culminated in roles at some of the world's most distinguished brands and agencies. Currently, Courtney is honing in on this hybrid skill-set in her position on the content team at Glow Recipe — a leading skincare brand with a powerhouse Instagram presence. We recently had the opportunity to witness Courtney in action during our visit to the company's bright Manhattan office. In this interview, Courtney discusses her life at Glow Recipe, her most significant learnings from working in brand and agency environments, and her best practices for aspiring Social Media Art Directors.
Please introduce yourself!
Hi, I'm Courtney Denton. I work on the content team at Glow Recipe as the Content Manager, where my role is a mix of art direction and social media strategy. I'm a pretty avid content consumer and creator in my free time, too. Outside of work, you can find me catching up on NPR podcasts, YouTube cooking tutorials, and dabbling in film photography. I'm also a passionate plant parent and self-care enthusiast.
"The desire to publish premium content is at the top of the list for today's leading marketer."
Before Glow Recipe, 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?
I've only been on the Glow team for about three months, but before this, I was a creative at a social media agency for about two years. There, my role was heavily steeped in art direction, and I worked with a team of producers, photographers, and other creatives to execute tons of content monthly, all just for social! The work we made was tailored specifically for our clients' social channels, so everything we did was digital-first. Content wasn't only driven by visual themes; we had to make sure that stories were engaging from every metric, from likes to comments to video completion rates. Prior to that, I was on the global marketing team at Club Monaco for over three years, where I did everything from public relations to influencer strategy, event production, and by the end of my time there, I was handling all social content and strategy, too. Helping to produce Club Monaco's New York Fashion Week shows, while incredibly challenging, were definitely highlights of my work thus far. We would start working on them months in advance, which all began with me collecting samples of literally every single style being released that season so our creative director could put together looks. Then, fast forward to the day of the event, where I was on the ground doing everything from putting the final touches on the space, to helping dress models, and covering the event live on social. Over the first several seasons, I launched Instagram Stories, Instagram Live, and Facebook Live for the brand.
Let's start with your experiences at a brand and agency. How would you describe the creative process and element of planning in both of these environments?
When you're working for a brand, you're not so much following guidelines as you are creating them, which is what I really love. When you're on an in-house team, you learn to live and breathe the brand, which some may find limiting, but in my case, I've been able to have an integral part in growing and building distinctive and diverse brand stories. At an agency, you have the benefit of an entire team with access to the best resources, all with the goal of bringing the craziest ideas to life. We were encouraged to push our ideas to the limit, to think of something that's literally never been done before, regardless of what the client's limitations may be. But when you're working on a client basis, you're not as privy to internal changes. Sometimes timelines would change, and we'd have to throw a fully built concept out the window, which can sometimes feel like wasted effort. But at the end of the day, I learned to push myself and to work well under pressure.
At PLANOLY, we understand the importance of creating compelling visual content — especially with the introduction of our new product, StoriesEdit! Tell us more about what you've learned as an Art Director focusing specifically on social content. What are some of the most commonly overlooked or misunderstood aspects of your role?
Social content is its own animal — it's nothing like traditional advertising. Before the digital age that we're currently in, campaigns were presented to the world on a grand scale without the opportunity for immediate feedback. Now, everyone has a voice, and if what you're making isn't distinctive, relatable, and, most importantly, authentic, it will get lost. I can only hope that my work inspires, brings joy, or even just starts a meaningful conversation.
Give us an overview of your life at Glow Recipe.
I start the week off with a more tactical to-do list. This involves planning out weekly content across all of our channels, making sure we're posting relevant content to Facebook and Twitter three times a day — this is in addition to our daily Instagram posts, weekly YouTube videos, blog posts, and email. I also update our social tracker every week, which makes it really easy to see growth, or lack thereof, week over week, so we know where to focus our efforts or try something new. When we're lucky enough to have a content intern, they help me with this! Then depending on what needs to be done, I could be researching and writing a script, sending edits to our videographer, or shooting products for the site and social, which we do in our in-office studio space.
What's currently on your to-do list?
We're getting ready for a product shoot on location, so I'm working with my content director to secure the location, pull props and put together a shot-list. We'll pull references for lighting and staging, and then we'll all work together on set and see what happens! We also filmed quite a bit of video content last week, so I'll set aside time to review and send through the first round of edits. In addition to Glow Recipe's channel, we also create all content and run the social accounts for Sweet Chef Skincare. We're hoping to shoot for Sweet Chef early next month, so I'm building a photo brief for that as well! It's a newer brand and newer account, so we're excited to experiment and see where we can grow it creatively.
We see on your personal Instagram that you're naturally drawn to beauty. How does that off-duty inspiration make its way into your process when creating and directing content at work?
My beauty routine has become a really important means of self-care, and I like to take the time to know exactly what I'm putting on my skin. I love to talk products — just ask anyone that knows me. One part of the process I've really taken to is nerding out over ingredients and actives, and building on what I already know to write our video scripts and blog posts. Educational content is a big focus for Glow Recipe, and it really comes from an authentic place of wanting to share that knowledge and to empower people to take care of themselves and their skin in the best way possible.
As a consumer of content, what brands do you think are doing it right when it comes to creating compelling, original, and visually-led storytelling?
I love looking at Billie's Instagram (@billie) for inspiration. Their message is almost a bit radical — the idea of razor brand promoting visible body hair almost sounds a bit backward, but it's an incredibly empowering message and, more than anything, an important reminder to not let societal constructs dictate our personal values. In my free time, you can find me watching endless amounts of Bon Appetit videos on YouTube (my roommate can attest to this). I'm a passionate fan of their "Gourmet Makes" and "It's Alive!" series! Not only have they made certified internet celebrities out of their editors, but they've managed to make long-form informative content incredibly entertaining. They have such a distinctive tone, and I've started looking at their on-screen animations for references, which is something I didn't notice until I started editing videos of my own. I also find myself constantly looking at Recess (@takearecess) for design inspiration. CBD is obviously having a moment, and they're using it as an opportunity to be directional, witty, dreamy, and I love it when they get weird and really push the envelope. Sometimes I forget they're just advertising a drink.
What are your top best practices for aspiring Social Media Art Directors looking to create successful social media content?
1. First and foremost, be authentic. There are so, so many accounts that just copy and paste what's working for other brands. Start with a little soul searching; identify what it is that makes you, your brand, or your product distinctive and shout it from the rooftops, both visually and tonally.
2. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box or try something radically different. The worst thing that could happen is that it doesn't perform, in which case you learn from it and move on.
3. And most importantly, listen to your followers! We have an amazingly engaged community on Glow Recipe, and not only do they help us make better products, but they also help us make better, more worthwhile content.