Graduate story: Faye Turnbull Journalism grad to Head of Social Media (UK) @ RT

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12 September 2017 | By Billy Dowling-Reid From an original article on Mediargh


Faye graduated with a BA (Hons) in Journalism from the University of Sunderland in 2010, before going on to complete internships with Warner Bros. Records and the following year. Faye has been involved with social media campaigns for MTV’s Geordie Shore, BBC Music Awards 2014 and The BRIT Awards 2015. More recent roles include being a Social Media Producer at MTV, leading the largest ever social media vote #MTVStars 2015 achieving over 1-billion votes, before becoming the Social Media Manager for the Huffington Post. Faye joined news network RT as their Head of Social Media for the United Kingdom in November 2016.

What was your experience of making the transition from being a journalism student to building the beginnings of a career in social media?

Faye: I was never particularly sure what I wanted to do after school, I did a degree in Journalism, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t for me.

During my uni years, I started a music webzine with a bunch of friends called Change The Record using a really basic WordPress template. This involved interviewing punk rock bands and writing album and live reviews – basically an excuse to meet our favourite bands and get into shows for free!

I was obsessed with social media and started promoting our interviews and reviews across all relevant platforms, including MySpace (my first love), Facebook, Twitter,, etc. Change The Record was key in landing my post-uni internship at Warner Bros. Records in digital marketing, which kick started my career in social media.

In the six years between graduating and arriving at RT, you worked a variety of roles at The Huffington Post, MTV, Somethin’ Else and more. What have been some of the highlights that you would pick out from throughout this stretch of time?

Faye: Probably my proudest accomplishment is achieving over 1-billion votes in MTV UK’s annual social media competition #MTVStars in 2015, becoming the biggest vote ever on Twitter, and I still think it holds that record.

Last year, I also managed to get Jeremy Corbyn to take over HuffPost UK’s Snapchat account, which I launched, during his Labour leadership campaign against Owen Smith.

A personal highlight was managing to get a photo of One Direction’s Harry Styles, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay’s Chris Martin posing together backstage during the first BBC Music Awards in 2014 for the event’s social channels. I may or may not have fan-girl’d when meeting Harry Styles…

Do you have any advice to share regarding tips you’ve picked up over the years of applying for jobs? CVs, cover letters, job interviews etc.

Faye: Even though I’ve worked for some amazing companies, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had a million job rejections and terrible interviews – believe me, I have! But you have to learn not to get too disheartened and carry on applying.

Finishing uni and trying to get a foot in the door is daunting. During my early interviews, I had several where my anxiety would play up, my mind would go blank, I would stutter all the way through and turn bright red, but I kept on applying and going for interviews. I honestly believe everything happens for a reason and that those bad experiences were learning curves, which helped build my confidence.

Presenting examples of successful social media campaigns I have worked on has proven to be a hit. Not only does this show what you can do, but it also shows what you can bring to another company.

I have also found success in not being afraid to give constructive criticism while also suggesting possible solutions. I have been in interviews where I feel like I have completely roasted a brand’s social media and got the job!

In terms of CVs and cover letters, keep them brief and relevant – you can probably leave off that paper round you had when you were 12… CVs should be no more than 1-2 pages. I keep mine to 1 page. Use basic, readable fonts (no Comic Sans) and avoid typos.

Also, wear trousers during Skype interviews!

Pics: BBC Music and Somethin’ Else

Working in senior roles at brands such as MTV, Huffington Post and RT, what sort of qualities would you expect from someone who wants to join those companies at a junior/intern level? What sort of candidates stand out from the crowd and make you want to work with them?

Faye: I always get asked if having a degree is necessary for a career in social media, and in short, no it’s not. Luckily, my degree in Journalism has kind of served a purpose as I work within a newsroom at RT – but don’t waste your time doing degrees in social media or anything like that in order to pursue a career in social media.

To me, experience, personality, and drive are way more important than a degree.

Of course, when you’ve just finished school or university, you’re looking for that experience to add to your CV, and this is where you need to be proactive – for example, when I started my webzine during uni. If you’re looking to get into a career in music, you could also start a webzine. If you’re looking to get into politics/news, start a podcast. If you’re looking to get into lifestyle journalism, start a lifestyle blog or vlog.

I have recently hired for a social media video role at RT UK, and I would say the winning factors were experience, technical ability, as well as his ambition and confidence to be critical and offer solutions to improve our social content.

What have been some of your highlights and key learning experiences since joining RT in 2016 as their Head of Social Media in the UK?

Faye: Within the first month of the role, I had the opportunity to travel to Moscow, Russia for a week to visit RT’s main headquarters and to meet the digital team over there, which was such a great experience – despite the temperature being -18C!

2017 has been an incredibly busy year, not only with the General Election, but also the series of terrible terror attacks (Westminster, London Bridge, Manchester, etc.) and other tragic events such as the Grenfell Tower fire. The UK social media team is very small, so we have definitely learned to be more efficient and resourceful.

Working at RT, especially in this political climate, has certainly been interesting. RT, as a news organisation, is definitely misunderstood and I have enjoyed building a strong and loyal following on our social media channels, as well as, hopefully, changing people’s perceptions of RT.

One of the best things about working for RT, believe it or not, is the freedom we have in terms of social output and creativity.

Thinking back to your university days beginning in 2007, what advice would you give to your younger, student self, or to anyone else looking to build a career similar to yours?

Faye: Don’t take job rejections so personal and remain positive – something will come along as long as you don’t give up.

Apply for that job NOW – the ad won’t be up forever!

Be proactive with your spare time, whether that’s starting a webzine like me, or podcast, or YouTube channel, something that will make you stand out.

Both social media and working in a newsroom aren’t 9-5 jobs, and while a work/life balance is most definitely important, there will be times where you should intuitively go that extra mile.

Be confident and believe in yourself, don’t be afraid to give criticism, but also don’t be afraid to take criticism.

If you screw up once in a while, it’s not the end of the world. Social media isn’t brain surgery, no one is going to die from a wrongly-scheduled Facebook post.

At the beginning of my career, I did several internships for free, and although they were great experience, I would advise you not to do internships for free. Know your worth!

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