By Amanda Richards
Eight weeks ago, right as the quarantine began in New York City, approximately 10 members of the Universal Standard staff received some version of the following Slack message from me:
Hey! Would you be interested in shooting some content for our social feed? Obviously, everyone is stuck at home and we can’t shoot anything right now outside of mirror selfies, but I was hoping to use staff members to create some content for our channels! Absolutely no pressure at all to say yes, but let me know if you’re into it, and I can send you whatever product you need!
I was trying to solve a very immediate problem: we were no longer able to shoot models, had no time to put together a traditional influencer marketing campaign, and needed to create content to show off some of our new merchandise. For me — the person who runs our social feed and manages our influencers — the idea of “creating content” is relatively straightforward. Just put on the clothes, stand in front of the mirror, and take a picture. If you’re feeling extra fancy, use your tripod or prop your phone up on the back of the chair.
However, for some of our staff members, it was a novel idea — after all, just because you work at a fashion brand doesn’t mean you’re into taking selfies and sharing them with 124,000 people. But, when faced with a global pandemic, what you do on a day-to-day basis at work changes quite a bit. Every single member of our team has had to extend themselves beyond the normal scope of their job descriptions — even if that meant becoming an influencer of sorts.
Thankfully, everyone I asked to “influence” on behalf of the brand was incredibly generous with their time and efforts. With the smallest amount of direction, they created some truly adorable content for our Instagram feed and site. This even applies to the staff members who ended up...not loving the whole content creation thing. Retail Experience Manage Kate Carroll was up for the challenge, but quickly learned that she “absolutely loathed” making content for social. Luckily, her enraged blooper reel actually turned into some top-notch social content. You can see it here, if you’re interested. Highly recommend.
A week ago, another member of our team also extended herself beyond the parameters of her job description to become the face of our brand new TikTok channel. Karlee Hehemann is our copywriter, and though she’d planned on starting and growing the platform before COVID hit, she’d originally thought she’d be creating content with influencers, on set, and in the office. Now, she’s TikTok’s one and only, creating videos out of her living room.
“It’s a rapidly growing platform,” she explains, “Especially for fashion. For US, I saw an opportunity to have some fun. TikTok is high-key addicting, and it pushes me to see what’s trending and how I can write to that, and translate that to my actual job of copywriter.”
I also asked her how she feels about being the solo TikTok influencer. She answered as diplomatically as possible.
“I’m eager to get my coworkers creating content.”
And, seeing as I’ve tapped her to create content for Instagram approximately once a week, I can only happily oblige.
As the person responsible for growing our social channels and putting content out into the world, I’m immensely grateful to work with people who are willing to switch gears and do what’s needed, when it’s needed, and at least pretend to be having fun in the process. We’ve also gotten back to working with professional influencers, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Still, there are content gaps to fill, and for those, I will continue to sheepishly approach the gracious members of the team and hope they haven’t grown too annoyed with me to say yes. Additionally, I create a large amount of content for the brand myself, and hope that no one I work with gets sick of seeing my face on our site and social channels. It’s not a perfect way of working, but it’s one that speaks to the nimbleness and flexibility of a small, dedicated team working together to create something good in a time of fewer resources — not influencers, per say, but absolutely influential in our efforts to keep moving forward.