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HERstory: Nicole Phillip

Senior Social Media Manager @ The Hustle
Nicole Phillip headshot

Welcome back to our HERstory series, where we share insightful narratives of influential women in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair because we’ve been hanging out with Nicole Phillip, the Senior Social Media Manager at The Hustle. She’s got her roots in journalism, was part of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, and has brought a bucket load of passion and smarts to the world of tech and finance social media.

Nicole shares how she made the leap from journalism to social media, how to stay sane in the always-connected world of social, and her secret sauce for standing out on LinkedIn.

Let’s dive in!

You have a rich background in journalism and have been involved in impactful projects like the 1619 Project at the New York Times. How have your journalistic roots influenced your approach to social strategy at The Hustle?

Once you work for a legacy publication like The New York Times, your sensitivity for truthfulness and ethics is heightened to almost annoying levels, haha. At every job, I’m hypersensitive to accuracy, so when I’m sharing content, especially social-first posts that were not curated by our editorial team, I’m constantly checking to make sure I am being truthful and fair.

As for my work on The 1619 Project, that time was a pivotal step in my personal brand focused on race and intersectional feminism. It gave me a clearer understanding of the role of Black Americans in the foundation of America (I am a first-generation American and like to make that clear so as to not come off as a representative of those who descended from chattel slavery in the U.S.) and embolden me to strive for fair DI&B practices everywhere I work and in all the content I create. I am careful about word and image choice and I constantly double-check with colleagues when I’m not sure if something I am interested in creating could have any insensitivity toward marginalized groups.

You mentioned a significant learning curve when transitioning from journalism to social media, especially for a tech/finance audience. What specific tips would you give to someone looking to make a similar transition?

So, this particular learning curve was more about a transition from the news industry with a focus on general news and/or race to the tech industry where I knew next to nothing about business and tech news. In my previous roles, I worked on social media but for a very different audience. 

As far as tips when coming to a big change, remember that you were chosen for this role regardless of what you may not know about the industry or job. As long as you fairly represented yourself in the interview process, then you can rest assured that whoever hired you knew you’d be the best fit. From there, you have to give yourself the grace to take your time and learn.

Thankfully, my role as a social media manager is to translate the work of people much better versed in the subject than myself for a social media audience. And that skill transcends industries. It’s important to work closely with those who are keyed in and you have to have a desire to learn. Follow the heavy hitters on social media to learn how they move in the space and what lingo and trends are circulating. It’ll take time, but you’ll soak it up before you know it.

While you’re a team of one working on social for The Hustle, you also get to collaborate with an editorial team. What does that process look like? 

The editorial team serves as a great gut-check for my social-first content since I’m not a business/tech expert. They provide a second set of eyes on anything that I might be on the fence about to make sure the information is accurate or strikes the right tone for the audience.

The great thing about HubSpot though is that I can operate pretty independently and don’t need to have frequent checks on my work. I’m trusted to put out good content and to reach out if I have questions. For the way I like to work, this is great.

A piece of advice we’ve heard you give to people wanting to work in social media is to be aware that it can be mentally taxing because it requires you to always be connected and always informed. How do you handle creative burnout when you’ve hit your max?

I take a break! HubSpot has a flexible work-life balance. If I’m creatively burnt out in the middle of the day, I’m encouraged to take a break and pick back up when I’m in the right headspace. I also take vacations as needed and truly take advantage of our unlimited PTO.

Because I’m also building my personal brand, full social media breaks don’t necessarily work for me, but years ago, I made sure to curate most of my social media feeds with the type of content creators who make me happy. I’m also not afraid to mute people I can’t fully unfollow but whom I find myself constantly comparing myself to (they’ll never know!). And I only follow people that make me feel psychologically safe.

As a journalist turned social strategist, you have an incredible knack for finding unique angles in larger news stories that apply to the Hustle’s audience. Do you have any tips or methods for extracting relevance from current events for a specific audience?

I am very online, so when I read a Hustle story that I want to share on social, I look out for bits of information that are generally circulating in the cultural zeitgeist so we can add to the conversation. On social, it is extremely difficult to start a brand new conversation on a topic no one was discussing before. So it’s helpful to see how a story can connect to trends and topics that pop up regularly in the cultural discussion. I also view myself as the general audience member, so I look out for bits of information that stick out the most to me and usually use that as my hook. My gut feeling is usually pretty accurate.

Everyone is talking about AI and you share that you use it for content creation and to ease your workflow. What generative AI tools have you found valuable in your day-to-day work? Any prompts you could share?

I currently use HubSpot’s content assistant and prior to the creation of that, I used ChatGPT. I’m also taking a generative AI course soon courtesy of The University of North Carolina. I don’t have any prompts I am at liberty to share, but I can say that I use these chatbots to help with content ideation, summaries, and script writing. But it’s important to know that generative AI is imperfect so fact-checking is a must and you cannot use AI-generated copy word-for-word as it is usually very rudimentary and not how humans speak.

You’ve managed to attract recruiters’ attention on LinkedIn, leading to your last few jobs. Apart from keeping your profile up-to-date, what strategies would you suggest for standing out from the crowd?

Use keywords in your headline. Connect with people of similar fields to boost your following and clout. Contribute to thought leadership as well and share others’ content. Be active as you would on other social media platforms. Endorse others for their skills if you are familiar with their work and ask them to do the same for you. Share any of your big projects as well. If a recruiter reaches out with a role you’re not interested in, you shouldn’t leave them on read. You never know if they’ll have something else for you in the future.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to use the “looking for work” status. If you are currently employed, LinkedIn takes some steps to make sure recruiters at your current company cannot see (though it’s not a guarantee).

The tech and finance industries are often critiqued for their lack of diversity. As a woman of color, how have you navigated these spaces? What would be your advice to other women+ of color aspiring to make their mark in these fields?

It was definitely a culture shock to experience what it is like to work in this heavily while-male centric field. My advice to others would be to not be afraid to take up space. You’re here. They’ll have to get used to it. 

Unfortunately, sometimes we will have to work “twice as hard” and be “twice as good” to be taken seriously. But, it’s also important to learn to mimic the finesse of mediocrity of those with privilege whom we’ve all seen ascend with little to no skill or effort. Learn to talk to the talk before you can walk the walk. Be in the important conversations. Navigate rooms with the top dogs. Be seen. Show up where you’re “not supposed to be.” You might be surprised that if you tell people who you are, they’ll believe you.

HubSpot consistently ranks as one of the best companies to work for. From employee autonomy to their commitment to DEI, we know these are all elements known to attract women in leadership roles. How significantly did these factors influence your decision to join HubSpot?

This was probably the main factor in my decision. HubSpot’s Culture Code makes it stand out among every company I have ever worked for. DI&B is important to me and that commitment is especially important in the tech and business sector. It helps to feel psychologically safe. 

Lastly, what’s your favorite social account to follow?


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