The CMS Blog recently sat down (virtually, of course), with a CMS alum, CJ Saraceno (A11), who is currently hard at work in LA doing exciting social media and branding campaigns through a boutique firm called NCLUSIVE, for clients ranging from well-known celebrities to non-profits to professional athletes. He works to help clients brand themselves in unique, creative ways through social media. The CMS blog had a lot to ask him ranging from his thoughts/philosophy on media in the digital age to his career path in LA. He even gave us some helpful advice for current CMS seniors! In true CMS style, he gave us such thoughtful, articulate answers that they needed no further edits from us – so read on and enjoy!
CMS: How is advertising and marketing evolving in the digital age?
CJS: I like that you use the word evolve. Right now in the social media world, there are these gurus who love to be seen as heralding this rapid transformation of advertising and marketing. I personally don’t think this is the case. The medium has changed, yes. And the message has to adapt to fit the demands of that medium. But the intent is still the same. You’re still working to convince people to purchase, donate, or sign up.
One benefit from this evolution of digital marketing: Social media is now being prioritized by in-house marketing teams. Most people no longer doubt the importance of creating unique and remarkable content on a daily basis. Five years ago, this was not the case.
CMS: And what does this evolution mean in terms of practices, philosophy, outreach and design?
CJS: Practices – Social media allows a brand to have extended conversations with their fans in real time. With this unprecedented level of access, marketers are realizing they can’t just be pitching the product. They can’t be a propaganda machine. They have to share useful, engaging content.
Philosophy – I’d argue that the philosophy is still the same. Companies want to see results. And not just in their number of Facebook Likes. They want sales. The way to boosting sales is by reaching more people and you reach more people when you create photos, videos, infographics, and blog posts that they want to share with their friends.
Outreach – As print media died, blogs rose to take on a major presence in the media landscape. Digital PR is geared towards using these blogs to target customers on a neutral platform. And with this, it’s all about realizing that bloggers want to post things that will get them pageviews because pageviews equal paychecks. Once again, it all comes back to having engaging content.
CMS: We’d love to get a quick overview of your career: what has been your overall path and what has inspired you to make the career transitions you have made?
CJS: Back when I was a sheepish and naive freshman, I had my first meeting with my advisor, Maryanne Wolf. I told her I was in this conundrum where I couldn’t decide between a career in film or business or politics and so I didn’t know what classes to take. She stared at me smiling and explained that I should never just pick one thing and neglect others. Rather, I had a duty to use my time at Tufts to find a way to combine my areas of interest and make a living doing it.
At Tufts, I went ahead and pursued all three (Political Science major, Mass Communications & Media Studies Minor, and film school abroad). Courses like Creative Writing with Marcie Hershman, Consumer Society with Brian Roach, Journey of the Hero with Betsey J. Halpern were so influential. Taking advanced filmmaking courses with Howard Woolf sharpened my ability to construct visual messages. Sophomore year I took Sociology 40: Media and Society with Sarah Sobieraj, where I was introduced us to guys like Rob Walker, Theodor Adorno, and Clay Shirky, who were talking about culture and movements and brands and it was exciting.
I moved to LA because I thought working at a top talent agency would be a good start to a long career in film and branded entertainment. But I got to LA and just heard a lot of horror stories from close friends in regard to the culture at these places and how people have these awful bosses and how sometimes the juice ends up being not really worth the squeeze. Plus, I’ve always considered myself more of an anti-establishment person and everything these top agencies gave off was just the opposite. Except UTA, they always seemed cool.
My first real film gig was on the set of Taken 2, where I was a Production Assistant. Though my day-to-day activities involved a lot of little tasks, long drives, lunch orders, etc., being on set with Liam Neeson and Director Olivier Megaton was a memorable experience. There were of course days where we would be working 16-17 hours and it would fly by because you were surrounded by so many talented professionals. Once that wrapped, I landed a job as an Office PA for Season 3 of Evolution’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. That was another amazing job with amazing people but once again, 13 hour days were the minimum and it involved a lot of grunt work. I think in Hollywood, it’s expected to really pay your dues before you’re given a position of power. I figured I could produce more videos with a switch into the branded entertainment side. That way I could at least be producing web videos, rather hauling equipment and getting appearance releases.
One day on RHOBH we filmed cast member Yolanda Foster meeting these digital consultants from NCLUSIVE inc. I saw the office; the people were cool and their work was incredible. Once my job with Real Housewives ended, I sent a long email to NCLUSIVE, explaining that I would do anything to work there. At the time, they weren’t hiring but the owners still took a meeting with me. I spent two hours in there and the rest is history. I’ve now been a brand content strategist with NCLUSIVE inc. for 6 months, where I coordinate and consult on digital content for brands and nonprofits as well as individual celebrities, athletes, musicians.
CMS: One final question – you probably get this a lot, but any words of advice for current seniors in the CMS program interested in careers in PR/marketing?
– Writing is so important. I took a class with Political Science professor David Art and he had us read Zinsser’s On Writing Well. I recommend it.
– Be proactive. A resume is no longer enough. Do your homework on the companies to which you’re applying. If you want to work somewhere, do something remarkable and send it to them. Do a competitor analysis. Make a video. Create an infographic, a microsite, a Facebook ad campaign, something. Keep sending it to them until you get a response.
– Boost your personal brand. If you apply to a job in anything marketing-related and your social media looks neglected, underused, and unpolished, you’re missing out on a key way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
– Apply to intern with NCLUSIVEinc., We’re based in LA, we’re rapidly expanding, we like people with diverse backgrounds. For more info, I can be reached at CJ.Saraceno@nclusive.com.
Thank you so much Mr. Saraceno!