Becca Wolfley graduated from Ball State University with a B.S. in Advertising (and a minor in Creative Writing) in 2015. After graduation, she worked as a content writer and manager for tech company Lesson.ly until May of 2016, then became the digital copywriter for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis a month later. She continues to work as a creative for the museum’s marketing department while moonlighting as a freelance copywriter.
How did your major and minor lead to your current position? What series of steps did you make after college to get there, and what skills did you learn with us that helped you in that transition?
From my experience as an Ad major, many of my peers didn’t know how to tell a single story in various ways. I suppose that’s how I got here—I was one of the few that could. I thank my creative writing classes for that.
Screenwriting, poetry, English literature…the combination of these classes (and then some) taught me to write practically, write concisely, and interpret critically. Between literature courses and rhetorical analysis with Rai Peterson and abstract, post-modern poetry with Pete Davis, I got the hang of how to write for the perception I desired from multiple audiences without compromising creativity.
By the time I finished college, I had a portfolio of various types of work. In cover letters, it didn’t hurt to show the similarities between a commercial script and a screenplay, or how poetics play a big role in commercial scripting.
My senior year, I branded myself. I created a logo, a color scheme, and used a website platform to tell and show a little bit about me—a “brand voice” as it’s known in the industry. My portfolio consisted of some ads I created while working as a designer and copywriter for Unified Media and some work from past poetry, screenwriting, and TCOM classes. Yes, I even linked people to my Tumblr. Within this work, I showed that I could tell a story with or without images and in an intriguing, entertaining, and persuasive way.
In advertising, you’ll hear “concept” or “big idea” thrown around a lot. It’s an easy way of defining how a campaign should feel and is generally tied in with a single phrase, or a “tagline.” This concept has to work for multiple audiences and mediums. Writers tend to be really good at concepting because they can think broadly and hone context and imagery through various forms, all while maintaining continuity.
For example, writing a flash fiction piece, then using that same piece to write a skit, then using that skit to write a haiku—the same thing happens for advertising copywriters.
Thanks for illustrating so clearly how our students can translate academic skills for the working world!
So, what’s a typical day like for you?
No day is typical. Some days I’m writing a series of social posts for an upcoming event, the next I’m drafting the campaign concept and commercials to be aired across outer-markets; regions like Chicago, Champaign, and Cincinnati. I’m the go-to girl for one-liners, too. Perks of working for a non-profit? Lots of portfolio material. I can’t even keep track of it all.
In the digital segment of the marketing department, I work closely with the digital director (my boss), the social media manager, and a front-end developer to keep content up to date on the website or other areas of presence.
The museum works much like an ad agency in that each department of the museum is a client, e.g., the preschool, our actor/interpreters, and development. I work with their account coordinators to ensure timely and accurate writing in digital promotion.
A few times a week, in substitute for the social media manager, I post to our Instagram Story or Snapchat. We tend to have these planned for every week. When I started, I shadowed the manager to get the hang of our brand voice and presence through social media, but after a trial period, I got to tell the story all on my own!
Lastly, I work with the creative director to create campaign concepts, scripts, taglines, and pretty much anything else you can think of for traditional media like television, radio, and print. Sometimes I even get to be the talent!
Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?
I’m going to try to avoid the typical advice like “keep writing” and “pick your battles”. The former is obvious. The latter is, well, eye-roll worthy.
- If you have time and a credit to spare, take another communications class. I suggest Interpersonal Communications or Persuasion. You’ll be more keen to analyzing why people communicate in the way they do; what their motivations are, their personal biases, their agendas, etc. In turn, you can communicate effectively back and be able to separate logic from emotion and articulate explanations in ways others can understand. This will come in REAL handy in managing proximity of office politics. Fun fact: My persuasion textbook was the only textbook I ever completely read.
- The most-concrete advice I’ve ever been given when it comes to business was from my high school economics teacher, Mr. McDonald. He taught all of his students, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know—then it’s about what you know.” Networking is absolutely necessary. Among the dozens of people you’ll meet, and all the good first-impressions you’ll make, one or two of those people will pursue your talent; they’ll take a chance on you, and a slew of others will vouch for you. When they do, keep proving your worth. Facades are easy to fold. You have to keep building on your credibility. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and deliver well on the ones you can.
- When it comes to your work, pick all the battles you want—but not without a foundation to battle on. Develop rationale for your ideas and weigh it between other rationales. Never be afraid to ask about or challenge an idea. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll lose. Either way, you’re understanding context. The people who tell you “why” something will or will not work are the people you’re going to learn from. Creativity cannot be acutely defined. You constantly have to articulate it. Be logical, tactical, and humble in your approach.
- You’re going to have at least one or two self-perceived huge fails in your career. Nothing like a good fire under your ass to keep you motivated and to teach you how to pivot.
If you want to follow Becca and learn more, here’s how:
Instagram: personal – @beccawolfley / writing – @beyondyourboundaries
And for 1.5 hours of insight on being a creative in the industry, watch this:
Note: Becca will be visiting Cathy Day’s section of Jacket Copy Creative on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017 from 12-12:50 in 291 RB. Please come!