Interview by Alexis Rai Gaynor, Editor in Chief of The Rai Report
Erin Turner started her career in the entertainment industry at ESSENCE, where she was responsible for social media and community management. In 2016, Turner transitioned to Los Angeles where she currently works within Marketing and Social Media for The Oprah Winfrey Network. In this role, she is responsible for managing network social channels, live event coverage, managing content and communication for selected social media channels, and monitoring for strategic engagements and activations. Erin is a graduate of Elon University where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communications and her Master of Arts in Interactive Media.
Erin is an advocate for mentoring minority youth, specifically young women. She spends her free time managing a non-profit organization that she co-founded; Hues of Excellence, volunteering, traveling, enjoying a glass of wine, and spending time with family and friends.
Erin is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and hails from the DMV.
Hi Erin, thank you so much for interviewing with The Rai Report. What's a typical day of work within Marketing and Social Media at an Emmy-award winning network?
It depends on what is going on at the time. Usually, I come in touch base with the team and figure out what's happening. I do a lot of community management so going onto the social media profiles, reaching out and talking to people, getting a sense of what people are talking about online. Then, I'll cut clips, gifs, and promos for our on-air shows. There are things that pop-up last minute and I'll have to shift my schedule around but that's just the life of social media and you must be flexible.
What is a successful tip for navigating social media?
It's a lot of self-education. You should sign up for newsletters and articles to tap into what is happening in the world of social media. You should research stuff on your own. Learning is an everyday thing. I am always trying to figure out what is new and what is the next best thing for tomorrow. Today is technically over by the time you get into the office. My personal favorite entertainment and social media news trades are The Hollywood Reporter, Cynopis, Adweek, Mashable Social Media, Digiday, and HuffPost Tech.
What has been your most favorite moment in your career so far?
My move [to California] and my ability to feel something inside of me saying "there's more out there." So often we doubt ourselves but when I realized that I can do the things that I put my mind to, it gave me a newfound love for myself. Needless to say, I don't have a defining moment from Essence or my current job--Overall, it' my ability to say, "Okay, I had this dream and I was able to experience it. Now, it's time to move to the next dream and always continue to grow".
That ability will take you far. My move to New York and the creation of The Rai Group International were both nested in me knowing that I wanted more than what I was experiencing and believing in myself enough to work and grow into what I want to be.
What was it like to decide to move from the east coast to the west coast for your career goals?
When I started becoming more serious about the move from NYC to LA, it was a lot of going back and forth mentally. I was in theory, leaving my “dream job” [in New York City] to move to a completely new area, so it was a scary transition and out of my comfort zone to be completely honest. I didn’t know what to expect. I ended up making the transition and it worked out. I always think back on it like - it was God who ordained everything to happen the way that it did. Literally, within a week of me moving here, I received that job which is a blessing within itself because a lot of times, people who transition to California are without a job for months at a time. Don't get me wrong, it wasn’t an easy transition. It took a lot of prayers to get me through but in the long run, I always say that I never want to look back on life and not have experienced it. I’d rather say “I did it” rather than “I wish I had of done it” because you can’t go back and change time.
Yes, that’s also a big thing for myself. Anytime that I have a doubt, I say “Okay, if you look back on your life and you did not do this, how will you feel?” and that lights a fire under me every time I ask myself that question because I do not want to live with regrets. I never want to feel like “I should have… could have… would have…”. We are as young as we are ever going to be right now so I tell myself that I don’t want to struggle with my conscience later. If you have the idea, it was given to you for a reason, just act on it right now. The worst thing that can happen is you not getting the results that you were looking for but you still learn the lesson.
That’s so true. You can at least talk about that experience and what you had. You always gain something from every experience in life so nothing should ever be seen as a regret, rather just a lesson that you’ve learned.
You mentioned that leaving Essence was like leaving your “dream job” at the time. What was your dream job as a young girl?
When I was a younger I wanted to be a chef. I used to always watch the Food Network Channel and I had the whole shebang going on and then I realized that wasn’t a God-given gift for me-I can’t cook. I decided to put that dream aside and that’s when I started to pursue a career in communications, specifically marketing. When I was in college, I made it a priority to get an internship every summer. I actually got offered a summer internship at Essence and I ended up not taking it because another opportunity came up. That just further proved that everything works out in God’s timing. It's important to me to stay tuned to His voice because he always provides.
That's so cool. I listen to Oprah's Super Soul Sunday Podcast which just came out. I just finished listening to the Tony Robbins episode today and Orpah mentioned that "Nothing happens to you, everything happens for you" and while I already have that belief, I have never heard it spoken in those words. I wanted to share that because you mentioned timing and I believe that timing is a major part of believing that things happen FOR you.
What's been the greatest challenge in your career thus far and how have you overcome it?
My age. Ava Duvernay thought I was 14 the first time we met. (laughs) I tend to be the youngest in the room, and there are moments where I feel like an imposter, but that's self-doubt and something I have grown out of. You belong in every room you're in and even those you have to invite yourself into. At the very beginning of my career, I had the privilege of being able to learn from many powerful black women at Essence and I quickly embraced all the #BlackGirlMagic I was around. As young professionals, we sometimes have doubt because we are still learning. We're still getting the groove of things so make sure that you put the doubt aside and come to work every day with your A game. Willing to learn, willing to admit "I don't know everything," and willing to always show up ready to grow and contribute to conversations.
You hit so many key points in your response. From the imposter comment, which I can relate to, especially being an entrepreneur and exploring this space that I envisioned differently when I was younger- to believing in yourself, understanding that you are given grace for a reason and when the opportunities show up, you have to move, no matter what they are. Being open to learning and understanding that there is always something for you to learn but also understand that having to learn doesn't mean that you do not know enough to be in that position.
We come out of school and we feel like we are expected to know everything. Honestly, when you come out of school, that's when the learning really begins. That's when you really start to drive into the industry of your choice. That's when you have to be vulnerable to say that you need help when you need help but also be strong enough to carry your own weight, do what you need to do, and do it well.
What's the greatest piece of advice that you've ever received from another woman?
One of my mentors always tells me, "you hesitate and you lose." If you second guess something or if you do not act in the moment, the opportunity will pass you by. That's something that I always have in the back of my head.
That is great advice. I'm going to remember that. Thank you.
Social media is such an integral part of most people's lives. With your career, is it possible for you to ever completely unplug? How do you deal with that?
My job requires me to be on social media often. I feel bad when I am with my friends and family and I am always on my phone working. It's hard to unplug but sometimes, you have to force yourself to in the moment. Time is a gift. Yesterday is gone, today is halfway gone, and tomorrow isn't here yet. When you are so fixated on your phone, you lose a sense of reality. When I can, I put my phone to the side or put it away altogether. You have to unplug because you'll go crazy if you don't and that is with any industry.
What advice would you give woman looking to develop a career in the marketing and social media industry?
I always tell people to "create the opportunities you want and when you do say 'yes' to opportunities, make sure that they align with what you want to do longterm". Be true to who you are. If you're passionate about cooking and social media, go to a restaurant and offer your services as it relates to social. Companies may not have a budget but you can intern for them and put it on your resume. People are still trying to figure out social media. It's fairly new for businesses and people are always looking for ways to be innovative. As you create innovative social strategies for companies, make sure you are being creative in the way that you seek these opportunities that may not be posted on career sites.
That's excellent advice.
Also, you have to remember to hype yourself up. In social media, it's easy to compare yourself to other people so you may forget the number of successes that you've had. Sometimes, you just have to go back to your personal profile and say "Yes, you did that". You have to be your own cheerleader.
What’s your plan for your next career move?
I am interested in brand development and brand partnerships, but at my core, I am a marketer and that's what I currently love.
You are also an entrepreneur. Tell me more about Hues of Excellence.
I co-founded Hues of Excellence while I was in graduate school. The organization provides access for minority youth to be exposed to tech and creative industries through mentorship and development workshops. In August 2017, Hues of Excellence launched our first event sponsored by WeWork in Los Angeles. This event was a school supply drive that brought together minority professionals within the creative and tech industries to write letters of encouragement for youth to get them started off on a positive note for the 2017-2018 academic school year. During the night, attendees networked, filled backpacks with supplies, and uplifted one another.
Do you consider yourself to be a leader?
I do. I believe that we all have leadership capabilities that we can tap into. Being a leader doesn't have to be a person in front of the boardroom or in front of a crowd of people. Sometimes, leaders are the individuals who are on the streets and behind the scenes getting things done. I think that we are all leaders.
Who is your female role model?
I don't have just one. I have different mentors in my life who have been extremely pivotal when it comes to spiritual growth, professional growth, and personal growth. I look up to various people and I take little bits of wisdom from each of those individuals.
Fabulous. Thank you so much, Erin. I am looking forward to our next conversation. Much success to you.
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