Name: Hillary Bird
Title: Director of Content
What is one trait you learned in journalism school that you use in your daily life?: Listening. Nothing teaches you to be a good listener like keeping an ear open for clues that can give you more information or will help someone open up. Active listening, whether in a press room full of people or on an interview call with a subject matter expert, helps pick up the nuggets of information that can lead to a better next question and a better understanding of what they are trying to tell you.
Journalism background: I knew when I was 12 that I wanted to be a sportswriter, and I started my career at 16 when my first article was published in the Ann Arbor News. My mom, however, wasn’t as convinced that this sportswriting thing could be a real career and asked that I get a degree in something useful. I have yet to use the Political Theory degree from Michigan State, but I was a sportswriter for more than 22 years, covering everything from hockey to ultramarathon runners to independent league baseball for newspapers in the North, South and Midwest. After a master’s degree in telecommunications and a stint as a sports editor, I joined Chicago Parent Magazine as its managing editor, launching digital resources and creating a podcast. I discovered PowerPublish in 2021 and my favorite part of this job is working with clients from companies of all sizes. Creating editorial calendars, monitoring content and helping to improve SEO while converting readers are challenges that I love to tackle.
What do you think is the biggest adversity facing brand marketers in 2022?: I think finding the right magic sauce to connect with a variety of readers is now and will be a big adversity for enterprises. The goal line for perfection is regularly changing, as are the requirements for ideal SEO. Meanwhile, different generations consume their content in vastly different ways. The average user on Facebook is over 40, but it is also the single social media site that converts more casual lookers into readers and ultimately into clients for the companies we work with. Understanding the best avenues to attract younger consumers and readers will be vital to connecting brands on an intimate level.
What advice would you give to writers making the move to a freelance career: If you don’t know a subject, learn it instead of trying to write around it. It’s OK to tell an editor that you’re not an expert on cryptocurrency or mortgage negotiations. We can tell in a heartbeat if you’re trying to write around your knowledge. In this case, use those journalistic skills to learn as much as you can about the subject, or your best bet is to pass on the project. I’ll think more highly of writers who were honest with me than those who tried to pass menial knowledge off as expert advice.
What should brands know about working with a PowerPublish editor?: I work hard to make your job easier, and it takes a lot of communication and inventive collaboration to make sure that our level of perfection matches the same mark.
What is the worst advice you’ve ever received? I had an editor who once told me to try to complete all of my interviews from inside the office. He thought that talking on the phone would eliminate the “waste of time” of driving to and from interviews (this was before Zoom). What gets lost is the people-to-people connection. We still work hard to try to recreate that experience now through Zoom as we talk to our clients across the country.
Everyone needs a break. What was the last book you read?: With two young kids, I don’t have a lot of time to read adult books (though I read a lot of tales of Pete the Cat and Piggie & Gerald), so instead, I listen to audiobooks. I have a bunch sitting in the queue, though the last one I “read” was Troubled Blood, by Robert Galbraith.