By Erin Ryan, J.D.
Today’s social media professional operates in a hyperconnected digital world — an increasingly contentious and often uncomfortable space.
April’s Well-Being Wednesday featured an enlightening conversation with Social & Digital Media SIG Co-Chairs Katherine McCoy Rivera, formerly of Adams and Reese, and Meghan Spradling of Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP, about the challenges and rewards of a social media professional. We learned that the role demands constant attention on trending topics, newsfeeds, and breaking news at a pace that rarely slows down.
As our society continues to combat tough topics like racial injustice, social change, and other hard-hitting topics, social media professionals also face a multiplying effect: they live through it as citizens — as humans — but are also tasked with communicating a message that’s often uncomfortable or difficult to put into words, especially when speaking for an organization made up of individuals. And, when there is incongruence between the organization's message and its internal or external actions, social media professionals can find themselves in a tough mental spot.
On the brighter side, social and digital media professionals feel empowered and confident in the responsibility that comes with their jobs. They enjoy being part of a movement where law firms are actually FIRST to speak out loudly and clearly against injustice. Unlike many other marketing and business development roles, a social media professional is encouraged to see things differently, be creative, and allow room for healthy discomfort.
The breakout rooms following this conversation allowed participants to share some of their own experiences and offer their own mechanisms for coping with the mental well-being challenges of social media professionals. Here are a few of their suggestions:
- Find allies. Rely on firm leadership or higher-ups as allies. Even if you don’t have the proverbial seat at the table, allied firm leaders can be your proxy at that table.
- Build rapport. Continue to build good relationships with attorneys — investing in that rapport will carve an easier path when you’re navigating challenges.
- Self-coach. Talk to yourself and proactively build a mental narrative that what you're doing is right.
- Vent. Do it freely and openly with a trusted group.
- Set healthy boundaries for yourself. But importantly, you stick with them. You can't be mad that someone invaded your life at 8 p.m. if you responded!
- Educate. The people who make your role challenging may not know what this process actually looks like. (Clue: It's not just opening up Twitter and posting something off the cuff). There is a whole process in place, so keep educating them on it.
- Learn as much as you can about emotional intelligence. For example, read up on implementation intention, a self-regulatory strategy rooted in EQ. “If X happens, then I’ll do Y.” Having a plan can help you cope during times of heightened stress.
- Take a walk and leave your phone behind. Even if it’s just to the kitchen or a lap around your office. Stepping away from your device even just for a few moments can bring a new sense of peace and clarity.
The monthly Well-Being Wednesday program has been created by the LMA Well-Being Committee to create a safe space where we can drive discussions around topics that impact our well-being and that of others, to encourage LMA members to engage and interact and of course, to bolster a sense of well-being within our community and within ourselves.
Over her 16-year career, Erin Ryan has been fortunate to provide business development and marketing services to three AmLaw 100 firms, with the last 11 years at McGuireWoods. Her role as senior business development manager encompasses many facets, including revenue generation, practice development, coaching, innovation and client relationship management.
Ryan has a passion for team management and professional growth, often bringing together members of the firms’ marketing and business development group to shine a light on “soft” skills to enhance their long-term success. She approaches each day with an open mind, ready to teach, to learn and to do something to make her firm a better place. Above all, she strives to help people discover the same intrinsic joy in their careers that she has been fortunate to experience.
Ryan is an active member of the Legal Marketing Association and will serve as co-chair of the 2022 LMA Southeast Regional Conference themed “Culture 2022: Success from the Inside Out.” She frequently writes and speaks on business development, management and professional growth. Ryan received her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin, where she also received her B.A. in journalism and public relations. In addition to being a proud wife, she loves experiencing life’s small wonders through the eyes of her two amazing children.