By Kevin Hunt
The job title you will have 15 years after graduating from UW-Eau Claire may not even be a job that exists today.
How’s that for a reality check?
No one actually said that to me during my time on campus – and it may not be true for everyone – but I think it’s actually kind of inspiring for current Blugold students to think about.
I ran into that during a course correction in my career, as journalism began the early stages of its remarkable shift still underway today.
After receiving the great guidance of Henry Lippold and Brent Pickard in my “Update News” days, I set out to build a career in TV news, producing newscasts at WEAU-TV, WFRV-TV and KSTP-TV for 12 years.
It was demanding and challenging, but also fun. However, despite thriving on daily adrenaline shots of breaking news and some talented co-workers around me, something happened on my path to becoming a news director somewhere. The daily stress was getting to me.
So in 2005, I made a decision that I had tried to talk myself out of for a few years – it’s not easy to turn away from a job you thought you’d always do – when I entered the “dark side” of corporate communications by joining the PR team at Thomson Reuters, Legal.
I now view that difficult decision as a lesson in perfect timing, because of the emergence of social media. As it took off, it opened my eyes to the new opportunities online for journalists shifting to PR and the corporate world.
In my new role, I watched how other companies were responding to the social media revolution. Many started blogging about their company news, in addition to pitching reporters the way they always had. We decided to launch a blog for Thomson Reuters, focusing on telling our own stories about the company, its people and customers.
Those true “early days” in social media were great to be a part of in a big business. It was a learning-by-doing approach on so many things.
I was fortunate to move to General Mills in 2010 to build their company blog and corporate social media program, engage on and offline with reporters, bloggers and consumers, to help determine the company’s next steps in social media, and keep an eye on the trends that will shape it in the years ahead.
Today, I’m part-journalist, part-PR specialist, part-marketer and part-consumer services representative, and more.
My days are filled with interviewing, writing, planning editorial calendars, shooting and editing video, taking and editing photos, posting updates to a variety of social networks, monitoring and responding to what people are saying about General Mills online, interacting as the voice of the company when and where it makes sense, and guiding new projects to showcase company news and information in a social world.
My job title – “Social Media Manager” – was certainly not in any college career guide that I saw.
But I am grateful that the journalism and business experience I gained at every step of my career, from UW-Eau Claire to today, prepared me for the role I have with a great company like General Mills in our hyper-connected culture.
It’s certainly been interesting to see many companies thriving in social media with former journalists contributing content or managing social media projects.
In the years ahead, there will of course be more new technology and platforms to learn, new ways of connecting and new ways of reporting and sharing stories.
No matter what career path you start out on, be open to going in a different direction.
Kevin Hunt manages editorial content, social media engagement and digital strategy for the Global Communications department at General Mills in Minneapolis. His responsibilities also include social media guidance for the company’s brands and employees. Prior to joining General Mills, he managed social media for the Legal division of Thomson Reuters. He graduated from UW-Eau Claire with a Broadcast Journalism major in 1994. He produced newscasts at WEAU-TV and WFRV-TV before spending 10 years as a producer and executive producer at KSTP-TV. Hunt lives in Farmington, Minn., with his wife Tami (UW-Eau Claire, 1994) and their three children – C.J. (16), Josie (13) and Jarrett (13).) He blogs and podcasts about social media at StrungOutOnShinyObjects.com and is @kevin_hunt on Twitter.