Where Are They Now? Meet Alumna Gillian McMurray

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Gillian McMurray is a JCU alumna from Chicago, Illinois. She graduated in December 2016 with a major in Communications. In her time at John Cabot University, Gillian worked for the Marketing Office and for the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation.  After graduating from John Cabot, Gillian moved to Dubai.

Gillian McMurray

Gillian McMurray

How’s life after graduation? How’s living in Dubai?
Life is great! I left Rome at the end of December, and just one month later I started working in a full-time position. I’m enjoying my work and I’m thankful to have found such a great opportunity so quickly. I also spent that month of free time at the beach, so that was a pretty great added bonus.

Dubai is a wonderful city. I fell in love with it the first time I visited just over a year ago. It’s this awesome mix of big city, with everything from skyscrapers to small communities, and beautiful beachfront, complete with boardwalks, food trucks and kite surfers. It’s a city that likes to make its residents happy with never-ending opportunities for things to do. I already have the next four months of weekends planned!

Dubai is also an extremely diverse city. Thanks to my experience at JCU, living in a multicultural environment is both familiar and exciting for me.

What are you doing now?
I am the Social Media Coordinator at a media company that specializes in below-the-line marketing, which is everything from brand activation and corporate events to product launches and branding. My job is to craft social media strategies for any company that reaches out to us for assistance. Now I’m working on a full year ground-up social media plan for a new product on the market.

How did you become interested in Social Media?
I’m not entirely sure. There wasn’t a moment where I thought, “I want to work in social media” but rather, it was through my student employment work at JCU that I began to develop the skills that would lead me into the field. As these skills developed I began to love working because it meant learning about things that interested me. I couldn’t describe it better than that. It just seemed to fit.

I can tell you, however, why social media interests me. It is one of the most dynamic environments you can work in because trends, algorithms and strategies are changing on a daily basis. It is a mix of creativity and strategy, critical thinking and impulsive inspiration. There’s always something new to do and new ideas to try – I’m always learning.

With so many factors competing for the audience’s attention, and considering our attention span has shrunk over time, what is the key to a successful social media strategy?
You need to target the people who could truly be interested in your brand. Many think that in order to get more people to buy your product you should spread your content to as many people as possible. That isn’t going to get you anywhere, and actually hurts you in the long run. It takes specific targeting to achieve the desired results.

I am also a strong believer in quality content. You can target your perfect audience but if you have content that doesn’t capture anyone’s attention, it will take much longer to achieve your goal. Social Media has to be understood as an investment, not as an expense or an after thought. One of the worst things I’ve experienced so far in this field is trying to help a brand that doesn’t see that.

Social media marketing is a fast-growing and ever changing industry. Where do you see it heading?
Consolidation is in our future. We’ve already seen the success of Snapchat copied by Facebook in the form of Instagram stories, and now as Facebook Messenger’s in-app camera, complete with filters and stickers. Facebook has a tendency to eat up the best innovative ideas and has become the one-stop-shop for everything online. Facebook is even reportedly building an app for television, and asking for television-like content exclusively created for the app. Sounds like Netflix, right? I believe this consolidation trend will only continue, but I hope to be wrong. Monopolies, especially of information, are extremely dangerous, as shown by the impact fake news has on public opinion.

Is there any class at JCU that helped you in your career? What are your career plans?
My entire experience at JCU was incredibly valuable. I had such a wide range of experiences and learned about such a vast array of topics. There were ups and downs that kept me learning every single day. JCU shaped me to be confident, determined, and passionate about what I want and what I believe in.

I’m on the lookout for how to do more good for the world with social media than helping brands create meaningful interactions with their customers. By learning as much as I can from the ground up, I’m starting small and dreaming big.

Any advice for a new student starting college?
Besides the always valid advice of getting involved, because getting involved leads to connections and connections lead to opportunities that will get you very far in life, I’d like to advise new students to be proactive.

By proactive I mean independent, eager, and dedicated. Seek to answer your own questions and work past the obstacles you face. Asking questions is okay, don’t be afraid to seek help when required, but try to always challenge yourself to find answers on your own. Don’t rely on others to get you what you want.

JCU students are at a unique advantage because Rome challenges and provides for us in endless ways. Embrace this fact, seek out answers and new experiences, and learn how to be confident in your decisions. I think this is one of the best qualities a person can have, and one that will take them very far in life.