ON THE MENU THIS WEEK:
NAME: Robin Benway & Johanna Clark
TITLE: Writers, Co-Founders
COMPANY: Benway & Clark
Robin Benway and Johanna Clark, co-founders of Benway & Clark, are writers, strategists, and friends. Together they have a combined 20-plus years of public relations, writing, publicity, and events experience, and offer a comprehensive range of communications services distinguished by exceptional clarity, efficiency, and creativity.
Benway is a former publicist and event manager, who made the leap to novelist in 2005. She has released five titles and is published in more than 20 countries. Her most recent title, Emmy & Oliver, (HarperCollins, 2015) was named one of the best books of summer by the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, and Publisher’s Weekly, among others.
Clark spent more than 10 years with award-winning public relations agencies Allison+Partners and Ogilvy Public Relations, where she specialized in nonprofit and public interest communications. She managed prestigious accounts including the California Department of Public Health, Hasbro Children’s Fund, Hyundai Hope on Wheels, Movember, and generationOn. She recently completed the certificate program in Nonprofit Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.
SOCIAL MEDIA URLs:
FACEBOOK: Benway & Clark on Facebook
Q: We have access to so much news on a daily basis. What kinds of information do you consume at the start of your day?
JC: Contrary to all advice I have read about how to have a good night’s sleep and start the day refreshed, my phone is always right next to my bed, so it’s the first thing I look at in the morning. I usually start the day by scrolling quickly through emails, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, mainly to see if any big news has broken overnight. Throughout the day I check in on social media, emails, etc., but NPR has really become my go-to news source since I’m in the car a lot. Oh, and Robin is very good about texting me with the most important news, like celebrity dating updates.
RB: Johanna and I have the same bad habit: I too sleep with my phone next to my bed. Usually the first thing I do is look at emails, see if anything’s on fire, then I get coffee and spend time scrolling through Twitter, Instagram, New York Times, and Vulture. I hate Facebook with a fiery passion, so I rarely look at it, which means I miss a lot of cute photos of my friends’ kids. If I see something interesting that I don’t have time to read, I save it to my Pocket app, and then I set aside time over the weekend to read through everything. But if something happens regarding news, I immediately go to Twitter. It’s faster than most news outlets.
Q: How do you use social media?
JC: I always used it in my personal life to share pictures and slices of my weird inner monlogue with friends and family. And once I became a stay-at-home mom, social media was a lifeline for me. It can be isolating to be home with two small children, and social media became an important link to the “grownup” world, as well as a way to reach out to other moms. Now we’re using it to promote our business and connect with potential clients.
RB: For Benway & Clark, we use it as a link to other businesses, but also as a way to showcase our talents and abilities. I’m in charge of our Instagram account, which I love doing because our work tends to be very cerebral, and Instagram is a way to show what we do visually. I have yet to meet a filter I don’t love, and I swear by the VSCO and SKRWT apps for photo editing.
In my other career, I’m a novelist, so social media has been an amazing source of connection with both readers and other writers. Writing can be very lonely at times, so to be able to interact with other people can be a lifeline.
Q: How has social media changed your life?
JC: I feel that social media really helped me find my voice. I’m a lifelong introvert, but using these different social media channels to share my life and my writing with a relatively encouraging audience gave me new confidence that I had something of value to say.
RB: I’ve never had a problem having an opinion, but I’ve learned to double- and triple-check sources before linking to articles or getting upset about something. It’s made me savvier in regards to what’s actually true and what’s just hyperbole because it can be so easy to just fall down the rabbit hole of news. It’s also given me so many friends around the world that I never would have met, and that’s never a bad thing!
Q: Do you think social media has enhanced or diminished our personal relationships?
JC: I think it all depends on how we use it, but I actively try to make social media a positive place for myself. I love feeds like Upworthy.com, and I’m part of a private mom’s group that is an amazing source of information and encouragement. But it takes purposeful consumption to keep it that way. I’d rather have an itchy blocking finger then a feed filled with the worst humanity has to offer, because, whoa boy, it’s out there.
RB: I think it’s enhanced my personal relationships, but as Jo said, it’s because I’ve learned to be careful about how I use it. Back in January, I took a five-month social media break because I realized I was starting to depend on social media (and my phone) way too much. It ended up really helping both my personal and professional lives, but I don’t think social media should be vilified. It’s up to each person to use it responsibly.
Q: What organizations, brands or personalities do you follow? What makes them worth following?
A: We follow a lot of small, female-centric businesses, especially on Instagram. Anything that encourages work, creativity, writing, spontaneity, and camaraderie!
Q: What kinds of posts spark your interest?
JC: I love accounts and feeds that give new insight into the user, brand, organization, etc. with each post. Sometimes your social media feed can feel like a great conversation between new friends – like when you’re discovering that you like the same obscure ‘90s movies or share strong feelings about the word “moist.” I feel that the old Mark Twain quote very much applies to social media: “good stories well told.”
RB: I’m a total interior design obsessive, so I love anything about homes, furniture, living well, etc. If there’s a post about refinishing a kitchen table that someone bought for $5 on Craigslist, I’m all in. I’m also a shamless follower of a lot of dog Instagram feeds. (Love Marnie the Dog!) I’ve found myself veering away from op-ed pieces and personal essays lately, but I always admire anyone who can coherently sort out into words how they feel about something.
Q: What is/are your favorite social media platform/s and why?
JC: I think my brain is pretty much organized like a Facebook feed at this point, so I would go with Facebook. Also I am, as the kids say, old.
RB: Instagram, Instagram, Instagram! I love seeing the way photos reflect people’s lives. My friends keep trying to get me to join Snapchat, but I just refuse.
Q: Favorite hashtag or one you’d like to see?
JC: #lovewins is my favorite. I also adore anything John Oliver throws up there…ahem, #makeDonaldDrumpfagain
RB: #ImWithHer has been a personal favorite lately, although I tend to get social media trolls whenever I use it. It’s worth the trouble.
Q: What advice would you give to a brand about how to get started with a social media program or make their existing one more effective?
JC: Hire good writers (ahem). Social media is about more than sharing information – it’s yet another voice in a world that’s already very loud, and your audience has to want to listen to you. Your social media communication can be well-strategized and on-brand, but if it’s just plain boring, no one will pay attention. We’re all human beings – let that come through in your posts and tweets. Be engaging, funny, thought-provoking, smart, etc., as well as promoting a product, service, or cause.
RB: Personality. It’s not enough to just post links or news stories. People want to see who’s behind the business, and social media is a great way to showcase that. Interact with people, too. It’s SOCIAL media, not LONE WOLF media.
Q: If you could follow any historical figure on social media, who would it be?
JC: Eleanor Roosevelt – for inspiration, sass, and political intrigue.
RB: Catherine the Great. I’m reading a biography about her right now and WOW. What I wouldn’t give to see what she could do with 140 characters.
Q: Cone, cup, or straight from the container?
JC: Blended – I’m a milkshake girl.
RB: Is it blasphemy to say that I’m not an ice cream person? I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have a salty tooth. Fill that cone, cup, or container with french fries and you’ve got yourself a deal!
Q: Favorite flavor?
JC: Cherry Garcia. So delicious. Even my son, who considers anything but vanilla ice cream to be an abomination, will make an exception for Cherry Garcia.
RB: Favorite style of french fry, you say? Steak fries, followed closely by Belgian frites. Shoestring fries are a waste of everyone’s time. I think we can all agree on that.
Have something to add or share? Please leave a comment in the section below. Feel free to like and share on social media. Ice Cream Social is taking a quick summer break next Tuesday, July 5, but we’ll be back with more great guests on Tuesday, July 12. Until then, enjoy the summer days and lots of your favorite ice cream!