I’d like to introduce you to Molly McGinn, a senior digital editor at Pace who also happens to be an accomplished musician, songwriter and digital recording artist. I met Molly a few times in passing, but it wasn’t until today that I got the chance to learn more about her passion for music and how she’s been able to apply it to client work at Pace.
When you graduated from Elon University in ’96, where did you envision your career going?
I graduated with a BA in English with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in art and jazz studies. I had no idea what to do when I finished college. I really wanted to play in a band, but if I couldn’t make that happen, I knew I had to find something else I loved.
I settled on starting my career in the print journalism field because I thought it would be a good way to sustain my songwriting. I also knew that journalism would help teach me how to write. And as far as pursuing music goes, well, there was never a question of whether I would do it, just how I would make a living at it, and writing was the answer.
It was also during this time that print and digital really started to collide, and I had a sense that it could be a turning point for journalism. I had no way of knowing how things would change over the next few years, but I was excited about the outlook.
What’s your day-to-day like?
I get up every morning around 6:30 and journal for an hour.
A whole hour? *Jaw drops* That’s some serious dedication.
Yep, I’m a morning person, and journaling helps me clear all the “junk” out of my head so I can make room for good ideas. And if I’m not journaling in the morning, I’m either playing guitar or writing songs. Starting my day off with something creative helps set the tone for what I’ll accomplish the rest of the day, both at work and with my personal creative projects.
Then, I go into the office, and I get to work with all of these awesome people at Pace! How cool is that? I really love the teams I get to work with and all the incredible talent here. Being able to surround myself with people like that is really inspiring.
And as far as what I do after work, three days out of the week I work out in the Pace fitness area with a coworker. The rest of the week, I like to go running on the trails around Lake Brandt.
My weekends are dedicated to my music, including writing songs and doing shows with an alt-country band, Wurlitzer Prize. Sometimes, if there’s a story I want to write, I’ll freelance articles for our local indy paper, and whenever possible, find new folks to play music with.
In your opinion, are there similarities between content marketing and songwriting?
Yes, content marketing and music are similar in many respects, because they are both entrenched in storytelling. When you think about it, songs are short multimedia stories. When you write a song, you’re taking a story and boiling it down to reveal what it is at its core. You have to give your audience the opportunity to engage with the story and feel an emotional connection to it. This is the same with content marketing and brand storytelling. At the end of the day, great music and content marketing are a collaborative effort. The person receiving the story has to be able to imagine being part of it for it to be effective.
What excites you the most about this industry?
Definitely digital and self-publishing! Such a great way to find your voice and practice publishing in such a forgiving way that allows you to make modifications later down the road. Not to mention it’s free, which is also very exciting!
Personally, I’m really interested in exploring visual storytelling and Instagram journalism. I’m learning what it takes to create content that doesn’t require people to do anything to consume it; all they have to do is look at it.
What is your creative process like?
When it comes to creating music, I take a very journalistic approach and immerse myself in research. For my last album Postcards from the Swamp, I spent over a year doing research at the Greensboro Public Library looking at history books and reviewing books about the Great Dismal Swamp, in eastern North Carolina. It’s a national wildlife refuge and known as one of the last truly wild spaces left on the East Coast. After I couldn’t research anymore, I went to the location and immersed myself in the environment to help inspire my songwriting.
For my work at Pace, my goal is to find inspiring stories that haven’t been discovered yet. I look for a trail of crumbs, like hashtags, photos, a pattern of conversation happening online that can lead me to a story. You never know what or who will lead you to someone or something that has a unique story to tell.
After a long day at work, how do you find the time and energy to go home and work on your music?
I know how important it is to push myself, but I also know how important it is to let myself rest. If I’m really tired or mentally drained, I allow myself time to recharge, take a walk, spend time with a friend, and do something other than working on my music. Downtime is really important because it helps give me that lift I need later on when I’m feeling inspired and ready to work on my creative projects.
When I do sit down to write a song, I think of it as a way of talking to the 90-year-old version of myself. I want her to know that I tried and gave it my best. Up until this point in my life, I really feel like I’ve given it everything I’ve got, and I’m proud of that. When I die, I want to die exhausted!
When you think of how content marketing might evolve in the next 5 years, how do you feel?
Hopeful—for the industry, and hopeful that brands will continue to understand that they are truly partners with their customers. Customers have an insatiable desire to learn, and brands have a lot of things they can teach. Over the next 5 years, I think that more and more brands will realize this and make important changes to their marketing strategies in order to forge a true partnership with their audience, customers and clients.
I’m also hopeful that brands will begin to see value in partnering with the people of their community to engage and create change. Seriously rolling up their sleeves and working with community leaders to figure out what they can do to help make things better for those who live and work there. For example, engaging the community through a sponsored public art installation, rather than splashing their slogan across a billboard and calling it a day.
Find out more about Molly and listen to her music on her website MollyMcGinn.com