What Did You Learn? Episode 11
I’m a huge fan of The Knot’s Instagram account How They Asked, so I was excited to interview Whitney Little, Director of Social Media at The Knot Worldwide. She shared the inspiration for the popular Instagram channel and how The Knot continues to support its audience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her insights into audience engagement and community will be eye-opening and relevant to healthcare communicators, too.
Check out this episode of “What Did You Learn?” to hear about the changes Whitney’s team made to support their community — and why they’ll continue those practices long-term.
Ahava: Hi. I’m Ahava Leibtag. Welcome back to our next episode of “What Did You Learn?” I am so excited. You are going to love today’s episode. It’s with Whitney Little and she is the Social Media Director of The Knot Worldwide. Whitney, thank you so much for being here.
Whitney: Thank you for having me, this is great.
Ahava: We’re going get to talk all things wedding today. But I just wanted to give my audience a little bit of an introduction as to why I really wanted to talk to you today, particularly while we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
I first noticed an Instagram account called How they Asked, which is a phenomenal Instagram account with pictures and information about how different couples proposed to each other. One of the things I really loved about it right away is the diversity that I saw on the channel. You know, it wasn’t just all white heterosexual couples. There are gay couples, mixed race couples, all those diverse ways of getting to know other people and learning more about people who you might think they are in a completely different world than you’re in.
So I was really excited to talk today about that because I think that the pandemic and Black Lives Matter and trying to have the sense of honesty and inclusion towards each other while everybody’s fighting with each other over wearing masks is a really interesting place for communicators to be. So I’m really excited to have you here today. And with that long introduction, let’s get to know you a little bit. You told me you just moved to Austin, Texas. What is your favorite kind of taco?
Whitney: Torchy’s Tacos makes a fried avocado taco, which is like, chef’s kiss. It’s so good.
Ahava: If I was safe to get on a plane, I’d be there tonight. That sounds really good. What inspired the question was I had this amazing beer battered fried fish taco last night with coleslaw. It was delicious. You can’t go wrong with a fish taco.
Whitney: Or Tex Mex in general. I missed it so much that I’ve just been eating my way through every Mexican food restaurant and barbecue, too. My husband got a smoker for our backyard. So he’s been smoking ribs and brisket and all this stuff. It’s been great.
Ahava: Now, have you learned any Tik-Toks?
Whitney: I learned the savage dance. How could you not? I never posted it, but I do it routinely around the house. I’m 35 and I feel like I am not meant for Tik-Tok I meant to consume it, not to contribute to it.
Ahava: I hear that. I totally hear that. Did you take up any new hobbies?
Whitney: This is going to sound boring. But, baking. I feel like everyone did that. I made a three-tier funfetti cake from scratch 5 days into quarantine. I was losing it. I just needed to bake and now we’re like 20 years into it. And I just kind of feel like I baked all the things and I’m over it. I’ve watched a lot of Love Island, the UK show, because it’s like 50 episodes in a season, so that’s taken up a lot of my time. Yeah, so I’ve done a lot of weird stuff.
Ahava: Well, at least you’re keeping yourself busy. First of all, let’s talk about what’s happened to weddings in general because you know, you’re at The Knot, everybody’s freaking out about what’s happening to the global economy. You see couples getting married over Zoom and not doing the same parties. And yet when you go on the site and you look at all the content, you see what’s going on. It seems like people are still in love and they’re still getting married. So talk to me about what you’re seeing and how you guys sort of pivoted your content approach to this change.
Whitney: We’re seeing a lot people in our social feeds, conflicted about, “I still want to have this big day, you know, it’s important to me because it’s important for my family to see it, for friends, to be there and have a great time”, so that’s still really important. But we’re seeing a lot of postponement instead of cancellations so people aren’t giving up on it. But we’re also seeing a lot of people say, “who knows what tomorrow is going to bring. I just want to be married to this person” so we’re going have what we termed a “mini-mony” over Zoom. Or now we’re seeing people, depending on the state and county restrictions, going outside and having seating six-feet apart and taking all the safety precautions they can to make sure they’re having a moment, even if it’s not what they thought it was going to look like.
We’re hearing a lot of great stories of people being like, “this was better than I had originally planned. This is better than the big wedding we were going to have. It was very meaningful and heartfelt and emotional.” Yeah, everyone’s going to talk about quarantine in their vows like it’s going to be the thing.
Ahava: So let’s talk about “How They Asked” because I just love it. I cannot tell people quickly enough to get out there and click “follow.” It’s just so great. It’s such an uplifting channel to watch. How did you decide to move away from this very standard of bride and groom on the top of a cake to really embracing all of this diversity and love is love? It’s all these beautiful ideas of how people fall in love and find each other.
Whitney: I think it’s a couple of things, including making sure we’re always the first ones in the room. We want to make people feel like it’s okay to marry whoever they want whenever they want, however they want, so that’s reflected in proposals first and foremost.
Before you start planning a wedding, you’re planning a proposal. So with How They Asked, we knew there was a need to tell stories about proposals, and it was important to the team to make sure anything we were posting or amplifying was inclusive of our audience, which is really everyone. People want to hear nice stories and feel like there’s something good out there. And that leads into weddings as well. Being able to give people permission to do whatever they want, how they want and not sticking to these guidelines or traditions, that might not make sense for you as a couple. But again, it starts with the proposal. It’s important for us to highlight, however you want to propose. We’ve got a story for you and we can give you inspiration for it.
Ahava: How do you create the posts from a content strategy point of view? Any time I read a really great piece of content or see a channel being managed to the fullest excellence, which I really believe that channel being managed, how does it work and where do the ideas come from? How do you make sure that you’re sourcing it and fact checking it? Do you show it to the couple before you post it? Walk us through a little bit of the workflow.
Whitney: So they submit the story themselves. We will reach out if someone gets engaged and say “congratulations and if you want to submit your story, feel free.” Other people just come to How They Asked, and submit it because they’ve been fans of the brand, which is awesome, that does a lot of the work for me. So then they submit their story, and we will sometimes go back and forth if we have other questions. But then it’s up and they can share their story. They send it to friends and family. They put it on their wedding website so that story continues to live on as they plan their weddings. From a content perspective, we live on user-generated content. But for How They Asked, the user submits it and on The Knot Wedding, the photographers submit it, since they own the work. But it’s a lot of back and forth. My team is in the DMs all day checking with people, getting permissions before we post, making sure they’re okay with it, making sure the photographer’s given permission. The couple in the photos has given permission and getting all the credits too. With the proposal, typically, someone will enlist like a sign or, some sort of decor and we want to be giving credit to those types of vendors who are helping because a lot goes into a proposal. We know a lot goes into a wedding, but a lot goes into a proposal too.
Ahava: What do you wish you had known before this whole thing started?
Whitney: As a marketer, as a social media marketer, as someone in the wedding industry, you don’t realize how fragile your plans are. If you’re a couple planning your wedding, you don’t understand how quickly that could be turned upside down. As a marketer, I was leaning on a lot of strategies that hinged on a world without a pandemic. I wish I had thought through things a little more, like maybe I need a plan B. Of course, everyone wishes that.
Ahava: Yeah, what’s the one thing you learn from this time period that you’re totally pulling into your marketing practice for the rest of your life that you’re never letting off?
Whitney: We actually have someone now focused on community, just like as a concept, so figuring out, where are these emerging platforms and where are we seeing people go right now. We really weren’t, super invested in Facebook groups before because we just found that a lot of our audience was interacting with us elsewhere. But Facebook groups have really blossomed in all this because brides are talking to other couples trying to get advice. So that’s been a really big takeaway for me is figuring out how do we have someone devoted 24/7 to keeping eyes on our audience and to figure out where do they need us versus where do we need to market to them? How do we want to interact with them? It’s about how can we best serve you wherever you are?
Ahava: How do you sum up the pandemic in six words? Mine are, “What fresh hell is it today?”
Whitney: So mine is something that I feel like I say every day, which isn’t great, but it’s, “Sorry, something’s wrong with my Internet.” It’s an evergreen statement. We’re five months into this and my WiFi is still not great. Is yours super reliable?
Ahava: Yeah. I have Fios from Verizon, and I’ve been working from home for 15 years, so I had to solve these problems as fast as I could. So, yeah, I do have good WiFi, but I will tell you that when my kids were home doing school from home, my internet was unstable all the time.
Whitney: Yes, my husband works from home too, and then he plays a video game and he doesn’t tell me, but I know when he’s doing it because my Internet is like “what’s happening?” No one at work has a solid Internet connection all day. It’s like, “Is it me? You’re frozen.” And then you’re waving to try to see, It’s insane. But that is something I say every day.
Ahava: Whitney, thank you so much for coming on. It was so great to have you. You had such great points of view. And a lot of our audience are healthcare marketers and communicators. And I think that there’s a lot for them to take from this conversation, which is really about the creativity of your audience, where they are, what they need you from you rather than what do you want them to do.
Whitney: This is so much fun. I’m so glad I got to join you. This was great. Thank you so much.
Ahava: Whitney Little everybody. Thank you so much.
Watch Previous Episodes
Get caught up on our “What Did You Learn” series! Catch the most recent episodes below.
- Episode 1 feat. Amanda Todorovich of Cleveland Clinic
- Episode 2 feat. Ann Handley of MarketingProfs
- Episode 3 feat. Aaron Johnson of Penn Medicine
- Episode 4 feat. Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks
- Episode 5 feat. Lauren Smith of UT Health
- Episode 6 feat. marketing consultant Chris Boyer
- Episode 7 feat. marketing expert Katie Martell
- Episode 8 feat. Jennifer Balanky & Jennifer Price of Sharp HealthCare
- Episode 9 feat. Andy Gradel from Wolters Kluwer
- Episode 10 feat. Tanya Andreadis of UCLA Health
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“What Did You Learn” will feature a new guest talking COVID-19 content marketing every Monday. Have a question you’d like one of our guests to answer? Email us.