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Hannah Meium, The Content Whisperer

In 2010, The Radio City Rockettes launched a new digital content and social strategy that completely revitalized the 80-year old brand, and Hannah Meium was the creative mind that made it happen. I met Hannah on the 2009 Radio City Christmas Spectacular Arena tour and I was immediately impressed with her calm, cool and collected disposition.  It was the first time that she had worked on a large production but you would have never guessed. She was nicknamed “Annie Hall” for her boho-chic style and in the fast-paced tour filled with one-nighters, Hannah’s laid back nature and hardworking attitude flourished.

Following her impressive tenure at Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Hannah became the Director of Branded Content at Mashable and now has recently joined DDB New York as Director of Content.  Hannah was able to talk to me via Skype from her office.

TheatreArtLife: How did you get started in your career?

Hannah Meium: I attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota where I obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Advertising and Public Relations, along with a minor in Psychology. During my senior year, I had an internship with Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and was offered a full-time role before I graduated. When I was working with Mrs. Meyer’s, we were part of an event at the Tribeca Film Festival and I made a contact that worked with MSG Entertainment.

It’s important to always be nice to people because you never know when that connection will come in handy.  A year later, I had moved to NYC and was looking for a job and I reached out to the contact I made at MSG. That’s when the opportunity came up to become the Sponsorship Manager on the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Arena tour in 2009.

What is the best role/job/gig you have done and why?

Being on tour with the Rockettes. I had no idea what I was getting into, and while we all worked really hard, looking back on that time, it doesn’t really feel like work. When you work with the Rockettes and the amazing team that makes the Christmas Spectacular happen, and you’re on the road for months at a time, those people become your family.  Some of my closest friends are people that I met my first year on tour with the Rockettes, and working with Radio City led me to a lot of amazing opportunities.

Photo: Hannah Meium, Janice Dority, Jen McCreery, Damian Effler and Gabrielle Liddicoat, 2009 Radio City Christmas Spectacular Arena Tour

What was the worst role/job/gig you have done and why?

In my first job, in PR, I sometimes had to cold call pitch reporters, which was not my favorite thing to do. I also didn’t really enjoy doing the clip reports, which every fledgling PR person has to do at some point – and probably nobody really likes.

What do YOU think is your best skill or talent?

I think I’m pretty good at people – learning how to successfully work with different people, understand what works and what doesn’t, flexibility, etc.

Can you please tell me how you and your team launched the Radio City Rockettes digital brand and took their social media to the next level?

After I came off of the Arena tour in January of 2010, there was an opportunity to join the Rockettes Brand team and I became employee number two. At that point, the only digital presence of the Rockettes was via the Christmas Spectacular website, which was largely to sell tickets. We launched the first Rockettes.com, Rockettes Facebook, and I guess the rest is history.  I remember when my mom was probably the only fan on the Facebook page.

When I left MSG after 6 years, the Facebook page had grown to have about 1.5 million followers, and the Rockettes were on Instagram and Snapchat. That was cool.

Can you talk about how the digital content for The Rockettes evolved?

Prior to creating the digital brand, the main theme of all marketing for the Rockettes was basically “Buy Tickets Now”. In order to begin building the social community, we had to convince Radio City to develop more of a social media and content strategy, that would live alongside the marketing. We hoped that as we grew our community of followers and an audience that really cared about the Rockettes, that when it came time to sell tickets, it would happen.  Our goal was make our digital content less like advertising and tell stories that would create a community of Rockettes fans.

Since I had the opportunity to tour with the Rockettes, I had literally lived among the women for months at a time. I knew they were serious athletes and I also knew the human side. As we were developing the content for the brand, I had intimate knowledge of what it was like.  We were able to develop the voice of the Rockettes in a true to life way which was really special.

Digital content was new territory at the time. It was only about seven years ago but so much has changed since then.  Now most productions consider their social media presence a top priority, but when we were starting ours it was still new. It took a lot of education, discussion and convincing to get things done. In many ways, it was seen as a risk to show a more personal side of the Rockettes. I knew if we did it right, it would have big rewards.

I even remember feeling self-conscious when people would walk by my desk and I would be looking at Facebook, like they would think I was just messing around but I was like, “this is my job!”  I was looking at trends, and we had a lot to figure out!

What were some of the experiences and challenges that you faced in making the Rockettes relevant on social media to a new generation?

The Rockettes are such a major legacy brand and when we began building their digital brand, the brand was 80 years old.  It was important that we honored the legacy but we also wanted to show the real side of the women.  It was not easy and it took a lot of convincing to show the more personal and human side of the Rockettes, but when we were successful, it really worked, and it’s something I’m really proud of. I think my time on the road with the women was really key to my success there – I knew a lot of them personally, I knew what they had been through to get where they were, and they trusted me to tell their stories.

We faced challenges both internal and external. Internally it was convincing the higher-ups that pure content was important – not everything needed to have a marketing and “buy now!” message attached to it – and that growing our audience would pay off. And the way to grow it was to make good content. Externally – a lot of the Rockettes fans were fans of the brand and show for 20, 30 years and are used to seeing the Rockettes in a certain way. We wanted to make the Rockettes cooler and more relevant, but also not lose that core audience.

Everything we were doing was new, maybe we were a little late to the game or maybe we were right on time.  We started at a time when Radio City was ready to lift the curtain on the legendary brand and we found ways to do that. We created a series for the MSG Varsity Channel (a local cable channel) following the Radio City Rockettes Summer Intensive Program and the series went on to win four New York Emmy Awards. That was a really incredible experience to be part of.

Photo: Hannah Meium and Scott Roberts, 2012 NY Emmy Awards

Can you share your transition from Digital Content Manager with MSG to becoming Director of Brand Content at Mashable and now Director of Content at DDB New York?

I had been with MSG for six years, had been building one brand for a long time. I reached a place where I wanted to work with many brands, and see what I could do. Also, MSG is a large corporation and as my responsibility grew, I was spending more time in meetings and less time actually creating the content I really loved.

I started working my network and having conversations about what I might do next. I interviewed for a role at Mashable that unfortunately ended up going to an internal candidate. I was pretty disappointed, but then about a year later, Mashable contacted me about a more senior position, and this time it worked out and I accepted the role. As Mashable’s Director of Branded Content, in any given week, my team of 15 would be creating content for McDonald’s, Ford, Netflix, Wheat Thins and many other great brands.  I loved the opportunity to stretch my brain and lead a team with a big variety of work, but I eventually realized that I worked better when I had fewer brands to focus all of my energy on – like when I was with the Rockettes. That was a big motivator in my decision to go to DDB.

Let’s chat about digital and social media for individuals. Social and digital media are rapidly changing the game in the live entertainment industry.  For many performers, directors, and creatives, having a thriving social media presence is as important as the perfect audition, show reel or great resume. Do you have advice on creating great content to recruit followers and likes? 

Look at who you are following and who you admire on social media, and find things that you can relate to and even mimic, and make your own. I think it is important to be authentic and focus on your story, rather than just your number of followers, but the followers help, of course.  When we were developing the digital presence of the Rockettes, we looked at Beyonce and Alvin Ailey, and read the trades. It’s important to keep up with trends.

Social platforms are constantly changing their algorithms, so staying on top of the changes is really important.  When Facebook launched native video, they rewarded people for uploading their videos and gave them more exposure. Then it was Facebook Live, and now we have Snapchat and Instagram stories. As you are creating your own content, paying attention to what is happening in social is critical.

Another thing that I do is, I have a 13-year old nephew, and I am always watching what he and his friends are doing so I can see what’s next. They are on Instagram and Snapchat, they are not on Facebook.

What advice would you give to live entertainment professionals to build their brand in the social media world?

Be authentic but mindful. I can speak from a leadership role and I google every candidate that I am interviewing to potentially hire.  I would almost rather find nothing about a person, and just review the content that they are presenting than find a ton of social media photos that you probably won’t want your future manager (or your mom) to see.  So, I guess what I would advise is to identify your brand and stick with it so that across the board you look presentable.

Knowing everything that you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year old self?

Context clues and be open.  When I joined the Radio City Rockettes Arena tour, I arrived in Hamilton Ontario where the show was already in tech rehearsals.  I had never been on a show before and had never been backstage and then suddenly, I am working on this massive production.

I will never forget the first time Vinnie, our security manager, was walking down the hall in the venue shouting “It’s a runner!” I was like “what on earth is a runner?!” but instead of asking and interrupting the chaos, I kind of read the context clues around me and followed the crowd. I learned that a “runner” was the last rehearsal/ performance in a city and as soon as the curtain came down, it was all hands on deck to exit the venue and load the production out.  If I had reacted, maybe things would have been different, but if I could share a piece of advice it would definitely be to take the time to observe your surroundings – you can learn a lot that way.

Also, don’t be stressed in between jobs, something will happen. Make friends and be nice to people, because someday they’ll be your boss.

Photo 1: Hannah Meium (center) with Rockettes Danelle Morgan (L) and Samantha Berger ( R ), Spring Spectacular closing night NYC, 2015; Photo 2: Hannah Meium (center) with Rockettes L-R Candace Jablonski, Natalie Reid, Melissa Hillmer, Melinda Farrell, Lindsay Howe, Tiffany Griffin, Sarah Grooms, Danelle Morgan, Spring Spectacular closing night, NYC 2015.

Where do you see your journey going over the next ten years?

I truly love working with brands, and that’s why I made my most recent move to DDB – a creative advertising agency. Now I’m able to focus my energies once again on one brand and their strategy over time. I’m excited to see what I can do in this new role.

Describe your life in front of the “curtain”/ “camera”/ “boardroom” and what happens behind the scenes. 

I travel a lot – both for work and for fun – and when I am not doing that, I’m working on making my cat famous. You can follow him on Instagram @thebestherman

Photo credit: @TheBestHerman

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