WHITNEY POPA & MELANIE MARCELO // NORDSTROM RACK
Whitney and Melanie are the social media specialists running the day-to-day content and influencer relationships for Nordstrom Rack.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Whitney: Regardless of what time I actually get up, my day begins with a lot of meowing and two little cats running across my face asking to be fed. By the time my alarm goes off, I’m already checking all the Rack social channels and my work email from bed while my husband feeds our “children.” Every day is different, especially if we’re traveling to open new stores, but we usually get in around 9 a.m., post to our channels, attend meetings, review blog posts, shoot content for upcoming months, and respond to more emails. By 6 p.m., I’m usually home making dinner with my husband, trying to figure out what kind of fitness activity I want to attempt and ultimately catching up on my Bravo shows. I’m in bed and reading no later than 10:30 p.m.
Melanie: On a normal day, I wake up way earlier than I need to before work, and I hide out in the bathroom with my coffee and my iPad and watch Youtube videos while trying to slap together my face for the day. It really doesn’t take me that long to get ready, but I prefer a more leisurely morning rather than rushing around like a maniac. It’s about a 20-minute walk to work for me, so I’m always listening to either music or a podcast until I head up to my desk to answer a flood of emails. I usually open up around ten tabs to check on all our accounts, some blogs I read regularly, and to see what I’ve missed in the social media world while I was sleeping. Depending on the day, I’m either creating content or rushing from conference calls to meetings. I feel like every day is a little different since we’re always trying to change things up in our world, but it’s guaranteed that I’ll have at least three big cups of coffee/tea in a day.
What parts of your work do you love?
Whitney: Everybody has their geeky thing and mine is 100% social media. I’m super passionate about what we do and am always looking to innovate on behalf of our brand and our customers. How can we be serving them better content? What social platforms are most relevant to them? Which bloggers are they watching and who we should partner with? We ask ourselves those questions a lot. I love that part. I love creating and building relationships.
Melanie: I love researching who and what is new and exciting in the social media world, it’s the perfect kind of job and task for a person like me who loses interest in something five minutes after it’s been announced. It’s inspiring to see what people are creating and trying, and that energy and adrenaline of new ideas really gets me excited about my job and the possibilities. I also love creating imagery or thinking up ways to engage with our customers on our platforms, especially when you can get such an immediate read on whether or not something worked.
What parts of your work/business do you dislike?
Whitney: There are aspects of every job that are less than ideal. I love to create, so managing budgets and writing proposals about why we want to spend $X are not my favorite things to do, especially in a world like social media where a lot can’t be quantified. However, those wins feel extra sweet.
Melanie: The part I dislike is the part I can’t escape: emails. With so many partners all over the place, sometimes you can get tied to your desk sending emails back and forth, and there are moments where I wish I could hit a big delete button and start my inbox over.
What things do you have to do that you didn’t realize going into your job at Nordstrom Rack?
Whitney: I definitely didn’t know I’d be modeling! For the most part, Melanie and I are the models on our social channels, which is both fun and a little scary. I love traveling to open new stores, and that was a nice surprise once I joined the team.
Melanie: I didn’t really think I’d have to ever sub in as a model (I use that term very loosely) for some of our product shots for our social content. Naturally with only two of us that’s bound to happen, but I don’t hate getting to try on new clothes every week!
What are some interesting things people probably don’t know behind the scenes of the Nordstrom Rack social media and PR?
Whitney: Since we live in Seattle, we have to work around the rain. People assume it rains all the time here and it really doesn’t, but it will affect when we take photos outside. The grey light is actually pretty optimal for that. We also check out all the clothes we shoot from the downtown Seattle store, so people who don’t know us always think we’re on shopping sprees. Also, people probably don’t realize how lean our team is.
Melanie: I think people don’t know the amount of work that can go into creating an image or a piece of content that some people thumb through their Instagram feed in seconds. It’s a tricky thing to get just the right shot or position a product in just the right way so that it speaks to the customer and represents your brand or product how you want.
What type of calendar do you keep?
Whitney: This is where I’m going to start sounding psycho – I have a color-coded Outlook calendar that is synced to all my devices. I categorize types of meetings and put personal things like “Write GSD post” on it in order to ensure I check off everything. At home, I keep a hand-written calendar on our fridge and hand-write my to-do list every day. I really like the satisfaction of crossing things off. We’ve discussed creating a shared Google calendar, but I’ve wavered because it almost feels like living too in the cloud.
Melanie: Calendars are the thing that keep me sane, so I actually keep three separate ones (it’s excessive, I know). I have one on my Outlook for work dates, a simple black monthly planner for my personal dates and a third, smaller calendar I keep at home as kind of a “wish list” of dates. I like to try and plan little getaways or vacations, and while they don’t always stick, it’s nice to plan times to take a break.
How do you plan out your calendar?
Whitney: I am a type A planner to the absolute max, so I put things on the calendar as soon as I know about them. I also do as much working back as I can – if I know I have a deadline in two weeks, I’ll put reminders on my calendar to work on that project and block out buckets of time to get it done in advance.
Melanie: I can only ever plan on a monthly calendar because I like seeing the big picture rather than a daily planner, and I have a slightly confusing color coded system when it comes to different kinds of dates. I’ve carried on my elementary school obsession with highlighters and gel pens and am fully realizing my love for color-coded text in my adulthood. On my work calendar, I like to set myself a lot of reminders. I sort of rely on that little Outlook reminder message to pop up on my screen and yell at me to finish projects or send e-mails.
How do you organize and tackle your to-do list?
Whitney: It’s a combination of writing things down and then blocking out time on my calendar to do them, whether it’s running to the drug store or attending a meeting. I also re-write my to-do list almost every other day to clean it up and reorganize what I’m prioritizing.
Melanie: I like to keep a to-do list running on a Word Doc that I keep open while I work so I can tick things off as I go. I tend to put urgent items in red, semi-urgent items in orange, and then ongoing projects in green. It seems a little intense, but that kind of system works for me to keep track of everything and prioritize.
How do you attack your never-ending email? Do you have a certain strategy you use?
Whitney: Folders! I archive and save things to folders like nobody’s business. I can find important emails from 2007 if I need to. I’ll also flag things with reminders for myself and mark any emails I need to respond to as unread so I don’t forget about them, particularly when I’m out of office.
Melanie: I have two strategies depending on how I feel. About 90% of the time I’ll answer or review e-mails as they come in, and I’m pretty diligent about deleting since a full Inbox is my worst nightmare. The other 10% when I just can’t get out of e-mail jail, I’ll organize them all into folders so I can circle back on a day that I feel less bogged down.
What is your process and/or work strategy? Anything that you have found that works for you?
Whitney: Blocking time on my calendar to tackle the hottest items on my to-do list has been paramount to my productivity. I like consolidation and efficiency, so as much as I can package something up quickly and in a way that doesn’t sacrifice quality, I do. In our world, most things are real-time – I’m in the right industry for how my brain already works.
Melanie: I think the best work strategy for me is to do one thing at a time. This doesn’t mean in any way that I’m not running several projects at a time, but if I plan on spending some time working on a task, I need to focus on it during that time and get it done so I can move on to the next. I’m a big believer in quality work, so if I have to put some other things on hold for an extra minute to get the right output, I think it’s worth it.
Do you have any rituals or routines you do?
Whitney: I have to start every morning with good coffee. While I’m making my coffee, I check my calendar and email (again), think about how I’m going to plan my day. My life is also very fueled by music and learning, so I have to listen to something in the background.
Melanie: I love a good routine when I can because working in the type of job that I do, the day to day can shift at any moment. The solid routines I have tend to be on mornings and weekends, but it’s tough to stick to a routine at work because each day is always a little different. I always try to make time to leave my desk during the day, because I find that a quick walk around the block really helps to give me a fresh perspective. I also try to catch people for coffees and make sure I have some kind of human interaction on days where I’m stuck in front of my computer.
How do you GSD at home?
Whitney: Aside from my old school fridge calendar, my husband and I keep prioritized to-do lists in the cloud. We just bought a house, so we have a house priority list that we discuss and rejigger as we check things off. It’s pretty fun to play grown up. Family and friends are my #1 priority, and I build in time to see them, whether I have to travel or they come to us. All of that time goes up on the calendar as soon as it’s booked.
Melanie: I like to take one project or task at a time so I don’t get too overwhelmed. If I know I need to get the house cleaned up, I’ll pick a room a day with the goal of getting it all done by the end of the week, because otherwise I’ll end up having cleaned for 14 hours and won’t even know what day of the week it is. I’m lucky that my boyfriend and I are similar in that we like to keep our downtime relatively low-key, and I like to keep those types of friends around me too. The more low-key, the less I feel like I have to run around and “work” in my off-time.
What books, websites, posts and other resources have you found helpful or have changed your life?
Whitney: Books: Where The Red Fern Grows was the first (and one of few) books that made me cry. At eight, it taught me the power of writing. There are too many “posts” that have touched me to list; however, I was recently tweeted a really powerful article on how millienials mourn. My dad died from brain cancer just over two years ago and it put a lot of what I knew to be true about my experience in perspective, particularly as it relates to my generation as a whole.
Melanie: I know it’s pretty fresh, but Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl was a book that came along at the perfect time for me. It was good to know that there were other people out there in the world having the same crazy thoughts I have, and same worries, too. On a completely less personal level, Feedly has given me the ability to organize the hundreds of blogs I keep tabs on, so now working through my blog read list is a lot less scary.
Nuggets of advice you’ve been given that have stuck?
Whitney: My dad always told me “Make time to play.” In our world, it’s easy to always be on and unplugging can be difficult. I force myself to set aside time where I’m not constantly scrolling Instagram and refreshing email. Oh, and when I felt bad for my opponent in the race for 6th grade student council member and told my grandma I voted for him, she said, “Why should you expect anyone to vote for you if you didn’t vote for yourself?”
Melanie: Life advice: Happiness is self-sufficient. I like the simplicity of the fact that even though we grab around for things that we think will make us happy, like more money or travel or friends or whatever, the truth is that it’s up to you to make yourself happy. Happiness can be a choice. Work advice: Be authentic. I like this because I think the best work output comes from when you’re really being authentic to who you are. Really thinking about what your ideas are and what your stance is, even if it’s not the popular opinion.
Any other information about how you GSD, please share?
Whitney: When I was growing up, my mom joked about this, but it’s true – you really do have to create space to have time for you, and not be ashamed about it. I was listening to a podcast featuring Ellen Burstyn recently and she was talking about taking “shouldless days,” basically allowing herself to be lazy and eat ice cream and giving herself permission to not worry about what she should be doing instead. It’s the combination of should and shouldless days that creates balance and allows me to GSD while also indulging in time off from all expectations, especially my own.
Melanie: I think what really helps me GSD is reminding myself to keep calm. It seems like a really simple affirmation, but I’m 100% more productive when I have a calm and clear state of mind. I also think it’s important to stay inspired, and whether that’s through reading blogs, reading articles, talking to others in your field, it’s important for me to know what’s going on in the industry outside of my little bubble. Also, if I’m ever trying to see how my work stacks up, I try to pick the biggest and best “competitor” there is and lay my work out next to theirs. It’s a humbling reminder to me that there’s more work to do before I get where I want to be, and that I obviously need to get out there and GSD.
What are your favorite apps, websites, programs, and gadgets?
Whitney: This is all just the tip of the iceberg. Websites: Curalate, SimplyMeasured, Tweetdeck, Iconosquare, Betches Love This. Podcasts: Dear Sugar and Death, Sex and Money. Online/Apps: OneDrive, Alaska Airlines, Uber, Google Maps, VSCOcam, Spotify/Pandora. Gadgets: iPhone, iPad, Xbox, iRobot, Sonos. I’d like to clarify, though, I will never tire of real paper books. eReaders are not for me. I’m insatiable with magazines, too.
Melanie: The social apps I love are probably what most people love: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Youtube, Pinterest & Vine, I like to stay connected obviously. I typically only use VSCO to edit any photos on my phone, and my all-time most used apps toggle between Spotify and Podcasts. Anytime I’m walking anywhere I have to listen to music or a podcast and it kind of zones me out in the best way possible. My most dorky app is probably the ‘Shopping List’ app I have that I seriously depend on to keep my grocery situation in order. I also like to make lots of lists in my ‘Notes’ because I can never have enough. Between my work phone and my personal phone, I have enough lists to last me a year.
Photos by Michelle Dorman Photography
GSD (get shit done): A weekly column featuring busy business owners, entrepreneurs, bloggers, and CEOs and how they get shit done. Meg also writes articles with helpful ways to get shit done. Tell us how you GSD on twitter by tagging #GSDgetshitdone and @megbiram.