Emma Gannon | If It Feels Icky… Say No
Emma Gannon is a writer, a broadcaster, a journalist, a blogger, an author, a digital consultant, a lecturer, a speaker, the list goes on... The gist is, Emma isn't afraid to get out there and create. Starting from humble beginnings with a lifestyle blog, which she ran alongside a string of full time jobs at top publications, she went on to write a memoir about growing up online, which then inspired her hugely popular podcast CTRL ALT DELETE. With interviewees including Seth Godin, Lena Dunham and Gemma Cairney, it's no wonder she has brands desperate to work with her, but, as she explains below, there's a lot of power in being careful who you work with.
When people say “just go with your gut!” we kind of know what they mean, but it doesn’t make it any easier to make a final decision, and in some cases, to say no. Sometimes, typing those two little letters (especially when something would “look good on paper”) can be stressful. We can doubt ourselves and go around in circles in our heads. Sometimes your heart and mind can say big fat “no”, but your wallet can say “ooh yes please”.
Back in the early days of my blog, around 2010, brands started approaching me and it sometimes felt difficult to say no. I was so flattered and happy that a large company had even emailed me in the first place. I felt grateful and proud of my little blog, but feeling grateful is an emotion that can often lead you to straight-up people-pleasing. Feeling “grateful” is why some people never leave the jobs they hate because they feel grateful to even have one in the first place. That’s the reason I took so long to leave mine. Feeling grateful makes you say yes, when you really mean no.
One of the first projects I said “yes” to was a big high street clothing brand, somewhere that I shopped every weekend with my friends growing up in Exeter. How exciting that such a huge fashion brand wanted to work with me! It then became apparent that their big campaign push that year was working with DJs and bands, and their new range was inspired by rock festivals. Something felt wrong. I’m not actually interested in DJs or rock festivals. The only festivals I enjoy are ones with poetry tents, or deck chairs, or flower-arranging workshops. In fact, the last festival I went to involved meeting children’s author Jacqueline Wilson at a Q&A. I felt like a fraud and I needed to turn it down. The company were quite huffy with me at first (perhaps I’d led them on) but nothing was worth having the feeling in my belly of taking money for promoting something I didn’t actually like.
The other example is that time I’d gone off on a bit of a Twitter rant about Fifty Shades of Grey and how I thought the whole concept was a) irritatingly written and b) a bit sexist. I.e. Ladies, did you know if you allow a man to spank you with a hairbrush, you could get a free iPad?
I didn’t like the messaging and I don’t regret my rant - it’s OK to have an opinion and share it - especially if you work in the field of writing and journalism. A few months later, a pre-roll advert came onto my podcast for, you guessed it, the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie! I immediately had it removed and didn’t care that I was losing out on a portion of that month’s revenue. No money is worth losing trust, or being a hypocrite.
For eight years(!) I hardly worked with anyone. I still had a full-time job and I liked that I didn't feel pressure to make money from my blog. I think I worked with three small businesses across that time and did one post for ASOS which, to be honest, felt like it jarred with my content. I started to feel really nervous about working with brands that didn’t really fit my overall ethos so I said no to everything, even though I knew I could shoe-horn it in if I wanted to or needed the money. I watched on as all my friends in the beauty and fashion space earned thousands of pounds via Instagram and through their blog. I was so so proud of them, because they’d found brands that genuinely suited their blog style and mission. They were finally earning good money doing what they loved, having done it all for free alongside their jobs for so many years. I wasn’t able to do the same just yet.
This year however, I felt like all my “no’s” finally paid off in a big way. A huge tech brand got in touch to say they were looking to partner with a multi-hyphenated woman who was creating content across multiple channels. I read the brief and it was me. It was 100% me, and I knew I was perfect for it. There was no nervousness, no doubt, no questioning it. I knew it was the perfect match. A few weeks and Skype calls later, I found out I was picked. I was going to be the new face of Microsoft featuring in their TV ad which would be shown in cinemas and on national TV all around the country. My blank slate allowed me to attach myself to something I really cared about for the first time, and be an ambassador for a product I adore, that weaves into my personal and professionally lifestyle seamlessly. It felt amazing to be working with a tech brand that genuinely shows off my career and genuine ways of working.
So this is my advice I suppose, or at least heads up, it might feel like you’re missing out for now, maybe even for years, but if you stay true to yourself, and your content is 100% real, you never know what big opportunity might be waiting around the corner.
Written by Emma Gannon.