ComArtSci Alumna Writes a Love Letter to Detroit and Secures Career in Social Media

ComArtSci alumna Amber Lewis was recently named one of Crain’s Twenty in their 20s. Lewis, who is now the digital and social media manager of the Detroit mayor’s office, captured the hearts of Detroiters on Valentine’s Day with the #DetroitLoveLetter social campaign. Quickly, the hashtag was trending on Twitter, with companies and residents contributing their affection for the Motor City.

Lewis graduated from Michigan State University in 2015 with a major in advertising with a management and media track and a minor in Spanish. Lewis’ major had a focus on social media, so she was able to learn about strategies, skills and audiences in the classroom that would build the foundation for her career.

“My advertising management major really laid the foundation for my knowledge and how I apply it to what I do,” Lewis said. “I received my New Media Driver’s License and through the course I learned the practical application of tools and tactics in digital and social media. My consumer behavior course taught me a lot about audiences, something I use when buying ads and targeting posts on social media.”

As a ComArtSci undergraduate, Lewis was highly involved on and off campus. She got hands-on experience by managing the digital and social accounts for Emmons Hall Government, African American Celebratory, Pinky Promise and Spartan Remix. She studied brand strategy and storytelling abroad in Cannes, learned networking and communication skills through Career Services workshops and participated in the Marcus Graham Project

From the Classroom to the Boardroom

The Marcus Graham Project is a global organization that travels to different cities and partners with advertising agencies to host workshops. They assign a project to work on within a certain time frame with the chosen client. The organization’s goal is to get more minorities in advertising and marketing positions. Lewis’ participation in the Marcus Graham Project helped her transition her skillset from an educational to a professional setting. Her client was the City of Detroit.

“That workshop was eye-opening, because when I came to the city, I was a one-person department so I had to start from scratch,” Lewis said. “It was kind of like sticking my toes in the water for what I’m doing now because they give you these [social media] platforms and they say make them great. I would say it was a good transition into the role.”

Lewis and her team were instructed to create a social campaign for the city. The only guideline given was the need for a better social strategy. Lewis and her team presented to the Chief of Staff for the City of Detroit, who Lewis connected with and gave her resume to. A few months later, she was hired in as their digital and social media associate. Later, she was promoted to digital and social media manager.

For eight months, Lewis worked to transform the City of Detroit’s social strategy. She was gathering content and developing ideas all on her own.

Lewis worked to unify the brand presence for the city’s social platforms. The platforms had different names, the images were outdated and not all of the pages were verified. She also focused on growing their following. In 6 months, the City of Detroit’s social platforms grew their following by a total of 27 percent. Overall, their platforms have grown by 30,000 more followers.

“I think with me coming onboard, we did a lot more fun and engaging posts that weren’t necessarily related to city programs and initiatives, but more so to our audience,” Lewis said. “The way in which we put information out has evolved, so it’s not just posting a screenshot of a press release, it’s getting content and talking to people who will be impacted. A lot of times, through storytelling, it’s how people connect to concepts.”

Lewis said what she loves about her job is that no two days are the same. In her position, she manages the digital and social presence for the mayor and the City of Detroit, including running the social channels. She develops strategy, produces content, gives creative direction to photographers and videographers, covers press events and works on ad buying and campaign creation.

Disrupting the Norm

The Valentine’s Day from which the #DetroitLoveLetter social campaign was born began as just another day. Lewis was in the office with the communications director, media relations director and the digital and social media associate she had recently hired. They wanted to do something fun for the holiday and, with a little brainstorming, they crafted different themed posts for Detroit-based companies. Their goal was to get local people and companies involved.

“It was like the #1 trending topic within an hour and it stayed that way for a majority of the day,” Lewis said. “Valentine's Day is celebrated everywhere. In the City of Detroit, we have a sense of pride, so [we wanted to figure out] how to share that and tap into that pride while also being relevant on a topic. It wasn’t necessarily promoting a city program or initiative but it was associated with the brand of the City of Detroit.”

Lewis’ advice for social strategy is to stay current and relevant by knowing what’s going on, what’s coming up, and most of all, knowing your audience by discovering what language, tone and content connects with them. However, she explained, a lot of the process is trial and error.

Lewis recommends ComArtSci students use their college’s resources, such as experiential learning, study abroad opportunities and the Career Center. Moreover, she said students should be brave as they enter an industry that is still being explored.

“Don’t be afraid to disrupt the norm and follow your gut,” Lewis said. “I think a lot of times, since social and digital media is a relatively new industry, a lot of companies may not understand the importance of it or the resources that you need. [Don’t be] afraid to voice what you feel would be best for your company, your brand or yourself. Innovation comes from being different and creating change - so that disruption is necessary.”

By Rianna N. Middleton