Gemma Forbush

Credentials: Carmichael Lynch (IPG)

Position title: Associate Content Strategy Director

Photo of Gemma Forbush

Major: Journalism (emphasis in Strategic Communications)

Certificate: Digital Studies

Graduation Date: December 2013

How did you end up at Despaña Brand Foods?

Coming out of undergrad, I worked as an event and marketing coordinator for a content strategy consultancy that hosts global conferences for content strategy and UX professionals. After nearly a year there, I transitioned to an ad agency where I worked deep in the weeds on programmatic ad technology including video, social and display campaigns. In that role, I learned the technical aspects of the ad delivery ecosystem that allow me to see the systems behind the experience. I quickly became an expert in the technology and became a go-to resource explaining the programs and performance to clients.

From there I took on a hybrid account/project manager role focused on both the paid media and creative production working on brands like Warheads Candy, the University of Minnesota, and BOOMCHICKAPOP popcorn. Looking to move back into a strategic role, I transitioned to an integrated creative agency, Carmichael Lynch, where I have worked on national CPG brands, retailers, finance companies, and utilities brands. I manage social strategy and lead content strategy efforts for the agency.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

I oversee digital and social media campaign planning for multi-million dollar clients and projects. I work with creative and production teams to translate strategic needs into creative and content opportunities with an emphasis on the user experience. Day to day, I’m in a number of meetings – selling work and strategy to clients and translating needs and feedback for internal teams. What hours I have left are spent diving deep on strategic problems or process documentation to make sure everyone on the project understands the user needs and journey, and how we should work to meet the needs of the project.

How has Digital Studies influenced your career path?

I use the principles I learned from the Digital Studies program every single day. Creative work is so entwined with the ways it’s delivered and experienced by the audience. As a technical expert on our team, I am able to think through not just the creative expression but how the technologies we use impact the meaning and interpretation. I think about my “rhetorics of technologies” class when we talk about the good, bad, and ugly of different social platforms and ad tech giants. We also talked about these technologies as systems and products of fallible human actors – that helps me craft strategies and stories that help clients understand our approach. And I use the principles from my “social media and the news” class on a daily basis.

From a functional perspective, Digital Studies also gave me a chance to take a Photoshop course and learn enough to be dangerous and jump in when an asset needs a simple crop or edit. I even created my first AR visualization project as part of my “data visualization” course that allowed me to understand that technology in a very functional way.

Did you have a favorite Digital Studies class?

Molly Steenson not only opened my eyes to the role of content strategy in digital communications, but served as a direct advocate to help me create connections and start my career after graduation. Her knowledge of information architecture, user experience design, and data visualization was such a different take than the advertising-focused content I was getting in most of my other classes and has helped me create a truly unique set of skills that has made me a valuable part of every team I’ve worked with.

Do you have any advice for current students?

Soak it all in. Take good notes. Recognize that these aren’t “classes you have to take,” but rather “classes you GET to take.” And finally, use these classes as an opportunity to find your people. Our industry is getting smaller and smaller with remote work becoming commonplace. Who knows – you could be talking to future coworkers or references who will connect you to opportunities you never dreamed of.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career thus far?

It’s nearly impossible to pick just one accomplishment, but one of the brightest moments was presenting a deep-dive social commerce strategy to the CEO and CMO of a national retail chain. I introduced new e-commerce technologies that they weren’t leveraging and showed them how their social media channels could become a place that brought together the entire customer journey with inspiration, consideration, and purchase for the holiday season. I had their attention for nearly two hours, answered their questions, and brought in millions more dollars of revenue for the ad agency I work at.