In honor of Veganuary- all things plant based for the month and beyond! This weeks guest, Helena Soh feels like the perfect fit. In all honestly I don’t know Helena personally at all. I listened to her podcast with my friend Lacy Philips of To Be Magnetic, and I knew I had to interview her for the blog.
Although her personal social media account is pretty low key (including some pretty epic travel adventures!) , she has done social media and online marketing for all kinds of big brands- including PETA. The 16 year old wanna be hardcore vegan in em of course wanted to know more about that out of curiosity, but also her approach to this social ‘medium’ felt very mature and grounded. I appreciate that she works for brands who actively stand for big change.
Imagine, someone attractive who is using social media for something other than self promotion!? Feels refreshing and noteworthy.
Thank you Helena for your interview! I look forward to meeting one day.
3 word bio.
Hurry up already!
What is your one physical characteristic that you’ve had to grow to love, but at times would have changed?
I've had more than one, but my Asian eyes were a big one. Growing up in Monterey, CA I was one of the only Asian kids in a small white town. The first time I realized I was different from everyone else was when I was five years old, because a little boy jumped in front of me while slanting his eyes and yelling, "Chinese, Japanese!" (I'm Korean, btw). For the rest of my childhood, all I wanted was to look like the white girls I went to school with. Growing to love my eyes was a big step not only in learning to love myself, but also be proud of who I am. I wouldn't have it any other way now.
What would your husband, spouse, kids, or any roommates you’ve ever had say is your most annoying quality?
I can be overly critical of people and I'm told I can be intimidating. I think this is because when I feel like I've grown out of or moved on from something (like a habit, opinion, perspective, etc.) I reject my past self for not "knowing better." So when I see traits in others that remind me of where I used to be, my ego wants to get as far away from it as possible and say, "That's not me!" I've only realized this about myself recently, and now I make a conscious effort to accept people as they are, and see everyone as my teacher in some way. This also helps me stay more present in my interactions with others.
You've worked in marketing and social media strategy for some pretty big brands, including PETA- what would you say is that hardest part about your job?
It's been crazy to witness the evolution of social media over the last 10 years. It started as a platform that informed and connected people in an organic way, but now there's an endless ocean of content, everyone's screaming their opinions and whatever they want the world to know about them, there are ads telling you what to like, what to buy, how to live. It's so loaded with emotional triggers, and I often worry about what being immersed in it the way we are is doing to our collective consciousness.
The first social media account I ever opened was purely for work so I started using it with the intention of bringing awareness to something other than myself. Coming from that place, I've seen the power it has to bring people together, inspire activism, and create real change in awareness and even legislation. There are so many amazing things happening in the world now that I didn't think I'd see in my lifetime, and a lot of it is because social media helped raise awareness on these issues. We need this space to come together and take action on so many things, now more than ever, and that's what keeps me going.
PETA has such a polarizing marketing strategy, but it works. I find myself constantly intrigued by what they do even though it isn't necessarily how I would do it. What was the most positive, but least expected takeaway for your time working with them?
So many come to mind, but I think the most valuable takeaway is that context is everything, and different tactics work for different people. PETA works on so many different things at once, but often, only the controversial ones make headlines. Every month, PETA holds a staff meeting to share all the progress each department has made in the last month and I'd always be shocked at how many victories would go unnoticed by the general public. I think it's because a lot of what PETA advocates for seems "extreme" to people.
During my time there, we found ways to deliver PETA's message online in a way that was relatable and evoked emotion from the average person. And we were tremendously successful at it. We grew from a team of two to thirteen people in just a few years purely to keep up with the demand for more content. To me, our success proved that PETA's views weren't so extreme. At the end of the day, no wants animals to be used or abused. People just needed to be introduced to the issues in a digestible way. I'm incredibly proud to have helped them in this way, and I think it's the most valuable skill I bring to my clients as a consultant now, especially for nonprofits.
Are you vegan!?
Yes! I actually grew up eating a lot of meat because Korean BBQ was a staple in my family. In my twenties, I'd literally eat a bowl of melted brie cheese for dinner. I wasn't even vegetarian when I started working at PETA. But once I saw with my own eyes what we're doing to billions of animals for meat and dairy, it was pretty instant. I felt like I had seen the worst horror movie ever made but it was all happening in real life, behind closed doors, and I was paying for it to happen every time I sat down to eat. After learning that it's also the largest contributor to climate change, deforestation, and animal extinction, I couldn't go back. Nine years later, I can't imagine it any other way.
How do you find balance - specifically within the social media space?
By taking lots of breaks from it! My husband and I like to travel a lot and we always make sure to spend a portion of our trip somewhere that has no WiFi so that it's not even a temptation. It always feels so good to unplug.
With 30 minutes of free time, what would you do?
Snuggle with my cat, Prince Akeem.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? More compassion. For each other, for animals, for the planet. ASAP.
A few unread emails or 1000’s? A few. I'm good at reading them, but not as good at replying!
Honestly, packrat or minimalist? Aspiring minimalist but honestly more of a packrat.
What keeps you up at night?
On simpler days, I worry about my to do list, what's ahead for the week, and how my plans will play out. Other days it's heavier, like the state of the world, anxiety about climate change, and hoping that tomorrow people will care more and do more to help each other, animals, and the planet. ASAP!