What’s the holy grail of work? Figuring out how to channel your genuine passions and talents into a sustainable livelihood. For those with an artistic bent, this can be challenging. But Megan DeKok, a social media art director working with IHG Hotels & Resorts through We Are Rosie, has fashioned a career that requires just what she has to offer: style, creativity, and a love of travel.
Nowadays, social media is a playground for an inventive mind. People who work in this field of marketing have daily opportunities to engage and attract viewers, using combinations of sound, images, text, and videos. Megan’s job is inspiring them to travel–and to stay in one of IHG’s hotels, naturally.
A few years ago, We Are Rosie connected her with the multinational hospitality company, which includes the brands IHG One Rewards, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Atwell Suites. Working on renewable contracts, Megan keeps their social media channels humming with enticing images of umbrella-dotted beaches, vacation cocktails, and beautifully appointed hotel rooms. The main channels for her work are Instagram, Instagram Stories, Facebook, and TikTok.
Based in Detroit, Megan loves the flexibility of her remote set-up, which allows her to be with her dog, make her own lunch, and travel when she pleases. She recently got to spend the months of May and June living in New York City. And no matter where she’s doing it, her work is rarely boring.
Finding her niche as a social media art director
What exactly does a social media art director do? Megan comes up with style ideas and images to promote the hotels’ priorities at any given moment. Then she meets (virtually) with copywriters, who add the written content and captions.
So, if Labor Day is coming up, Megan focuses on a place like Palm Springs, where people might want to spend a long weekend.
“I’ll look up which of our hotels are in Palm Springs, and I’ll find that we have a hotel that’s very cute,” she says. “Maybe it has a good breakfast, a pool, a comfy bed, a patio, or some other things that make a vacation extra nice.”
Then she’ll highlight some of those elements in an Instagram image or story. When creating the visual content, she often starts with a sound. “I’ll notice which sounds are trending on TikTok or Insta Reels and pair it with travel images associated with our hotels.” It could be a song, but it could also be a snippet of someone talking.
She recently paired a trending snippet of dialogue (“Me? Obsessed with you? Yes, I am”) with a montage of Holiday Inn’s breakfast foods. In another, she showed off one of the hotel’s cozy beds with audio of a woman saying, “Hey, can I show you something I love?”
The feeling is mutual. 😍 *Breakfast offerings vary by location #ExperienceIHG
Talk about top-notch sleep quality. 💙 😴 #ExperienceIHG
“Once you know what the client is fine with, you can go crazy within those parameters,” she says. And originality is key. “I feel like social media is very saturated right now, and it can be hard to stand out. But it’s very important for businesses to have a social presence.”
Making the transition from editorial to agency to brand marketing
Megan’s been working in social media for years, though most of her work has been for smaller companies. After graduating from Wayne State University with a degree in graphic design, she began her career in the ad design department at HOUR Detroit magazine. Eventually, she worked her way up to be the associate art director.
“Because there was a small staff, you could do more than one role,” she says. Here is where she was able to incorporate one of her passions—a love for cooking—into her work. “I got into food styling there, and I also started a food blog at this time.”
Organic Inc., an ad agency, noticed Megan’s work through the social media for her food blog. Soon enough, she was working as a social media writer and designer for that agency, taking on the Kotex account and spreading awareness about feminine products across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
“Growing up, I wasn’t as open about my period,” she says. “But now I can tie any topic back to periods!”
For example, she once posted a photo of a pizza with toppings like Doritos and tiny slices of cheesecake, and captioned it with a joke about period cravings: “When you can’t put your finger on what you’re craving.” Or she’d give cheeky advice about how to deal with cramps, like, “If you have a small dog, let him lie across you.”
Next, Megan spent over three years as the creative director of a chocolate shop in Detroit called Bon Bon Bon. “I rebranded it, launched its website, opened a store, and did all of the design,” she says. “Plus all their social media, all the photo shoots, styling, and art directing.”
Trying out the independent lifestyle
After fulfilling so many different roles at the chocolate shop, she’s enjoying the relative calm and consistency of her well-defined position at IHG. While she was initially nervous about the possible instability of contract work, she’s had a smooth ride as a Rosie. Plus, the pandemic has broadened many companies’ views of remote work. So, “I feel more confident that there are a lot more job opportunities,” she says.
One of her biggest challenges now that she works remotely is not having people around to bounce ideas off of and help spark creativity. “I have to make sure to get out and go to a coffee shop or have regular plans at night,” she says.
As for the usual complaints about working in social media, she generally shrugs them off. She acknowledges that it involves a constant churn of generating ideas and staying on top of what’s trending. “But you don’t have to jump on every idea,” she says. And “there’s always the hope of ‘maybe we’ll go viral with a post,’ but that’s a strange pressure because you have no idea. I personally don’t care about that.”
Seeking inspiration in the everyday
For those who are just getting started in any aspect of social media marketing, Megan says it’s important to make sure your own social presence is a good portrayal of what you can do creatively. Her personal Instagram is very much a representation of her style.
“In general, with any creative job, it’s important to have your own creative practices that you do on your own,” she says. That might mean styling something that no one else sees but you. “I’ll make a lunch, but I’ll style it to be pretty also. That’s just for me, but I always ground myself in who I am.”
If that’s your attitude in life, she says, it will shine through in your work as well.