In conversation with

Emma Gannon

Journalist, Broadcaster, Author

emma gannon outside palm vaults



Once upon a time, dabbling in different careers was a sign of indecision. Today, being a teacher with a blog, a lawyer who runs an ecommerce or a nurse who’s also an illustrator are hailed as hallmarks of entrepreneurial spirit. Writer Emma Gannon has coined a term for building a career path around having a few strings to your bow. The Multi-Hyphen-Method is the title of Emma’s second book, a business manual packed with advice on everything from work-life blend and burnout culture to personal branding and money. It’s a manifesto for crafting your own career and a middle finger to those who label millennials as Generation Snowflake.

Naturally, Emma herself is a multi-hyphenate. The journalist-blogger-broadcaster set out into the world of journalism as Social Media Editor of British Glamour and today writes for publications including the Guardian and The Pool. Her podcast Ctrl-Alt-Delete has over 1.5million downloads and has featured the likes of Greta Gerwig, Lily Cole and Otegha Uwagba. “It’s the best part of my job,” says Emma, “I love interviewing people and sharing their stories”. We sat down with Emma to get some insight into her own.

Question and Answer

Your first book is called Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online. What did ‘growing up online’ mean for you?

Growing up online meant all the years ‘experimenting’ on the Internet during my teens. I wanted to write a book that spoke about all the usual universal teen stuff (discovering sex, bullying, body image, dating, friendship) but through the lens of an awkward girl sat behind a big white computer using dial-up in the early noughties. I thought it would be funny and relatable to have this ‘millennial memoir’ to look back on. Millennials are lucky in some ways because we had a mostly tech-free childhood. The introduction to evolving tech is so different to teens now, who seem to have an iPhone/public Twitter account from the get-to.

What was the thought process behind starting your blog. Would you still advise blogging as a way of getting into a career in writing?

I started my blog in 2009 when it was still very new and I remember keeping it hidden from my Facebook friends because having a blog wasn’t a cool thing yet; it just meant you were an over-sharing loser. Now even your neighbour’s dog has one. I think it is still beneficial to have a space online that is yours to showcase your work and portfolio. I don’t think it has to be a traditional blog format though — maybe a stripped-back website or slide-show, but you should definitely have something that comes up on Google and shows you off in a good way. So many amazing companies recruit mainly online now (it’s called ‘social recruiting’ apparently). RIP the traditional Times New Roman CV.

“The biggest error is when a brand tries to sit across 14 different social media sites and puts out random or lazy stuff. If you don’t need Pinterest or Snapchat, scrap it.”

You were social media editor for British Glamour. What are your top three tips for brands looking to build up their social media presence?

1. Work out your goals. What are you actually trying to achieve? Is it more click-throughs to your site, more followers, more customers, more engaging, attracting younger readers? Or are you just doing it for fun as a experimental side-hustle? Work out what you want from it, and it’ll stop you feeling tempted to sit there and compare yourself to other people and what they’re doing.

2. Pick a few platforms and do them really well. Or even just one. The biggest error is when a brand tries to sit across 14 different social media sites and puts out random or lazy stuff. If you don’t need Pinterest or Snapchat, scrap it. It matters to build up a real following on a platform that best suits your goals.

3. Have fun and take risks. So many social feeds are so similar and bit dry or too perfectly pastel-coloured these days. Be bold, and have something to say!

Which brands do you think are killing it on social media and why?

I think Bumble are doing a great job. They partner with universities to give students work experience via the app (known as Queen Bees); they partner with amazing charities such Women For Women International and recently set up a new grant scheme for aspiring female filmmakers. I think having a big platform and doing something meaningful with it is vital to a brand’s long-term success. They also have a badass feminist founder Whitney Wolfe who has an interesting back story. On a more shallow note, their visual branding is always of a really high standard too. They know who they are and very consistent, which I think a lot of brands still really struggle with.

What’s your own relationship with social media like today?

It’s changed, for sure. Last year I spoke at the Oxford Union about how social media is killing our real relationships. I believe a lot of us are creating so many shallow friendships because the Internet has opened up the ability to connect with so many fantastic people (which is great) — but we still need to show true IRL support to our close-knit circle of friends and not be too distracted by our phones. Caroline O’Donogue wrote an amazing piece for Grazia recently on why we need to stop being so socially flaky. I have just started a private Instagram just for friends and family, because I felt like my Instagram feed was distracting me from the things and people that really matter to me. My Instagram is very much a business account, but I don’t overthink it. Longer captions definitely do ‘perform’ much better in terms of numbers, but you can’t force it either. I either have something to say on a particular day, or I don’t. I’ll never have a ‘content calendar’ for my social media feeds.

emma gannon new book

Are there any writers that cover social media, tech, the internet in a way that you enjoy?

I love Ann Friedman’s work and what she writes about online personal branding, Jerico Mandybur the editorial director at Girlboss writes well about time management and personal definitions of success. Jenna Wortham at the New York Times writes about internet culture really well. I think Lenny Letter produces some clever editorial pieces about women online too. Amelia Tait isn’t afraid to get under the skin and ask difficult questions regarding new digital trends too, for the New Statesmen.

What are your most-visited websites? Whether for news, leisure, procrastination?

I am totally obsessed with reading ManRepeller and The Cut. I love how on ManRepeller each writer has their own distinctive voice and it’s not edited in a way to make it more palatable or bland, like a lot of other sites do. ManRepeller really gives the finger to people who think that women can’t be into a pair of designer shoes AND also be incredibly intelligent. I love nerding out with tech AND I love a leopard print coat.

“Essentially, it’s a best friend’s guide on how to future-proof yourself, as the world of work evolves and the days of the ‘job for life’ are fast becoming a thing of the past.”

Congratulations on the publication of your second book! What story are you hoping to tell with The Multi-Hyphen Method'?

Essentially, it’s a best friend’s guide on how to future-proof yourself, as the world of work evolves and the days of the ‘job for life’ are fast becoming a thing of the past. It’s not a ‘quit your job and follow your dreams’ book, or even a guide on being a freelancer, it’s more of a movement (I hope) on taking risks and refusing to be pigeon-holed. It’s about allowing tech to work for us, not against us. It’s about having multiple interests and identities at work. It’s about how to take practical steps in this changing world of work to diversify and have multiple career strands/income streams. It doesn’t glorifying the ‘hustle”, but instead more a toolkit and manifesto for designing your own personal career path. It also has a chapter on money – I’m so passionate about talking more openly about it as it still feels like one of the last social taboos. We need more rich women!

emma gannon the multi hyphen method

Are there any other career books that have shaped your own perspective?

#Girlboss was an iconic careers book for me back in 2014 – it definitely planted the seed that I wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t totally relate to it as I never wanted to be a CEO per se, but I loved her confidence and writing style and it made me think anything was possible. I love Jen Sincero’s You Are A Badass At Making Money. I know us Brits cringe at the American cheese, but it’s a great book to get you started. I absolutely ADORED a book called Unsubscribe by Jocelyn K. Glei, all about how to manage email overload, written in a friendly engaging way. Pointless emails are ruining our lives I think.

unsubscribe jocelyn glei

Can you talk to us a little bit about your Podcast Crtl Alt Delete. What’s the concept behind it and what has been your favourite story you’ve featured so far?

I started my podcast Ctrl Alt Delete two years ago, it started as a way to promote my first book (also called Ctrl Alt Delete which came out with Penguin Random House in 2016). I wanted to interview interesting women about the topics I wrote about in the book (the Internet, mainly). It was so much fun… and then I started earning money from it… so why would I stop? It’s the best part of my job, I love interviewing people and sharing their stories. Some of my favourite episodes are: the one with Will Young on mental health and setting boundaries, one with Ava Duvernay about refusing to be labelled a workaholic, Lena Dunham on how the way you use social media totally changes when you get famous, and tonnes tonnes more!

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