Finding Success in Communications as a Non-native English Speaker: Interview with Thais Freitas

Finding Success in Communications: Interview with Thais Freitas

In this interview, we have Thais Freitas, Communications Manager at Outward Bound Canada.

Thais has extensive experience in communications strategy, content marketing, and public relations.

Her journey into the marketing world hasn’t been easy, as she started over in a new country while English wasn’t her first language.

However, Thais persevered and have become an inspiration to other immigrants who are struggling to find their way in their new countries.

In this interview, Thais shares her experience and insights about content, copywriting, storytelling, and overcoming obstacles as a marketer.

How did you get started in the field of marketing?

I’ve always been interested in how organizations communicate with their audiences, and that’s one of the reasons I chose to study communications.

During my first internship at a PR agency, I learned to love the connection between public relations, storytelling, and content marketing, which has shaped my career.

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What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment in your marketing career so far?

I used to think that my most significant professional achievement was starting my own PR and content marketing agency with two partners in Brazil when I was 23 and running it successfully for six years until I moved to Canada in 2015.

But after I started working here in Canada – thinking it would be easy because I speak fluent English – and found that working in this language would be much more complicated than I ever imagined, I now consider it my most outstanding professional achievement that I’ve persevered here despite all the adversities I faced as an immigrant.

While there were many moments when I wanted to leave everything behind and return to my home country to work in my native language and benefit from my existing network, I’m still here. Eventually, I became Communications Manager at Outward Bound Canada, an organization I always admired and wanted to be a part of – and that makes me proud!

How do you approach creating a successful content marketing strategy?

I approach developing a successful content marketing strategy like I approach life and every new challenge: as an attentive listener and observer. By paying attention to the world around me, I can understand how things work and adapt to the goals I want to achieve.

For content marketing, that means taking the time to closely observe and get to know the audience I want to reach:

  • what they’re talking about
  • where they’re going
  • what worries or interests them
  • how my content marketing strategy can be exciting and valuable to that audience
  • how I can tailor my campaign goals to that audience and their needs and interests.

This also means watching other content marketing strategies to understand what works and doesn’t and where I can get inspiration.

How do you stay current with the latest marketing trends and techniques?

I’m part of a marketing organization and have taken as many courses as possible in my career. Lately, I’ve been studying UX writing as I believe it’s an essential skill for content marketers.

I read marketing books, watch webinars, listen to podcasts such as Marketing Over Coffee and Everyone Hates Marketers, and follow many marketing newsletters such as Stacked Marketer and Total Annarchy by Ann Handley.

These newsletters are great ways to learn from other marketers and stay updated with what’s happening in the industry.

Can you share a particular campaign you worked on and what made it successful?

One summer a few years ago, when I was working at an environmental nonprofit, unprecedented wildfires in British Columbia were wreaking havoc, destroying towns and terrifying people.

The nonprofit was working on a case against an organization that had issued a misleading certificate of sustainable forestry that legitimized the destruction of old-growth forests as “sustainable logging.” We sent out a fundraising email to our supporters linking this case to the logging of old-growth forests, the increasing number and severity of wildfires across Canada, and the connection to the climate crisis.

This was the email with the highest donation rate that year and a perfect example of how important it is to pay attention to what’s happening around us and the world to put marketing campaigns in the proper context and get the best results.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting a marketing career?

My advice: Adopt the mentality of a perpetual student, always learn and believe there is always room for improvement.

It’s important not to be ashamed to ask for help. Do not take rejection personally, but as advice to do better next time.

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Can you tell us about a challenge you faced in your marketing career and how you overcame it?

It’s the challenge of starting from scratch in another country in a second language after several years of running my own business and being my own boss. I had to learn to be humble, accept criticism and instructions, and admit that my English wasn’t up to the level of a native speaker.

After internalizing all that, I took it upon myself to get better, learned a lot of grammar, read an absurd amount of books, and retook English classes many years after I finished my course. It was an exercise in humility and perseverance that, looking back, helped me grow as a person in many ways.

And that’s not all: Working in marketing and communications in a second language, I always have to be mindful of everything I write and say and accept that I’m constantly learning. I’ve learned to find that exciting rather than frustrating.

How do you measure the success of a marketing campaign?

For me, a marketing campaign is successful when the end goal of the client or organization has been achieved.

For example, a content marketing strategy for a fundraising campaign isn’t successful if it goes viral and reaches millions of views and shares, but doesn’t bring in the donations hoped for.

What tools and software do you use to enhance your marketing efforts?

I use all the usual tools and software remote workers use, like Slack and Asana.

I also use Agility PR to create my mailing lists and media pitches and use grammar checkers like Grammarly and InstaText to ensure my writing is correct.

Lately, I’ve started playing around with Chat GPT – I love asking it to analyze the content I create from the perspective of my target audience to see where I can improve it. It’s the next best thing when you can’t ask a real person for their opinion.

How do you ensure your brand’s message is consistent across different marketing channels?

The entire marketing team needs to be on the same page by regularly sharing information and experiences, proofreading each other’s content, and having an up-to-date style guide to refer to when creating content to maintain consistent language and tone.

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