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Steal Morning Brew's Social Video Strategy
Featuring an interview with Macy Gilliam, Social Media Video Producer at Morning Brew.
When it comes to media companies that “get” social—Morning Brew sits near the top of the list.
Sure, their core product is a daily email that “makes reading the news enjoyable”—but they’ve built their social in such a way that you might not even know that. That’s a good thing.
Each social channel, from Twitter to TikTok, is full of platform-specific content. There’s rarely any linking back to the newsletter or outright mentions to subscribe. Each platform feels like its own living and breathing brand extension, all while fulfilling their mission of redefining the business news landscape.
A big piece of their social media puzzle is video. Maybe you’re familiar with their investigative reporting channel Good Work (I was in a video!) or their amazing "How is This Place Still Open?" TikTok series. As you’ll later read in this interview, the mandate for their video creators is broad: “content needs to fall under the categories of business news, personal finance, and entrepreneurship—but essentially everything else is up to us.”
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By empowering video creators to run their social channels, Morning Brew feels less like a media company linking back to their reporting and more like a social-first page for anything related to business. It’s smart. And I think more brands—media companies or not—should be thinking this way.
How to film a news-focused TikTok video (including a step-by-step guide!)
What the video pitch process looks like at Morning Brew
Why a “high-trust” work environment is an important foundation for any social video team
Rachel Karten: First can you tell me about your current role and any other social (or not!) roles you've had?
Macy Gilliam: I’m currently a social media video producer at Morning Brew. I make 3-4 short form videos a week for our social accounts, and have been dabbling in making slightly longer content for our YouTube channel as well. Our content stays in the realm of business news/personal finance/entrepreneurship, but I still have a lot of creative freedom within that!
This is my second role out of college! In college I interned at a few small companies doing social media marketing and I was always pushing them to let me do video to promote/explain their services. Morning Brew was actually the first job I applied to after college, but I didn’t get it. Then I had a brief stint doing content & community at a tiny startup, where I got laid off after like a month, LOL. It all worked out though because then Morning Brew had another social role posted and that time I got it!
RK: I'm curious to dig into your two roles at Morning Brew—you were hired for a social media editor role but it transitioned to social media video producer. I feel like it's becoming more and more common for social editors to end up in video-focused roles. Can you talk about moving from a more traditional social media editor role into a social media video role?
MG: I started at Morning Brew as a social media editor, mostly posting on our Twitter, and some Instagram. I enjoyed that, and still miss Tweeting. But when I started at MB, I made it immediately clear to the team and my manager that I really liked doing video and wanted to do as much of that as possible.
So I started being in Dan’s videos when he needed an extra person, then worked up to writing, and then editing my own videos, all while it wasn’t actually part of my job. It was a really nice, low pressure way to learn a new skill, since it wasn’t actually part of my job yet, just something I did in my free time at work.
Then in May our social team changed strategy to focus on getting a lot more video out, and since I had been working in that direction, I got to switch to full time video! It all went really smoothly, and I think it’s definitely because I got to have that slow transition!
RK: How would you describe Morning Brew's social strategy? Specifically curious to hear about their social video strategy.
MG: I feel like what sets our social strategy apart is that it’s very logical, high-trust, and encourages autonomy. It’s focused on empowering our creators to make the best content we can make. No one is micro managing our ideas, no one is panicking or getting mad when content flops.
As social video producers we know that our content needs to fall under the categories of business news, personal finance, and entrepreneurship—but essentially everything else is up to us. We can use whatever style or topic within that. We have a flexible goal of 3-4 videos each per week, but if we really can’t think of enough content for that week, we’d rather skip it than post something bad just for the sake of posting.
One of my favorite things we do is a biweekly social team meeting where we all look at our own content for the past two weeks and pull out the best and worst performing. We each talk about our own content and reflect on why things performed the way they did. Having the formal self reflection and sharing learnings in the social team has definitely helped me get better at making content.
RK: What does the team that works on social video at Morning Brew look like?
Dan Toomey isn’t on the social video team directly (we’re not sure what team he’s on, he just showed up to the office and won’t leave). Dan still contributes videos when he’s not working on stuff for his channel Good Work. Also our YouTube producers make social cuts of their YouTube videos, and sometimes other videos if they have ideas for one.
We also have the whole multimedia team available to help us with things when needed. We have so many talented people to help with things like mics, camera equipment, studios, motion graphics, editing, and pretty much anything else. Normally we’re pretty self sufficient, but we can lean on those teams when we need to.
RK: I love your "How is This Place Still Open?" series—can you walk me through how that came about? Why do you think it has resonated?
MG: It came about because I’m genuinely curious about these little places and always wonder how they got started, and how they stay open. I was already chatting with these business owners when I walked into their stores, now there’s just a camera and a bit more of a formal question list lol.
It also came about because I think there’s an over saturation in stories told about mega corporations and billionaire business people. I don’t want to make the world’s millionth video about how Jeff Bezos made Amazon. It’s not interesting to me. I’m much more interested in making a video about how a passionate entrepreneur has managed to keep a business open, doing what they love, in one of the most competitive and expensive cities in the world.
I think the series has resonated because other people wondered how these places stay open and want them to continue to stay open. The comment sections on these videos are always so positive and cool to see; people tag their friends, encourage people to buy from these stores, and say they’re going to visit next time they’re in New York.
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RK: You've spoken before about how journalists should break down their articles in video form. Do you have any tips for doing that? Any examples?
MG: I think a good example of an explainer I did is this one about how long it takes to walk to your plane at the airport. I like to film explainers in a relevant location when possible, so I filmed this one when I was at the airport. It’s more visually exciting than me sitting at a desk, and only slightly mortifying to film.
Here’s an easy guide to make a video like this:
Make a bullet point list of what made you interested in this story. The details that got you excited to talk about a story will make someone else excited to listen.
Pull out ONLY the most important bullet points. Rip it apart and cut it down to be palatable for a 30 second tiktok attention span.
Don’t use the video as a tease to a full article. The video should tell the full story. Of course it will be a condensed version, but if people really want to learn the details they’ll go to the article. If they don’t care about the details, no amount of prompting will convince them to go read the article!
Have a strong first line as a hook. I often start my videos with questions like “did you ever wonder ___” “have you noticed ___” because it’s a good hook.
Speak how you would if you had exactly one minute to tell your friend about this crazy story you just heard. Be excited, speak quickly, and don’t waste time on unimportant details.
Film in a relevant location to the story if possible, if not, then just somewhere quiet with good lighting.
When you’re just starting out the only mandatory editing is adding captions and cutting out long pauses. You can just use CapCut and the TikTok app for this.
Once you’re feeling more comfortable then you can add b-roll clips, headline screenshots, and music!
RK: So helpful! I'm curious to hear a bit about the brainstorming and creative process. What does that look like? What is the approval process like?
MG: I start each week reading through the news (as someone who doesn’t set my phone down for more than 20 minutes at a time, it’s rare that there’s news I haven’t already seen, but I like to be thorough). I normally steal story ideas from our newsletter writers’ Slack channel where they send interesting/important links all day. It’s an enviable resource. I open a million tabs of whichever links seem interesting or that I start to have ideas for.
I start a pitch doc where I put 4-5 ideas. Each idea includes a few relevant links, bullet points from the articles I read on why I think we should cover this, and what details I’d def want to include, and a premise that explains what I’m picturing, like “parody of a film noir detective movie about why Jeff Bezos bought one share of Amazon stock” is very different from “explainer on why Jeff Bezos might have bought one share of Amazon stock”.
Then I send that pitch doc to my manager who tells me which ideas he thinks are strongest (we normally agree on this, if not and I feel like something is really worth making then I’ll push back). We prioritize making the strongest and most timely videos.
Next I use my bullet points from before to write a script out fully, and my manager looks over it again before filming. Then I round up whichever coworkers I wrote into the script and go film! For editing I mostly edit my own stuff, but sometimes my manager, Uber Bautista, will edit for me so I can focus on filming something else if we’re pressed for time.
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RK: What about social video storytelling do you love?
MG: I’m a very curious person so most of the stories I tell are things that I wanted to know about already. It’s a very cool feeling to get paid to learn this stuff.
What makes social special is that I have a much closer connection to our audience than other storytelling mediums do. I read every comment, I see what people like and what they want to see more of. There’s positives and negatives to that level of closeness of course, but most of the feedback I get in the comments is very encouraging.
I think there’s a huge opportunity to tell interesting stories that people care about. I can give attention to small entrepreneurs’ work that makes an actual difference in their lives and businesses. That’s my favorite part.
In Tuesday’s Logged On for paid subscribers, I interviewed the head of social for the NY Jets, broke down five recent brand posts I loved, and explained how publishers can promote articles on Twitter despite headlines being removed. It was a good one.
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