When Food Network personality and “Good Eats” host Alton Brown was preparing for a book signing, he tweeted the latitude and longitude coordinates for the location to his 177,000-plus Twitter followers. Hundreds got the message, did their homework and showed up for the event.
Brown is one of many at Food Network, Cooking Channel and Food.com who are harnessing the power of social media to engage audiences hungry for interaction. The “head chef” who manages the brands’ social media strategy is 2004 alumna Kate Farber Gold, whose professional pantry includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, to name a few.
“I’ve been here a year and a half and it’s my dream job,” says Gold. A self-described foodie who is passionate about cooking, she says the company is keen on social media and maximizing real-time connection with its audiences. “It’s not a one-way platform; you have to have dialog.”
Gold grew up in West Virginia and fell in love with Wake Forest during a campus visit. A former president of Delta Delta Delta sorority, she majored in psychology then moved to New York City to join the PR agency world.
“I started to learn about social media — it wasn’t a common job description in 2004. I was doing media campaigns for the movie industry and learned a lot because movie studios were on the cutting edge,” says Gold, who lives in Manhattan. That job led to another working on social media strategy for major brands such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Johnson & Johnson. All the while she had her sights set on companies whose brand she respected and believed in, and tops on the list was the Food Network.
When an opportunity arose there, she said, “I knew I had to get it.” She optimized her resume to show up in the company’s search and put her social media skills to work by following key players in the company and network personalities on Twitter and Facebook. “I wanted to show them I knew how to use the space and was passionate about the brand,” she says.
Now that she has her dream job less than a decade out of college, Gold credits Wake Forest with giving her the confidence to succeed. “Wake Forest helped me grow as a person; in addition to the lifelong friends I made, the greatest thing I took away was being in an environment with people of that caliber.”
Looking back she’s also grateful for the laptop computer she received as an incoming student. “That helped educate me in terms of technology; it was a key part of making sure students were up to date and felt comfortable using it. Now it’s a necessity.”
Her advice to students on the career path? First and foremost, follow your passion and be creative about translating that passion into a career. “I knew I loved food and cooking and that I wanted to work at Food Network. But I also looked at food-related non-profits, restaurants and any other angles I could come up with. One door opens another.”
Secondly? Be social: reach out to people who went to Wake Forest or who didn’t. “If you see them doing something that inspires you, network. The more people you talk to, the more you learn and the more good energy comes back to you.”