Written by The Business Journal Staff
Community Ambassador, Nicola Balkind
What I do: Community ambassador at Yelp.com and freelance copywriter
Education: Master’s, University of Glasgow and Bachelor of Arts, University of Stirling. I also studied at UC Santa Barbara for a year.
Tell us a little about your career to your current position, Nicola Balkind.
I started out with the dream of becoming a full-time arts critic but found that combining arts and digital had more to offer. My first job in the field was at Edinburgh International Film Festival, writing content for their website. Being a bright young person who was firmly “from the internet,” I was entrusted with the social media channels while they were still quite new and went on to shape much of the strategy and tone of voice that they still use today. I continued work as their web editor for 5 years while growing my freelance career in copywriting and digital marketing. I’ve worked with everyone from huge brands to modest local events and I love taking plans for a conference, a festival, or a campaign and turning it into an opportunity for people to connect online, learn from each other, share their experiences, and bring it all together in person. I love working with local creative people so this became the focus of my business; meanwhile I’ve continued to write for national magazines, published two books, and continued some work in broadcasting on BBC radio, which have been career highlights. I hope to bring those same values to Fresno where we’ll be growing the amazing Yelp community here and throwing parties for them to meet in person at businesses all over the city.
How did you land your current position?
I’d very recently arrived in Fresno and was getting my business efforts established here. I looked at the Yelp job boards and coincidentally the community ambassador position was open! I applied through their standard procedure, which involved an application, a writing sample, and a few interviews. After meeting my advisor in person, she offered me the job.
What are your plans for expanding the Yelp brand in the Fresno area, Nicola Balkind?
The city is growing quickly and the Yelp presence in the city certainly reflects that! A key part of Yelp is the Elite Squad. The Yelp Elite Squad is our way of recognizing people who are active in the Yelp community and role models on and off the site. Elite-worthiness is based on a number of things, including well-written reviews, high quality tips, a detailed personal profile, an active voting and complimenting record, and a history of playing well with others. I plan to grow that community and get people really invested in how Yelp can help them navigate everything Fresno has to offer.
Why should local businesses partner with Yelp?
When we partner with a local business, we’re essentially bringing the party to them! Our Yelp Events allow business owners to share their story directly with Yelp users offline and show them what their business has to offer. It’s an opportunity for the business to connect directly with some of the city’s biggest influencers, which is awesome for word of mouth, and great fun to boot.
There are a couple of different ways you can partner with Yelp to spread the word about your business to the Yelp community. For example, you can host an event in your space for Yelpers, showcase your wares alongside other vendors at a Yelp-organized event, or participate in a custom marketing partnership.
How do you like the Fresno area so far?
I’ve been visiting for over 10 years now it has changed a lot! Now that I live here and have the means to get around, I’m enjoying exploring Fresno for myself. I’m really enamoured of the Downtown area – I work from a desk at Hashtag in the Bitwise Industries building frequently, and I’m really enjoying attending ArtHop and participating in the vibrant arts scene here. As a movie buff I’ve always appreciated the number of movie theatres in town, and am keen to see what the live theatres have to offer, too. And of course, the food is second-to-none here – I don’t know if Fresnans realize how great they have it here! I’m excited to continue my gastronomic journey around Fresno – which working for Yelp has really motivated me to do.
If you could meet one person, currently living or in history, who would it be and why?
Contrary to the advice about never meeting your idols, I’d love to meet Charlie Chaplin. He did everything from rags-to-riches without losing the sense of where he came from, he started out in one industry (vaudeville) and became a pioneer of another (cinema), and he was extraordinarily motivated and a perfectionist. I think I could learn a lot from him.
What was the best advice you ever received?
When I was a recent graduate and worried about making my move into the “real world” a friend told me that, “Whatever you choose to do now doesn’t have to be what you do forever.” I found that very liberating. It also makes sense with the kind of portfolio career that I’ve been pursuing and creating for myself for the past eight years. I’ve developed a set of skills that can be adapted and put towards any career path and any industry that interests me, and I think that’s something I’ve really taken to heart and that has allowed me the freedom to try things in and around different creative industries.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Nicola Balkind?
When I was 16 I worked at a bakery inside a supermarket. I learned a few valuable lessons then, including how to balance work with school. I think the biggest lesson was that the people who worked there and stayed for the longest time, without that ever being their intention, were the people who seemed to be the unhappiest. I knew then that I had the ability and the privilege of choosing my path, and while some of my career moves have been happy accidents, I’ve always known what I enjoy and how I can contribute, and that has been really fulfilling.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love watching movies, and I read a lot of books. I also love to eat out and to socialize, and I try to practice yoga most days. I’m also really excited to get my boots on and check out some of the amazing hiking trails that Fresno has to offer.