MediaTips: Meaghan Mackey, from YouTube Cheers to Building a Reel

Meaghan Mackey, a junior at the Reynolds School of Journalism, talks about her journey in self-branding, how to stand out on social media and how to pivot from cheerleading expertise to general news. Story by Sarah Parks.

Mackey began her internship this year at KTVN News in Reno after having applied for the position the semester before. Photo provided by Meaghan Mackey

Developing Media Skills with YouTube Success

Meaghan Mackey, known in social media circles for her YouTube channel cheeradvice4you, started her YouTube career when she was a sophomore in high school. Focused on providing advice for other cheerleaders, her audience soon skyrocketed to over 180,000 followers.

Mackey was inspired to start her own channel after watching other YouTubers and also her local Sacramento television news station, KCRA 3.

“I loved the idea of being on camera. I was really into cheerleading at the time and I wanted to start something really unique and also that I loved doing.”

A screengrab from Mackey’s time as a cheerleading advice guru on YouTube.

From Cheerleading Guru to Multimedia Journalist

As a cheerleading guru, Mackey was one of the only people offering content in this niche when she first began. Mackey believes that she got so many followers because she got into it early and because she was doing something unique.

“Nowadays a lot of people try to mock what others are doing and see how they can mimic that to gain the same followers and attention,” Mackey said during a recent interview with the Reynolds Sandbox. “But for me, there was no one on YouTube at the time who was talking about cheerleading. So, it was something unique and it was evident that I loved doing it.”

But now a junior at the University of Nevada, Reno, Mackey has left cheerleading behind her and embarked on a new challenge, re-branding herself as a multimedia journalist. The old cheerleading advice videos have been put on private so that she can devote her channel to advancing her career aspirations.

“Recently I switched over to making it more dedicated to my travel experiences that are upcoming,” Mackey said from the Reynolds Media Lab at the Reynolds School of Journalism. “So, I stopped the videos to focus a lot on my schooling and academics. I also started working at a news station, so I put more of my time into news stories as opposed to cheerleading.” Photo by Sarah Parks / Reynolds Sandbox

Changing Gears and Setting Sail

Instead of creating a new channel, Mackey decided to re-brand her current one, taking down all the cheerleading videos and content that was unrelated to her aspirations now as a journalist. She says that it has been a difficult transition, and that although she has not gotten much negativity, she has lost some followers. But according to Mackey, it is all just a part of the process.

“I feel like it would be such a waste to throw away what I have built up already, and I think that you can always rebrand yourself if you decide that you want to do that,” she said. “It just takes time.”

The new focus of her channel will be on her upcoming acceptance to Semester at Sea, a study abroad program where students live on a ship and visit multiple countries. From now through the fall semester of 2017, Mackey will be documenting her experiences on her YouTube channel. She plans to offer advice on everything from costs, financial aid, and transfer credits, to planning out the trip and her different experiences in every country.

Her new image is not just limited to YouTube, but to her other social media platforms as well, Twitter and Instagram, in which she has a combined following of over 60,000 people.

Mackey has over 50,000 followers on Instagram. The top left picture was taken while she helped cover a regional gymnastics competition in Reno for KTVN News.

Following Passion

“I think the following just kind of happened for me, it’s not something that I really tried to pursue. I was just trying to do what I loved, and be creative and unique, and then my following just grew.”

In order to be successful on social media, Mackey says that it is important to only focus on two or three platforms and to devote all of your energy to those. Mackey’s three platforms are YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. When she used to be a cheerleader, Mackey says that she would always post photos and do Twitter polls to get more interaction. She also would ask her audience what sort of content they would like to see more of.

Now, Mackey’s YouTube channel will be dedicated to her future travel adventures, while her Twitter and Instagram will be dedicated to promoting her journalism work for her internship and classwork with Noticiero Movil, a bilingual news studio at the University Nevada, Reno.

Mackey, during an earlier internship in 2015, at ABC10 News in Sacramento where she shadowed reporters and anchors. Photo provided by Meaghan Mackey

The Value of Internships

Mackey says that her internships in newsrooms have helped invigorate her love of journalism.

“When I started I really wanted to be an anchor, but I have found more of my passion for reporting and being a multimedia journalist because you can see the story form,” she said. “I found I had a lot more fun out in the field reporting as opposed to being in the studio writing stories.”

Although her focus is changing, Mackey is loving every step of the re-branding process. She hopes that when she graduates, she can get a job as a professional multimedia reporter and offer tips on social media to aspiring journalists.

Mackey does extremely well on Twitter as well, where she has over 13,000 followers.

Mackey’s Top Three Tips for Building Your Brand

For other students wishing to develop their own brand, here are Mackey’s top three tips:

1- Stay your true authentic self: “My number one tip is to be unique and to be yourself. Don’t copy what someone else has done. Think of new and creative ways to tell your story and to define yourself.”

2 - Be engaged: “You can’t just post content and not interact with your following. Especially when I was a cheerleader I was very engaged — replying to comments and tweets and running twitter polls.”

3 - Stay consistent and up to date: “Don’t fall off the wagon. Constantly post new content and updates. Twitter and Instagram are always changing so stay up to date with the new technology as well.”

Story and Reporting by Sarah Parks for the Reynolds Sandbox

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