Stephanie McGrath

Vice President of Strategy at VERB Interactive

Bachelor of Journalism (Hons.), 1999

In ’99 we were doing stuff that people are only just getting to now.

Stephanie McGrath says, “companies and organizations are starting to realize the only way they can reach people is with interesting stories.”

And for a content strategist, that’s great news.

Stephanie works for VERB Interactive in Halifax as Vice President of Strategy. VERB is a digital marketing company specializing in travel and hotels. Stephanie and her content team look for the stories that sell the dream vacations their clients offer. And then they tell those on their clients’ websites, blogs and other social channels.

It’s a new trend in travel marketing. Sure the average rainfall and temperature are useful information. So are details about shopping. But it’s the stories, the experiences, Stephanie says, that sell.

“People used to go on trips to collect souvenirs. But that trend is gone. What they want now is to collect experiences and memories. So our job is to tap into that emotion and tell the story of the destination in a way that makes them excited and want to book.”

Before joining VERB, Stephanie worked for NATIONAL, the largest public relations consultancy in Canada. There too she was constantly digging for the stories that would connect with the public. Sometimes the stories were light and breezy. But sometimes they were about life and death.

“I was at a meeting with Roméo Dallaire to talk with him about how he can make the general public in Canada understand what his NGO (The Child Soldiers Initiative) is trying to accomplish, and why it directly impacts our lives,” she explains. “Because if it doesn’t mean anything to you and me they are not going to be able to move the needle within the government.”

It’s not an easy task. She has to strip away the jargon and find the heart of the story, the central message. For The Child Soldiers Initiative it is, she says, “de-weaponizing kids… to see the use of child soldiers in the same way that we would see biological warfare or landmines.”

That’s a long way from taking pictures at a Britney Spears concert. When Stephanie graduated with her journalism degree she got work with Canoe, a news and pop culture site. That’s why she was taking the concert pictures. This was in the days before Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

“It felt almost like a startup,” she says. “We were left to experiment, try everything, try new technologies, cover stories in ways we thought would be different.”

Stephanie’s career has followed the development of digital storytelling. She used what she learned at King’s – how to interview, how to work quickly, how to be concise when she needed to be – and applied it to myriad new ways of delivery constantly being developed for the net.

“When I find a story I think about all the ways it can live – what are all the other ways that it can work for me or my clients. How can it be sliced and refined.”

It is all about reaching people “on the channels where they live now”, through various social media. But for Stephanie, whether it is the story of the Child Soldiers Initiative or marketing a hotel in the Caribbean with VERB “a story is still a story and always will be. I just think it is about being more creative in how you tell it.”

Posted: Nov. 2017