Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild Podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life, in-the-wild stories about business and marketing. 

Julia: Friends, I am excited to introduce you to somebody who is actually local to me. Paige and I met at church. Our pastor Ventura was like, “You guys have a lot in common”, which basically was we have marketing in common, but we’ve gotten to have great conversations. I asked her to come on the podcast, you’ll see why. But Paige, before we get started, do you wanna just tell people a little bit about you and what you do?

Paige: My name is Paige Flamm, and I’ve been working in marketing to some capacity for over 10 years now. I have background in being a mommy blogger and doing a lot of influencer marketing. And then over the last few years, I pivoted and channeled those skills that I had learned into doing a lot of freelance contract marketing with a few different companies. And then eventually, that pivoted me into my now full-time career working with a disability caregiving agency here in the state of Utah. I work on that project along with selling some software that we created to other agencies, and working on that project as well. So my role kind of encompasses those two sectors, and it’s pretty fun and multifaceted, which is nice for me, because I have ADHD, so I love jumping on multiple projects at the same time. So it fits my skill set.

Julia: Once you all start following Paige, you’re gonna realize that she doesn’t have enough time in the day to do everything. Every time, Paige, I watch your stories, I am like, how in the world is she doing all of these things? You’re homeschooling, going to school yourself, also just being a human being and working. You’ve got a lot going on!

Paige: I don’t know if you have seen the Harry Potter movie where Dumbledore gives Hermione that necklace where she can be in multiple places at once. I actually have one of those. That’s my secret.

Julia: I need one of those too! So I’m curious, if you can tell us a little bit about your story, how you landed at Giv.care. One of the things that I wanna talk about is marketing around disability. You have experienced that both as a mother with your own kids, and then also working. Is that what pushed you to Giv.care? Was it your own personal experience?

Paige: Yeah. So for those listening who aren’t familiar with my whole story, the watered down version is that I have a daughter who was born with a pretty significant brain malformation called Holoprosencephaly, and there was a 1% chance that she would make it to six months if she survived her one in 10,000 shot of being born alive, was the odds that we were given at the time. And so when I was pregnant with her, I had a blog at the time, which I still have, called thehappyflammily.com, and I had just blogged and written about this whole experience of carrying this child that I didn’t know if she was gonna live or not. She did live, and then it turned into this blog of me writing about being a mom of a child with a disability.

And then my fumes kind of got burnt out from mommy blogging and always having that high energy to produce my own content, but I still had this heart for disabilities and raising children with disabilities and advocating and all those things. So I started doing a lot of freelance work, which led me to working with an arm brace company here in Salt Lake City that makes arm braces for kids with cerebral palsy. And then while freelancing with him, I also picked up another freelancing gig with a local PT, OT speech clinic here in Layton, Utah that serves kids 18 and under with a variety of different disabilities. So then when I was doing those two jobs simultaneously, this Giv.care opportunity had presented itself.

How that kind of happened was I had a friend from college who we actually had our wedding in his backyard. So he was a great friend, and he had started this company with a few other guys and they were all doing this disability thing, and in my mind I was like, none of you have a connection to disability, so why are you doing this? But also, I’m very intrigued. They needed someone to take over marketing for them and to do their blog writing and copywriting and things like that, and so they asked me if I wanted to do it, and I was like, “Yes, I definitely want in on that.” And so I freelanced doing all three of those projects for about six months, and then I could kind of feel the water shifting in that I could feel Giv.care was going to go full-time if I dropped the other two. And so I did drop the other two, and went full-time with Giv.care last August. So it’s been about a year now, and I’ve been doing their marketing and communications since that point.

Julia: Everybody, Paige is obviously not speaking for all people with disabilities or all parents with kids with disabilities. Just putting that disclaimer out there. But I’m curious, as somebody with personal experience, has that influenced how you have helped develop the marketing for Giv.care? Tell me a little bit about that.

Paige: I think we all don’t know what we don’t know, and so I feel like when I was just doing my own thing, I kind of went guns blazing on terminology that I thought was great, and had to learn the hard way through a lot of different ways from people within the actual disability community of being like, hey, we actually don’t like how you’re representing us, and the things that you’re saying, and the words that you’re using. And so that took me on my own journey of inclusive language, people-first language, how does the disability community want to be represented? Are we using ableism in our messaging to market what we’re trying to do? Or are we actually being promotive to the disability community? So I feel like in my experience, I had to work through a lot of those personal biases that I had and different things that I thought were correct that actually weren’t. And so when developing the marketing, that was something that I had to take to the team.

And again, all the disclaimers for everyone listening, is these were just stances that we took as a company of we’re hearing from people in the disability community that they don’t actually like the term special needs. So let’s just not use the word special needs in any of our marketing. And I’m hearing right now from the disability community that they’re saying that disabled isn’t a bad word, but let’s use that word with people-first language. So a person with a disability, a child with a disability, and trying to just be very inclusive in our language to the general public, but also being very dignified toward the disability community whenever we’re referencing them. So that was this hard juggle that we had to take at first, but now it’s been over a year, and I think that we’re kind of in a place where we feel comfortable with what we’re doing, and we’re not being lit on fire by people on Instagram on a daily basis. And so it feels like a happy medium that we’ve been able to kind of come across.

Julia: I feel like for something like this, you have to be in this learning posture because things change. Culture is constantly moving. And so things that were acceptable 30 years ago are definitely not acceptable now. But I think that even now, next year, there might be shifts in culture. And even within the disability community, it’s not a monolith. So some people might prefer disability over special needs, some people might not too. So how do you manage that? Have you guys just kind of come up with like, hey, this is how we at Giv.care wanna talk, or does that shift a lot? I’m curious about that.

Paige: My first thought from what you were saying is, one, it’s always important to remember that I don’t have a disability, and there’s a chance that I might never have a disability. And so I can never speak from a vacuum and pretend like I’m always gonna know what is appropriate and what isn’t. And so I think the first part of that is always trying to stay aware and on top of what the disability community is actually communicating to the world about themselves, and keeping myself educated on their behalf. And then I do think the second part of that is in regards to special needs versus disability specifically, and using those terminologies. That one is such a hard one because there’s almost this moment that, I think if you talk to anyone, and again, this is such a hard thing to talk about, but if you talk to anyone who actually has a disability, from my personal experience talking to someone with a disability, they almost never wanna be called special needs because they feel that that’s very patronizing from what we’ve heard.

However, there are parents who are still navigating their journey with their child, and they would never want to use the word disability to describe their child, and they’re still on their journey of feeling connected to that term, special needs. And if their child does grow out of their struggles that they’re having, then maybe special needs is the correct way to go about that. And so it’s hard, because everyone’s on a different path with the language that they’re using. And so I think for Giv.care and as a company, we’ve decided to go with what we’re hearing right now from the disability community. And because it’s such a “do we say special needs, do we not” topic, we’ve just decided to not say it unless the disability community comes out next year and they’re like, hey, actually we really do enjoy the term special needs, and we would like you to use that.

Julia: And that’s gonna be even more complicated because what you guys are producing, is it for caregivers or for people with disabilities? Or is it for both?

Paige: So our target audience that we’re trying to target is caregivers of individuals with disabilities, specifically intellectual developmental disabilities. So we’re talking about people within that category, but we’re trying to access whoever the legal guardian is to say, hey, we’re a great choice for your caregiving needs in the state of Utah. Sometimes that happens to be the person with a disability, they’re also their own legal guardian in some situations. But for the most part, we’re trying to target the parents of these clients and capture them, which becomes hard.

Julia: That just adds one more layer of complexity because in general, in marketing, you wanna say the words that people are saying or using themselves. But you’re almost having to do a reeducation too around it on behalf of the community with disabilities. You’re reeducating yourself, and then also helping reeducate and advocate really for the community too.

Paige: And I feel like so far to this point, we’ve never had a parent reach out to us and say, “Hey, I don’t like how often you use the word disability.” But we have had moments where people have been like, “We don’t like the way you’re using the word special needs.” And so that’s kind of been this weird line in the sand that we’ve just kind of had to draw at some point and say, this is what we’ll use.

Julia: I love that you’re listening to people. That’s half of what marketing is. I feel like so much time is spent on us sharing information, and not enough is spent on actually listening for feedback. Some avenues are harder than others. We have a lot of small businesses, a lot of other marketers who listen to this, if they’re wanting to try to be more inclusive of the disability community, what are some recommendations that you would give them, either from your professional experience or even your personal experience as a mom?

Paige: Are you referring more from a marketing perspective or just good business in general?

Julia: All of the above! Just talk to me, Paige.

Paige: So many thoughts. I think from a marketing perspective, one thing that’s always amazing is representation. So how many clothing brands do you see that are ever actually using a child or an adult with a disability in their modeling, or things like that. I know those things are easier said than done, but I think representation is really important, especially if you want to be inclusive. And then just from a good business standpoint, just an example in my everyday life is there’s a small ice cream shop in our town that doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp. And so we have to lift Kinsley’s equipment into the building to even get her into the building when we’re out there and stuff. And so I think just being able to take a look at your own business practices and what you are and are not doing, and are saying like, is what we’re doing excluding a population? And if it is, how can we rectify that? Can we add a ramp? Can we be more inclusive in our marketing? Are we adding image descriptions and things like that in our captions on social media that are allowing people with hearing disorders or vision disorders to be able to access our messaging, and things like that?

So I think there’s a lot of things that businesses can do. A lot of it is easy, and some of them are harder, like changing your actual building. But I think if it’s something that’s important to you, then you can find a way to make it more inclusive. A movement that I’m seeing is inclusive hiring, and being inclusive of hiring individuals with disabilities and fair pay. Apparently, there’s a law that businesses can actually underpay below minimum wage to people with disabilities, and so that’s something that is actually being changed right now. But I saw on LinkedIn just yesterday that 45,000 people with disabilities are being paid below minimum wage across the country because there’s laws that allow them to be able to.

Julia: I think even though people don’t have to disclose anything to an employer, when they do, I think it’s important to listen. For example, we had a guest who came on the podcast and she told me beforehand, “FYI, I have these three things going on in terms of intellectual disabilities.” She was like, “So if I lose my train of thought, I promise I’m not ignoring you.” She had no reason to tell me those things, and by all means, people don’t have to disclose things, but the fact that she did, then I was able to collaborate with her in a way that was constructive for both of us. Because I feel like people, speaking to what you were saying, some parents are like, does my kid have a disability or a special need? Our kid was born with a genetic disorder and she has some special needs now that we don’t know what will happen. And it’s one of those things where I’m like, we don’t have to disclose those things, but if we do, can you please actually listen and pay attention? We’re not just telling you for the fun of it.

Paige: And I’ve seen too, and because of my marketing with Giv.care and sharing things on LinkedIn that are inclusive to the disability community, it’s been interesting because Walgreens has actually been this great company that has set aside specific training to help promote hiring within their company for individuals with developmental disabilities. And they found after implementing these training and all these different things that their employees with developmental disabilities were actually almost 10 times more productive than their employees who were not, because they were just highly focused in the skills that they were trained to do, and they’re not distracted by the same things that I think we are. Maybe they’re not on their phones at work as much as we would be on our phones at work, they’re just very dedicated to their jobs. And so when you were talking about like, people do not have to disclose their disabilities, but once they do, it’s actually fairly easy to make the accommodations in the workplace that they need to be successful.

Julia: For sure! And it can make your organization so much more successful too, just from that example. For those of you who’ve listened for a while, we had Christine this summer who runs New Growth Project, and they actually have a farm that employs people with neurodivergent disabilities or disorders. She’s also said people are so focused, because some of them, they just don’t fit into a “traditional workspace” because people aren’t willing to make accommodations. And so for them, it’s been really cool because she was like, one of the people just has a very high OCD threshold, but it’s one of their best, most productive employees because he gets things done correctly and quickly, because he knows what he needs to do. And so I think that there’s such a gift that we can often overlook because people are different than us.

Paige: Agreed. I love that!

Julia: So we’ve talked a little bit about disability, a little bit about the community. I am just curious, as a former full-time influencer, you still do some stuff, I’ve seen you do some stuff, but you used to do this full-time. What was that like? You mentioned eventually, you kind of burned out. So what did you love about it and what did you hate about it?

Paige: I would say 2014, my daughter was about six months old at that time, and my blog had gained enough traction at that point of blogging about the semi tragic and heroic, miraculous story that I had enough of a following at that point where I was signing brand deals and working on sponsored blog posts pretty much full-time. At the time, there were quite a few media agencies that were connecting bloggers to brand deals. Some of the big ones that I was doing were through Lancia and Social Fabric, which still exists to some extent today, but they’re mostly focused on Instagram and not blog posts anymore. But the thing that was wild about the whole situation is that I would sign like three or four different sponsored posts a week, all three or four of them due in a week. I have a six-month old baby that has a disability and then my son who’s two who had autism, but it took seven more years for us to actually figure that out, and I am running to Walmart to take pictures of me shopping with my kids in Walmart, and coming home and making these recipes, and taking the pictures, and then put the kids down for a nap, and I’m writing blog posts, and I’m commenting on like 100 other blogs every single day to get back links to my blog and all of these things.

It was like this four-hour intense cycle that I had copy and pasted over a five-year period. There finally came to this point around 2020. Everyone had their best life crisis in 2020. So 2020, I just had this breakdown of, I absolutely cannot keep doing this three sponsored posts a week every week for my entire life situation. I definitely had a meltdown, and I think by January, 2021, I had ended all contracts that I had with these different media agencies and all these things, was just like, I can’t do this anymore. But then it was still that pivot of like, I actually still need money, and so this isn’t really helpful. And so then that’s kind of when I had my pivot to freelancing with those other companies and things like that. But I think that there was definitely this juggle of always chasing every single brand deal I can get my hands on, because I don’t know when the money’s gonna dry up and if brand deals go away, what does that look like? So there was this constant hustle of high anxiety of having to sign as many deals as possible, get as much money in the bank account as possible, write as much content while my kids are napping as possible.

It was just a very high energy, high need career. And I don’t think that people give enough respect to influencers for what they’re doing, because they are hustling harder than anyone I know. I joke with people, I’m like, people always think entrepreneurship is the goal, and that it’s this amazing thing, and you retire your husband and whatever, and I’m like, I love working for the man. The man gives me a steady paycheck, it goes in my bank account every two weeks. I know I can rely on it. So I still do influencer stuff a little bit here and there, but it’s definitely more of a fun thing for me now, and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not burnt out by it, and it’s fun for me again. And I have the nice security of knowing there’s a 9 to 5 paycheck hitting my bank account so it’s less stressful as well.

Julia: For sure. So I’m curious, what are some of the things that you took from your influencer marketing and have adapted into Giv.care or your other freelance projects? What are some of the things that you’ve used and adapted?

Paige: I think a big one is SEO, which is funny because I felt like my blog was a failure for a long time. And when the pandemic hit, I was like, I probably need to figure out SEO, or I’m gonna be blogging the hard way for the rest of my life. And so I figured out SEO, and then took that with me now to Giv.care, and that’s probably our strongest marketing avenue, is search engine optimization and Google and all of that. And then the other thing is Instagram reels were just taking off right around the time I was quitting being full-time. But being able to take Instagram reels and using stock videos, I think people really don’t know that there’s a whole library of free stock videos that you can use for reels on Canva for businesses. We have used every single disability stock video possible on Canva to make really engaging reels for Instagram, and I think that that’s been a really profitable and awesome avenue to discover as well that kind of came through those influencer days and stuff.

But I also feel like at the same time, so much of being a blogger and an influencer is different now than it was when I was doing it full-time, that I feel like you still have to constantly be learning and adapting to be successful in marketing. Because what was working 10 years ago of just putting a pretty picture on Instagram and everyone loving it, it doesn’t exist anymore. 

Julia: Like Instagram with filters way back when.

Paige: Yes. And so there’s definitely a lot more strategy to it now than there was back then, which is hard for me to swallow sometimes, because I feel like I’ve been doing this for 10 years, I should just know and be amazing at it. But it actually has a lot more learning curve to it than I would’ve imagined, having that tenure background.

Julia: For sure! So knowing what you know now, what are some tips that you would give to people around social media?

Paige: This is funny because for me personally, I’ve been wanting to get a little bit more into my own work again on my own Instagram and things like that. And so I actually have done a deep dive study course over the last few weeks, trying to get all the tips and tricks and stuff. And so one thing that I would say is obviously reels are really huge right now, and just being able to capture the emotional aspect of people through your reels. Sometimes I just wanna share something funny or a quick little fact or something, but I’m like, this isn’t actually pulling at any heartstrings for the viewers. So if it’s not pulling at a heartstring, they’re not gonna care. So that’s one thing that I’ve been trying to implement, is the emotion behind a reel, I feel like is something that I’ve been trying to implement. But then also just little strategies. Apparently, your first three Instagram stories of the day really matter, and if people aren’t commenting and messaging and interacting with a poll, Instagram will actually ding your stories and not show them to the rest of your audience, which I thought that they were just a constantly updated feature. Like when you post it, I thought everyone could see it. But apparently, Instagram’s hit the algorithm on your stories and stuff now too.

So I feel like it’s this constant battle of learning what the algorithm is doing, and then how can you stay on top of what the algorithm is doing. There’s a really cool resource, if I’m allowed to plug other companies on here. 

Julia; Of course! 

Paige: There’s this really cool company that I just actually started paying for myself called CreatorSource. And if you’re a new influencer, you can go in and they will actually give you this step-by-step course on all these things and changes you need to make to your Instagram feed in real-time to have more success. And then as you go through their process, they’ll unlock other features for you. So then they’ll actually give you contacts to PR companies within Target and Nike and all these different brands, and they’ll connect you with media agencies that are doing the work of connecting influencers to brands for you. So you get access to that. They have these rate cards where you can put in your following and all your analytics, and they’ll tell you how much you should be charging brands. It’s a  pretty cool crash course. 

Julia: So it’s creators and influencers?

Paige: Yeah. So if you’re like a mom or whoever is listening and you’re like, I wanna dabble into influencer marketing, it’s a pretty cool course to get you started down the path.

Julia: No, it sounds amazing! That is so cool! So obviously, we’ve been kind of everywhere. We talked about Giv.care, talked about influencing, we’ve talked about strategy. First of all, if people wanna find you and get to know you better, where can they do that?

Paige: My Instagram is @heypaigeflamm (https://www.instagram.com/heypaigeflamm/?hl=en), and I’m usually on there sharing something random daily. And then I still have my blog that I publish weekly at this point, thehappyflammily.com (https://www.thehappyflammily.com/). It’s a little pun on our last name, it’s not a typo. There, you’ll just find a bunch of fun little resources and things that I thought were worth putting out into the world.

Paige: I love it! And I love that you just said your reels like need to pull on heartstrings, because now that you’ve said that, I’m like, her recent reels have absolutely done that. What I love about it is that you’re obviously working for Giv.care, but you’re also living out your work like with your family. One of my favorite ones that you recently posted, which by the time this airs, it will not be recent, so sorry everybody, is about how you guys have stopped some formal therapies for Kinsley and have just been living life and how beautiful that is. As somebody who also has a kid in the special needs disability world right now, it is so hard to figure out what to be doing and what not to be doing. That one, I was like, oh, she’s pulling on heartstrings, absolutely, and also, you’re living out your work. And so I really, really love that. 

Paige, thanks for joining us. I really, really appreciate you and what you’re doing and your friendship. Everybody, go check Paige out. All of her stuff is gonna be in the show notes, but also, check out our Instagram, we’ll be tagging her. Paige, thank you. I appreciate it!

Paige: Thank you. Thanks for having me. It was a blast!

Julia: Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have. If you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out. If you loved our podcast and wanna give us a rating or a review, I promise, we will read each and every one of them. A special shout out to our friend, Carson Childers, who is producing our podcast. We really appreciate him and all the hard work that he’s done for us. 

Also, thanks to the Stratos team. They have been behind the scenes doing all of the graphic design, brainstorming, et cetera, et cetera. Really, this wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m thankful for each and every one of you guys. 

Lastly, listener, we’ll be back next week, and I hope you will be too.