Kate Lardner: Down to Earth Social Media Strategist
“I think it's important for me to know… what other people are facing so that I am a better-informed citizen and know how I can help ease the struggles of others.”
RB: Tell me three things that make you smile.
KL: “I have a cat and a dog and my dog is the most ridiculous thing on the planet. Anytime he is around he makes me smile. And my cat, he is going through an angsty teen phase but he is the biggest cuddle bug on the planet. I have a niece and two nephews and they're a large part of the reason why I moved back home and they're just so full of life and it's so exciting to see the world through their eyes and get excited about little things. I love being by the water. So, in Ottawa, I was right by the Rideau Canal. It might not have been that big jovial smile but it was a kind of content smile that fell upon my face whenever I'm able to be by the water.”
RB: What is your educational background?
KL: “I went to elementary and high school in Saskatoon. I was part of my high school's dance academy and history study tour program. For university, I went to New York University. Through there I studied abroad in Florence, Italy and London, England. I majored in politics and minored in communication.”
RB: What has your working life looked like since university?
KL: “It's funny when people ask me that. With social media, it's never really the same. With my job right now, first thing, I get in and I kind of use social media and Twitter especially to monitor what news is out there and to see if there are any important stories that we need to be part of or react to. Obviously checking on our notifications and my employer's social media accounts. The rest of the social media stuff is anything that goes out through social media through any of the departments. I work for the Saskatchewan Teacher's Federation which represents over 13 000 teachers across the province. Any communications that go out through social media comes through me. So getting information from all of the departments and forming their message so that it's properly written for social media and scheduling that all out. Seventy percent of the time people will do what you think they will do but then sometimes they just completely surprise you so it's a lot of playing around with different things and seeing what your audience responds to.”
RB: I hear that you write a mental health blog. How is that experience for you?
KL: “When I was first diagnosed with depression when I was sixteen, the information that I was given about it through the media or what my high school health classes were teaching me was all in very extreme circumstances and so I didn't know how I was going to lead the life I thought I was going to while having this illness. Ever since I've become comfortable with the illness and comfortable talking about it. I've always wanted to share that message: you can lead the life you always thought you were going to. It might be a little bit harder, but you can still have a normal life. I got to a point where I thought the best place for me to do this is to start a blog so that it isn't just me doing a single post on my Instagram or Facebook. From my mom's side of it, she didn't know how to care for someone with a mental illness and so she learned a lot along the way as well. Some of her friends, they have children who have been diagnosed with mental illness. Same thing, they don't know what to do. I've brought her into it as well so it's not just a place for people with mental illness. It's for their caregivers as well so they can better understand the everyday life of what it's like to live with a mental illness.”
RB: What do you like to do when you’re not working on someone else’s social media or blogging about mental health?
KL: Laughing, “I'm on Twitter myself a fair bit. I try to stay fairly involved in the political scene and make sure I know what's happening both in Canada and the states. I think it's important to know what's happening especially in demographics that aren't my own because I have a very privileged life and I don't face a lot of the challenges that other people do. So I think it's important for me to know what those challenges are and know what other people are facing so that I am a better-informed citizen and know how I can help ease the struggles of others. I also love reading. I'm super nerdy and have a bookcase full of political history books and biographies that I have to read still. I moved back home three months ago. I'd been away for about seven years. I'm really enjoying just hanging out with my family.”
RB: Tell me about a woman who inspires you.
KL: “Actually throughout my life pretty much everyone who has inspired me has been a woman. I've had very few male role models that I've looked up to. On the personal level, my mom and my grandma. They're both very strong women who have faced a fair number of challenges but have pushed through and continued to see the bright side of everything and are there when it's important. One of those people that you don't know that you look up to is Queen Elizabeth I – someone I've looked up to ever since I was a kid. She had the deck completely stacked against her throughout her life and she went on to become queen and refused to marry in a time when that was basically heresy and brought peace and prosperity to her country that it had not seen in centuries.”
RB: What would you say to a teenager who would like to be a positive role model?
KL: “Just keep your head up. There's so much negativity in the world and you're never going to please everyone so just keep your head up. As long as you're happy and you're not hurting anyone, you're doing the right thing so just keep moving forward and being that positive light that you need and that people surrounding you need.”
Kate and I had an in-depth, thorough, and joyful conversation about her life and the role model characteristics she embodies. I have no doubt that we’ll see her name on an important social media campaign sometime soon. After all, she’s already worked on one for Bernie Sanders. This interview showed me the importance of putting family first, working on one’s self in order to help others, and staying on top of what’s happening in the world. There is much to be learned from people like Kate which is why 24strong has chosen to do a 2018 Role Model Spotlight Series. Stay tuned for the next blog post coming out on September 5th.