30 Under 30 – Lauren O’Neil

August 24, 2013  |  Jeff Fraser  |  Comments

Lauren O’Neil, 27

Associate Producer, Social Media, CBC News

“If i had a tagline it would be… intergalactic media chick with a heart of gold, a robot brain, and an oversized funny bone.”

At the CBC, Lauren O’Neil is a community manager and associate producer, working with a team of four on CBC.ca’s Your Community blog, operating CBC News’s social media, and hosting the web chat show CBC Live Online.

The rest of the time she’s Lauren O’Nizzle – internet junkie, intergalactic superblogger and Sailor Moon enthusiast.

O’Neil, who got her Master’s in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, is helping CBC build its social media presence and reach out to a younger crowd, having pushed the envelope when it comes to her own personal branding. The 27-year-old is about to reach 18,000 followers on Twitter (more than CBC veterans like Adrienne Arsenault or Ian Hanomansing) and her blog has a dedicated following.

“I think marketers have been a lot more aggressive about finding new audiences on social media, and perhaps in the news world we’re a step or two behind,” says Andrew Yates, O’Neil’s senior producer at the CBC. “So to tap into Lauren’s expertise as far as engaging people in new spaces and finding new audiences has been incredibly helpful.”

Lauren O’Nizzle, O’Neil’s lulz-seeking alter-ego, started as a video blogger for MuchMusic and later represented VitaminWater Canada at social media shop Entrinsic. As VitaminWater’s social media and community manager, she interviewed Canadian celebrities, covered events like TIFF and Cannes, and managed VitaminWater’s Canadian fan community. On her personal site, LaurenOutLoud.com, she’s had promotional relationships with brands like Samsung, Microsoft, Ford, Smirnoff and Diet Coke, to name a few.

At the CBC, she’s had to cultivate a very different brand: Lauren O’Neil, professional news reporter. It’s not always easy to separate her personal and professional social media selves, and she’s come to realize the things she does as O’Nizzle can affect how she’s perceived as O’Neil. She’s had to distance herself from brands to avoid conflicts of interest, and from her own strong opinions on subjects like digital rights and net neutrality.

But her experience as a digital native has taught her where the lines are drawn. While many journalists fret endlessly about what’s appropriate on social media, O’Neil’s comfortable putting herself out there. “She’s been a pioneer in a space where journalists have been fearful to tread,” says Yates. “There’s an element of risk involved when you start communicating in social media – the barriers between you and your audience are not there anymore. Lauren has really fearlessly jumped in.”

For O’Neil, social media never feels like work. In fact her online social network has become a big part of her social life. “It’s like having 18,000 of my friends in my pocket,” she says. Between her full-time gig at the CBC, her personal blogging and her standup comedy, she doesn’t have a lot of time to herself. But that doesn’t mean she’s always working.

“If you love what you do, then it doesn’t feel like work. And I love what I do,” she says. “I’m obsessed with it.”

From Afridi to Wong, check out all the profiles in our 30 Under Thirty.

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