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It’s time to get to know North Star!

Today you’ll meet Jessica Lancaster, one of our awesome content writers and editors.

Jessica grew up in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, later moving to North Carolina {coincidentally, right around where Marie grew up!}. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Public Relations and Media Production. A city girl at heart, she headed west after graduation and landed in Los Angeles, where she currently resides. Jessica joined the North Star team as a writer in 2020. 


Q: What brought you to North Star?

Jessica: Well, my first out-of-college job was in entertainment publicity. I’m a big pop culture nerd, and I love TV and movies. So I kept that job for a few years, because it kept me involved in an industry I find interesting. But it was basically a monitoring, data-entry, keep-track-of-stuff type job. I wasn’t writing at all, and I really missed writing. So I set out to find something more creative, where I could get back to writing again, and that’s how I found North Star.


Q: Did you always want to be a copywriter?

Jessica: Not exactly. I always knew I wanted to write—it’s the one ability I’ve always felt confident in and it’s something I really enjoy doing. But in terms of how I wanted to turn that into a career, it’s been kind of a journey. I went to college thinking I was going to be a journalist. Then I took my first reporting class and…I kind of hated it? I liked the actual writing part, but I hated having to get quotes. People don’t always want to talk to you, and I’m such an introvert, I don’t always want to talk to people! I liked news writing as a medium, but I didn’t feel like enough of a go-getter to be a good journalist.


So I switched tracks to public relations instead, which I enjoyed a lot more. But even as I did that, I knew I didn’t want to be a publicist, either—those jobs are so stressful! So I felt like kind of a mess, honestly, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It all worked out though, because now I can say I definitely learned and developed a lot of the skills that I’m using every day.


Q: What are some of the skills from your other positions or past experiences that have helped you here at North Star?

Jessica: I worked as a one-woman communications team for a nonprofit animal shelter for a few years, and that really gave me a crash course in how to write a ton of different kinds of content. Not just your usual emails and social media, but also creating things like style guides to direct how the brand communicated. Now I help with some similar things for North Star internally, and I also draw on some of that knowledge when developing Brand Voice Guides for our clients.


Also, I really like learning about people and their stories, so it’s nice to be able to put my interview skills to good use. It’s kind of all the parts I liked about journalistic writing and none that I don’t, because generally people really like talking to you about their business. I love how our clients aren’t just a brand name, but real people we get to know. It makes me feel more connected to the work I’m doing and the impact it can have for them.


Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

Jessica: Say “no” to things! I guess that’s probably life advice too. But something that I struggle with personally is just saying “yes” to everything as a default. So I’m really inclined to overwhelm myself with work. I’m definitely not following this advice as much as I should be, but I’m a lot better now than I was before.


Q: So how do you keep yourself from getting overwhelmed?

Jessica: I’m figuring out that I need to take breaks during the day, and that I can’t just sit down and write everything straight through. It’s too easy to get burned out. So I like to get up and take short walks, or just go sit outside for a little while to refresh. Also, planning ahead is really important. But I’ve always been a big list-maker and schedule-keeper, so that comes naturally to me.


Q: Speaking of things that come naturally to you, what kinds of content do you prefer writing? What do you find most challenging?

Jessica: I’m most comfortable creating general audience nurturing content, like emails or social posts that are supposed to connect with and engage people, or teach them about a brand. I think since so much of that is rooted in just listening to people and understanding what they want and need, that feels natural to me.


Sales pages and other content specifically designed for conversion, to get people to buy things, I find more challenging. I’ve just never felt like a good salesperson. I used to get anxious about selling Girl Scout cookies, and people always want those. You don’t have to do much convincing to get someone to buy Girl Scout cookies! So it’s harder for me to feel confident about creating that kind of content.


Q: What do you like most about working at North Star?

Jessica: I really appreciate the way North Star treats writing as a skill we’re all constantly growing. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re in a writing career to just sort of “be good at writing,” blanket statement. When you get into copywriting and marketing, you realize that there are so many different kinds of writing and so many different ways to approach marketing strategy. So when I first started out, that was really overwhelming. I was worried that someone would ask me to write something I didn’t have experience with, and I would manage to mess it up so badly no one would ever let me write for them again.


But I never felt that way at North Star. From the start it’s been a really encouraging learning environment. There’s a ton of resources and systems in place to help you gain confidence writing different kinds of content, and everyone on the team has different writing backgrounds, so you can go to different people with questions. I guess I weirdly have less imposter syndrome, knowing that I have that space to learn and grow.


Q: If you weren’t writing professionally, what would your career be?

Jessica: I don’t think I truly realized how un-divorceable my life is from writing before this question, because my first instinct was to say, ‘Oh, I love travel and getting to experience new places and cultures. So I’d travel the world and blog about it.’ Which is obviously just another writing career!


And then my backup thought was I would want to be a linguistic researcher. I think learning about the origins of language and how it evolves over time is really fascinating. So it’s not a writing job, exactly, even though in many ways it would be a job about writing. Yes, I realize this is kind of cheating. No, I don’t have another answer. I’m sticking with linguistics.


Get to Know Jessica: Rapid Fire Edition

Favorite Studio Ghibli character?

Do the soot sprites count as characters? If so, definitely the soot sprites. But I also love Lin from Spirited Away.

Favorite cupcake flavor?

Red velvet.

Favorite media genre?

Fantasy or sci-fi. Give me magic, give me aliens. I’m all about the escapism.

Writing by hand or typing?

For work, it has to be typing, because my brain works weird and I like to write things out of order. But I always hand write my schedule and to do lists.

Ghosts or witches?

Witches, because I love magic, but that was a tough one.

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