Patrick Bensi
May 1st, 2024

Get to Know Our Junior Marketing Strategist, Natalie Friel

Who she is, where she came from, and what social tactic she finds the most unsavory… PLUS, secret talents and EXCLUSIVE advice for Recess newcomers—it’s ALL inside this captivating interview with our marketing intern-turned-strategist, Natalie Friel. 

With her first foray as a marketer coming at the age of 8, Natalie Friel could very well be described as a former child prodigy turned current rising star of the marketing world. Someone born with a talent for content creation, writing, and social media strategy. Natalie herself, however, might call that description a bit dramatic. And you know what? She’d be wrong.

No, really. From her decision to pursue a career in marketing rather than acting while a student at Baldwin Wallace University to the moment she reached out to Recess Creative about an opportunity that didn’t exist (yet), Natalie has gotten $#!+ done. As you might guess, she loves TikTok. But, unlike most young marketers, she knows that the right mix of social media platforms differs for every brand. From spearheading social media content for several clients and helping resurrect the Recess Creative Newsletter to teaching some of us how to speak “Gen Z,” Natalie is the real deal.


natalie friel


What’s your story? Where’d you come from? 
I like to look back on my journey in a more linear fashion– to see what led to what.  

OK, how long have you been in marketing? 
I’ve almost always been in marketing, per se, whether it be launching a (very) small business, including a website and YouTube channel to promote it when I was eight years old, or dabbling in some YouTube content creation as a teen– those are stories for another time, though.  

So, I’m guessing you majored in marketing while in college?. 
Nope. I first took to the stage to major in acting. But alas, it never felt right. 
I love being creative, but I didn’t like the lack of structure. So, I changed my major at the end of my Sophomore year. You can do it, people! Especially when I considered my interests and talents over the years, marketing just made sense.  

Tell me about your journey at Recess.  
I would love to! As soon as I heard about the company, something felt right. Although there weren’t any open opportunities, I reached out to get acquainted regardless. It just so happens that Recess had some extra work that needed to be done! Conversations turned into interviews, which led to an internship.  

As an intern, I truly had room to “play” and figure out which areas I was most interested in, all while feeling a strong sense of support and mentorship from everyone around me. No one here has a superiority complex– we’re all just one team working toward a common goal.

As I narrowed my focus, I started identifying things that needed to be done within that focus and just started doing them. I think it’s a huge part of why I was promoted to Junior Marketing Strategist– I found things that needed to be done and took ownership of them.

How was your experience looking for work as a recent graduate? 
It's difficult, for sure. It’s difficult to ask people to trust that you're capable of doing great work when you have a minimal portfolio. 
If I had to do it all over again, I’d research two contrasting Recess clients and write a month’s worth of sample content for each as a way to demonstrate my strategic thought process while showcasing my creative range.  

Any advice for future grads? 
Speaking with a wide range of employers can help you identify what you do and don’t want in a work environment. Doing so can help you find a place you can really identify with—one where you feel at home.  

Let’s pivot– can you tell me about your current role at Recess?  
Yes! My main focus is social media. I plan and then collaborate on writing content for our clients before working with the creative team to make it all come to life! I also do a lot of research on things like subject matter, hashtags, and even emoji combinations along the way. 

Then comes scheduling and posting the content. By spending time natively on each social platform, I’m able to stay engaged with client audiences and gather ideas for future posts. Audience research is one of my favorite parts of this job, and I think it’s crucial that it informs the content development stage. It’s one huge circle, after all. 

Something I love about our social process is that there’s a lot of collaboration across teams. We always come together on strategy and execution– Whiteboards are our best friend!  

Why social media? What’s your favorite part? 
There’s something about interacting with a client’s audience– seeing responses and differences in engagement and being able to compare and analyze how and why different posts perform. 

I’m also a writer at heart. Writing was my first dream job (after discovering I couldn’t be the first woman on Mars). The thing I like so much about writing is the dialogue. Writing copy allows you to speak a lot of different languages in one day. 

Brands be damned, what’s your favorite platform, personally? 
TikTok. They’ve got a scary good algorithm, and they know exactly what I want to see. Plus, it feels like a huge group chat.  

In terms of platforms, where should brands be spending their time? 
It totally depends. I once worked with a client trying to market training courses to teachers, and we found that Instagram and Twitter weren’t performing well. That made sense– people don’t always want to see work-related things on those platforms; they go on them to catch up with people or to look at entertaining content.  

Instead, we found Pinterest effective in reaching teachers who had yet to hear of our client’s course offerings, as they often visit Pinterest for inspiration.  

Another thing to consider is the mission. Platforms like LinkedIn, Pinterest, and TikTok are great for discoverability because of the nature of their home feeds, whereas platforms like Instagram are more suited for engaging with an already-established audience.

And as much as 5-9 me would love to create a TikTok account for every single client, 9-5 me knows that’s unnecessary. Not every brand needs a crazy presence on every platform. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, and it takes a lot of trial, error, and research to figure out what works best for each brand.  

So, the Recess Creative newsletter is back, and rumor has it you’re involved. Tell me more. 
That’s a very juicy rumor, and it’s also very true.  

There is a lot of really cool stuff we get to do at Recess Creative that the world needs to know about. We can speak in a FUN tone– goofy, blunt, and a little bit *out of pocket.*

I have a huge list of content ideas that are all about the people behind the work, the way we work, and the attitude we bring to the table.

I also heard you’ve played a big role in spreading Gen-Z lingo throughout the office.  
Oh, yeah. I think bringing new words and phrases to the office brings us all together, and sometimes, I think I even use them more often at work because there’s something about me that likes to stand out. I’ll share a few of my favorite words but be advised that just because I love using them doesn’t necessarily make them cool to say. I just say them. So, implement them into your vocabulary with caution.  

Slay: To exceed expectations.
Serve: To slay.
Swag: To be cool or have coolness.
Drip: To have swag or style. Usually refers to outfits. 
I’m vibing: I’m chilling. 
What are the vibes?: What’s the situation? What are we doing? 
What are your vibes?: How are you feeling? 
How are the vibes?: Give me a value judgment about the situation right now.
Out of pocket: Apparently, millennials use it to mean “unreachable or offline,” but to me, it means “unhinged, uncalled for.”

What social tactic are brands indulging in that you find the most unsavory? 
I just hate a hard call to action every time. I want a brand to build a genuine and reciprocal relationship with me, and I don’t want the main focus of every piece of content to push a link.

Although CTAs have their place, brands need a balance and a sense of authenticity. Playing the long game is much more fun for both parties involved.

Anything you like to do in your free time? 
I love thrift, vintage, and secondhand shopping. Curating. 

I also take clay classes every once in a while. I'm still getting comfortable with the wheel, but it’s the first fine art activity that I’ve found myself enjoying and looking forward to week after week. It’s cool to feel like a complete beginner and do something without the weight of expectations or stakes.

That said, I am working on making an entire matching bowl collection. I love bowls. They keep asking me what I want to make, and all I want to make is more bowls.

Any other advice for young marketers? 

  1. Get enough sleep. 
  2. Utilize the “schedule send” function on Slack and Gmail. 
  3. Be honest about where you are, WHAT you want to know, and WHAT you don’t know, and then ask questions. 
  4. Go all in. 
  5. Network. I keep seeing the importance of this in real time, and it’s something that isn’t my strongest suit. But it’s something I'm consciously trying to prioritize. 
  6. Find something that makes you different. It will help you bond with people more quickly than trying to be exactly like everyone else. 
  7. Work in an environment that energizes you.