Interview with eco content creator and educator Kate Hall
I was very fortunate to hear from New Zealand based educator, activist and blogger, Kate Hall, who at the end of a busy day had some time to share a few thoughts about being an eco content creator, her approach to content and experience of working with brands.
Are brands missing the point in engaging with sustainable content creators as they would a general influencer?
Yes, often. But it's also the other way around. Some brands see that there's an influencer who actually gives a shit and is willing to do good stuff. And so rather than saying, hey, what are your rates and how do we work with you, they pitch a pity story and say, we don't earn any money for our business, we don't pay ourselves, and we just would like you to volunteer your time. That gets pretty tiresome because most of the brands who work with me and pay me are in the same boat as the ones who are just trying to be a little bit more manipulative.
Yeah. So I think that's kind of the most common thing. I find that they don't take content creators like me as seriously.
Is greenwashing on the rise?
Yes, and it is making it harder. There's also a very fine line between greenwashing and a brand just generally trying because there are a lot of brands who maybe some people would point the finger at and say, “They’re greenwashing, that's terrible!” But I may look at them and say, I know what’s going on inside that brand, and I know that they're really trying and can't change everything at once.
So, I often consider who I will align with and who I'll help because, you know, we should be supporting and cheering progress, especially when the bigger brands start changing things rather than just pointing the finger at them. So it's a fine line between choosing who to partner with, to celebrate the wins in their own right and which brands are just generally greenwashing.
For me, it's all about transparency. When a company is able to say, yep, we do this, this and this terribly, but we're really trying to do this and we're happy for you to share that publicly. I'm like, brilliant, I will share. But if there's a brand who thinks they’re perfect and this is amazing and we're doing that and they're not willing or not happy for me, to be honest about them, then I consider that greenwashing.
So it is definitely hard to get it right all the time. Sometimes information comes up about a company that wasn't available at the time I decided to work with them. So it is a huge deal to commit to a partnership and relationship.
What’s the eco influencer landscape like in NZ? Is it changing?
I've been in the space for maybe four or five years, and it's definitely developing but a focused eco content creator community doesn’t really exist just yet. For example, I work with a lot of different brands and I will often have people say we loved working with you, are there other influencers that you would recommend we work with? My list is very small as there are different kinds of people doing different things in quite niche areas of sustainability.
But I think that's where I found it amazing with the amount of work and things that I can do is because I kind of cover it all, and I'm kind of a ‘go-to’ for a lot of different topics. So it's hard to find others who take a similar approach, and there are some people in the community who are less bothered about checking a company's credentials.
There are general influencers and then they will share content about sustainability. They're not eco influencers as such but I really like that they’re pushing a sustainable message to a mainstream audience. And that's something I try hard to do, too, which is why I try to share my life, my screw ups, show reality and other things to make people laugh so that then people follow along because they enjoy it and it brings them some joy. And then they might listen to some of my sustainability tips. It is a complex space.
How about the practical side of being a content creator?
I charge pretty fair rates now and I have a content manager who runs all my admin and work side of things. For me, my rates are very comparable to normal influencers which is great, and I'm usually booked up like two months in advance, which is incredible. I don't do any outreach per say, I get approached every day from all sorts of incredible brands who over the years have heard about me or followed me for a while. So it's grown organically in an awesome way.
But if I didn't value and understand money in a healthy way, then I think I wouldn't be doing what I do now because it's like a full time job on top of what I do day to day. Understanding sustainability has to be economically, socially, mentally, physically sustainable for the person, the business and then obviously the work you're doing. It’s really, really key.
Do you talk to content creators in other countries? Is it important to connect with others?
I have a lot of influencer contacts in Australia that I like to catch up with. Some of them I talk to every day and whenever I get a campaign or something come through, we talk about our rights and we talk about what we're doing. Sometimes you discover that the same brands that are contacting you are messing around with others. They don't realize that we talk to each other.
But I think that's been a really big help. When people like influencers are growing or want to do what I do, I'm very happy. I share information with them and my approach to things because I think we all need to level up the playing field and establish fair rates together. I think one of the most important things is working together, almost unionizing, I guess, and in a weird way. But yeah, just being kind of open with each other about that. It's been immensely helpful in all sorts of ways.
Do you get sent unwanted freebies and samples?
Yeah, that's probably the thing I hate most about the job, to be honest, because I really feel suffocated. My husband and I are not minimalists, but we definitely don't like to consume more than we need. And even when they are sustainable brands, I will talk to them first and agree to try one product. But they will always throw in something else, and to me, owning stuff and having possessions, you know, that's a huge responsibility.
What impact does that have?
It's just quite overwhelming. Sometimes your address can get leaked and you get sent random stuff. And even if it's sustainable, I don't want it. If I don't need it, it's not sustainable. I have some strict rules around my personal data so I make it clear my details are confidential, and only for you, not to be passed on, and you must check with me before you send anything. I've taken myself off a lot of the lists that I have been put on. And now all the PR companies, they usually just have a list of influencers to dispatch products to. Now they know that they have to check with me beforehand before they send anything.
Can you make anything positive out of it?
I take time to rehome items or samples that I don’t need. Even something I’ve tried and don’t use much like nail polish. You'll see on my Instagram, if you ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on the learning's posts I do every week, I'll pick my favourite one and I'll send them a present. So obviously I spend money on shipping things out to people. For example, I've got a little stash of about four different packages to send to people but I think it's worth it. Spread things around. Spread the joy but also get items that I don't need to people who do need them. My friends and family get bits and pieces, too. So yeah, I try to spread the love and before I send anyone else anything, I also ask if it will be helpful.
For more information about Kate and her work, go to https://www.ethicallykate.com