When Francesca Murray started creating travel content in 2014, you could count the number of black female creators on one hand. Now that travel has become more accessible and we have more creators than ever, it’s become a saturated industry. “I recall when the hashtag #blacktravelinfluencer had around 1000 posts. Now, black travel-related hashtags have posts in the hundreds of thousands. It's wonderful to see the growth in this space,” shares Francesca.
Now, nearly 10 years later, Francesca has grown and maintained her travel platform, “One Girl, One World,” kicked off trends, published a book, and partnered with brands and tourism boards worldwide. However, her longevity as a creator is unique – not many creators have lasted as long, even in an industry as exciting as travel.
In this interview, she shares with us the philosophies, mindset, and tactics that have kept her going and growing over the past decade.
Staying authentic in a world of changing trends
Through the swift trend cycle of the Internet, Francesca has carved out a niche for herself by staying true to her passions and values. “It's really about tuning out the noise and honing in on your big picture goals,” she shares.
When platforms like TikTok emerged, many creators jumped ship, believing platforms like Instagram were declining. However, Francesca recognized the dangers of chasing fleeting trends. “For some, TikTok worked wonders. But then came the algorithm changes, potential bans, and the realization that what was viral one year might not be the next. If you're always chasing what's 'in', you lose sight of who you are as a creator.”
This doesn't mean Francesca is resistant to change or new platforms. On the contrary, she was among the early adopters of platforms like Threads. But her approach is different. Instead of diving headfirst into every new trend, she evaluates its long-term potential and alignment with her brand. “It's worth exploring new avenues, but not at the expense of your core identity,” she advises.
One of Francesca's strengths is her commitment to sustainable growth. While quick wins and viral moments might tempt many creators, she emphasizes the importance of building a lasting brand. “You might see others outpace you in numbers, but it's the slow and steady approach that truly wins in the end. It's about building a legacy, not just a momentary buzz.”
Her advice to budding creators? Own something that's truly yours. Whether it's a blog, a website, or a unique content style, having a platform or signature that's unmistakably 'you' sets you apart in a saturated market. “My blog, One Girl One World, is a testament to the power of having a digital space that's truly yours. It's not just about brand recognition; it's about creating a lasting impact.”
Pursuing strategic partnerships that authentically align with her brand
Francesca emphasizes the importance of alignment over mere visibility. “Not every brand that approaches me is the right fit. It's essential to evaluate if a potential partnership resonates with my values and the message I want to convey to my audience,” Francesca shares. This approach ensures that her collaborations feel genuine and not forced, a distinction her audience undoubtedly appreciates.
One of the standout aspects of Francesca's journey is her work with tourism boards. While these collaborations have been fruitful, she's also recognized the need to diversify. “Tourism boards were a significant part of my journey, but I've realized the importance of branching out and exploring other avenues that align with my brand's essence,” she explains.
Francesca's partnerships aren't just about monetary gain. They're about mutual value addition. She seeks out brands that not only align with her ethos but also offer something valuable to her audience. This two-way street ensures that her collaborations are more than just transactional; they're transformative experiences for her and her community.
Moreover, Francesca's proactive approach to partnerships sets her apart. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come her way, she actively seeks out brands and initiatives she believes in. This proactive stance ensures that she's always in the driver's seat, choosing collaborations that truly resonate with her brand's narrative.
Owning your platform and narrative
While social media platforms come and go and algorithms change, having a space that you control can be a game-changer. For Francesca, this space is her blog, One Girl, One World.
“While I was an early adopter of platforms like Threads and have seen the rise and fall of many social media trends, my blog has been my constant,” Francesca shares. It's not just a space to share her travel experiences; it's a platform where she can control the narrative, design, and, most importantly, the relationship with her audience. “Social media platforms have their algorithms, and while they offer incredible reach, they also come with unpredictability. My blog is mine, and it's a direct line to my audience without any middlemen.”
Francesca's dedication to her blog is evident in its up-to-date content and active engagement. While many creators might start a blog and let it fall by the wayside in favor of more 'trending' platforms, Francesca recognizes the long-term value of a personal website. “It's about discoverability and brand recognition. When someone Googles 'One Girl One World,' they find a wealth of content, all curated and presented in my voice.”
But it's not just about having a platform; it's about the narrative. Francesca emphasizes the importance of authenticity and staying true to one's voice. “In a world where everyone is trying to fit a mold or jump on the latest trend, it's refreshing and more impactful to have a genuine voice. My audience knows that when they come to my blog, they're getting the real Francesca, unfiltered and genuine.”
This approach has also been beneficial from a business perspective. “Brands appreciate the authenticity. They know that a partnership with me isn't just a transaction; it's a genuine endorsement. And because I've built a platform that I own, I can offer them unique value beyond just a social media post.”
Merging artistry with entrepreneurship
Part of Francesca’s success and longevity as a creator can be directly linked to her ability to separate shiny opportunities from realistic business goals.
For Francesca, content creation isn't just about capturing beautiful moments or sharing insightful stories; it's about understanding the value of her work and ensuring it gets the recognition and compensation it deserves. “Every piece of content I create is a reflection of my passion, but it's also a product that has value in the market,” she explains.
This entrepreneurial mindset has led her to make strategic decisions that have propelled her brand forward. From trademarking her brand name, "One Girl One World," to outsourcing specific tasks that fall outside her expertise, Francesca has consistently prioritized the business side of her brand. “It's not just about creating; it's about protecting, scaling, and monetizing what you create,” she emphasizes.
However, merging artistry with entrepreneurship isn't without its challenges. Francesca admits that there's a delicate balance to strike. “There are times when the business demands can overshadow the creative process. It's essential to find a rhythm that allows both to coexist harmoniously,” she shares.
One of her strategies is setting clear boundaries. While she dedicates specific times for content creation, free from business distractions, she also carves out time to focus solely on the entrepreneurial aspects, ensuring neither side is neglected.
The role of authentic engagement in building and keeping trust
For Francesca, engagement isn't just a metric; it's a testament to the trust she's built over the years. “Trust is the foundation of any lasting relationship, and it's no different in the creator-audience dynamic,” Francesca shares. From her early days, she recognized that beyond the polished photos and well-crafted articles, her authentic voice and genuine interactions resonated most with her followers.
Engaging authentically means being present, listening, and responding with sincerity. “It's not about responding to every comment with a generic 'thank you.' It's about having real conversations, understanding my audience's perspectives, and valuing their input,” she explains. This two-way dialogue has allowed Francesca to understand her audience's needs, tailor her content accordingly, and foster a sense of community.
But authentic engagement goes beyond just online interactions. Francesca emphasizes the importance of staying true to one's values and ensuring that every piece of content, collaboration, and brand partnership aligns with her authentic self. “My audience can see through inauthenticity. If I partner with a brand that doesn't resonate with my values or if I share content just for the sake of trends, it erodes the trust I've built.”
She also highlights the pitfalls of chasing virality at the expense of authenticity. “While viral content can give a temporary boost in numbers, it's the genuine connections and trust that ensure longevity in this space.” For Francesca, it's not about the number of likes or followers; it's about the depth of the connections she's forged.
Over the years, this trust has also opened doors to meaningful collaborations and partnerships. Brands recognize the genuine influence Francesca has, making her a sought-after partner in the industry.
Francesca’s longevity in the creator economy isn’t just due to luck or being an early adopter – she’s made strategic decisions that have helped her grow and maintain her platform over the years. Here are the key takeaways from her story:
- Develop a unique value proposition: Without a core focus and identity, it's easy to get swept up in the latest trends. But true success lies in understanding your unique value proposition and staying true to it, even as the digital landscape shifts. Embrace change, but never lose sight of your core identity. It's this authenticity that will ensure you stand the test of time.
- Approach all partnerships strategically: Authenticity in brand partnerships is more than just a buzzword; it's a strategic choice that can significantly impact a creator's credibility and audience trust. By prioritizing alignment and mutual value, Francesca Murray showcases how creators can build meaningful and impactful collaborations without compromising their brand's integrity.
- Own your platform: Owning your platform provides stability, control, and a genuine connection with your audience. It's an investment in your brand's longevity and a testament to your commitment to your craft and community.
- Know the value of your work: As a creator, you must be able to recognize and communicate the value of your craft, understand the business landscape, and make strategic decisions that propel your brand forward. As Francesca's journey illustrates, this fusion can lead to a fulfilling and sustainable career in the creator economy when done right.
- Treat engagement as a core value: Engagement is more than just metrics or a strategy; it's a commitment to building and maintaining trust. Staying true to oneself and one's audience is the key to enduring success.