6 months ago

A Day In The Life Of… Chandni Sembhi, Content Editor at Channel 5

Centre for Journalism

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Few things have been as divisive as Brexit in recent times, but Britain’s Favourite Crisp Pyramid may have been one of them.

The meme, which caused one of the internet’s most ferocious debates of 2019, was the creation of Chandni Sembhi, a graduate of Kent’s Centre for Journalism and now a Content Editor at Channel 5. It’s enough to justify a ‘day in the life interview’ in itself, but in her role Chandni does more than just divide the Twittersphere.

From interviewing some of the TV’s best loved actors to hanging out with penguins, Chandni spills the beans on what it takes to run social media for one of the country’s biggest networks.

My day starts at…

I usually start work at 8:50am but it varies day-to-day. I’m allowed to adjust my hours so I don’t have to spend an hour and a half commuting on National Rail.

A typical day involves…

My role primarily focuses on the shows that we have [on Channel 5], watching them and choosing clips for social media that I think would draw people in to wanting to watch the show, and clips that also help boost our video views across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Chloe studied at the University of Kent. Find out more here.

Up until very recently, we weren’t on Snapchat, so I pitched it as a way to both promote the channel and promote us as a brand, because it’s not a very saturated platform for brands at the moment. So we’re making our own shortform presenter-led content for Snapchat now too, which I’ve written the scripts for. You can make that kind of content whatever you want it to be.

We have a show coming up called Cold Call starring Sally Lindsay and Taj Atwal. We don’t usually go to screenings but we went to this one and interviewed the talent. It was a nice alternative way of promoting the show.

So you have a lot of freedom in this job. You can sort of mould it into what you want it to be – no two days are the same.

What you might not know about my job…

I work in a very small team which surprises people. Before working here I didn’t realise that the team was so small, because you don’t expect that when Channel 5 is such a big company.

The social media team is just four people covering all of the shows on on the channel and all of the social media presence. There’s definitely more freedom [on a small team]. In a big team, sometimes you can struggle to be heard and it can be overwhelming or nerve-wracking to pitch your own ideas.

But in a smaller team, you pitch your ideas, get the opinion of others, and get to know your co-workers a little bit more. It’s a nice bonding experience.

Chandni Sembhi kneeling down next to a penguin
We promised you there would be penguins. (Image Credit: Supplied)

I always wanted to be…

Honestly, I was one of those people that didn’t really know what they want to do but I knew I always enjoyed writing. I just never really thought of journalism as a viable career option.

It sounds like a really clichéd way of doing it, but I got involved in my school’s newsletter and I really enjoyed it so I did work experience at a technology publication called SC Magazine.

Thinking about a degree in journalism? We’ve got just the place.

The University of Kent’s Centre for Journalism offers NCTJ-accredited undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, with a range of bursaries and scholarships on offer. They’re also home to local TV station KMTV, offering paid internships to their students as they study.

They were really good at letting me write stories, it wasn’t just rewriting press releases. Not that that isn’t fun sometimes but they were quite good at actually letting me do some real journalism work.

Then I started looking into what university degrees I could take and how I could actually make journalism a career path for myself.

I got my job because…

Two students talking to camera from Centre for Journalism in Kent
Watch what the graduating class of 2019 have to say about their time at the Centre for Journalism

I had ideas of how to take them forward as a brand. You don’t have to be a kissarse in interviews. If you think there’s something they can improve on, you should tell them because they might think it’s a great idea, and they might hire you for that exact reason.

I noticed that they weren’t using Instagram very well. There were maybe a couple of posts a month and it wasn’t really stuff you’d expect to see from one of the top five TV channels. So I mentioned that at my interview and talked them through how I envisioned us growing that platform, if they were to hire me.

I think, in interviews, just be honest. There’s also no shame in saying “I’ve not had much experience in doing this.” It’s better than lying about something and then not being able to ask for help on your first day, because you’ve told them you’re a pro.

The now infamous tiers of crisps.

I’m most proud of…

The Crisp Pyramid. [Reader: this writer took this gig simply to discuss the very contentious choice of crisps in Chandni’s viral Crisp Pyramid]. Just after I started, we had a show going out called Britain’s Favourite Crisp. We had designed memes, but I thought a pyramid would be a good way to engage conversation on Twitter.

The show got pushed from the schedule but the pyramid was sitting on my desktop for a while. Not thinking anything of it, I posted it on Twitter. By the time I came back in on Monday morning, the pyramid was trending. We didn’t expect people to be that angry about crisps.

It’s a really good example of how on social media, the things you spend no time on can just blow up out of nowhere. To this day, it’s the most interactive post we’ve had on Twitter and my career highlight.

Chandni sat on a chair at work in front of pictures about Channel 5.
Chandni at work at Channel 5. (Image Credit: Supplied)

One piece of advice I needed five years ago…

Give everything a go. When I started I wasn’t really sure what area of journalism I wanted to go into. Music and entertainment drew me in the most but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure. I didn’t really explore much else until the end of second year at university.

I realised, however, that print was really not for me. Online was where I was headed anyway because I liked how interactive you can make things and how much variety there is piece to piece. I think it’s important to get a feel for everything because you never know, you might end up stumbling across something that you really, really enjoy.

This piece was produced in partnership with the Centre for Journalism at the University of Kent. The Centre for Journalism offers NCTJ-accredited Undergraduate and Postgraduate Journalism degrees, with a range of scholarships available.