Want to know one of the best things about Plann? (apart from all the memes in our Slack chat and our founder Christy’s adorable cavoodle, Peach, of course) Our users! It gives us an excuse to connect with some of the most inspiring, influential and downright lovely people on the internet.
That’s people like Milly Rose Bannister, a long-term Plann’r and an absolute force of positivity on Instagram. Not only is Milly an influencer with over 170,000 followers (and one of the prettiest feeds we’ve ever seen!), but she’s channeling that influence into creating a positive difference in the world.
She’s the founder of GRLKND, a not-for-profit connecting female, identifying youth with mental health resources. And, in case she wasn’t busy enough, she’s also in the process of starting her second not-for-profit, a mental health first aid program called Brain Pilot. Yep, this girl is unstoppable.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Milly to chat about all things Instagram growth, not-for-profits, mindset, mental health and branding. Here, Milly shares her top tips for showing up with confidence, growing an Instagram account from scratch, writing better captions and so much more.
How did you get started on your business journey? Did you always want to be an influencer?
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“So I actually wanted to be an actor when I grew up, I loved performing, speaking, anything that involved getting up and telling stories. I was like, ‘yep, that’s for me.’ And then I got to the end of school and I was like,’ look, I don’t have the balls to be a professional actor.’ I’m just not that passionate about it. I think I was channeling my talents and my little zone of genius into the wrong path, to be honest.
So I started journalism school, which I think at that time was the best option for me in gaining some structure. And it helped me be able to visualize what people did on the outside world with after school and what jobs in the creative industry actually looked like. So I was like, okay, well I know I don’t want to be a proper journalist.
I want to do something a little more creative. So by the time I got out of university, I had actually done an exchange program to California, which was awesome and very eye-opening. And during that time I had built a bit of a personal brand just through my travels and doing the fun, exciting college stuff like that, which was really great.
I was able to leverage that after I graduated and turn it into a bit of an income. And it got me into doors, so that I was able to develop professionally and get some experience under my belt before I started GRLKND — which was conceived really after I had my own mental health struggles from about 16 years old and then having an audience gave me a bit of a voice. And it also gave me a platform on which I was able to help others.”
A lot of people reached out, mostly women about their own mental health journeys and struggles, and they just wanted support and a place to speak those and feel less alone. So that’s why I created GRLKND. And so now we are in the mental health promotion charity space, which is really exciting. And our main goal is to inspire self-belief and compassion and mental health literacy, because I really, really believe that if you can name it, you can tame it in terms of what’s going on inside your own head to make that a more comfortable space. So that’s where I’m at now.
And now, we have Brain Pilot, which is a mental health first aid program. That’s going to be rolled out into high schools for year 10, 11, 12 students, which is really exciting just as a preventative measure. Instead of students feeling that they need to call those crisis lines, it’s a way to give them the knowledge and give them the literacy to act before it gets to that point.”
Was the goal to be an influencer, or did that just grow organically and accidentally?
“I actually was very strategic about the fact that I wanted to do that. I knew that there was value in having a personal brand and having an audience to interact with and share your stories with. And, I knew there were people making money from traveling and I was obsessed with the idea of doing the same.
So when I did, I just tried and failed and tried and failed until I got the right skills behind me to build what a personal brand means and the ability to connect with an audience. And so while it was very intentional, it took me a little while to get there. It’s not like you just wake up one day and you’re like, I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m going to build a personal brand.
It takes a little time. You have to actually dig into your own values and your own trauma and your own stories and your own joys in life to actually start creating something that is really authentic to you, which at the end of the day is what people are going to relate less to.”
Did you have to come across any mindset issues negotiating brand deals as an influencer?
“Yeah, absolutely. I think everyone does, to be honest, unless you’re a middle aged white man. I think it’s very, very normal for us to struggle with that. And I think if I could give myself advice back then, I would just say, look, look at the facts, look at what everyone else around you is charging. And then figure out where you sit within that, figure out what your time is worth, how many hours you’re doing, what skills and training has gone into this. When you have the facts to back yourself and you can get out of your own way, get out of your own circular thoughts in your head and go, I have this stuff on paper. And so therefore, this is what I’m going to charge.”
How did you go about finding out what others in your field were charging?
“I think it was just Googling around and finding resources like Creative Gal Gang, which is run by my Australian friend who lives in London. It was a space where you can ask questions to your peers and say, “Look, I’m just having a hard time figuring out exactly what I’m charging. Can you guys let me know transparently so that we can all make more money and be validated for our hard earned skills and training?
“You have to think about things like your costs of props and any learning that you’ve done, how many years it’s taken you to get to this point, how many people are going to see. Think about it like — if this was going to be on a billboard on a main road, I’m charging a very, very, very small fraction of that.”
Your feed and photography are so aesthetic. Did you do any training on this or did you figure it out as you go along?
“I did a bit of photography training in university and I was always very drawn to anything creative. So I feel when people say they have an eye for something, I feel I’ve been like that. However, I think you can really teach yourself anything. And I think now that we have iPhones in our hands or just any mobile devices or small cameras, I think it really is possible to create great art and tell great stories with whatever you have.
I think it just needs to be done in a unique way to what your truth is and what you’re trying to share. Because if you look around the landscape of successful content creators and influencers, you’ll notice that not everybody uses Lightroom and a 5D camera, some people just use the webcams on their laptops or GoPros or whatever it is. I don’t think that matters, I think the main point is your message, right? And your story and how you’re telling it. So while I do use Lightroom and I do like to use my cameras because that’s what I’m comfortable with and that’s how I get my art across. I don’t think that is necessary. And I think I could very much do the same thing using an iPhone and not having any skills in photography whatsoever.”
How has your Instagram aesthetic changed over the years, and how has Plann helped with this?
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“Yeah, it definitely has changed over time. I went from being a very meticulous travel blogger to a more authentic version of myself that just wants to share my vulnerabilities. So I think my photography has reflected that I don’t now go seeking flower fields to get sunset shot. I just sit behind my desk and incorporate stuff that means something to me and that it’s going to resonate with my audience and take a photo like that. I don’t think it’s going to ever be the same for one person throughout their whole journey. I think it’s got to change because you change as a human being. That’s just the way it is.
So having Plann was great for when I was really meticulous and color coordinating everything and mapping out what my feet would look like. But now, whilst I still do that, because I just literally can’t help myself. I mainly just use it as an editorial calendar to say ‘okay, mental health awareness month is coming up’ or ‘sexual assault survivors month is coming up. Let’s lock in a post around this topic and schedule it for this month so that I know what’s coming up and I’m across everything and I don’t miss anything.’
What are some of your top tips for writing authentic and heartfelt captions?
“I tend to plan things out and I often take the photo in relation to the message. But even if I do have the message and I’m just really not sure how to word it. I have to go to places like Pinterest for inspiration and just type in mental health quotes or things like that.
They reflect what’s going on in the image and the message you’re trying to get across because often you only need one trigger word to get you to the point where you can just write out a caption based on your own story and telling stories is a great place to start.
It’s also the best way humans communicate with each other. So if all else fails, just tell a story. Even if it’s something really simple, like “today I was walking across the road and an old lady smiled at me and it made me extremely happy. And I would encourage you to smile at people that you see in the street. It’s really, really simple, but sometimes people need that reminder. You often forget. So yeah, I think it just needs to feel natural and if it doesn’t feel natural, then just don’t post. Don’t do it.”
What was the lightbulb moment for starting GRLKND?
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“It was more the space I saw in the market, for teenagers and adults in their early twenties. After, we leave high school with figuring stuff out. I think those are probably the loneliest years of our lives as young women. And I suffered greatly through that. That was one of my darkest days and I just really didn’t know how to describe what was going on in my head. So it just felt so much more powerful and aggressive and dark when I wasn’t able to extrapolate and get it outside of my mind. And it made it a really uncomfortable place to live in.
So I wanted to offer that to other people, but I also wanted to do it in a community setting where people were able to connect based on those stories. Because I found that in real life, if you are able to offer that goal or vulnerability to each other, you skipped like 10 levels of friendship. You already besties, just like that. And I wanted people to feel that actually, because I was living in America at the time and I still had a big Aussie community as well. So I just wanted to be a part of that community. So I made it!”
What were some of the steps you took with growing your GRLKND account?
“I really believe you need content pillars. So for us, for example, with GRLKND, our pillars are a resource of the week, shared from one of our team members, a meme or quotes and a post from me as the founder, they’re outdated pillars. We don’t always stick to them and it depends on what’s going on on the calendar. But when you have your pillars, you can figure out how you can create great content around them dilly-dallying into empty space. I also think if you define what you don’t do, it’s so much easier to move forward.
You just started a relatively new account for BrainPilot. What are the first 3 things you do when starting a new account?
“I would first come up with a concept. So, for example, mental health first aid can be really dry and boring and scary sometimes. So we wanted to create something that was experiential and welcoming and a bit retro and fun.
So we decided in-flight experience would be fun to do with retro flight. And, we called it Brain Pilot. From there, we came up with a color palette and font and brand guidelines that reflected that.
So I think before you even get on Instagram, those two things should be well-defined. The third would be figuring out how you can get your brand values, your brand messaging and your product and your service across the line visually. So it’s a bit of a journey, but I think once you really get to know your brand inside out, and you can answer any questions about it. I think that’s when you can start building that really intentional brand online.”
What are your tips for increasing visibility on new accounts?
“Yeah, as much as I like to believe that if you have a great brand people then will find you, it doesn’t always work like that. There’s so many people on Instagram but they aren’t always going to find you. So at the moment, I use hashtags predominantly, I often tag locations and tag other creators, but I also use Pinterest.”
How do you go about looking after your mental health while still showing up on social media?
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“I’m still working on it, but I did move all of my social media apps off my home screen on my phone and I found that really helped. I also have a timer set on my Instagram that says, ‘Hey, you’ve been here for an hour and a half. It’s probably time to get off’ which helps as well. And then I also just try not to look at it too much in my downtime. Like sometimes I just enjoy a good scroll I’m only human that’s totally fine. And I do love looking at what fellow creators are doing and what they’re up to. . So I just have a handful of people that I check up on, but I don’t scroll. I don’t really scroll that much. So I think it’s just setting boundaries that work for you and just trying your absolute best to stick to them. Using an app like Plann to externally manage your socials helps a lot, too.”
What’s next for you?
“Growing ALLKND, which is the umbrella GRLKND and Brain Pilot sit under.. So it’s just developing that portfolio for the long term in the long run and figuring out strategy and how to move forward in the best way possible with the biggest impacts. Plus, organizing some in-person events, which will be really exciting. I’d like the first to have the first GRLKND event at the end of the year, if possible!”