How did you become editor-in-chief?
I started as a sub-editor at Computer Weekly, and the only reason I got that was because I was paid less than anyone else – but that’s how I got my in. Then I went into reporting and freelanced, where I built up a specialism in travel and food journalism. After that, I started editing at SquareMeal (a restaurant review and booking website). A Deputy Editor job came up in Woman and Home, I got it, and I was there for six years until I was headhunted to be the Editor of Prima. I got this job in 2018. I’ve got the best job in magazine journalism today because I’m under the title that sells more than anything else. It’s a real privilege.
How do you maintain your brand loyalty?
We always stay true to our values, so we have a brand that means something to people. It’ll be 100 years of Good Housekeeping in February. In the first editor’s letter, they said the whole point of Good Housekeeping was to give people the tools needed for a well-run home. If you had an efficiently run home, it freed up both your time and money for the finer things in life, be that fashion or travel. The other thing is, we haven’t stood still as a brand. We’ve evolved into all forms of digital outlets. The key to success for any magazine brand is to be multi-platform.
Tell me about the Institute?
It’s what sets us apart as a brand. We have a specialised team of scientists and researchers, that puts products and services through a testing process. It’s allowed us to have a trademark of tried, tested, trusted and that marks us out from the competition. A person may have never picked up a copy of Good Housekeeping, but they will have heard of the Institute.
What’s does your role entail?
I have a team of 66 people, as I also operate Red and Prima magazine and there are hubs within them like fashion and food. Over the course of a month I’ll have planning meetings with the head of each hub. I really enjoy those, they’re very juicy, we try and get into the minds of our readers to know what they’re going to want. Then once or twice a month I’ll go on a shoot. I also get around 500 emails a day, so I spend a lot of my time sifting through them. Most of my time right now is focusing on marking our 100th anniversary; we’re planning on doing a big three-day live event in London in June. The readers can meet our experts and attend seminars and workshops, which is very exciting.
Did the pandemic affect your content?
Web traffic went through the roof last year with more people looking for baking recipes. We also had a massive spike in subscriptions. We introduced puzzle pages which we’d never done before, but there was a demand for people to be more occupied. I’ve probably never had more emails from readers thanking me for doing that. We decided as a business to be very positive. We did a lot of upbeat, hopeful stories, plus we proactively focused on mental health. I’m lucky as I get so many reader emails which is very useful in knowing how the readers feel.
Last year. Overnight in March 2020, it all changed, being booted out of the office and sent home a week before the national lockdown was a big adjustment. Then in the first week, six members of my team got COVID, at one point I was getting a call every half an hour from someone else being ill. All I could think was Oh my God, how are we going to get through this? People needed us last year, they were using our website and coming to us for advice, and we had to meet that.
For two or three years I knew Michelle Obama’s book: Belonging was going to come out and I wanted her on the cover. I knew the publisher and met with her, we quickly realised that this needed to be a global deal. I came up with an idea, alongside a colleague from Hearst US to do an exclusive with Michelle working across the brand internationally. It worked out. I flew over there and got to meet Michelle Obama – that was a real pinch-me moment! I’ve met lots of my life heroines, but the Obama moment was the pinnacle – I knew I could dine on that one for a while.
One piece of advice?
Work hard. The people who work the hardest and want it the most will get there in the end.