headshot of deborah joseph
Deborah Joseph has lead the Glamour team through the digital first shift and the pandemic. Image credit: Sally Hunter.

”It’s felt like a full circle moment for me.’’

Deborah Joseph has always had a soft spot for Condé Nast, working on the launch of Glamour 21 years ago and returning to become the editorial director of the publication in 2017 after spending time at the Daily Mail, Condé Nast Brides, Easy Living and dabbling in tech start-ups.

”What I loved about it was that when we when we launched 21 years ago, it was a really innovative brand. It was the first to be handbag-sized and was copied by a lot of other brands.’’

Glamour has retained their innovative approach by being the first brand to go digital first in 2017, which is what Deborah attributes to its success. ”Glamour was the leader in both spaces. When we went digital first, lots of naysayers were saying it will never succeed in digital and you can’t succeed without printing. And it’s just proved to be the opposite.’’

Knowing where the audience is, which is now digital with 86.4% of the UK’s internet user base on one form of social media, is what Deborah calls the key to good strategy. ”Glamour has always been where its audience is, and Gen Z millennial women are now on their mobile phone.’’

The pandemic meant that the brand benefited from having already mastered the digital first approach. ”Our traffic increased exponentially. The fact that we had the digital learnings before Covid, and then could make full use of them, was really to our advantage.’’

Leading and being the face of the award-winning team gave Deborah a newfound sense of responsibility. ”You really want to make sure that the next generation of brilliant journalists are getting the right training, and that people are happy. I’m always checking in, seeing what’s going on with people and trying to make the work that we do exciting for us as a team, but also relevant for our readers.’’

No two days are the same for Deborah on her mission to make Glamour the best it can be, but her team driven ethos always stays at the forefront of her work. ”One thing I was try to do is a 9:30 brainstorm every single morning, where the team always gets together, and we read the news, and we come up with the daily stories and work out what the Glamour angle is on those stories.

”Then it can change, it can be a photo shoot, it can be back to back Zoom meetings, it could be hosting a panel of women on a specific topic that’s relevant to GLAMOUR.’’

‘That’s really where my passion lies, in the empowerment of women”

Being digital first, the brand didn’t find it hard to adapt to working in the pandemic. ”We probably found it easier than anybody because we were used to that digital way of working. It was a bit strange to begin with, the etiquette of Zoom. And I home-schooled three primary school kids all the way through lockdown. So my team very quickly became aware of three children in the background. Once, I turned up and my kids put a nightclub in the background of Zoom!’’ Following the pandemic, Deborah has been receptive to how her team wants to work, adopting a flexible balance. ”I’m much happier flexible working, much happier than I ever was five days a week in an office.’’

The pandemic brought with it Deborah’s proudest moment of her career, as she changed the issue last minute to feature NHS nurses on the front cover.

”We decided at 12 o’clock on the day of the first clap for carers that we wanted to put NHS nurses on our front cover. And I said to everyone, ‘stop what you’re doing. We’ve got to find eight women to go on the cover.’ So we all reached out to everybody we knew who was a nurse, and we interviewed them and we put them onto a cover. And we went live at 8pm.

”We were looking for much more meaning in life in terms of who our rockstars were at that moment. And it wasn’t about entertainment, it was very much about the people working everyday to keep us safe and healthy. The beauty of digital is you can really respond to what’s going on.’’

Deborah’s highs haven’t been without lows, but she wants to make it clear to aspiring journalists that they shouldn’t let rejections put them down.

”I got made redundant 10 years ago from Condé Nast because a magazine I was editing closed down, and at the time you think, ‘Oh my God, my career is over.’ And actually it was the best thing that ever happened to me because it gave me the freedom and the space to then go and pursue a career in digital. And I think if I hadn’t been made redundant, then maybe I wouldn’t have done that.’’

On the future of the industry, Deborah reiterates that ”it’s going digital,’’ but that isn’t all that brands have to do to survive.

”You have to really be leading the way in terms of a conversation. Since you’re having the zeitgeist conversations, you’re having to really stand for something. And I think that’s also stood Glamour in great stead because it’s always stood for women’s empowerment. It launched in 1939 in America as the first magazine to be for women who work. So it’s always had feminist credentials.’’

Glamour has been at the forefront of conversations on misogyny, healthcare, women’s equality and more. Deborah says she’s ”achieved more than I ever imagined I would do,’’ but her goal now to is to nurture future talent and be happy.

”For me, it’s about continuing to enjoy the job, because work takes up so many hours of the day that if you’re not happy, it’s a terrible way to live your life. I want to see the next generation of really great journalists come up and elevate and empower women’s voices through journalism. That’s really where my passion lies, in the empowerment of women.’’