On Tuesday, we joined Marie Claire UK’s Editor-in-Chief Trish Halpin for coffee & croissants and to delve into her thoughts on the future of Marie Claire and the changing magazine industry. During which we discussed a wide range of topics including how Marie Claire plans to stay relevant in an ever-increasing world of digital platforms, how to get a journalist’s attention through social media and the challenges she foresees in 2018; the year of Marie Claire UK’s 30th anniversary.
Q. Marie Claire has been around for a long time. How do you make sure it is fresh and still relevant to today’s audience?
A. The task of an editor is to understand your brand, your brand’s DNA and to understand how that is moving forwards and changing. Marie Claire is 30 years old next year, in the UK, but was originally launched in France. There are now 46 International issues, the UK was the second or third to launch. Glenda Bailey, who is now the Editor-in-Chief of US Harper’s Bazaar, loved the French version of Marie Claire and persuaded them to launch in the UK. The reason she thought this was so relevant for the UK market was that the content, outside of fashion and beauty, focused on women’s issues and opening-up minds. It is essentially very much focused around women’s issues and was the first magazine to cover FGM [female genital mutilation]. It is these sorts of insights into real issues that makes Marie Claire continue to stand out.
Q. How important do you think it is to get content right in an age when we are seeing a lot of changes in print magazines such as Glamour recently announcing they are printing fewer magazines. Do you think social platforms like Instagram and Twitter are taking over? And how important is it for Marie Claire to cover popular issues?
A. I think magazines like Glamour struggled as, although it is an amazing magazine in terms of its fashion and beauty, its content was maybe not offering anything different [DISCLAIMER: Trish is a self-confessed hater of the word content and its overly-broad use]. What needs to be thought about is what do we mean by content and what is the value of what we are putting out for Marie Claire vs an Influencer or blogger. All opinions are valid, but you can’t all be looking through the same lens. It is so important that Marie Claire sticks to it’s DNA in how we look at issues. Things that we discussed 30 years ago are still relevant but they need to be accessed in different ways.
Q. A lot of brands are opening themselves up to different platforms. How much pressure does Marie Claire feel they need to get involved with that brand diversification and who makes the decision on what is right for them as a brand?
A. The starting point for this is even though print is shrinking, we now have more in print than we ever have before! We are seeing these as opportunities to connect readers to the brand. One thing we are doing, is an exciting project with Ocado and specialty stores in the beauty industry. Beauty is a very protective industry so with our name behind them, Ocado could form that link to the industry. We launched 18 months ago, it is called Fabled by Marie Claire and has a beautiful store on Tottenham Court Road, but it is mainly eCommerce. The store creates a nice way of bringing people into the magazine; as we host events with readers and beauty editors, such as tutorials with skin editors. That relationship, energy and insight is hugely important for us to keep developing as we go forward with our audience.
Q. As a brand what is the best way to get your product placed in Marie Claire and how would you approach that?
A. We get a lot of emails from all sorts of people and it is very hard for editors to get through their inbox each day. It is about trying to find an “in” somehow as they won’t have time to read through all those emails. Tweets can be much better for getting a response, but it does depend on what it relates to. You need to know who you are contacting and why it is relevant to them and you need to give them that information. Journalists receive hundreds of press releases, but to read each one and to work out why it is relevant to them and their brand is a stretch.
Q. How are Marie Claire getting across what issues are important to them without steering too far away from what attracts readers to pick up the magazine?
A. We have just published a sustainability issue, we are very big on sustainability. We wanted to cover it in a way that was a bit less finger wagging and judgemental. We approached Shailene Woodley to be our cover actress as she is an environmentalist who has previously been arrested in the US for protesting fracking. We needed someone who could put that message across from the moment you picked up the magazine and she was really interested in taking part, despite not promoting a new film. Otherwise we just tried to ease into it by asking our readers to consider what they do on a day-to-day basis rather than making a huge life change. For example start by looking at your coffee cup, if we all made a small change like reusing our cup throughout the day, then this would make a big impact overall. We also do a lot around girl’s education, for instance we work closely with a charity who are educating girls overseas by doing things like taking them out of sex work and giving them an education. Marie Claire have a school which offers this to girls and we are passionate about continuing with this charity work.
Q. What do you take inspiration from?
A. I read a lot. I love reading weekend newspapers and I love podcasts, my guilty pleasure is Desert Island Discs. I love hearing about people’s lives. We don’t know famous people, but when you listen to them on the podcast you find out so much. I go down the list to find people I know, but sometimes I pick a random person who might be an incredible scientist and I find that really inspiring.
Q. What do you see as your biggest challenges in 2018?
A. For Marie Claire, 2018 is our 30th anniversary and we want it to be very exciting, we are going to do a few things over the year to celebrate that. We are also bringing out a range of licensed products in the beauty world – so watch out for those. In general, it is the ongoing challenge of making sure our digital offering maintains the brand message and engages with the audience. We will also be working more with influencers and launching a new platform: Marie Claire Verified. Influencers are everywhere now so we have carefully selected 30 that we feel have the same values as us and we will continue to work with them more. I think 2018 will be interesting, post Brexit maybe? and I will look forward to facing more challenges head on.
Q. Finally, how do you think the industry is changing for us in PR?
A. For PR’s the challenge lies in how brands want you to produce content outside of what is in print. It will be finding those new opportunities for brands and representing them over a variety of platforms. The industry is changing rapidly though, 5 years ago I wouldn’t have guessed that Influencers would play such a key role in the industry, I don’t think anyone can predict how things will evolve over the next 5.