“First and foremost, PRs need to understand our product, tone and our audience. They need to react quickly, impart the value of their pitch succinctly and be able to offer me some sort of unique angle that will give me the edge over my competitors – whether that be via assets, access or exclusivity. Also, I can’t stress enough the time-factor. We turn around a story in 30 or 40 minutes, so if I ask for a hi-res image or quote, I need it stat, or it simply won’t be published. It sounds demanding, but it’s really just the nature of the online publishing beast.”
This busy lady has been on our radar for quite some time. After careful planning (read: almost 2 months in the making!) our diaries finally connected and now the girl crush is in full swing. Alison Izzo is the Digital Editor of Harper’s BAZAAR Australia. Having ‘worked in digital’ for longer than most people can remember life BC Instagram, Ali is an encyclopaedia on the topic. A very charming one at that!
Naturally, we talked a lot about digital content – and how brands and PRs need to have a better understanding of how a digital editor works in order to get cut through in this rapidly moving new ecosystem. So interesting was our conversation, we felt we immediately had to share it with you. Seriously – this is a MUST READ!
So here’s Ali, answering Flaunter’s 10 Questions With:
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF…
I started in fashion department at CLEO magazine (RIP), before working my way up to fashion editor at DOLLY. Sensing digital was increasingly where it was at I moved online to edit POPSUGAR Fashion, which was a tremendous learning curve and an incredible experience to work for digital-only publisher at Allure Media. Then I tried my hand at the startup world as the editor in chief of a fashion-focused online shopping aggregator called TROVA, then I did a stint as the head of editorial at Network TEN’s online catch-up service tenplay.com.au, then I was approached for the role at BAZAAR. Phew!
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO STEP INTO A DIGITAL ROLE – BEFORE MOST PEOPLE EVEN KNEW WHAT THAT MEANT?
As a fashion stylist for a print product I was increasingly frustrated at the limitations of my role – I wanted to write, and art direct and produce the shoots (control freak, much?)! Working online allows me to creatively direct the content from concept to final execution, and I find the immediacy of digital is both exhilarating and incredibly rewarding (when you get it right).
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’VE NOTICED IN YOUR READERS INTERESTS?
I don’t think that what interests readers has changed as much as how readers are consuming content. If you can understand what sort of headspace they’re in when they’re ready to read something, you’re much better placed to give them something of interest to them – at that specific time and place. This applies as much to print as it does to digital content.
WHAT DO BRANDS NEED TO DO TODAY TO GRAB YOUR ATTENTION?
I think brands need a distinct identity, and stay true to that. They also need to be innovating. It’s not enough to shoot a stock-standard lookbook then expect for digital publishers to just run your press release. I would urge brands to think about the ‘news-worthiness’ of their brand stories, and why readers online would click into a piece of content featuring them. What is the headline? What is the angle? What can readers learn or gain from that piece of content?
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET FEATURED ON HARPERSBAZAAR.CO.AU? WHAT DO BRANDS & PR AGENCIES NEED TO BETTER UNDERSTAND ABOUT ONLINE PUBLISHING?
First and foremost, PRs need to understand our product, tone and our audience. They need to react quickly, impart the value of their pitch succinctly and be able to offer me some sort of unique angle that will give me the edge over my competitors – whether that be via assets, access or exclusivity. Also, I can’t stress enough the time-factor. We turn around a story in 30 or 40 minutes, so if I ask for a hi-res image or quote I need it stat, or it simply won’t be published. It sounds demanding, but it’s really just the nature of the online publishing beast. PRs also need to understand that there’s no such thing as an “Australian exclusive” – we work on the INTERNET, which is a global thing. Our users read international websites voraciously and are obsessed with social media, so the odds are that if the story has been given to US or UK outlets our local readers have probably seen it already.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF ONLINE PUBLISHING LOOK LIKE?
Positive! Exciting! Unknown! I think it’s an incredible space to be working in as the boundaries are always being pushed and tested. I’m particularly interested in unique video content for fashion publishers, and the impact of mobile to the way we craft and deliver content. Unsurprisingly, social media is increasingly important to how we acquire and retain our audience.
HOW DO THE DIGITAL & PRINT TEAMS WORK TOGETHER?
I can’t speak for any other titles, but at BAZAAR we’re very lucky to have a fantastic working relationship. Kellie Hush, BAZAAR’s editor in chief, really understands the importance of our digital channels and that sort of support is vital when it comes to integrating the BAZAAR brand message across both print and digital products. We share content, we find the best medium for the story and we support each other
WHAT’S SOME OF THE EVERYDAY LINGO YOU USE NOW THAT YOU’D NEVER HEARD OF 5 YEARS AGO?
Ha! Um, there’s lots of jargon that some people love to use – mostly to just confuse other people who aren’t so tech-literate! Acronyms are a favourite – CPC, CPM, SEO, SEM, CMS…! But I guess when we talk about analytics and data you have to be able to use and understand certain terms, like ‘engagement’ ‘retention’ ‘reach’ ‘virality’ etc. For brands and PRs, I think they should definitely understand the difference between ‘native content’ and commercial integration.
WHAT EXCITES YOU THE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
This sounds clichéd but the BAZAAR team are a truly inspiring bunch, so getting to work closely with these experts every day is a joy. Kellie is a fearless leader who isn’t afraid to try new things – especially on the digital space – so the freedom that gives me makes my role really exciting. The loyalty of the BAZAAR readers coupled with the organic and consistent growth that we’re seeing right now across all digital channels is the reason I can say I truly love my job.
WHAT DID YOUR LAST 24 HOURS LOOK LIKE?
Really? Ok – here goes. Apologies if this is WAY too much but honestly this is what my day looked like yesterday.
5.45am – Wake up, put my gym gear on, drink my greens powder, get out the door without waking my husband. Definitely still asleep.
6.15am – Personal training session. Still not yet awake.
7.00am – Check emails/social media on the way back from the gym. Deal with anything urgent that may have come in overnight from overseas. Moderate our social media channels.
8.20am – Shower, dress, get to work – check and respond to emails on the bus (so glamorous!). Start outlining the daily list of stories in my head that we should be covering that day.
8.50am – Grab a coffee and breakfast on the way into the office.
9.00am – Talk to my right hand (wo)man, Grace O’Neill about the day’s news. She is the engine room of the site and she’s a true talent! Finesse the story angles, re-prioritise the publishing order, delegate the content plan to the team and nut-out the social sells for each.
10.12am – Post something fresh to the BAZAAR Instagram account.
10.15am – Coffee meeting with a videographer about a potential editorial project. Exciting!
10.35am – Try to stay on top of my inbox. I make an effort to reply to everyone, if even if it’s just a ‘thanks, but this is not quite right for us’ message. Forward anything that might work better for the print team. Flag anything urgent with Grace. Workshop ideas that I think might work but in a different way for the site.
11am – Print production meeting for the May issue, which we are about to start sending. It’s vital for me to sit with the team like this and understand in detail what is going in the mag in month so I can echo and amplify it online.
11.30am – Digital WIP with my digital manager – we talk monthly traffic goals, editorial wins, commercial targets, resourcing and new social media strategies.
11.50am – Our market editor Caroline Tran walks in with the most adorable Stella McCartney coat from Pre-Fall, which is embroidered top to bottom with cat faces. Post a pic to the BAZAAR Snapchat channel. #cute
12.00pm – Write up/publish an exclusive preview of Zimmermann’s Swim ’16 campaign starring Lily Donaldson.
12.35pm – Edit/rework posts with the digital team. I’m a hard-task master when it comes to SEO best practise and crafting the right social sell for a story.
12.45pm – Respond to a sales brief for a major cosmetics brand. I love the mix of sales and editorial that my role straddles. Plus, when we win a brief – which we often do! – I get added satisfaction from knowing that the final post will really resonate with our audience, and will perform well in terms of traffic.
1.05pm – Lunch! At my desk, sadly. I try to take some time to read a few things for ‘fun’ while I’m eating. I like checking in on local sites like TOMBOY Beauty, Who What Wear Australia, Gritty Pretty, ELLE Australia as well as Timeout (love a new restaurant recommendation!) or Broadsheet Sydney. Also love Man Repeller and Into The Gloss, for obvious reasons. That, or I cruise around Net-a-Porter for fun…
1.20pm – Sales meeting RE an exciting editorial proposition that we’re putting together. I wish I could say more! Then spend an hour sourcing assets, stats and copy for the media kit.
2.20pm. – Chocolate Easter eggs arrives in the offices = treat time! Contrary to what you might that happens at a fashion mag, the whole team jumps on the perishable goods and the eggs disappear within three minutes.
2.23pm – Dive into my inbox and attempt to answer the 398 emails that have cropped up since lunchtime. I spend the next hour replying to PRs – either trying to nut out fresh and exclusive story angles on things that they’ve pitched that I think will work for the site, emailing out interview questions to talent, trying to coordinate talent for upcoming digital initiatives – some of which are tied to our print product, sending out links to stories that have gone live so the PR can see their coverage or simply deleting (sorry!) when something is totally off brand for us.
2.40pm – Crowd source some intel for a story from our editorial print team. They come through with the goods immediately, and all of sudden what was going to be a pretty standard news story is now a really pervy gallery. WIN.
2.55pm – Write, picture source and send off the monthly Online page for the May issue of the magazine. I forecast what we’ll be covering online when the issue will be sitting on newsstands and try to hero any new features, social channels or editorial series that we’ve recently launched online.
4.15pm – Write up and publish another exclusive story on the site – this time for the new Self Portrait X Le Specs collaboration. If the popularity of the label’s lace dresses are anything to go by, this collab will be a sell-out.
5.05pm – Respond to more emails. Send out a content game-plan for a proposed social media takeover with a celebrity who will be in Sydney in the coming months.
5.32pm – Post something fresh to the BAZAAR Instagram account.
5.35pm – Harass (nicely) some of our digital contributors for their next batch of content for the site. Ensuring we stick to regular publishing timelines is a full time job in itself!
5.55pm – Trawl our social media channels for the print team. Each month we feature the best Instagrams and Tweets from readers about the previous issue. The effort that goes into some of those flatlay shots are impressive! Send off to our Art and Subs teams.
6.15pm – More emails! I try to clear as much as I can by the end of the day.
6.30pm – Home time! I try to walk home to clear my head before walking in the door at home. I use the time to call my mum or sister, or play with Apple Music to try and find something new to listen to.
*Update: Ali now works at Parlour X as the Digital Content Director.
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