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I’ve been pursuing my editorial career for almost a year now and have worked at two magazines, one of which is an international title that I’ve admired for years. Moving back to London at the beginning of 2015 meant that I couldn’t graduate from being an intern straight away and I had to start from scratch in this new and competitive city. Here are the 5 lessons I learnt about blogging from working at magazines:
1 The Editorial Calendar
The key to any organised content is a calendar where articles are scheduled to be posted online, as well as their deadlines. When I think about the kind of stories I want to write for my blog, I go by a similar format of prioritising time sensitive pieces like Christmas or Valentine’s posts first, followed by evergreen ones like blogging tips or travel posts. This is useful because it helps me structure my blog and my Instagram, especially if I feel overwhelmed by the backlog of images and ideas that I have.
2 Attending Events
Going to events like press days, presentations, launches or fashion parties is considered mandatory work when you’re at a magazine. That ‘prior commitment’ goes out the door when an invitation from a big brand or reputable PR agency comes in. I’ve carried on that attitude as a blogger (what a bore, I know), which means that instead of making a beeline to the open bar, there’s an order to things. Firstly, greet the PR who invited you, mingle and make small talk with others, no matter what they’re wearing or what they look like, and most importantly, introduce yourself.
I’ve been to so many events where influencers keep to themselves pretending to look busy on their phones, and when and if we eventually speak, they don’t represent the brand that they portray online. It’s a disappointment and frankly, if you view events as a work commitment, you would not allow your shyness to get the better of you! Events are also not an opportunity to enter loudly squad in tow. My editors would only ever let me go with one other colleague but mostly I attended solo. As a blogger this means if I attend anything that will likely last longer than an hour, I would bring a fellow blogger or photographer. It’s courtesy to the organisers that if you’re bringing someone, they should be someone in the same industry. It’s a lot more professional than having your best friend tag along. Lastly, when attending a work event, no matter the dress code, you should turn up looking somewhat formal. All black works wonders, as does a simple statement lip. No need for an orchestra of jewellery or anything that comes close to the description ‘bodycon’.
3 Contacting PR Agencies
The countless emails and gifts received from PRs that I’ve coordinated as an editorial assistant has taught me how to respond professionally to sponsorship offers as a blogger. Almost everything (the particular exception being unaddressed press releases) requires a response. Personally, at this time, I do accept gifts in exchange for an Instagram post (not blog posts). However, it’s important that the blogger makes it clear that gifting doesn’t equate to publicity for the brand. Imagine if magazines were obliged to post every single freebie that entered their office on their social media – we’d be spammed! It’s important to be really clear about what the brand can expect when working with you and to never make promises.
On another note, having worked as a stylist’s assistant on shoots, the importance of having a paper trail for every item that you take out on loan from a PR is essential. Even if it seems pedantic and there’s a great relationship forged, it’s on you if anything is damaged or missing.
The idea of contacting PR agencies for loans, invites or possible collaborations is quite daunting for most people. In a way I’m almost desensitised to the assertiveness of it all as that’s exactly what’s required when working at a magazine. I remind myself that if you don’t ask, you don’t get and if you’re certain of the quality you can produce, why wouldn’t someone want to work with you?
4 Organising shoots
In an average week, I’ll shoot twice, sometimes for full blog posts and others for Instagram only. Just like magazines organise content for print and web or web alone, it’s important to distinguish your content (even if the majority of work we do goes online). When I organise shoots, I try to stick to the same few photographers. I thoroughly do not recommend shooting with everyone that offers to take your photo because frankly, it is a waste of time and not all photographers will suit your style (even if you edit the images yourself). Once you’ve tested around and you’ve settled on the handful you love and trust, just stick to them. There’s a reason why the same team pops up on the credits of most magazines every month!
5 Give the People What They Want
Only you can determine how ‘commercial’ your blog or Instagram will be. I don’t mean that in the sense that your clothing or products are all gifted or sponsored (although, that is a whole other topic to explore). I’m referring to that compromise that most of us creatives face when it comes to carrying out your own vision versus giving the people what they want.
There is a very simple formula to what garners the most attention and likes on Instagram: a blogger in a cute outfit with a recognisable and slightly touristy backdrop. Extra points if there’s a coveted designer item conspicuous in the shot. Images are most likely desaturated and the feed will follow a strict colour palette. But then there’s your grand idea for a shoot, and if you don’t have any then you’re strictly an Instagrammer and I struggle to assign the title ‘fashion blogger’ to you. There’s nothing wrong with that – just own it.
Working at a magazine taught me that when you have that concept or big idea that may not follow ‘what works’ you’ve got to make sure it’s executed brilliantly, you’ve got the best team behind you – from the photographer to the clothes you’re wearing – and most critically, that it’s true to who you are. At the end of the day, your audience is there because they trust your content and they’ll be receptive to whatever weird stuff you throw at them, so long as it’s not too often and it’s well done. Oh, but don’t expect the kind of engagement you usually would. This kind of stuff is to set yourself apart and show how diverse you can be with your creativity, I never expect a high amount of likes for these kinds of shoots!
Photos by Audrey, @avdrvyk
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