Wednesday, 16 February 2011

An interview with... Emily Miller, Editor of Pure Beauty

Years in industry: 6 

Emily Miller is the Editor of Pure Beauty - a trade magazine serving the beauty retail industry. I had the pleasure of working with Emily for many years at Pure Beauty and she remains one of the hardest, most dedicated workers I know. Emily talks to Your Beauty Industry about the role of trade journalism, the difference between being an editor and being a journalist and how to break into beauty journalism.

Tell me a bit about your career background – how did you make it into the lovely world of beauty journalism?
After completing a degree in journalism, film and broadcasting and then a magazine journalism diploma at Cardiff University, I landed my first job as a reporter on the now defunct Printing World magazine (everyone has to start somewhere!). After one particularly mind-numbingly boring day writing yet again about some printing press, I decided it was time to find work a bit closer to my own heart and luckily found an advert for the role of editorial assistant on Pure Beauty. After a bit of gentle persuasion I got the boss to change the job role to assistant editor and within six weeks I was commuting to London everyday to work on my dream title! I’ve always been a beauty obsessive so I really was lucky to find a role in trade journalism that also gave me my beauty fix.

What does your job as Editor entail on a day to day basis?

As editor, I come up with all the content ideas in the magazine, edit my own and my colleague’s work, work alongside the designer on the design of the magazine and represent Pure Beauty at product launches and other industry events. Every day is different but in an average day I’ll arrive at the office an hour early to go through my e-mails and check the press for any beauty stories before the phone starts ringing. Most days I’ll have a product launch or two to attend, which generally entails going to a lovely venue in central London to learn about the new product, meeting the team behind it to ask them any questions about the product, and taking away a sample to try myself. Between my colleague Katherine and I we really do try every single new product we receive so we know what we’re writing about.

The rest of the day will really depend on what time of the month it is and where we are in terms of press schedule – for example, at the beginning of the month when we have a few weeks left to get the issue to press I might go and meet a PR contact for a coffee, or go and visit a store to find out more about their beauty offering, or if we’re closer to press deadline I’ll go back to the office and either source interviewees or quotes for whatever features I’m writing, or write up new product stories from press releases for our Product Focus pages (which detail new launches).

What are the challenges of being Editor?
It’s a challenge to come up with new ideas on a regular basis that you know your readers will like while retaining the content they already enjoy, and particularly on this magazine where I only have one other editorial member of staff, it can be hard to keep the offering fresh. The other major challenge is keeping a good balance of editorial and advertising content – it can be frustrating having to cut editorial pages in the magazine – particularly when you’ve got loads of great quotes for a feature and need the room to include them – because a brand has booked an advert at the last minute. But the magazine wouldn’t exist without advertising so when I get frustrated I just have to remind myself of that! The other thing that I’ve found hard is learning to trust my judgement and not rely on someone else telling me how to solve problems or improve something, because it’s my job to do that for the rest of the staff – but I am getting better at it!

"If I think the industry will benefit from us including a certain feature, I can put it in the magazine without having to justify it to anyone else" 
And what are the benefits?
The main benefit is that I get to decide what goes on every single editorial page of the magazine so if I think the industry will benefit from us including a certain feature or raising a certain issue, I can put it in the magazine without having to justify to anyone else why we should include it. In addition, if I think something isn’t working, I can change it or take it out quickly and easily. Editing means I get final sign off on every page so if I don’t like something design-wise I can ask my designer to change it until I think it’s right, which means by the time the issue goes to press I know that every page looks as good as it possibly can. All of this allows us to respond quickly to market changes or reader demand, which makes us very flexible and this benefits not only the readers, but also our advertisers.

How does being an editor differ from being a journalist?
Being an editor involves coming up with content ideas for the entire magazine, editing my own and my staff writer’s work, working closely with the designer to make sure the magazine is being presented in a way I’m happy with and representing the magazine at launches. On other publications, being a journalist is more about the writing – once it’s been decided what you’re writing (you may be told by the editor or you may come up with ideas together), it’s then up to you to source interviewees, research the topic, write the piece and fact check it. In a larger team, your work may then be passed on to a sub-editor to proof, amend and add a headline and standfirst, but in our tiny team the journalist will proof all the pages and make the amends on-screen. The editor then has final sign off on all pages when happy with them.

The main difference between being a journalist and being an editor is the responsibility involved – if our advertising or editorial team make any mistakes or our advertisers aren’t happy, then it’s up to me to deal with that complaint and keep the peace. Luckily we don’t get very many complaints! Over time I have come to enjoy the editing side more than the journalism side because my strengths lie in coming up with new ideas, influencing and making suggestions for page design, and problem solving – all of which are a much bigger part of editing than of being a journalist.

How does working on a trade magazine differ to consumer journalism?
Trade, or business to business (B2B) journalism serves a completely different purpose. Consumer magazines have a direct link to the consumer – so in terms of beauty, their role is to tell consumers about new products or the best products to create a certain look, and the idea is that consumers will trust their expertise and therefore go and buy the products.

With trade journalism, the magazine talks directly to the professionals within that industry rather than the consumer. So Pure Beauty is read by store staff selling beauty products, who then use the knowledge they gain from the magazine to do their job better.  From an advertiser’s point of view, the magazine acts as a conduit between the brand and the store staff selling that brand’s product. From our point of view, we’re telling store staff about new products so they have the knowledge to recommend these to customers or answers customers’ questions about them, while our features are designed to arm them with the knowledge they need about all aspects of beauty (from foot care to anti-ageing) to help them serve customers better and recommend products that will work for them.

Because Pure Beauty is read by those selling beauty products to consumers, we have to be extra careful about the information we include in the magazine to make sure it’s accurate, as this info will be passed on from store staff to consumers and may affect how the staff do their jobs (e.g. what products they recommend and so on). That’s not to say that consumer magazines aren’t as careful, but the information we include tends to be more in-depth because we are essentially trying to help ‘train’ the store staff. In addition, the information we include has to be un-biased as we’re merely trying to put across facts – we try to cover a wide range of products and give readers the facts about that products ingredients, claims and clinical trial results rather than just recommending products we like or that may have worked well for us.
"There are very few beauty journalism jobs out there so you need to make yourself stand out; prove that you are dedicated and beauty-obsessed"
What would your top tips be for anyone wanting to be a beauty journalist?
Immerse yourself in beauty, read every consumer and trade magazine out there to find out what’s going on in the industry and follow good beauty blogs – we find out about so many new products through blogs. Try and get work experience so you can experience the day-to-day reality of being a beauty journalist, and if you find yourself doing menial tasks and not getting the experience you’re after, then politely ask if you can do more to help out – that way it’s worthwhile for both you and the publication.

There are very few jobs out there but if you want one of them you need to make yourself stand out, so have ways to prove that you are dedicated and beauty-obsessed – starting a blog, website or twitter account where you talk about beauty in a new and interesting way would be a great start. Finally I would always recommend having some formal journalism training to set you apart from others – look for a NCTJ course which will be recognised as official training (there are a lot of courses out there so make sure the one you pick counts for something!).

What should aspiring journalists NOT do when trying to break the industry?
Waste any work experience they have – if you’re a bit shy or nervous it’s all too easy to spend your week or fortnight clearing up the beauty cupboard or sending post. If you’re not gaining anything from the experience you should speak up – but do so respectfully or you won’t be invited back. And remember journalists are busy people so you need to be a help at all times, rather than a hindrance by constantly asking ‘what can I do now’? Instead give ideas  - ‘Can I write something?’ or ‘Can I help you by transcribing anything for you?’

What do you like most about working in the beauty industry?
Being around beauty products all day, every day! I love seeing new products, especially really exciting ones that get the industry buzzing. Also it’s great hearing about new trends and seeing how they’re influenced by fashion – it reminds you how important beauty really is. In my experience most of the people working in beauty are particularly passionate about what they do so it’s a great talking to people with such enthusiasm – it rubs off on you. And it’s pretty nice that I don’t have to spend too much money on my beauty habit because I get sent lots of products – I was bankrupting myself with beauty products before I worked here!

What has been the highlight of your career?
Becoming the editor of Pure Beauty was a turning point as it made me realise the editing side is (hopefully!) where I will remain – my strengths definitely lend themselves to being an editor rather than a writer. Not that my writing sucks – I just get really excited about coming up with great editorial ideas and guiding others in how to make those ideas become great features.
"My team neglected to tell me that the majority of flooring in a mill is metal grating, so imagine my joy when I turned up in heels!"
Any low points?
I will never regret my time at Printing World as it led me to my beloved beauty industry, but I do know more about printing than any 20-something woman should! A particular low point was visiting a paper mill – my team neglected to tell me that the majority of flooring in a mill is metal grating, so imagine my joy when I turned up in heels. It took me about two hours longer than it should have to get around that mill. I don’t think I’ll ever need to go to another one!!

If you weren’t a beauty journalist, what would you be?
Apart from beauty my other major passion is literature, so I’d love to work in book publishing. I imagine that identifying a book you know will be a success then being part of that journey from concept to best-seller would be hugely exciting.

Who inspires you?
So many people – beauty-wise, people like George Hammer [and Marcia Kilgore who have created not just one but several hugely successful brands. I am increasingly looking to bloggers to find out about new products and am always impressed when I meet bloggers like Fleur de Force who are making a living out of their passion, or British Beauty Blogger from whose blog I always learn about something new. I am also inspired by luxury magazines – Tatler and Harrods’ customer magazine are a joy to behold because every page just looks exquisite. But anyone I meet who has started a successful business doing something they love is an inspiration.

"Your reader needs to trust what you write, otherwise you’re of no use to them and your magazine will fail"
What’s the best piece of advice you have received in your career?
Don’t write about anything that you don’t understand – something that was particularly important in my old job when I was a 22 year old girl writing articles about high tech printing presses that were being read by those who had worked as printers for 20 or 30 years! Your reader needs to trust what you write otherwise you’re of no use to them and your magazine will fail. Sometimes when you’re particularly busy it’s tempting to just blindly copy press releases or quotes without really getting to grips with how a product claims to work or what someone is actually saying, but if you get something wrong or someone challenges what you write then you lose credibility.

Anything else you would like to add?
Beauty journalism can be quite intimidating when you first step into that world, because it’s actually very small and most people – particularly consumer journalists – tend to already know each other. However it’s one of the friendliest industries I’ve known so if you find yourself feeling a bit intimidated, stick with it – and just walk up to people and introduce yourself. The majority of journalists, PRs and brands are lovely and you know that you’ve got a love of beauty in common if nothing else!


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