As I stood on the terrace of the new Time Inc. headquarters overlooking the Hudson, surrounded by potential future employers (Time Inc. staffers) and coworkers (my 99 fellow students), all of whom I needed to impress, I had to ask myself: “Who am I?” That question was not only on my mind at this Time Inc. reception for NYU Summer Publishing Institute (SPI) students, but really, since the start of the program last week.
The number one buzzword at SPI has been “brand,” which, in my mind, loosely translates into sense of self. It’s been on the lips of the speakers and panelists invited to help educate all of us, meaning, hopefully the future leaders of the publishing business. (FYI the big message we heard: Print is NOT dead). From Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director of Hearst Magazines, to Anna Holmes, Senior Vice President, Editorial, at First Look Media, we’ve learned that the brand and, ultimately, the mission statement—which we’ve been working on tirelessly all week for the hypothetical magazine brands we are creating at SPI—are the most important concepts in honing a magazine.
Jess Cagle, Editorial Director of People and Entertainment Weekly, and keynote speaker for the magazine session of SPI, articulated it best when he explained that good brands are dependent upon three things: knowing you who are, knowing who your audience is, and giving them what they want—and more. Now, I believe that not only do these principles apply to magazine brands, but they also apply to our sense of who we are as people—and how we behave going into events like networking evenings at publishing giants such as Time Inc. Though we may grip our glasses of chardonnay nervously (hey, it’s been a long week!), we should be firm in our understanding of these three concepts.
This means knowing who you are and not being afraid to act like it. As a magazine brand (and a person), you should be unapologetically yourself. Your brand, no matter the platform, should practically scream who you are and what you do. Just as our panelists said, everything in the magazine comes down to the brand.
In networking situations, this means being yourself—not the girl next to you, not the boy you made friends with in class—just you. Callie Schweitzer, Editorial Director, Audience Strategy for Time and Time Inc. and founder of Motto, said this well during her address to the students at the Time Inc. reception. “What makes me me is exactly what has made me valuable [at Time Inc.].” What makes you you is important, valuable, and needed, so be it.
Know what your audience wants:
As a magazine, this means delivering what your target demographic needs with every issue and article you write. What does your audience want from you? What do they need? Whatever you send out into the world, it should be reflective of your brand.
When networking, this means knowing who you are talking to: you wouldn’t talk to the Time Inc. recruiters on hand in the same way you’d talk to your friends at the bar. Tailor your content. Be mindful of who your audience is. In this case, they’re people who have the potential to hire you. Act accordingly.
Give them what they want—and more:
Give your magazine audience the top-notch content they expect—and the content they don’t know they want. Go above and beyond their expectations. You should constantly be striving to surprise them. In networking situations, this means impressing your future employers. Give them what they expect, and then flavor it with what they aren’t expecting in terms of something about you that is special and distinctive As we’ve learned this week, uniqueness is key in building a successful brand.
Finding your magazine niche and finding yourself aren’t easy. At SPI, though, we’re meant to be challenged—why do you think we’re allotted group work time at the end of our long days? But the good thing is: it’s only the first week. We have two more weeks in the magazine session to hone and perfect both our magazines and ourselves. And then we have three weeks of book publishing ahead. I have faith in us.
Students enjoying the view from the Time Inc. terrace.
More highlights from Week 1:
- Great Havana Style video created by Pilar Guzmán, Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Traveler, who also gave us an amazing overview of the travel magazine market and creating a distinctive voice and mission. I think we all want her job.
- Puppy videos and more shown by Buzzfeed’s Director of Creative Strategy, Joe Puglisi, who helped us understand the importance of native advertising and branded content in building a brand. Puppies and viral videos—a dream job, right?
- Business basics with Lavinel Savu, Executive Managing Editor, InStyle, and Claudio Goldbarg, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Media at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. To those students assigned the “publisher” role on our hypothetical magazine launches, I hope you were taking extensive notes. Math is hard, but Savu and Goldbarg helped make it easier.
- Design with Luke Hayman, Partner, Pentagram, who took us through the elements of magazine design. You really should judge a magazine by its cover.
- We were all mesmerized by Callie Schweitzer’s enthusiasm and message. How does she do it? We all want to be her best friend. Or work for her.
In the end, though the week was intense and a little tiring, one thing is for sure: we’re learning a lot from the best in the industry, and we can’t wait for the weeks to come.
by Hannah Gordon