Focus with Annabel Heseltine, editor of First Eleven Magazine

Today’s Focus is with First Eleven Magazine editor Annabel Heseltine, who tells us about seeing pre-schoolers through to university, the importance of on-target products, and her fascination with education…

About the publication:

Who reads it and how many of them are there?
First Eleven magazine is written for the parents of children of all ages who are educated in independent schools. We publish a national and a London issue three times a year, every half term. The magazine starts with pre-school and sees children into university. We have a readership of 125,000 . We have doubled our circulation in the past six months to 50,000 and are increasing it at the rate of 500 a week .

What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
We publish features covering topical education issues which are informative and helpful to our parents, and we cover related features covering finance, health, travel, gap year information and lifestyle. Everything is relevant to children and the parents looking after them. I also run a parents page for products, conferences, festivals,, plays and performances, circus’, books etc which might be of interest to parents concerning their children.

What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
Our USP is that we are the only magazine covering all school ages written for parents and distributed through schools. We also have the largest distribution targeting parents directly.

How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
Our content is decided by its relevance to what parents want to know concerning schools and education and how relevant it is to the independent schools sector.

Do you produce a features list?
Yes we do produce a features list in advance but allow for flexibility to be able to react to recent news, surveys., conferences. We aim to be as current as possible given a three week lead period

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
The majority of the features are commissioned from freelance writers.. A proportion of the features are written by educationalists. Freelance suggestions and contributions are welcome for our education research features, finance, health, lifestyle.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs (e.g. for supplements, round tables, events) or do you keep them at arm’s length?
PRs with education ideas and events, and education/parent/child lifestyle products/services/offers are welcome to contact us. I would prefer them to contact me directly by email.

Do you have any advice for PRs?
Information must be informative and helpful to parents. Where possible we are keen to inform our parents about new educational tools/ ideas/products including books etc but they must be accessible and practicable for parents/children at home. Always interested in working with up and coming radio/TV programmes. I am always available for comment on radio and TV

How should a PR approach you about their client?
By email.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Ideas which can form the basis for features, surveys, research carried out by organisations. Concepts and new information which is education based and relevant to childrens/schools and parents

Do you have a PR pet hate?
Off target products!

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
We publish just prior to half terms. The best time for PR information regarding products is at the beginning of each school term. Regarding information which might be incorporated into a feature, immediately after half term for publication in the next term’s magazine.

About you:

Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
As editor I am responsible for the whole magazine, the commissioning, – the quality and variety of editorial contentoverseeing the subbing and write a couple of features. I have introduced a parents page where I hand on relevant bits of information to parents – child and schools related.

What interests you most about your job?
Making the magazine the best it can be, making sure we give as good as possible a service to parents and schools. Distributing it as widely as possible. I am fascinated by education today. It has changed so much and with 40% of parents new to the independent sector I feel that we can offer a really valuable service, informing our parents on topical issues and helping them deal with all the difficulties encountered by parents trying to do the best for their children. Isn’t this what we all want for them?

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I started as an assistant editor for a magazine in Hong Kong in the 80’s and since then have worked as a freelance feature writer/columnist for the publications of the Telegraph Group, Associated newspapers and News International as well as the Spectator, New Statesman and the Economist and served as a news reporter for the Sunday Times. I have also regularly appeared as a news commentator and chat show guest on TV and the radio. I have written and edited a couple of small magazine-like brochures. Took time out while having four children to complete a masters degree in conservation. My interest in education grew as I have four small children and education took over my life. My writing has always been an extension of my life so it was a natural progression. The rest was a case of right time, right place!

Do you Twitter?
Sometimes. But not often as too busy and forget.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
When writing, don’t be afraid to lose your darlings.

I’d like to have a go at…. / If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
At some point I have to write a book! I am fascinated by dyslexia as I have three children with it, a father and a brother. It makes life interesting.

What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
Today programme. TES. The Week. Quick flick through the mornings headlines

What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
Sitting down and having a lively chatty meal with old friends

About you and freelance journalists:

Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas?

And if so,how? (What should the pitch include and any specifics about how they should send that information to you)
Ideas related to independent education and general issues which concern everyone. By email. Some information on where they have written before and a link to their published work.

Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
Succinct. An understanding of the magazine and indications that they have read it, (ie not pitching ideas featured in the latest issue!). Good and original ideas which are not the obvious ones demonstrating some research and background knowledge of what they are talking about.

If you can, tell us about the best approach you’ve seen from a freelance…and the worst…
The best is as above. The worst is when the pitch an idea which has just come out in the latest magazine and is so long that I am bored. Please don’t ever send me pre-written stories.

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