Focus with Christina Neal, editor in chief of Women’s Running Magazine
This week’s FeaturesExec focus interviewee is Christina Neal, the editor-in-chief of recently launched Women’s Running magazine. In this interview, she tells us what the motivation behind the launch was and how women of all running levels can benefit from the magazine.
About Women’s Running Magazine:
How do you differ from other publications in your sector?
Women’s Running is the only running magazine in the UK just for women.
What was the motivation behind the launch?
There has been an increase in the number of women running, thanks to events such as Race For Life, in which 735,000 women participated last year. Running is cheap, convenient, free, accessible to everyone and easy to fit into a busy day. We wanted to create a magazine which appealed to women runners of all levels – those who are new to running and want to build stamina gradually, those who are regular runners who want to improve and those who are gym runners who want to get the most from their treadmill sessions. In short, we wanted to create an accessible running magazine for women, ideally we wanted to be the ‘new voice’ of women’s running that doesn’t discriminate by speed or ability.
Describe a typical reader for us:
Our readers are health-conscious women typically aged 25 upwards who want to get fit by running, lose weight, feel better about their bodies and also reduce stress by running. For them, running is ‘me time’, time to get fit but most importantly time to put the demands and pressure of daily life behind them for that window of time when they run.
What stories are you most interested in covering in the publication?
We are interested in case studies about ordinary women who have achieved amazing things through running, either by running impressive distances, or those who have achieved amazing things by improving their confidence through running. Human interest stories such as ‘running saved my marriage’ would be of interest.
How does the editorial process run? Do you have specific days when you focus on different aspects of the magazine, or is the planning on a much more ad-hoc basis?
Much more ad hoc.
How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
We have regular team meetings and the editorial staff are all keen runners, so much of the content is inspired by our own experiences as runners.
How do you differ from other media outlets in your sector?
Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
Yes we use freelance writers and we are always open to receiving ideas from freelances, but we would prefer to be contacted by email, not by phone, in the first instance.
Do you work closely with PRs?
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
General press releases related to running.
What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
Send us a press release.
Do you have a PR pet hate?
Yes, being hounded on the phone.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & when is your deadline for contributions?
It varies, again, email approach is best.
Describe a typical day at work:
Commissioning, checking copy, managing the editorial team, managing budgets.
What do you love about your work?
The variety and the creativity.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I have been working in the magazine publishing sector for over 20 years. I started my career on a computer title at Redwood Publishing in 1987 and then moved to Dennis Publishing three years later, where I worked for ten years as editor and then publisher of the company’s ‘one-shot’ magazine division. I left to go freelance in 2000 and wrote features for a variety of health titles including Health & Fitness, Slimming, Weight Watchers, Women’s Health and then edited Good Health, before going on to be the editor of Women’s Fitness. I moved to Wild Bunch Media in August 2009 as I could see that there was an excellent opportunity to make the most of a gap in the market for women’s running.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Follow your instincts. A good idea doesn’t always come from focus groups. Gut instinct has played a huge role in my publishing career and often works well. Also, know your market and your competition.
I’d love to have a go at… / If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
I would love to write fiction books and hope to do so one day!
What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
I don’t. I’m normally too engrossed in my first tasks of the day.
What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
Sleeping in until 10am, going for a long, leisurely run, eating a good lunch and then riding my motorbike in the afternoon – preferably in the sun!
About you and freelance journalists:
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so, how?
Yes I do. They simply need to send me a brief email introducing themselves and their background, explaining their area of expertise, who they normally write for and outlining a few ideas in an email.
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
Those who have clearly taken the time to read the magazine, good ideas that have been well thought out and an impressive journalistic background.
If you can, tell us about the best approach you’ve seen from a freelance…and the worst…
Someone once emailed me with some ideas which had unique angles – their suggested feature ideas were different from the usual health features and they had really taken the time to research them. The worst approaches are those where the journalist phones up and tries to spend 20 minutes outlining their idea over the phone when I am on press week and don’t have the time to talk. I also find it faintly amusing when writers spell my name incorrectly or occasionally, get the name of the magazine wrong. I have had emails from writers saying ‘I am a big fan of xx magazine’, only to get the magazine’s name wrong!
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