Focus with Dara Flynn, editor of House and Home
This week FeaturesExec catches up with the Irish interiors magazine, House and Home. Editor Dara Flynn explains how House and Home differ from other interiors magazines and describes her idea of a relaxing day off…
About the House & Home:
Describe a typical reader for us:
Our typical reader is highly home-centred and ranges in age from twenties to forties, although we have many loyal readers outside of these brackets. They are ‘nesty’ individuals, meaning they take pride in the look of their homes and love to entertain and cook there.
What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
We cover everything to do with home interiors, from shopping and product news to real homes and makeovers. We’re also very interested in projects, where a reader has renovated a property, or even a piece of furniture.
What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
We make a huge effort to be accessible to our readers. We like the magazine to be a source book for the home – if you see a photograph of a room you love, we will tell you how to create the look and where to shop to do so. House and Home has a friendly, personal approach to interiors, and we’re not about exclusivity. We’re all about inspirational interiors that you can achieve. I think of it as the aspirational grounded in reality.
How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
We work as a team to come up with our list for each issue, and when it comes to production time you’ll often find us brainstorming around the office for a great headline, or peering over the designer’s shoulder to select the best cover pic.
Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
Yes, it’s crucial. With over 100 pages of editorial per issue, we cannot function without knowing exactly where the magazine is headed, well in advance.
Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
Yes, and our contributors vary from freelance photographers, stylists and designers to writers with a flair for words and a good eye for an interiors story and a strong picture.
Do you work closely with PRs (e.g. for supplements, round tables, events) or do you keep them at arm’s length?
I prefer to work closely with PRs, especially for certain things. Obviously the PR industry is crucial to the media, and a great PR person can really help out. In fact, an excellent PR person can be a godsend – we all appreciate someone who can telephone for a high res image at the last minute, for example, and who can action it quickly. Unfortunately, there are a few who can give the industry a bad name, usually by ‘pestering’ and being unable to strike the balance between the needs and interests of the press, and the interests of their client.
How should a PR approach you about their client?
I prefer to receive emails. I read everything I get and file it for future use. Phone calls to pitch a story or idea are not a great idea, unfortunately, as they can eat in valuable time both from a PR and magazine perspective
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
High quality, high-resolution images are key to a great magazine. A short, precise press release containing the main information about stockists, pricing and the background of the firm is a must. Most editors and journalists I know tend to ignore a wordy blurb in a press release as we will never reproduce this as it is written.
Do you have a PR pet hate?
It might sound a little harsh, but time-pressed journalists and editors don’t tend to appreciate follow-up phone calls or emails to ask if an original email has been received. Usually, it has! If you haven’t heard back yet, it could be for a number of reasons – the email wasn’t of interest, I have filed it for another time, or we just haven’t got around to addressing it yet! If a journalist is interested, worry not – they will get in touch. If they aren’t interested, it’s probably unrealistic to expect a personal reply every time.
When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
Our deadlines vary, but emails can come in at any time – it gives us the freedom to read them as we get to them, and then to follow up if needs be.
Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
All of the above! A typical day is never typical and it all depends on the stage we are at with the magazine. Either we are researching and brain-storming ideas, firming up features, organising shoots and commissioning features, or in the weeks leading up to press day, proofing, changing, subbing and improving.
What interests you most about your job?
I’m passionate about interiors, so there’s never a dull day. I also love the fact you get to talk to so many different people. No two days are the same. The technicalities of producing a magazine are extremely interesting and the industry is changing a lot at the moment – House and Home is evolving right now and its web presence is undergoing a brilliant transformation, so we can have a more interactive relationship with our readers.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I worked at the HOME section of The Sunday Times Ireland since 2004, writing about houses, architecture, the property market and interiors.
Do you Twitter?
I have done in the past, and am about to do a lot more now that House and Home is on Twitter!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
The power of positive thinking! If you really believe good things will happen, they will. That applies to everything. Except, maybe, the lottery.
I’d like to have a go at…. / If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
I’d love to be a furniture designer – unlikely to happen, though! I studied translation after my primary journalism degree, and would have been quite happy doing that too, but I chose my original media path in the end!
What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
I check the RTE news on my iPhone first thing, and once I get to my computer, I skim a few newspapers online. I pick up a copy of the Guardian most days but often don’t get to read it properly until the evening.
I also check my interiors and design blog news feeds to see if there’s anything new. House and Home’s blog (www.houseandhome.ie/blog will be fully live early July.
What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
A late breakfast in bed with the weekend papers, a bit of ‘pottering’ about the house, watering the plants or working on little housey projects of mine, meet a friend for lunch, take a walk, catch up on personal emails and phone calls, shop for a lovely meal and then cook it with my partner Andy. Finally, a movie with the feet up. Boring, but brilliant, in my book!
About you and freelance journalists:
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas?
Yes, preferably by email. Pitches should include an Irish angle, specifics about what the accompanying images will be like. A good freelance journalist does the following: produce perfect, clean copy according to house style ON DEADLINE; be available for follow-up corrections or to give further information, and be respectful of exclusivity regarding other titles they may be pitching too. In interiors, it help if a freelancer has a good visual sense and knows a great picture when they see it.
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