Media Interview with Sarah Saunders, editor of Simply Woman
Helping people to "catch on" is important to Simply Woman editor Sarah Saunders – whether that be ensuring her readers catch on to exciting new products and places, or supporting the sea-change in the 'women's interest' industry, catching on to the many different types of female reader they could be speaking to. Welcoming all interests, shapes and sizes is a trend slowly making it's way into the magazines on shop shelves, but you can find this attitude spreading in female-friendly corners of the world wide web. Looking for a warm welcome? Why not simply start with Simply Woman…
About Simply Woman
How would you describe Simply Woman readers, and how many of them are there?
Quite varied, actually. I’d say, in general, they are aged about 25-50, based all over the UK, lots in smaller towns and cities (although plenty in London, and my readership started out with my friends in Edinburgh). They are a mix of stay-at-home mums and go-getting career girls. We get about 4K unique users a month, but I’m working on a marketing plan to get loads more.
What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
I don’t make any cash out of this – it’s purely for the chance to communicate my views, ideas and things I find interesting or think others may. We don’t do much celeb worshipping here – I’d rather concentrate on being the best person I can be than emulating someone who has unlimited time and money to make themselves perfect!
How do you decide the content?
A mixture of ideas from press releases, things I think of during my daily routine and specific seasonal items.
Part of your mission statement for Simply Woman is to use “lifelike, healthy and realistic models” – do you think this is the way forward for media targeted to women?
Totally – women need to see that being aggressively thin isn’t a good look! I heard the reason many designers don’t use more curvy and beautiful women is because it distracts from the clothing. I wouldn’t be surprised. They say clothing hangs better from skinny women’s bones. I highly disagree – check out any curvy woman in a Mouret Galaxy dress – they rock it! I also heard fashion designers send out the smallest sample sizes possible as it wastes the least amount of fabric, so perhaps the big fashion mags should stick up for themselves and say NO – send us a size 10 or 12, not a 4!
Do you find social media useful?
Love it – sometimes people only have time to read the punchline. Get them interested in what you are saying, even if it’s only tweeting, and they will come to respect your comments and read more. I’ve also connected with various people in my industry, including bloggers who are doing really well. I like to have a nosey and see what it is they are doing.
About you and freelance journalists
Do you pay for contributions from freelance journalists?
Not at the moment; I don’t have advertising revenue from Simply Woman, so we are all working for free at the moment. I have a great travel contributor who goes to all sorts of wonderful places that she writes up. Iheoma Okoroma, who is based in London, attends many of the events I cannot. Their input is invaluable.
Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so, how?
If a journalist is willing to contribute unique work for free (or at least slightly re-written) then I’m delighted to consider pretty much any topic. It’s a great forum for people to get published when they wouldn’t elsewhere. It’s quite a competitive business, freelancing.
Name the three most important attributes that make a freelance journalist stand out for you and would make you use them again?
Prep work – the article is sent already hyperlinked with all images attached.
Uniqueness – it helps my search engine ranking if as many articles as possible are unique.
Pro-active – e.g. I saw your section on “such-and-such” could use more content – here’s some ideas I have!
Do you work closely with PRs or do you keep them at arm’s length?
Oh, I love PRs! The girls are usually so friendly and willing to help with images and further ideas. You can tell a good one, as they are enthusiastic about following up what they’ve sent you and they are creative when it comes to sourcing feature ideas. It’s the sort of person I’d hire if I had a PR budget for Simply Woman. Still trying to get in touch with some brands' PRs though – there’s definitely a pecking order when it comes to how influential your site is!
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I actually can’t think of anything.
How should a PR approach you about their client?
Email is always preferred as I work from France a lot. Give me a unique selling point, what is this brand doing differently? Inspire me!
What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
Some PRs send great content for the site, which allows me to reach out to readers without having to put together a whole article. These are really useful, in addition to giving me the chance to sample new and niche products you just don’t hear about. Until I started doing this, I thought it was pretty much the department store and high street beauty products but there is a whole world of exciting, unique and ethical brands out there just waiting for the general public to catch on. That’s what I like to do – help them catch on, especially with beauty, food and drink and locations (e.g. travel/restaurants).
When is the best time for PRs to contact you, and what is your deadline for contributions?
They can email me any time of the day at all! I run ongoing content and everything published remains on the site (unless it’s seasonal) so they have long-term exposure for their client.
Describe a typical day at work: What are your editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
Well, since it’s not a rent-paying job and I’m just a single gal, I have to fit it in when I can. In the winter I run skiing holidays in France with Pistepals. Ultimately though, I’m always brainstorming on the move; gathering ideas, giveaways for readers, thinking of things people would find interesting or helpful (like my wee six year old cousin with coeliac, for example) and just generally trying to get the magazine noticed so I can at least earn something to pay my way!
What interests you most about your job?
I love discovering new stuff, I love being inspired by places, looks and creations; I’m quite the chatterbox/sales person, so I love pitching stuff to people! I’m a total know-it-all as well, so I crave learning new things and absorb it all like a big sponge!
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I worked in retail for many years, IT recruitment, and then set up my own ski business Pistepals along with the magazine. It is my long-term aim to run the two concurrently.
Could you give us the best beauty tip you’ve picked up from working on Simply Woman?
Hmm, I knew quite a lot already, having bought from beauty counters since I was15! I think it’s important to remember that beauty comes from within, and I don’t mean that in a cheesy way – your skin, hair and eyes will shine if you look after your diet and health. Products will help, to an extent, after that. Best beauty discovery though…eyelash extensions by Nouveau. I got quite a shock when I looked in the mirror – they just looked stunning. Also Shellac nails. Adore them.
Is there a woman/women that you look up to yourself?
I love Holly Willoughby, she’s so kind and friendly and looks fab, always. Also Chemmy Alcott, who suffered a horrendous skiing injury and is now back on her feet; always striving to be the best.