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Focus on Park Lifestyle with editor Bella Brodie

In today’s Focus on Park Lifestyle, editor Bella Brodie tells us how you can contribute to the magazine…

About the publication:

Who reads it and how many of them are there?
We have a circulation of 100,000. 65,000 of these are delivered direct to existing park home owners across the UK and they tend to be over 55’s who either live in a residential park home or own a holiday lodge. The rest are distributed at trade and leisure shows and exhibitions throughout the year, so are read by those who might be thinking about buying a park home but don’t actually own one yet.

What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
We run a lot of case studies on real-life experiences related to park life. That can be about the process of buying or selling, refurbishing and looking after park homes, features on new parks and activities and lifestyle features such as walking, health and hobbies. We also include informational articles for those who need to learn more about park homes before they buy and details on new products, models and services. Our readers are often part of residents associations so day trips, events and places to visit are really relevant too.

What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
We’re an annual publication focusing on the lifestyle and the people living it so it’s not just about the homes and it’s not full of technical jargon although we do provide lots of useful information. From an advertising and contributors’ perspective we probably have the largest circulation in the sector, and as the magazine is delivered direct to 65,000 park home owners our reach in the park home sector is particularly extensive. For any advertiser looking for a direct route to 65,000-100,000 over 55’s that’s a particularly attractive option. We like to find the interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the owners and their lifestyles because that’s what the readers will relate to most.

How do you decide the content, front covers and headlines?
Throughout the year we visit a lot of parks and attend a lot of exhibitions, and at those we also meet lots of home owners who are often really keen to tell us about their park or home. We obviously work with a lot of parks and suppliers from an advertising perspective too, so some of the content comes from press releases and PR submitted to us. If there is a particularly stunning model home coming onto the market we will often feature it – the market is very competitive so there are plenty of new innovations to talk about. In terms of the headlines and main features, they usually jump out for a variety of reasons, and there will always be something different, unusual or ground-breaking about them.

Do you produce a features list? Why? Why not?
No. As an annual publication we know the proportions of content we are looking for and most of the time we could fill that ten times over so only the strongest stories get into the magazine. If I’m missing something in particular I put a Response Source message out and that system works well for us, we’ve had the information we needed from PR’s every time. We do get a lot of content through which we can’t use in the magazine due to lack of space. Where we think it is relevant to our readers we often use that content on our website where we have relatively unlimited space, so it’s still seen by our web visitors. That’s where most of our activity takes place throughout the year and we have plans to develop this further in 2011.

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
Not really as we have a writing team here and can usually capture most of what we need between us, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs?
Yes they are vital to our work, and make it a lot easier to get the information we need in the format we need it. We already have many PR contacts in the industry, but because we’re developing more lifestyle content this year, particularly on the website I’m keen to hear from PR’s with a product, attraction, news, offer or event relevant to our readership.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
In addition to editing Park Lifestyle I run a PR agency so I understand how PR’s work with their clients and some of the challenges they have. Most are really good, but occasionally I’ll get an email with very little substance in it suggesting I go and have a look at their client’s website and see if there is any information there of use to me. Those emails tend to get deleted! I’d rather they actually send me something specific they think might be of interest to me rather than asking me to hunt it down. Occasionally I’ll get a PR calling to see if their news is on the website yet after I’ve told them I’ll use it. That can also be a little annoying when they could have just found it by looking! Also with some of the health product PR I get they over-mention their product in the copy and that reduces the chances of it being used, as you have the choice of stripping some of it out to restore editorial value and balance or binning it.

How should a PR approach you about their client?
If they have something they think is relevant to Park Lifestyle then I’m keen to hear about it by email in the first instance. Although it’s easier to use in release format I don’t mind if it’s not as I’ll ask for more information if I need it. If photos are available please say that, or attach it in as small a file size as possible – most will need to be web-ready.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
There are some PR’s I go back to regularly and have a particularly good working relationship with. That’s because they are always responsive if I need a quote or industry comment – they don’t necessarily send me lots of releases but they are always newsworthy and relevant to my readership.

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & what is your deadline for contributions?
For the magazine I like to decide copy in October, work on it in November and we go to print in December. For the website there are no restrictions, so keep it coming all year round!

About you:

Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet (e.g. commissioning, subbing, features, interviewing)?
I lead a PR agency so editing the magazine is just one element of a wider picture for me. I also write features for other magazines, and some of these are in the same industry where we tend to know each other and interact fairly regularly. With the magazine I decide the content, then the wider team will work together to actually build and deliver that, although I usually write many of the features.

What interests you most about your job?
I really enjoy going to the exhibitions and events because it gives me the chance to find out about new parks and products and meet some of the people behind them. What I really enjoy most though is visiting my readers in their homes. I sometimes combine interviews with a few days away and most of my interviewees are often so welcoming and friendly that I stay in touch with them afterwards. Many of the parks are situated in some of the most stunning areas in the UK, so we take a tent and explore the area a bit – that’s a real bonus. My interviewees know all the best places to visit so we use our time well and can share that knowledge with readers too!

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
My father was a headmaster who taught English language, and my grandfather was an author who also worked for the BBC for years writing The Archers so working with words is probably in my blood. I didn’t start out as a writer though. After years working in local government as a town clerk I decided I needed a more creative challenge and moved into PR. I worked in a regional PR agency for several years with a lot of leisure, travel and park clients which gave me the perfect grounding for this role and lots more writing experience. A few years ago I left to work at Turnpike Farm. The team here took on publication of Park Home News (now Park Lifestyle) shortly afterwards. Demand for the magazine has increased dramatically since we changed the editorial focus and team, and we’ve increased our circulation for two years running to meet this demand.

Do you Twitter? Why, why not?
Yes I do, and although I find it a bit addictive and time consumptive I have found it quite useful for work and spotting interesting news.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
It was from my colleague Robert Ashton, who I would describe as an absolutely brilliant writer. I’ve learned a lot from him. He told me not to clutter sentences up with words which don’t add anything. I still find they creep in though! He also told me not to be afraid of short sentences and I think that’s another great tip as they can add impact.

What media do you seek out 1st thing in the morning?
BBC News updates on my phone and BBC Breakfast News. I also have Google updates set for a variety of subjects and will occasionally take a quick glance at Twitter – as I’m linked to others with similar interests there’s always a buzz if any major news is breaking.

If you could time travel what time would you go to?
I have a passion for Tudor times and read a lot of historical fiction, but I wouldn’t really want to go there as they were dangerous times. I’m due to visit Hampton Court later this year as there’s a park nearby I’d really like to visit and write about. I’d probably most like to go back to the Victorian Era, when there were some really exciting inventions and the world was changing really quickly. I’d have loved to visit the Crystal Palace – it must have been absolutely awe inspiring!

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[img|jpg|Bella Brodie]