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Focus with Louise Chunn, editor of Psychologies Magazine

Psycholgies magazine is the first women’s glossy magazine to deal with what women are really like, as opposed to what they look like. In this focus, editor Louise Chunn explains how Psychologies magazine aims to stimulate and explore intelligent features aimed at living positively. She also tells us the best advice she has been given and that a full body massage is a perfect way to spend a day off!

About Psychologies magazine

How do you differ from other publications in your sector?
We are a very different women’s magazine – no fashion, no celebrity gossip. We focus on stimulating intelligent features aimed at living positively. We are not afraid to be highbrow; we expect our readers to want to be stretched.

Describe a typical reader for us:
The mass of readers are 35 to 50 (average age 41), well-educated, 78% ABC1, and 82% read no other magazine in our competitive set. Our current ABC is 130,000

What stories are you most interested in covering in the publication?
We are interested in stories that touch on research into personality and behaviour; where the outside world meets women’s interior lives, and the impact it has (eg effect of credit crunch on our wellbeing); heart-warming real life stories; sex and relationships are important areas, and we cater to those in relationships and single women.

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?
We are mostly a features magazine and we are constantly talking about what is going into the issue and on in the world. We have flexibility to change throughout the production period as we are not so tied to release dates/transmission times as those magazines that rely largely on celebrities

How do you decide the content, front covers and headines?
Front covers: we pitch like other magazines, but we are often looking for different types of coverstars. Their age can range from 20s to 60s (Susan Sarandon is our current cover), and they do not necessarily have to be huge stars – quirky and independent works for us. It is very important that celebrities know the cover interview is a deep interview. Our interviewer is now Marianne Macdonald who is very well-known and talented. Without being intrusive we are aiming to get the best, most revealing, most interesting interviews around. We also like to shoot whenever we can, though this is not an essential.

We have some new slots, starting in the March issue, so there will be more scope for interviews with various people throughout the magazine.
The Dossier is the main part of the magazine – it is 16 to 20 pages focusing on a single subject – eg Family, Fear, Love or How to Get Ready for Change, Make Work work for you, etc. This is put together by deputy editor Clare Longrigg and often involves testimonials alongside psychological pieces.
Some areas – like beauty, food, health – will decide their features many months in advance and we will build the other features around what they have done.

Do you produce a features list? (If not, why not)
No. I don’t really believe in issuing features lists to PRs. I think they should read the magazines and develop a relationship with the various commissioning editors. In that way, the best PRs will find out what is being worked on.

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
Yes, we do use freelances. Our travel editor is a freelance editor (Kate O’Donnell, ex In Style), many of our columnists are freelance, as are many of the features writers.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs?
Yes, especially for celebrity content. Also beauty, health, books, film – all this comes from PRs.

What information/input from PRs is most useful to you?
I would be grateful if people would actually pick up the magazine and read it – and ask themselves if they can honestly say we would be interested in their product. If the answer is yes, get in touch.

What’s the best starting point for a PR who wants to tell you about their client?
An email to the relevant editor is a good start. Or a phone call, if that seems easier. The phones never seem to go anymore!

Do you have a PR pet hate?
People who don’t look at the magazine first – either by sending us the wrong sort of thing, or denying us access to someone who would be great in the magazine – and enjoy the experience. The best PRs are knowledgeable about the magazines they pitch to. They also get everyone’s names right!

When is the best time for PRs to contact you & when is your deadline for contributions?
This varies too much to say.

About You:

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I have edited Just Seventeen, ES magazine, In Style and Good Housekeeping. I have been deputy editor on Elle and Vogue, and Women’s page editor (and Style page and Parents page) on The Guardian

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t freak out. Not everything you hope to happen will happen. And not everything you dread happening will happen either. And, importantly, it’s a job, not your life.

What’s your idea of a relaxing day off?
Full body massage and lunch with a girlfriend, then home to the loved ones.

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