TOP 12 Things I Learned Working in Magazines

Here are the top 12 things I learned working in magazines & how they can help you today!

I was in my early twenties. I didn’t know much about business except that I looooved magazines. I had come from working in an international advertising agency and I was looking for something more stable, more human. When an agency wins a contract it hires, and when it loses an account it fires! I loved the idea generation side of agencies, the dreamy side, but the rest just really wasn’t me.

I already knew I loved communication in all its forms: brainstorming to find ideas, promoting great products, thinking of promotions, public relations, finding new angles to get our editors media invitations, pitching, negotiating, and coaching the editors & journalists so they would excel once they were on air.

The world of magazines has changed a lot. Many magazines no longer exist, but I still use what I learned in the industry every day. It really was the best school for me – it has built my foundation as a communications expert, sometimes I even say as a communications addict!

Here are the top 12 things I learned while working in magazines:

1. Put your best content on the cover:

Put your best content on the cover where everyone can see it – this may seem like common sense, but it’s one of the most important things I learned in the magazine industry. My father, who was an amazing entrepreneur, used to say “If you want to sell something put it in the front window for everyone to see, don’t keep it in the back store”.  This tip is based on the same idea. Today the best medias are on the web, so show your products off with great pictures, videos & content!

2. Innovate, don’t follow:

As a matter a fact, the motto at the fashion magazine I was working on was ‘Dare’. We were ‘avant-garde’. Our editor Dominique was an ex-international model. She was simultaneously gorgeous, innovative & daring. She would test the waters with people in the building & then she would ‘jump’! We were the first magazine to have a pink ribbon on the cover for breast cancer. We had naked models saying how 90% of women did not like their bodies, including models! It was always done with taste – never tacky & very classy. If you want to attract attention you need to dare, take a chance, stand out.  This applies on social media & beyond!

3. One success does not last for ever:

When one issue of the magazine sold out, we were so excited we would jump up & down in the hallways, but we still had to work on the next one. We had to win over our readers & buyers with each issue, every three weeks! This is a great reminder that applies to magazines and other businesses as well.

4. Success is rarely the product of one person alone:

Yes, our editor Dominique was amazing. Her energy and her passion were catchy & invigorating.  You could almost say it was all her… almost. She still needed inspiration and would often get it from chatting with the rest of us in the office. She had an amazing editing team behind her – the graphic designers, the photographer, the journalists & columnist, the proofreaders, the promotion & PR team that would give her visibility. The production of a magazine is similar to that of a movie – when a film wins an Oscar, it’s usually the product of many passionate people.  This also goes to show that if you work alone, you shouldn’t hesitate to hire experts to help you out!

5. If you fail, learn from it & move on:

Sometimes, we had issues of the magazine that were great successes. Other times, they were not so well received. There were some hard hits. On these occasions we discussed what happened, tried to figure out what went wrong & did used this information to do better on the next issue. Learn from your mistakes and failures, but never forget! 

6. Competition is good:

We would always check what our competition was doing. I truly believe that if we hadn’t had such fierce competition, we wouldn’t have worked as hard. We wanted to be first & more often than not, we were. It’s not always good to compare yourself with others but sometimes it’s necessary to get to your destination faster! One thing that always pays is to be one step ahead of the competition, no matter what your product or service!

7. Stars attract attention & help you sell:

It’s no secret that when we would put an international celebrity on the cover, we did very well.  It’s always good to have a star or the modern take on one – an influencer talking about you or your product. People will think to themselves, ‘They like it, I trust their opinion, it must be good’ & this leads them to buy! Influencers are the new stars today. Get them to use your products & talk about it – this is one of the best ways to attract attention and help you sell, no matter what industry you’re in or media you’re using.

8. You need more than one media talking about you:

When I would negotiate interviews with different medias, I had a list of more than 20 TV shows, radio station & print outlets to call. If we wanted to be sold out, I needed to make all those phone calls & get many positive returns! You don’t know who is going to say yes, so you need to cast your line out for all sorts of fish. When you want to be seen on social media, you need to be present on more than just one platform and post often. When it comes to social media especially, consistency is key!

9. Content is king:

The cover of the magazine advertises what’s on the inside. When you open the magazine up though, the content has to be excellent. If not, people will just stop buying it. If you want to be present in the medias & have an impact, you absolutely need to have good content.  If you use social networks or use video, make certain the content has value for the people watching.

10. Listen & understand what people want:

When I was working in magazines, we often did surveys where readers would write to us. We took their feedback and kept it – and them! – in mind every time we worked on a new issue. If you don’t show an interest in your audience, you will lose them. On a psychological level, people want to know they matter. If you do a video don’t just talk about yourself – be sure to address your audience specifically.

11. Know your raison d’être:

I spent a lot of time working on a daring fashion magazine. Whenever we hesitated in doing something ‘grand’ we remembered why we started and what our message was. Before you create your website, flesh out branding or work on being more visible, make sure you know exactly why you started. Along the way we often forget this, but it’s essential to know your raison d’être and keep sight of it along your journey.

12. When you are not challenged, move on:

I honestly had so much fun working in the magazine business. I saw so many different sides to the industry – I worked on promotion, public relations, event planning & magazine launching. I learned so much but eventually it became routine and I wasn’t having fun anymore. So, I left. I loved magazines but it was time to discover new things & take on new challenges. I can wholeheartedly say I did this – the challenge of working for myself is an ongoing adventure! I love working with small businesses, entrepreneurs & solopreneurs to help them find their essence & see them transform from lamb to lion!

I wanted to share these lessons with you because the experiences I had are always alive inside me. When I work with clients, when I coach them to find their essence & create videos, these are the rules that I follow. These lessons are also alive & well every day as foundations of the communication & marketing world.

If you need assistance with your marketing foundation, whether it be finding your essence, producing your videos, or finding your elevator pitch & that 2-minute message that will attract your next clients, please contact me. I would love to speak to you and see how my services can help!


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