h1

HearstMade: Threading The Needle Between Clients & Hearst’s Own Brand Voices – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Editorial Director, Brett Hill, HearstMade…

October 7, 2019

“This is really all about authentic storytelling. And consumers are really savvy, they know when they’re being delivered an ad and it’s our job to deliver something that feels editorial and feels like it has a plot to it. And we think about that all the time when we’re creating campaigns, whether it’s for print or digital. The idea that it feels authentic and organic to the client is really important. And coming at that editorially is what makes these things work and why more and more people are coming to us for it.”… Brett Hill

Connecting clients with audiences and spurring them toward action is something HearstMade has become extremely good at. From creating content for print products to storytelling across every major digital and social platform, HearstMade partners with advertisers to set real-world goals and then work toward them, first determining a distribution strategy, and then crafting a creative approach that marshals the unique voices of the brands, the authority of the editors and the depth of the audience data. It’s branded content at its best.

Brett Hill is editorial director at HearstMade and comes to this position after nine years as executive editor of Hearst Magazines’ HGTV Magazine. Brett is a wordsmith and a firm believer in telling a good story, no matter the media form it takes. While some might think launching a print magazine from a digital app was both unnecessary and impossible, Brett and her team did it with Bumble magazine. Their latest creation is an ink on paper product for REI called Uncommon Path, a title that tells the stories of the experiences, events, issues and ideas that shape the relationship between people and life outside. Brett believes that everyone has a story to tell, even advertisers.

I spoke with Brett recently and we talked about her extremely busy life at HearstMade and how she wouldn’t have it any other way. Between meetings and clients (of which they have over 200-plus, Brett’s daily work schedule is challenging, but satisfying. She leads a team of editors, writers and producers to create and distribute campaigns, products and custom publications on behalf of clients. Brett has described HearstMade as a rapidly growing, dynamic operation that creates data-informed print, digital and social content on a global scale, providing best-in-class solutions for its advertising partners. And with partners like Airbnb, REI and Bumble, along with many, many more, it’s definitely easy to see why Brett and her team are so busy and so very proud of what they do with their multiplatform storytelling.

And now, enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brett Hill, editorial director, HearstMade.

But first the sound-bites:

On how she would sum up her first year as editorial director of HearstMade: It has been incredibly busy, I’ll tell you that. We have worked with over 200 clients this year; we’ve created over 350 campaigns; we’ve launched two magazines, I’m wearing lots of different hats. It has been incredibly exciting and every day something new is happening and that’s really what I love about it.

On what exactly she and her team do at HearstMade: HearstMade is basically two arms of the unit of Hearst Magazines. We create branded content for clients that live on our own Hearst platforms and we also create custom content for clients like Airbnb, REI and Bumble. So, the first part of my job, which was really up and running already when I started, is creating digital content, whether that lives on our own site, whether it’s amplified on social media, and that takes up a huge part of what we do at HearstMade. We have a creative director, myself, and a team of about 45 people who are creating all of that digital content.

On whether naming this division of Hearst “HearstMade” is like putting the Hearst seal of approval on all the content created under that umbrella: We use the same creative sensibilities and acumen for our advertising partners as we do when we create our own products, so yes, there’s a Hearst stamp of approval, if you will. Our tagline at HearstMade is: Editorial Minds Solving Business Problems. I’m an editor; I’ve always been an editor and I think like an editor. What I like doing best is telling stories through products, and stories that really resonate with our audience and our clients’ audience. It’s like we’re threading the needle between the clients’ KPIs and our brand voices. And that’s our job at HearstMade.

On the thinking behind bringing the digital app Bumble to print: When Bumble came to us, what they wanted was for their audience to become aware that they were more than just a dating site. There’s a platform for making friends or a platform for building your career, and there’s a platform for feeling good about yourself. So, their goal was to help us market them as more than just a dating app. And that’s really what we’ve done with the magazine. The magazine is divided into four sections: one is about feeling good about yourself, one is about making connections through friends, one is about making connections through work, and then of course, there’s the dating section.

On whether in today’s digital world there is still a need for an editor who knows what he or she is doing: Absolutely, 100 percent. This is really all about authentic storytelling. And consumers are really savvy, they know when they’re being delivered an ad and it’s our job to deliver something that feels editorial and feels like it has a plot to it. And we think about that all the time when we’re creating campaigns, whether it’s for print or digital. The idea that it feels authentic and organic to the client is really important. And coming at that editorially is what makes these things work and why more and more people are coming to us for it.

On whether she needed to change hats between creating the print Bumble and their latest creation, the print magazine for REI called Uncommon Path: It’s interesting, the people that are working for me and who work on these projects know the category, so we’re hiring people who know the outdoors category; we’re hiring people who understand the Bumble audience. I don’t need to understand the audience as well as I need to understand how to talk to the clients about telling the stories that they want to tell in a way that we feel really proud of. And we can sort of teach them along the way, much like you teach. And it’s really interesting to work with them. So yes, I wear the same hat in that I’m overseeing creatives, it’s just for different categories and I’m lucky that the people who work under me on those categories know the brands and the audiences really well. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s for a Bumble audience or an REI audience.

On whether she differentiates among her babies: I feel proud of all of them. And so much work goes into each one of them and the relationship with the clients is all different. Obviously, when you get a print product in your hand and you hold it, and you know this better than anyone, that’s a really proud moment, speaking of babies. But it’s equally exciting to see a video campaign that was shot in Switzerland and that we’ve been talking about for months come to life online. It’s a different process, but in the end it’s most important that it feels like a good, cohesive, compelling story that reaches the right audience.

On what she would hope to tell someone she had accomplished in another year as editorial director of HearstMade: I will say that we have had a lot of interest based on the work that we’ve done for Airbnb, REI, and Bumble with creating content for other clients. And I feel really good about it; I feel like we have a great portfolio already in our hands. I know that we’re going to continue doing more of that. The branded content that we’re producing is really nonstop and it’s only going to get busier and busier. I think that we do a really good job of being good partners with our clients. I feel like there’s just more and more excitement every day on the 20th floor where we live.

On whether she feels the audience is multiplatform or more segmented: The audience is a multiplatform audience and they want a lot of content, that’s what they want. It’s our job to figure out how to deliver it to them most effectively. They want content on their phone, on their laptop, on their iPad; they want content they can read on the subway, they want content they can take with them on vacation and read leisurely by a pool, so the platforms that we’re creating for are the platforms that audiences are craving. Obviously, we target, depending on who the client is, but it’s not black or white.

On the biggest challenge she’s faced since taking the job: I think it’s a combination between switching gears between meetings with, let’s say, a food client, then fifteen minutes later brainstorming about a high-end fashion client, followed an hour later by a brainstorming meeting about a car company, combined with launching two magazines. It’s very different from when I worked at HGTV Magazine, where I worked for nine years, where I was focused on one brand. I’m now working with 25-plus first brands and 200-plus clients. So, it’s about delivering what all of those people want and there’s a lot of players in every game.

On what keeps her sane: Oh my gosh, working out. I have to work out in the morning before I come here so that I can clear my head. And I know everyone says that, but I’ve realized this year how important it is to come in really clearheaded and feeling physically strong every day. I can’t stress that enough.

On any new print magazines that are up and coming that she can talk about or anything she’d like to add: There are a lot of things percolating that I can’t really talk about right now, but I do want to say that just the way we create content for any of the Hearst brands is by using data to inform the content we create. We use the same strategy in creating content for any client; we understand what an audience is responding to. We create content that we know is going to resonate with them and we see how it performs, and then we create content that continues to drive those channels that we know the audiences are responding to.

 On the biggest misconception she thinks people have about her: I’m a really honest person and I think I’m pretty easy to read, and I believe that’s what makes me good at my job. I work with so many different departments here at Hearst, marketing, sales, all the editors, all the brands, plus all the clients, and I think I have to be straightforward and clear or we won’t get anything done. So, I don’t know that there are any misconceptions about me, but it’s kind of why I think I’m good at my job.

On what someone would find her doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at her home: I’m wondering if there’s a word for a multiple of multitasking, because that’s really what I feel like I do when I get home. Laptop is open on the kitchen counter, cooking dinner, responding to emails, chopping broccoli, texting the dog walker, and proofreading a college essay, just loads of multitasking. We have to come up with a name for that. 

On what keeps her up night: Honestly, my six-month-old puppy. That’s what keeps me up at night.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brett Hill, editorial director, HearstMade.

Samir Husni: As you approach your first anniversary, you started the job on October 30, 2018, how would you sum up your first year as editorial director of HearstMade?

Brett Hill: It has been incredibly busy, I’ll tell you that. We have worked with over 200 clients this year; we’ve created over 350 campaigns; we’ve launched two magazines, I’m wearing lots of different hats. It has been incredibly exciting and every day something new is happening and that’s really what I love about it.

Samir Husni: When you got the job, Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines, said that you would be in charge of creating data-informed content for all platforms, can you expand a little bit on that?

Brett Hill: HearstMade is basically two arms of the unit of Hearst Magazines. We create branded content for clients that live on our own Hearst platforms and we also create custom content for clients like Airbnb, REI and Bumble. So, the first part of my job, which was really up and running already when I started, is creating digital content, whether that lives on our own site, whether it’s amplified on social media, and that takes up a huge part of what we do at HearstMade. We have a creative director, myself, and a team of about 45 people who are creating all of that digital content.

We have editors, a photo team, a video team, a post-production team, a talent team, so all day, all week, they’re creating campaigns for clients that have to, not only resonate with the clients’ KPIs, but feel authentic to the Hearst-brand voices. For example, if we’re creating a campaign for a beauty client that is going to live on Cosmopolitan, that is going to look and sound very different from a campaign for that same beauty client that’s going to live on Elle or Bazaar. So, it’s our job to make sure that the client is getting what they need, in terms of their deliverable, but that we’re also making something that feels really authentic to our brand.

Samir Husni: By naming it HearstMade, is that like putting the Hearst seal of approval, such as a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, on all of the content that is being produced?

Brett Hill: We use the same creative sensibilities and acumen for our advertising partners as we do when we create our own products, so yes, there’s a Hearst stamp of approval, if you will. Our tagline at HearstMade is: Editorial Minds Solving Business Problems. I’m an editor; I’ve always been an editor and I think like an editor. What I like doing best is telling stories through products, and stories that really resonate with our audience and our clients’ audience. It’s like we’re threading the needle between the clients’ KPIs and our brand voices. And that’s our job at HearstMade.

Samir Husni: Tell me about your first print magazine launch, Bumble. Anytime I mention to my graduate students, who some of them are users of Bumble, I think, when I mention that Bumble launched a print magazine, they’re astonished. And many ask: why? So, what was the thinking behind bringing that platform to ink on paper?

Brett Hill: When Bumble came to us, what they wanted was for their audience to become aware that they were more than just a dating site. There’s a platform for making friends or a platform for building your career, and there’s a platform for feeling good about yourself. So, their goal was to help us market them as more than just a dating app. And that’s really what we’ve done with the magazine. The magazine is divided into four sections: one is about feeling good about yourself, one is about making connections through friends, one is about making connections through work, and then of course, there’s the dating section.

What they had was a very clear voice when it came to dating and women feeling empowered to make the first move, but it wasn’t clear to their audience that they do all of these other things. And that was our job, to make these other platforms that they stand for tangible to their audience, and also to engage new members. And it was sent out through Bumble marketers, that’s how it was distributed. All of the copies were distributed through Bumble marketers at their own Bumble events. It was really exciting to work on, because it really helped us give their brand a voice, and that is something that we talk a lot about at HearstMade.

Samir Husni: With your creative background, do you think the skills that you learned as an editor and that you applied to Bumble, and now you’ve also applied to your latest print launch, Uncommon Path for REI,  do you think those skills are needed in today’s marketplace? That no matter which platform you’re going to be on, there is still a need for an editor who knows what he or she is doing?  

Brett Hill: Absolutely, 100 percent. This is really all about authentic storytelling. And consumers are really savvy, they know when they’re being delivered an ad and it’s our job to deliver something that feels editorial and feels like it has a plot to it. And we think about that all the time when we’re creating campaigns, whether it’s for print or digital. The idea that it feels authentic and organic to the client is really important. And coming at that editorially is what makes these things work and why more and more people are coming to us for it.

So, we have dedicated teams of editors on all of these projects and they come from editorial backgrounds. And thinking like an editor is a really important aspect when we’re considering who is going to work on these projects. It’s really about creating a paper connection with the audience, no matter who that audience is and that’s what editors are good at.

Samir Husni: Did you need to change hats when you went from creating Bumble to creating Uncommon Path? Those are two print products, but if I heard you right, you also created another 198 other things. (Laughs)

Brett Hill: At least. It’s interesting, the people that are working for me and who work on these projects know the category, so we’re hiring people who know the outdoors category; we’re hiring people who understand the Bumble audience. I don’t need to understand the audience as well as I need to understand how to talk to the clients about telling the stories that they want to tell in a way that we feel really proud of. And we can sort of teach them along the way, much like you teach. And it’s really interesting to work with them. So yes, I wear the same hat in that I’m overseeing creatives, it’s just for different categories and I’m lucky that the people who work under me on those categories know the brands and the audiences really well. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s for a Bumble audience or an REI audience.

Samir Husni: Which one of all of these products do you feel like: wow! When you look at those 200 + platforms; when you’re holding Bumble in your hands or you’re looking at a screen, do you differentiate among your babies or they’re all your babies?

Brett Hill: I feel proud of all of them. And so much work goes into each one of them and the relationship with the clients is all different. Obviously, when you get a print product in your hand and you hold it, and you know this better than anyone, that’s a really proud moment, speaking of babies. But it’s equally exciting to see a video campaign that was shot in Switzerland and that we’ve been talking about for months come to life online. It’s a different process, but in the end it’s most important that it feels like a good, cohesive, compelling story that reaches the right audience.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation a year from now, where you’ll be in your second year as editorial director, what would you hope to tell me you had accomplished in that year?

Brett Hill: I will say that we have had a lot of interest based on the work that we’ve done for Airbnb, REI, and Bumble with creating content for other clients. And I feel really good about it; I feel like we have a great portfolio already in our hands. I know that we’re going to continue doing more of that. The branded content that we’re producing is really nonstop and it’s only going to get busier and busier. I think that we do a really good job of being good partners with our clients. I feel like there’s just more and more excitement every day on the 20th floor where we live.

Sometimes the magazine is just the starting point of what a client is asking for, but we’re thinking of these business opportunities as more of a larger ecosystem of delivering content. They might say that they want a print product, and that’s great, we can deliver an amazing print product, but once we start talking to them they also realize that we can create really compelling digital content and still show content somewhere very efficient. We can do a photo shoot or a video shoot and from either of those get 50 assets that a client can use in all different ways.

And it’s the same with a print product. Just because a client says at first: I love Airbnb magazine, which everyone does by the way, loves Airbnb magazine, as they should, that’s often just a starting point of a conversation and it turns into a much larger conversation about creating content in a bigger ecosystem.

Samir Husni: As your team learns about that audience and you’re putting the audience first, do you feel that audience is broken into segments: a group that wants social media, a group that wants print, or the entire audience has become more of a multiplatform group in and of itself?

Brett Hill: The audience is a multiplatform audience and they want a lot of content, that’s what they want. It’s our job to figure out how to deliver it to them most effectively. They want content on their phone, on their laptop, on their iPad; they want content they can read on the subway, they want content they can take with them on vacation and read leisurely by a pool, so the platforms that we’re creating for are the platforms that audiences are craving. Obviously, we target, depending on who the client is, but it’s not black or white.

Samir Husni: Since you took this job, what has been your biggest challenge, or has it been a walk in a rose garden for you?

Brett Hill: No, not quite a walk in a rose garden. I think it’s a combination between switching gears between meetings with, let’s say, a food client, then fifteen minutes later brainstorming about a high-end fashion client, followed an hour later by a brainstorming meeting about a car company, combined with launching two magazines. It’s very different from when I worked at HGTV Magazine, where I worked for nine years, where I was focused on one brand. I’m now working with 25-plus first brands and 200-plus clients. So, it’s about delivering what all of those people want and there’s a lot of players in every game.

Samir Husni: What keeps you sane in that environment?

Brett Hill: Oh my gosh, working out. I have to work out in the morning before I come here so that I can clear my head. And I know everyone says that, but I’ve realized this year how important it is to come in really clearheaded and feeling physically strong every day. I can’t stress that enough.

Samir Husni: Is there any new print magazine coming up that you can talk about or anything you’d like to add?

Brett Hill: There are a lot of things percolating that I can’t really talk about right now, but I do want to say that just the way we create content for any of the Hearst brands is by using data to inform the content we create. We use the same strategy in creating content for any client; we understand what an audience is responding to. We create content that we know is going to resonate with them and we see how it performs, and then we create content that continues to drive those channels that we know the audiences are responding to.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Brett Hill: I’m a really honest person and I think I’m pretty easy to read, and I believe that’s what makes me good at my job. I work with so many different departments here at Hearst, marketing, sales, all the editors, all the brands, plus all the clients, and I think I have to be straightforward and clear or we won’t get anything done. So, I don’t know that there are any misconceptions about me, but it’s kind of why I think I’m good at my job.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; gardening; watching TV; or something else? How do you unwind?

Brett Hill: I’m wondering if there’s a word for a multiple of multitasking, because that’s really what I feel like I do when I get home. Laptop is open on the kitchen counter, cooking dinner, responding to emails, chopping broccoli, texting the dog walker, and proofreading a college essay, just loads of multitasking. We have to come up with a name for that.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Brett Hill: Honestly, my six-month-old puppy. That’s what keeps me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: