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Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, Chairman & CEO, Hoffman Media To Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni: “We Want To Bring Hope And Beauty To The World… Our Words Of Encouragement Are We’re All In This Together.” Publishing During A Pandemic (3)…

April 1, 2020

“… We’re carrying on as much as possible. And it’s giving our people a focus; it’s also giving them time to be creative. As you know when you’re in an office everything is going wide open with the business aspect of it, telephones ringing. Now, you really just have a lot of quiet time. And I think what’s good about this is our editors and editorial teams working individually and together are having time to really think about good editorial. What can we do in the future? What has been valuable to people during this?” Phyllis Hoffman DePiano

Positivity and staying strong and focused is the mindset that Hoffman Media has taken during this tragic pandemic. With keeping their people safe and healthy the main goal of their efforts, Chairman & CEO Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, said her team is working from home and still producing the great content their readers expect.

I spoke with Phyllis recently and we talked about a few of her titles, such as Bake From Scratch, Victoria, and Taste of the South, and about how Hoffman brands center on home and hearth, which everyone is interested in anyway, but especially now. Providing the comfort of home and food, Hoffman titles bring hope and joy to these uncertain times we find ourselves living in.

In Phyllis’s words: “People need hope. They need hope and they need to know that this is going to pass and we’re going to get through it if we work together as a nation. And if people will stay home and separate themselves.

And what better item to have at home with you than a Hoffman magazine. Along with their social media and online resources, the community spirit the brands foster brings everyone together even while social distancing prevails.

So, I hope that you enjoy this third in a series of Publishing During A Pandemic Mr. Magazine™ interview with Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, Chairman & CEO, Hoffman Media.

 But first the sound-bites:

On how Hoffman Media is operating during this pandemic: Hoffman Media is good. We’ve mobilized our entire business to work remotely and we’re still producing great content. With the magazines we work so far ahead and we have a lot of seasonal photographs and things and now we can do the editorial work to go with them. And we continue producing the content that our readers want.

On whether she would have ever anticipated anything like this ever happening: As far as whether I have ever anticipated anything like this, not to this magnitude. Years and years ago when we were very small, Desert Storm was happening and that was the first time our country had been in a conflict like that in years, I guess since the Vietnam War. Everything shut down, people were scared to death. That passed, and of course 9/11 was devastating to everybody. But what we have found is we gear our editorial toward making your home your haven. Even our travel is evergreen. I think people are spending more time with their magazines and we’re doing a lot of online encouragements to our readers.

 On her message to Hoffman’s employees, readers, and advertisers during these uncertain times: As far as our staff, Brian or Eric (Hoffman) or I will write a letter to all of them every week encouraging and thanking them for their work and letting them know that we’re doing everything in our power to maintain operations as they are. And for advertisers; people are spending more time with our magazines and I think that’s true even of the back issues. I’m getting emails from people that tell me they’re reading one of our magazines from a year ago. Our magazines are normally not thrown away, they’re kind of little treasures. So, we’re seeing people engaged heavily with our magazines during this time.

On whether she feels having that print magazine in hand enhances that sense of community and eliminates a little bit of that social distancing factor we all are practicing: I think it does because even with our advertisers, people are going to their websites and really spending time with the resources that we present. And I do think that it is a sense of community because I know each of our magazines like Victoria, for example, Victoria has a huge sense of community, so their social media, websites and blogs are very community-spirited. So yes, we’re seeing that is very important and it kind of keeps you from feeling that you’re isolated because you’re actually reading and seeing what other people are commenting, and it’s really refreshing.

On what keeps her up at night: What keeps me up right now is the safety of our employees. Are they safe? Do they have everything they need? I want to make sure they have food and supplies. I’m making masks right now, face masks for needs that we have among our people. So, that’s what keeps me up, is everybody who works for us, that we’re committed to and they’re committed to us, do they have everything they need during this time. My phone is on, as I told them, text me, call me if you need anything. We will figure out how to get it to you.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Phyllis Hoffman DePiano, Chairman & CEO, Hoffman Media.

Samir Husni: How is Hoffman Media operating during this tragic pandemic?

Phyllis Hoffman DePiano: Hoffman Media is good. We’ve mobilized our entire business to work remotely and we’re still producing great content. With the magazines we work so far ahead and we have a lot of seasonal photographs and things and now we can do the editorial work to go with them. And we continue producing the content that our readers want.

Our subscriber business has not fallen; our grocery sales are up in the newsstand, but I think that would be true of everyone. That’s where you can go these days, the grocery store and the drugstore. And we’re just being very patient and working with our partners in advertising and tourism. When it comes back we’re going to be looking for ways to help them rebound. We’re still seeing custom content for our food clients as big. But all in all, it’s early, but we’re pulling together as a team. And that’s all you can do right now.

We’re doing teamwork remotely and our IT department has set up conference apps where the whole team can be on the screen at the same time and talk through things. It’s very unusual but it’s working.

Samir Husni: The magazine industry has been through tough times, after September 11 and many other things that have happened, but we’ve never faced anything like this social distancing. Did you ever anticipate anything like what we’re seeing today?

Phyllis Hoffman DePiano: As far as whether I have ever anticipated anything like this, not to this magnitude. Years and years ago when we were very small, Desert Storm was happening and that was the first time our country had been in a conflict like that in years, I guess since the Vietnam War. Everything shut down, people were scared to death. That passed, and of course 9/11 was devastating to everybody.

But what we have found is we gear our editorial toward making your home your haven. Even our travel is evergreen. I think people are spending more time with their magazines and we’re doing a lot of online encouragements to our readers. We’re bringing editorial to them, our baking crowd and cooking crowd. Taste of the South is absolutely exploding, but people are home cooking. Our magazines by the very nature of them lend themselves to spending a lot of time with them during times like this when you are sheltering at home.

Samir Husni: And what’s your message to your employees, readers, and advertisers? What words of wisdom can you offer in these uncertain times?

Phyllis Hoffman DePiano: As far as our staff, Brian or Eric (Hoffman) or I will write a letter to all of them every week encouraging and thanking them for their work and letting them know that we’re doing everything in our power to maintain operations as they are. And for advertisers; people are spending more time with our magazines and I think that’s true even of the back issues. I’m getting emails from people that tell me they’re reading one of our magazines from a year ago. Our magazines are normally not thrown away, they’re kind of little treasures. So, we’re seeing people engaged heavily with our magazines during this time.

And how long will things be this way, who knows. I wish I had a crystal ball, I really do. I’m ready for it to be over like everyone else. But we’re concerned mainly with the safety of our staff. We wouldn’t want anything to happen to anyone. That would be tragic. So, I don’t know where we are in this timeline of this Covid-19 virus. You think surely we’re getting to the end and then you don’t know.

But we’re carrying on as much as possible. And it’s giving our people a focus; it’s also giving them time to be creative. As you know when you’re in an office everything is going wide open with the business aspect of it, telephones ringing. Now, you really just have a lot of quiet time. And I think what’s good about this is our editors and editorial teams working individually and together are having time to really think about good editorial. What can we do in the future? What has been valuable to people during this?

And our words of encouragement are we’re all in this together. It’s not that Hoffman Media is the only one experiencing this, this is worldwide and all media companies are experiencing it to various degrees of severity. We’re very grateful for our staff and they’re just phenomenal. It’s a comfort to know that they take ownership of this business as we do. We look forward to coming out on the other side of this with a different perspective maybe of appreciation for even the tiniest of things that we can encourage people with through the pages of our magazine.

Emails are important, our social media is very important and our websites; we’re keeping those updated regularly. We’re seeing in our sewing and craft division a lot of at-home education, because we have an extensive program of learn-to-sew and enhance your skills at home. The educational site launched right before this happened, so we’re seeing that we are a resource for people who truly are staying home and want to continue to learn. And it’s the same thing with bake and our cooking. We’re doing videos partnering with our advertisers, teaching people how to do things.

It’s really returned us to, I won’t say the basics, but I will say to the things that people really want to learn. It has made us look at that and think this is a great time to bring that to people.

Samir Husni: Do you think in this age of social distancing or what I call isolated connectivity, holding or having a print magazine in hand enhances that sense of community or eliminates a little bit of that social distancing?

Phyllis Hoffman DePiano: I think it does because even with our advertisers, people are going to their websites and really spending time with the resources that we present. And I do think that it is a sense of community because I know each of our magazines like Victoria, for example, Victoria has a huge sense of community, so their social media, websites and blogs are very community-spirited. So yes, we’re seeing that is very important and it kind of keeps you from feeling that you’re isolated because you’re actually reading and seeing what other people are commenting, and it’s really refreshing.

We have had a wonderful time – I write a blog “The Ribbon” in my journal and it’s nothing but encouragement. I think that to our readers, if I can bring any kind of encouragement to them on a weekly basis, I’m going to do that. I’m going to spend time writing, because you just never know what you might say or you might lead them to something that could help them. It’s been a really wonderful sense of community for me to write that blog. And of course our editors and their staff all work on their own individual social media platforms, including Instagram.

So yes, it’s an extension of our community that we have, not only through the pages, but for the extension of the pages. Our online store is a resource for a lot of people who are not near, for example, bookstores that might carry the Bake From Scratch annual edition. We’re seeing our online store sales continue to meet budget and we’re very excited about that. People need hope. They need hope and they need to know that this is going to pass and we’re going to get through it if we work together as a nation. And if people will stay home and separate themselves.

We have found in our business that when things are like this, such as after 9/11, our readers really band together and bring forth to social media platforms, which are today a lot more extensive than they were when 9/11 occurred, they were in their infancy then. It’s very rewarding when someone says they were so pleased to read an article about a certain topic in one of our magazines.

We want to bring hope and beauty to the world; we want to bring encouragement, because there’s too much reality right now that people are having to deal with.

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

Phyllis DePiano: What keeps me up right now is the safety of our employees. Are they safe? Do they have everything they need? I want to make sure they have food and supplies. I’m making masks right now, face masks for needs that we have among our people. So, that’s what keeps me up, is everybody who works for us, that we’re committed to and they’re committed to us, do they have everything they need during this time. My phone is on, as I told them, text me, call me if you need anything. We will figure out how to get it to you.

The face masks I’m making actually started with my doctor who I had asked a few weeks ago if he needed any. At the time he was good. Then he called me and said they were having a huge shortage, so I made 40 for his office staff.

And I was talking to Brian recently and he told me about some people who needed masks too. So, I’m making those. They’re not couture by any means, but they work. We feel like we’re helping here and you want to do something to help. Even though it’s small and insignificant, anything we can do to make our world a better place and to show people we care about them, because that makes a difference in people’s lives so much, that somebody cares about you.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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