Delphine Lamande-Frearson, beauty director at InStyle, on why long, lyrical press releases are a waste of time, sensing the hard sell and the versatile nature of beauty.
You joined InStyle as beauty director in the summer. What have you got planned in your new role?
I have spent the first few months working on plans to evolve beauty content on both print and digital platforms. I anticipate changes to happen organically, so slowly but surely.
You’ve worked and freelanced for a variety of fashion mags. What makes InStyle stand out?
It is the perfect mix of premium and commercial content. High-fashion blends in seamlessly with more practical features and the celebrity content is always aspirational rather than sensational and gossipy. The overall voice is positive and constructive.
Instyle has a reputation for being a fashion and beauty bible – how much of the magazine’s content is beauty?
We have more pages than most glossies as beauty is indeed a huge part of our DNA and beauty coverage crops up in other sections too as we treat it as a lifestyle element, which means it is equally relevant on the entertainment, fashion or travel pages too.
What content resonates most with readers?
Our readers want to be inspired so they love reading about what the stars like and the tricks to get their looks. Whether style, make-up or wellbeing, they want to know what works but also what’s premium, so our content needs to be both actionable and aspirational.
What type of thing would you not cover?
Anything negative, gossipy and plain false obviously but also anything too plain and everyday. Our readers want an upgrade from where they are currently because it pushes them to perform better and get what they want. They don’t want to settle for something they already have.
What can PRs help most with?
Getting all the info relevant to our market is key for good coverage, so PRs should manage their client’s expectations so they contact us only if the product/service is appropriate for our specific market.
Getting all info and access to experts is always best as we like to get the story ourselves rather than being fed marketing strategies. Long, lyrical press releases without pricing or stockists info is a waste of time and resources, while a few quotes and stats may spark interest and lead to more questions.
Do you prefer to receive samples to review or are you happy with a press release and image?
It is key for us to test products. How would you otherwise review something genuinely and thoroughly? That wouldn’t be called journalism but plain laziness.
However having an image handy is always useful. Although we shoot our still-life for style consistency, having a high-res image of the products mentioned is a good back-up. For online coverage, it is a necessity as it allows us to be even more reactive and relevant.
Would you ever use Twitter to request samples, request ideas/images?
Not really unless necessary. Twitter is a platform we like to use to communicate with our audience, to build a more personal relationship with our followers.
People tend to use Twitter as they do emails and text messages and that’s just wrong. Would you say what you tweet in front of more than 36k people (@InStyle_Beauty followers)? If you wouldn’t, then just don’t tweet it.
Some people use it to their own personal advantage and we are trying to monitor who we interact with as we don’t support personal/commercial branding on our platform. It has to remain a place where we communicate with the people who love InStyle first and foremost.
What does a typical week look like for you?
Every week is different as the nature of beauty is that coverage is so versatile. From fashion-led to science-centered via celebrity-based, our research can lead us backstage at shows, at a movie premiere or visiting a lab. But don’t be fooled; we also spend long hours glued to our screens to finish features and we have countless internal meetings with various departments to ensure InStyle stays the covetable style bible it has been for years.
Working on the print, we schedule two issues at once so we are at least three months ahead of launch dates but digitally our turnaround can be minutes, literally.
We have daily schedule meetings to address any changes so content remains fresh and informative.
How should PRs make contact?
The best way to get through to us is via email. The info is immediately saved on our computers and it doesn’t interrupt the work flow. Cold calling is old-fashioned and we just know it means a client is pushing their PR team too hard. It puts everyone in an uncomfortable situation as we sense hard sell and ironically, the product is usually not even relevant to our market so it is a waste of time for everyone.
The website attracts a slightly older audience than the magazine. Does that mean you cover different products for the site?
Not really as the difference is very subtle. We don’t duplicate content. We are building a unique voice across our different platforms so our audience feels at home, but the digital content will cater for mobile usage and therefore be more quickly actionable while the content in print will be more in-depth so our readers take more time to enjoy their reading. Both will increasingly work in sync to offer more to our audience.
Finally, the InStyle Beauty Awards have become a glamorous fixture on the beauty calendar – how can PRs get involved?
This is a great question as everyone seems to think we do nominate in-house like many other magazine awards. Our unique point of difference and great strength lies in the colossal amount of work in the months leading to the awards. We actually get a panel of more than 400 judges to start with and collate answers from a large part of that panel to reveal what people in-the-know genuinely like. So it is key that PRs support experts throughout the year so they work with products for a long period of time before they start judging.
A few cheeky experts have been known to ask for free products to review during the nominating process, which we don’t support as the idea is to champion a product an expert has truly worked with over the past year, not something they try only once or twice.
The winners come from a genuine, voting process and we eliminate anyone who seems to use the awards for personal branding or not honestly. Our priority is to inform our audience and make sure the winning products are worth all their pennies.
Delphine was talking to Gorkana’s Richard O’Donnell