Welcome to instinct insider our regular interview spot with the industry’s biggest and brightest influencers, sharing what makes good PR.
First up for 2018 we have a woman who has worn many (very fabulous) hats in her career to date. As well as high-profile online, offline, commercial and editorial roles, including seven years at Grazia, Jessica Vince has also launched her own Instagram fashion business, Dressr, and it’s safe to say there isn’t much she doesn’t know about the modern media landscape.
Today, as Digital Editor at the Hearst Content Studio, Jessica, uses her expertise to create engaging branded content for women’s titles including Elle and Harper’s Bazaar.
Working on the commercial side of women’s luxury may mean more of a budget to play with, but it also means more bosses and stakeholders to keep happy which, she says, can be a juggling act.
Ultimately, though, it’s the audience who is Jessica’s main priority, and if you can help her create relevant, interesting and authentic content to share with them then she’s ready to do business with you. That, or get her an audience with Oprah…
- Describe a typical day for you in your role
“There’s rarely a typical day, especially when you work in digital, but staying on my toes is what keeps it so interesting.
“I could be writing an article for ELLE, on a shoot for Harper’s Bazaar, developing new ideas for Instagram posts, commissioning features and/or attending pitches and brainstorms.
“My job is a blend of creativity and commercial so it gives me the chance to do a bit of everything.”
- How do you prioritise your titles?
“Hearst has 16 digital brands in the UK, so if a campaign books across numerous titles, we’re ready to put on our different hats and get stuck in.
“My main focus is women’s luxury so ELLE and Harper’s Bazaar. I also have a side hustle, Dressr, which curates trends through the filter of Instagram and I work on that too, when I get a moment!”
- When is it best to approach you?
“You can email me anytime. Afternoons tend to be quieter, once the morning rush is over, but I always keep an eye on my inbox and do my best to reply.”
- Can you explain the objective of the role?
“Hearst UK set up a Digital Content Studio in 2017, led by Ali Gray, with the goal to bring in journalists who had the same level of expertise as the editorial teams. I was one of five original hires dedicated to creating branded content.”
“As well as online articles, I work on creating videos, Instagram Takeovers, Snapchat animations, podcasts, Facebook Canvases… basically anything that tells the client’s story in an interesting way and is authentic to the platform it’s published on.
“We’ve just celebrated our one year anniversary as a team of eleven, so things are growing rapidly.
- How does it differ from previous editorial roles?
“I worked in editorial for ten years and was digital editor at Grazia for almost seven, which I adored, but after churning out endless viral stories about the Kardashians, I was desperate for a breather.
“I launched my own website Dressr and after working on it for a year, soon realised I needed to broaden my skills when it comes to monetising digital content. The role at Hearst came up at the perfect time and working with ELLE and Harper’s Bazaar is an absolute dream.
“I guess the main difference with branded content is I now have multiple bosses: the advertiser, the audience and the brand. It can be a juggling act to keep them all happy, but it’s been great to have a new challenge.
“Branded content also allows you the time to really get stuck into a project, to tailor big ideas and work alongside other creatives to see them come to life. And investment from our clients means we can make cool things.”
- How closely do you work with other teams in the business?
“Some Content Studios stick to the traditional separation of church and state, but we’re an extension of the editorial teams.
“We need to create content that is at the same standard as editorial so it’s vital to be fully immersed in the brand, to know the audience and understand the tone of voice.
“And we also work alongside Hearst’s other content studios in New York and Milan to create global campaigns, which is exciting.”
- What has been your favourite project so far?
“Oh wow, we’ve had so many good ones. Working with Chanel for the launch of their Gabrielle fragrance was super exciting — we created longform articles, Instagram Stories, flatlay shoots and bespoke events, all within a very short time-frame.
“I’m also really proud of our collaboration with Jaeger-LeCoultre. The client wanted an influencer, which comes up a lot, but for Bazaar, it’s not necessarily about a beauty blogger or a celebrity – it was about finding an inspirational, successful woman who had an inspiring story and would wear the watch.
“We did an in-depth interview and shoot with Nina Gold, who is the casting director behind The Crown, Game of Thrones, Star Wars and more. Having a nosy around her house and hearing stories about having tea with Meryl Streep was incredible.”
- What would be the dream project?
“It’s always the goal to create a campaign that resonates with women, is empowering and has a positive impact. The most exciting clients to work with are those that are willing to push the boundaries and make a difference in some way.
“I also love the opportunity to meet inspiring women and my favourite moments of the last year, and my career even, have been interviewing incredible personalities, whether it’s Kate Moss, or Roksanda Ilincic or Nina Gold. Next stop: Oprah!”
- How has the importance of commercial partnerships grown in the past few years?
“It’s more vital than ever for publishers to explore more creative revenue streams. Branded content has been around for years, but the way we consume media now has made it much more nuanced.
“It used to work that a brand would send a press release, it’d be rewritten and posted on the site. That’s not valuable to anyone any more.
“‘No karaoke’ is a phrase we often use, which means we’re not going to let a client attempt to sing in our voice. It should always be in our authentic tone.
“The quality of branded content has also improved dramatically. We have a new engagement metric, which shows that, on average, our branded content performs on par with editorial in terms of scroll rate and time spent on page.”
- What are the opportunities for brands and PRs to work with you in this commercial role?
“Because our branded content feels as editorial as possible, I’m always looking for products, quotes and influencers that I can include within the content, whether that’s for interviews, shopping galleries, Instagram flatlays or Snapchat animations.
“I also create a weekly page for The Telegraph’s Stella Magazine as part of Dressr, which features the best buys from Instagram so if you have any Insta spots, send them my way!”
- In your experience what makes good PR?
“It goes without saying that it’s all about relationships. It makes such a difference to put a face to a name, get the conversation flowing, then discuss potential features and follow up with an email with the information we spoke about.
“And it makes my life so much easier if there’s a ready-made angle that fits the title I’m working on.”
- Any PR no-nos you care to share?
“Emails addressed to “Vince” are instantly deleted. And it helps to get the brand name right too. Also, know the platform that you’re targeting – I work in digital so can’t help with print credits.”
- And finally – where are your go-to breakfast/lunch/dinner places right now (or any on the hit list)?
“I’m a sucker for The Ivy Soho, partly because it’s a two-minute walk from the office, but mainly because of the truffle chips.
“For lunch, Pastaio is my new obsession – you can’t go wrong with a pasta restaurant, right?
“And away from Soho, The Ned is just WOW, especially if you’re looking for a fancy night out.”
Jessica Vince, Digital Editor: Hearst Content Studio