Lucy Cleland, editor of luxury interiors and lifestyle magazine Country & Town House, talks to Gorkana‘s Ben Spencer about how her readers appreciate the good things in life, the importance and high quality of the magazine’s supplement series and the difference between “good” and “not so good” PRs.
Country & Town House is a luxury interiors and lifestyle magazine covering country and town living. What are some of the most popular areas in the UK that you cover?
Fundamentally, because we’re mostly distributed in London, our main editorial content derives from there. But we also cover tourist hotspots like Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire, Sussex and Kent.
Culturally there’s so much going on elsewhere, such as Liverpool, Manchester, Norwich, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and we’d like to include these areas, but our target audience tends to be South and South West.
Our image of our perfect reader is someone who will be getting out and about at the weekend. Not necessarily to their second home, but wanting to explore outside of London, especially in the aspects of culture and countryside, food, or craftsmanship.
You run a series of supplements throughout the year, such as Great British Hotels and Great British Brands. How have these supplements contributed to the success of Country & Town House?
They’re critical, and we see them as having a shelf life of at least a year. Great British Hotels, for example, is the only magazine supplement to exclusively focus on British hotels, and it’s edited by Daily Telegraph regular Fiona Duncan.
We also have School House. It’s published twice a year and is now the biggest independent schools magazine – invaluable for parents and schools alike. It’s edited by Annabel Heseltine and includes Rachel Johnson, Barnaby Lenon, Christina Odone and Josa Young as contributors.
We like to pull in the best of the best when we create these supplements. They’re a great add on and its something extra readers can keep.
How big is the editorial team?
We’re very small. On the editorial team, it’s me and food editor Anastasia Bernhardt. I also coordinate all the freelance editors who work on our various supplements. We also have a new online editor and an intern.
Tell us about your target audience.
They’re intelligent, educated and aspirational, but they’re not blingy or show-offy. They appreciate the good things in life, whether that’s a sunset on a Yorkshire moor or a quality cup of coffee.
Our target audience is about 25 to 55-years-old and leans more towards women, as there’s more fashion and style content that’s geared towards them. That said, our male readers like our property content and our features are targeted at both men and women.
We don’t base our editorial on how much something costs or who’s behind it. It’s about quality and style, and something interesting, quirky and British is very much at the foundation of what we do.
How would you describe your relationship with PRs?
There are great ones and not so great ones. The not so great ones tend not to know who you are, who your audience is or what your magazine is about. So anything that comes through on a mass mail saying ‘hello darling’ is not going to get very far.
That said, PR relationships are critical to everything that we do. Myself or Anastasia will have strong personal relationships with the good ones, and that’s when great content can happen. It’s definitely about the personal touch.
What should PRs keep in mind when making a pitch?
Come up with ideas that I can leap upon straight away, do a bit of research for themes that are coming out throughout the year and try to plan ahead. Doing your homework can go a long way.
Meeting face-to-face is always great but hard due to time constraints, but I know making those personal relationships is very important.
I prefer to be emailed rather than called. You’re welcome to re-email if you’re really determined – I know it’s your job. I don’t mind a follow-up phone call, but you need to know what you want to get out of the conversation.
Finally, as we look ahead, what is Country & Town House most looking forward to exploring in 2016?
We’ve got an exciting year ahead. We have a new publisher, Julia Carrick, who founded the FT’s How to Spend It, which is very exciting for us. Online is becoming a big part of what we do and we’re investing more in it. We currently do four supplements at the moment. By this time next year, I’d like it to be up on seven.
Alongside all this, we’ll continue to build the main magazine, which is the mainstay of the business. So it’s exciting, digital, social and all that. It’s going to be a big year.
Lucy was talking to Gorkana’s Ben Spencer