Gorkana Insight & Analysis Team
Gorkana meets...The Locals
Laura Scott, editor of culture and lifestyle platform The Locals, on showcasing the human stories behind creative ideas, plans to cycle across America in under 30 days, what's new with the site and why strong PR relationships are essential for good content.
Firstly, how would you describe the site?
The Locals is a culture and lifestyle platform. When I started it, I wanted to highlight people who are doing really interesting things. In a city like London there are loads of interesting things taking place on a daily basis – there’s literally always something new you can do. The Locals was founded out of this energy, and a desire to document creative culture. We wanted to show the passion and human stories, behind creative ideas.
What was the original idea behind the launch of The Locals?
We launched mid-recession, and a lot of people had been made redundant, or were finding work wasn’t really offering what they had once offered, in terms money or motivation.
I think this environment pushed a lot of people to think about what they were doing with their lives (classic existential crisis), and in many ways was a catalyst to follow passions. For example, a friend was wandering round east London and he saw a load of wood lying on the side of the street. He decided he would take it home and make furniture out of it. He now has two shops and has been featured in pretty much every furniture and art design magazine. It was that kind of ingenuity and creativeness that got my attention, and there seemed to be a lot of these kinds of stories.
I love talking to people and finding out what drives them to innovate, and that was my initial inspiration. It’s a different financial environment now, but I think there are far more people who are finding ways to peruse their own passion projects.
What are the key sections of the site?
We just launched a health and fitness section on the site in December. This was largely because my life has been taken over by cycling. I’m currently training to race across America unsupported in under 30 days. Because half my life is now in the gym or on a bike, I thought it would be fun to document some of my experiences.
Health and fitness is increasingly becoming a part of people’s lifestyles, with a lot of interesting collaborations between chefs, and designers. Our other major sections are travel, art and design.
How would you describe your relationship with PRs?
Well I live with one (Hi Emily!). I think both journalists and PRs need each other to be honest. They make my job a lot easier and I enjoy the relationships that I have with most of the PRs I work with. It’s nice to build the relationship so that they know what works for you and the site. I quite enjoy working with PRs to come up with stories that differ from the standard new story/product launch. We’re always trying to find angles on stories that might not be as obvious. For example, if we get sent a lot of cocktail recipes for various alcohol brands. However, we would be more interested in the master distiller – what’s his/her story?
When we have better relationships with PRs, we can start to get those stories and can work to create the kind of content our readers are more engaged with, and get their clients get more exposure.
We both need each other.
How can PRs help most with content?
Just letting us know who they’re working with. I love when PRs send emails announcing new business they have won because it helps us to stay on top of who is working with who.
Giving us a bit of lead time is a massive help too. Often because we are a website, people assume we have a super quick turn around. The more time we get, the more effort we can put into the getting the content right, from pictures to writers.
What’s the best way for them to get in touch?
Bizarrely Twitter. Email is great, but if you want to actually get my attention, message me on Twitter. To be honest, I frequently go through my inbox and erase everything because sometimes, it’s just easier to clear it out and start all over again. Unfortunately that means I miss good things, but that’s how it goes. For me Twitter is better because I actually see that and if it is interesting, I’ll follow it up with you. So tweet me saying "Hey, I’ve sent you this. It might be of interest." Or "Can I send you this?", because then at least I know what I’m looking for and I’ll keep an eye out for it.
Can PRs help with ideas?
Yes! One of the things I’m interested in at the moment is moving a load of content to be focused and grounded in trends. I think that sort of thing comes back to where we originally started: London is a city where trends pop up first, so for me the big interest is identifying those and identifying companies that are working with or towards them.
There’s a trend, for example, that’s growing in North America about alcohol-free cocktail bars, which fits into this idea of healthy living for us. One’s just opened up in Shoreditch. They are the first in London and they’re popping up all over the world, so it’s nice to work with PR companies who are also seeing that and identifying trends. If they see trends developing, then we’d love to hear about it.
Who’s your target audience?
Our main readership is 23 to 36-year-olds. So it’s mainly millennials and it’s a pretty even split between male and female. The readers are predominantly based in the UK, the US or Canada.
What are your future plans for the site?
We re-did the website a few months ago. It’s been a very soft launch. It’s working quite well, but needs a few tweaks. I’ve been rethinking some of the different subjects that we’re going to have on it – which is why we introduced Health and Fitness – but I think at the moment, we’ve got a lot of positive feedback about the redesign.
One of the things that we’re quite keen to start doing are events because, given what we do, we meet a lot of interesting and inspiring people and we’d like to start a really casual events series, where we meet up with some people we feature – kind of like the Gorkana Breakfast Briefings! That probably won’t feature until later in 2016. Any way that we can help the people that we write about and try to reach people in new ways would be great. It’s kind of about creating an offline presence for The Locals.
And finally, you talk about inspiring creativity with your content - what’s the most creative thing you’ve covered since starting at The Locals?
That’s a tough one. There’s this Irish professional surfer and she went out to Iran to teach girls how to surf. I think it was about empowering girls to do sport in a country where that’s not common. I think the videos of it and watching the delight on people’s faces is just really, really inspiring. It’s brought together a country and a sport that wouldn’t normally associate and it’s created a really beautiful outcome.
Laura was talking to Gorkana's Richard Caldecourt.