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Gorkana meets...Emerald Street

19 June 2015

Emerald Street editor Anna Fielding on original quirky content, adventurous readers and why PRs should think of it like an ultra-short lead magazine.

Since launching four years ago, Emerald Street has proved a big success. Both Anna and the title's publisher, ShortList Media, were confident the digital daily was going to work and she’s pleased to have seen, not only the growth of the email, but competitors copying its format.

There are currently 110,000 subscribers and Anna was keen to stress that this figure counts only people who actively open the email at least twice a month, unlike other publishers.

As the distribution list has grown, the email send out has needed to be staggered, so Emerald Street now hits inboxes at some point between 11am and 1pm.

The team

Alongside Anna, deputy editor Mollie McGuigan (just back from maternity leave), deals with a lot of content writing, and is also editorial contact for Emerald Street’s upcoming Brunch project (see below).

Assistant editor Siobhan Morrin looks after social media, as well as Emerald Street’s Cocktails and Cappuccinos section. She also helps oversee production of the email.

Emerald Street also shares its art team, headed up by art editor Steve William, with brother email Mr Hyde. Hannah Graham also works on Emerald Street as a designer.

Emerald Street readers

Emerald Street readers are cool, says Anna. The broad range of Emerald Street readers are aged between mid-20s to early 40s, with the core reader coming in between late 20s and early 30s. She’s urban, ABC1, and willing to spend on technology, as well as skin care. Research has also shown 90% of readers have a university degree.

While there is readership crossover between Emerald Street and its sister title, Stylist, readers tend to want something more left field. They are early adopters, so will be looking for something original.

Content wise, readers are looking for something curated just for them. She wants to be guided through the maze of information on the web, have something that’s relevant to her, and shows that she has taste.

Although she’s aspirational, she’s not necessarily all about luxury. She’d rather have something that makes her look cool than makes her look fashionable. “Think slightly off beat and quirky without getting into the mad velour purple hat territory”, says Anna.

Essentially, she’s after something adventurous, whether it be a new bar, a new book or a new online retailer.

Content

There are several versions of Emerald Street. If you read it in London, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a London-only email. It will include a Cocktails and Cappuccinos section and a London weekend guide on Thursdays.

When it first launched, regional versions went to Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Leeds, but now there is general content, which caters to the rest of the UK, which means Emerald Street can be relevant to the entire country, as opposed to a few key cities.

While the London edition on Friday includes a weekend guide, everywhere else gets another Emerald Street feature.

Fashion and beauty are obvious anchors in the women’s lifestyle market, say Anna, so the team always regularly covers these areas. However, there is no set formula dictating what is and isn’t included in each Emerald Street email. The key aim is to keep people surprised and wanting to open the email. Anna doesn’t want to limit the email to a particular raft of topics, or consign certain topics to certain days.

The weekend guide will always be a mix of events – Anna won’t include five food events in one slot for example. There also needs to be a mix of post codes. She made a specific plea for events happening in West London as the team had been finding it difficult to get hold of relevant events to feature.

Emerald Street has also done some great work with the publishing industry, and several book PRs have worked out what sort of books Emerald Street readers would like. People who are really engaged with the brand and understand the publication will be the ones with the best pitches.

Readers are looking for quality books that are not high brow for the sake of it - think contemporary literary fiction. Anna, who also edits the Reading Room section, says it doesn’t have to be a female author. It’s hard to define the 'ideal book', so it’s best to send ideas through so she can make a judgement call.

Travel content works well for Emerald Street, but there isn’t enough space to write full reviews. There are occasional 'if you haven’t thought of visiting...visit here' pieces, which can include links for impulse buys. The team tends to focus on the UK, Europe and North Africa. Like all Emerald Street content, it needs to tell the reader something they can’t find elsewhere.

Emerald Street doesn’t often lead with people stories – if you put a name to a story, half the readership may not like them and so are instantly turned off. It's also why the team doesn’t do celebrities.

The team is always happy to hear about trend pieces or recipes (although recipes need to be practically able to cook at home).

Imagery

Emerald Street is renowned for its gorgeous imagery and design, which Anna puts down to the creative skills of both Steve Williams and ShortList Media’s creative director, Matt Phare, who she says is like a wizard at coming up with very good designs on a very small budget.

The team also uses a lot of call-in shots, which tend to be dropped into backgrounds to translate a cool/blog/Instagram look. Anna is happy for PRs to send in shots. They don’t have to be high res, but they do need to be clear without anything extraneous in the background. Lifestyle shots can be a problem because of the configuration of spaces on the email.

Planning

Emerald Street is not a website, which means the team can’t do daily news. They can occasionally break certain big news, like the election result, but it needs to be something particularly special to be covered.

If Anna gets a call from a PR telling her they have a big story for that day, it’s not going to work. The team needs at least three days to sort out subbing, design and coding. “Think of Emerald Street as an ultra short lead magazine”, says Anna.

When it comes to big projects, like Emerald Street’s upcoming Bruch Festival on 18 July, the team is planning months in advance. On a day-to-day basis, the flat plan will be worked out at least two weeks in advance, although this is flexible depending on what’s being offered.

The Brunch Festival is running in collaboration with street food trader KERB. Like Emerald Street, it’s very into small independent businesses so was seen as a natural fit. The event came about because the marketing team had run reader engagement brunch vouchers which were really successful. The team decided to make it bigger and give it more of a festival theme. It will take place on 18 July at King's Cross (tickets currently on sale).

Working with PRs

Anna gets between 300 and 500 emails a day. She never means to be rude when she doesn’t answer, but she would need to put aside at least two days just to reply to them every email she received.

She always prefers to be emailed. She gets a lot of phone calls, and it can be difficult to think on your feet when it’s the 10th one in one morning. She also prefers not to be approached via Twitter.

Initially, PRs need to remember the basics before pitching:

  • Get the name of the publication right.
  • Get the name of the person you’re sending the email to right.
  • Be aware of Emerald Street content.
  • Make sure you’ve read some recent issues of Emerald Street first.

Anna wants something different - Emerald Street is not a newsstand publication or a website. It’s up against every other subject line in someone’s inbox: “Anything from your friend planning a wedding to hearing from the person you snogged the night before.”

Emerald’s Street’s goal is to stand out. A story needs to be unique, so pitch something to Anna that hasn’t been given to everybody else. It doesn’t have to be exclusive, but there needs to be an original angle. That said, she is never going to say no to exclusive content that will work for Emerald Street.

The team doesn’t have time to go out and find out everything that is going on so they need to hear about things – this is where PRs can be invaluable.

Because the team is so small, it is difficult to attend events. That said, morning, lunchtime and evening events are fine, but having to dash out of the office at 4pm to attend something on the other side of town is not going to work.

If brands are keen to get their spokespeople on Emerald Street’s radar they need to make it very obvious that it’s someone to put on file rather than part of a story when pitching. Spokespeople need to be able to tell Anna something that nobody else can, with expert knowledge in a particular field, not just on a particular brand.

Emerald Street is also interested in featuring brand discounts – the best contact is marketing manager Gemma Painter. It’s important to get pitches in as early as possible as discount offer space get filled up very quickly.

Events for the weekend guide should be pitched at least a week before (ideally two). That said, it’s always better to let the team know about an event nearer the time, rather than three months away.

Emerald Street’s Technology Week took place in March and there are more specialised weeks being planned. While events are usually editorially led, PR input is vital, says Anna. They key is to make sure there is a balance and ensure that it’s not dominated by one particular brand.