By Heather Taylor When she was in college, Katie Richards thought she would either work at a fashion magazine or cover world news. However, another industry eventually drew her in as a post-grad: advertising. Ed sat down with Richards, staff writer at Adweek, to talk about covering breaking brand news, juggling digital and print reporting, and how important it is to do what you love.
Can you share your career backstory?
My mom studied literature in college, so I grew up with hundreds of books at my disposal. I think that sparked my love for reading and writing. She also loved to pick up a copy of Vogue or Architectural Digest, so I spent a lot of time flipping through magazines as a kid, marveling at the photos, the stories, the design, everything. I used to write my own stories in elementary school that I would turn into illustrated books, complete with my insanely amateur illustrations and original text.
When I got to college at Syracuse University and decided to study magazine journalism and writing and rhetorical studies, it wasn’t a huge surprise. I wrote for on-campus publications, worked on staff at The Daily Orange (the school newspaper) for a semester, and managed to land an internship at Business Insider covering advertising. I started there a few weeks after graduating.
What piqued your interest in ad industry reporting?
Both of my parents worked in the advertising industry, so it was always something I was aware of and interested in. My dad worked in marketing on the brand side at an agency for a while, so I heard a lot about ads, agencies, and brands growing up. While I was in college, I spent a few weeks doing a work-study program at an ad agency in London, and while the atmosphere was cool and the work they were doing was fascinating, I couldn’t see myself actually working in an agency. I decided at that point that I wanted to go full force into writing and journalism. When I applied for an internship at Business Insider, they had an opening on the advertising vertical. It felt like the perfect fit for me.
What does a typical day at Adweek look like?
In the morning, I’m usually writing up breaking brand news or covering a new campaign or rebranding. Those post on the website as soon as they’re finished. I also contribute to our print product, so I’m usually juggling a few of those stories every week as well. There are typically five or more (usually more) stories to be working on at a time so prioritizing is key. The topics of what I’m covering change a lot—it can be travel and hospitality brands one day, a campaign for HP another day, and a story about sonic branding the next.
Every few weeks I will also participate in Adweek’s weekly podcast, Yeah, That’s Probably An Ad, where we talk about all the breaking news of the week and the best campaigns from the past few days. I also meet with PR reps for brands or CMOs/marketing VPs when I can. It’s good to set up a meeting or two a week and get some face time with the people you’re working so closely with on stories.
Not to pick favorites but… which brands do you enjoy covering?
It changes all the time. I love to cover some of the legacy brands like Nike and Hilton because they always find a way to stay relevant and keep people engaged through their marketing. This year though, it’s been fun to work with the up-and-coming brands, the ones that are starting to gain a lot of buzz now, like Halo Top, Away, or Fenty. The marketing is smart, different, new, and it gets people interested in what they have to sell. Those kinds of stories are fun to explore.
Can you share an article you wrote this year that you’re proud of?
I’m picking two because it’s too hard to pick one! I did a Q&A with Kumail Nanjiani about his creative process, his movie The Big Sick, and working with brands/doing ads. That was a cool assignment. But the one I’m most proud of is a story I worked on about parental leave (or lack thereof) at ad agencies. I spoke with women who had negative experiences at their respective agencies and dove into why it’s so hard for women to get time off after they have a child.
What’s your advice for anyone who wants to get into editorial?
Take chances on positions that you might not have expected to like, or find something you’re interested in and see if there’s a job where you can write about it. You can write about anything if you just find the right publication.
Photo by Raquel Beauchamp
Heather Taylor is a former entertainment writer turned brand mascot aficionado (and head writer) for Advertising Week’s Icon Blog. She been published on HelloGiggles, Brit + Co, The Drum, and BettyConfidential. Find her on Twitter @howveryheather.