The Talent Fairy chats with people who hire content people
The best part of my role as Talent Fairy is that I get to talk to people constantly. I talk to folks who still work in print magazines and love it and want to ride it out. I talk to folks who have transitioned to new roles outside the magazine industry. And I talk to lots and lots of people who are trying to transition out of traditional media into new roles and careers. But what I’ve found is that those three groups don’t necessarily talk to each other. There is a knowledge gap between those who are looking for content jobs and those who are hiring for them. In this series of posts: Chatting With People Who Hire Content People, I bridge that gap, and answer questions that career pivotors might have about roles and organizations outside of traditional media. I will be talking to folks who have content backgrounds and “get it” and those who don’t, but they will all have one thing in common: They hire content people, people like you.
My interview this week is with Didi Gluck, content director at Manifest, a content agency in New York. Didi and I have had parallel careers in magazines. We never worked together, but Didi is one of those people who you can just meet and you’ll feel like she’s your best friend. Before she pivoted to branded content, she was one of the magazine industry’s most respected and coveted beauty directors, leading beauty content at Marie Claire, Real Simple, More, and Shape. She now heads up two major projects at Manifest: JW Marriott’s magazine, JWM, and The Plum Online, a Manifest website for women over 40. We talk about how, as women over 40 ourselves, we are happy to be taking on jobs outside of traditional publishing as our Plan Bs, why editorial trumps marketing even in branded content, and why you should never get too big for your britches.
Here is an edited transcript of our recent chat:
Talent Fairy: The last time we connected you were at Meredith working at Shape when I was at Parents. When did you start at Manifest?
Didi Gluck: I have been here for almost a year. My job title is Content Director at Manifest. It is what I do, but I’m not the only content director. We have five offices and there are different people who do the equivalent of what I do. There is DC, Phoenix, St. Louis, Chicago, and New York. Manifest is a content agency that has been around for 20 years and has changed shape several times. We have tons of clients across the country, and JW Marriott is one of my clients. I was hired to be the editor of JWM magazine. Believe it or not, it’s just as or more editorial than anything I ever did in editorial! At JWM we cover beauty, fashion, culture, dining, and wellness. I can cover anything in that world as long as it is relevant and accessible in some form or another to travelers. It’s so freeing. That’s not to say that I can write about competitive properties, but mostly the client relies on my editorial judgment — with the exception of a few pages at the back of the book, which they supply, that are all about the goings on at JW Marriotts around the world.
TF: Where is it distributed? Do hotel guests get it in their rooms?
DG: Yes, exactly. It’s quarterly and goes to Marriott’s resorts and premium hotels. It’s for a very affluent traveler. They have at least 83 international properties and the magazine is distributed globally. That’s close to a million rooms around the world, which is pretty incredible.
TF: Is your only client at Manifest JW Marriott or do you have others?
DG: When Manifest hired me it was to do the JWM magazine but they also had this idea that they wanted to do something self-published. Because — and I think this is a very smart strategy from the CEO — management decided that putting up a quality editorial platform could be a good showcase of what we do to the outside world. The product was still undetermined when I got here last fall. But by Christmastime it was a website called The Plum for women over 40. It’s a good old-fashioned site that is accepting advertising!
TF: So are you editor in chief of The Plum, too?
DG: Yes. We are posting only twice a week right now. But we have one solid advertiser now, and big plans to grow. My CEO says, as we scale, we scale. It’s a really smart way of working, and I pinch myself because I love what I’m doing. Sometimes I miss traditional media, but things aren’t the same in magazines now. I have to remind myself that I’m pining for something that no longer exists. What I have been able to stumble into has been really wonderful.
TF: Why do you say “stumble”?
DG: In August of last year, I was laid off from Meredith, along with 200+ other people, when I was at Shape. From day one, I knew it wasn’t going to last at Shape. Meredith had the whole Time Inc acquisition and people were just disappearing as they consolidated the company. I felt like I had gotten the one last chair in musical chairs and it was going to be pulled away at any moment, so I had started to put out feelers. My contacts at More connected me to Manifest. I got really lucky.
TF: Tell me a bit about Manifest and the business model? What do they do for their clients?
DG: I guess in the old days you would have called it custom publishing. There are a lot of former magazine people here and that is by design. They want people who are skilled in telling stories. For some clients we create their online content. For others, it could be a custom content piece for a specific event. Some clients need a website and a magazine. And some just want us to handle their social account. It’s all tailored to the need of the client.
TF: So it’s the same content that you’ve done as an editor, you are just packaging it in different ways?
DG: Yes; exactly. Clients are coming to us for expertise. They want help telling their story. So I don’t have top editors circling my copy in red ink with “???” and “what???” like I did in magazines. A lot of the work in magazines was getting the copy approved through the person above me. But now I’m putting that angst into what the client wants, which is refreshing, truly.
TF: What are the ways that it is different than working in magazines?
DG: Agencies are always seeking new clients and doing RFPs‚ request for proposals. I have worked on several pitch decks. Clients ask us to put together a comprehensive strategy for developing, creating, and distributing their content. We share what the editorial mix would look like, and what their social could be. I find it super interesting.
TF: Who makes up your content team there?
DG: I have two people who report to me, and I report into the Chief Creative Officer. Teams are tiny. It’s much smaller than what we were used to at [consumer] magazines. For the JWM magazine, it’s me, an art director, an associate art director, photo director, and a publisher (who has a small sales team). That’s it! They are all working on different projects too. And the crazy thing is? It gets done!
TF: And you hire freelance writers to do the writing, right? Is what you look for different than when you were at a consumer magazine?
DG: Honestly, not really. I’d rather have someone who is a really experienced travel or food writer than a marketing whiz. I’m more interested in the content than the marketing portion. This might be specific to my particular client, but it’s shockingly more editorial than you would think. I’m looking for somebody with real journalistic chops who also understands the imperatives of my client.
TF: What advice would you offer editors like yourself who are interested in breaking into content marketing?
DG: It’d be the same advice I’d offer if I was working at a traditional publishing company. In the end, it is all a matter of fit. The one thing I would say is different, that I suffered from a little bit in the beginning: Don’t think what you used to do was superior. I suffered a bit from the “I’m a magazine person, I know content better than anyone” syndrome when I first landed at Manifest. I had a lot to learn about content marketing and business. Knowing how to edit a story does not a superior human make! So be humble and receptive to new ideas and ways of thinking.
TF: That is great advice. Thank you so much Didi. It’s been so much fun catching up!
DG: Thank you!
Chandra Turner is founder and CEO of Ed2010 and Talent Fairy. She is a talent recruiter specializing in the content and media space. She also offers personalized career coaching for media professionals at all stages of their career.