Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
I’d grown up loving magazines, with Melody Maker, Smash Hits and Empire being some of my favourites. Despite loving magazines I never thought I’d be working in the industry, it was for glamorous people, not someone like me!
I’d spent a few years working for a charity and decided I wanted to try something new, and when the recruiter I had registered with sent of the details of a job at PPA I realised that was my way into the magazine industry and jumped at the chance. I got the job and spent probably the next two years being very starstruck any time any editor of any magazine emailed me!
It’s great being on the other side now and working for a media owner, and despite not working directly on a magazine I love the opportunity to bring the brands to life for our readers.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
I had a bit of a varied career before media. I spent two years working for a hotel company in Russell Square, and then a few years working for the British Heart Foundation. Events formed part of my job in both of those roles, and it was always my favourite bit and something I was good at.
My first role at PPA was as Circulation Marketing & Export Executive which meant that I looked after several different committees, including one for subscriptions and direct marketers, which also had an event attached to it that was my responsibility to run. This was my first experience of managing such a large project, as it was a full day conference followed by an awards ceremony. I loved it! So when a role came up on the newly formed PPA Events Team I applied and transferred internally.
I then worked my way from Events Manager to Senior Events Manager, and after nearly seven years at PPA I left to work for Dennis Publishing to be their Marketing Communications Manager. This role still included running some events, with a focus on media agency roadshows, and staff entertainment or product launches, but also some of our reader events, a very new experience for me.
In 2017 the company was restructured to create an in-house events team and I was promoted to Head of Events, overseeing the entire Dennis portfolio which is now around 65 events a year and growing!
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
Not one outfit as such but I’m often found in a dress and trainers. I’m out and about at site visits and meetings quite a lot, and often running slightly late so need to be comfortable and able to walk quickly, but still look smart!
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
Hot chocolate! We have really good coffee machines in the office that also make very good hot chocolate, so if I need an afternoon pick me up that’s what I turn to.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
Hugging a tree for a photo in Central Park - Dennis took part in The Drum’s Do It Day campaign two years in a row, each time with the mission to plant a forest in a day. We asked people to send in photos of them hugging trees and in exchange we would plant a tree in the forest, and obviously I had to put my money where my mouth was and get involved myself!
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
It’s not as glamorous as you might think! People that don’t work in events thinks it’s all invites to amazing parties, and free food and drinks in places, and there is definitely some of that. But there’s all the bits that people don’t see, such as ridiculously early starts and very long days setting up and running the events, and all the mountains of admin tasks that go with making sure everything runs to plan. I also spend a lot of time with my head in spreadsheets, which I’m sure isn’t many people’s idea of fun!
Walk me through your typical day.
My days are so varied due to vast array of brands I work across at Dennis and the things I need to get done! I usually get to work early so I can go through my emails and Slack messages before the rest of the team get in. I tend to have a lot of meetings so this time at my desk is vital, allowing me to check that all projects are on track, and that ticket sales are going to plan. I have regular 1-2-1’s and team meetings to go through any issues that they may be facing, and to ensure I’m up to date with everything that’s going on with each event.
We’ve got some exciting launches in the pipeline for 2019 and beyond, so a lot of my days are spent working on proposals and numbers for those at the moment, along with meeting with suppliers and venues to find the best possible deals. This can involve a trip to a Land Rover off-road course, or heading to the Yorkshire Dales to check the plans for our first off road cycling and camping event, Ride T’Pub, or going down to glorious Goodwood to work with the team there on our different track days.
On a good day myself and the team will get to go to a menu tasting for an event, which means eating your bodyweight in food and usually some free wine. This only happens a couple of times a year though unfortunately! If it’s a standard day then at lunch time I usually try and get outside for a walk and some fresh air to set me up for the afternoon.
If I don’t have meetings I’ll spend my time researching ideas for new events, putting together pitch documents, and updating the budget sheets with the latest sales figures. I also work closely with our Director of PR & Marketing Communications on our awards strategy for the year, making sure we’re entering all the relevant awards and keeping up to date on the great work that’s happening across the business to make sure it gets the credit it deserves.
After work I’ll often meet friends for dinner or head straight home and cook up a storm. I used to go to a lot of industry events but with my job being so busy my free time is very precious to me now. I live in Stoke Newington so get the bus to and from work which allows me time to decompress from the day, and love to watch London pass by, there’s always something interesting to see!
How has being a member of the PPA helped you/added value to your brand?
Dennis are massive supporters of PPA and the work they do. I find the PPA team such a valuable resource, with everyone always willing to help no matter how random my query! This can be anything from introducing me to new suppliers, to providing me with statistics on different parts of the industry to help with presentations to potential clients and agencies.
The various awards are great too, winning one really raises a brand’s profile and boosts the morale of teams. I would love for one of my team’s events to win Event of the Year at the PPA Awards - having run them I know how robust the process is and that we’d have won totally on merit, and it would be an amazing experience to be up there on that stage!
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
Baking - I would love to get better at this but tell myself I don’t have the time, in reality it’s probably more a lack of patience!
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
A group photo of me and some friends out for a run at the weekend from London Bridge to Greenwich along the river - we’re all perched on a cannon and it looks a little like an album cover!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
EastEnders - I love catching up with the week’s episodes on a Saturday morning
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
Olivia Coleman, she’s my favourite actress and I bet she would have some amazing stories to tell about all the various films and TV shows she’s worked on. Plus she just seems like a really lovely person and fun to hang out with!
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
To have a dirty martini at the end of the night on my 30th birthday. Needless to say the night did not have a pretty end….
What/where is your happy place?
New York City, I love it there! I constantly feel like I’m on a film set, and love remembering what films/TV shows were shot in each location.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I’ve run four marathons, each one in a different country.
What would be in your Room 101?
People that walk really slowly and stop for no reason in the middle of the pavement.
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
Pessimist - but trying to change that!
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Film, it’s my biggest passion. I kept a list of all the films I watched for the first time in 2018, it’s 72 films long - I have a feeling this is going to increase in 2019, I’m already up to 11 and it’s only the beginning of February!
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Used to be a night owl without doubt, but this has slowly shifted to morning person as I tend to do most of my exercising before work.
Tea or coffee?
Coffee in the morning, herbal teas in the afternoon/evening.
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
Essential! My most used is definitely the rolling eyes emoji - not sure what that says about me (or my friends)!