Grab a quick-fire 60 Seconds with Woman’s Weekly Editor Diane Kenwood and find out all about the wrath of the Chairman’s chair, centenary celebrations and how you end up with 3.2km of knitted bunting.
What was your first job?
Secretary to the heads of the Sound and Camera Departments at London Weekend Television. I was TERRIBLE. I was never in the office. I was always down in the production control on the studio floor. I was fascinated by television and really wanted to be involved in making programmes. They were both incredibly patient though, and Chris, the former Head of Sound, wrote to me recently to congratulate me on being Editor of Woman's Weekly. So hopefully he's forgiven my ineptitude.
How did you become an Editor?
I applied for the job of Deputy Editor on the Marks & Spencer magazine at Redwood. Unbeknown to me, the person who interviewed me recommended me for the (also unbeknown to me) vacant Editor position. They called me back for a second interview and only told me ten minutes in that I was being interviewed for the Editor's job! They took a real chance on me – M&S was their flagship title and I'd never edited anything before – for which I'm eternally grateful. IPC took a similar leap of faith in offering me the editorship of Woman's Weekly, and I'm equally grateful to them for that. You really need people to give you the breaks in your career – then it's up to you what you make of them.
Who's been your biggest influence?
Easy. Felicity Green. She was the launch editor of the M&S magazine (which I edited for five years). She’s a Fleet Street legend, one of the most famous fashion editors of the 1960s and the first female appointed to the board of a national newspaper (Daily Mirror), as well as acting as an advisor to the boards of the Express and The Telegraph. She’s easily the most astonishing woman I know. She mentored me from day I started on the M&S mag and has also become a valued and much loved friend. I trust her utterly and admire her endlessly. She has taken so many magnificent journalists under her wing as well as having an extraordinary career herself.
To be the Editor of a magazine that's such a colossal, and important brand as Woman's Weekly, and in its centenary year to boot. I'm struggling to imagine what could be any better than that.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
It wasn't magazine related. I was a magistrate for ten years – one day I was chairing a big case where the defendant had already been convicted of murder. The court room was packed. I came in with my colleagues and in the process of sitting down in the rather cumbersome Chairman's chair, I got the hem of my skirt caught on the arm, missed the seat altogether and ended up falling on the floor. It took both my colleagues to fish me out from under the bench. It makes me come over all hot and cold just thinking about it again.
What's been your career highlight?
Corny, I know, but it has to be the job I'm doing now. To be the Editor of a magazine that's such a colossal, and important brand as Woman's Weekly, and in its centenary year to boot. I'm struggling to imagine what could be any better than that.
What makes your magazine unique?
That's it's stayed so completely true to its founding principles. The first editor wrote in the launch issue explaining in detail what the remit of the magazine would be (to be useful, helpful and inspiring to women in their daily lives), and that's exactly what it still does today. Obviously the lives of our readers have changed out of all recognition since it launched in 1911, and the magazine has changed along with them, but the fundamental issues that interest and concern them – taking the best possible care of their homes, families and themselves – remain the same.
What's been the most innovative thing you've done?
I've introduced a lot of new content over my four years, and am delighted (and relieved) it's been so well received by the readers. But probably the most innovative project has been the photographic exhibition we've been running during this year. It's been in conjunction with Dame Harriet Walter, and its aim has been to challenge society's perception of the beauty of older faces. We invited readers to nominate themselves or other people and have selected and photographed 100 of them over the course of the year. We've been travelling round the country with the exhibition, which has been seen by thousands of people. It's been inspiring, thrilling and completely exhausting in equal measure.
Best example of reader involvement?
That has to be our knitted bunting (yes you did read that right!). Easily the most barkingly mad project I've ever been involved in. My marvellous marketing manager decided it might be fun to see if we could get readers to knit bunting for us (they're big knitters, Women's Weekly readers) and try to create a world record length of it (strange that one didn't exist before). Over 900 readers from all over the world knitted more than 13,000 pieces of bunting (much of which we had to sew onto ribbon ourselves since we forgot to ask them to do that bit). The Guinness Book of Records said we needed 1 kilometre to set a record……we got 3.2 kilometres! Amazing.
The reasons readers are so engaged with your title?
Woman's Weekly has been passed down through generations of families. It's woven into the readers' lives in a way like no other magazine I've ever known. As far as they're concerned, it's THEIR magazine and I am merely the custodian of it for a while. Once I'd proved that I wasn't going to mess with the fundamental principles of it, they've been happy to see it develop and modernise. Just because so many of them are long-term readers doesn't mean they're change-averse, it’s quite the opposite. And having that 'permission' to modernise the magazine has enabled me to pick up more of the readers who were only buying the magazine occasionally. Turning round an 8 per cent decline to year-on-year growth has validated my faith in the magazine and its extraordinary readers.