Industry Voices

Lauren Holleyoake | Publisher | Grazia, Bauer Media

By Jess Browne-Swinburne

14 Apr 2021

"At Grazia we've always started with the reader. We consistently look to the audience insight and we've always aimed to be "inside her head." Lauren Holleyoake, publisher of Grazia, has worked on the magazine for the nearly a decade and has invaluable insight into what makes one of the UK's most famous women's magazine brands tick.

What made you want to work in publishing?

I was a huge consumer of magazines growing up. Just 17 and more! magazine, in particular, were a big part of my teenage life. I also remember travelling in my early 20s and receiving a parcel from home. When we discovered a copy of heat magazine in there my best friend and I were utterly delighted. It was a slice of home and we’d really missed it. A well put together magazine should bring all the things you love together into one exciting and yet relatable package. Magazine brands have the power to connect with people deeply, to really resonate – and to work in that world has been a privilege and lots of fun.

Chart your career from the start to where you are now.

After university I got a job working for the distribution arm of what was then IPC Media. I was looking after circulation (getting the right amount of magazines to the right retail outlets for the target audience) – a job I’d never heard of or knew existed but it got me close to magazine brands that I loved. I also discovered that I loved numbers way more than I’d ever realised at school. In 2008, after a sabbatical travelling in Latin America I got a job in circulation at Emap (before it became Bauer Media). From there, I quickly moved over to Brand Marketing, working on Grazia and more! magazine and ultimately, I ended up promoted to Publisher. I adore Grazia so much; it’s been a big part of my life and I have loved working on it, in some capacity, for nearly a decade!

Over the last year Grazia has led on a number of important campaigns, launches and ground breaking front covers. What has been a highlight for you?

It’s hard to pinpoint really. There have been so many. Grazia has never stood still and is constantly evolving to respond to the changing needs of its audience. I guess our “Mind the Pay Gap” campaign in 2013 was particularly memorable – as it resulted in a change to the law, leading to greater transparency in gender pay disparity. (Grazia was credited in the House of lords six times when legislation was passed). This is still such a hot topic – particularly in light of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. We quickly galvanised recently when it looked as though gender pay gap reporting may be scrapped again for a 2nd year, and thankfully our petition forced a U-turn. We have to act for our readers – and champion their success.

What has been a highlight for your reader? Ie. What cover or campaign seemed to resonate the most with your audience?

When we went into lockdown we had to rip up the issue we were working on and start from scratch. Everything had changed overnight for our reader and we absolutely had to reflect that in the pages. Our frequency helped so much in terms of being able to respond quickly. The first issue we produced in lockdown featured four medics on the cover, shot at a social distance in hospital car parks. Copies were offered free to all NHS workers and the cover became our most engaged with ever on social media. It was exciting to see our audience respond so positively to our celebration of a new type of hero.

What does 2021 look like for Grazia and for women’s magazines in general? How can they continue to thrive?

I think there is so much going on in the world right now that makes women’s magazine brands more relevant than ever. Grazia cares passionately about the success of women and is a real advocate for equality and women’s rights. We understand deeply the issues affecting women. As companies and brands try to address some of these challenges, we can really help and support. Topics that are at the forefront of society now are subjects we’ve been covering and caring about since we launched and are a crucial part of our DNA. Our voice and point of view is as vital as ever – and our ability to pivot in response to our readers’ changing consumption, whether that’s a Grazia podcast (Grazia Life Advice or Grazia Beauty Life Lessons), a beauty Zoom webinar or an Instagram channel dedicated to Grazia parents (The Juggle, @thejuggleuk, launched in partnership with Huggies) – means that not only are we thriving but we are helping our readers thrive too.

Grazia recently released the The Gamechangers 3.0 study. What did it reveal about the lives of ABC1 women aged 25-44 and how will that effect the kind of content you are serving your audience?

What really struck me is how resilient and positive our audience were feeling. Clearly the pandemic has affected people in different ways and on varying levels, but the collective feeling was one of optimism and hope for the future. They were excited about getting back out there. Many were embracing big plans and life changes and there was a real acknowledgement of some of the positive outcomes of the pandemic, such as slowing down, flexible working and a better work/life balance. They are more engaged with social issues than ever and value the role Grazia plays in highlighting and engaging in these. Beauty is a key area and we’ve responded by increasing our beauty touchpoints – notably the launch of two new digital beauty events “Beauty Power Hours” and “Skin Sessions” (launched in partnership with Bare Minerals/No.7 and SkinCeuticals respectively) in which readers could gain expert advice remotely from our beauty team, alongside industry experts.

Why are magazine brands like Grazia such an effective tool in gauging the mood and lifestyles of specific demographics?

At Grazia we’ve always started with the reader. We consistently look to the audience insight and we’ve always aimed to be “inside her head”. It’s something we do incredibly well and value immensely – and by placing importance on that we ensure that we resonate with our audience. At the start of the pandemic we recruited 20 readers from across the country to be part of a Whatsapp group in which they discussed their changing habits, their feelings, hopes and fears. With the situation changing daily, even hourly, we were able to ask them how they were feeling and gain a real sense of what our audience needed from us. The insight we gained (via both directed questions and organic conversation amongst them) fuelled how we then shaped and adapted our editorial and commercial content throughout the year.

What’s on your radar?

I have to say I dedicate a lot of time thinking about the issue of trust in the media, particularly with the amount of fake or incorrect news that is often found online. I worry about how that plays out in the future, particularly as a parent. However, it’s encouraging to see brands valuing trusted environments such as print magazines more and more and hopefully that will ultimately drive greater change.

What magazine would you stockpile?

A predictable answer but, quite literally, Grazia! Since working from home I have stockpiled a LOT of magazines. Each issue of Grazia, at a glance, gives you a real sense of the issues and trends that were pertinent at that moment in time. And throughout a year which has been so unusual, it’s interesting to look back at those issues as a summary of how life changed. Grazia has continued to offer an eclectic mix of content relevant to its audience but the hierarchy changed – and suddenly interiors/ food/TV were the focus on covers. And Sienna Miller wearing a mask on the cover became normal (and sold well!)

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