Michelle Villett is a Toronto-based beauty and health writer and the founder of BeautyEditor.ca (winner of the P&G Beauty & Grooming Award for Best Fashion or Beauty Blog in 2010). Previously, she was beauty and health editor at ELLE Canada and beauty editor at The Look.
Villett has contributed to Flare, Fashion, Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, Chatelaine, Glow, Today’s Parent and Best Health; has been interviewed in the Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald and Zink; and has appeared as a guest on Canada AM and Breakfast Television.
How did you get your start as an editor?
My first magazine job was with Chatelaine, but I was on the publicity side, not editorial. At the time, I was also taking courses in Ryerson’s magazine publishing program (since I have a degree in business, not journalism), and so I’d taken the job with an eventual move to an editor role in mind. I soon realized, however, that I was just going to have to suck it up and do an internship.
I was lucky enough to land one at The Look under the great David Livingstone (whose tutelage was probably equivalent to, if not better than, a stint in journalism school). David hired me on as beauty editor not long after that, and then, when the magazine folded in 2006, I went to Elle Canada as beauty and health editor. In 2008, I decided to go freelance full-time, and in 2009, BeautyEditor.ca was born.
If you weren’t a Media, Darling, what would you be doing right now?
Friends and family laugh at me because I probably rearrange my furniture at least once a month, maybe because I work from home now and spend so much time staring at it. So I’d probably be doing something décor-related. I’m madly jealous of this woman, who buys up old furniture at thrift stores, paints it white and adorns it with shiny Anthropologie knobs, and then sells it. That would be my idea of a good time.
Pitching or follow up: Phone or email?
Email, always. There was a great article in the Washington Post last summer about how people in their 20s and 30s avoid phone calls because they feel “rude and intrusive.” I totally agree.
We know irrelevant pitches, calling you the wrong name and eight follow-ups are no-no’s; what else should publicists avoid doing?
I think what’s interesting about my experience is that over the years, I’ve been on pretty much all the different segments of the PR lists: A-list, B-list, freelancer, blogger. And while I obviously understand that some publications are considered more valuable to a client than others, it’s quite off-putting to be showered with attention, then cut from a list, and then inexplicably put back on again, for example. This business is truly all about personal relationships and the brands repped by publicists who’ve been consistent with me are the ones I’m most inclined to support. I have a long memory!
Publicists could actually get more coverage, I believe, if they were a bit more inclusive of freelancers. I know we can be hard to find, since we’re not on any mastheads, but we’re also the ones pitching and writing the lengthy features. And that’s where, I believe, a product mention holds more weight as compared to a tiny news piece.
That said, press trips can be dicey. I loathe receiving “conditional” invites, where the brand wants me to promise coverage up front in one or more outlets in order to go on a trip. I think it’s an unspoken rule that of course you’re going to try your best to write about the brand if they’ve been so kind as to invite you someplace. But unless you’re giving me some big deal exclusive story (which, being a freelancer now, it never is), to ask me for specifics up front is kind of tacky.
And speaking of tacky, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been asked to post what amounts to free advertising for a brand, whether in the form of a product review, giveaway, discount code, video clip, special event or promotion they’re running. There’s a fine line between adding value and taking advantage of a group that is probably seen as the low-hanging (and non-media-savvy) fruit. One marketer even went so far as to tell me her company “wants to leverage the bloggers.” Cringe.
Other than that, it’s basic PR 101 stuff. Send press kits that are actually relevant (and aren’t missing dates, prices, contact information or product samples). Respond to my request right away to let me know you’re working on it, even if you don’t have an answer yet. Never let me see how much stress your client is putting you under. And even though I know I’m annoying you, don’t make me feel bad when I’m late for your event or have to cancel. It’s a deadline-driven business.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
Scent? Child. So good that random strangers will stop you on the street—no lie.
Shower or bath? Bath (because then I get to use my Hauschka bath oils).
Film? Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Crush? Jon Hamm, of course!
First job? Special events for Nestle.
Inspiration? Right now, I’m working on my Tim Ferriss 4-Hour Body.