Lesa Hannah was recently appointed Beauty Director of Fashion magazine. She knew she wanted to work in magazines after winning the role of guest editor for the December 1993 issue of beloved, defunct teen magazine, Sassy.
After an internship at Flare magazine, a year at a beauty trade publication and time spent freelancing, she was hired as Assistant Editor at Fashion in 2001, where she has also held the titles of Associate Beauty Editor and Beauty Editor.
How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
By tailoring it to us and the way we cover beauty. Catchphrases like “day to night,” “tips and tricks,” “the five-minute face,” and “step by step” might appeal to some editors, but I’ll delete. We’re constantly looking ahead to the next trend, rather than rehashing a topic that’s been discussed to death and has already trickled down to the mass women’s titles. If you demonstrate that you understand our approach, I’ll appreciate that and take the time to read what you’re pitching, even if ultimately it doesn’t work for us.
Exclusive stories are always welcome, but they have to offer something beyond the opportunity to write about a body lotion before anyone else. An interview is absolutely essential, but not with a makeup trainer or someone from marketing. If you provide the lead time and secure access to amazing sources for something compelling, I’ll work with you to create an ambitious story. And no, an interview over email won’t suffice.
What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Promptness, efficiency, accuracy, clarity. Honesty is a big one: I’m very straight up and always appreciate the same in others. Striking the perfect balance of distance and accessibility: not being aggressive, but always available. And humour: not only can it can help diffuse the stress from a situation, but communicating with someone who makes me laugh is always a pleasure.
What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Not taking the time to find out whom the proper contact is. It’s called a masthead; it’s in every issue, so there is really no excuse for not knowing who’s currently in which position. And get the name right: mine is not Hannah, nor is it Alessia. An error like that is immediately off-putting.
Pitching something that we’ve just covered; it’s clear you haven’t looked at the latest issues.
Responding to a PDF of coverage we’ve just sent with, “Can you tweak the wording of that?” or “That image doesn’t look clear; do you need a high-res?” The PDF was not sent for your approval, and moreover, it’s gone to print.
Attempting to control the coverage whether it’s the timing of when it runs, what is or isn’t mentioned, photography and so on. If it’s because you’re feeling pressure from your client or a higher up, a better way to handle it would be to discuss this honestly and openly with me — it’s so much more respectful — and at the same time, work to manage their expectations.
Focusing too much attention on hierarchy and titles when it comes to attendance for events, junkets, desk sides, lunches or taking the time to get to know an editor. I find it incredibly short-sighted. Relationships build over years and you never know where someone will end up.
My pet peeves
It seems so basic, but press releases that arrive without the following information: launch date, price, availability and press contact.
The follow-up email or phone call to see if I’ve received the product, if I have any more questions, need a high-res image or if I’ve tried the product and what do I think. I feel like it’s just an excuse to contact me; if I need any of those things I know how to reach you.
The email or call that just asks, “What are you working on?” It suggests laziness and seems like you’re just looking for an excuse to send over some of your client’s existing products.
Being spoken to as if I’m totally clueless about the topic I cover. I’ve had desk sides where people talked to me as if I were the woman at the counter who needs to know why they should exfoliate or why sunscreen is important.
Including marketing information in a presentation. We don’t need to know your strategy or see your commercial. It’s not useful to us, so it wastes your time as well as mine.
Being asked to participate in things that seem fun, but aren’t really. It might surprise to you know that most beauty editors don’t want their makeup applied by someone else (OK, unless you’re offering someone like Pat McGrath or Dick Page). We don’t enjoy posing for photos doing silly things, and it becomes awkward when we decline and you won’t take no for an answer.
Being told to “get on board” with covering something because a competitor has.
Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
I cannot overstate the importance of personal relationships in this industry. Many editors are inclined to support a publicist’s clients/brand just because they love her/him personally.
The PR professionals who are amazing at their job continue to be far outweighed by those who are not. I’m not saying that to be cruel; I honestly wish it weren’t true. But it makes me appreciate those precious few that much more. You know who you are.