Genevra Leek’s career started out, as many great things do, with an internship. Now Editor of Elle magazine, I chat to Genevra about the value of storytelling, the importance of speaking up and how listening to your team can sometimes yield the most valuable ideas.
Growing up, Genevra knew that she wanted to work in a creative field. However, after graduating high school and starting her design degree at university, her direction still wasn’t clear. Knowing that she wanted to tell stories in some way it made sense to reach out to the magazine industry and “ask if I could come along to help”. An internship granted, “I listened and learnt how publishing works” says Genevra. “It was previously something that was a little bit abstract to me.”
Now, it’s that abstract, ever changing dynamic of the industry that “continually inspires and continually excites” Genevra; she wouldn’t have it any other way.
A typical work day?
As Editor of Elle, Genevra’s focus is very much about “inspiring imagery and great storytelling. It’s something that I’m passionate about and something that I love to dedicate time to”.
The reality however, is that running a magazine is akin to running a small business – lots of moving parts and a very busy calendar. In fact, rather than a typical day, Genevra’s work life is varied and involves everything from attending cover shoots; to sitting in strategy and planning meetings; meeting with clients; to having production meetings with staff.
Whilst in the midst of the day-to-day, there’s also focus on keeping the magazine viable and that’s where being agile is important. “I think being an editor is very much like running a business”, says Genevra. “Like any other business, it’s about knowing your reader or your customer or your audience, and catering to that”.
Genevra and the team at Elle have worked hard on pivoting the business to include initiatives such as The Elle List, Financially Fit Females and the Elle Inspires series. All designed to help and inspire the readership, focus on the day-to-day issues that matter and advocate for change.
“We like to think of ourselves as the destination for intelligent women seeking to improve, enrich and enliven their minds”. Aside from that, Genevra wants the magazine to “entertain women and bring a little light, hope and beauty into their lives. Ultimately, we’re storytellers. And there’s no use telling a story no one wants to read”.
It’s no secret that the publishing industry worldwide is at a tipping point. With print no longer the favourite of the consumer, being agile and adapting to the ‘multi-platform world’ is vital. Elle is bucking that trend though with increased readership on all platform’s year-on-year which no doubt speaks to the editorship of Leek.
“Our world is constantly changing and we constantly need to be innovating and coming up with new ideas or solutions or new ways to do things” says Genevra. “And that’s a reality. It’s a certainty, and it’s something that we have to be prepared for”.
“What we experience in publishing is constant evolution and change. This can be a real challenge because as humans we’re fundamentally adverse to change and not everyone’s comfortable with that. I feel like one of the most important things that I’ve got is the ability to bring people along with that change; communicate the direction and the vision that we’re going in, and bring everyone along on that journey. It’s the challenges that are thrown at you are, that keep life exciting in a way” she says.
Speak up and contribute
If, like me, you’ve had Devil Wears Prada on your movie favourites list forever, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all magazine editors are just like Miranda Priestly, but Genevra is definitely not of that ilk. With contribution and collaboration on the “must have” list, it’s important to her that the Elle team have a voice.
“My team is my most valuable asset. The ideas generated through collaboration, being open and allowing people to feel that they have the possibility to make a really valuable contribution is so important. Without that, it’s just me shouting into the vacuum or the void.”
“I think it’s important to look outside of yourself and to take others’ opinions on board. Whether they be young or old or somewhere in between, different perspectives are what makes our world so rich and varied.”
Genevra’s message for anyone starting out then is just how important it is to contribute; “find your voice early and don’t be afraid to speak up”.
Having recently signed a multi-year licensing agreement with publisher Lagardere, there are big plans for Elle across all platforms in 2020 and beyond.
Right now, the main focus for Genevra and the team at Elle is to continuing to build the Elle community; opening up the brand more so that audiences are able to engage and grow with the publication. We’ll be eagerly watching for what’s next.
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