Sarah Burns – Features Editor, Good Housekeeping
As a magazine journalist, Sarah Burns has held many titles. Just as women readers select new magazines based on different phases of their lives, Burns has grown along with the publications she’s worked for. She has become an authority on women’s interest topics after interning at Mademoiselle, moving up to American Baby and First, and most recently working as the senior diet, health and fitness editor at Quick & Simple.
So it should come as no surprise that Burns has found her new position as features editor at Good Housekeeping to be a perfect fit. As she sees it, “My past experience culminated in this position.”
After working in the women’s interest arena at so many publications, Burns has made herself into an expert on what interests women in any age bracket. She sees her career path, much like the audiences she’s served, as fitting into a series of life phases. First addressing the single woman audience, then moving into the motherhood stage, and now arriving at the after-children chapter, Burns has “moved forward with women’s service as a baseline.”
In joining Good Housekeeping this August, her new audience is “women in their 40s who are very busy balancing kids, family, work.” She was interested in working with this audience because it’s one that’s “knowledgeable [and] seasoned in the life path.”
Covering features would normally leave an editor with a dauntingly wide range of topics to consider, but this category at Good Housekeeping is a bit more reined in than at other magazines. With the busy lifestyle that characterizes the magazine’s readership, feature topics must truly be focused.
Luckily, Burns knows women and what they care about. She wants to provide her readers with “fresh packages and interesting cutting-edge articles that hit home for the reader and aid her in her everyday life.” Bringing her knowledge of dieting and fitness to the Good Housekeeping audience, she has also been able to nurture her longstanding interest in personal health.
“The main thread” that Burns has covered as a journalist has been in “health and wellness, mental health and well-being.” This opens up a wealth of pitching possibilities, but there is a fine line between those topics and the hard health stories that should go to the health editor.
“There are certain realms that I’m not dealing with,” Burns says, including medicine and home products. Though these topics certainly have a place in Good Housekeeping, Burns is not the point person.
But she adds that there is a “very large, large area of things that weave into and are definitely under my domain.” Among these are dieting and weight loss. New treatments, parenting tips and fitness trends are also welcome.
Her audience wants practical information on health studies, as well as time-savers they can apply in their daily lives. In addition to physical wellness, Burns deals with “the whole mental well-being gamut,” which involves managing relationships, dealing with stress and prioritizing.
Burns recommends that PR professionals look through the pages of Good Housekeeping in order to determine what might work. She needs pieces for the Good Advice and Drop 5 lbs. pages, which are her responsibility, so providing “books, experts or studies” are good ideas. She’ll certainly be impressed by those who are aware of the magazine’s format and take the time to tailor their pitches.
Good Housekeeping has a fairly unique process for dealing with pitches, and Burns is certainly not the only person to whom the pitch will be directed. Since ideas are generated both internally and externally, the editors have an ideas meeting where they work out ideas and consider pitches. Burns recommends contacting her via e-mail between 9am and 11:30am so that she can bring your idea up at the editors’ meeting.
If an idea or pitch is deemed feasible and makes it past this stage, then a proposal will need to be constructed. The proposal is “essentially an extremely fleshed out outline of what the idea entails.” Because your pitch must make it through all these steps, it’s wise to keep the magazine’s readership, and Burns’ expert knowledge of that readership, in mind.
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