It might be easy to assume a men’s magazine for the high-end male market would become less popular as the recession hit harder. Or with less and less law school graduates securing jobs, a magazine with the name Esquire may have to refocus.
But looking back to Esquire’s birth in the middle of the depression 76 years ago, it is clear that despite economic woes, men still demand a magazine geared toward their professional demographic.
Esquire caters to the needs of men, says fashion director Nick Sullivan, “who have reached a certain level in their careers and in their lives.” The interests of such men are wide and varied in scope. Readers come to the magazine for anything from serious journalism to the latest watches.
“Esquire was founded on the principle of serious journalism which it has a won a lot of awards for, but it was always a lifestyle magazine as well,” explains Sullivan.
Whether it be through journalistic stories or product highlights, the magazine sets out to provide readers with information. Esquire’s competitors are varied, and include The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as fashion-oriented glossies like Details and GQ: Gentleman’s Quarterly.
Sullivan says, “Our age group is between 25 and 50, kind of broad.” That audience chooses to read Esquire because of its rounded coverage.
As a result, the magazine also appeals to the fairer gender.
“Roughly a third of our readers are women,” assistant editor Tim Heffernan points out. “People have some level of affluence generally, but it’s also people who have a curiosity about the wider world and about the nicer things in life.”
Making the Pitch
As with any magazine, it’s crucial for a PR professional to know which parts of the book are receptive to pitches in order to be successful.
The Style section in the front of the book regularly features topics like shopping, grooming, culture and fashion, while the Folio section devotes eight to 10 pages on the latest looks of the season. Examples include weekend sportswear, tailoring or coats.
PR professionals should always be aware of a magazine’s lead time. “You have to assume every magazine is working at least three to four months ahead,” advises Sullivan. Not allowing enough time is a waste of a pitch.
Also be aware that Esquire, unlike many magazines, doesn’t feature a holiday gift guide, or special gift guides related to Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. Editors avoid fads and holiday-centered themes because these types of issues would be too repetitive. “We try to, in a sense, reinvent the magazine every month,” Heffernan says.
Likewise, Heffernan is not interested in pitches related to trends. “By the time something is a trend it’s too late for us to be doing something on it,” he explains. “Why would we be doing something everybody else is doing?”
For product or fashion-related pitches, specific editors need to be contacted for specific topics. Grooming-related pitches go to fashion assistant Mike Stefanov, mainstream fashion items go to senior fashion editor Wendell Brown, and fashion-related story pieces should be directed to Sullivan or features editor Richard Dorment. For pitches regarding book reviews, Heffernan requests a copy of the book to be sent.
Optical fashion is of interest, as well as men’s jewelry. Jewelry, Sullivan qualifies, “is not for the motorcycle gang-type.” Nor does it include football-related items. Instead, Esquire takes the designer angle. Shoes are regularly featured—even athletic shoes. “But they have to be properly made shoes,” Sullivan qualifies.
“It’s easier to tell you what we wouldn’t be interested in,” Sullivan says. “Not skatewear or T-shirts with logos on them.” He goes on to make one guarantee: “PR [professionals] who represent women’s wear or children’s wear are guaranteed not to get any coverage.”
Celebrity endorsements no longer have the same allure. The magazine has become more product-centered. Where an article used to revolve around a personality, and dress and style him, today Esquire will often revolve the story around the product itself.
If you are pitching Sullivan with a story-type fashion pitch, it’s good to know what bothers him—namely, follow-up calls. “The only thing that annoys me is when I get an e-mail and then I get a phone call to see if I got the e-mail. It makes me want to delete the e-mail.”
Sullivan is interested in pitches that provide a really good story behind a brand. He wants to see the story behind a brand’s invention, though—not an invented story. And Heffernan isn’t interested in inventions either. He’d prefer to see your idea as it is.
He explains, “Whether it’s some sort of liquor, some sort of electronics, a book, anything, just send the thing itself. We’re not going to just write about it because of what it is. We’re going to want to see it, use it, taste it and then if we like it we might do something on it.”
Sullivan adds, “I think the tendency with PR is to invent interesting stories that aren’t there. And that doesn’t work for me. If you haven’t got a good story you can’t fake it.”
On the flipside, sometimes revealing the product on its own is all you need. Sullivan finds that “It’s about bringing the best of the product out. And sometimes the best is just what it is.”
Heffernan seconds that: “Your best shot is simply to really target yourself and know who you’re sending stuff too. And then just make a simple, direct pitch.”
300 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019
Nick Sullivan, fashion director
Richard Dorment, features editor
Wendell Brown, senior fashion editor
Tim Heffernan, assistant editor
Mike Stefanov, fashion assistant
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