“Our work pretty much doubled overnight” - Effie Kanyua, Director of PR & Communications - Hearst UK

Effie Kanyua explains how publications pivoted to meet increased digital demand during lockdown, and how internal communications has become absolutely key as we transition into the new normal.

“Our subscriptions in some places increased by up to 200%”

“The main part of our business are our amazing magazines...during lockdown airports and train stations were closed - a large part of our business is travel retail."

“Luckily supermarkets and local shops were open, so we had a good presence there.”

“The traffic on our digital platforms have grown exponentially, but that’s not a surprise. What was a surprise was the fact that our subscriptions in some places increased by up to 200%. It was very much the thought that during a time of negativity and that our brands are trusted, people were reaching to our brands almost like an antidote to all that was out there.”

“These increases were across the board for print and digital prescriptions. Our magazine brands were being seen as an essential item, or, something that brought a benefit.”

“We are also very data-driven, so we could get insight into what our audiences wanted from us. Whether that was cookery, beauty or fitness tips. This all helped us produce content for our audiences. We found that we were busier than usual and that as a business we had had all our processes in place for this change in working. Our business continuity, as opposed to a lot of businesses, wasn’t affected.”

“It was content that would add value, and not just practical stuff, but after the death of George Floyd, things on diversity and inclusion, how to become an ally, explaining racism - all sorts.”

“If you look at our brands, our audiences are very engaged. This is the case with Cosmopolitan, for example, typically you would see that audience be very vocal in terms of social and political agendas. What people wanted was more information.”

“We also wanted to look after our staff and their mental health”

“I’m incredibly lucky that the PR and Comms team at Hearst were incredible. Our work pretty much doubled overnight and that’s because we realised early on that internal comms was going to be a big focal point.”

“Traditionally, our CEO would maybe send out two old staff notes to the business as a whole, we went to delivering a note from him every day for two months. Not only did we want to look after our audiences, but we also wanted to look after our staff and their mental health.”

“Within these notes, we had all the latest government updates and news together with all the good content we were able to get from our brands. Eg, the best recipes, fitness workouts and how to navigate working from home. The feedback we got was that people appreciated all the internal comms we sent out.”

“A lot of our brands have been at the forefront of diverse content”

“I think my biggest surprise was around Black Lives Matter. Everything post George Floyd… but in a good way. It was sad and it touched my friends, family and me. As a team we were engaged, I went to the protests and a couple of my team did as well.”

“Hearst launched a diversity and belonging network back in 2017, so for Hearst UK it was always on the agenda. We had also created a network which was a way of bringing colleagues together and giving us a way to celebrate the diverse culture that was there within Hearst.”

“In terms of our content, a lot of our brands have been at the forefront of diverse content. For example, we had Stormzy on the front of ELLE… having a male rapper on the front of a fashion magazine was a huge deal. We had Dina Asher-Smith, she said the significance for her as a black woman was that traditionally she never felt that it would be possible for someone like her to be considered beautiful and on the front of a magazine.”

“To me, it’s incredible to think that diversity on covers hasn’t happened as it should have. Right from the start, we did make a corporate commitment, to diversity and belonging.”

“Highlighting senior leaders who are black, Asian or minorities is important and will help foster talent within the industry”

“The stats aren’t great when looking at diversity in the PR industry, but I do think there’s a strong desire to improve things. I was a BME PR pro, Elizabeth Bananuka started that and has just launched the Blueprint as well, which I think is pivotal to our industry. That scheme was a way for people like me to find other people like me in the industry. We all had mentees that we’ve been on a journey with.”

“That’s something I’m proud of, I think it’s really important for people who have risen through the industry to be visible. Highlighting senior leaders who are black, Asian or minorities is important and will help foster talent within the industry.”

“The Blueprint is the next logical step, it will hold businesses and agencies to account. There’s a strict criterion that businesses have to adhere to.”

“Our formal return to the office won’t happen until January of 2021”

“There’s been a huge shift in priority towards internal comms, so being able to continue to help and support our staff as we transition through this is important. Our offices have started opening, that started in June, open for people who felt like they wanted to go into the office.”

“The effect of lockdown on people’s mental health has been significant, people have been cooped up and working at pace, on top of people getting ill and losing loved ones. People being able to have the opportunity to come into the office and interact with people has been an important choice to give.”

“In terms of our formal return to the office, that’s not going to happen until January of next year. Right now returning is on a voluntary basis.”

“From a consumer perspective, it’s all about highlighting the brilliant content our brands have been producing as we continue to navigate the future.”