Date Posted: Wednesday 10th August 2016
Alice Hart Davis (pictured above with DIARY directory editor Holly Buckley) is a consummate professional with deep knowledge of the beauty and cosmetic industry. As a multi award-winning beauty journalist in the UK, Alice’s aim is to communicate and interpret what is going on in the world of beauty and she has a knack of being able to see to the heart of a brand. For the past 15 years, Alice has been writing about everything to do with beauty, from skincare and make-up to anti-ageing creams, cosmetic procedures and fragrance for titles including The Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Observer, The Express, woman&home, Red, ELLE, Marie Claire and Good Housekeeping, to name a few. She has also written two books on beauty and wellbeing for teenagers and has created a range of skincare called Good Things. Alice additionally works with beauty brands - big and small - in a variety of roles, including as a writer, event facilitator and brand consultant.
DIARY directory caught up with Alice recently for 'A date with DIARY'...
What was your first job?
There was the holiday job looking after giraffes at Longleat Safari Park… but my first ‘proper’ job was as a features assistant at Vogue.
Typical day in the life of Alice Hart-Davis?
Well I’d like to say that I wake up early to meditate, then catch the 7.30am yoga class at Indaba and walk the dog before settling down at my desk, but frankly it doesn’t always happen.
I work from home and some days I sit quietly at my desk all day, hammering away at the keyboard and drinking tea; other days, I might rip off round town on my bicycle for a series of meetings or press events. Increasingly I am working with beauty companies, maybe consulting, or attending a conference in order to report on it for a brand, or decoding a company’s beauty science for a media audience… I’ve just hosted a beauty day for readers of The Oldie magazine, which was terrific, and one of my favourite jobs is compere-ing the live demonstration theatre at the Cosmetic, Clinical and Reconstructive Surgery Expo in London each autumn. The best thing about my work is its huge variety - and the opportunity for beauty-related travel - I’ve been to the States three times in the past few months for beauty-technology stories, which has been completely fascinating.
Twice a week, my assistant Karen Heath comes in and helps me keep on top of the emails and product samples. She is a journalist so she’s an ace researcher and writes for my blog, too. If I’m on a deadline we write in Google documents, with me hammering out the copy and littering it with requests for information, fact checking and product details, and it is very reassuring to see her pink cursor whizzing about in the document sorting out details.
I’d like to say I spend the evenings out at glamorous beauty-related events but usually, I stop work to cook supper for whoever is around - I have two daughters at university, and a son who is still at school, so they’re all home for the holidays just now - then head back to my desk unless there’s something irresistible on TV. I’m trying to blog more about all the fascinating stuff that’s going on in the beauty industry, and the evening always seems the easiest time to do that.
What titles are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just done pieces for The Telegraph, woman&home and GQ and I write a fair bit for the Daily Mail.
How best can PRs help you with content?
By keeping me up to speed with what they have that’s new, and sending it through on the e-mail. In theory I would love to meet up for coffee and a full debriefing, but I just don’t have the time. My inbox acts as my filing cabinet and I love the fact that it is easy to search.
What are your preferred contact hours?
Preferably week-day, working hours (I’m amazed by the amount of stuff that comes through on Sundays, or in the middle of the night, and worry about the people who are sending it.)
"There is always a chance that I haven’t seen or noticed a particular release but 99 times out of 100, I have. Pet peeve - releases that are sent as attachments, or as picture files, which my laptop doesn’t open automatically. Do I open them? Not always."
How far ahead do you wish to be contacted with certain leads?
Most of my work is news-responsive and short-lead, though obviously magazines are further ahead so, oof, how long is a piece of string? Put me on your short-lead lists, for preference.
What do you find yourself saying to PRs frequently - any pet peeves?
‘Yes I DID get your press release, I WILL keep it on file and OF COURSE I will let you know if I get a chance to use it.’ There is always a chance that I haven’t seen or noticed a particular release but 99 times out of 100, I have. Pet peeve - releases that are sent as attachments, or as picture files, which my laptop doesn’t open automatically. Do I open them? Not always.
What should people just not bother sending you?
Stuff on areas I don’t write about (baby clothes, computer tech, cars…)
What grabs your attention most in a press release?
A pithy and intriguing headline.
In terms of events, what time of day works best for you?
Any time. Drop in events with some flexibility in timings are usually the easiest, given how much my schedule, like everyone else’s, is always in flux.
What audience do you have in mind when writing a feature and how does print and digital differ?
For a print feature, the audience is that publication’s readership, so the tone and pace varies accordingly. For digital, I just try to be me (which, after years of trying to be what I think other people want me to be, I find ridiculously difficult). For print, you can usually pace things a bit slower, too - whereas for digital, you have to snap straight to the point before your increasingly impatient readership starts thinking, ‘Boring boring what is this meant to be about?’ and clicks off elsewhere
What should PRs think about when pitching, what would make your life easier?
Just the usual - whether stuff is relevant to the publications I might pitch it to. Lots of ideas or products or services that are pitched to me are great per se, but as a freelancer I need to interest one particular editor.
Biggest challenge working freelance?
Maintaining your own self-confidence.
You’ve been freelance for a long time, what are the tips – if any – you find useful that you could pass on to other/new freelancers?
Find a specialisation and become known for it. I had no idea, until I started writing about beauty, that there was an entire career to be had within what looked, from the outside, like a very narrow niche (20 years ago, newspapers left ‘beauty’ to the magazines, and there was no online…) Then keep up with developments and trends in your area.
Get to know other freelancers who are doing the same sort of thing; they will become both friends and an informal support group when work and/or publishers and/or social media is getting you down. Yes, technically you are all competitors but in practice everyone has a different focus and there is more than enough work to go around.
And then work social media as much as you can bear to, to make it clear to everyone what you do and what you are interested in writing about.
What’s in your handbag right now?
Nothing. In the evenings, I try to adopt the Carine Roitfeld approach and go out without one, or use my pockets (phone with a debit card in the case, keys and lipstick gets me by). But daytime, there’s usually a phone, notebook, pen and a bottle of water and a mini-make-up bag of essentials.
Favourite cake (or any sweet treat) and flowers combination?
I’m not a great one for cake but I love Florentines. Flowers? I adore peonies. And tulips.
Fill in the blank: The one thing people assume about you is...
That, as someone wrote to me this morning, ‘I’m sure you are sick of hearing from PRs like me but…’ The thing is, I’m absolutely not. Where would I be without PRs to tell me what’s going on, and who’s doing what? I wouldn’t have a clue! The beauty business would grind to a halt! I have been deeply dependent on having good working relationships with PRs since I got my first Fleet Street job -- filling several pages of The Telegraph magazine with designer knickknacks and novelties each week -- in the Eighties. And I don’t always just want to talk to the boss, either, even if she is a friend. I really welcome the perspective of the younger, inquisitive, digitally-savvy generation, too.
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Alice Hart Davis in 'freelance & creatives'
Good Things in 'beauty, fragrance, grooming & health'