Date Posted: Thursday 1st June 2017
Beauty journalist, podcaster, broadcaster, presenter Emma Gunavardhana was recently appointed acting beauty editor at Red magazine. Her previous roles include acting health & beauty editor at Women's Health, and fashion & beauty editor at OK! magazine. She continues to freelance, consult and publish her podcast The Emma Guns Show, where she has interviewed names including Sam and Nic from Pixiwoo, Leona Lewis, Sam Baker, Luke Hersheson, Sali Hughes and Caroline Hirons.
You’ve been in the business now for over a decade, what sparked your love of beauty?
I had to rely HARD on beauty products as a kid. I had terrible acne, lank greasy hair and just didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Beauty products gave me a sense of control over how I looked - even if my makeup skills were poor - and the feeling I was doing something to help myself. The beauty sections of magazines became a safe place and I knew I wanted to be writing for them some day. I worked on local newspapers and did an NCTJ in journalism but it was via a work experience placement that I landed my first job on a magazine.
Best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
I’ve really struggled to think of one piece of advice in all honesty. The truth is that the network of journalists and PRs I’ve grown close to over the last 15 years is a constant source of advice and counsel. As we’ve grown, developed and expanded our skills we’ve shared what we’ve learned with each other. I actually shudder when I think about trying to navigate the industry without this kind of trusted network - it’s invaluable.
If you weren’t a journalist what would you be doing?
I would be headlining in Vegas, obviously. In all seriousness this is a question that makes me feel a bit anxious. At school I did these silly career aptitude tests and if you go by those results I’d be a social worker or a prison guard. Those results could have been incredibly demoralising because I knew the world of media and journalism existed and I wanted to be in it - plus it looked like a lot of fun - but they were saying ‘sorry Emma, not for you’. I think it’s why I had a spot of imposter syndrome when I first started out on magazines and found myself at three-course dinners in 5-star hotels celebrating the launch of a new fragrance or interviewing a Hollywood A-lister in a hotel suite in Cannes.
But I also think it’s another reason why I started my podcast, because in each episode I unpick how these incredible guests have achieved such success and I think the common theme is that it doesn’t come easy, there are challenges and that often it’s the mental and emotional barriers that you have to break down to get where you want to be.
What advice would you give to the younger generation within this industry?
In some ways, my advice is so outdated. When I started it was about being good at making tea and ingratiating yourself into a team by doing all the stuff that staffers didn’t have the time to do and working your way up the ranks. While it still pays to be helpful and proactive it’s a very different landscape today. That said, if you want to be a writer having a blog or an active social media feed that gives a sense of your style can help you build your profile and act as a portfolio.
What should PRs keep in mind when pitching ideas to the beauty team at Red?
I think pitching ideas well to any magazine is about knowing what their content is and offering something that will work within their pages. I know I’m more likely to respond if a PR messages me and says something like ‘we have [insert type of product] its USP is x, y or z, this is the innovation and here’s a stat that backs up the claims’. It’s just a few sentences but shares all the topline information you need. If it’s just a general ‘we have a new product and please find the press release attached’, it could, potentially, get overlooked.
Any pet peeves when working with brands/Prs?
I’m not going to suggest for a second that there aren’t any pet peeves, but it works both ways and it seems unfair to blast bad PR practice when I’m sure they have complaints about how journalists carry on too. Having worked as a consultant and seen behind the curtain of PR I now understand that some of the things that may have jarred me previously are activities that a PR or agency has to do in order to please a client. I also think that over the years plenty of journalists, including me, have pointed out the types of emails and phone calls that don’t work but they’ll never stop so I just block them out or put filters on my mailbox so I don’t see them.
Emma Gunavardhana in 'media contacts'
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