Lisa Armstrong, fashion editor at The Daily Telegraph, on why fashion news needs to be entertaining, what PRs need to do to attract attention and why an original idea will get you far.
Tell us about your role at The Telegraph?
I’m in charge of the fashion content on the paper – words and pictures . I also write for the Saturday Telegraph Magazine, have a fortnightly column in Stella Magazine and look after ST, The Sunday Telegraph’s luxury magazine, under the editorial directorship of Michele Lavery.
As well as that, you’re a contributing editor to Vogue and you’ve written four novels. How do you balance it all?
I’m not sure I do balance it all. There are good days and bad days, but I have learned to be very focused and to pick a great team.
You’ll have been at The Telegraph a year in August. What changes have you made?
Wherever I’ve worked my aim has always been to try and make fashion interesting to people who don’t think they’re interested in it. It always gives me a huge kick when men or women who say they never read about fashion tell me they’ve enjoyed something on the pages. It’s not really a question of age or spending profile, I’ve found. It’s about entertaining them, making them laugh, or even provoking them with a thoughtful approach that makes them see fashion in ways they haven’t before – i.e. relevant. At the same time, we try all the time to break new stories that the insider will find interesting or surprising. We’re very competitive and we’re always asking: will anyone care about this? That’s the balance really – to appeal to the widest possible readership and also to insiders; to be authoritative and also a little bit mischievous.
What is The Telegraph reader looking for in fashion stories?
Articulately argued ideas. They’re sticklers for logic and they can spot flim-flam a mile off. They also like chic, elegant products.
What advice would you give to a PR pitching to the team?
Become familiar with the pages and who looks after what. It’s irritating and insulting when blanket or inappropriate emails clog our inboxes. And I’m amazed by the poor spelling and shaky grammar. It doesn’t inspire much confidence in the PR’s dedication to getting their end of things right.
What’s the best way for PRs to get in contact?
Are you open to meeting up with PRs?
I enjoy meeting PRs but time is very limited. There is a big team here though and we try to get out and meet as many as possible.
How much content does fashion make up at The Telegraph?
Hard to put a figure on it because it fluctuates depending on whether there are shows. It’s the biggest quality paper both in terms of circulation and fashion content. As a guide, there are three fashion pages a week in the paper, plus extra news pieces, plus 50% fashion content in Stella, plus several pages of fashion every week in the Saturday magazine plus four fashion specials a year and four fashion issues of ST, plus watches and jewellery supplements….
How closely do you work with the online team?
Very closely. We all sit together and we talk constantly about ideas.
How much of the print content goes online?
All of it.
You and your team blog regularly on the site. Anything PRs could do to help in this area?
A good idea (and that doesn’t just mean cold calling to see if we’ll use a product) gets you far.
Do you tweet?
The whole team tweets on @telefashion
Any future plans for Telegraph fashion we should be aware of?
Yes, but they’re secret at the moment You’ll know very soon.
Finally, we hear you’re a massive fan of the pashmina? How many are in your wardrobe?
Well, I’ve learned not to call them pashminas because it makes my team cringe – I’m really not a Sloane, I promise. But if you mean cashmere and silk scarves – probably about 10.
Lisa was talking to Gorkana’s Richard O’Donnell