The Huffington Post UK
The Huffington Post UK will be five years old on July 6 and, at an exclusive Gorkana briefing this week, editor-in-chief Stephen Hull, alongside the site’s global head of lifestyle Poorna Bell, talked about getting the Duchess of Cambridge to guest edit the site earlier this year, why content is about solutions, not problems, and how PRs can reach out to its “thriver” audience.
“Blog posts featured on The Huffington Post inspire us on a daily basis”, Hull told a packed Gorkana briefing at the Barbican in Central London. Whether it’s somebody describing a personal fight with illness or a person talking about an emotive political topic they’ve witnessed, HuffPost is about getting a strong message across. “We deliver content with carbohydrates, not empty calorie journalism”.
— Citypress (@citypress) May 11, 2016
HuffPost is a Pulitzer Prize-winning source of breaking news, features, and entertainment, with a highly engaged community for opinion and conversation.
The site features content from more than 100,000 bloggers; from politicians, students and celebrities to academics, parents and policy experts, who contribute in real-time on the subjects they are passionate about.
— Abchurch Comms (@AbchurchComms) May 11, 2016
Hull, a former head of content for Metro.co.uk, joined HuffPost in 2011 and took over from Carla Buzasi as editor-in-chief in 2014. Bell moved over to the website from MSN UK in 2012. She spent a year as lifestyle editor before being made executive editor and head of global lifestyle in 2014.
Asked what has been the biggest change to HuffPost since it launched in the UK five years ago, Hull pointed to the size of the editorial team and the tone of the stories produced. The 40-stong team is producing more original content than ever before, which he believes is now a “lot more grown up”.
In the three years she has been at HuffPost, Bell has been keen to “inject personality” into the site’s lifestyle content. Sitting under HuffPost’s “Life” umbrella (alongside tech, parenting and style) the nine-strong lifestyle team covers men and women, health, mental health, body image, fitness and nutrition, and more.
When presented with potential content to feature, she asks her team: “Would I want to read this as a reader?”, “is it informative?” and “is it adding value?”.
— WildKat PR (@WildKatPR) May 11, 2016
Already this year, HuffPost managed to persuade the Duchess of Cambridge to guest edit the title as part of the launch its Young Minds Matter campaign (Hull hints this coup was secured due to very good contacts and persistence) – a testament to the title’s quality and reputation.
Asked who would be their personal dream guest blogger, Bell would love to get Emma Watson in, while Hull thinks it would be great to get a “complete unknown” – an expert in their field, to talk about an important subject that fits with HuffPost’s mantra.
In the briefing, which was chaired by Philip Smith, head of news and content at Gorkana, the HuffPost’s editorial duo identified five key things they thought PRs needed to know about The Huffington Post UK:
The heart and soul of a good blog is emotion
Blog posts are not curated or commissioned by the HuffPost team. Bloggers are writing about something they feel very passionate about. During a London tube strike, a tube driver was blogging on the site offering an alternative argument. There was no edited point of view, but it still managed to spark conversation and went viral.
— Lydia Eden (@Mercylyd) May 11, 2016
HuffPost content is about solutions, not problems
The team works on a philosophy of “What’s Working”. It tries to look at news in terms of solutions rather than problems. When the 5p charge came in for plastic bags, lots of daily newspapers waded in describing it as a “crisis”, Hull added. The charge was created to reduce waste with the proceeds going to charity – that’s how the HuffPost team looked to approach it.
What makes a good news story? Looking at news 'solutions' rather than 'problems' #gorkanahuffpost
— Golley Slater PR (@GolleySlaterPR) May 11, 2016
Video is currently the “live issue” for the HuffPost team
The team is creating “more video content than ever” and HuffPost currently gets 16 million video views a week on Facebook. It’s an important format, but has to be used tactically, Hull suggested. Different formats work for different brands. The team doesn’t take third party content, but prefers to work in partnership with talent to come up with ideas.
— Gorkana (@Gorkana) May 11, 2016
The HuffPost audience are “thrivers”
Hull said HuffPost readers are like “mods” – it’s a way of life. They love corporate global brands if they are engaged with in an open and honest way. The core HuffPost demographic is between 25 and 45, but there are very niche audiences within that, Bell added. Young Minds attracts engaged readers between 16 and 24, and stories around invisibility and ageing will often see readers between 45 and 55 taking an interest.
— McCann PR & Social (@McCannPR) May 11, 2016
Put your email subject line all in CAPS and it will get binned
The best way to contact the team is by email. If you send something over, the team is happy for you to follow up, but not by phone.
— Lisa Coutts (@LisaCoutts) May 11, 2016
Remember that HuffPost is a digital title – the team may not know what they’ll be writing next seek, so sending an email about Valentine’s Day in December is just going to be deleted. And if Bell sees an email subject line all in CAPS, it’s going straight to trash.
— Push PR (@pushprlondon) May 11, 2016
More than 250 people from the Gorkana community turned out for the briefing, describing it as “fantastic”, “enjoyable”, and “insightful”.
Caitlin Carey, PR manager at mySupermarket, said: “Poorna and Stephen’s presentation was really informative and provide plenty of clear take-aways. I left feeling like I knew the Huffington Post better, and where the future of digital journalism lies. Both came across as approachable – which is always welcomed by PRs.
“I loved how they had such a strategic focus for their content and I’ll definitely be taking some concepts up the ranks here at mySupermarket to see how we can best work with Huffington Post in the future.”
Katie Barron, assistant press and comms officer at The British Academy, said: “It was a good opportunity to hear from the editors directly about how The Huffington Post works and the pitching process. I also enjoyed hearing about its aim to look at the news in terms of solutions rather than problems.”
Lisa Gledhill, press officer at the National Trust, added: “I thought this was an extremely useful session. The speakers were both interesting and approachable. As a video content producer, I was particularly interested to hear about their attitude to video and was encouraged to learn that their ideas seem in tune with our own. I feel I now have a better understanding of the kind of material they’re interested in.”
Here’s what some of the Gorkana community had to say on social:
— Bryony (@bpbp) May 11, 2016
— Siren Communications (@SirenComms) May 11, 2016
— Phoebe Campbell (@Pheebie) May 11, 2016
— Limelight (@LimelightPR) May 11, 2016
— Thomas R (@digi_resp) May 11, 2016
— Arabella Jenkins (@arabellajnkns) May 11, 2016
— Chris Calland (@cncalland) May 11, 2016
— Zambuni (@zambuni) May 11, 2016