Interview with Vanessa Lawrence, Publisher of Pedestrian Group
Vanessa Lawrence is the Publisher of Pedestrian Group, Australia’s largest youth-focused publisher, where she leads the content strategy for PEDESTRIAN.TV, Business Insider, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Kotaku and POPSUGAR. An Editorial Director with more than 14 years’ experience, she has previously held positions as Deputy Editor of QANTAS Magazine and its travel inspiration website Travel Insider, Head of Editorial at PEDESTRIAN.TV, Features Editor at ELLE Australia and News Editor at Grazia magazine. She’s also written for The Sydney Morning Herald, Sun Herald and multiple overseas publications and is a regular guest on industry panels. You can Tweet her at @nesslawrence.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
On days when my calendar isn’t upended by something unexpected happening in the news cycle – like a leadership spill, celebrity death, terror attack or natural disaster – I usually have about five to six meetings with 15-minute breaks in between to catch my breath, send and respond to urgent emails or grab food.
When I’m at my desk, I’m lurking on Slack to ensure the right stories are being allocated and produced, and watching Google Analytics and our other content analytics tool Parse.ly out of the corner of one eye (I’m a traffic junkie, which you need to be in my role).
You’ve previously worked as a Head of Editorial and now you’re in the role of Publisher. How do the roles differ?
In my roles as either Editor or Head of Editorial, I was responsible for a single site; in my role as Publisher, I’m responsible for six sites plus our native/affiliate team, with the Heads of (or equivalent) for each reporting into me. In addition to a much larger team, there’s also a commercial element to my role; in the simplest of terms, that means ensuring our brands are represented as authentically as they can be in the market.
You’ve worked your way up from editorial intern through to where you are now. What advice would you give to someone starting out in the media industry right now?
There are still so many things to love about the media in Australia but you should enter the industry without an overly romanticised view of journalism. The reality is that every business needs to make money to survive, which means almost no role – even hardcore reporting roles – is totally immune to commercial considerations.
I’d also stress the importance of approaching every opportunity with an open mind because it’s entirely possible the job you’ll want or have in five years’ time doesn’t even exist in 2020; linear career paths in media are a thing of the past, so jump at the chance to knowledge-gather across multiple areas of any business (e.g. editorial, commercial, video) because you never know where it’ll lead you.
Pedestrian Group recently picked up three Mumbrella Publish awards, including Brand of the Year. Congratulations! What do you think lifts you about your competition?
Thank you. What makes Pedestrian Group stand out is something we consider to be our superpower and USP in the market, which is this idea of ‘unfiltered creativity’. We value it above all else and encourage everyone to bring a no-holds-barred approach to every aspect of our business, whether it’s a brainstorm to generate ideas for commercial brief responses or a fortnightly editorial features meeting. Removing limitations around creative thinking always leads to the fresh, exciting, sometimes wild ideas we’re known for. So that, plus our killer team, is what I think makes us so unique as a publisher.
What does a media release have to contain to be of interest to you?
What’s newsworthy to one publication is likely very different to another; before you blast out a press release to 15 to 20 sites, read, watch or listen to the publications you’d love coverage from to get a feel for the kind of stories they typically cover and customise accordingly. Oh, and always take the extra minute to personalise the email – I can’t tell you how many times our editors have received media releases addressed to Junkee/Vice/Mamamia etc!