As senior editor of travel and integrated content at Southern Living magazine, Erin Shaw Street seems to have a dream job. After all she does get to visit places like New Orleans and the Florida Keys and call it work.
“It is a dream job,” Street says, “but it’s a lot of hard work.”
At Southern Living’s offices in Birmingham, Ala., Street manages all of the magazine’s regional travel content. Southern Living covers 17 states and six different regions, producing targeted content for each one. Street’s job includes managing freelance writers and staff editors, managing the Daily South (the magazine’s daily blog), and working on strategic initiatives across print and digital.
“I’m always working on multiple issues — editing copy, planning visuals, and figuring out the puzzle pieces of telling the stories of a large region,” Street says.
And, of course, as travel editor Street’s job obviously requires a lot of traveling.
“It’s important that I’m traveling the region to keep up to date on what’s happening,” Street says.
“Part of my travel is reporting and the remainder of my travel is for speaking on behalf of the brand.”
You’re probably tired just reading about all the work Street does.
“People tend to only see the fun side, but there are a lot of sacrifices and long hours,” Street says. “This is a rapidly changing, competitive industry. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Street began her career as a newspaper reporter working in Birmingham, Ala., and Sarasota Fla.
Her years in the newspaper business taught her the fundamentals of reporting, writing, and working under pressure, Street says.
In 2001, she moved back to Birmingham from Florida and took a job at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she managed their quarterly magazine. She spent seven years there, eventually serving as the Director of Community Affairs, and thought she would continue in the non-profit sector. But when an opportunity became available at Southern Living in 2008 she seized it, first working for the Health & Beauty section, before it was discontinued, and then moving to the Travel department.
“As I learned to become a magazine editor, I also saw the need to learn digital skills, so I taught myself.” Street says.
And those digital skills came in handy when she helped the magazine launch its blog, the Daily South, last year.
“We launched the site nearly a year ago because we needed a portal for original, up-to-the minute content that reflects all areas of our brand: food, homes, garden and travel,” Street says. “Our editors are the foremost authorities in these areas, so the Daily South gives them a place to connect with readers 365 days a year. Also, as a brand we recognize the importance of being in the digital and mobile space. The Daily South is part of a larger effort to reach our readers any time, any where.”
The Daily South is just one example of ways Southern Living is striving to remain relevant. They recently launched Southern Living Hotel Collection, a carefully chosen selection of four- and five-star resorts, hotels and inns, vetted by the Southern Living brand and offering the best in Southern travel and hospitality.
Loyalty and Longevity
Street believes Southern Living continues to survive tumultuous times in the magazine industry in part because of loyal readers.
“Everywhere we travel we hear, ‘My mother loves the magazine, and saves them all.’ This means the world to us,” Street says. “Our leadership has been strategic in continuing to provide loyal readers what they’ve always come to this brand for — service that reflects our pride of place as Southerners. We’ve also reached out to the next generation of readers, creating content that reflects their lifestyle.”
Summing up the Southern Living strategy, Street says, “We have to do things in bold, new ways, while staying true to our foundations.”
The Editor of the Future
For women hoping to develop a career freelancing for magazines, Street says it’s important to cultivate relationships with editors.
“This means taking the time to understand what kind of stories the magazine is looking for,” Street says. “Most of the pitches I receive are from writers who haven’t read the magazine and become familiar with our new formats. So when I get a carefully customized pitch, tailored to our format, it gets my attention.”
Street says it’s also important to consider the visual aspects of stories as well.
For those hoping to land a staff position at a magazine Street says “becoming a 360 editor is vital.”
Street recently attended an intensive magazine publishing course at Yale University where she and others in attendance spent much time talking about the editor of the future.
“She is someone with the ability to curate for a brand in print and online,” Street says. “Digital skills are a must now.”
For both aspiring freelancers and aspiring editors, Street offers this advice:
“To be successful in this industry you must know your reader, your subjects, have a voice, be able to handle a large volume of work, and be able to adapt to change. How we do things today will not be the same in six months or a year. Many people have struggled with the pace of change in this industry, but if you can adapt there’s still opportunity. Finally, the fundamentals — being able to tell a good story, staying on top of trends, and having an impeccable work ethic — never change.”
Originally published at See Jane Write Magazine.