There wasn’t much that could top last week’s head-spinning celebrity scene at Michael’s, so today was pretty quiet by comparison except for the random appearance of Art Garfunkel. I guess I could have asked him about Paul Simon‘s recent trip to a Connecticut courtroom and perhaps gotten him to weigh in on his erstwhile partner’s domestic woes, but I only noticed him on the way out the door. It’s hard to fathom, I know, but in the era that spawned Kimye there are some celebrities who prefer to go unnoticed. However, the same cannot be said the mavens and machers who are Wednesday regulars at 55th and Fifth. After all, if your power lunch isn’t documented for posterity, what good is it? Present and accounted for: Star Jones, Jonathan Wald (most recently of the now-defunct Piers Morgan Tonight), ex-CNBC talker Larry Kudlow, Ed Klein and Andrew Stein (together at Table 3) among the crowd of familiar faces.
I was joined today by Good Housekeeping‘s smart, vivacious new-ish EIC Jane Francisco, and we had plenty to talk about. We shared horror stories over malfunctioning tape recorders during celebrity interviews (more on that later) and traded favorites among our mutual passions, which included books (she’s a big Jane Austen fan) and scripted TV drama (she’s a “binge watcher” of The Good Wife, Scandal and past seasons Mad Men – no spoiler talk, please). But I was also interested in finding out what the transplanted Canadian (who was born in Michigan, but headed for The Great White North with her family when she was 4) had to say about her experience taking the reigns at GH, a quintessential American brand. Having come from Chatelaine, Canada’s leading women’s lifestyle brand and the country’s largest paid circulation magazine, Jane was no stranger to helming a major media franchise with a broad audience when she was tapped for the top job in November of last year. “When I first met with Ellen Levine (Hearst’s editorial director and former GH EIC), we had lunch and she told me Good Housekeeping was ‘uniquely American,’ but I grew up with it and both my mother and grandmother read it in Canada.”
This is not (just) your mother’s Good Housekeeping. “I’m very interested in anything by women for women,” said Jane who is on a mission to instill “a sense of place” in new areas of the magazine. For a recent fashion shoot, the team traveled to hotter than hot (trendwise, not the temperature) Austin, Texas. “One of the things I want to focus on is the intrigue of travel and the desire to escape. In the United States, it’s no longer only about the big cities. It’s about discovering all these other great places all over the country. I’m intrigued by us going out and finding little nuggets to share with our readers. Talking something big and going small.”
But regardless, there are big things ahead.”There are huge opportunities here,” Jane told me. And not just in print. The digital team has been beefed up with more content being created exclusively for all platforms. “With the Institute, Good Housekeeping has 100 years of understanding what women want. I feel like there are opportunities in a thought leadership way.” Since the brand has “millions” of readers at all life stages, reasons Jane, they are uniquely positioned to engage and inspire women throughout their lives in ways that other media brands cannot. “There’s no ‘core reader’ here. We have an opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the next generation of women.” But without alienating their mothers and grandmothers. That means creating distinctive and different content for the magazine and the digital product. While the magazine “needs to deliver the fantasy” and “stuff you didn’t know you wanted,” the digital version “needs more practicality,” she noted.
Regardless of the medium, “The most important question is: how do we connect it to your life?” said Jane in describing the benchmark for selecting edit. For her first celebrity cover out this month, Jane sat down with Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts — and after a few anxious moments with a new recording device given to her by a staffer — found her to be “one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.” But substance, not saccharine is what made her the perfect fit for the magazine’s readers. Putting a celebrity on the cover for the sake of scoring a famous face doesn’t work here. “We are looking for personalities willing to share their stories — the emotional piece. Robin was willing to open up.” Jane and I also had a lively chat about the celebrities whose real personas don’t exactly match their carefully crafted brands. Sorry, but its OTR.
At GH, celebrities need not be on every cover. Last year, the magazine began experimenting with food covers and made them part of “the seasonal mix,” said Jane. And readers have responded favorably. “Food is very important to our readers.” Which makes the magazine’s recently announced partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to help the one in five children in America — a staggering 16 million kids in this country — a particularly great idea. This month, Hearst’s iconic household brand, which reaches one in five American women, launched its own ”1 in 5″ campaign to corral its considerable clout to help end childhood hunger. The campaign (sponsored by Domino/C&H, Firefly, JCPenney and Simple Green) kicked off earlier this month with a Mother’s Day luncheon at Hearst Tower. The event featured a performance by Kristin Chenoweth and special editorial in the issue with a call to action to its readers, inviting them to fund raise with bake sales in their hometowns and surrounding areas. Details on how to donate and join the ”1 in 5″ campaign were featured on the magazine’s website. Every dollar raised, explained Jane, can help get a child in need up to 10 healthy meals through school programs. GH dished up its own recipe for success in its own test kitchens here in the city and raised enough for 100,000 meals with support from readers. Jane’s goal: “My vision is to get a little bit of help from a whole lot of people.”
But, cautioned Jane, healthy school meals are just part of the solution. For kids that rely on those meals, summer brings back the uncertainty of wondering where their next meal will come from. That sobering thought has driven Jane and her team to incorporate a call to action with the support of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry initiative in every issue with child-centric ideas developed to help readers find solutions for their communities to ensure the children who live there are getting the nourishment they need. In the issue, GH will also share the stories of women who have experienced hunger at home and how they found help and hope in getting their families what they needed. “The little things each of us do can go a very long way in solving this solvable problem,” said Jane.
Whether it be overseeing the magazine’s new initiative to end childhood hunger or helping women get the most out of their lives, Jane’s mandate is simple: “I want to inspire woman to think: ‘I want to make a difference.’” But sometimes, she said, it’s about finding joy in the ”small stuff” – a great dessert recipe, a cheap chic ballet flat. “It’s about getting women to be excited about the possibilities of every day.”
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
2. Peter Brown
3. Journo Ed Klein and former New York City Council president Andrew Stein
4. Art Garfunkel and Jerry Speyer
5. Esther Newberg and two pals
6. Dr. Gerald Imber and Jerry Della Femina
9. Star Jones and her partner Matt Proman, founder and chairman of NAPW. Star told me Matt had some “good news” for her teasing: “There will be an announcement next week.” She couldn’t reveal any more details except to tell me: “It’s a dream come true!” We’re all ears…
12. Luke Janklow with another bearded fellow we didn’t recognize. Anyone?
15. Jon Klein
16. Digital Place Based Media president and CEO Barry Frey and Dave Etherington, chief strategy officer of Titan LLC. Congrats to Barry’s daughter Amanda Frey, who graduated for Ithaca College last weekend with a communications degree and is hoping to jump into the digital media fray. Good luck!
18. Jonathan Wald
20. Agent Rob Weisbach
21. Quest’s Chris Meigher
23. John Newcomb (No, not the tennis player) with a very preppy gent we think we knew but couldn’t quite place…
24. Nick E. Rubinstein. Long time no see!
25. Jordan Ringel
27. Cablevision’s Lisa Rosenblum
29. Heidi Roberts
81. Sharon Greengrass of Barneys Greengrass fame
Faces in the crowd: NBC’s Richard Esposito; At the bar: Kira Semler and Vi Huse.
Diane Clehane is a contributor to FishbowlNY. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Please send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.
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