Life in Lockdown - Claire Conway, Features Director at Tatler
Life in lockdown
Each day we speak to a journalist about their new normal.
Today we hear from Claire Conway, Features Director at Tatler.
Where are you working from right now?
We’re working on our summer issues, trying to dream up inventive ways to fill pages usually brimming with party pictures - society weddings and summer soirees - as well as thinking again about how to cover stories in a climate in which exhibitions aren’t running, big sporting events such as Wimbledon have been postponed, the traditional face-to-face interview format has been turned on its head and reporters can’t knock on doors to chalk up in-depth features. Plus, a huge one, for now we can’t shoot the beautiful high production fashion stories and celebrity covers. Needless to say, Coronavirus is all-encompassing and as a magazine, we’re trying to find the right balance of content that’s pure escapism, while also making space for the biggest story of our generation. All that, plus, thinking ahead as we plan up to the September issue: trying to divine where we’ll all be in our lives in four months’ time - At home? Back at work? On holiday somewhere running wild, having the time of our lives? - and what we’ll want to read at that point. For our June issue - the next one - we made a big last minute cover story swap to reflect the climate, while still being classic Tatler in content. It’s a very special one. That’s all I can say for now, alas… the rest remains top secret until publication.
What’s your new morning routine?
I wake up at 7am and if I’m feeling virtuous, I’ll attempt a 20 minute yoga tutorial on YouTube on a rolled out mat in the garden. Now there are no planes overhead, hearing the birds chirping and the sound of woodpeckers (I live right next to Epping Forest) is a real joy. Other mornings I might grab my trainers and march into said forest for a morning walk. Or - to my shame - I’ll stay in bed for an extra half hour. I’m at my ‘desk’ at 9am, ready to roll.
Have you got dressed today?
Yes! I actually think that’s really important for your mindset. I put on an outfit I’d happily wear to the office (obviously I’m not clacking around the house in heels or anything, but trousers, shirt… yes). I also put on makeup each morning, more as a practice in psychology. I never bother with makeup at the weekend now, but during the week I want to feel office-ready. I don’t feel like I could have a serious chat with a publicist bleary-eyed in my dressing gown.
How has your working week changed since Covid-19 hit?
In some ways, it’s changed beyond recognition. Magazines are so collegiate and collaborative that not being able to wander over to someone’s desk for their input took some adjusting to. Thankfully we’re constantly on Zoom conference calls, so we’re not working in silos. Design, pictures, subs desk, features - we’re all talking all the time. We have morning meetings to run through the flatplan, forward planning meetings, ideas meetings… there’s a Zoom for everything. It’s as busy as ever.
What are the current plans for filling your pages?
We’re working it out still - trying to be as reactive as possible to unfolding events. We have some photoshoots in the bank from pre-lockdown days and the rest will be an electric mix of current affairs, juicy long reads, interviews, royal coverage and - of course - a handful of features that reflect our times.
What does a work lunch look like these days?
It could be the remnants of the previous night’s dinner - a plate of stir fry, lasagne - or a hastily assembled sandwich or salad.
What’s the biggest challenge for your desk/publication right now?
The biggest challenge is probably one for the fashion desk: working out how to inject fashion and style into a magazine without being able to do traditional shoots. For my part, the words, it’s not so hard. In a sense, the DNA of Tatler (which happens to be the oldest magazine in the world) has always been about capturing the most influential people and stories of the day. We just have to pivot our content to encapsulate what matters now.
Has anything positive come out of this?
Totally. In some ways, the team feels more connected than ever. All over the country, there’s a sense that ‘we’re in this together’: we’re seeing acts of kindness and cooperation, and that filters down through the workplace as well. As saccharine as it sounds, we’re looking out for each other: we’re checking in, catching up. On an editorial level, we’re embracing the changes, knuckling down to the last minute commissions and, as a result, the content feels exciting and fresh. As a general point, to me the worst thing there is for a magazine is not being reactive.
What’s your top tip for PRs right now?
Don’t just pitch Coronavirus framed suggestions. Readers still want escapism, they want fun and light relief as much as ever. Think more broadly about what makes a good story. Don’t be afraid to follow up on an idea - I get a lot of emails and I can only apologise if one slips through the net. If you’ve got a solid idea, give me a nudge.
What’s your comeback plan?
For me personally? I’m dreaming of the seaside. When the lockdown lifts, I don’t care how cold the water is, I’m heading to the beach and I’m getting in the sea. Then I’ll go back to the office…