This week’s creative industry trailblazer is Hearst’s branded content editor, as well as a freelance journalist
, and member of our steering group, it’s Isabella Silvers. Isabella started off as a Creative Access intern at Time Inc in 2015 and has since worked at Hearst across titles like Cosmopolitan and Digital Spy.
In this interview, she gives us the lowdown on why being a multi-platform journalist is such a fulfilling role she also tells us about the projects she’s most proud of and reveals the skills anyone looking to break into the industry or wanting to move up the ladder needs to succeed...
Can you briefly tell us how you got into the role you’re currently in?
I was working at InStyle when they closed the magazine and I was made redundant. My boss at the time told me that a friend of hers was hiring at Hearst – I applied, and the rest is history. I’ve worked at Hearst for over six years, starting as a digital commercial writer and I’m now their branded content editor. I produce branded content for all our titles across all digital and print platforms, focusing on Cosmopolitan and Digital Spy.
For the past two years, I’ve worked this role part-time with a job-share whilst I focus on editorial freelancing, whether that’s writing articles, interviewing celebrities, hosting panels or working with clients on sponsored social media posts. I worked up to this by freelancing alongside working full-time, and networking to build up contacts. I also write a weekly newsletter, Mixed Messages, about mixed-race identity.
What skill would you say is essential to possess in your role?
Communication is key. Knowing how to present your ideas to commissioning editors, convincing people to speak to you for features and writing clearly is vital! It’s also essential when negotiating pay, advocating for yourself and balancing multiple requests; when I’m writing or producing commercial content, I need to balance the interests of our magazines, their audiences and the client, which isn’t easy. Being a problem-solver and thinking outside the box is also a huge asset. If you can’t find any contact details for someone you want to interview on their website for example, are you going to give up or keep digging?
What’s the best/most helpful career advice you ever received?
Ask for forgiveness, not permission! Obviously take this one with a pinch of salt, but you will come up against barriers and nobody is going to advocate for you as much as you can for yourself. Sometimes it pays to take a calculated risk rather than waiting for a green light. Also: don’t ask, don’t get. It’s always worth asking the question – the worst someone can say is no!
What project are you most proud of working on?
It has to be my newsletter, Mixed Messages. This weekly newsletter about mixed-race identity started as the seed of an idea in my head and is now something thousands of people subscribe to. I’ve even been stopped on a train by someone telling me that my newsletter influences the way they raise their child. To me, that’s incredible and encourages me to keep going. So far, ‘ve interviewed the likes of Selling Sunset‘s Amanza Smith, musician Jordan Stephens, presenter Miquita Oliver, author Dean Atta and more. In terms of branded content, I am so proud to have commissioned a series with Digital Spy and streaming service NOW that asked five LGBTQ+ writers to share the films or TV shows that resonated with their queer identity. You can read those pieces here.
Why should people consider a career as a journalist?
It’s an incredibly varied role where no week is the same. You get to speak to so many different people and hear about so many cool brands, organisations, events and movies. You learn something new every single day and you get to share that with the world. The joy of bringing someone’s story to the page and making a difference in the world is unmatched. Your piece could even be used to push for changes in the law or drive people to a charity they’d not heard of before, how great is that?
What can people do to move up the ladder in journalism?
Reputation is key, so if you’re known as a reliable, friendly and hard-working person you’ll always be considered for opportunities. But don’t wait for others, push for yourself. Flag to your manager things you’d be keen to be involved with, make a case for courses you’d like to do or awards you want to enter. Always be advocating for your own progress and if you need to break the rules a little… I’ll let you fill in the blanks.
Which creative industry trailblazer inspires you and why?
Banseka Kayembe. Everything she writes is just spot on – whether it’s Love Island commentary on Instagram or a deep dive on race and colonialism, each piece is nuanced, historically contextualised, socially aware and digestible. I also really rate Tobi Oredein at Black Ballad – by and for Black women, this site covers a multitude of topics and looks outside the London bubble too.
Inspired to look for your next journalism opportunity? Head to our opportunities page.