Our very own Trisha McGuire was fortunate enough to sit down with Sarah Crosland last week for a bit of a role reversal, who told her she enjoyed being on the other end of an interview for a change!
Sarah is executive editor of The Charlotte Observer‘s magazine division, which includes numerous regional lifestyle publications – SouthPark Magazine, Lake Norman Magazine and Carolina Bride – as well as special sections in The Charlotte Observer. Additionally, Sarah covers Charlotte as a Forbes Travel Guide correspondent, a Virgin Atlantic contributor, and on a freelance basis for various other national publications. Most recently, she has ventured into television, hosting weekly segments on Fox46 Carolinas highlighting Charlotte’s growing culinary scene.
Take a look at what Sarah had to say…
Q: What is your source of story ideas?
Oh, that’s a great question – there are so many places. I do receive pitches from public relations professionals and freelancers. Other sources are networking, communicating via social media, consuming other media and immersing myself in the community. I feel like, especially for regional publications like ours, it is critical to get involved in the community and actually go out and meet with the very individuals for whom I’m writing.
Q: How can communications professionals stand out and catch your attention?
There are two key things with me. (1) Understand my products because I can use the ideas; I do accept pitches and I am always looking for ideas. But, they do have to fit within the purview of my products in some way. I had several people tell me that I should do some sort of story on the local supermarket wars but I wasn’t quite sure how to fit that in the magazines. So, I reached out to another department at The Charlotte Observer and found vintage photos of the supermarkets and I was able to cover the story in that manner. That was definitely a result of someone bringing me an idea. (2) Persistence. I get so many emails. It may take more than one email for me to take note of a pitch and have it stand out in my inbox. If I’ve met someone face-to-face before, I will say that helps their email rise to the top.
Q: How are you evolving as a publication? What do you think is in store for the future?
We’re always looking for the next ‘thing’ that will attract readers, as well as new ways to present the information. For example, home design and the luxury home market rose to the top as interests that are trending with readers. While our products do offer some focus on those topics, we felt we needed a publication dedicated entirely to them. So, we decided to launch a new real estate publication in May that will appear in the Saturday paper.
Of course, digital is, and has to be, part of our long-term plan. We are continually evolving our web and social media presence. But, we don’t see print going away. Instead, we continue to develop print products that are even more user-friendly. In other words, we are doing things like decreasing the word count in many cases and offering readers more bite-sized pieces of information. And, we are more visual than we were in the past; we have found some amazing local photographers that have really taken us to the next level with their work and amped up the visual beauty of our products.
Q: How has social media impacted how you work?
It’s definitely a source of story ideas. Also, it’s great to have those contacts in the community and know what’s going on. And, we of course promote our products via social media.
Q: How do you feel like you and your team make your products stand out from the rest?
First – visually. We have evolved the products to have some beautiful photographs. Also, just having the right stories. That goes back to my belief in really being involved and connected in the community and having a pulse on what interests our readers. Lastly, having stories that really stand out as different. I’ve always believed in the saying from the journalism world that stories should ‘surprise and delight’ readers. I believe in that expression and I strive for it in all our publications.