Interview: Mary Anne Potts

Mary Anne Potts started at National Geographic Adventure as assistant to the editor in chief in November 2000. She worked her way up the ladder in assistant and associate editor roles before landing her current position as online editor/associate editor, where spends about 90% of her time working for the online side of the publication. She spoke to PRWeek about the publication and its Web site.

Mary Anne Potts started at National Geographic Adventure as assistant to the editor in chief in November 2000. She worked her way up the ladder in assistant and associate editor roles before landing her current position as online editor/associate editor, where spends about 90% of her time working for the online side of the publication. She spoke to PRWeek about the publication and its Web site.

PRWeek: Have you always had an interest in adventure related topics and activities?

Potts: I grew up in Minnesota and we were always exploring the outdoors in all seasons. In college I did as much traveling overseas as I could. Adventure is a magazine for people who want to be active in the outdoors and are curious about the world around them, but you certainly don't have to be a diehard mountaineer or extreme mountain biker. It's really about pushing your own boundaries. Since I've been at the magazine, I've had a ton of fun trying new things—kayaking, trekking, going on safari.

PRWeek: Do you think the Web site for National Geographic Adventure helps you better engage and interact with your readers?

Potts: There's definitely a community of like-minded people behind Adventure. We cram as much as we can onto pages of the print magazine, but there's so much that we can do online. Our site includes video and interactive features that complement our print stories. But then there's also breaking news, too. For example, when the several climbers were recently trapped on K2, we were following it on our blog.

PRWeek: How has the Web site evolved over the past few years?
Potts:
It has definitely changed a lot. We just redesigned our site at the end of May and now we have a very dynamic platform that includes videos and interactive maps. We're also really focusing on our photography—it's something that we feel like we do pretty well and love to share it with big, gorgeous photos. This year, we recruited a cast of expert bloggers who cover everything from survival to sustainable travel. We've also just entered the world of user comments, and it's been fun to get people's direct responses to the things we cover.

As a Web site, we want to be a resource for people to plan an adventure. We've focused a lot of time on developing travel tools, like rating the top adventure travel companies and finding world's best new guided trips, to help people have incredible experiences.

PRWeek: Has the current economic situation had any affect on the content you publish, either on the Web or in print?

Potts: Both yes and no. Adventure has always been focused on covering big, ambitious life-list trips, but we also give equal time to easy weekend trips. We have a whole section in the magazine called Next Weekend. It features great things that you can do out your own backdoor to destress—and not spend a lot of money. Next Weekend is also a prominent area on our Web site, where we've posted plenty of trips to get readers through the economic slump.

PRWeek: Can you talk a little bit about a particularly good PR pitch you've received?

Potts: Because we cover active, authentic outdoor travel, the things that are more general travel pitches, like ‘What's going on in Prague,' don't really work for us. But the pitches that provide detailed information with a news hook are interesting to us. Certainly pitches involving conservation are good, too. And we're always covering gear—and not only things like jackets and hiking boots, but cameras, mobile phones, and laptops. So pitches that are timely with new adventure products are great. We also love learning about all the green initiatives have been popping up, whether it's sustainable travel, conservation, or technology.

But one thing that's been pretty effective that some PR folks have done is give us access to really interesting people who we don't know of otherwise. For example, earlier this year Scotland Tourism, to promote tourism to Scotland, brought in the world's foremost authority on Loch Ness. We gathered our whole staff together to hear about Scotland—and, of course, the Loch Ness monster. Along those same lines, a safari tour company recently introduced us to one of their safari directors, who is a Masai chief. From an editorial point of view, this approach opens the door to all kinds of opportunities.

PRWeek: Have you ever gotten any real strange pitches?

Potts: We had a really good experience with something offbeat that wasn't necessarily a pitch. One of the companies we work with was doing an event where they were pairing wine with exotic foods—like edible scorpions and honey-glazed tarantulas. We were on a deadline and the editors who were going to go couldn't make it, so the PR team brought us over a basket of goodies. We really didn't expect to end the night nibbling on a tarantula legs.

PRWeek: Did it lead to a story in Adventure?

Potts: Yes, we did cover it. I guess the other thing about editorial is a lot of times it takes a while for the gears to turn an idea into a printed story—though the Web can certainly be faster. But we did end up doing something about the exotic food and the wine, so it worked out for everyone.

Name: Mary Anne Potts
Title: associate editor and online editor

Outlet: National Geographic Adventure

Preferred contact method: mpotts@ngs.org

Web site: www.adventure.nationalgeographic.com

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