Modern Bride has recently joined forces with ex-rival Bride's at Conde Nast. Eric Arnold discovers that the title sees PR pros as an ideal way of keeping in touch with what's going on in the outside world.
Once again, it's wedding season. And though most people only begin to think about bridesmaid dresses, tuxedos, and flowers as the weather gets warm, Modern Bride has everything from veils to cakes to the Chicken Dance on the brain pretty much all year round. But that's not to say one should expect the same thing out of each bimonthly issue.
Quite the contrary, in fact. "Because of our name, we tend to change with the times, says Antonia van der Meer, editor-in-chief of the 354,000-circulation title. It's also why the magazine doesn't have a strict editorial calendar. The biggest change, however, is Conde Nast's recent acquisition of Modern Bride, making it part of the company's new bridal group, alongside former rival Bride's.
"The editorial staffs remain separate, says van der Meer. "Beginning with our August/September issue, we're no longer head-to-head with Bride's. They will do October/November. So we'll each have six issues a year, and they'll be staggered so readers will be able to pick up both."
The strategy, van der Meer explains, is to keep the newsstands fresh, with a new bridal magazine each month. "The two voices will remain distinct, she says. "No two brides are alike, so they'll be able to get everything they want from both sources."
And by "everything, she means everything. The typical engagement lasts 18 months, so the magazine provides information appropriate from the moment the would-be groom gets down on one knee to soon after the happy couple returns from the honeymoon.
It's a necessary approach, van der Meer claims, because brides-to-be pay attention to little other media as their wedding nears. "We find that while planning their wedding, women pretty much read only bridal magazines, so this is where they'll get their sex and health information. We try to cover them in all areas of their lives, she says.
The front-of-book sections - such as Beautywire, Style Matters, What's Modern, and Bridal Buzz - are the key areas of Modern Bride, and are fair game for PR pitches, along with the travel and living sections further inside. "PR people are one of our connections to the outside world, says van der Meer, who says that her section editors prefer to be contacted via mail. "We like to hear from them since they often bring us interesting facts."
For example, a study by Schnapps recently pointed out that 71% of bachelorette parties have male strippers, a factoid that ran in Bridal Buzz in the June/July issue.
There are five features in the current issue, but the section van der Meer is aiming to expand is beauty. "We're always looking for news, new products, and interesting facts, she says. "When we look for products, we look for everything - nails, skin, and hair. They needn't be wedding-specific, because the bride is testing out lots of things, and she wants to look her best through the whole engagement, not just her wedding day."
That, combined with the six- to seven-month lead time and the length of the engagement period, means the magazine isn't concerned with seasonal material, or even exclusives (though van der Meer admits that if Modern Bride is photographing a dress, she wants hers to be the only magazine doing it). "PR people don't have to worry about giving us something that's perfect for Valentine's Day, because someone should be planning for a wedding for any time when they pick up the issue."
The only thing PR people do need to be concerned with is appropriateness, even though van der Meer doesn't claim to have a section that's closed to pitches. "I occasionally get things to do with kids or parenting, which I can't do anything with - someone once sent us designer diapers. It's a common-sense approach: planning a wedding, setting up a home, planning a honeymoon. You're pretty safe in those areas. And I'm interested in what experts have to say."
She adds that editors Linda Seidman and Linda Hirst are the go-to girls for the magazine's lifestyle coverage, with Seidman looking for material about housewares, stationary, and tech toys, and Hirst covering the home.
Flexibility is important when pitching, says Virginia Haynes of BCA Communications, who often pitches Modern Bride's travel section. "I just took a group of journalists to Zanzibar, she says. "A lot of honeymooners are looking for exotic locales. Donna (Heider-stadt, travel editor) could not go on the trip, but I had a freelancer going, so I put the two of them together. That's a good way of working with an editor - it's a sort of give and take."
Another important thing to keep in mind, says van der Meer, is that if something's not right for Modern Bride, it may be for its new sister title.
"Bride's is looking for a lot of the same information. Look at that side of the wedding world too, she advises.
Address: Conde Nast Publications, 4 Times Square, NY, NY 10036
Tel: (212) 286-2860
Editor-in-chief: Antonia van der Meer
Beauty director: Mary Clarke
Fashion director: Martine Aerts-Niddam
Bridal Buzz: Joanna Saltz
Lifestyle: Linda Hirst, Linda Seidman
Accessories: Tanya Riddell
Travel: Donna Heiderstadt