Interview: Lisa Lillien

As a self-described "food gossip," Lisa Lillien started Hungry Girl in May 2004 as a way to share her knowledge of food with the public. Prior to founding the Web site, Lillien worked at Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon in TV production and online content-production roles. She also worked in magazine journalism.

As a self-described “food gossip,” Lisa Lillien started Hungry Girl in May 2004 as a way to share her knowledge of food with the public. Prior to founding the Web site, Lillien worked at Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon in TV production and online content-production roles. She also worked in magazine journalism.

PRWeek: How did you get the idea to start

Lisa Lillien: About seven years ago, I lost a bunch of weight. I lost close to 30 pounds and I became sort of a go-to person on guilt-free eating, and I was the one that would always find the best tasting foods and come up with fun and easy ways to make versions of the foods that everybody loves and craves and are typically fattening. And one day I just thought, ‘Wow, I can really share this information with a lot of people,' and that's really how the idea was born. I'm definitely a food gossip. I would be standing next to people at the supermarket watching them look at low-fat ice creams and then tell them which one tasted best. I just love to share information, and I thought Hungry Girl would be a great way to do that.

PRWeek: Can you talk a little bit about the topics you cover on Hungry Girl?

Lillien: is a free daily e-mail subscription service, and the idea is always to keep it fun and different. So every day of the week there is different content. Monday is news day, and so we have all the latest stories and product releases and studies and things like that. On Tuesday, we have something called ‘Chew the Right Thing,' and typically we compare the best and worse of one [type of food]. And usually it's a recipe, so this week we had a bacon cheeseburger, and we had our version, which we compared to a really fattening, horrible version. Wednesday we have ‘Ask Hungry Girl', and that's two questions advice, similar to like a Dear Abby advice column. Thursday and Friday, that's ‘Girls Bite Out' and the ‘Weekly Weigh-In,' and those are more revolving door content pieces – recipes, survival guides. We mix it up a lot.

PRWeek: Is there a specific target demographic for your Web site and e-mail newsletter? Or does it reach different types of people?

Lillien: It does, it reaches like a ridiculous amount and variety of people. I would say the demo is probably 18-54 [years old], but…because I have content in Seventeen magazine we reach a lot of people who are younger. And then also we have plenty of people in their seventies and eighties. We hear from people that they heard about it from their grand-daughter, their grandmother, their sister, their mom, their best friend, their teacher. So it does reach a huge variety of people.

PRWeek: Since health and nutrition are topics covered by many media outlets, how do you set your Web site apart?

Lillien: Well I think Hungry Girl is different. Mainly because I'm a regular person – I'm not a nutritionist, I'm not a doctor; I'm just hungry. That's one of the taglines I use, but it's really true. There's no brand out there that's a voice of the people from a regular person. And I think it's the perspective and the friend-to-friend tone of Hungry Girl that makes it a little bit more relatable and different from everything else that's out there.

PRWeek: Does it ever become difficult to find new and interesting content to distribute to your readers?

Lillien: No, actually people ask me that all the time because we have so much daily content and weekly content and it changes all the time. There's so much out there and the industry is just booming. There are always new products to review and new product finds and recipes, and I mean it's just never ending. There's never a shortage of good ideas.

PRWeek: Where do you find your information?

Lillien: The information is found everywhere. I've got a staff, and we're all obsessed with food and we love this, and we go to supermarkets all the time. And now we have close to half a million people on the list and they are very vocal. We have relationships with them and they e-mail ideas. Also food companies are sending dozens of boxes to our office each week. So the ideas come from a lot of different places.

PRWeek: Do you get a lot of feedback from readers based on your reviews?

Lillien: Yes, and I mean tons of feedback, and I love it, because that's the way to know if you're giving them what they want and if they agree with you. I think the one thing I didn't mention is that I think I have really excellent taste buds. And I think that may sound silly, but it's a little bit of a talent to be able to taste something and know whether the majority of people will actually love it or hate it, because everyone's taste buds are different obviously. And I think I'm pretty good at tasting something and knowing whether the masses will give it a thumbs up or say it's terrible.

PRWeek: Do you have any plans to expand or do anything different with the Web site in the future?

Lillien: Well with the site itself, we'll continue with the daily e-mails, and we may add some video and some fun stuff that way. Obviously now we have a book, and I'm going to be doing books – two and three for sure. I just did a deal with St. Martin's for two more books, and I just hope to continue doing what I'm doing and see what opportunities come my way.

PRWeek: What is your relationship with PR people? Do you have any advice for them when they are trying to pitch you?

Lillien: I have great relationships with PR people. There are probably three or four big PR firms in the food industry and I know a lot of people from those firms, and I love when they send products that are appropriate my way. I think the advice I would give is to not pitch me with, you know, if you have a fruit juice drink that is 150 calories for eight ounces. They should pay attention to what the [Hungry Girl] brand focuses on instead of just pitching really fattening foods, which makes it more tempting when it actually shows up at the office. But I'm just being selfish there aren't I?

PRWeek: Can you talk a little about your career path before you started Hungry Girl?

Lillien: Before I started Hungry Girl, I was in the entertainment industry, and I worked a long time ago in print, in magazines. And then I worked for Nickelodeon for a bunch of years, and I was part of the team that launched the Nickelodeon brands online. I was executive producer of Nick at Night and TV Land online, and then I worked for Warner Bros. for a while. So I've done a lot of online content production and some TV production as well.

PRWeek: Have you always had an interest in working in the online area?

Lillien: Yes, because since 1995 I've been involved in online, so I've produced a lot of [Web] sites and I love it. I've done a lot of interesting online production.

Name: Lisa Lillien

Title: Founder

Outlet: Hungry Girl

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