Interview: Chandra Czape

Chandra Czape has worked at CosmoGIRL for four years, including three as deputy editor, before moving into the executive editor's office. She discusses some of the challenges and perks that come with working at a teen magazine with PRWeek.

Chandra Czape has worked at CosmoGIRL for four years, including three as deputy editor, before moving into the executive editor's office. She discusses some of the challenges and perks that come with working at a teen magazine with PRWeek.

PRWeek: Although it may seem obvious, what is the specific demographic of your magazine's audience?

Chandra Czape: Well we reach girls between 14 and 22 [years old], but our main audience is girls that are in their junior or senior year in high school, or freshman year in college, with the target of about 16 or 17 years old. I think it's 16.5 [years old] if you ask the marketing folks.

PRWeek: What do you think are the most interesting and important themes that your magazine covers?

Czape: I think that what really makes us stand out it is that we have the most leadership initiative in the magazines. We have a program called Project 2024 that you may have heard about. It's probably our most popular column – it's our flagship column – we've been doing for six years now.

It's about getting a girl in the White House or in any top leadership position by the year 2024. The year 2024 is the first time she would be able to run for [President]; she would be 35 years old. This is our average reader, at least when we started this six years ago. So it's a pretty amazing program.

A film company, the same one that produced Mad Hot Ballroom, followed our 2024 interns and produced a documentary about it, which is coming out now.

So we have the project 2024 internship program, we have the story in the magazine, and then we have tons of other leadership opportunities. We work with the United Nations Association [of the USA] and we have our “born to lead” scholarships every year, so I could go on and on. I think it kind of goes above and beyond what other teen magazines do.

PRWeek: How does CosmoGIRL differentiate itself from competitors? Is there anything else you do, or is the project 2024 program your main way of differentiating?

Czape: I think it is our main way of differentiating. We still reach other aspects of girls' lives and we don't forget that she does like her lip-gloss, like I do, and she does really enjoy fashion. We try to make it practical and usable for her. But we also recognize that she really wants to go to college and she's a leader in her own world.

PRWeek: What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?

Czape: I think the biggest challenge of being a teen editor is trying to keep on top of what all the teenagers are doing. They really set the pace, and we have to not only keep up with them, but be one step ahead of them. We have to give them what they don't even know they want yet, and that's kind of tricky when they're at the forefront of all culture and trends in the country. I think that's our biggest challenge.

PRWeek: How do you go about keeping on top of what they are doing, and what they want?

Czape: Well the nice thing is that we have the Web site. We launched www.cosmogirl.com at the same time we launched CosmoGIRL. We've been really lucky that we have this really great Web community where we can tap into them constantly. We can ask questions online and get an answer with 10,000 results in a couple days, which is just phenomenal. So you don't ever have to guess what they want.

PRWeek: Being that so many teenage girls spend a tremendous amount of time creating web content these days, how does CosmoGIRL aim to reach its audience in the online realm?

Czape: Well we're also creating Web content, and we're promoting more ways on CosmoGirl.com for them to create Web content. We're keeping up with them and trying to make sure that we provide what they want online, and we know what they're doing and what they're up to.

I should also mention, we just had this virtual prom where girls took dates to prom on www.there.com on March 27, and it was extraordinarily successful. We were kind of nervous if anyone was going to show up to our prom, but they did, and it was pretty incredible. That's the kind of thing that no one is doing, and we really have to stay on the forefront and make sure we are doing these things and being a trendsetter. The girls really like it and they're responding, so it's pretty cool.

PRWeek: Is working at a teen magazine something you aspired to when you first started out as a journalist?

Czape: Well I always wanted to work in women's magazines. I was a big feminist in college, and I wanted to change the world; I like to think that I am a little.

I just went back to my alma mater this weekend and talked to a bunch of journalism students, and it was pretty cool to hear them talking about what they wanted to do, and it made me all nostalgic.

I used to think I would work at The New Yorker or something when I was really young but I've always wanted to be in women's magazines as long as I've really wanted to be in magazines. I think teen magazines are just a much more intense version of women's magazines, and I've worked at about nine different women's magazines. They (teen girls) are much more in touch with you, they have more time. When I was working at the older women's books, the readers were very dedicated, but they were not quite as responsive, so you didn't get nearly the amount of feedback you do here. It's really nice. It makes the job easier and harder, but it's certainly far more interesting.

PRWeek: Do you have any advice for PR professionals who are trying to pitch your magazine?

Czape: I would say be specific. I get lots of mass e-mails for maternity clothes and wrinkle cream, and you know that girls really don't need those. When they're specific, they are really helpful. I think that if you pitch the specific editor and those you have relationships with, rather than the mass mailings, it tends to workout better.

PRWeek: What is the best part of your job?

Czape: Working with the staff is my favorite part. We have a lot of really creative people here on staff and they always have all these really great ideas, and it's just really exciting to be a part of that young culture. It's exciting to be a part of a magazine that sets trends and is on the cutting edge of what is going on in pop culture.

PRWeek: How do you go about choosing the celebrities your magazine features every month? Is that a detailed process?

Czape: It's very detailed. We want to make sure we pick young women that our girls really love. It's a very tricky science. In fact I don't even know if you can call it a science because nobody really knows. It's very mysterious what styles, and what girls want to buy at that given moment, because you just don't really know.

But I want to feature girls that our girls are talking about or will be talking about when [the magazines] hit the stands. So that's what we're always trying to do is figure out who is going to be hot at that very moment and who people are going to want to rip off the cover and post up on their bedroom wall. It's a constant game of who is hot and who the one everyone is buzzing about is. But I think we do a really good job, and we've had some really amazing covers in the last year.

Name: Chandra Czape

Title: executive editor

Outlet: CosmoGIRL

Preferred contact method: cmczape@hearst.com

Web site: www.CosmoGIRL.com

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