GWAS Girl In Media - Georgia Rickard

Charged with the task of editing a food magazine in the
face of monolithic competitor marketing budgets, the omnipresence of MasterChef and Aussie consumer cutbacks, Australian Healthy Food Guide's Georgia Rickard has her work cut out. But the vivacious 24-year-old (yes, 24 – that's where the energy comes from!) has a passion for her magazine and its team that outweighs any circulation threats. Rickard took time out from her hectic Healthy Food life to chat about forging her career in media and the little food title that could.

What were your passions and interests growing up? Gymnastics, books, horses, books, reading and … books! The local library used to have a policy of lending out no more than 10 books at once, so every week I’d be in there, exchanging my 10 for a fresh lot.

Which magazines did you read as a tween/teen? TV Hits, Girlfriend, Dolly and Cosmo. Dolly Doctor changed my life! I can still remember having walls covered with posters of Shannon from Home and Away (Isla Fischer) and JTT – Jonathon Taylor Thomas (whatever happened to him?). At that age – from 10 to about 14 – you’ve got no independence, and you’re still really trying to figure out who you are, so mags made a big impression on me. 

What did you do after school? I jumped straight into a Communications degree at UTS, then spent a year in France.

Why magazine journalism? 
I have always, always, always wanted to write, and I’d read mags so closely for so long that it seemed like a natural progression.

Who were some of your career role models/why? Mia Freedman – the original over-achiever; my mum (can I say that?), who showed me that you can do anything, as long as you believe in yourself; and, more recently, Zoe Foster. Anyone who reaches out and grabs their goals with both hands gets my thumbs up.

How did you get your start in mags and how has your career progressed? 
I did a short stint with a small mag in France. Then I came home to reality and went straight to a recruitment agency, looking for a job – any job – writing. Instead, they offered me a job with them! I spent a year knocking down doors, selling recruitment to people, before I got back to the writing dream. I’m so glad I did it – it gave me the skills I needed to pick up the phone and sell my skills as a writer. Since then, I’ve worked with some really great titles, including Cosmo, Cleo, Body + Soul (Sunday Telegraph), and Women’s Health.

What appealed to you about working on Australian Healthy Food Guide? Its potential. It’s still an evolving title. And we’re really only at the tip of the iceberg for nutrition as an emerging science. There’s so much misinformation out there, it’s great to work for a mag that sets things straight.

What sets AHFG apart from other health magazines on the stands?
 Our credibility. Absolutely everything in the mag is written and/or reviewed by qualified experts – dietitians, scientists, nutritionists, exercise physiologists. It’s all scientifically referenced – and we actually include those citations in the mag. For us, it’s about health – not fitting into a tiny pair of jeans. Nothing is ever sensationalised. You can trust what you read.

Who is your reader? 
Does anybody ever really know? We have so many different readers. There’s the mothers who want the best for their kids; the people who simply have a genuine interest in health; the people who have never learnt how to cook with vegies before but suddenly need to because they’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease; the dietitians who read it for the latest research findings; those with food allergies or intolerances who want dairy- or gluten-free recipes. It’s a giant, diverse community.

How does AHFG compete with the big guns?
 We don’t try to be like anyone else. So many mags compete for each others’ readers. We’re speaking to people who want something different.

You recently achieved a healthy circulation gain. What do you put this down to? I get so many letters from readers saying, “I found out about you through a friend/saw you at the supermarket, and I read my first issue from cover to cover! I can’t believe I’ve never read this before!”. I think it’s a word of mouth thing. But there’s still soooo much to evolve – the voice is evolving; the design is evolving; our cover is evolving. There’s so much room still to grow. I’m also lucky to be under the mentorship of Danielle Tibbles, who has edited and/or published every food mag under the sun – Vogue Entertaining + Travel, Super Food Ideas, delicious., Australian Good Taste… you get the idea!

What does your role as editor involve?
 People think editors spend their lives working on the mag itself, but that really only takes up about a third of my time. The rest is spent meeting with clients, doing radio/TV interviews, brainstorming ideas, coming up with marketing angles, thinking up PR stunts and advertorial props, organising and structuring upcoming features, commissioning features and recipes, trying new products (always fun), trying new recipes (always fun), balancing out the budget (not always fun)…

What does an average day look like for you? Arrive at work around 8:30am and eat a big bowl of blueberries with some muesli, delegate tasks for the coming days/week to the team, attend a couple of internal meetings, maybe head out for a meeting with a client, do a couple of radio interviews, have a lively debate about something irrelevant with whoever’s nearby…

Lunch is usually eaten at my desk, or on the run. Maybe I’ll attend the launch of a new product (and sneak in a glass of wine!). In the afternoons, I like to flip through other mags and check out what’s going on around the publishing world. It’s a great way to get inspiration and I really appreciate reading a good mag. There’s so much creativity out there. Sometimes I still can’t believe it’s my job to sit at my desk and flick!

Usually there’s also a couple more meetings in the afternoon – we’ve also been doing lots of work with Kevin Humphries (NSW shadow minister for healthy lifestyles), so I might head over to parliament for a catch up with him. Otherwise, I’ll do some actual work on the mag. It’s rare that I write many features these days, but I’m still very involved in every word we print, so I definitely stay close to everything before and after it’s subbed.

By 3:30, the choccie is usually broken out (especially at deadline time!). We share something in the office most days. There’s almost always a new food that’s been delivered to try in the office – chips, frozen meals, chocolate spreads, wine, biscuits – whatever.

I usually leave around 6:30 or 7pm, by which stage I’m pretty exhausted. Reading over what I’ve written, it doesn’t sound like a tough job, but it is actually very demanding, and I pour all my energy into it. Some days I’m ready for a nap before lunchtime!

How big is your team? What are their roles?

Apart from myself, there’s:
- Our dietitian, Bobbie – she writes for us, reviews everything we print, analyses recipes to ensure they’re nutritionally sound and does the odd radio interview or TV appearance (when we need an ‘expert’ on air);
- Our sub editor, Rachel – a grammar, punctuation, accuracy and readability control freak who also manages the website;
- Our junior writer, Michelle –Australia’s next big writing star;
- Our art director, Sue, who turns plain text into a world of beautiful pages;
- Our designer-at-large, Fiona, who has been working on the mag for the last three years and knows it inside and out; and
- Our production assistant, Kylie, without whom we couldn’t put the mag together.
Then there’s admin, accounts, marketing, sales, management and the New Zealand team. We work very closely with them.

What gives you the most job satisfaction? 
Once upon a time, I would have said writing, without a doubt. But I absolutely love the creativity, control and self expression that comes with editing. Not to mention the high from hearing that our latest issue is a great sale!

What are your favourite pastimes outside of work? Reading, talking (truly – if you knew me, you’d agree), exercising, hanging out with my friends, playing with my gorgeous puppy, Kingston, cooking, drinking wine, debating, watching Entourage (I can’t get enough of that show) and shopping.

Which magazines do you read? I have to confess, I don’t read as many as I used to – it feels a bit like work these days! I still read Women’s Health – love their voice and really appreciate their design – along with Vanity Fair, marie claire (AUS), Grazia and Famous. The subject matter of those mags is so far from what I do, which is probably why I enjoy reading them so much!

Your top 5 online destinations:

SMH – perfect for catching up on news snippets during a lunch break.
Webjet – I’m constantly checking out flights. And daydreaming about jumping on one of them.
Bluefly – their products are great, they ship quickly, and all the seasonal styles go on sale just in time for the season here. What’s not to love?
Amazon – Books, books, books, books. I LOVE having a new read show up in the mail.
Facebook – I know, I know.

Your next holiday destination?
 Byron Bay with five of my girlfriends.
Looking forward to... Having a glass of wine in the bath when I get home tonight.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel