Glossy Talk: Frank by name, frank by nature – marie claire Australia's formidable editor
On the publication of her magazine's 15th anniversary issue, all eyes are on Jackie Frank, the tenacious editor/publisher of marie claire Australia whose eccentric office behaviour (conducting meetings while on the treadmill) and fearsome management style are the stuff of industry folklore (and tears shed in the toilet cubicles by staff).
It takes a certain kind of girl (or bloke – the wonderful Matt Cosgrove is her current art director) to work for Frank (I hear being embedded in Afghanistan is safer). Not all survive with egos intact; glossy dreams have been realised and dashed under her watchful eye and some bear post-traumatic war wounds akin to Gulf War syndrome.
But those who do make it often go on to great things, like her former deputy Nicky Briger, who now edits Who and has penned a colourful profile of her former boss for marie claire's September issue, as well as her competitor at Madison, Lizzie Renkert (who's also run with Kylie on the cover this issue) and Kerry Parnell, assistant editor at The Sunday Telegraph.
Love her or loathe her, there's no mistaking that Frank presides over one of the industry's most lucrative and respected titles: it ranks third to The Australian Women's Weekly and Cosmopolitan in copy sales, boasts the sort of high-end advertising that makes shareholders salivate and was a key media facilitator for the paid maternity leave scheme.
Frank recently talked to James Manning of Mediaweek about her tenure at marie claire...
How do you keep the title fresh after 15 years as editor? You know what – the thing about marie claire is its breadth of content and that's what keeps you engaged. Our content goes from the fashion and the beauty to hard-hitting stories and issues that affect women. It enriches my life as a human being and I find it all just really stimulating. Sure, some parts of the job are repetitive, but I am so lucky to have a job I enjoy. The hardest part and the most rewarding part is working with the staff. I have lost some great people, which is sad, because I become very attached to high achievers and it is difficult to have to train new people to replace them.
Do you have special autonomy as editor and publisher? It's not autonomy... it just means more work.
Are you a good delegator? Hmm [thinks then yells across the office to colleagues]. They all said yes! I always say to people, this is your job, this is what you have to do. If you work here and you do your job well there's no limits to what you can get involved in.
Many dud decisions in 15 years? Putting a man on the cover was a big dud decision, and it only happened once. It was George Clooney photographed with Renee Zellweger and Renee was normally a good seller.
Have you employed many people who never worked out? Of course I have. The longer you stay in a job, the more enemies you create. There's always someone who is disgruntled and that number adds up the longer you are around.
Career highlights? I absolutely loved the "What Women Want" seminars. We brought a women's magazine to the forefront and brought it to life. It started with around 200 women and it went all the way to a TV show on Network 10. The other was our eight-year campaign for paid maternity eave. When the bill went through, we were contacted by Canberra to congratulate us. It's great to have a woman prime minister, but we still need to fight for better child care and equal pay. It was great to be named MPA Magazine of the Year  and then I later won editor of the year. [Frank finally got the award after five successive years as a nominee.]
What do you like most about editing? I love sitting behind the art director. We have a new art director – Matt Cosgrove – and he's incredibly creative. I love sitting there and watching the layouts being done. That's part of the process I really enjoy.
Do you have a dummy book made up prior to finishing an issue? Yes we do [laughs], but it doesn't get delivered to my house as it was in Anna Wintour's house in the movie about US Vogue, The September Issue.
How many ways do you annoy your staff? [Frank asks her colleagues.] How long have you got? [Laughs]. I'm impatient, I can take up a meeting and get bored quickly or I can keep it going for way too long. [A staffer then prompts her]. I like everything to be shiny and new, which is hard when you have a three-month lead time. I change things all the time – I think I'm working on a weekly, I don't realise that marie claire is a monthly.
What are your annual trips? Every two years we have a marie claire international conference, and they are fun. Twice a year to Paris and Milan for the collections.
Do you argue much with management? I fight for what I think is right for the brand. I see myself as the marie claire brand champion. To be honest, sometimes I even fight with the French. I love the relationship I have with marie claire international, they are incredible. The former publisher, Matt Handbury, was very much about the product and he really ingrained the need for service journalism into us and how the journalism, marketing and advertising had to work together. When we moved to Pacific Magazines, [CEO] Nick Chan is a very different person to Matt, but I have learnt business skills more at Pacific. I feel so lucky to have two different CEOs with two different strengths.
Is there really a story about you in [the September issue of] the magazine? I only agreed on the condition that Nicky Briger [editor of Who] wrote the story. She said yes, but on the condition that I wasn't allowed to edit it! [Laughs} Nicky didn't interview me, but spoke with people who have worked on the magazine. There is also a reportage feature on behind-the-scenes on marie claire.
Are you happy with Nicky's story? I laughed!
Q&A republished with permission from Mediaweek.
Girl With a Satchel