Interview: Modern Media Maven – Melissa Hoyer
After years covering the style and society beat for Sydney's The Sunday Telegraph, Melissa Hoyer refashioned herself as a freelance lifestyle commentator, using her media mileage and bulging Little Black Book to strike up hosting arrangements, writing gigs with Australian Traveller and Grazia, and ambassadorial roles with the likes of Crossroads, Pantene and Westfield.
Two years into running her one-woman show, all the while performing single mum duties behind the scenes, Hoyer has another editing credit to her name: Rouge, a mini beauty magazine and dedicated website published by Procter & Gamble (P&G) and distributed to one million Australian homes.
While serving as a vehicle for P&G's female-friendly brand ads (Max Factor, Covergirl, Olay, SK-II, Herbal Essences, Pantene...), Hoyer has recruited a reputable team to bring the editorial pages to life, including fashion writer Glynis Traill-Nash, art director Cheryl Collins, journalist Sandra Lee, stylist Nicole Bonython-Hines and photographer Carlotta Moye. The magazine is also flush with findings from P&G's survey on cosmetic surgery. I chatted to Melissa about finding balance in work, rest and whiteboards.
GWAS: With all your media commitments, I imagine every day is a bit mad for you?
Melissa: I can look at next week and think, 'Oh, it's quite quiet', but because I work so much reacting on the news of that day – and someone will ring me and say, 'Come and do something on television', or 'Do something on radio' – I have to be always very prepared and ready to talk on anything at any point on any media.
On average, I probably do three television [appearances], on morning television, one of the evening shows or Sky News; radio I have a regular thing with Kyle and Jackie O here every week; others will ring me to comment on something or other; writing for Grazia is whatever they want; and my blog tends to get a bit lost because it's something I'll do after all my paying work. Unless you can monetize it, I can't be making a living out of blogging every day at this stage of the game.
There's this great myth about television of radio that you just go in there and rave about anything but you don't. You really have to succinctly put your opinion forward. You do have to research – you do have to be up on popular culture and news and trends. Just the research that goes into it – reading every mag, reading every online news site – takes a lot of time.
How did you find the transition into freelance? When you have the comfort zone of working with a big company – you've got your superannuation; you've got your weekly or monthly salary set in stone – it's a big thing to move away and create a new life.
Because I was established in my area – having been with News Limited for over 20 years – I had a reputation and I think I had integrity, which you need to be able to do that change successfully. I'd already developed contacts and people knew what I could do; I was able to segue into these great new things but the platform was the training and experience I got with News.
It didn't scare me – you sometimes have to get out of your comfort zone to recreate yourself. You get a bit complacent... It got to the point where the column I was writing, in my mind, had become pretty stale. I didn't want to become stale myself. Then I went to Bali, got back, and it was time to move on.
How do you manage your glossy alliances? I do a bit with Grazia, so in some editors minds I'm aligned to Grazia. But because it's a role where I don't go into the office, and it's quite a loose relationship, I still have to know as a fashion commentator if marie claire is celebrating 15 years or whether Who is doing their Best Dressed list. Nobody dumps me because I write occasionally for another magazine: I don't think they're that naïve. I actually quite like doing a bit for this one, a bit for that one – I'm liking discovering all these other companies. I did that for so long.
The website is about making it as general and lifestyle and fashion and beauty oriented as possible. Of course a site that is funded by P&G will feature P&G products but I don't think it's too narrow-minded with every story having a mention of a P&G product.
How did you bring it all together? We were basically given the book to fill. We could use some of the stories that were published in the American magazine but we wanted to generate local content and make it more us, and Australian, by bringing in local talent... Cheryl Collins, the art director, and I didn't want to be too bombarded by other magazines; we did look at the other Rouge magazines, but I didn't look to the local magazines to emulate. We wanted to make it as informative and clean and readable as possible. Because it's a small mag, we couldn't throw too many words on a page.
What's your opinion on cosmetic surgery? When we commissioned the survey – and it was a good, legitimate survey – the statistics were quite scary. One in two people have had or think it's absolutely fine to have something done, no questions...
It's a constant conundrum. I think all the glossy magazine editors must feel it – particularly over the whole airbrushing debate. They want to be seen as supporting real women, but then women out there actually want to see these nearly ethereal, unrealistic images. They have enough of the real world seven days a week.
We want to morally say one thing but then present something that's totally different. It's probably worse editing a high-end glossy. They're damned if they do; damned if they don't. Like with The Weekly with Marcia Hines – great cover but then it had to say, 'This cover has been airbrushed'. I think it's a shame they have to say it.
How do you keep organised? In front of me on my desk I have a monthly planner, so I can look at all of October, and next to me I have my sturdy old Filofax. That's a weekly one where I write down every appointment and it goes in my bag. But the best thing I got when I went freelance was a whiteboard... I write on it everything I'm doing – radio gigs, any ambassadorial gigs, invoices – so I can turn around and see what I've done and what I'm about to do...
I think I like being on one perpetual deadline. You do sometimes think, it might just be my time and in a year's time or two month's time, no one might want you. The media can be a very fickle beast. I may not be needed in certain areas in a year's time, so you do tend to say yes to everything. There are some things I do say no to: you may lose a few bucks by not doing it, but you look at the time and cost ratio. Having a child puts things into perspective. I love what I do but it's a means to an end as well; you have to keep your child fed and clothed. You don't just do it to satisfy yourself and pretend you're a rock star. You do it because it's your work and you have to earn some money.
Girl With a Satchel