Q&A with Gaby Huddart — Editor-in-Chief of Good Housekeeping and Group Editorial Director at Hearst Lifestyle

MediaCat chat to Gaby about gazing into the future, adapting to the times, the cost of living crisis, eco-focused features and Good Housekeeping's 100th birthday

Hi Gaby, how’s it going this year? How’s the pandemic been for you, and your publications?

Gaby: 2022 is proving to be an exceptionally busy year as it’s our 100th birthday of Good Housekeeping and we’re marking the occasion throughout the entire year with a number of initiatives, so there’s plenty going on. As a brand, from the very first issue of Good Housekeeping, our declared mission was that “The burning questions of the day will be reflected in articles that are fearless and frank and outspoken.” To continue this mission, this year we’ve asked leading experts to write for us with their predictions for the coming decades in a new series called Future Gazing. James Dyson has written for us on the future of engineering and inventions, for example, and Deborah Meaden has laid out where she thinks entrepreneurs will succeed in the future. Meanwhile, Liz Bonnin has given her forecast on sustainability and the future of our planet, and Dame Sarah Gilbert has looked at the possibility of future pandemics and how we might deal with them… it’s a fascinating series.

Gaby Huddart

Our own team of experts are also marking the year by pulling together their 100 best pieces of advice in all our specialist areas including beauty, cookery and homes among others — all of which are being published on our website. We’ve also launched the Futures prize, in partnership with the Women’s Prize for Fiction, to highlight the next generation of female authors. Good Housekeeping’s audience are currently reading the works of the 10 authors on the shortlist and voting for their favourite — this overall winner will be announced in our December issue of the magazine. Another first for us this year is the very first Good Housekeeping Live event, which we’re holding in central London at the end of June — a three-day festival of talks and demonstrations featuring our own and guest experts, authors and celebrities.

So there’s a lot, and whilst I could look back and say how amazingly we fared during the pandemic (Editor’s note: they did well), we’re all about making the most of our big birthday and looking ahead.

You’ve been at Hearst UK for 9 years now, what have you seen change and evolve in that time, in terms of what content you focus on and what people find important?

GH: Each year brings fresh focus — which is what makes my job so exciting. Good Housekeeping’s success over the past 100 years — and during my tenure — is largely attributed to the magazine’s core brand proposition. The very first issue promised readers: “There should be no drudgery in the house. There must be time to think, to read, to enjoy life — to hold one’s youth as long as possible, to have beauty around us — colour in dress, form and colour in our surroundings; to have good food without monotony.”

That approach remains central to our content, but we’re always flexing and adapting to fit the times. Giving our audience advice and answers on how to live more sustainably has become increasingly important, as has guidance on healthy living; as lifespans continue to grow. We’re continuously reviewing our platforms, too, looking to connect with each emerging generation in digital first spaces. We’re already getting a great following on TikTok, thanks, for example, to our cleaning videos, which are becoming increasingly popular.

Our monthly theme in May was ‘Face The Strange’: to what extent are we turning to face strange changes? How well do you feel Good Housekeeping and Hearst have moved with the times and evolved, and what challenges have you faced?

GH: We’re very tuned into change across all our brands at Hearst, and the way we tackle challenges varies slightly depending on our audience. That said, evaluating the type of content we put out — and how it’s delivered to readers — is crucial. For Good Housekeeping, that means broaching topics like the menopause, with both sensitivity and positivity. We ran an excellent interview with Davina McCall in a recent print issue, where she went into detail about her own experience.

We focus on the ‘how’, too. Print remains the cornerstone of the Good Housekeeping brand, but we’re investing heavily in online content and social media. Our aim as a brand is to ensure that we operate across all possible platforms so that, wherever our audiences are, we can connect with them.

In your letter [on the website] reflecting on 100 years you say you’re proud of your heritage and excited by the future. Is it a challenge to get people excited about the future when many are struggling with the cost of living? On the website you offer advice, but is it becoming harder to strike a balance between positive and uplifting and pragmatic and realistic? What do you think your audience want these days?

GH: You’re right. Good Housekeeping’s mission has always been to offer informative, uplifting content, balanced with sound advice. As you can imagine, the past 100 years have brought a multitude of challenges cross-decade — from WW2 to economic recession — and our challenge has been to adapt content accordingly to fit the times in which our audience are living.

We know families are being impacted by the current financial situation, so we’re honing in our content on value-for-money products and giving our trademark Tried and Tested advice, much of which comes from our state-of-the-art testing centre, The Good Housekeeping Institute. Keep an eye out for our September print issue, where we’re pulling together advice from experts on how best to weather the cost-of-living crisis. The team are working hard on that, and investigating everything from how to cook in an affordable way to how best to manage household budgets.

Our approach with everything is perennially positive — yes, life brings challenges and that’s precisely when Good Housekeeping can help with great information and advice.

Have you also found that subscribers want more of a focus on sustainability and sustainable living, whether that’s food, fashion or beauty?

GH: Sustainability is becoming hugely important to our readers. We now run eco-focused features in both print and online, across homes, cooking and beauty — dedicated to helping our readers make small but impactful changes. We find that many people want to be more environmentally friendly, but a lot of the time they don’t know where to start. That’s where our content comes in. Having one eye on sustainability is now part of the job, for all of our journalists and experts. For instance, when it comes to Christmas we know our audience want ideas for decorating their homes, but want to know the most sustainable options, from Christmas trees to baubles. We’re dedicated to helping them navigate these choices.

Sticking with ‘facing the strange’, with your editor hat on, are there certain areas or topics you’d love to be able to tackle one day, but fear your audience might not take so well to them?

GH: To be honest, I wouldn’t be a very good editor if I were focused on my own interests! I’m always driven to highlight areas I believe will be of interest to my audience. My mission is to provide them with all the information, inspiration and advice they need across all areas of life. It’s by being razor sharp with our audience focus that we keep Good Housekeeping as the number one lifestyle magazine brand.

Finally, what excites you about the year ahead? Any projects you’d like to point our readers towards?

2022 marks the magazine’s 100th anniversary in the UK, and we have exciting plans in the pipeline. Next month we’ll be taking over the beautiful Carlton House Terrace for three days to host our centenary event, Good Housekeeping Live. We have an incredible line-up of celebrity speakers and expert-led masterclasses, as well as lunches, brunches and afternoon teas. It’s going to be a fabulous event that brings talent, editors and readers together after a long stint of virtual experiences. Everyone is welcome, and tickets are on sale now.

Please note: Good Housekeeping Live has been postponed until October, due to rail strikes. More info here.

Featured image: Good Housekeeping