Telum Talks To... Sophie Pettit, Editor-in-Chief, Localiiz
Congrats on become a Hong Kong Permanent resident. Could you tell us what was your first impression of Hong Kong seven years ago and how has it changed?
Thank you. It’s been quite an adventure - seven years has flown by! Well, like many people I completely fell in love with Hong Kong when I first arrived here. This city has such a vibrant energy and so many cultural influences which makes it a fascinating place to live and work. It’s been really interesting to see the city change over the past seven years and to watch certain industries flourish, like the health and wellness scene and the local arts, which seemed quite niche back then. I’ve really enjoyed watching Hong Kong encourage creativity and embrace things like street art which I love seeing pop up on walls across the city. Then of course there’s the ever-changing F&B industry which continuously offers us new and exciting concepts when it comes to wining and dining with friends. Hong Kong is constantly evolving and that’s what keeps it fresh and exciting, especially when you’re a lifestyle journalist who’s constantly on the lookout for new stories to cover. There’s never a dull moment!
Indeed, you graduated with a First Class honours in English Literature - what brought you to journalism?
Writing has always been my number one love and I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a journalist. As a kid I was always writing stories and journaling whenever we went travelling abroad, and when I got to university I got involved in writing for the student newspaper Spark, mainly covering music and film reviews in London and Reading where I studied. From then on it was a natural pathway towards journalism, although I worked as a Publicist for several years after graduating before I came to Hong Kong.
So tell us some of your memorable moments over the four years with Localiiz and the stories that are closest to your heart?
Well, right from the start I've had amazing opportunities to cover all sorts of stories in Hong Kong. In fact, on my very first day at Localiiz I was asked to interview world-class boxer (and now a Senator of the Philippines) Manny Pacquiao in a boardroom at The Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, as well as Rex Tso Sing-Yu, The Wonder Kid, in a boxing ring at the gym where he was training for a big fight. It was the most surreal first day on the job I've ever had! So I guess you could say that I jumped in at the deep end and it's been a rollercoaster of an adventure ever since.
Aside from getting to interview some of my favourite British comedians who have performed in Hong Kong, like Russell Howard and Michael McIntyre, I’ve really enjoyed discovering all the local talent and helping to share people’s stories with our readers. There are so many inspiring individuals in this city, from artists and photographers, to founders of charitable organisations and entrepreneurs who have turned their passions into business ventures. I feel it’s important to provide a platform to showcase them and that has been one of the most rewarding parts of my role as an Editor.
So what exciting changes are happening at Localiiz? Any new developments in the pipeline?
Well, we've recently rebranded Localiiz to give it a much more modern look and feel. The result is a new logo (we're now blue!) and a new website design which is up-to-date and in line with our distinctive identity. We've worked hard to improve the user experience and allow our readers to navigate it smoothly and find the information they are looking for with ease.
Aside from that we've launched a brand new Travel section with all sorts of inspiring content on the best destinations and hotels around Southeast Asia. We’ve also launched a series of themed magazines which we will publish every two months. The next issue will be a Hong Kong Survival Guide aimed at newbies to the city as well as those who wish to explore it more. This will be released in September, so watch this space!
Your various platforms have attracted huge followings – what are your tips on digital publishing?
It’s been really nice to watch our page views and social media following grow significantly over the past four years. We've particularly enjoyed building lovely relationships with the Instagram community in Hong Kong - in fact, we have some amazingly talented and loyal Instagram friends who are always sharing their videos and photos with us across our platforms.
As for tips on digital publishing, I think it really comes down to knowing your audience and making sure that you give them what they want - content that aligns with their interests and offers value. The beauty of digital media is that you have the ability to monitor the performance of the content you put out and see how readers engage with it. Of course, this plays an important part in planning the editorial direction for the website and making sure that we appeal to our demographic. It's very fulfilling to see our readers getting excited about our articles and being able to interact with them through our social media platforms. I love seeing people chatting with their friends in the comment section under an article we have published and getting inspired to plan their day or night out, based on the content. That's the whole purpose of Localiiz, after all, to help people make the most out of living in Hong Kong and enjoy the city as much as we do!
With your PR managerial experiences, what tips would you say to them now as an Editor?
Know your journalist. When you're busy managing various accounts and servicing clients it can be tempting to just send blanket emails to the media, and while this is okay from time to time, it really pays to take the time to get to know the journalist and the publication they work for so you can write more targeted pitches that are relevant to their readers. I am always impressed when PRs suggest how a pitch might fit nicely on our website and other channels - so doing your homework first is always a bonus. Blanked emails or those addressed to the wrong name can be easily avoided. On the flip side, try not to hound Editors. It's good to be enthusiastic, but try to avoid overwhelming us or being overly-assertive - we have a lot going on and this can actually work against you. We will get to you when we can - promise. Face to face contact with journalists is also invaluable in the long run so don't hide behind your emails. I've enjoyed building some lovely relationships with PRs over the years.
And any advice for budding journalists out there?
Yes, don't give up. Getting your foot in the door can be tough in the media industry, but keep at it and get as much experience as you can to build up a nice portfolio and showcase your talents. Get out there and build a network too, meet other writers who will inspire and motivate you. Also, don’t be scared to take on a challenge - if you are tasked to write about a subject you have limited knowledge of, don't feel defeated, instead see it as an opportunity to learn something new. I promise you, you will feel so proud and accomplished when you've completed it - and a little wiser too!
One perhaps cannot get enough of the urban energy of Hong Kong but what are your tips to wind down?
In a city as hectic as Hong Kong I think it's vital to have some downtime to unwind from it all so you don't get burnout. I personally enjoy a really good massage with lots of lovely essential oils when I want to relax, and luckily, we're blessed with some amazing spas in Hong Kong. I also love to go hiking with friends at the weekend and lap up some nature and wildlife (maybe with a dog in tow). And of course, enjoying a delicious dinner and gorgeous cocktail (or two) in good company is always a joy. I have even been known to leave my phone at home sometimes so I can totally disconnect and enjoy the moment. Crazy, I know!