Hero Brown

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I’m founder and editor in chief at Muddy Stilettos, the UK’s biggest website for women aged 30 to 55 outside London, and any business owner will tell you the job never ends! I liaise with 25 county editors on their individual Muddy Stilettos sites making sure they have the insider line on what’s happening in their county, I create content that runs nationally across all, and spend a lot of time thinking up new products to excite our readers and panic my team!

How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?

The big change has been everyone working remotely, but I think that affected us less than most, as we’ve always promoted flexi-working – most of us are mums, and I have three kids myself, so the culture on Muddy has always been about not worrying where you do the job, but that it’s done to deadline and well.

Personally I guess I work a bit longer than before and more intensely – I don’t have to commute so that time is spent working now, and I’m spending a huge amount of time in front of my computer because of video calls. I fantasise about meeting a client for lunch or taking the team out for a night!

What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?

I wouldn’t say it’s a favourite exactly, but Zoom is absolutely central to my business now. Monday team catch ups, client meetings, explaining and sharing screens for ideas –  I’m on zoom at least a few hours every day.  In terms of getting work done, I am so ridiculously busy with new product launches and the business growing that I have become much better at delegating.

I used to keep everything close, thinking that only I could do it, but that’s a totally false economy and also not true! The other technique I’m trying hard to perfect is not defaulting to the stuff I like (writing, editing, and more writing) to the detriment of the stuff that needs to be done (hiring, finances, networking). So I create a priorities list every morning and force myself to stick to it.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

Only 13% of the UK live in London, and 87% are outside the M25 – with more people moving out to the countryside, marketers need to understand that consumer demands are shifting. 80% of expenditure is spent within 10 miles of where you live so being too London centric is a fools choice.

Think national but act local is more important than ever and a digital brand like Muddy can help you tap into this affluent, hard-to-reach market better than anyone else. Just saying!

Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?

The small businesses that have had to dig deep, be brave, try something new and decide to crack on through the pandemic not knowing where the future lies are so inspiring – I’ve seen them in their thousands on Muddy because we work with so many of them on the site. It’s been amazing to see how many new businesses have started doing this  too, people willing to give it a go and follow their dreams.

What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?

The whole ethos of Muddy is about us helping readers to have the very best time possible in their local area – we direct our readers to the cool, unique, quirky and unmissable stuff going on, and that by definition means we’re also supporting and promoting the best local businesses.

Muddy is all about fun and joy and upbeat times, and I think that has chimed with a lot of readers at this bleak time. In the early days of the pandemic I took to doing a vlog where I’d do a ‘newscast’ of which businesses were still operating and how readers could support them and we also did a lot more content about mental health, home schooling, and streaming services! We’ve seen our readership soar so I think we got it right, and I’m continuing with those subjects even since we emerged from total lockdown.

What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?

A lot of publishers are trying to get into subscriptions as traditional advertising revenue wanes and becomes more unpredictable, but there has been some panic moves on that front, and I’m in no rush to join them. I definitely want to do a membership service, but I feel mid next year will be a better time and I want it to be amazing.

What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?

Just as the country is adapting to the impact of the pandemic so are we. It’s clear that our readers lives and needs are changing, with far more focus on working from home, staycationing, online shopping, not to mention the ongoing disruption to leisure time, eating out and children’s schooling. To help, we decided to pivot, and in the summer started launching new digital products to give readers useful, entertaining and informed insights into their new interest areas, beginning with The top 200 Best Places to Live 2020 and more recently Weekend Escapes staycation guide. These are two fantastic examples of on trend and up to the minute directories with trusted and quality reviews.

Our forward plan is to keep innovating, adapting to meet readers needs, and in so doing provide advertisers contextually relevant advertising and brand partnership opportunities to reach this important and growing audience outside of London.