To find yourself on the cover of the magazine may seem like an unattainable thing for us simple earthlings. Actually, let me guess that likely you never even considered it being an option. Until an opportunity to become a cover girl was presented to me, I, perhaps just like you, believed that covers are for acclaimed and recognized celebrities only. I was totally wrong.
The 23rd July marks the rebirth of Londoniete (Lithuanian Londoner) magazine, rising phoenix-like to live again after several years in the dark - and with me on the cover. It’s highly symbolic for me because my personal and professional life has been a series of rebirths and I am once again on the cusp of change. That’s for another blog post though.
So how on earth does one end up on the cover of a magazine and why could this be your business or personal branding strategy?
Like many of life’s more interesting events, for me it was unplanned and far from a dream come true, as this was never my dream, or a strategy. When the opportunity presented itself to me, I took it, as I believe everything in life happens for a reason, and I was curious to find that out. Reflecting on life and connecting the dots helped.
Interestingly, magazines have never been a part of my experience and glossies never played any role in my education about the world through my teens and beyond. Although many women view these publications as source of aspirational guidance on careers and life, for tips on achieving romance and love, or for practical “10 steps to…” planning tools, I preferred to cut my own path through life’s opportunities with no-one else to credit for my successes and no-one to blame for my failures. Until, that is, I started publishing my own magazine, Bitch Online, in January 2012 in London.
Suddenly I’m confronted with not only the choice of cover girls but in setting an editorial direction that would appeal strongly to me as a non-traditional magazine reader, and hopefully to others, - real women. Our first Cover Girl was Claire O’Riordan. You undoubtedly don’t know her and that was the point. She was my first, and so far only, female boss, four years older than me, and was everything that Bitch Online stood for: Bold, Intelligent, in Total Control of Her career. She came from nothing, had clear direction, was bold in her actions and build herself a successful career. Now we can relate to that cover girl's story, can’t we?
There followed a four-year rollercoaster, highlighting women and their achievements, building a fantastic editorial and contributor team and delivering a powerful brand. But inside I knew I was living life through the achievements of others, and I had reached a crossroad where had to choose to either continue or carve my own journey to personal success. It was a hard decision but I chose me. I closed down Bitch Online in February 2016, after delivering my final public talk about Bitch at the Euro Best Festival in Antwerp, Belgium. It was a fitting end to my magazine publishing chapter that left a clear space for new opportunities.
What followed was a period of searching and self-examination - what did I really want and what route would I take to get there? My next chapter was a combination of freelance sales and marketing consulting, and launching a new business, Hullygood, focused on my passion for a great night’s sleep and all of the personal and medical benefits that flow from that. It gave me a social media mission, and then a completely unexpected (shocking) offer for a magazine feature and cover shoot flew into my Facebook messenger. Of course I questioned what was behind the offer, why me, why do I deserve this, I haven't achieved anything significant, will I be judged? I am not a celebrity or your typical cover girl material either, I thought. Thankfully, later my old Bitch attitude re-emerged: “That’s unfair and total bullshit, Sandra! Stop bullying and undervaluing yourself!”, for this opportunity had come at a time when I was actually being bullied by my business partner. I had lost my sense of self-worth through these repeated assaults, and it took someone else to hold up a mirror and say “look at your achievements and see your value!” It was like a lifebelt, and I excitedly resurfaced, more determined than ever.
The interview for the magazine was scheduled on the day when my business partnership fell apart. It was strange to observe that at the same time one door gently and firmly closed, another exploded open with light and energy! It felt wonderful. It took five months after that interview for the magazine to be published, and during this time I focused on rebuilding my self-value, taking the partner conflict and criticism as gifts that enabled me to learn and move forward stronger than before - still with some regret but without bitterness.
So when I look at this cover there is no ego, no sense of trying to prove anything. It’s a moment to take stock, be genuinely happy for myself and happy for the magazine as it rises from its deep slumber. When I saw the cover proof I immediately thought it was a strange choice, as it didn’t portray me as a serious business woman. In my opinion, I looked too cute, perhaps even submissive. Once again self-judgment began to creep in, yet when I brought it up with the editorial team they came back instantly; “Who said a business woman needs to look aggressive? On the contrary, you show your strength through your femininity and direct gaze”. Time to accept who I truly am and recover my integrity.
If you want to appear on a magazine cover remember that your personal journey matters. Without a story, there is no cover. Life brings you where you need to be and teaches you lessons you need to learn. Here are my key take-aways:
- Always be yourself. As clichéd as it may sound, you must retain your integrity and not pretend to be someone you’re not. Be the true version of yourself in anything you do, anywhere you are. That consistency is gold dust. People talk, so ensure that their versions match. You want the cover story to tell a genuine and not a distorted story of you.
- Don’t hide. It’s not a “seek game”. Look for opportunities within and beyond your current circle - especially beyond your circle. Be brave with your ideas and your success, attend events, meet people for coffees, and show genuine interest in their stories. Listen, for you never know when you're on a path that leads to an editor of a magazine, or who might recommend you. Tell your stories online and find your network, as the network won’t find you. Which leads me to:
- Practice your daily gratitude. Things happen to us every single day: wonderful, beautiful, inspiring things but also ugly, terrible, disappointing or annoying things. As weird as it sounds, being grateful for all things that happen to us opens channels of communication to the universe. The more we are grateful for the good and the bad things (there are often good ones hidden in the bad) then more interesting opportunities present themselves to us. If it’s an opportunity to become a cover girl/boy, you will then be delighted and grateful for it.
- Build relationships. There will often be many ‘touch points’ with a person until the relationship grows to provide fruit. There are no rules on how to do it or do it well, each relationship is unique. Invite people for a cocktail or to their favourite sushi restaurant, visit a gallery together. With others keep engaging on social media, email them an article you came across that they will find useful to read. Provide them value when they need it. My relationship with Dovile Ileviciute, the editor of Londoniete, started in 2010 when she approached me on Facebook asking for photos from the World Strongest Man event I ran at Wembley Arena in London, where the winner of the competition was our country man, Zydrunas Savickas. I gave her value – visual material and traffic to her magazine. Since then she watched my journey on social media two years later asking me to give a short interview for her magazine about Bitch Online. Then followed five years of me following and commenting under her magazine’s posts until Dovile’s message hit my Facebook messenger again in February this year. Clearly she observed my Hullygood business developments thinking my inspiring business story, coupled with my personal one (surviving cancer, lover of sleep, yoga and nature) was the story she was after for the rebirth of her magazine. The rest is history.
- Be aware of independent magazines. The days are gone when only big magazine titles existed. Today there are thousands of independent magazines in each country and continent: national minority magazines, industry specific or entrepreneurial magazines, you name it. Visit your local boutique magazine shops, such as Magma or Charlotte Street News in London to expand your knowledge and find inspiration. Search online. Ask people. Mirela Sula head of Global Woman Magazine says: "To appear on Global Woman’s Magazine cover you ideally need to have an inspiring story and dream for a big global vision. I open it to every woman who wants to share a message with a global audience and I believe every woman has a story, they are the real celebrities and heroes in our lives. They are breadwinners, business owners, hustlers, achievers in their own right. To become a cover woman asks for a financial investment from you, because it is a very powerful marketing and branding tool for women who want to grow their business globally".
- It can be your strategy. Why not? Just like pitching magazines for editorial, advertorial or advertising opportunities, pitching to become a cover girl can also be your strategy. It’s a social and credibility proof. It builds your profile, your brand. Makes people trust you more. Gives exposure to a new audience that automatically promotes you and your service or product.
- If you have a clear goal to appear on the magazine cover, manifest it. Set the intention, visualise it, feel it. At the beginning of the year, while writing down the things I would like to happen in 2017, one of them was a wish to see my story being published somewhere, anywhere reputable, for marketing purposes. It manifested in less than two months’, with an invitation for a story and a huge bonus of a cover. It’s funny the way it all works. Having experienced manifestation successes over and over again, now I may set a goal to become the cover of Porter, to see if I could make it happen one day.
- Enjoy your journey. This goes back to the point number one, be yourself, and also enjoy what you have chosen to do, the dreams you chose to pursue, even if you find it challenging at times. When you know you have the best intentions and you believe in what you do, you will find plenty of moments of joy. Savour them.
Good things will come for the right reasons, business or personal, and that may well be an invitation to be featured in a magazine. Or perhaps something even better than that.