Although her official title is Lifestyle Editor, Brogan Driscoll casts her editorial net far wider. In her role at HuffPost UK, Brogan heads up the women’s and LGBT+ Living sections, as well as managing features on everything from health and fitness to food and travel in the Lifestyle section. Ahead of FEMpowerment, which Brogan is co-hosting, we met to talk imposter syndrome, putting ideas into action and developing your own armour.
You’re the Lifestyle Editor at HuffPost UK, and also head up the women’s and LGBT+ Living sections. How do you keep so many plates spinning, and what does a typical day look like?
A typical day involves managing our daily news list – scoping out which stories we are going to cover and how we are going to cover them. We feature a wide range of topics, from health and wellness to fitness and food, as well as women’s issues and much more – so when choosing stories we think about whether it’s right for our audience and how we would put our own stamp on it. We try to strike a daily balance between informative pieces, opinion, and fun, uplifting content.
I also do a lot of forward-planning for ideas and features coming up and strategy work, to plan our future direction and focus, including any new sections we may want to launch. Last year I launched LGBT+ Living, the first lifestyle section in UK mainstream media publications for the LGBTQIA community, and just last month we launched Everybody, a lifestyle section for people living with disability and chronic illness – a key part of HuffPost’s DNA is inclusivity.
I also head up our Women’s section, which involves co-ordinating coverage and consistency cross-site. Our editorial team at HuffPost UK is really small compared to other media publications, so we don’t have a separate team to cover women’s issues – it’s something all our journalists pitch in on, depending on the subject matter.
It’s important to move with the times and stay relevant and keep developing skills
Could you elaborate on what heading up the Women’s section involves?
The Women’s section has long been a passion of mine since I started at HuffPost UK five years ago. From day one I've been covering stories about everything from sexual harassment and period taboos, to interviewing inspiring, kickass women.
From there we launched a now-annual project called All Women Everywhere, which is a month-long project in March (to coincide with International Women’s Day) and gives a voice to a diverse mix of women in Britain – regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. It's a huge team effort and I'm really proud of the way we come together to make it work. Each year it grows bigger and more substantial: we've had guest editors including Jameela Jamil and Emilia Clarke, as well as some incredible video-led features. I try to extend this beyond my day job and give back as much as I can outside of work. I volunteer with Women’s Aid and Girlguiding UK, giving training sessions around media and coaching people – and then I am also involved with lots of women’s events and groups, such as Marguerite.
I worked hard, mucked in, networked, got myself noticed and tried to make a good impression.
Balancing so many editorial responsibilities, do you still get the opportunity to write?
I love writing, but I don’t get to do it as much as a I used to. Partly because I have other responsibilities, and so less time, but also because I have two brilliant writers on my team who create most of the content, which I commission and sub-edit. If I do write, it tends to be a bit more selective – a feature, an interview, or a gobby opinion piece about sexism or gender inequality. Of course, you can also catch me picking up a quick, fun viral story from time-to-time.
I do love editing too, because you get to set the agenda and coach other people through their writing. I always feel I produce more this way – whether I’m writing the piece myself or just involved in the process someway or another.
You’ve done a few live interviews and panels, do you see this as another key string to your bow?
Yeah… Over the past 18 months, I’ve ventured out from behind my laptop and started doing live video interviews, as well as being on and hosting panel discussions.The reason for doing this is, I guess, two-fold.
As an online journalist, video is becoming ever more crucial to reporting and exploring a topic. It’s important to move with the times and stay relevant and keep developing skills, so interviewing and presenting on camera is not only hugely valuable to ‘HuffPost’, but also my own career.
Secondly, I’ve always thought that panel discussions and events bring topics to life in a different way. I love reaching new audiences, facilitating and being part of discussions. Not only do the audience learn and discover, but so do you as a person on the stage. Plus, I LOVE meeting new, like-minded people.
How did you get started?
Like many journalists, I worked for free for what seemed like an eternity. Firstly, on evenings and weekends writing for various online magazines and news sites, while juggling a full-time job at a charity. Later, at different work experience placements and internships, such as local papers, The Observer Magazine and Vogue. I eventually got a paid internship at HuffPost UK, and have worked my way up since then. I also couldn’t afford to do a Masters or a journalism course, so I’ve learned everything on the job. HuffPost is good at sending us on training courses too.
I didn’t know anyone in the industry before I started, like a lot of people seem to. So I had to rely on making the most of any and every opportunity – I worked hard, mucked in, networked, got myself noticed and tried to make a good impression.
You have to sacrifice to make things happen for you, I guess. Journalism isn't the most lucrative career, so when I started out I moved back home with my parents to help with living costs. I spent weekends staying in generous friends' beds. (Mostly that of Marguerite founder Jo, actually, which is how we became such good pals.)
Looking back it was all totally worth it, though. Even the debt.
Tell me about your plans for FEMpowerment...
I am SO excited about FEMpowerment. Jo and I have been talking about the idea for a while now, and I can’t quite believe it’s actually happening.
The clue is in the name – it’s an event to empower women through panel discussions, workshops, networking, fitness and, of course, brunch. Our aim is to give attendees something practical to take away, and apply to their own lives.
The event is inspired by the conversations we have with our friends (and each other), about work, and general life, on a regular basis. We realised the same issues were coming up no matter which 20- or 30-something woman you spoke to... Lack of confidence, imposter syndrome, feeling overworked and undervalued, so we decided to do something about it.
I’m hosting a panel on confidence, which women often struggle with to one extent or another. I’ve pulled together some experts, and people who seem to exude confidence in one way or another, to give their thoughts and tips on the matter.
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know myself better and understanding my triggers
Would you say you’ve always been confident, or do you think it’s something you can practise at?
I’m a massive extrovert – I’m loud and love being around people. But most people wrongly assume that comes with a lot of confidence. Yes, I’m able to walk into a room and strike up conversation, but underneath, when it comes to my career or other areas of my life, I can really struggle.
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know myself better and understanding my triggers. This has helped me make a kind of confidence toolkit, which works most of the time.
I try and manage myself as best I can. I make sure I get enough sleep, exercise regularly, have time away from work and do Headspace, a mindfulness app, because if I’m not on form that’s probably when I’ll start to get anxious and my confidence will go down the drain.
I also have my armour – red lipstick, blue nail varnish – which might sound superficial, but I need to feel like me in order to be at my best. I also give myself a talking to before a speaking event or big scary moment, and remember to breathe.
And for when I really lose my shit and hit crisis point, I have a really strong support network of friends and colleagues on speed dial. One of my best friends sent me a card in the post recently, it had an illustration on the front of a woman doing yoga with lots of thought bubbles with various worries on it. It was captioned: “Worrier Pose”. Inside the card she’d written a sweet note, because I’d been quite anxious about various things the week before, which simply said: “Less worrier, more warrior.” That’s my current mantra.
Brogan will be co-hosting 'FEMpowerment with Marguerite' this Saturday 5 August at The Curtain in Shoreditch; a whole day of fitness, food and FEMpower for women wanting to 'werk it' in the workplace. Click here for tickets!