When someone bursts into tears when they see their name up in lights, you can be fairly sure they’re tears of joy. Not so for Donna Hay.
Hers, on the day she first saw the donna hay magazine ad were tears of anger. Hay says the now famous masthead that is her namesake, came about by accident – not the result of a plan to become the brand.
It was orchestrated by designers creating titles at the last minute and first seen by Hay in a chance encounter with a bus stop billboard. When she saw her first self-titled magazine, she was overwhelmed.
“I wanted the magazine to be so beautiful and it didn’t occur to me that it would have my name on it. I was so worried about the ice cream and the little cup on the cover that I was focused on everything else,” she says.
The rest is history. In that moment, Donna Hay stopped being an editor of other titles. She became a brand and a household name behind not just a magazine, but cookbooks, a homewares range and soon, a pop-up shop. Despite that, she doesn’t see the brand as just her, but thinks of it as a team.
“I know it sounds like some bad publicity line that’s been written for me, but I don’t see the brand as me,” Hay says.
“I know my place in the team, I know my job in the team. There’s really talented people in the team. The magazine just happens to have my name on it, but it’s a collective, it’s a brand. ‘Doing a Donna’ doesn’t mean me – they’re talking about us.”
There’s not much Hay hasn’t achieved. Since launching her magazine in 2001, she has released 24 cookbooks, which have sold over four million copies worldwide that have been translated into nine languages, and has been named as one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cookbook authors at the international Gourmand Awards.
The donna hay iPad app is the number one selling digital magazine in Australia. She’s had her own television series and launched an e-store which features many of her own products, including her collaborations with Royal Doulton.
Most recently, the donna hay brand teamed up with publisher NewsLifeMedia to launch a new quarterly title, donna hay Fresh and Light, with a focus on recipes that are healthy and tasty.
“When I travel I see a whole new level of what publishing can be and that’s what I want to do next year. I’m not getting any younger, it’s time to put the foot down,” Hay says.
“The numbers [on digital] are not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about. I check the figures every Friday and I move on.
“I’m not a backwards person, I spend all my time looking forwards.”
Hay runs the magazine as if it were a business not a magazine, and credits part of the success to not being dragged into the old rules of publishing when she started out.
“I think publishing got caught up in what publishing rules were, but I played by business rules, not by publishing rules,” she says.
“Above everything else, you put out the best you can, you aim to be the best product you can be and in doing that you work hard without compromises.
“And that’s where I get my reputation from. I’m not good at compromising.”
You’d think all the success may make her want to slow down, but it’s the opposite. Hay is actually accelerating, constantly looking to innovate.
“[In the past] I would have moved quicker should I have been allowed to – but still being the young girl in the pack in publishing terms – that’s reverse dog years - I’m at the point in my career where I mainly want to try new things,” she reveals.
“I think next year is going to be amazing – bringing the magazines and the store to life.”
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