Coffee Chat with Kate Danilova, Editorial Director at Sunday Riley
November 9th, 2021
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Originally from Moscow, Kate Danilova has been working and living in Houston, Texas, since 2016. Her journey in the media world began at InStyle as a Living Editor before joining Vogue Russia as a Senior Beauty Editor. From there, her passion for beauty continued to grow and she moved to Allure Russia, where she was promoted from Beauty Director to acting Editor-in-Chief. Eventually, her career took her to the United States, where she’s currently the Editorial Director at Sunday Riley and Sunday Riley’s blog, the Sunday Edit.

Here, she took time out of her busy schedule to chat about her best advice on finding sources, staying organized, and so much more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about your day-to-day routine.

Kate Danilova: The Sunday Edit is the brainchild of Sunday Riley Modern Skincare, a modern skincare company with high-tech formulas and targeted treatment for immediate and continued results. My team and I wanted to create a 360° experience for our customers and introduce them to Sunday Riley, the company, not just Sunday Riley, the product.

The pandemic definitely changed my routine. Since March 2020, I have been juggling my tasks while working from home to avoid the feeling of a groundhog day. I upload articles to the back end, write, edit, and assign them. I'm checking the freelance payments and drafting the contracts, too. I am in constant contact with my freelance contributors—one of the best parts is when they share their personal stories if they traveled somewhere or even send me pictures of their newborns!

Recently, I began to work with our developer and design team on some small redesign projects. The website needs regular maintenance and it's crucial to my job. I attend calls with different departments at my company, including marketing, social media, and art. I often switch between [tasks] if I'm stuck—I watch a webinar or learn about Google algorithm updates, for instance.

Three times a week in the evening, I go to the gym to lift weights with my trainer, and once a week, I practice yoga. Having a clear boundary that my working day has ended makes me feel freer.

How many stories do you work on in a month? How many do you assign and edit?

KD: In our digital magazine, Sunday Edit, we publish about 40 stories per month. I assign and edit every single one. We have talented contributors who have pitched about 30 percent of topics. Since launching in November 2018, The Sunday Edit has published more than 1,200 articles.

When my writer is having trouble with the story, I always have a backup plan. There may be an alert for plagiarism or a missed deadline due to personal reasons; I need to be prepared to post another story instead. So now that September is ending, I already have all of my stories ready to go until November and around 30 more are in progress.

I like to stay on top of my game. That's how it goes for me since I used to work in magazines—you work on the most critical September issue in June. Of course, there are some stories that we can write and publish the same day. I love digital for this reason!

How do you keep yourself organized?

KD: My old-school notebook is where I write down all the ideas I have in my head, plus I love to use Monday, the content management system. I use it to keep track of all my projects and have all the details—from the project's status to the due date, contact info, and the rate—all in one place.

How do you find sources/products?

KD: I am super lucky to have Sunday Riley herself as my direct manager. She is a founder, brand product formulator, and CEO. As a result, I can get first-hand information about our new products and upcoming launches. We have just launched a new retinol eye serum called '5 Stars.’ I enjoyed watching the story develop—from the idea to the final product. I’m looking forward to testing it soon!

When working as a beauty journalist in Russia, I would attend so many beauty press days and launches. It was amazing to fly to Paris to check the new Chanel spa at the Ritz or to fly to New York to talk to Marc Jacobs about his new fragrance. The number of press releases I would receive almost daily was a little overwhelming. Also, my editors and I tested thousands of products to pick the winners for the ‘Best of Beauty’ awards. Being a journalist and being part of the brand are both so fun to me.

Now, I like to hop on some Zoom calls to learn about new launches—just two days ago, I spent my evening with Elle Macpherson when she talked about her new WelleCo supplements.

What stands out to you in a pitch from a writer? The good? The bad?

KD: I love when our writers include more information in their pitch—when they explain the idea, mention some stats and some experts that they will include in the article. It's better when they re-visit our old articles instead of pitching something recently published. The hook for a story is what I love, no matter if it is an evergreen article.

How do you come up with story ideas?

KD: Research is a big part of my job. Whether it's the trend reports (Mintel, Wunderman Thompson, Euromonitor International, Pinterest, etc.) or news on Beauty Independent, Glossy.co, and Business of Fashion, I'm always up-to-date on all things beauty.

Our readers and customers always ask great questions on our social media channels—I love reading their comments and analyzing all the available data. There are also some seasonal topics that we like to cover, from [a] seasonal beauty routine to gift guides.

Moreover, our contributors always send me some great pitches—they know what's hot now and I trust their expertise. Some of them have been working with Sunday Edit from the very beginning.

What's the hardest part of your job? What's the best part?

KD: The best part is getting feedback from our readers. I remember when we did a story about the breast cancer survivor for Allure Russia six years ago. One of my followers recently told me that this story lifted her mom's spirits when battling cancer herself.

There [was often mail] about the stories we published from our readers. I still have some of them at home. It's even easier with an online magazine; your reader will share their feedback the second they read the article. I find that exciting!

Thanks to our articles, I also love that each day, I learn something new—from the latest studies in prediabetes or eating disorders to the benefits of niacinamide.

The hardest part of my job is finding time to read everything I want. I sometimes find it difficult to sit back and read [a] magazine just for fun after many hours of writing and editing (I’m a big fan of Real Simple). It's like my brain is continuously trying to think of some new angles to tell the stories.

What advice would you give to a writer to catch your attention?

KD: Be curious, be proactive, don’t be shy to share some personal stories—they are always the best and the most engaging for our readers. And do your homework: learn about the brand/magazine/website you want to work for, try to find some things you can improve, and speak about it. After I applied [for] the role, I sent a direct message to Sunday on LinkedIn. I was really interested in joining the company. Within two days, I had my job interview!