At 32 years old, Amelia McDonnell-Parry has a career that most of us dream of having. Amelia graduated from college in Santa Cruz and after internships at Jane and Interview, she moved to New York City, where she began to work for Rolling Stone and Maxim Magazine. She has written articles for Nylon, Teen Vogue, Everyday With Rachael Ray, and Marie Claire UK. In 2009, she was hired by Turner Broadcasting System (CNN) to become the Editor-in-Chief of The Frisky.
Since then, Amelia has appeared on The Today show, interviewed some of the hottest musicians, and has transformed media reporting by giving it a truly authentic and personal feel. Amelia's resume alone is inspirational, but what really seals the deal is that she's warm, open, down to Earth, can make anyone laugh out loud, and has found joy in life both personally and professionally. (And in addition she will be the first to confess that Lucca (her beloved pup) is her BFF, best furry friend, for whom she makes friendship bracelets. To be honest, after getting off the phone I really wanted to ask, if she would make me a friendship bracelet and be my BFF (minus the fur!)).
I would like to introduce to HER Social Network, Amelia McDonnell-Parry, the Editor-in-Chief of The Frisky and Her's Inspirational Woman of the Week! (Warning, this interview might make you feel "Frisky".)
Q: What were you doing before The Frisky?
Amelia: Prior to The Frisky, my career in journalism started in New York, where I was an intern for Jane and Interview magazine. After my internships, I moved to New York and began working for Rolling Stone Magazine. I started off at Rolling Stone, answering phones for the Editor. While assisting the Editor at Rolling Stone, I really was able to see how the magazine process worked and fell in love with it. The Editor I worked with was eventually hired to work for Maxim Magazine and took me with him. Although Maxim was definitely not my interest as far as magazines were concerned, I was offered the opportunity to grow there and was promoted to assistant managing editor. As the assistant editor, I was involved in running the day-to-day running of the magazine, and what I would learn there would ultimately be my training ground for being the Editor-in-Chief for The Frisky. At Maxim, as the assistant managing editor I learned how to streamline the process with the writers, manage various personalities, and how to edit and run a magazine. I left Maxim at the end of 2006 and free-lanced for awhile before a friend recommended me for a job with Turner, conceptualizing and launching a Women's website (which would eventually be called The Frisky). I personally believe my experience, as assistant managing editor was what landed me the job because I had such a strong background in the management of different personalities and ultimately was the strongest candidate who knew how to oversee and manage the whole process.
Q: As a woman in business, what are some interesting lessons you've taken away from your experiences?
Amelia: Working with Rolling Stone and Maxim magazines, I found myself in a very male-centric place. To be honest, it was an interesting experience. In both of these work atmospheres, I really had the advantage to see how different men relate to one another in a work environment, and on the flip side how women work with one another as well. Although I was in a predominantly male environment, and being one of the only women was sometimes a challenge, I also think it had its advantages when it came to dealing with people. I believe my ability to be more in tune to different personalities, ultimately helped me work with each person’s strengths and weaknesses & relate to them personally, which in turn helped in running the magazine smoothly.
I also saw something very interesting in general when it came to women in the workplace. - Women have a hard time asking for what they want and knowing their worth in the workplace. I really feel like there needs to be more done to help women learn how to ask for what they want.
Q: When did you start working at The Frisky, and when was it launched?
Amelia: The Frisky launched in March of 2008. But the process of creating, testing, and building it into what it would be for launch began in October of 2007.
Q: What were you doing in the six months it took to prepare for the launch?
Amelia: The Frisky was owned and funded by Turner Broadcasting, which also owns CNN. There was a very involved vetting process before we launched and we also needed time to build the concept of what The Frisky would be online for the consumer. I wanted to make sure that we had the right staff in place as well as the vision of what it would be. It was important that everything from the specific columns, writers, look, and infrastructure was in place. There was time spent testing blogging to help establish the tone on The Frisky, because ultimately we wanted the tone to be what set The Frisky apart from other online sources. The goal ultimately was to give The Frisky an authentic and personal tone.
Q: How did networking play a role in getting The Frisky to where it is today?
Amelia: We launched quietly and word of mouth helped spread the news about The Frisky. We also did a lot of partnerships with sites where they would link to our stories or feature a story from The Frisky. We had a content partnership as well with CNN.com and they would run our dating/relationship articles in their living section. We also outreached to other websites, sending them links to stories on The Frisky that we thought would interest them. They would feature the story and link it back to us. All of this really helped spread the word and increase hits to the site monthly and eventually helped our loyal readers find us.
Q: How did you capture your loyal readers and build The Frisky community?
Amelia: At the get go, we really wanted to establish the writers for The Frisky as characters. That way the readers could connect with one of them or all of them in a way and develop either a love/love to hate relationship with them. We found ultimately what hooked people was the tone of the site and it's characters. It was fun, relatable, and a conversation any of them could actually imagine having with their own friends at Starbucks. And even if they didn't see eye-to-eye with one of the characters, they still had a relationship with them. It mimics real life relationships and conversations we have with our own friends in our own lives.
Q: When did The Frisky get it's first big break?
Amelia: We would set traffic goals each month and have a plan on how to hit them. We really never had a big break, more like steady growth. It was truly exciting and nerve wracking each month as we would wait to see if we would hit the traffic goal for the month! (And we to date have almost each month!) But I would say a recent big break for The Frisky and for me was being a guest on The Today Show as "an expert” earlier this year. That ultimately helped us reach a broader audience as well! In 2010,The Frisky was sold to Buzz Media and it has been a dream union for The Frisky and a "break" for us in general. Buzz Media really has been amazing to work with, they are really web-focused, and helped The Frisky get in touch with all the right contacts necessary to make The Frisky what it has become and will become in the future.
Q: Despite your growth as a site, you still engage daily with your audience. How do you find the time?
Amelia: It's all about how you write the pieces. With other publications, they aren't thinking as much about the audience, but more about the writing itself. At The Frisky, we really focus on the tone of the pieces and want it to emulate a typical conversation between a woman and their friends. That's ultimately how we engage with our audience. We also read all the comments and from them find new material to discuss. That, in turn, allows the reader and audience to know that we have connected with something they have said and are a part of The Frisky.
Q: What is your favorite story to date?
Amelia: I do a wide variety of writing, but to date, the pieces that I'm most proud of are my deeply personal pieces. There are three life experiences I wrote about that, for me, were my best. The first was about being date raped in college, the second one was about dating a man who was autistic and discussing his condition in a way that brought to light the life of someone living with it, and the break-up between my fiancé and I. All three of these pieces reallly connected with the readers, had a great response, and in turn, helped me process those life experiences. On a lighter note, I also have enjoyed writing about dating, especially online dating!
Q: What have been your favorite celebrity interviews?
Q: What things have you learned along the way in this journey?
Amelia: When you have a business on the web, you have to learn to embrace the unexpected. For people like me, that are really type A, I've had to learn that you can't be super scheduled and you have to go with the flow, especially in this line of work. For the control freak in me, it's made me have to learn to let go of that nature in many ways.
Q: What obstacles and struggles did you have? How did you push through them?
Amelia: The first obstacle to push through was truly wondering if The Frisky would ever launch. There are many times when companies will invest in things that never come to be, and I have to admit, there were many times when I wasn't convinced it was going to happen. And then once The Frisky was running, making sure we hit our big traffic goals was nail biting. Each month, we would set the bar higher and higher and it would require more research, more focus, and a lot of work to meet the goals. There wasn't a month that we weren't on the edge of our seats as we saw the final number come in. In 2010, we were told by Turner that they wanted to sell The Frisky. Literally, we had no idea what was going to happen to The Frisky until the last day of the year. That day we were told that The Frisky had been bought by Buzz Media. It really came down to the wire, quite literally the last day of the year. Being purchased by Buzz Media was one of the best things to happen to The Frisky. So, despite the unknown being stressful for a bit, the outcome was well worth the wait and stress.
Q: How do you balance work and life?
Amelia: My work days are pretty set from 9-6/7pm. In the last year, I've been able to delegate responsibility and that has been really beneficial to me both personally and professionally. What I've learned about myself is that the happier I am personally, the better I am professionally.
Q: Where do you get your daily inspiration?
Amelia: Definitely from Lucca, my dog; however, I have to admit, although I love to bring her to work, her overall cuteness can be a bit of a distraction. But in all seriousness, the women I work with really inspire me. There isn't a day that goes by that we aren't having discussions, bouncing ideas off one another, and really cultivating those ideas. I also get inspiration from the people around me during the day. I am also inspired by what I observe and hear in everday life events, both mine and others around me. I can literally write a blog in an instant from one witnessed or overheard event. Truly, there is always something to write about. If you are ever stuck, just take a walk or go to the coffee shop, you'll leave with a million ideas to blog about.
Amelia: She likes it but wants to be featured more often! Really Lucca is pretty much The Frisky's mascot. She has had featured pieces written up on her and has appeared in the what we are wearing feature. I have to admit, she might be a bigger part of The Frisky that even she wants to be!
Q: What women in your life have inspired you?
Amelia: My mom. My mom has been such a source of inspiration both personally and professionally. She is a teacher and she always inspired me to value hard work and education. Most importantly though, she has taught me how to maintain my values, how to treat people, and how to value myself. I also really admire Jane Pratt, from Jane Magazine. She is an amazing woman both personally and professionally.
Q: What does the future have in store for The Frisky?
Amelia: We are going to be featuring more videos, more press, and we are looking at growing the site and expanding the overall community more. We would like to allow the women online to do more writing and add forums.
Amelia really is one amazing and inspirational woman and proves that it pays to be Frisky!. There is so much that I have taken away from the conversation both on a personal and professional level with Amelia. I think the things that impressed me most about her was that she never "poo-poo-ed" the job of being someone's assistant. She took that job and turned it into an opportunity to build her dream career. I can't tell you how many times I hear in general people having a "tude" about assisting others. Everyone starts somewhere, few start at the top, almost everyone starts assisting. And that's how big time people get to the top, they have to work their way up.
In addition, Amelia thrived professionally in a male-centric environment with ease by playing her strengths and learning that you have to ask to get what you want, and stayed true to herself as a woman throughout the process. I personally find that inspiring as well as empowering. I will openly admit that I feel intimidated in general to ask for what I want in a workplace, and even more so when surrounded by "titled" male figures in major corporations. To be honest, I find myself more often looking at my weaknesses, in those instances, than trying to find my strengths. Hearing Amelia say, "you have to ask to get what you want" and to hear that being personal and relating to others is a true strength in a workplace was just what I needed to hear to hurdle an obstacle that I struggle with often.
I will say, by and far , what impressed me most wasn't just the admirable resume but the woman behind it. She truly has stayed grounded despite her success. She's down to earth and doesn't have that "too cool for school" attitude that so many people seem to get after succeeding in their endeavors, reaching the top and attaining so much in their careers. I believe that it's Amelia's "girl next door persona" that has truly made The Frisky the place where women feel comfortable, understood, free to be themselves, and identify with what is being discussed. This and so much more is what makes Amelia Her Social Network's Inspirational Woman of the Week!
Are you feeling Frisky?! I warned you that might happen!
How has Amelia inspired you? What about her interview impacted you the most?