Refinery29’s Piera Gelardi on Creating Compelling Narratives
This article is part of the Visual Revolution Summit interview series. Learn more about the Summit here.
Refinery29 co-founder and Executive Creative Director Piera Gelardi knows a thing or two about visual communication. Refinery29 offers readers fashion and beauty inspiration along with city-specific content for major metro area and is now one of the fastest growing businesses in America with an active and creative community. We interviewed Piera to get her insights on visual storytelling, social media for content and distribution, and her new street-style book Style Stalking.
Q: What does the visual revolution mean to you, your team, or marketing as a whole?
A: Photography has become such a key currency for many businesses including ours. For Refinery29, the visual revolution is all about creating compelling narratives through imagery and employing new mediums to do so. We are investing big into original imagery and have a bigger photo and design team than most major publishers (the creative team is 40 people). We’ve done at least 2,000 photo shoots this year because we see that high quality creative storytelling drives massive engagement for us.
Developing a strong visual identity and brand recognition is an important way to stand out to readers in publishing today.
Q: Which social platforms have become core to building the Refinery29 community? Any surprises?
A: Facebook has been core to building the Refinery29 community. It’s a space where our audience is in an environment with friends so we naturally become a part of that conversation. The comment community is incredible on Facebook and unlike a lot of other sites we respond to a ton of comments on Facebook, whether it’s with something funny or to engage in a thoughtful discussion about the topics we cover.
Instagram has been a great platform for building loyal community around our creative point of view because, right now, it’s not about driving traffic. We’ve had a lot of fun doing collaborations with interesting people on the platform as well as hosting some unique InstaMeets that created a visual playground meant to be photographed.
For us, Pinterest has been a new visitor channel driving almost 10% of traffic and tons of new visitors to the site who are discovering us through our original images.
As for surprises, we’ve found that Snapguide has been a very engaged platform and users are loving our original photography beauty DIYs on there. We’re looking forward to experimenting more with it.
Q: Refinery29’s video content is some of the best in the industry. What are some of the video strategy lessons you’ve learned from building out your content?
A: We’ve been doing video from early on and we’re still very much in the process of building out our video content — it’s a huge strategic area of growth for us. I think one of the biggest lessons has been to really play to the platform you are on. For example, YouTube is a really important channel with a dedicated following and we’ve found that what works there is scrappier content and also to embrace the talent that succeeds there and utilize them for creating our own content. At this point, we’re really making a huge range from low-cost talent driven YouTube videos to content that’s super high-production, international programming that is in line with television. But even with the television-quality documentary series we’re doing, we’re cutting a shorter, snappier version for YouTube, a visual fact-driven cut for Facebook that can be watched with the sound off, and a 15-second Instagram cut.
Q: In your new book Style Stalking, you celebrate personal style and inspire readers to push the limits of fashion. How do you see fashion and street style evolving in the future with social platforms and advances in tech making it easier for people to create and share?
A: The rise of street style content has democratized fashion. We love that it provides a wider variety of looks, body types, role models, and makes style more accessible to people. I think it will continue to be a major source of inspiration that shapes both the public and the industry’s view of fashion.
It’s interesting to see new technologies that are trying to create tools to turn style inspiration into action— things like Luminate (purchased by Yahoo) that made celebrity outfit images shoppable using image detection or Wanelo and Spring creating curated, shoppable feeds utilizing influencers and brands. There is definitely a huge amount of effort being placed in this arena and hype for new players that emerge although I don’t think anyone has gotten it 100% right…yet.
Piera will be presenting during the Text is Optional section at VRS on November 5th, presenting how Refinery29 strategizes their use of visual content both as editorial and on social media . Request your invite today!