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article imageKristin Koch talks about virtual proms, coping amid the pandemic Special

By Markos Papadatos     Apr 24, 2020 in Lifestyle
Kristin Koch chatted with Digital Journal about the concept of virtual proms, which are becoming important during this pandemic.
"A virtual prom is similar to other virtual events we’re seeing take place," she said. "It’s a way to celebrate this milestone event and give teens, who are understandably really upset about having their schools’ prom postponed or canceled, to still celebrate and have something fun to plan and do right now. A virtual prom is a way to safely celebrate prom with your friends and the silver lining is you can do it any way you want. You can pick the venue — Zoom, Facetime, and Skype — and who you want to invite (just your best friends, just your date, your teammates, or your whole class). You can dress up or wear your pajamas. It’s totally up to you and your friends."
"We put together a guide on Seventeen's official website with tons of tips and ideas for throwing a virtual prom that will be memorable and fun. We know it’s not going to replace the experience of going to prom IRL and we are hopeful that when it’s safe to do so, seniors can still have a real-life prom. But in the meantime, teens shouldn’t have to miss out on this milestone event. While many teens have told us that they don’t love the idea of a virtual prom and still want to have an actual prom, those who have participated in virtual proms were really glad they did and said it was surprisingly fun," she elaborated.
For teens and their families coping during this time (and for graduates/proms), she said, "Listen, it’s okay to be upset and to feel bummed. Graduation, prom, a semester at school, spring sports, and activities are all major things to miss out on. Many people look forward to prom all four years of high school and graduation is a celebration of years of hard work and studying. Not being able to celebrate these in person with ceremonies and parties is a bummer, even if they’re being canceled for a very good reason. So it’s okay to allow yourself to be disappointed and upset, but don’t let that stop you from celebrating in the ways that you can safely now."
"There will be a time when this is over and you’ll still be able to hopefully do a lot of things you have postponed and hopefully, that will include prom and a graduation celebration. But in the meantime, find ways to celebrate. A virtual prom may not be what you had imagined, but I promise you will remember it forever and you’ll be glad you did it," she said.
She encouraged them to be as proactive as they can in making the most during this time. "Try a new hobby like bullet journaling or knitting or start that YouTube channel or TikTok account you always talk about. Make time to FaceTime with your friends — when you feel bummed and alone is when you need to talk to them the most. I know it’s a lot of family time if you’re living at home with your parents and you are stuck inside most of the day, but take some social media and screen breaks for game nights or to help cook dinner or go on a walk with your parents or siblings. Get some exercise - whether it’s getting outside or doing a yoga or virtual class. It will make you feel better," she explained.
"Remember this is only temporary. It’s really hard and it’s lonely and it can be scary to think about what the future will look like, but it is also an opportunity to reset and to gain resilience. You can come out of this stronger," she said.
"We rarely get the opportunity to stop, get off the hamster wheel of classes, studying, thinking about college and then jobs to really stop and think about what we want to do and who we want to be. Having the chance to do just that when you’re so young is an amazing opportunity," she added.
On being an executive director in this digital age, she said, "It’s such an honor to be in charge of such a storied brand that has meant so much to so many people for such a long time. People of all ages are constantly stopping me to tell me how much Seventeen meant to them growing up, and it continues to be such an important part of young people’s lives today. There aren’t many media brands that still exist with a history like Seventeen and that get to reach people at such a pivotal time in their lives, so I consider it an incredible privilege and responsibility to lead this brand."
For Koch, it's a "really exciting time" to work at Seventeen. "Of course, our audience is comprised of digital natives who are at the forefront of social media and technology, and that really drives how we connect with them and create content. I love that we get to constantly evolve and experiment, invent new ways to reach our audience on new platforms, and get to constantly communicate with them. I love trying new things and creating, and I get bored easily, so there’s no better time, in my opinion, to be at the head of a digitally-focused brand. The pace is dizzying in the best way possible and there are so many opportunities. I also love that with the pace of digital media, you can create something and put it out there, and if it doesn’t work, you can scrap it and try something new. It forces you to be constantly innovating and learning. That’s really exciting for me."
As executive director of Seventeen, she feels really lucky to be at a company like Hearst Magazines that is not only putting its people first during this time but is offering so many resources to help them weather this storm and continue to do their work safely from home. "I also feel lucky to work with so many creative and brilliant minds who are finding innovative ways to continue creating amazing content for our audiences during this time. It inspires me every day," she said.
"The ingenuity my team has shown as they figure out how to continue to produce engaging content on our diverse array of platforms is truly incredible, but I’m not surprised. We are constantly shifting and innovating and finding new ways to deliver content to our audience and experimenting with new mediums in order to make sure we’re meeting our audience where they are and delivering to them the content they want and care about," she said.
Koch definitely misses being able to interact with her colleagues and team every day and even just getting lunch at the Hearst Café and bumping into coworkers. "It has been a lot of fun to connect over Zoom and Slack calls. In fact, in some ways, I feel closer than ever to a lot of my colleagues at Hearst Magazines," she said.
At Seventeen, she noted that their focus is their audience and helping them get through this time, with service-driven stories covering the topics that speak to them like how to deal with the stress brought on by Coronavirus and how to date while social distancing, the ultimate guide to throwing a virtual prom, and what to do if your parents are on the frontlines while you’re stuck at home.
"We’re also making sure to bring plenty of entertainment to our audience, from roundups of what to binge-watch right now to daily Snapchat editions, new YouTube shows, including a special quarantine edition of our hit show Bestie Picks Bae, IG lives with their favorite celebs, TikTok dance challenges, and DIYs. It’s a really hard time for many teens who are missing out on things they were looking forward to and missing their friends and school, so we’re really focused on helping them get through this time," she said.
She also offered suggestions in navigating stress for teens and parents during this pandemic. "First, it’s important to let teens know that it’s okay to feel bummed out if your prom or graduation has been canceled or that your spring soccer season isn’t happening or if you just miss your friends. I think it’s important to validate those feelings. But try not to wallow in them and remember that this is temporary. In the meantime, find some things to get excited about — both in the short and long term. Make some plans for after this is over and you can safely hang out with your friends again and visit the places you’ve been dying to go and do the things you’ve been missing. And for now, plan things like a virtual prom, game night or virtual sleepover with your friends, and maybe even a special make your own pizza night with your family to give you little things to get excited about and to enjoy while you’re stuck at home," she said.
"If you’re feeling down or lonely, make a FaceTime date with your friends, even if you’re just watching a movie together in silence or doing mani/pedis and masks together or talking how bored you are, you’ll feel better. Try to stay active - it really helps. Whether it’s going for a walk with your mom, riding your bike, taking a virtual workout class," she said.
Koch continued, "Try not to stress too much about what this will mean for your classes, or college applications or career prospects. Focus on what you can control by studying and staying on top of your schoolwork, working on your resume or building your skillset with online classes, and working on your admissions essay. Schools and employers are still figuring out what this means for them, so you don’t need to have everything figured out right now."
"When you start to feel overwhelmed, talk to someone — a friend, your parents, a sibling or a trusted adult. Take a break from social media, the news, and screen time — it helps, really," she added.
She acknowledged that there is a silver lining in all of this. "I think we will all come out of this valuing our friends and families more. We’ll be more thankful for everything, from school to the ability to go out for a meal or to grab a coffee or spend an afternoon at a movie theater or mall. We will savor a lot of the things that we took for granted, including our health, and I think we’ll take advantage of life and the people in our lives more. If anything, this has shown us what’s truly important," she said.
"There are very few times in life when we can jump off the hamster wheel of life and slow down and reflect," she said. "This is an opportunity to do just that — to stop and question: is this where I want my life to go, is this the person I want to be, what is truly important to me?"
Virtual prom
Virtual prom
On the future of proms in the next five years, she responded, "I think prom will continue to be a beloved rite of passage and event for high schoolers prom has gotten bigger and bigger over the years, thanks in part to social media, and I don’t see that changing. In fact, with many teens missing out on it this year, I think that it’ll only make next year’s high schoolers want to celebrate in an even bigger way next year. Of course, in five years, there will be new trends and ways of celebrating prom, just like we see every year. Seventeen has been celebrating prom for decades, and its importance and the essence of what it means to teens has not changed, and I don’t think it will. If anything, I think following this pandemic, celebrating beloved rites of passage will become even more important."
"I know it may seem really scary to be coming up in the world right now, but this will make us more resilient, it will make us stronger, and hopefully, it will make us more mindful of what’s important. The world may look different when this is all over, but that’s also an opportunity to reshape it in new and better ways. Out of every struggle comes opportunity," she concluded.
To learn more about Seventeen Magazine, check out its official website and her Facebook page.
More about Kristin Koch, executive director, seventeen, Magazine, Virtual
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