PPA Scotland’s Power in Publishing: Inspiration from Ambitious Women

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PPA Scotland were kind enough to invite SYP Scotland to their afternoon seminar Power in Publishing: Inspiration from Ambitious Women at the Edinburgh Napier campus on June 15th.

“We want to encourage women.”
PPA Scotland’s Nikki Simpson opened up the afternoon with the sobering statistic that of their 230 members less than 10% of them are run by women. “We want to encourage women to launch their own magazines and publishing companies, to strive for boardroom positions in larger companies, and to inspire women in publishing to have more confidence.” To incite said inspiration we heard from three successful businesswomen.

First up was Diane Young, co-founder and CEO at The Drum, which provides news for the marketing & media industries, with stories, job search resources, events listing, and features. Her journey was unusual, starting with a degree in mathematics, moving to the health service and then finally The Drum in 1996.

Diane showed us a video of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers doing what they did best and pointed out that Ginger was paid considerably less than her male counterpart (and she was dancing backwards and in heels), a metaphor for what happens in business. Diane believes that women don’t give themselves enough recognition in their work and should be giving themselves more credit.

This hard work is what made The Drum what it is today. It took 25 years for it to become an overnight success. Diane is thankful for her mathematics degree which has served her well in her time as managing director. Of course, there were always bad times and sometimes the business and the staff just weren’t right. Between her second and third child Diane found herself ‘trapped’ professionally. After her mother plainly asked ‘do you think it might be you?’ Diane took great offence. It took the best part of a few years to realise it was her and that she had to change to improve her business. And that she did.

Diane learned to become a better businesswoman through her own research. Think and Grow Rich changed Diane’s entire perspective on business and felt like she had a ‘head transplant’. The Language of Leaders inspired Diane to ask ‘What is the point of The Drum?’ and helped create focus on their future.

Following this inspiration The Drum employed a more focused approach. Turnover dropped but a small profit was made. This doubled the next year. Quadrupled the next. Doubled again the next. They won best UK business magazine in 2013. The successes go on. Diane moved to London to expand the business and she believes this wouldn’t have happened without the move as, they don’t take you seriously in London unless you’re in London. Sad, but true, she says.

Her concluding advice for those looking to start or expand their publishing business:

  • Invest in your education. You’re always learning so don’t let yourself become comfortable.
  • Have a goal.
  • Find a personal philosophy and work by it.
  • Lose sense of entitlement. No one is promised success so don’t automatically expect it.
  • Get great communication skills.
  • Learn leadership and leverage.

Diane believes there’s no silver bullet to the 10% problem but it’s about what we do with this advice we’re given and it’s up to our generation to change the balance.

Make your voice heard.

CommonSpace editor Angela Haggerty took the floor to tell us about the unusual business model that sustains them, largely funded from thinktank Common Weal. The new media platform came out of the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum and offers a more left-leaning reporting perspective from traditional media. Non-party political; news, not opinion; editorially independent; these are the things that make CommonSpace what it is.

It gets 100-150k unique users per month which is great for a new publication. She believes this is through their “collaboration, not competition” philosophy which sees CommonSpace working with traditional media outlets instead of working against them.

Prior to this Angela found herself at the centre of a media storm following editorial work on Downfall: How Rangers FC Self-Destructed which saw her fired from The Herald and in a situation where “a journalist should never be the story”. She decided to be vocal about the threatening approaches she received choosing to take on CommonSpace despite being close to unemployable in Scotland through the drama. At least she was a woman in a new, notable position and broke the “male, pale and stale” norm of new media.

Angela’s concluding advice:

  • Be prepared to work harder than your male colleagues for the same success.
  • Use your self-doubt to your advantage. Swallow your fear and do talks when asked, make your voice heard.
  • Always aim high, don’t think about what you can’t do.
  • Take risks and take big risks when you do.
  • Always challenge yourself and never get comfortable. Find a way to grow yourself personally.
  • Pass it on – help other women. Women have been used to competing with each other for same positions but we should be supportive of each other.

Stand up and ask for what you deserve.
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Mandy Rhodes is the Managing Director of Holyrood Communications and has almost 30 years experience in print, radio and broadcast media.

She was nervous of the ‘ambitious’ tag of the seminar. She finds it to be a nebulous concept, one that suggests if we’re ambitious this is enough to succeed. This is never the case. “Being gobby is not the name as being informed.” After receiving a bitter reply from a job applicant’s rejection Mandy identified a potential loss of respect for experience and expertise as young applicants expected opinions and a blog to be enough to be employable; Mandy stresses it’s not. Being ambitious should not replace experience and training.

While at the Evening Times Mandy realised she had to carve out her own niche and own stories to make herself known amongst her male colleagues. She’s taken this with her to Holyrood and takes pride in her ‘old fashioned’ approach to journalism. As MD she has built a loyal and developed team of journalists and has the drive to keep the Scottish arm relevant and profitable. She knows she wouldn’t have got where she is today without hard work and is keen to not positively discriminate.

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The afternoon closed with a panel chaired by DC Thomson Editor-in-Chief Sally Hampton. They further discussed positive discrimination where Mandy is aware she benefitted from it but does not believe it’s the way forward. A woman should not get a job because she’s a woman; she must be the best applicant available. Similarly, she believes women should only speak on panels and broadcasts if they genuinely have something to contribute. She observes many men will go on such panels to talk about anything. Women shouldn’t do the same.

Sally asked how we go about encouraging confidence in women in business. Asking for a pay rise when a job is well done is suggested as men are more likely to ask on average. Be brave enough to do so as you’ll be working harder for the same or lower pay than your male colleagues. We’re a long way from equality but it is largely up to us, as women, to stand up and ask for the attention (and the pay) we deserve.

PPA Scotland’s International Magazine Festival and Conference MAGFEST 2016 has been launched and will be on 16th September. Click on the link for more information on PPA Scotland and MAGFEST.



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