Insights from the Mail on Sunday City Editor
Financial Mail on Sunday is the business section of the Mail on Sunday newspaper. The section is six pages long and since August 2017 has been edited by Ruth Sunderland.
One of the core values of the Mail on Sunday is that it is recognised as a campaigning newspaper. This carries over to its business coverage. Ruth sees this as ‘democracy in action’ where if you get people to take interest in something and talk about it then policy makers will listen. The Financial Mail on Sunday has been running a ‘Justice for our Firms’ campaign on dispute resolution and through personal circumstances has been instrumental in campaigning for anti-cancer vaccinations for boys. Ruth is always on the lookout for new campaigns that with the Editor’s buy-in can also run in the front end of the newspaper. Readers are quick to respond if they are motivated by an issue.
Approach to Business
With a circulation of over 1.2m and a readership of over 2 million the Financial Mail on Sunday has a strong proposition for those businesses seeking to reach a mass audience.
- The Mail on Sunday can reach customers and staff of many of the UK’s largest companies as well as companies from a wide shareholder base.
- It is well suited for dealing with stories that break out of the business agenda into the national (and international) consciousness.
- Recent high profile interviews include: Sir Philip Green, Bell Pottinger protagonists James Henderson and Lord Bell, Mike Coupe (Sainsbury’s), Sir Martin Gilbert (Standard Life Aberdeen) & Simon Packham (Melrose).
Ruth’s approach to business is based on her belief that business is a force for good in society but business does need to make the case for itself. This is made more acute with the debate over the future of capitalism but the business voice is being weakened by the reputational damage it has self-inflicted through its own actions.
The weekly cycle starts on Monday evening with a look at the forward diary and existing story list to start putting together plans for that week’s edition. An initial news list is prepared for the conference meeting on Tuesday morning. The pages take shape on Wednesday & Thursday morning coming to shape before the section is put to bed at 7 o’clock on Friday evening. If a big story breaks at the weekend (eg Sainsbury/Asda merger) then the team can get into it on Saturday.
Ruth takes responsibility for the main interview slot. Most interview suggestions are dismissed out of hand as the hurdle rate is high. She is keen to interview FTSE 100 CEOs and Chairmen but they need to be interesting and for people to be interested in them.
Financial Mail on Sunday team
Neil Craven is Ruth’s deputy and they run the news list together so is another point of contact. There are four further reporters (currently in flux):
- Chief City Reporter Alex Hawkes is leaving to join the HM Treasury press office. He covers the banking & finance beat.
- Jamie Nimmo covers pharma, telecoms, media and biotech.
- William Turvill is the Brexit correspondent and covers banking too.
- Harriet Dennys is going on maternity leave this summer. Her beats are mining, energy natural resources, leisure and support services.
- Neil looks after the retail sector.
The share tipping column Midas is has been written by Joanne Hart since 2006 who sets the agenda for her column. Ruth has plans to make it more prominent as it is one of the core offerings of the section.
Ruth is always looking for opportunities to promote business stories to the front end of the paper. It is dependent on what is going on in the news but they can vary from serious campaigns to lighter stories.
Ruth doesn’t run external op-eds in the financial section but there is an appetite for very senior business people in the front end if they are punchy and relevant.
Dealing with PRs
Ruth thinks this is a fascinating juncture for PR with the viability of advertising groups being questioned, the high value placed on corporate reputation and new entrants like professional services companies coming into this space. There is a lot for people to get involved with but she does question the legitimate interest of much of what she gets sent. She wonders if people actually read the paper and have any understanding on what is going to play well with the Mail on Sunday and its readers.
Ruth hopes gender pay gap is a tipping point in gender equality as it is not just unfair it is tantamount to theft. She doesn’t think reporting discrepancies in pay will necessarily change anything but it will help create the environment that companies will be concerned. There were more FTSE 100 CEOs called Dave than female FTSE CEOs so something needs to happen.
Mail titles can take different views on issues: The Daily Mail is a strong Brexit whereas MoS takes a more European stance. Ruth’s own stance evolves solely from what is good for business.
Thank you to those on our panel and those that joined us.
Alex Northcott CEO Roxhill Media
About Alex Northcott
Alex Northcott is the CEO at Roxhill Media. Alex founded Gorkana in 2003 and sold the business to Durrants in 2010, which became the Gorkana Group. In 2015 he set up Roxhill Media, the next generation media database. He has over 18 years’ experience in the PR industry having worked at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan.
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