Blanche Sainsbury Executive Commercial Director of Trinity Mirror
We welcome Blanche Sainsbury to our regular series of interviews with leading figures in the UK / National business community.
Tell us about your recently appointed role as Executive Commercial Director of Trinity Mirror Regionals in December 2015, having previously held the same position at Local World since November 2013.
I was appointed commercial director of Trinity Mirror Regionals in November 2015, having previously held the same position at Local World since January 2014. I have worked in media and publishing for more than 25 years, beginning at the Western Morning News in Plymouth where I progressed through the ranks to the position of commercial director of West Country Publications.
In 2000 I joined Northcliffe Media (part of the Daily Mail Group) as Deputy Commercial director and was subsequently appointed Managing director of South West Wales Media and then South West Media Group. (I originally met with Moon Consulting when I was MD of South West Media Group and have worked with them ever since.
Local World started life in 2013 as an integration of the former Northcliffe Media and Iliffe Media business. We started then with not a penny in the bank but a lot of ambition, in fact we had to generate cash in those early months from a standing start to pay our staff, creditors and banks. We had a vision to create a truly digital business. We delivered some impressive results in three years. By the end of 2013 (our first year as Local World) we had grown our audience online by 50%, and a digital revenue growth of 22% on 2012 and profit growth of 10% on 2012. We had also generated enough cash to deliver a net debt position - all in 12 months. In three years we delivered strong dividends to our shareholders and grew our profit position by double digit percentages. We sold Local World after 3 years for £220m to Trinity Mirror and I joined the enlarged business as Commercial Director of 27 daily newspapers, 70 paid for weekly titles and 32 free weekly titles, we also have 50 major online websites.
We are the largest regional media business in England and Wales. My role is broad and strategic although I am keen to take an operational approach too as a role model for commercial practices within the business.
What is your future vision?
Inspire and grow the regional media business to successfully adapt to the new media world, concentrating efforts in digital and mobile opportunities whilst innovating as fast as technology allows. Working in the local media industry has never been more exciting than it is today. The explosion of digital tech in recent years has afforded us a vast array of new ways to connect with our audiences who rely on us for news and information regardless of how it is delivered. Local news brands have the ability to deliver large audiences; and in a multi-platform world this reach is growing. New data from JICREG shows that cross platform reach of local media across print and digital has grown to 40 million people - that's 78 per cent of the UK population. This growth is fuelled by rapid increases in digital audiences.
We will have a purpose of brining engaging content to a fast growing audience and provide great response for our advertisers.
What challenges are you facing?
The Web brings both challenges and opportunities, whilst exploring and acting quickly on these opportunities constant evaluation of print products and their economic viability is challenging. These evaluations can often lead to cost reduction plans, and retaining our most talented people and attracting new talent is vital. It is important to remember though that if something doesn't challenge you, it won't change you either.
Where have you used your experience in other roles?
Chair of many media industry conferences, nationally and internationally.
Regular speaker on driving commercial performance through inspiring teams to deliver.
Chair of the Commercial Board for Local Media Works (newspaper society)
Chair of 1local - advertising solution for national advertisers.
Director of Maggies Cancer Charity Board - South Wales (2011 - 2014)
Director of Business Improvement District both in Plymouth and Swansea (2010-2013)
What do you think makes a good business leader?
Create a vision that inspires people to use their potential. Have good radar for "Bull" and an ability to get straight to the issue. Taking the tough decisions and doing the right thing for the long term is key. Anyone can cost cut to make margin differences but instilling a belief in people who will follow you to grow the business is key to the appointment of a good leader. I've always trusted my gut instinct - it's served me well over my 30 year career. I've been honest with my teams be it good or bad news, people want and need to know where they stand. I've also been lucky enough to work with, and learn from both the best and the worst in leadership styles in how to engage, motivate and inspire people. ALWAYS listen and stay humble!
Do you have any advice you'd pass on to a newly appointed company director?
It's your spotlight so prove yourself to yourself not to others. Be honest, and be brave!
What do you like to do outside of work?
Fitness, Fashion, Family and Friends!
Who is your hero/personal inspiration?
Rosa Parks - in 1955 Rosa Parks of African American race refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger she was arrested for civil disobedience, she was then fired from her job and received many death threats for years. Her brave act was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.
What are you reading right now?
Predatory Thinking - a master class in out-thinking the competition. by Dave Trott.
A book about how to think creatively and outwit the competition, in personal and business life. It involves looking at a situation you can't solve and changing it into a situation you can solve. Brilliant anecdotes and stories.
What has been your experience of working with Moon Consulting?
The company over delivers in quality of applicant and speed of filling vacancy. We have worked with them over many years on a range of roles, the majority of which are searches / head hunts from Commercial, to Sales and Media but all with a strong digital and creative thread. Vanessa and team are wonderful to deal with and a great sense of humour too!
About Moon Consulting
Moon Consulting is your Trusted Advisor in Executive Search & Selection, Talent Management and Business Consulting. We build long-term relationships with businesses to secure high-performance candidates by identifying needs, finding the right talent and integrating leaders into organisations. Moon Consulting has extensive expertise and knowledge of the market, with a proven and impressive track record of delivery even in niche markets. Contact us today to realise your goals.