Leaders Panel

Why editors make great leaders in the media industry

A career in publishing is an excellent foundation for a leadership role in the media sector and editors are particularly well prepared, Mumbrella’s Publish conference has heard.

Speaking at the event, Marina Go, former general manager of Hearst Brands at Bauer Media and one-time editor of Dolly, Elle, Australian Good Taste and Sunday Life, said editors, in particular, have a specific skill that positions them well.

She said: “The job relies on having a strong vision and leadership is entirely about a vision. You can teach people to manage but you cannot teach people to have a vision.”

This vision also requires a willingness to grasp the commercial side of the business with Go adding: “Not everyone that comes through as a journalist has a commercial understanding or care and so, therefore, they probably shouldn’t be running a business.”

Also speaking on the panel, Lauren Quaintance who also held a number of top editorial roles before starting content strategy and creation agency Storyation, concurred with Go. She said: “Your job, as an editor – a lot of the time – is to say no. When editing titles like Good Weekend, I felt my job was constantly saying no to people. ‘No, that doesn’t work for this audience.’ Really fiercely protecting a vision and fiercely protecting a view of what the audience needed.”

This laser-focused vision, Quaintance said, must go hand-in-hand with an understanding of the commercial operation of the business, a skill not all people in publishing possess.

“It’s not that they don’t have or couldn’t develop the commercial acumen, that they can’t read a P&L – honestly anyone can read a P&L – they just don’t have the desire to do it. That’s just not the way that they are built,” she said.

Gereurd Roberts, CEO of Pacific – himself an example of someone who has come up through the ranks from the editorial side of the business – countered that the division the leader comes from is less important than their grasp of the wider business.

“Exposure to departments you’re not in is actually critical,” he said. “I don’t think that there’s a particular proclivity for someone in either sales or editorial to be more inclined to be an excellent leader, but you can see within every department there are people who want to extend beyond the department they are in. They are the ones that end up being great leaders because they are inquisitive – they want to know more. They want to extend themselves.”

The panel discussed the merits of studying for a Master of Business Administration when aiming for leadership roles. Ed Harrison, CEO of Isentia, said while it has helped him to structure his thinking, he advised against doing so to simply have this on your resume.

He said: “It has to be something you are going to do and enjoy for its own sake because it’s a hell of a long slog – and expensive – if you just want that at the bottom of your CV.”