A week in the life: Ann O'Neill

A week in the life: Ann O'Neill


Our latest look at the working week of well-known industry figures comes from Ann O’Neill, business development director ESi Direct, Evening Standard, Independent, i and London Live.


6am Alarm goes off. My husband reminds me that unless I get up now, the entire morning will be a disaster. I wonder how much of a disaster exactly, which takes up another 15 minutes. End up racing around the house wishing I had pre-planned what I was going to wear.

7.30am(ish) Leave home and drive to work, dropping teenage daughter off at school after an interesting discussion in the car about the balance of work versus parties in the run-up to GCSEs. There are no clear winners here.

8.45am Arrive at Northcliffe House, the home of many great newspaper brands. First coffee of the day, scan the rival papers before the morning sales meetings.

9am Department meeting; a summary of what needs to be achieved from a revenue perspective across the commercial department for the week. This is followed by a management meeting, a drill-down into the numbers and discussion about priorities. Sharing of information by the team plus a discussion around projects where cross-departmental collaboration is required. There is a lot of ground to cover as we have The Independent, i, and the Evening Standard brands as well as London Live in our portfolio.

Drive to our Stamford Brook office where the direct sales team is based and have a quick catch-up on how trading is going. Prepare for the week’s client meetings.

I interview a potential candidate for one of our entry-level sales roles. This is one of my favourite aspects of the job; we spend time ensuring we recruit the right people for the team in terms of not just sales ability and enthusiasm but future potential for the business, and it is very rewarding when we identify a successful candidate.


Morning meeting with Rowena Kenny at Four Communications about an Interiors supplement we will be running in April.  We go for coffee in Borough market and catch up on all things Independent and i, including our fantastic digital numbers. Rowena promises to discuss at a meeting with the client the following day.

Back to Stamford Brook.

5pm Off to the Evening Standard Business Connections event with our guest speaker Vince Cable chaired by our business and city expert, Chris Blackhurst. Business Connections is the London Evening Standard's members’ organisation dedicated to the capital's SME community. We run Business Connections networking events quarterly with high-profile speakers.

The event team have worked incredibly hard to ensure the evening is a success and everything runs smoothly. Vince Cable proves to be an engaging speaker and there are lots of questions. Our partners Grant Thornton and BDB Law are happy and the members enjoy their evening. Leave for home at around 10pm after dismantling our stage backdrop and stands with the team - we have this down to a fine art now after lots of events, although we are slightly hampered by having Darshan Loganathan, who must be one of the shortest men in media on the team. Not glamorous  but very funny. 


First thing a forecast meeting with the management team; we forecast regularly because of volatility in the market, particularly with Easter on the horizon and also the general election. Happily we are feeling optimistic about trading. The Independent really does well in the run-up to elections due to its objectivity and lack of political allegiance, this will be the first election for i, and we have some exciting marketing plans in place so we feel confident about revenue delivery.

Spend the rest of the day chasing revenue and clients as well coaxing the team to deliver the March budget.


I’m at Northcliffe House in the morning for some key catch-ups. One of my meetings is with Zach Leonard, our MD of digital. Both The Independent (53 million uniques) and the Evening Standard (eight million uniques a month) have seen large growth in traffic figures. In August last year we launched i100, which algorithmically ranks the most popular news stories powered by social media. This is making a strong contribution to our positive digital performance.

We chat about Krux, our new unique audience segment tool that allows us to deliver a premium audience across all our digital touch points. This will have a very positive effect for clients as we can build bespoke segments to target niche audiences.

Later in the afternoon I go to a presentation by Madgex who power our job board, i jobs with Houtan Froushan our head of recruitment and education. They have combined a strategy session plus a really good presentation on future digital recruitment trends with wine tasting, which proves to be a winning combination. They are also very generous hosts so I have a lovely time catching up with other media owners including my old colleague Steve Playford from the FT, as well as sampling some truly delicious wine. I leave later than I intended, having consumed more wine than I intended. No one seems to notice slight squiffiness on arrival at home.


Breakfast with Toby Windsor from SMRS at The Bleeding Heart. It’s always good to catch up with Toby; we spend a hilarious few minutes discussing the joys and challenges of parenting 16-year-old girls, as well as catching up on business and the future of the education and recruitment market. An upbeat and amusing start to the day over a very healthy breakfast, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (him) porridge and a smoothie (me).

Off to a meeting with BDB law, one of our sponsors from Tuesday night for a debrief on the event. Good meeting working out how else we can collaborate.

Lunch with RI5’s very own Kevin Turner. Lunch with Kevin is always very informative in terms of industry trends and market intelligence and as ever he has lots of useful insight and advice. We inevitably find ourselves chatting about how the industry has changed since Kevin and I first met. (Our first meeting wasn’t a successful one; I had contacted one of Kevin’s clients without discussing it with him first. He was pretty cross and subsequently I was too scared to talk to him for at least another two years!) Happily, years later we are still laughing about it.

Back to the office post-lunch to catch up on trading, figures and emails. The team have had an excellent trading week so we have some celebratory beers in the office before heading for home.

7pm. Arrive home, eldest son is home from University and our daughter isn’t at a party, so it’s a family night in, a great end to a good week.

Monday, 23 March 2015

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