Having a blank sheet to create the corporate communications
strategy of a major media company could be daunting for many. Not so for
36-year-old Kirsty Macmaster, the freshly-appointed - and first -
director of corporate communications at the Mirror Group.
Nor did she flinch when she had to face the firing line even before she
got her feet under the table on the 21st floor of Canary Wharf. Her
first hours in the job were spent handling the backlash against the
tabloids in the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
’The editors were put under ridiculous pressure and there was a need to
protect them from the critics who were at their throats,’ she says.
Coming in as an outsider made this easier for her to do, she explains:
’I could afford to be objective and put the whole thing in perspective.’
It also helps that she already knows many people throughout the
In particular, she has known Mirror Group chief executive David
Montgomery for several years since she advised him on the City aspects
of his revival plans for the Mirror Group when he took on the job in
One of her first tasks is to define the Mirror Group’s corporate
’The group has never looked at its image in any sensible way, so there
is a need to shape it and decide what kind of company we want to be seen
as,’ she explains.
In the post-Maxwell years, the company has managed to rid itself of old
working practices, streamline staff and move back to financial
Macmaster says that the company has ’had time to bed down’ and is ready
to work on the external PR front.
Macmaster’s task is vast: the company owns major UK newspaper titles
such as the Mirror, the People and Scotland’s Daily Record, plus joint
ownership of the Independent (Ireland’s Independent Newspapers owns the
rest). Cable channel Live! TV is also part of the Mirror Group.
She’ll be working with editors of the individual titles, ’so what
they’re saying about the newspapers is in line with what we feel about
the company, but I’m not about to gag them or say they can’t say
anything’, she says.
Macmaster will also be setting up internal communications procedures and
handling government affairs, particularly in the context of further
media regulation. She’ll be capitalising on her contacts with the City -
though she is barred from doing so until the end of the month as part of
a non-compete agreement after selling her shares in Frew Macmaster, the
investor relations company she helped to set up in 1990.
It is, in fact, her earlier career in investor relations and fund
management that she believes qualifies her to take on this new role. Her
career in fund management spanned seven years, starting from 1982, but
she is quick to point out that her City career wasn’t anywhere near as
lucrative as Nicola Horlick’s.
’However it gives a strong base in terms of understanding what makes a
successful company, and whether their strategy will deliver the growth
shareholders want. The stock market is a cynical place and doesn’t like
criticism and you have to use all your powers of diplomacy to get them
to understand that the criticism is valid,’ she adds.
Since leaving Frew Macmaster in November last year she has been taking
time out before taking on the Mirror Group role. She took this path
rather than set up another new business in investor relations ’because I
think the market is pretty well served the way it is’.
In the meantime, she has been relaxing on the financial cushion which
she says 18 years of work have afforded her - and has just bought a
ranch in Colorado. ’It’s like Utopia,’ she enthuses. ’It’s very outdoor
and healthy and that’s what I enjoy. However, you do feel it’s a bit
like living in Disneyland because there’s no crime and people aren’t
nasty to you.
’It doesn’t feel real,’ she says. ’I prefer the pace of Canary Wharf,
Fund manager, Murray Johnstone
Head of investor relations, Saatchi and Saatchi
Director of development, Triplex Lloyd
Set up Frew Macmaster with Anita Frew
Director of corporate communications, Mirror Group