Ria Rickward manages relationships with commercial clients for the West Somerset Free Press, the Wellington Weekly News, Chew Valley Gazette and the Midsomer Norton & Radstock Journal. Having joined in 2001, she talks about the power of the press to make a positive difference to local life.
What are the main responsibilities in your role?
I look after the commercial sales for the Free Press and Weekly News, while I support colleagues for the Gazette and the Journal. A lot of customers have been advertising with us for years. Our titles are well established so our customers are people who know what we do because they are also part of the community. We now sell digital solutions and explain how they can work for their marketing needs.
We have a lot of independent businesses owned by families but we also deal with national companies and chain firms when they want to advertise locally with us. We are always looking to bring in new businesses while we keep up regular contact with our clients. We look to offer new opportunities to our clients and go through them with them.
When did you join the company?
I joined in 2001 to work in telesales. Then I became a field sales representative, before going into a senior sales role. In 2016 I was appointed to my current role.
What is a typical day in your role like?
We spend a lot of time on the phones, helping advertising clients to achieve their goals. I speak with colleagues in editorial to understand what is happening in the news and also work with clients in the accounts team who deal with customer invoices. If a customer would like to see me in person, I will arrange to meet. We have annual publications, which give clients opportunities to place adverts alongside content related to local events.
The community is important to us and people living in our communities look to us to keep them informed, so taking the time to meet clients is important. We are in the communications business so people working here have to be prepared to pick up the phone and speak to people. We work together to produce brilliant products which readers want to pick up and buy.
How is digital part of your role?
There is a lot of focus in the company at the moment to add digital to our portfolio. Our clients understand the need to broaden their horizons and are taking us up on the offerings.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy working with customers and talking to people about their businesses. I like being able to plan my week as the work life balance is really good. Because we are a family business there is a good atmosphere. If there is a problem we help one another.
What has been the most memorable occasion where you have helped a customer?
There was a young family with a disabled daughter who had suffered a series of health issues which needed a lot of care. They were not able to afford certain work being done to their home to accommodate their daughter so we carried an article in the newspaper and the staff did some fundraising, which we featured in editorial. The money raised allowed the family to do some building work including creating a downstairs bedroom. We were able to make practical improvements to her life, thanks to some helpful clients. It showed the power of the press.
Where did you work before you joined?
I was an outdoor education instructor and worked for the likes of PGL and Euro Camps. I enjoyed meeting people. You have to be able to talk to people in that line of work, whether it is children or their parents, as well as colleagues and employers. You have to get on with people. I did a lot of work with disadvantaged young people.
What are your interests outside work?
I love water sports, having recently taken up paddleboarding. I am team captain for Taunton RFC Ladies, who are classed as a development team. We started up before the Covid-19 pandemic and are currently playing friendlies.