Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
5 mins read

Publishing credibility and audience engagement: Insights from Immediate Media’s Sabrina Sahota

What better way to maintain credibility and trust in your product as a journalist than putting the power directly in the hands of the consumer to rate and review?

Sabrina Sahota, winner of one of our PPA 30 Under 30 awards, did exactly this at MadeForMums, introducing home tester panels and group testing.

“Consumer testing provides important evidence that almost cuts through the marketing,” she says. “Once you’ve put the products to the test on a day-to-day basis then you start to understand the real quirks and niggles, which is what consumers really want to know about.”

What made you want to work in publishing?

I’ve always been an avid consumer of journalism. I’ve still got stacks of old issues under my bed of Elle magazine and NME from when I was a teenager, and it was this brilliant writing that sparked an interest in me. I knew I wanted to be a journalist but I wasn’t sure on the path I wanted to take to get there. So when I was lucky enough to be offered an internship at Sky News during my gap year before university, I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to figure this out. It was there I met so many inspiring journalists, who really cemented the fact that it was an industry I wanted to be a part of.

Chart your career from the start to where you are now.

After finishing my A Levels, I went on to do a year-long internship at Sky News. I got to spend time working with lots of different teams from production to planning and digital.

From there I went to study Multimedia Journalism at Bournemouth Uni. During this time I also freelanced at Sky News, as well as interning at various publications including The Sun, The Sunday Times and The Debrief.

My course was great at putting alumni in touch with graduates, which is how I went on to freelance for on their social team and The Sun online as a Digital Consumer Reporter after graduating in 2018. I then started at MadeForMums as Editorial Assistant on the product and reviews team in January 2019. After 9 months I was promoted to Digital Journalist and have since been working across product and reviews content on the site.

You introduced the MadeForMums Home Testers Panel & led the launch of MadeForMums Labs – can you explain what these brought to the MadeForMums brand and how they benefitted the brand?

MadeForMums is the leading parenting brand when it comes to product reviews and it also has a large community of really engaged users – so we came up with a plan to combine the two. The Home Testers Panel allowed these users to test a whole variety of parenting products and also allowed us to base more of our product recommendations off real-life experience. The testing comments really bring our product content to life, providing useful insights that you would only get from using a product on a day-to-day basis with a baby.

MadeForMums Labs has allowed us to test some of the key parenting product categories such as nappies, wipes and cribs, which really benefit from group testing in a more scientific/numbers based way (hence the name!). It has given us more authority when we recommend products as we can show they’ve been thoroughly tested and crucially, tested against their competitors.

Why is consumer testing and reviews such an important part of journalism?

I think it gives credibility. A brand might say it has ‘the lightest pushchair ever’ but is that actually the case? Consumer testing provides important evidence that almost cuts through the marketing. Once you’ve put the products to the test on a day-to-day basis then you start to understand the real quirks and niggles, which is what consumers really want to know about. And particularly with parenting, some products are big investments like pushchairs, car seats and cribs. So it’s important for us that we help the user to understand exactly what they’re spending their money on.

You have proved your adaptability in your role, taking on the jobs of others over the furlough period – what have you enjoyed most about the new roles you have taken on and the skills you have learnt?

I’ve really had to step up as an editor, which is something I didn’t expect to be doing so soon. But I think it’s made me a better and more focused writer compared to this time last year. I’ve had the opportunity to commission some of our key pieces on the site, and I think editing these pieces has helped me to become a more confident journalist. It’s really satisfying to see the work pay off when something you’ve worked on is then getting great traffic.

What advice would you give to somebody looking to get into digital journalism?

I’d say try to be as multi-skilled as possible, as digital content covers such a wide scope from articles to video or social. You don’t have to be a highly-skilled in everything but have some basic skills under your belt such as Photoshop, video editing, SEO and an understanding of the different social media platforms.

The landscape is constantly changing and you have to be able to adapt to this. For example whilst I feel comfortable using Instagram, TikTok has been a whole new platform I’ve had to get my head around which has been challenging but really fun.

What’s on your radar?

TikTok! It’s incredible how much it’s grown in the past year and it’s really exciting to see what different publishers are doing on there. Whilst initially it was thought of as a platform for a very young audience, I think this past year has shown how much of a wide appeal it has. It’s also interesting to see how other social media platforms (particularly Instagram) are adapting to respond to its success. At MadeForMums we’re certainly thinking about how we can make more of this short form video content for TikTok and Instagram Reels.

What magazine would you stockpile?

It would have to be BBC Good Food. I love to bake and it’s one of the few things lockdown hasn’t put a stop to – if anything it’s made it more accessible (apart from that brief flour shortage last year). I can never have too many new recipes to try out, so it would have to be something food-based for me.

Jess Browne-Swinburne
PPA Staff Writer

This What’s on your Radar interview is republished here with kind permission of the PPA.