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The Judges’ Club: meet Claire Sanderson, editor-in-chief of Women’s Health UK


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

September 13, 2022 | 9 min read

While there’s still time to enter The Drum Awards for Social Purpose, we caught up with co-chair Claire Sanderson, editor-in-chief of Women’s Health UK.

Claire Sanderson

Women’s Health editor-in-chief Claire Sanderson

You can find out more about how to enter the Social Purpose Awards here.

Claire Sanderson’s career began on a slightly different path. In 1999, she snagged a spot on The Mirror’s highly competitive training scheme, which led to a globe-trotting staff job at The Sunday People covering current affairs. But, in 2007, she left the fast-paced world of print nationals and entered the glossy world of women’s magazines. She worked with Look, a powerhouse brand of the era having sold 340,000 issues a week at its peak, and then joined Women’s Health where she’s spent the last six years. She’s currently its editor-in-chief.

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What piece of work are you particularly proud of?

That would have to be the purpose campaigns at Women’s Health.

Project Body Love is a service-driven campaign to encourage women to have better body confidence and to appreciate their healthy bodies, whatever shape they may be. And that was a purely Women’s Health campaign, albeit it was launched in 2017 as In Shape My Shape. It evolved into Project Body Love in 2018, when we joined forces with the creative and commercial brains here at Hearst UK.

It’s our most successful purpose campaign to date, having lived across five brands – Elle, Good Housekeeping, Red, Women’s Health and Cosmopolitan – and it’s still evolving.

Last year we also launched It Starts with a Bra. And that really was my baby. It was my yearning to action change. The concept was to make wellness more broadly available to women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. So, we teamed up with Under Armour, who donated 2000 bras. We disseminated them to various charities across the country, including to refugees and gyms in areas where people without money can use the facilities for free. We created a lot of content including videos for them to play at their various organizations. 

I brought this together by just looking at my own background, the South Wales Valleys, and seeing how deprivation can impact wellness, as well as how a lot of these people are not engaging in it and as a result are more likely to develop life-limiting conditions such as obesity and heart disease. I’m particularly proud of that campaign because I feel like it’s given something back to the background where I grew up.

What’s one problem you would fix with the media industry?

We need to look at diversity. Many media organizations are on it, but whether the work is being done fast enough is debatable. We need to look at how we recruit. Back when I started out, I was an anomaly. It was very unusual for someone like me to get into the media, having no links to the media and no money behind me whatsoever. And, somehow, I managed it. 

But the only reason I was able to do work experience in London was because I went to university there. I was living nearby. There’s absolutely no way I could have afforded to do work experience on The Mirror if I was in the Valleys.

We need to look at access, diversity, where we’re finding talent from, and how we can make it easier for those talents to work within the industry. It just stands to reason that the content will benefit if there’s a broader representation of diversity in the media.

What’s been a career moment that you’re most proud of?

There are two of them. The first one was being accepted onto The Mirror grad scheme because it was competitive. A lot of people knew someone in the industry and got in, but I had none of that. I come from a very modest background and couldn’t quite believe what I’d achieved.

And my second was getting the Women’s Health job. I have always been into wellness. I was very sporty at university and competed while there. It’s always been a passion of mine, and I remember Women’s Health launching 10 years ago when I worked at Look. I sat on the back bench, on the production line, and I’d tell my colleagues when we were sat there late on a Thursday sending the magazine to press that one day I’d be editing Women’s Health. 

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Take the meeting. In media and publishing, it’s all about networks, who you know, who can help you and how you can help them – be it today or in six months’ time. If an opportunity arises, even if you think it’s not going to be beneficial to you today, it might well be down the line. So, take that meeting, network and store that business card or number in your phone. Furnish that relationship because you can call upon them when you need them in the future. 

Why is it so important to celebrate excellence?

Awards give you a profile. The more profile you have the better. We all like to be recognized for our hard work and, in this industry, it’s hard to get recognition sometimes. This is a noisy space. If you can stand out and get awarded for something that you’ve created or achieved, then that can only do you well going forward in your career as a way of standing out. And we all need everything in our arsenal to stand out in this industry.

The deadline for The Drum Awards for Social Purpose 2022 is Wednesday September 28.

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