Interview of Ian McMaster, “Business Spotlight” editor-in-chief
Once upon a time our team’s decided to arrange Skype interview with this interesting and
smart, communicative and sociable person with wide world-outlook, our talk lasted not so
long, but I felt really sympathetic about him
1. Olga: Could you tell in brief about your career in “Business Spotlight”?
Ian: I joined Spotlight Verlag (publishing house) in 1992 as the business editor for
the monthly general-English magazine Spotlight. In 1995, I became editor-in-chief of
Spotlight, a position I held until the end of 2003 and then again from January 2006 to
February 2009. In 2001, I was the founding editor of Business Spotlight magazine,
then a quarterly magazine for German-speakers who want to improve their business
English. Now, the magazine appears six times a year.
2. Olga: You know, nowadays there’re so many magazines, newspapers, printed papers
– so the market is really competitive one: do you care to have unique sales proposal?
Ian: Business Spotlight’s USP is that it provides targeted material for German-
speakers (and, via our licence editions, for speakers of other languages) who need to
improve their communication skills in English at work. This means not just language
tips, but also help with intercultural skills and business communications skills such as
giving presentations or taking part in international meetings. It also means providing
of help through a variety of channels – not just the magazine but also via audio CDs
and downloads, our website, podcasts, workbooks, videos (via our new brand
“Dalango”) etc. Nowadays, learners want to be able to choose the learning channels
that suit them the best way possible.
3. Olga: Your typical customers – who’re they?
Ian: Our typical customer is highly-educated, between 25 and 50, needs English
regularly at work and is very keen to improve his or her skills. We have a fairly even
division between male and female customers. As for future developments, we have a
number of plans, both online and offline, but it is too early to talk about them in detail.
But one thing is certain: we will have to be innovative and continue to offer our
customers new and relevant ways to improve their business communication skills.
4. Olga: What about usage of new social medias to promote your magazine?
Ian: The use of Twitter is a new PR and marketing tool that we are experimenting
with, as many other companies do. The point is that we have to be where our
customers are rather than simply assuming that they will come to us. (I am smiling and
approving these words – really nicely said) So, although some people are sceptical
about the use of tools such as Twitter, Facebook etc, I think it is important to be
opened minded about them. Ultimately, the consumer decides which channels are
important to him or her.
5. Olga: What does it mean “good article” for you?
Ian: I think a good article should meet three criteria. I like to call them the three “Rs”.
First, it should clearly be relevant to the readers. Second, it should appear at the right
time – in other words, at a time when readers want to read about the subject. And third
it should be right, by which I mean correct from a language viewpoint. We spend a lot
of time on all three criteria. A fourth criterion, of course, is that the article should be
interesting. Nobody wants to read boring articles, no matter how relevant, timely and
grammatically correct they are. Our readers want to learn and be entertained at the
6. Olga: Are there any difficulties in creating authentic-look-like English magazine?
Ian: The most important thing is that our correspondents, who are mainly professional
journalist, should write naturally, so that readers are not given some artificial English.
At the same time, we do edit the texts carefully for clarity and also for the language
level, so that we provide a variety of levels for our readers. And, clearly, in our
language-related texts, we give a lot of thought to the precise language that is used.
7. Olga: Are you involved in any additional projects or piece of work?
Ian: I am currently the joint co-ordinator of the business English teachers’
organization BESIG (www.besig.org), although I am stepping down after three years
at the conference in Poznan in November. BESIG is an important networking
organization and I have very much enjoyed my period as joint co-ordinator.
8. Olga: What about staff managing: whether you’ve got any special personally yours
Ian: As I have been at the company for more than 17 years, I know the processes here
very well. But so do many other members of our staff, some of whom have been here
even longer than me. I think we all try to pass on our knowledge and experience to
newer members of the team. As for managing the staff generally, I think it is a
question of trying to discover what motivates each individual person and reacting
accordingly if possible. It doesn’t always work!
9. Olga: What are you in charge of, do you have time for writing as well?
Ian: The position of editor-in-chief is primarily one of organizing and coordinating
both the team and the topics in the magazine. It is important to try to get a balance
between delegating decision-making to individual team members and taking the
responsibility for important decisions and setting the direction for the magazine and
our other products. As an editor-in-chief, I don’t write as much as I used to in the
magazine, but I do write a blog for our website three days a week.
10. Olga: What sort of person are you?
Ian: Yes, life can be confusing and I think one of the greatest challenges is to live
with ambiguity. I am by nature a person who likes things to be structured and
organized. I am also an irritatingly pedantic perfectionist at times, like a number of my
colleagues! So I am constantly fighting against the desire to have everything under
control and to avoid chaos. On the other hand, I do believe that a degree of structure is
important to help even the most creative employees channel their energy effectively.
11. Olga: Could you brief your life motto?
Ian: Do your best. That’s good enough. Don’t expect to be thanked, but be grateful if