PROFILE: Emma Gilpin-Jacobs -- A head for business

Emma Gilpin-Jacobs looks very pleased with herself. The Financial Times global communications director is on a high as the financial broadsheet continues to rack up award after award.

With three UK Newspaper of the Year awards and 50 similar gongs from across the world already in the cabinet, the paper has enjoyed particular acclaim in 2008.

And not only is it being recognised by industry peers, it is raising its profile among the general public. This year it made star cameos in cult BBC comedy show Gavin and Stacey and Hollywood action blockbuster Iron Man, released this May.

This star-studded approach is testament to Gilpin-Jacobs' feisty attitude to the paper's previously staid PR efforts.

The media PR stalwart joined the FT in November 2006 and immediately set about overhauling the comms department. With a strong media relations ethic, she has installed PROs with a specific remit to promote FT stories across the media landscape.

‘A strong media relations mach­ine should lie at the heart of every successful in-house team,' argues Gilpin-Jacobs. ‘This is especially true for media brands. We need to be promoting the FT's content all the time and let people know when our journalists have scoops.'

Emma Gilpin-JacobsDuring a career in media PR that spans more than a decade (previous employers include Time magazine and The Investor magazine), Gilpin-Jacobs, aged 39, says the changes she has experienced have been monumental.

She counts the digitisation of the media industry as the biggest adjustment. ‘One of the things that attracted me to this job was how the media were embracing the internet,' she explains, ‘and more specifically, how a brand as old as the FT is responding to this hugely changing context in which it operates.'

She admits another big challenge is getting readers to see the FT as more than just a newspaper and to use the website more. ‘We have fantastic content on the site, and that is what we build our reputation on. Whether that goes out in the pink pages or on the website, or to people's BlackBerry, you are promoting that content.'

The second biggest change she has noticed is the globalisation of the media industry. The FT now has five dedicated editions for the UK, US, India, China and the Middle East, and is printed in 24 cities.

‘The world has become such a small place. And that's very important to the FT because we've moved from being a UK brand to truly being a global one.' She cites the FT's jump in the Business Superbrands rankings this year to seventh place (up from 18th last year) as an example of how seriously the brand is being taken.

Gilpin-Jacobs actually started her career as a journalist, and she admits the lure of joining the FT, after a brief spell agency-side earlier in her career, was too good an opportunity to pass up. ‘Journalism never leaves you,' she says, as she sits in her riverside office in the paper's imposing HQ on Southwark Bridge.

‘If you are a bit of news hound you never lose your eye for a story. I like the fact that the agenda is always changing in my job.'

It was also during her time at consumer shop Freud Communications, where she learned how to ‘spin a lot of plates', that she decided she wanted a greater say in a company's business strategy than was possible agency-side.

She is passionate about her ‘fundamental belief' that communications is now accepted as an important part of the strategic business mix. Indeed, her position on the board at the FT is a demonstration of how seriously the newspaper is taking communications as part of its strategy.

Editorial Intelligence chief executive Julia Hobsbawm credits Gilpin-Jacobs as being ‘one of the smartest communicators' she has met.

The pair previously worked together when Hobsbawm ran a PR agency employed by Gilpin-Jacobs. ‘She delivers and is incredibly focused. And she has the best handbag collection of any woman I know,' adds Hobsbawm.

Another former colleague, Time magazine publishing director for EMEA Laurie Fisher, says she missed having Gilpin-Jacobs as a sounding board when she left the magazine: ‘Emma has wonderful insights and is great to bounce ideas off. You could also always count on her to go for a glass of champagne at the Groucho Club.'

This fun but tough work ethic seems to have proved successful at the nation's favourite business daily.Print titles may be under fire in today's media landscape, but the FT should fare better than most with someone like Gilpin-Jacobs fighting its corner.

2006 Global comms director, FT
2000 International comms director, Time magazine
1999 Head of corporate, Freud Communications
1997 Account director, The Hubbell Group, Boston
1996 Assignment editor, CNBC/Financial Times Television
1994 Launch editor, The Investor magazine
1992 Reporter and editor, Breaking The Mould magazine

What was your biggest career break?
Each job I've had has been a career break on its own really. But if I had to pick one it would probably be moving to the US in 1997 and landing a job working in financial PR. It is not easy to get sponsored with no previous track record in the industry there, but I worked with contacts I'd met as a financial journalist and it set me up in my second career in communications.

What advice would you give someone climbing the PR ladder?
Be prepared to do the groundwork - however frustrating it feels at the time - so you can be sure you know the basics before moving up. As a manager, I never ask anyone to do something that I can't do myself.

Who was your most notable mentor?
A journalist called Ian Watson, who taught me a lot about journalism but also about the rules of working life, many of which I still use today.

What do you prize most in new recruits?
Passion, a sense of humour, intellectual flexibility and a desire to learn.

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