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  • Bio: Zoe Jobson is Group Brand Manager at The National Magazine Co Ltd, based in Central London. She works across a number of well-known national magazine titles which include Good Housekeeping, Country Living, Coast, Prima, Prima Baby, House Beautiful, Cosmop

Zoe Jobson

Working in magazine publishing for a national company is often perceived as undeniably glamorous but according to Zoe Jobson, Group Brand Manager at NatMag (National Magazine Company), it is not quite the fluffy world painted by American comedy dramas like Ugly Betty. She tells us how she found her way into, what she calls, the ‘business orientated’ side of publishing.

Graduating in 1995 from the University of Derby with a HND in Business & Finance, specialising in marketing and law, I was set on pursuing a career in marketing. I joined The National Magazine Company Ltd as a Business Development Executive for the Group Classified Department, largely supporting the sales team.

Although this was not an official training scheme, I was in the hub of the classified department, the perfect learning ground when starting out. Within 18 months, I was promoted to Senior Business Development Executive. This role was predominantly an advertising marketing position, which included working with the sales team producing and manipulating figures into sales stories, presentations and mailshots, whilst also working with the management team to increase the efficiency of the department.

My next move was to head up the Central Advertising Marketing team working across the central sales divisions i.e. corporate, group classified, northern office and international sales and later jointly managing the advertising marketing resource across the whole portfolio.

In 2000, I moved to a smaller publishing company called Aim Publications to become their Marketing Manager. Over the years, I’d worked on the advertising/marketing side, and my focus was to move into consumer marketing.

Here, I developed experience through specialising in wedding and B2B publications and events and PR. Although a smaller operation, my role was very hands-on and I was exposed and involved in most areas of the business. After a year, Aim Publications was acquired by NatMag in 2001, and NatMag Specialist was created.

In the heart of it

So back I was in the NatMag marketing department in 2002 as a Brand Marketing Manager, this role was later expanded to Marketing Manager in 2004. I was promoted to Group Brand Manager in August 2007 when marketing was centralised. I now oversee eight of the magazine brands and manage two brand managers.

Everyday is different and with such a varied role there is never a dull moment.

The main focus for me is selling copies of the magazines and to do this I need to understand our consumers and also our competitors. This is achieved through various forms of research and evaluation.

Alongside the Publishers and Editors, I help police the brand, ensuring that brand summaries are accurate and relevant and through editorial product evaluation we keep the product on brief and deliver what the consumer wants. A large part of my role is working with the publishers on the marketing strategy, with responsibility for recommending, sourcing and project managing all gift with purchase products and other forms of added value and managing the given budgets, plus ensuring that this is communicated clearly and strongly at newsstand.

The other side of the role is the advertising marketing strand, where I work with the advertising teams to provide reader profiles from various information sources like National Readership Survey (NRS) and Target Group Index (TGI), manipulating data to help the sales team sell and analysing category performance against the competitor sets.

Highs and lows

Like any other job, there are always big challenges. On a monthly basis we have a number of time sensitive reports we have to produce as well as working on cross title proposals and presentations. On a daily basis I find getting the children ready and getting out of the house by 07.30 is an achievement in itself!

Working with the Far East and importing goods can often be a formidable task especially working against things which are beyond your control. Who can predict a hurricane or a strike? Luckily, so far we have always found solutions for any problems which have arisen.

More recently, we have found the current economic climate has meant working extra hard in order to find new angles and proposals as the advertising market has, undoubtedly, been hit. We are lucky that we work on such powerful and well-established brands.

All the best bits

Although work life can be hectic and stressful, I enjoy the interaction with various departments. My role is very much central to many operations. On a normal day I could be meeting with Editors, Group Publishing Directors, creative teams and advertising. This has given me a very good business understanding across the board.

After working in marketing for more than ten years now, I know it might sound clichéd but I have to say what gets me out of bed in the morning is the people I work with alongside the fantastic portfolio of such well known brands. I think you have to keep a healthy work-life balance to be successful – work hard, but play hard too!

You should bear in mind… magazines are constantly evolving, it is, in no way, a static market.

My advice to you:

  • Working in publishing is tough, it is not as glamorous as portrayed by TV shows. You could see yourself working outside office hours/weekends helping to prepare for events. Whether that means stuffing goodie bags or whatever task it may be, you need to demonstrate the enthusiasm to role your sleeves up and get stuck in.
  • When I am interviewing, I look for a positive can-do attitude which I believe is an essential for anyone considering a career in marketing.
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