10 questions with… Jane Austin, founder of Persuasion Communications

The media and marketing sector is ultimately about people. In this weekly series, The Drum speaks to professionals across the sector who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what little insights they can offer the rest of us. This week’s 10 Questions are answered by Jane Austin, owner of Persuasion Communications. What was your first ever job?

I wanted to be the 90s Scunthorpe version of Joan Bakewell and make documentaries. Instead I got a job selling classified ads on Marketing Week after university. I was the Jacques Tati of telesales. I knew I was useless and doing it for all the wrong reasons, so l was eventually caught out performing an ‘effective sales call’. I hadn’t realised that they’d taped me making actually a very ineffective sales call to my mother back home. They told me that I hadn’t “embraced capitalism”. I said thank you as I flounced out of the door, which they kind of held ajar for me.

Why did you get into the ad industry?

It wasn’t conscious. I then became a writer at Creative Review, which was a brilliant way of getting involved with the creative process across design, production, graphics and advertising. I loved the patch; it was where I got to know a lot of people mentioned in question four. I wrote a few graphic design books and began an MA in design history as St Martin’s so thought I would move more into design until I got a call about a job at Campaign.

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about the industry since working within it?

That it isn’t just about embracing capitalism. It’s full of idealists and dreamers who genuinely want to make interesting stuff. There are a few ‘challenging’ characters, and the difference between advertorial and editorial is still widely misunderstood, but it’s still a lively, ideas-driven and provocative environment and, as a result, I’m always learning. I remain, of course, surprised and saddened by the fact that the industry is so slow to tackle, at a deep organisational level, and to be horrified by it’s misogyny, privilege and lack of representation.

Which person/people would you most want to spend a day with in the pub? Family and friends not allowed.

I would bloody love an all-day pub party with a quiz thrown in – I’m part of an A-team of quizzers who smash it on a regular basis.

Clearly, I’d want all our clients there.

Chris Palmer, Mark Denton and Helen Archer (for giving me work, which really wasn’t essential to them, when I was homeless with a six-day-old baby waiting for benefits). Theo Delaney, funny as fuck and heart the size of the planet, for also being there at this time. I’d also want this bloody lush group of people: Malcolm Poynton, Dylan Williams, James Kirkham, Juliet Haygarth, Liz Wilson, Laura Gregory and Vicki Maguire, around the table too for staying so loyal to me over the years, and I’d like new mates Chris Pearce, Chaka Sobhani and David Kolbusz there too.

Oh, and Jeremy Lee, although he prefers wine bars, like the one in ‘Robin’s Nest’.

What have you learned from any mistakes you’ve made in your career?

To be honest and not to take things too personally. Also, to push back on stories that I think are awful and could potentially damage mine and my client’s rep. Less is definitely more.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

I’m perpetually excited about everything (I’m in PR).

You’re stuck in a meeting that is dragging on and on and not going anywhere. What do you do?

I was once in a meeting with a CEO who ranted for over an hour about not being recognised in the way he felt he deserved. So, the female managing director and marketing director and I used the time to do our weekly shop, pay some bills and download some dating apps. If only I could have swiped left to stop him wanging on. I’m more confident now so would probably stop the conversation.

If you could ban one buzzword or piece of jargon what would it be?

Just one? Human-centric, rockstar, brave, authentic, collaboration, cagencies and journey. Don’t get me started on circling back, reverting and reaching out; makes me feel nauseous. As for wackaging…

Best activity to do for a team away day?

Fondue. Which inevitably then leads to a sing along around a piano in a Soho dive bar. Our summer team jaunt will be protesting against Trump if he visits the UK on the 13th of July.

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

I’ve got through a lot of meetings on the back of this Alan Bennett quote: “Definition of a classic: a book everyone is assumed to have read and often thinks they have”.

There’s a Jilly Cooper mantra, which I think is nice: “Whenever you meet anybody, look for something nice to say about them, because even if they’ve got a hideous face they might have fantastic ankles or lovely hair, and compliments do cheer people up enormously.” Or else it’s back to my heroine Joan Bakewell. She says: “When someone annoys you, just imagine them naked. You’ll feel their equal.”


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