CV; JULIA HOBSBAWM Co-founder, Hobsbawm Macauley Communications


I didn't pursue much by way of further education. I went to what was then the Polytechnic of Central London to study modern languages, but took an elected sabbatical at the students' union to become publications officer for a year, in 1982.

I decided not to go back to my degree course, and took a temporary assistant's job with a small medical publishing company. I typed invoices and did filing, but I did have opportunities to be more pro-active in the publishing process, and they asked me to prepare publicity material for the Frankfurt Book Fair. Then an author came over from America, and they needed help putting together a publicity schedule.

But the real turning point was when I heard the wife of the publisher on the phone to a journalist on a national newspaper, trying to persuade the women's page editor of the value of the book she was promoting. I thought that was tremendously exciting - having a project that you believe in, and trying to communicate that to the public through the media.

I applied for a job at Penguin, where I became a publicity assistant, working on both fiction and non-fiction titles. Then Virago approached me to become their publicity manager, where I immediately began working on campaigns for Maya Angelou. That was another milestone, for it was working for authors like Maya that made me realise that any work - and PR in particular - is at its best when you believe in who or what you're promoting.

But I did begin to feel a little jaded about the constraints of book PR, because I felt it was all rather repetitive. I wanted to spread my wings, and was prized away from Virago by a television producer called John Tagholm, who was working at Thames Television. I went to work on a late-night books programme there called Books By My Bedside, which was the perfect way for me to move from book publishing into the media at large. I then went from Thames to Terry Wogan's show on BBC1, and had a wonderful seven months working with him, but I did realise I didn't want to make my career in television.

When BSB was set up, I was invited to run the forward-planning desk for two daily entertainment shows, but when BSB merged with Sky in 1990, I was made redundant. I managed to get out of TV just at the right time, and I got a short period of freelance work at Harpers and Queen. But during my time at BSB I had met Ken Follett, and we had struck up a friendship and talked about our enthusiasm for the Labour Party. He was about to start up the 1000 Club - for people who gave pounds 1,000 or more a year to Labour, which I later ran - and knew they were looking for a fund-raising consultant at Walworth Road.

I was offered the job on a freelance basis. I happened to be spending quite a lot of time in America, and I was aware of what the Democratic Party was doing with their fund-raising, and I wanted to try and import some of their techniques, like their gala dinners. But I missed the media relations side of the job, and began to realise there was nothing to stop me setting up on my own.

So, after the 1992 election, I set up a small trading company called Julia Hobsbawm Associates in my living room, and the Labour Party retained me to carry on running the 1000 Club. The first new client we got was the "Save Face" campaign, when Jason Donovan sued The Face for libel, and that gave me the confidence that I could find other business out there. Within about six months, things had gone slightly crazy, and I knew it was time to get a proper office when I had five people working in the flat and found one of them using my bed as a desk.

I teamed up with Sarah Macaulay, who had been involved in my company right from the start, in 1993, to form Hobsbawm Macaulay. Our clients now include Vanity Fair, New Statesman, Christie's and Forward Publishing, and we represent the Runnymede Trust and do one-off projects and consultancy work. There are now 12 of us: nine in London, two in Edinburgh, and one person in our office in New York. I've become very passionate about this business - I'm on the council of the Institute of Public Relations - and I think if you work with good people, and you're honest in your dealings, there isn't any better working lifen

Interview by Scott Hughes

Julia Hobsbawm is co-author of the `Cosmopolitan' `Get Ahead Guide to PR and Advertising', published by Penguin Books.

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