My Life In Media: Julia Hobsbawm


Julia Hobsbawm, 40, is chief executive of Hobsbawm Media and Marketing, which coined the phrase "integrity PR" and became renowned for turning away clients it didn't believe in. The daughter of Marxist historian Professor Eric Hobsbawm, she is London's first professor of public relations. David Blunkett and Kimberly Fortier first met at one of her parties. She is married with five children.

Julia Hobsbawm, 40, is chief executive of Hobsbawm Media and Marketing, which coined the phrase "integrity PR" and became renowned for turning away clients it didn't believe in. The daughter of Marxist historian Professor Eric Hobsbawm, she is London's first professor of public relations. David Blunkett and Kimberly Fortier first met at one of her parties. She is married with five children.

So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

After failing to get accepted for a media qualification I was determined to work my way up through the ranks. I stumbled through my job in publishing, but the one aspect that really excited me was listening to the publicity director on the phone, pitching something to the Express. I fell in love with PR then and haven't fallen out of love with it.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

My father got The Guardian but I'd be lying if I said I read anything other than Jackie.

And what were you favourite TV and radio programmes?

The Golden Silence. I don't remember what it was about but it is ironic, given that I'm something of a talker. I remember watching the news and thinking the Vietnam war was actually part of the closing credits, because it was on every night. I also liked Kojak and Call My Bluff.

Which media do you turn to first thing in the mornings?

BBC Breakfast, Sky News and then Today. But it competes with preschool telly like My Parents Are Aliens.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I'm on maternity leave at the moment but still check Media Guardian three or four times a day. I like antispin.com, which is part of the movement I'm interested in to make the media more transparent. Also the Mail online. BBC4's The World does some of the best in-depth international news stories; it's a hidden gem.

What is the best thing about your job?

I'm a serial networker and my job allows me to indulge my enjoyment of meeting and speaking to a whole range of people. I've found my niche.

And the worst?

Being phoned on my mobile when I ought to take the call but am in the middle of bathtime with my children.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Being made professor of PR, because it demonstrates PR is finally being taken as seriously as journalism.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

The time I accidentally emailed an internal finance memo to a large email group consisting almost entirely of journalists.

At home, what do you tune in to?

Jamie's School Dinners and, if I'm awake, then always Newsnight and This Week with Andrew Neil. I've also discovered The West Wing and have watched every episode. I really like Steve Wright on Radio 2.

What is your Sunday paper? Do you have a favourite magazine?

I cram in as many as possible. The Observer and The Independent on Sunday media sections are very good. I'm addicted to Vanity Fair's Dominick Dunne. I nurse an occasional habit for the National Enquirer and like Grazia and Easy Living.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

To take the antagonism out of the relationship between PRs and journalists and develop media businesses that help to provide more transparency and better information traffic between them.

If you didn't work in the media what would you do?

Try to be the most active parent at my children's school - and teach more PR.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I admire people who campaign well in the media, particularly Jamie Oliver and Liberty's Shami Chakrabarti. Also Chris Evans, for his elegant comeback.

CV

1982: Leaves the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster) without a degree after she fails to transfer from French and Italian to media studies. Joins publishing house Martin Duntz, where she files and types invoices. Moves to Penguin and then Virago as a publicist.

1987: Joins Thames TV as a researcher for Books By My Bedside.

1989: Becomes a researcher on BBC1's Wogan.

1992: Founds Julia Hobsbawm Associates in her living room.

1993: Firm becomes Hobsbawm Macauley Communications; her co-founder is Sarah Macauley, wife of Gordon Brown.

2002: Firm becomes Hobsbawm Media + Marketing Communications, as Macauley leaves to work part-time.

2004: Starts Editorial Intelligence Ltd, a media publishing company tackling poor pitching by PRs.

2005: Editing Where the Truth Lies, a collection of essays on the media.

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