Women in business — Anna Jones, chief executive, Hearst UK
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Anna Jones became chief executive of Hearst Magazines UK in 2014. Since then she has expanded the business, which publishes Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, and its digital network. She has also helped launch Hearst Empowering Women, an initiative designed to inspire women.
She grew up in rural North Yorkshire and then went to Newcastle University to study international business management. Ms Jones also spent a year at France’s École Supérieur de Commerce.
Before becoming chief executive, she was Hearst’s chief operating officer. She came on board following the company’s acquisition of French publisher Hachette Filipacchi, where she served in several roles, including digital and strategy director. Ms Jones also worked in marketing at Emap, a publisher, and on the launch of Grazia magazine.
She lives in north-west London with her husband and two young children and likes to travel, do Pilates and bake — “with varying degrees of success”, she says.
Who are your business influences?
Kevin Hand (ex-chief executive of Emap and chairman of Hachette) gave me some great opportunities to move out of my marketing comfort zone and try running digital businesses. Arnaud de Puyfontaine, former chief executive of Hearst UK, also championed me as I moved into the chief executive’s chair. Rebecca Miskin, chief executive of Gloo Networks, a technology company, has been a fantastic mentor and a brilliant female role model.
What is your best business decision?
Taking on the digital director role at Hachette gave me experience and an understanding of running and developing a digital division as a profitable business. This experience was invaluable as we transformed Hearst into an innovative and agile company.
Why did you choose Newcastle University?
It had and still has a leading business faculty and a good international business management degree course. I liked the idea of combining business with languages and the opportunity to do a year at a renowned business school in France. I have recently been back to Newcastle to talk to the students. They were so engaged and impressive. And their business skills and entrepreneurial spirit almost made me wish I could start my time there all over again.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
The variety and the people. No two days are ever the same and it is very fast paced so there is no chance of me getting bored. Hearst’s portfolio spans 19 brands, which range from Cosmopolitan and Digital Spy, to Harper’s Bazaar and Good Housekeeping — all very distinct entities, with different business models and their own challenges and opportunities. Working in the media is intense and frenetic, but I am lucky that the team I work with can keep up with the pace and maintain a sense of humour. We do laugh a lot, which helps keep things in perspective.
What do you find most difficult?
We reach such a large audience with our brands. We produce content that people actually care about. Our sites are among the most visited in the UK, but some negative perceptions still exist about established media — particularly in printed form — that are far from reality. As an industry we are working hard to remind people about the relationship we have with our consumers and the quality and integrity of the work our journalists do every day.
What is the best piece of advice given to you?
Be true to yourself. It is a cliché, but a sound one and not always easy to do when you are in the minority.
What is your favourite business book?
Freakonomics by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner. Although not strictly a business book, it was so refreshing when it was first published and the notion of digging below the surface for the truth, of looking at something you think you know in a totally new way is helpful for anyone running a business. The best quote: “Information is a beacon, a cudgel, an olive branch, a deterrent — all depending on who wields it and how.”
Which websites / apps would you recommend for businesswomen?
The FT, obviously. I also think it depends on the industry you work in. For me it is all about the media sites such as Campaign, Mediaweek, The Drum and so on. For news, I like the Guardian, the Telegraph and Mashable. I could not live without WhatsApp. It is like having my best friends, business network and family in my pocket and I probably use it dozens of times each day. I am very proud of our Hearst Empowering Women site, which brings together content from across all our brands — it is a great place to go to be inspired.
Which three people, living or dead, would you invite to a business meeting?
Sheryl Sandberg, Christine Lagarde and Coco Chanel.
What is your alternative career plan?
Angel investor. I love working with entrepreneurs and there is a lot of talent out there that needs funding and support.