Q&A: Jocelyn Cripps, Financial Times

Jocelyn Cripps, the FT’s executive vice-president of global B2C marketing, on social media, the recession and the title’s future.

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Marketing Week (MW): Will the FT Group be affected by the job cuts outlined by Pearson chief executive John Fallon last month, aside from the 25 jobs from editorial teams?

Jocelyn Cripps (JC): We’ve had a good year, things are going well and we’re very busy. There are exciting things going on in the payment optimisation of the mobile community. I don’t know what’s coming down the line, but the team is very recently formed, and we’re still recruiting. The business we are in is tough at the moment but one of the things the FT and Pearson have been good at strategically is empowering the brand to make sure it will be around for another 125 years.

Everything we’re doing is to make sure we are here for our customers – the integration of the marketing teams, the way we’re aligned, the way we’ve moved towards a digital-first strategy, those are all things to perpetuate the brand.

MW: Is there any truth in the rumours that Pearson might sell the FT business?

JC: We’re very focused on the next 12 months, we have a job to do and we can’t be distracted by rumours of a sale.

MW: What effect did the recession have on your marketing approach?

JC: If you work in a news organisation, bad news is always good. People turned to the FT for authority. When it happened the first time around we saw a huge spike [in readership]because when people are confused they turn to a source they trust.

Obviously people were more financially constrained, but as our audience is typically very senior what we saw more was a polarising of sources, but again the FT wasn’t particularly affected.

MW: What challenges does social media pose, bearing in mind your tiered payment model?

JC: We don’t get many people complaining about it. We have an @FTCare Twitter feed which is where you might expect to see people complaining, but it’s not really a problem. Once registered, people can view eight articles a month. There’s a reciprocal value; the FT provides premium content and in return we ask for a fairly small amount of data that will enable us to personalise content.

Our customer service teams use social media tools to see where the issues are and respond. There will clearly be some people that will hit a registration barrier and not be happy about it, but we’ve found that if we explain what we’re doing and why, consumers generally understand as we are including them in our plans.

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