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Interview: Jo Redfern Commercial Director of The Student Room


By Laura Thomas  //  Mon 20th October 2014

What was your first job?

My first sales job was in telesales at The Independent. Headset, notepad, call rates – old skool.


How did you get into the Youth Marketing industry?

I launched an Education supplement when at The Independent and we developed a portfolio of student focussed products throughout the years. That took me to UCAS Media which I ran for four years and that then brought me to The Student Room. I have been around students since I was a student nearly.


What is your favourite campaign / brand?

I like it when brands reach out of their traditional space. Hewlett Packard worked with us this summer and had a great campaign that centred on content around festivals, events & competitions – not much tech in sight. They sponsored fashion forums and other non-tech discussions too. TSR is all about integrating brands into an engaged and vast student community.


Marketing to marketers is tough indeed, what’s your secret?

Find out as much as you can about their strategic objectives, work the best of your product portfolio to suit their needs and deliver measurable results. And you need to be trusted, honest and likable – that helps.


Which resource do you always turn to:  blog / book / site?

Brand Republic is always on the reading list. And I keep an eye on the education & student news (Times Higher, Guardian Education, NUS) and there is a fantastic blog about the changes in UK Education policy (Wonkhe) which is great for planning.


What is the biggest events mistake / lesson you have made / learnt?

Research & test any new proposition. Just because something sounds like a great idea commercially, users may not respond and without that, it won’t fly. TSR users & moderators are great for that – they will tell you almost instantly if is good, bad or ugly.


Best piece of career advice?

Be nice. You get a lot more success if people want to help you as opposed to just because that’s their job.


What piece of technology can’t you live without?

I like my iPad – it’s my diary, tv, news source and the third parent to my daughter.


How do you feel the increase in tuition fees has impacted on the number of students applying to study at University?

It doesn’t appear to have had an impact in the overall application numbers - higher education is still an attractive proposition for many and the student market is growing. I do think that it has and will change the student into more of a ‘consumer’ of HE and I can already see this impacting on university & college marketing. The definition of higher education institutions as brands, the messaging and the channels used are all developing at pace.


What has been the most surprising / unusual topic discussed on a TSR forum during your time there?

I really like the Model House of Commons where users of all different political persuasions, debate issues, hold elections and share debate. They are a very politically engaged bunch.

Although one of today’s polls about chocolate made me smile:

I think this might be my favourite week EVER!!!!!!!!!!! I am currently working my way through a Galaxy bar that is bigger than my head. What chocolate do you rate the highest?


What do you feel that the future holds for marketing to the youth audience?

That’s a huge question and whilst I think the core premise of creating a brand message that engages remains the same, getting under the skin of how future generations are motivated, what their aspirations are and how they are driven will be key.  We’ve just completed a report on the Student of 2024 (downloadable from tsrmatters.com). The future looks amazing for the technoholic generation - tech heavy, wearable, sharable, more personal as well as more global. Young people will learn & interact in a very different way. Marketing to them will need to reflect their growing global passions, the personalisation of their lives and a world where many of their future careers & jobs don’t even exist yet. Brands can gain so much intelligence on individuals from photo’s, posts online that they will be targeting you individually in the future based on what you are wearing, where you go, and which band you went to see. Exciting stuff.


Lager or real ale?

Gin preferably.

What are your hobbies?

I am a mum to an eight year old so my hobbies are a supporting role in Brownies, drama group & swimming. But we live in Brighton where there is loads going on so when I can, I get to the theatre or dip my feet in the sea.


Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I am an armchair archaeologist. Studied it at university. Lends itself well to a career in advertising.


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