“Be clear on expectations and don’t be afraid to argue your point” says Kristina Eriksson
2nd July 2014
A fascination with communication skills started at a young age for Kristina Eriksson, head of media relations at the Financial Times (FT). She explains that as the daughter of a language teacher, she was convinced early on that good communications skills are crucial to success, in life as well as in business.
However, initially she wanted to be a vet so she studied science, which she thoroughly enjoyed, but eventually realised she would prefer working in the media. Eriksson explains: “I discovered I was quite good at writing, so later thought about journalism. I am a very curious person who enjoys learning, and that need is fulfilled in communications. There is never a dull day at the FT so my teenage self would have approved of what I do now.”
Describing why she loves her role, Eriksson says: “The communications field is dynamic and fast-moving and as a career it has surpassed my expectations in the variety and depth the job provides. Being at the heart of the business you get a bird’s-eye view of both the company and the industry, but you also have the opportunity to work closely with different departments on bigger and long-term projects. This keeps things fresh and gives unmatched insight into the administration of a business.”
The challenges of working for the FT include dealing with a huge volume of requests, and keeping up with the fast pace of the news organisation. “The FT is a very well respected global brand so our 24/7 press office has adapted to working across time zones to support each other. The changing nature of media means there is a constant challenge to keep up, not just with news but also with new digital skills and tools.”
Being constantly stretched suits Eriksson, and she enjoys working at a time when the industry is evolving so quickly: “It is an industry undergoing huge disruption and this is a time of experimentation and innovation in publishing. Publishers are looking at new digital business models, new ways to deliver content to the reader, and understanding audiences through data analysis. Journalistically, technological advances enable new forms of storytelling, data journalism and an opportunity for wider distribution of editorial content through social media and events. Nimble start-ups are challenging long-established brands and legacy businesses, but trust is essential and people still want high-quality journalism to find out what’s important.”
Eriksson believes she has landed on her feet at the FT, and modestly says her success is partly down to luck: “My first boss at the FT saw something in me and took me under her wing. I was in the right place at the right time – she brought in a brand new team and I was there from the start. The FT was my first communications job and I’m seven and a half years in. I have been extremely lucky to have such inspirational and supportive bosses and have had an opportunity for promotion at least every other year. I spent six months in Asia on maternity cover and two years as head of communications in EMEA. Now, as head of media relations, I influence and direct where we put our external communications efforts globally.
“I work with brilliant people at the FT, and every day is different. This is what makes it so exciting. It is rare to find such a collegial culture that is also incredibly ambitious and in constant pursuit of excellence.”
In her time at the FT Eriksson has learnt a great deal about communications and she is keen to share the lessons she has picked up so far. She offers this advice: “Media is changing, and so is communications. Don’t limit yourself to traditional definitions of PR. You are a consultant and a business partner. Make sure you know your stuff, and make sure you deliver the right (achievable, realistic and ambitious) outcomes for your client. Be very particular about audience targeting: don’t focus on column inches – the number of ways you can reach people is growing exponentially. Be clear on expectations and don’t be afraid to argue your point.”
Kristina Eriksson, head of media relations at the Financial Times