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Gender Marketing with Jane Waterhouse

01 October 2013

Jane W

Jane Waterhouse is by her own admission not your typical person to answer questions about career advice.

The Publisher at WE Magazines (the online sites include The Hoopla and Birdee) and Managing Director of Sister Communications, Jane lives a life “based on making the most of every day you have”. And that, she indicates, is the sum total of her career advice.

In a busy East Redfern café where the scent of Morrocan mint tea and star anise add something exotic to our mid-morning meeting, we veer away from career advice and on to stories about career paths – including Jane’s personal highlights as well as what work and business have taught her about the need to serve others.

There’s more fruit in this orchard.

“I have a business mind but the reason I get up is to create,” says Jane, explaining that even as a child she lived in her imagination, creating things in her head.

“I might daydream but I’m also a doer. I remember watching Marcia Hines years ago performing ‘You’, and she was wearing this amazing top that had this ruffle. I got some fabric, cut a pattern from sight and began sewing. I was 13.

Jane likes ‘doing’ because it keeps her head busy: “I have a very busy head. It’s best to put it to good use.”

From these admissions about her early life it’s hardly surprising to find Jane was once a fashion designer: “The label sold nationally. Michael Hutchence wore all my clothes on the Kick album – we’re talking a long time ago.”

From creating clothes and businesses to creating advertising, publishing magazines, marketing and being in the online space, Jane’s especially interested in reaching women. She cut her teeth in publishing with legendary editor Nene King at Woman’s Day, producing 33 commercials a year for the magazine when it was in its heyday selling more than 1million copies a week.

“Whenever I’ve said, I’m never going to do that - including owning a mobile phone – I’ve ended up doing it. Nothing in my upbringing said I couldn’t be or do something. It’s what I love about nurturing talent. It’s so exciting watching people grow, watching them push and stretch themselves. I expect that from the people I work with because I do it myself.”

In relation to reaching women, Jane believes those who are doing well in the marketplace understand who their woman is and what those women want. Brands that are struggling haven’t developed a relationship – “just because it’s pink doesn’t mean it will work [for women]”.

Social media has taught us that people want dialogue. If, like Jane, you go to work with the purpose to serve your clients, your stakeholders, your staff, the communities with which you engage, then that dialogue is very important. It’s the two-way conversation from which you both can learn and develop meaningful relationships.

“I spent five years as Head of Program Development and Publisher of Weight Watchers. Sadly, I can tell you the Points Value of everything in this place,” she says, waving her hand to encompass the entire content of the cafe menu on the table in front of us.

What excited Jane about her Weight Watchers experience – other than the theories and ideas of the consulting behavioural psychologists she came into contact through her role - were the conversations you could have and the potential these conversations had for building strong relationships.

Weight Watchers, she explains, was about meetings. It was based on women talking to one another.

(Weight Watchers actually began when one woman told another that she hid cookies in the bathroom.)

Once you understand the power conversations have, says Jane, and can create an online medium that supports robust conversation, success and growth follow.

“I have always been about finding the white space. That is why we launched our site for young women, Birdee, earlier this year,” says Jane, indicating that the genesis for the site came first through the women she works with at The Hoopla and that community.

“We often talk about our children and our concerns, especially the limited conversation magazines have with young women. There are other versions of the ‘young female’ experience out there than the Justin-Bieber-Kardashian-sisters monologue peddled by most magazines. Birdee hooks into and develops that other,” says Jane of the peer to peer driven content and format of the site.

As we saunter off on the generational-difference tangent, Jane says she’s found there are some glaring differences when it comes to attitude and work process: “Young people have grown up in a quick fix world – a world we’ve admittedly helped manufacture. When I worked in traditional publishing and advertising you could not afford to make a mistake. A bank ad with the wrong percentage price on a mortgage, for example, going out into 1.2 mil newspapers is a large, costly mistake. I know, I made it once.

“What accompanied the potential for that sort of sickening mistake is good discipline around checking, process, systems - that’s harder to find in young staff because they have been educated in a ‘press delete’ world. At The Hoopla we don’t encourage the ‘don’t worry, it’s online so we can just change it straight away’ attitude – it’s not a place we want to be.”

She also notes that in her experience, young women today have been brought up to respect themselves and value their worth as well as being more financially literate. Those attitudes, she says, come with their own set of challenges for employers and the older workers with whom they share the workplace.

For Jane such considerations have led her to be a better employer – on the look-out for how she can serve those she works with and leads: “I look at the Birdee girls and I can’t help but be excited and energised by what they have to offer. Birdee and that generation are game changers.”


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