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In this episode of The Speaker Show, Maria Franzoni interviews Juliette Foster.

Juliette is a radio/television journalist who is also the founder and Managing Director of the media services company Magnus Communications. By her own admission, she got into journalism because of a chance remark and it’s those random moments of fate that have played a small but significant role in shaping her career. Not that she’s complaining…business is growing, the outlook is positive, and she can hardly wait to expand her client portfolio.

In this fascinating episode, we discuss:

  • Journalism
  • Media
  • Diversity and Equality
  • Lessons from the Newsroom

Episode #234

What Businesses can learn from the Newsroom

Maria Franzoni

00:00:17 – 00:01:07

Hello And welcome back to the speaker. Show with me, your host, Maria Franzoni. In today’s show, we’ll be talking about the lessons that businesses can learn from the newsroom. The Speaker Show is brought to you by Speakers Associates, the Global Speaker Bureau for the world’s most successful organisations, providing keynote speakers for events, conferences and summits. My guest today is a radio and TV journalist who is also the founder and managing director of the media services company Magnus Communications. By her own admission, she got into journalism because of a chance remark. And it’s those random moments of fate that have played a small but significant role in shaping her career. Not that she’s complaining businesses growing. The outlook is positive, and she can hardly wait to expand her client portfolio. Please welcome my guest today. Juliet Foster, Juliette. It is lovely to see you. How are you today?

Juliette Foster

00:01:07 – 00:01:29

Actually, I’m very well, considering that I’m in my study. I’m looking outside. The sky is slightly overcast, it’s a bit cold, and the dog needs a massive walk because it’s a Serbian shepherd dog. It’s the size of a bear and According to legend, these dogs, they fight wolves. So this is why I’m dreading the walk. He won’t fight me. And there aren’t any wolves where he lived. But he’s got lots of energy. I love you already. Anybody who

Maria Franzoni

00:01:29 – 00:01:32

has a dog, that’s it. I’m a dog person. I love doggies. And actually

Juliette Foster

00:01:32 – 00:01:35

really Well, then, well, and

Maria Franzoni

00:01:35 – 00:01:37

I know that it’s your birthday

Juliette Foster

00:01:37 – 00:01:38

tomorrow, so hopefully

Maria Franzoni

00:01:38 – 00:01:40

you’ve got lots of great plans coming up for that

Juliette Foster

00:01:40 – 00:01:42

time of recording. Of course, when

Maria Franzoni

00:01:42 – 00:01:43

this goes out, you would’ve had your birthday.

Juliette Foster

00:01:43 – 00:01:50

Absolutely. I mean, I’m 21 I’m so excited. I know you look one last year as well. Fantastic, Fantastic.

Maria Franzoni

00:01:50 – 00:01:53

I can’t get away with 21 anymore, but But I think you can

Juliette Foster

00:01:53 – 00:01:54

so listen to let in

Maria Franzoni

00:01:54 – 00:02:04

the introduction we mentioned that a chance remark affected your path that your journey in life tell me, what was that chance remark?

Juliette Foster

00:02:04 – 00:02:47

Well, it goes all the way back in time. Let me be clear. We’re not talking pre dinosaur age. This is post dinosaur. So imagine Juliet is this young, 21 year old, bewildered undergraduate at university. And I had no idea what I wanted to do this. I kept on chopping and changing, and I had this boyfriend who became a press photographer, and he’s now given that up so that he can run a car farm in France. But that’s another story we can discuss on another day. But anyway, he had this ex girlfriend who was terribly nice, and she was offered a training place as a radio journalist and she turned it down, which didn’t make sense to me because I just thought my gosh radio, you know, you can do all sorts of things

Juliette Foster

00:02:47 – 00:03:18

and she just said, Look, you know, I just don’t think I can do it, but I’m sure that you could and I considered it and thought, Well, OK, then, how about it now? In those days, there was no Internet, so I couldn’t actually go on to Google and type things up and find out everything I needed to know. So I remember writing to the BBC and getting these leaflets and things, telling you about the corporation, how wonderful it is and what kind of stuff and getting leaflets from I t n and just talking to people and whatever, whatever. And I thought Well, OK, then I’ll give this a go.

Juliette Foster

00:03:18 – 00:03:58

And of course, the rest, as they say, is history. Because I studied in London, took a year in London at the elephant and castle, which I’d heard about, but I was I was born and raised in North London. So going to the elephant and castle, that was a bit like going into the depths of Babylon because it was like, good grief. What is this? I don’t know if you’ve been to the elephant and castle, but yeah, that’s why it was grey. And it had this this elephant Not not a real elephant, I hasten to add. But it had this this this elephant on top of this 19 sixties concrete shopping precincts, I remember just unbelievable all these subways and goodness as well. So I spent about a year there, and it was really interesting. I really enjoyed it. And

Juliette Foster

00:03:58 – 00:04:34

I thought, Yeah, I quite like this. I enjoy radio and then I sort of made the drift into television a little bit later, but oddly enough, I’ve come back to radio. The great thing about radio is that you don’t have to really make up, and you can wear your scruffy asse jeans and your T shirt, and nobody needs to know. But the conversation somehow seem a little bit more authentic because I think that people don’t feel under pressure in the way that they do when they’re in the TV studio, because they’ve got a camera beaming down on them. And there’s a sense of, Oh my gosh, everybody’s watching me. Which is why radio is great. It’s more free flowing. And the conversations they’re good fun.

Juliette Foster

00:04:34 – 00:05:01

It doesn’t even matter if they’re tough conversations, you can still get through them. It’s friendly sparring, but there’s an incredible sense of satisfaction when it’s done. But basically, that’s how it happened. It was that one chance remark when my then boyfriend told me about his ex and what she wanted to do. But she was offered this job with this place and she said, No, I don’t think I can do it, but you can. And I think she took up a place in retail. Whether she is still in retail, I don’t know, but it was. It was thanks to her. If she’s listening in, please send

Maria Franzoni

00:05:01 – 00:05:02

us a postcard. Let

Juliette Foster

00:05:02 – 00:05:09

us know and listen remember, Name is Christine. Dick. OK, Christine have made her maiden name. Okay, get in

Maria Franzoni

00:05:09 – 00:05:10

touch, Christine. That would

Juliette Foster

00:05:10 – 00:05:11

be amazing, wouldn’t it? And

Maria Franzoni

00:05:11 – 00:05:30

and I Listen, I remember the pre Internet days as well. So isn’t it so that dates that there were people listening Who think what? There was life before Internet. Anyway, you also mentioned random moments of fate, which I think we all we all experience, but you’ve had You’ve obviously had some that really made an impact, right?

Juliette Foster

00:05:30 – 00:06:07

Yeah. I mean, I’ve I’ve always had this sort of nerdish interest in economies. Do not ask me why, but I’ve always been interested in economies and businesses and things like this. And, um, I remember this is back in the nineties, this this job was advertised for its bankers role at Bloomberg. And I’ve never heard of Bloomberg, and I thought, Well, OK, then I know somebody who has. There’s something I knew who worked in the city. I met them at a party and I said, Look, what is Bloomberg? And he said, Oh, you know, it’s amazing. It’s brilliant, you know? We can’t survive without it. And what he was talking about once I actually sort of calmed him down was a box

Juliette Foster

00:06:07 – 00:06:41

which had all sorts of buttons and gadgets and things on it. But it was not. The traders basically used to help them trade. If you were in analytics, you could use it. It’s just bring up all these graphs and goodness knows what else. I mean, it was just this mountain of endless, endless, endless information enshrined in this box. So he said, Oh, you ought to do this job will be really good. Find your love, your love it blah, blah, blah. So I applied for the job and then got this letter saying Thanks, No thanks. And there are friends of mine also applied for the job and they say, Yeah, we want you, we want you. And she just decided

Juliette Foster

00:06:41 – 00:07:19

I don’t want you Jesus told me I’m not I’m not accepting the job and it’s like, Well, why not? I don’t want to do it. And I can’t even remember how many days it was after she told me that or how many hours. But the next thing I knew I got this telephone call from its recruitment agency were very, very sheepish because obviously they were trying to handle the recruitment of the stuff and they just said, Look, we know we told you that we’re not interested, but would you reconsider? It’s like, Well, OK, fine. And I went to the interview. I’m not gonna tell you who did the interview because he probably deny this. But again, the random, the random stroke of fate. He’s now really good friends with one of my friends from Bloomberg in those days.

Juliette Foster

00:07:19 – 00:07:34

But he called me into the interview and he asked me about where I work. So I told him that I’d worked a particular TV station. He said, into which he said, And I’m quoting him. Uh, my ex father in law worked in there. What was

Juliette Foster

00:07:34 – 00:08:02

Yeah, it was a right satisfied. So how much do you want then? That’s what he said to me. And it’s like I’ve never had an interview like this before because normally they’re a bit more, stayed a bit more formal, and I told I told him, OK, well, this is what I’d be expecting. Yeah, that’s about reasonable. All right? It’s Tuesday today. Do you wanna start next Monday? And that was it. So again it was that that whole sense of faith, but because she decided that she didn’t want the job,

Juliette Foster

00:08:02 – 00:08:27

I then get this call from the recruitment agency which had previously dropped me to say Look, come and come. And would you be interested in working with these people? And I stayed for nearly five years. So it was just one of those bizarre situations. And then the guy who interviews me reconnects with one of my friends from there, and he’s calmed down a lot, apparently. But I mean, I’ve never reminded him about that interview, but I’m sure that he deny it.

Maria Franzoni

00:08:27 – 00:08:32

Fantastic. Fantastic. So so that was great background. Great learning, wasn’t it? Working with

Juliette Foster

00:08:32 – 00:08:33

Bloomberg, It really helped

Maria Franzoni

00:08:33 – 00:08:43

set you up. You were made redundant, but you then went back into TV studios. Why did you go back to TV Had you not had enough of that?

Juliette Foster

00:08:43 – 00:09:15

Yeah. I mean, basically, this was This was between leaving Bloomberg and then going to sky because I worked at Sky for nearly six years. And so, yes, it was It was all good fun initially. And then I was made redundant, and that was I’m going to combine this answer with What was the question you put to me? Because this is my other random moment of faith thing. Because what was quite funny was that I’ve reached the stage where I was at school. I was actually very board, which sounds a bit weird, isn’t it, Because you’re anchoring programmes you’re seeing around the world

Juliette Foster

00:09:15 – 00:09:57

and your board. How can you be bored? But I was getting bored because it was this thing about the formula of news and going through this routine. So I was driving into wires or just miles away from where I live. And it was very exhausting, etcetera, etcetera. And I just thought, I really want to leave. I just don’t think I can do this anymore. And on the sixth of June, 2000 and 62 things happened. Two things. One, the remake of The Omen, was launched in London. It was a red card. It was a red carpet opening, and I got a telephone call from my boss saying, Look, can we see you tomorrow? Don’t worry about your shift. I thought you’re gonna make me redundant, and that’s exactly what happened.

Juliette Foster

00:09:57 – 00:10:40

But it was actually one of the best things that actually happened to me financially because I was thinking of leaving Had I left before that redundancy notice, I would have short changed myself financially. But to address your other question, Yes, I was bored working in the newsroom, and then I went back to the newsroom and I did it because it was all that I had known. I wasn’t shell shocked at my redundancy, but I just thought, OK, I need to get back to work. So you, you you instinctively aim for that industry, which you know best. Okay, that’s where I went. But I found it was the same issue. I was excited at first, but then there was this sense of boredom, and it’s the boredom with the news formula. I have spent

Juliette Foster

00:10:40 – 00:11:33

nearly five years working in the city, and I had to understand economies. I had to understand businesses. I had to get a sense that I will never have the knowledge of somebody who trades 24 7 or somebody who’s a banking analyst. But I understand there was a little bit better. And when you have a financial story which you’ve prepared for it, you’ve got your guests set up and then you’re told Oh, um, your business bulletin. Yes, we factored in three minutes, But you’ve only got one minute now because Adele’s singing a song live, and we want to take a bit of her singing. And we also want to have a show Business Journalists discussed that. So your bulletin is reduced to three minutes. Don’t get me wrong. I like Adele. But I’m sorry if you’re talking about an economy

Juliette Foster

00:11:33 – 00:12:12

and you’ve got growing inflation and that is going to impact on a lot of people I’m sorry. I don’t really care about a celebrity journalists appraisal of a particular singer or whatever. To me, it’s not important. But this was what was happening. Or the other thing that happened with news is that I mean, I was I was working during the global financial crisis, and I remember again, I’m not going to mention the name of the company. But there was a particular company. There was something which was happening, um, with within its its inner workings, and it had a big impact. And I remember working with my colleagues on this, and we were we were looking around reading the stuff which was coming up online and talking to people,

Juliette Foster

00:12:12 – 00:12:45

and we then figured out okay, this is this is what is happening. And this is why this story is important. And this is why it fits into the subprime mortgage crisis. And it was a big story. And then to have the editor of one of the bulletin has come up to me and say, Okay, does this story make a good lead? And there’s an incredible responsibility when an editor of a flagship news bulletin comes to you and you’re just the anchor and says, Is it worth leading on the story? And you say yes. You think if I’ve got this wrong,

Juliette Foster

00:12:45 – 00:13:22

I am not going to be working in this place? My ships are going to disappear because I know how this game is played that if it goes badly wrong, I am the weak person in the link because I’m a freelancer. So the chances are that I’m going to get the blame on this. As it happened, it was a very good call because they lead on the bulletin and we knew it was a good call because when we looked at some of the other bulletins on the rival channels. Guess what? They were leading on it, too, Even if they weren’t leading on it. It was up there in the top three stories. But I think that what was so upsetting was that this was a business story. Our team found it and news took it. So our bulletin was gutted

Juliette Foster

00:13:22 – 00:14:03

and I just thought, I can’t do this. I really because there are some big stories to tell in the business world and they’re not getting out there or if they are being told they’re being told in one minute or three minute bursts, if you’re lucky or possibly two minutes, the in between and I just thought, No, the shifts are drying up, but that’s OK because it means that I can focus on other things and I can work with people. I’m not going to be judgmental because I’m learning from them, and that’s why I enjoy what I do. Because I’m involved in telling their stories and I am learning you are never too old to learn, and for me it’s a great privilege,

Maria Franzoni

00:14:03 – 00:14:38

you know, That’s fascinating. It’s fascinating to hear the sort of inside view of what really goes on in the newsroom because I do often get frustrated with the news and think, you know, tell me more, Don’t give me just the headlines. I want to want to go more in depth in some of the topics. And so I, you know, sort of shouted the newscasters, but also the fact that you’d get bored. But it’s interesting because you’ve got this structure to follow. I can see how you would people think it’s glamorous, right? People think it’s fantastic to be on the to be, you know, a newscaster to be a broadcaster, But actually you are constrained that I hadn’t considered that is tough

Juliette Foster

00:14:38 – 00:15:11

because at the end of the day, news is a commodity, okay? And you know, when you go in and you have a programme meeting, so you know what you’re gonna be talking about. Some stories tell themselves you know how they’re going to follow up. And of course, that order can change because news is constant. You can certainly get something which comes in and it completely throws up, throws a running order into chaos, and you have to run with that. But that’s something which are trained to do you do that? You know what? You know what it is, but it’s actually very exhausting.

Juliette Foster

00:15:11 – 00:15:35

And the other thing again, which people don’t think about is that whenever you’ve got a a major story that breaks a massive story, Okay, you’re sitting there in that studio and you’re looking as calm as a cucumber. But what people don’t see or hear is what’s going on in the gallery. That gallery is the nerve centre that drives the programme. What you see on the screen, it comes out of that gallery

Juliette Foster

00:15:35 – 00:16:01

and you hear the shouting, the thing and the blinding. If somebody doesn’t do what it’s told, and your instinct is just to say, will you shut up? But of course you can’t because of you. What were you thinking? What the hell are you talking to? What they don’t realise is that you’re responding to that noise in your ear piece and again, that’s part of the discipline, because you learn to separate yourself from that to dip into the talk when it’s happening, or you can have you can you can be reading a cue

Juliette Foster

00:16:01 – 00:16:20

interviewing somebody, and you may get your director or you may get the producers saying in the interview. Now we’re going over to X Y Z in 10 seconds. They’re talking about whatever. It’s just flashed up on Reuters. It’s like, Okay, fine. That’s going to quickly run with that very, very frantic. It’s really fun. I don’t think

Maria Franzoni

00:16:20 – 00:16:21

I could do that. I don’t actually. Do

Juliette Foster

00:16:21 – 00:17:03

you do that? You don’t think you can do it, but you But you could do it. I mean, I never thought I could do it, but I don’t think about it now because, you know, it’s in the It’s in the working D N A. Okay, you are. It’s how you’re trained. You are trained to cope with every eventuality, you know, So you have to deal with it. If a plane falls from the sky somewhere and you’ve got V I P s on board. Okay, You do get that adrenaline buzz, you run with it, you know you can’t stop, and it’s the the adrenaline buzz drives off it. Take us down when you finish your shift and you’re handing back to handing over to somebody else. And then there’s the exhaustion because it’s like, my gosh,

Juliette Foster

00:17:03 – 00:17:35

this has happened. I’ve done it. I’ve survived this, but it’s very, very difficult because I’ve I’ve had situations, well, one situation where I’ve had a breaking news story, and it was very personal because one of the people who died in this event was connected to my to me personally. So I’ve I’ve been in that situation as well, and it’s very, very strange to when you go through that. So yeah,

Maria Franzoni

00:17:35 – 00:17:39

I can imagine. So let’s talk about what you’re doing now. You have your own business. Now

Juliette Foster

00:17:39 – 00:17:44

I do have my own business. Yes, it’s called Magnus Communications LTD. Tell us.

Maria Franzoni

00:17:44 – 00:17:48

Tell us what you’re doing your business and how you know and how it came about

Juliette Foster

00:17:48 – 00:18:27

we provide. I provide media services. So what I do is it’s primarily working with conferences, which I really enjoy, and a client can actually set up a conference. They may say to me, Look, we want you to facilitate this. Can you do it? Yes, I can do that. Let’s talk about the structure. First of all, we need to know what sort of an event we’re talking about. Are we talking about something which is going to be remote? Are we talking about something which is happening in a physical location. How many people are there going to be? What is the structure? In other words, how long is this going to be? Are we going to be talking for an hour? Two hours, three hours?

Juliette Foster

00:18:27 – 00:19:07

So if it’s going to be an all day affair, how does the day break down? What do you want me to do if people are going to be involved in a conversation which I’m chairing? Who are the people that I’m talking to? You need to tell me about them. And this is where the fun starts. Because once you know who it is that is taking part in that discussion, then it becomes a jigsaw puzzle because you know what? The females. So it’s like, OK, so how does this person fit into that theme? How does that person fit into this theme? And that means you have to carry out your due diligence. You have to find out what it is that that person does, and it’s like, Well, OK, then Now we’ve worked it out so we can structure the conversation.

Juliette Foster

00:19:07 – 00:19:37

We want X y Z to talk about this particular aspect But then we know that the third person in this, they can pick up on this particular part of it, and so on and so forth, and it builds and it’s really good when you have the time. You can talk to your client and the participants beforehand, because your job is to reassure them because you want to bring out the best in them. And I think that when you have your pre conference meetings,

Juliette Foster

00:19:37 – 00:20:06

they get to talk to you remotely so they can see where you’re coming from. You get to talk to them and you can run through the structure with them. And it’s really interesting because you find that they say, Oh yeah, that’s really great Oh, I can talk about that as well. So if you want me to, if you want to mention this bit, I’m more than happy to talk about it and you know, you know, you’ve cracked it when they say, You know what? We’re probably going to end up agreeing with each other. You might find it very boring, but it’s never boring because even though they say we would agree with each other, there will always be points where they don’t agree.

Juliette Foster

00:20:06 – 00:20:30

But it’s an amicable discussion. We agree to disagree in a very polite, friendly way, and you know that you’ve cracked it when you engage the audience. It doesn’t matter if their remote audience or if there are physical audience, because there is that invitation for them to get involved. And when your screen is avalanche with questions, it’s like, Yes, we have got this just right We have connected with this audience

Juliette Foster

00:20:30 – 00:21:11

And when those questions are still coming in, even when it’s over, Okay, you really know you succeeded. So it’s actually a very involved job because to assume that you just sit there and parrot off questions that’s wrong. It’s what goes on behind the scenes. You have to work with your client, okay, to make sure that you get it right. You owe it to them to do your work, okay, To really talk to people to read up on the subject doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about it. There is an implicit trust that you have an understanding of it, and you will try to increase that understanding, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s what goes on behind the scenes so that what you see front of house

Juliette Foster

00:21:11 – 00:21:45

works that you can connect and it set your brain cells going and that to me, well, that’s basically what I do or one of the things which I do. It’s the main thing that I do, but I also work with companies in terms of, you know, diversity. So, for example, there’s one particular client that I have, and they have a purpose. Stroke value guide for themselves. It’s their road map, and every so often they review that road map. And I have never been in a situation where a client has said to me, We’re looking at our road map and we want you to be involved.

Juliette Foster

00:21:45 – 00:22:26

It’s like, Well, OK, then what is it you want me to do? Well, we have X Y Z number of executives. Let’s say we have 50 executives, so the person who spoke to me said, OK, I’m going to interview 25 of them. I want you to do the other 25. I want you to have an honest conversation with them, and I want you to make notes in that conversation and write up your notes and tell me what you think so Well, OK, then. Fine. They were fascinating conversations talking to people about what they felt about this roadmap. Why? They felt it was necessary to review that road map where they felt the company was doing well in terms of attracting people from all walks of life where they thought they could have done it better.

Juliette Foster

00:22:26 – 00:23:14

And once we got all that information together, the company then took the took the results, etcetera. They structured this road map. They built the first graft and they said, Okay, then can you look at this road map and tell us what you think? Okay, here is the road map, and here are the key points that we’re trying to address. Do we address those points on this road map? I looked through it. I wrote down my own interpretation and say, Well, ok, then maybe you can you do it well here. But maybe you need to do X y Z to really stress the point of whatever. And we went through 234 draft’s whatever it was. I can’t remember the exact number, but it came together and they were really, really pleased with that road map.

Juliette Foster

00:23:14 – 00:23:54

Now I am not arrogant enough to say that it was all down to me. It wasn’t I had a very tiny contribution, but I am proud of that contribution. I am so, so proud of a little bit, which the little role that I had to play in this because it’s a really good company. They are hot on attracting new people. They really like diversity because their point is look, we are a global company. We work in various communities. We impact on people’s lives because of what it is that we do. And it’s important that we bring in people regardless of their sexuality and their colour, because we’re part of their lives.

Juliette Foster

00:23:54 – 00:24:43

We need to make them part of our lives and they are the connector. They connect us to these communities. To these groups. We need to know what it is that people are thinking, why they think about us the way that they do. We can’t do that if we stay within a bubble, okay, that we we look in a particular area to recruit. They would also argue as well. I entirely agree with them that if you are diverse If you look beyond those conventional streams, you are enriching the company. You are enriching it with people. You are enriching it with talent. You are enriching it with thought and all of those factors combined. We’ll take you into the future into the next level of where that future lies and that extra imports those all those ingredients can help you to enrich that road map.

Juliette Foster

00:24:43 – 00:25:05

Make it better, make it effective, make it purposeful. So, yes, I mean, I really enjoyed that experience because it brought incredible definition to what diversity actually means what it is. It’s not about being woke. It’s about being reflective, understanding how the world works and incorporating that into your business to make it really effective.

Maria Franzoni

00:25:05 – 00:25:39

Fantastic. That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for joining me. A fascinating story. Thank you for sharing. Thank you, everybody for listening to the speakers show. If you enjoy this episode, please leave a rating on apple podcasts. You can keep up with future episodes on the Speaker’s Associates website, which is speakersassociates.com, or your favourite podcast app. And if you’d like to invite Juliette to come in and work with you on your conference or to come to your company and help you or to speak at your next event. Please contact Speakers Associates in plenty of time so that you won’t be disappointed. Bye bye for now. I will see you next week.

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Maria Franzoni is an established and recognised speaking industry expert and one of the most experienced speaker bookers in Europe.

As well as working with speakers, Maria also hosts live shows and podcasts. She currently hosts The Speaker Show podcast for Speakers Associates.

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