The Fishbowl: Emma Elford, The Independent
This week is Emma Elford, commercial content director at The Independent.
Emma Elford started at The Telegraph in 2008 and worked there for more than 12 years in a range of sales and leadership roles, most recently as senior director for branded content and strategy.
She has been commercial content director at The Independent since January 2021.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be in the French Resistance. It wasn’t until I was about 10 that I realised my lack of French language skills and the end of WW2 would preclude me from that career path.
What was your first paid job and why did you do it?
Delivering the weekly local free newspaper; back-breaking work but my mum ‘kindly’ assisted me to ensure I kept that paper round for four whole years. Double Maths, Double Technology and the paper round meant Wednesday was the worst of hump days.
**Peer question** What three guests (dead or alive) would you invite to a dinner party and why?
A controversial one nowadays but definitely Winston Churchill; what a legend, I named my first child after him! I love all the tales of his outrageous wit especially after a bottle of Pol Roger which would be drunk anytime after midday.
Then I would have Mick Lynch to give Churchill a run for his money. Regardless of what you think of his politics he is exactly the sort of man we need in politics and the media — unique, refreshing and a genius.
And then I need a woman, so I’ll have Miriam Margolyes to totally throw bombs and keep it outrageous.
** Question from Nick Shaw, chief revenue officer at Ocean Outdoor.
What one thing would you change when dealing with media agencies?
As with anything in life you get good and bad. I think agencies have evolved massively in the last 15 years, for the better, especially the partnerships teams. It used to be much more fragmented where you would speak to planners, partnerships managers and investments heads and everyone needed to stay in their lane.
With our closest agencies you now get an end-to-end experience with the same people across the whole partnership. I’m not a fan of specialisms — a team works best when they can and are expected to deliver across multiple disciplines in my humble opinion.
What is one important skill that you think everyone should have?
Perspective — it is NEVER as bad as you (I!) often imagine.
What are clients talking about this year that they weren’t last year?
Independent Ignite! We launched at the beginning of last year, the newest publishing partnerships team out there and have had a magnificent welcome.
Brands are super keen to have a platform like the Independent to partner with — politically neutral, trust and integrity stitched into our DNA and committed to ‘making change happen’. Couple that with a tight and experienced team of partnerships people who are determined to make an impact. – 2023 is shaping up to be an exciting one!
What would you tell your younger self about if you could?
I love two Grandma sayings — ‘What’s meant for you won’t pass you by” and “What other people think about you is none of your business”. I would tell my younger self to believe that (and my future self!)
**Peer question** If you could click your fingers and change one thing about the way your company operates, what would it be?
More communication. I don’t think you can overcommunicate. Sharing is caring, right!
**Question from Dave Randall, commercial director at Future.
What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?
Sustainable property development or a business supplying a ‘thing’ to the sustainable property development industry which will make me outrageously successful and wealthy.
**Peer question** What has been your biggest, or most insightful mistake and what did you learn from it?
Failing to press the mute button on a Zoom call. The learning: press the mute button.
** Question from James Cornish, VP of international sales at Vevo.
The Fishbowl is a weekly Q&A with the UK’s top commercial media salespeople. Check out recent interviews with Pubmatic, DCM, Meta, and Zee Entertainment.