Profile: Chris Tucker, Barclays - Tucker giggles all the way to the bank - A bubbly exterior conceals a head for business with Barclays’ Chris Tucker

Chris Tucker is not a run-of-the-mill choice for PR director at one of the country’s largest listed companies. She doesn’t wear cuff-links, she doesn’t appear darkly manipulative and she talks in high-pitched Essex tones interspersed with bouts of childish giggling.

Chris Tucker is not a run-of-the-mill choice for PR director at one

of the country’s largest listed companies. She doesn’t wear cuff-links,

she doesn’t appear darkly manipulative and she talks in high-pitched

Essex tones interspersed with bouts of childish giggling.



This character trait is disarming and no doubt highly effective at

putting those she deals with - from the CEO to the office junior - at

their ease. The appointee to the newly-created post of group public

relations director at Barclays could scarcely conform less to the

stereotype of a financial PRO.



Tucker is also unusual in that she busts the myth that to rise fast you

must change jobs often. An 11-year Barclays PR veteran, Tucker has

ignored the concept of moving on to move up and remained firmly loyal to

her employer.



Her PR career started in the public sector as a press officer for drug

and alcohol abuse charity Turning Point. Spending time with some of

society’s most vulnerable and troubled members, clearly had an effect on

Tucker. ’It stood me in good stead for dealing with people from all

walks of life,’ she says.



Her first financial services PR job came two years later when she joined

Girobank as a press officer. Her interest in the personal finance pages

sprang from the Girobank days, as did many of her contacts in the

media.



Tucker joined Barclays in 1989 as a press officer in its retail

financial services division. The main focus of her work was Barclaycard

- now a separate business unit but then integrated within retail -

effectively a ’client’ for whom she was ’account director’. As

Barclaycard embarked on a profile-raising campaign - with ads starring

Rowan Atkinson lending it a more glamorous feel - Tucker is credited

with successfully running PR aimed at turning the credit card into a

huge brand.



After a further six years as head of UK bank PR, Tucker moved to more

rarefied ground as head of corporate banking PR. At 34 years old, she

took charge of a complex communications portfolio. ’You can’t overstate

the diversity of the job at corporate banking. The division had over 300

products. That’s a huge challenge to bring it in to one set of coherent

messages,’ she says.



A challenge it may have been, but Tucker clearly rose to it. It is not

clear whether she is as ruthless as one would expect from such a

high-flyer at a major corporation. But former colleagues agree that

despite the bubbly exterior, she is made of stern stuff.



Julian Goldsmith, European MD of financial services at Ogilvy PR

Worldwide, ran Sector PR for eight years until last autumn and held

Barclays as a client for much of that time. He says: ’There is a

determined streak to her. If someone’s done something wrong, they’ll

certainly find out about it.’



Goldsmith describes his former taskmaster as ’demanding but fair’. He

also has praise for her working style. ’She’s stuck with the core PR

skills and not allowed herself to get bogged down in management issues,’

he says.



Mo Dutta, a media trainer who has worked for various parts of the

Barclays empire for three years, says her value is in avoiding the

negative cliches of the PR world. ’There’s a lot of guff in

communications. Tucker has a clarity and acuity quite rare in this

field,’ Dutta says.



She will need both to make sense of Barclays’ new communications

structure. To an extent, Tucker has already proved her mettle in the

battle for supremacy in the bank’s PR department which left one or two

bruised egos. This is the outcome of a thorough review of group services

by CEO Matt Barrett. It involves a new system for, broadly speaking,

dividing the communications people according to function - PR, internal

communications, public affairs, community relations - instead of on

business lines.



The communications director posts at the four key business units -

corporate, retail, capital and global investors - have been abolished.

The people in those posts - including corporate banking communications

director David Lavarack, who was formerly Tucker’s direct boss - have

either applied for and got jobs on a par with hers, or are leaving the

company. Tucker has emerged as the victor in the power struggle. Her

constantly chirpy style won out.



’I am enthusiastic and, yes, bubbly. I believe in persuading people. You

need to be able to win people over. The main task is to build a highly

motivated team and the way to do that is to get them to identify with

what you’re trying to do. The key is building relationships.’ says

Tucker, who now has 40 staff beneath her to win over.



It has been said by former colleagues that Tucker has a ’consistent way

of dealing with everyone she comes across’. This is the secret of her

success.





HIGHLIGHTS



1987: Press officer, Girobank



1989: Press officer, Barclays retail financial services



1997: Head of PR, Corporate banking



2000: PR director, Barclays plc.



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