Profile: Charlotte Blenkinsop, Virgin Radio - Girl about town set to shake up Virgin/Charlotte Blenkinsop prepares to put more ’oomph’ into Virgin Radio PR

Charlotte Blenkinsop relishes the thought of life in the spotlight.

Charlotte Blenkinsop relishes the thought of life in the

spotlight.



She was first interviewed for Virgin Radio on the same day it became the

first radio station to gave away one million pounds. Blenkinsop recalls

how her eyes lit up at the ’media throng’ outside Ginger Media’s Golden

Square offices that day and she admits she was ’very excited’ by the

buzz about the place.



However, the move to Virgin Radio will raise a few eyebrows as it comes

less than a year after she joined Woolworths as its head of internal and

external communications. But Blenkinsop insists she is simply following

a desire to be involved in PR within the media world.



She describes the move to Woolworths as ’a strategic one, and her

comments are tinged with the ruthlessness of someone very determined to

succeed.



’I had been in agencies a long time and my career needed a mainstream

in-house consumer brand,’ she adds.



Of the move to become head of communications at Virgin Radio, she says:

’It is an opportunity which came sooner than I expected. The decision is

a bit of a leap of faith, but if l didn’t do it now, l never would.’



Her former boss Julia Thorn, chief executive of Paragon Golin/ Harris,

backs up the view that Blenkinsop is an operator who identifies goals

and inevitably reaches them.



’l worked with Charlotte for ten years. She rose through the ranks at

Paragon. She is a very determined character and applies herself in a way

that means she usually gets what she wants,’ says Thorn.



Although Blenkinsop is still a paid employee of Woolworths, she has

already started to get those things she wants at Virgin Radio. She has

insisted on having a company parking space in Soho. This is so that she

can drive in from her home in Barnes and use the time to ’work’ and

listen to her station.



However, as work goes, she admits it is not too onerous a task. She

calls herself a ’typical girl about town’ and likes contemporary music

and going to the theatre.



Blenkinsop, aged 36, is also a family trustee of the Ward Blenkinsop

charitable trust which gives pounds 250,000 a year to causes in the

arts, education, medical research and sports worlds.



She says that she ’fell into PR’ after university when she did a brief

stint as a publicity assistant at publisher Allen and Unwin. She says

she was attracted by the variety of disciplines in public relations and

the creative opportunities. Blenkinsop’s time at Paragon was obviously a

happy and successful one. She joined the agency from Granard (which

became The Rowland Company) during the ’PR heydays’ of the late-1980s

and fondly remembers ’the work hard, play hard’ culture and characters

at the agency.



She is very much a hands-on PRO. At Paragon she worked on projects as

varied as handling Mastercard’s involvement with the Euro 96 football

tournament, the Prince’s Trust concert in Hyde Park and the massive

Hercules aircraft procurement project for the Ministry of Defence. Her

day-to-day clients included Barclays Bank and Kingfisher, the parent of

Woolworths.



She became a main board director at Paragon in 1995. Gwen Gober, head of

corporate communications at Kingfisher, admits to being ’a bit

disappointed’ that Blenkinsop is leaving Woolworths. ’We had a good

working relationship,’ she says.



Blenkinsop is being taken on by Chris Evans’ Virgin Radio at a time when

the ink is not yet dry on a pounds 225 million takeover of Ginger Media

by Scottish Media Group. It is also a time when the station faces

falling listening numbers, which have dropped below three million. Her

brief is to head communications on the radio side of the media empire

and specifically to put a lot more ’oomph’ into this side of the

business. As far as listeners are concerned this will mean extending

publicity for Virgin Radio way beyond the flagship breakfast show.



’Virgin Radio has got to the size and stature that it needs someone to

plan communications with business partners and not someone merely to

puff the artists,’ says Blenkinsop about her new role.



Initially, she will have a team of just two - smaller than in previous

jobs, but she says that she can foresee interaction with the TV and

newspapers sides of Scottish Media Group.



Blenkinsop has already met her superstar boss and presenter Chris Evans

a couple of times and says she is taken ’by the depth of his knowledge

on a wide range of things’. Not a view of Evans that is widely reported

within the media, but with communications professionals such as

Blenkinsop in charge it’s entirely possible that it could all be about

to change.



HIGHLIGHTS

1995

Director, Paragon Golin/Harris

1999

Head of internal and external communications, Woolworths

2000

Head of communications, Virgin Radio



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