PROFILE: Paul Simpson, Radio 1 - Radio 1 PR machine goes into overdrive. Paul Simpson looks forward to changing BBC Music Entertainment’s PR

What do MPs and DJs have in common? A lot more than you would think, according to Paul Simpson, who has just been confirmed as Radio 1’s press and publicity manager.

What do MPs and DJs have in common? A lot more than you would

think, according to Paul Simpson, who has just been confirmed as Radio

1’s press and publicity manager.



’They have similar mindsets, but the joy of working with DJs is they’re

more willing to work with you, because they’re concerned about getting a

good publicity solution. MPs think they know best and all you really

need to do is massage their egos in front of the camera,’ he says.



He speaks as an expert on the subject, having been heavily involved with

the Liberal Democrats, firstly as a student, then as a researcher for

Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes. After an initial stint at Radio 1 as publicity

assistant, he became press and broadcasting officer for the Liberal

Democrats in 1995.



Although he says that he is now drained of his passion for politics, LLM

consultant Olly Grender, who was his boss at the Liberal Democrats press

office remembers him as very enthusiastic. ’He was bright and on the

ball, and assiduous in his pursuit of news coverage,’ she says.



It was during this period that health problems prompted a change of

direction.



Simpson had been suffering debilitating headaches since the age of 12,

which doctors had repeatedly diagnosed as food allergies or stress. As

they became worse, Simpson felt the only way to cut back in stress was a

major lifestyle change, so he left politics and joined youth charity

London Youth Matters, as press and PR officer.



Finally, in 1997, doctors diagnosed Simpson with a rare condition called

Arnold Khiari which causes the skull to impact on the brain. While

recuperating after neurosurgery and a two-month stay in hospital,

Simpson was approached to rejoin Radio 1 as a publicist. In typically

self-effacing style he jokes about how he was ’headhunted’.



Since the departure of Polly Ravenscroft as head of press last year,

Simpson has seen Radio 1 through some difficult times, from breakfast

show co-host Kevin Greening’s departure, to the shooting of Tim Westwood

- to whom Simpson is close. His philosophy of PR indicates that he is

here for his DJs, to ’promote and protect them’. ’There is a danger,’ he

says, ’if my first relationship is with a journalist.’



It is a quality he brings to his personal life, Grender describes

Simpson as a ’good and loyal friend’.



Now that Simpson’s position has been confirmed, he is determined to put

his ’prints on the way the station works’. His first plan is to recruit

a new member of the publicity team, who will specialise in targeting

dance music press and promoting DJs such as Pete Tong and Trevor Nelson.

He or she will also be responsible for promoting the station’s presence

at live music events.



As far as the existing team goes, Simpson is wary that it should not

merely act as the BBC information service, but should be a ’publicity

machine’. This means more campaigns, linked with on-air priorities. A

restructure at the BBC last year means that the Radio 1 press team also

has responsibility for Music Entertainment on BBC TV, including Top of

the Pops, the O-Zone and one-off documentaries such as last year’s

special on Robbie Williams.



Simpson himself will retain responsibility for promoting the breakfast

show, along with assistant Maxine Benloss, who handles unit

publicity.



A challenge this year will be introducing listeners to a new host:

former Girlie Show presenter Sara Cox who takes over from Zoe Ball in

April.



While he is pleased with the coverage Cox’s appointment has already

garnered, especially with several broadsheet profiles, Simpson

acknowledges there will inevitably be comparisons between the new show

and its predecessor.



And although he stresses that ratings are not the driving force, he

recognises that the press will make the most out of any change in

audience levels.



It is obvious that Simpson is in his element at Radio 1. As in other

jobs he has held, colleagues have become friends. ’I actually see more

of Paul these days than I ever did at Radio 1, now that the

’professional’ aspect of our friendship has been removed,’ says former

breakfast show co-host Greening. ’He’s a diamond, of a calibre not often

found in this business.’



Now that Simpson has looked after MPs and DJs, there’s only one other

acronym which could tempt him away from Radio 1. That’s FC, as in head

of press at his beloved Leeds United Football Club.



Never one to neglect either of his true loves, when Simpson visits

Leeds his idea of the ideal B&B isn’t the Hilton, it’s the home of DJ

Chris Moyles’ mum.





HIGHLIGHTS



1993: Parliamentary researcher for Simon Hughes MP



1995: Press officer, Liberal Democrats



1996: Press and PR officer, London Youth Matters



2000: Press and publicity manager Radio 1/BBC Music Entertainment.



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