Profile: Andrew Ketteringham, director of external affairs, Alzheimer's Society

The director of external affairs at the Alzheimer's Society lauds his team after winning a PRWeek Award. Matt Cartmell met him.

Profile: Andrew Ketteringham, director of external affairs, Alzheimer's Society
Profile: Andrew Ketteringham, director of external affairs, Alzheimer's Society

The 2010 winner of PRWeek's non-profit department of the year - the Alzheimer's Society's comms team - stormed the stage at Grosvenor House last week in triumph.

The team is led by the stoic Andrew Ketteringham, who, in characteristic selfless fashion, puts the win down to his 'dedicated and imaginative' team.

'We're delighted,' says Ketteringham. 'It represents a huge amount of work that was put in last year, when the Government's National Dementia Strategy was being implemented. The society has not only been instrumental in getting that under way, but has done a lot more bedsides.'

The win has not come as a surprise to those who know Ketteringham, including Stephen Whittle, who worked alongside him at the Broadcasting Standards Commission and who is now at the BBC.

'Andrew is incredibly focused and professional,' says Whittle. 'He runs a very good team and has gained the respect of people with whom he works.

'He is well liked by journalists because they know he is someone who is straight. And, very importantly, he understands about key messages and not confusing messages.'

As director of external affairs at the charity, Ketteringham has helped to increase people's awareness of the disease that affects 750,000 people in the UK.

He is not the kind of person one expects to meet in the third sector, speaking of his cause in strangely businesslike terms, often reeling off statistics at the drop of a hat. This may be down to his background. Having handled the PR around the merger of Lloyds and TSB, not to mention the General Medical Council, Ketteringham believed his skills could be used just as well by a good cause.

'I joined because I thought the society was very aspirational in what it was trying to achieve. It wanted to champion the rights of people with dementia and needed to have a comms directorate that was the envy of the third sector,' says Ketteringham.

Despite his forcefulness, he claims he is a good listener and is clearly someone who respects the experience of his colleagues, admitting: 'I believe many of them probably understand what they do more than I do. So, I listen to them and take advice'.

One suspects that, at the age of 60, Ketteringham is old-school in his approach to comms and so is happy to entrust some of the newer elements of the job - such as digital - to his able teammates: 'I don't try to be a heavy-handed manager. I try to give people a broad steer within which they can work. But we need to be moving in one direction and my purpose is to bring the team together.'

Ketteringham joined the Alzheimer's Society four years ago, where he started by looking at the comms strategy while developing clear messages full of impact. He then identified the key audiences for those messages.

'We wanted a really impactful statistic that people would remember. What we came up with was that if you are over the age of 65, you have a one in three chance of dying with dementia. One in three is not only powerful, but also a memorable stat,' he says.

He reveals that awareness is now up, thanks to such tactics and evidence-based reports as the groundbreaking Dementia UK 2007. But he is aware of the next big challenge - to change people's fundamental understanding of dementia.

'There is still a stigma attached to dementia. We have a lot to do in getting that understanding across. I believe people know it is there, but don't want to know too much about it,' he says.

Ketteringham acknowledges that partnering with bodies such as the NHS is an increasingly important part of what the society does, owing to charities' lack of resources. 'The organisation is not going to be able to achieve what it wants to achieve without help from other bodies. We have to work in partnership,' stresses Ketteringham.

Coming from the banking sector, Ketteringham recognises that the charity world has a massively different culture, along with a very different level of resources, but he focuses on two key benefits.

'One of the big differences is your audience. It is often more prepared to listen.The other is that the staff are so motivated - that is one of the key factors in our success.'

When Ketteringham joined the society in 2006, he says the organisation took a clear stance: 'It wanted to make sure it was always campaigning hard.'

Last week's PRWeek Award is just one sign that Ketteringham and his team's campaigning is paying dividends.

 

Andrew Ketteringham's turning points

- What was your biggest career break?

It was probably around the time of the TSB flotation - it was such a unique experience. We were selling to the country a bank that had not been well known and was thought of as being tawdry and uninteresting. We turned it around so that five million people wanted to hold a stake. I had moved into a comms role for the sale to customers and it was what took me into the comms arena.

- Have you had a notable mentor?

When I was at the Broadcasting Standards Commission, I worked with Elspeth Howe, who chaired the organisation, and admired the way in which she could use the soundbite. We all knew in the 90s how powerful the soundbite would become.

- What advice would you give someone climbing the career ladder?

Be very clear on what you are trying to do and what you are trying to say. There is nothing better than having a clear message to create an impact.

- What qualities do you prize in new recruits?

Good experience is fine, but more pertinent is a lively and enquiring mind, and a willingness to discover.

 

CV

2006: Director of external affairs, Alzheimer's Society

2000: Director of policy and corporate affairs, General Medical Council

1997: Comms director, Broadcasting Standards Commission

1992: Director of public affairs, TSB Group

1989: Head of external affairs, TSB Group

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