Profile: Matt Peacock, AOL UK - From news breaker to web news maker/Matt Peacock joins AOL beneath the glare of the world media’s spotlight

Matt Peacock is a man with impeccable timing. No sooner had he started as corporate communications director for AOL UK than he was fending off calls from a hungry media wanting details about the mega-merger between its US parent company AOL Inc. and Time Warner.

Matt Peacock is a man with impeccable timing. No sooner had he

started as corporate communications director for AOL UK than he was

fending off calls from a hungry media wanting details about the

mega-merger between its US parent company AOL Inc. and Time Warner.



But he is well equipped to deal with the world of journalism. Before

entering PR, he was a reporter for BBC television and radio programmes

such as The World at One. Under this guise he covered some of history’s

defining moments of the last ten years - reporting from Croatia, the

Middle East and Northern Ireland.



And it was his lucky timing that gave Peacock his initial break in the

media. He was a raw recruit working the nightshift at Television Centre

the night the Berlin Wall collapsed, and suddenly found himself helping

to produce the BBC’s coverage of the event.



Peacock describes the experience as his epiphany and the moment when he

decided he wanted a career in the media. ’I never planned to be a

journalist. The only thing I planned on being was a musician - a

saxophone player. When I joined the BBC I saw it as putting money in my

pocket while I concentrated on my real career,’ he says.



But at BBC Television Centre he came into contact with veteran reporters

whose experiences captured his imagination. On the advice of these ’old

lags’ Peacock threw himself wholeheartedly into journalism, taking the

unusual step of moving into local radio. At GLR, Peacock covered crime

and home affairs, before moving to the Today programme, followed by a

stint on Newsbeat on Radio 1, after which he joined the The World at One

team.



Martin Fewell, a former World at One colleague and now a programme

editor for Channel Four News, remembers Peacock’s first day. ’Matt used

to be an ardent motor cyclist and on his first day turned up in his

leathers before biking off to do a three-minute piece about post office

privatisation. He was dynamic, motivated, with a go-for-it

attitude.’



Peacock spent four years on The World at One, in which time he travelled

extensively. He was parachuted in to report on the first IRA cease-fire

in 1995, the Hebron Mosque massacre and the war in Bosnia and

Croatia.



Bosnia was another defining moment for Peacock. The experience of

witnessing one of his colleagues shot dead left him devastated and

caused him to reassess his priorities.



’I lost my hunger,’ says Peacock. ’I had spent a long time on the road

and one morning I woke-up and thought ’I don’t want to stand in the rain

for John Birt anymore’.’



Peacock’s wife, then a senior account executive at GCI Group, suggested

he try PR. ’I realised what attracted me to reporting could be found in

corporate communications,’ says Peacock. ’In reality what drives a

journalist is making a difference. I firmly believe that with corporate

communications you are acting as a corporation’s conscience.’



Peacock decided to move into crisis management and joined specialist

agency Regester Larkin, where he advised a wide variety of major

companies, supporting negotiations over oil rights off the Falklands,

dealing with the fallout from tanker disasters and handling Y2K issues.

One of his clients just happened to be AOL.



GCI Group chairman Adrian Wheeler admits: ’I tried to hire him at the

time that he joined Regester Larkin, that’s how highly I rate him.’ He

says: ’Matt is incredibly bright, hyper-intelligent, enormously

knowledgeable and like every good PR person has a brave and positive

attitude towards everything. The only negative is that he can be

impatient and is always in a rush and he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. It

is going to be an exciting time for his team - if they can keep up with

him there will be no better inspiration.’



Since joining AOL, Peacock has wasted no time at all in restructuring

his team of ten to work across the company’s three brands - AOL,

CompuServe and Netscape Online. One problem he is finding is that the

general public think the AOL brands are competitors rather than members

of same internet family.



Ever the professional, when the conversation turns to the subject of

AOL’s merger with Time Warner, Peacock is quick to explain that AOL

Europe is a joint venture with German media group Bertelsmann.



’Since the merger was announced corporate communications has received an

awful lot of questions about the partnership but the reality is that the

message remains the same,’ he says. ’As far as AOL Europe is concerned

the only change is that one shareholder has just got a hell of a lot

bigger.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1989

Reporter, BBC

1998

Partner, Regester Larkin

2000

Corporate communications head, AOL UK



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