PROFILE: ROGER MORTLOCK, RSC - Mortlock is all set to act on his best assets. Shakespeare role for self-styled 'innocent abroad' Roger Mortlock

Roger Mortlock is one of those people working in public relations who makes you feel guilty about every bad word you've ever said about the industry being shallow, and every cliche you've helped propagate.

Roger Mortlock is one of those people working in public relations who makes you feel guilty about every bad word you've ever said about the industry being shallow, and every cliche you've helped propagate.

He is as far removed from the scheming doctor of spin image as you can get. And he's not the kind of person to spend an entire conversation looking over your shoulder, to see if someone more important has just walked in the room.

In fact, Mortlock's most apparent characteristic is that he is something of a dreamer. He as good as admits this when he describes himself, after a long pause, as an 'innocent abroad'. But others are keen to ensure that he doesn't undersell himself.

'He is a very intelligent man, so innocent wouldn't be a word I would use. He always asks the right questions with a knowing twinkle in his eye,' says Joanne Rule, chief executive with health charity cancerBACUP, who worked with Mortlock at the Royal College of Nursing. 'I suppose if he was to be referred to as an innocent abroad it's because he manages to be 100 per cent corporate but somehow manages to look at the organisation from an outsider's point of view. There are not many people who can do that.'

This ability to see things from different points of view is also picked up on by Ian Wylie, the British Dental Association chief executive.

'Roger has that great mix of skills that allows him to think in the micro and also strategically. He can look at things from the ground up into big ideas. He'll be great for the RSC,' he says.

As in his other jobs, Mortlock joins the Royal Shakespeare Company, as director of press and public affairs, at a period of change. For starters, there's the redevelopment of its Stratford-upon-Avon theatres and an extension of the RSC's presence in the US.

When asked what he likes most about PR, Mortlock's answer is quite unusual.

'I love the access into other people's lives, and finding out about other people's worlds,' he says.

He got his big break into PR while temping after university in the accounting department at the Oxfordshire Regional Health Authority. There he was talent-spotted by Dr Sian Griffiths (wife of Ian Wylie) who gave him a list of five names in public health PR. Mortlock describes these names as 'guiding lights' of his subsequent career.

The career appeals to Mortlock's interest in change - 'changing people's opinions and behaviour'.

His period at the RCN, where he worked for four years in senior press and public affairs roles, coincided with the union's successful campaign for better pay for nurses, a campaign of which he is extremely proud.

While at the RCN he was, for the second two years of his tenure, speech writer and communications adviser to general secretary, Christine Hancock.

Mortlock says he loved the fact that many of the senior staff at the RCN weren't men in suits, but women who had worked as nurses.

Mortlock is incredibly enthusiastic about the profession and admits to having considered a career swap. 'I had fantasies about becoming a nurse,' he says. 'But I don't think working at the RSC will make me want to be an actor,' he jokes.

This idea of other careers - other roles - appeals to Mortlock. Towards the end of his time at the Community Service Volunteers he says he considered applying for teaching college.

However, he now says an ideal job would be the public affairs adviser for the Archbishop of Canterbury, 'not because I'm particularly religious, but because of the access to a different world. Where you would get to see a side of English public life you would never see otherwise.'

For someone who admits, somewhat reluctantly, that his hobbies are working on his allotment and playing recorder, he is actually very funny. He jokes about forgetting his PR skills when it comes to dealing with the allotment council - especially in relation to an incident involving a shed and some yellow paint.

Despite his mild-mannered ways, Mortlock claims he 'forgot the PR rules' and actually shouted at a BBC journalist until they changed an inaccurate report. Shouted? 'Well, I had stern words,' he says.

Although he doesn't seem it, Mortlock says he becomes 'very corporate, very quickly. But I have to believe in what I'm doing.'

The RSC is undertaking public consultation before embarking on a redevelopment of the company's historic Stratford-upon-Avon base.

'I don't want it to become another Royal Opera House,' he says - and the fact he's consulting with people who have worked on the Tate Modern and the British Museum, shows that the twinkle in the eye of this self-styled 'innocent abroad' betrays a consummate professional.



HIGHLIGHTS

1996: Senior PA officer, Royal College of Nursing

1999: Director of corporate affairs, Community Service Volunteers

2001: Director of press and public affairs, RSC.





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