PROFILE: Richard Pollen, IPR Corporate & Financial Group - Corporate comms is Pollen's watchword. Financial PR's days are over, says the IPR Corporate & Financial Group chair

'Financial PR is dead,' says veteran City PRO Richard Pollen,

chairman of the IPR's financial group and co-founder of the now-defunct

Valin Pollen, one of the most successful yet notorious PR agencies of

the 1980s.



'Some people may see this view as contentious,' he concedes. 'But our

business is now corporate communications: it's not financial relations

or financial PR - that's all dead now, it's finished.'



Pollen has some radical views on the future of the financial PR market,

which not everyone may agree with. Yet as one of the great pioneers of

UK financial PR, who has, as he says, 'been there and got the T-shirt',

he is well qualified to pass comment.



Pollen, who now runs his own consultancy, Pollen Associates, from his

Hampshire home, is a firm believer in integrated corporate

communications.



So much so, that he has just put his personal stamp on the IPR group

with a name change from City & Financial to Corporate & Financial, a

title that he says better reflects the group's members and industry.



'I wanted to widen the group and it didn't seem right to use the City

label any longer.



Financial PR is now automatically brought into the whole corporate brief

and therefore investor relations and all financial communications come

under that responsibility,' he says.



It was this idea that led Pollen and a colleague from the then Charles

Barker agency, Reg Valin, to break away and form Valin Pollen (VP). It

became famous for its meteoric rise in the 1980s - and just as rapid

demise in the early 1990s.



'The concept was to integrate all the disciplines of financial

communications - and nothing has changed,' says Pollen.



The ethos that launched VP caught on and the firm rapidly became the

corporate communications agency of its time, floating in 1984 and

recording a market cap of around pounds 80m in its most successful

years.



But VP's success was stopped in its tracks when its acquisition of US

firm The Carter Organisation led to unforeseen financial problems and a

share-price collapse. Pollen bailed out, but faced with 'financial

losses, a large family and a lot of educational commitments', he wasted

no time in launching his own firm, Richard Pollen & Co, which he later

sold to Ludgate Communications, now Golin/Harris Ludgate.



Pollen's former colleagues from the VP era - many of whom have since

gone on to great things in corporate PR - remember the tough times

during VP's decline. But they also remember the good times and the

extravagant staff parties.



Neil Hedges, now Fishburn Hedges CEO, joined VP as its first account

executive and later became its CEO. 'Richard was great on big events,'

says Hedges. 'He wanted to do everything on an impressively grand

scale.



It made people feel good about themselves and that rubbed off on all the

staff.'



Legend also has it that Pollen was extraordinarily particular about

presentation, both of his staff and offices - a trait he acknowledges:

'In this business, you have to have talent for noticing how things are

presented. I tend to be very fussy about that, both in personal life and

professional.'



Hedges recalls his mentor hauling him up for wearing the wrong coloured

suit or tie. And Dr Steve Tibble - a former colleague at VP and at

Richard Pollen & Co - says: 'He once sent a memo round all the staff

saying that somebody had left the ice trays unfilled'.



Pollen is now becoming better known for his role within the IPR. He has

plans to make the 400-strong financial group a credible face for the

industry, which he says has not been its strength so far.



Pollen is also calling for more corporate PR luminaries to join the

group.



He says they have 'a responsibility to become a member'. 'There's not

enough industry leaders as members, but there should be,' he claims.



Meanwhile, aside from his IPR and PR consultancy commitments, Pollen is

also active as a father of seven, a regular runner who annually takes

part in the London Marathon, a keen fox hunter and co-founder of the

family's organic food business, Pollen Organics, run by his wife

Christianne.



'There might come a time when I put my corporate communications to bed

and concentrate on Pollen Organics,' he hints.



Yet he shows no signs of slowing down. Financial Dynamics partner Neil

Mainland, ex-VP and former president of the IPR Corporate & Financial

Group, agrees: 'He's got a tremendous amount of energy, both mentally

and physically. There are marathon runners in life who just keep going

and I think he is a true marathon runner, both literally and in terms of

his work and commitment.'



HIGHLIGHTS

1979: Co-founder, Valin Pollen

1990: Founder, Richard Pollen & Co

1997: Founder, Pollen Associates

2001: Chairman, IPR Corporate & Financial Group



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