Stuart Jackson: Turning up the volume

After a difficult team restructure, the Everything Everywhere comms boss is planning the brand's most ambitious campaign, finds Sara Luker.

Stuart Jackson: 'I feel I've been very lucky in my career'
Stuart Jackson: 'I feel I've been very lucky in my career'

Everything Everywhere's voice has so far been something of a whisper compared with the bellows of the Orange and T-Mobile brands it parents. This is all about to change - and director of comms and corporate affairs Stuart Jackson will be holding the megaphone.

The brand recently launched its biggest campaign to date, a campaign to bring 4G to Britain.

Everything Everywhere is in a privileged position. Unlike rivals O2, Vodafone and 3, the firm has enough bandwidth to adopt 4G services and start offering improved speeds to customers. If Ofcom approves Everything Everywhere's request to launch 4G mobile broadband early when it makes its decision on 8 May, the company will have an 18-month head start over its rivals.

The company's campaign has focused on drumming up support for this faster rollout of 4G across the UK among business leaders, consumer heavyweights and even celebrities. If Everything Everywhere is given the go-ahead, Jackson says it will 'open up a world of opportunities for our customers'.

Jackson is taking a break from this quest to speak to PRWeek in the comfort of journalist haunt The Frontline Club.

The 35-year-old has an infectious sense of fun and one is immediately put at ease by his warm humour.

Over the past few months, however, laughs have been few and far between.

Swingeing cuts that swept through the company saw Jackson's team contract from 38 to 26 in March. The comms restructure, he says, was about more than cost-cutting: 'It's been a difficult process for everyone but we've been able to come through the other side with a more focused and sharper team.'

The streamlining is the culmination of the 2010 merger between Orange and T-Mobile to form Everything Everywhere. 'It was difficult fusing the two comms cultures,' he notes. 'I was surprised how different we were even though we worked in the same industry. It was tricky because we were under the microscope and it seemed the world's media wanted us to fail. Plus, there was no escape because as comms people we were on the front line.'

One particularly trying period followed The Times getting its hands on investor documents detailing plans to ditch the T-Mobile and Orange brands to create a new name.

'It's times like these when you question whether to bury your head in the sand or get on the phone to every journalist you know to tell them it isn't a story,' he explains. 'I didn't bury my head in the sand and we managed to stem the number of reports to only ten both online and in print.'

Jackson loves playing cat and mouse with the media and had a burning desire for a career on the other side of the divide in his younger days. 'I always wanted to be a journalist - I loved the creativity of working with words,' he notes.

To the detriment of his studies, he confesses, he spent much of his time as a student running Lancaster University's fortnightly newspaper, Scan. His efforts at regularly sending stories to the nationals did not go unnoticed and the Sunday Sport editor Paul Carter offered him a job.

Business editor of The Sun Steve Hawkes says: 'Stu's a rare example of someone who's equally at ease talking to boardroom directors and the man on the street. You get the sense he appreciates what every paper and TV channel wants - and that's tough to find.'

Jackson relished living the life of a tabloid hack during the Brit Pop-inspired Cool Britannia explosion. In fact, if Jackson is not at work or running around after his three children, he is most likely to be found locked away writing and producing music. 'I then inflict it on friends and family,' he laughs. 'Every Christmas me, the wife and the kids record a Christmas song and we send it out with our cards.'

The musical Jackson, who plays the piano, guitar, saxophone and banjo, even performed at Glastonbury. That is if 'performed' is the right term for his late-night appearance in a karaoke tent after the last act had finished. 'It fulfilled a lifelong ambition - sort of,' he quips.

From the Sunday Sport, he moved on to news agency The Information News Service, but here he found himself questioning his commitment to tabloid journalism: 'I wasn't comfortable morally with what I had to do to nail a story,' he says. This included camping outside celebrities' homes, tapping up their plumbers for stories and knocking on neighbours' doors. 'That side of journalism also took me away from the creativity I craved,' he explains.

On the lookout for a change of career, PR seemed to offer the most logical escape route and he joined Orange as a press officer in 2001. Denise Lewis, who was director of corporate comms at Orange at the time, says: 'He's great fun, a very good operator and has a strategic mind. He is also very good at getting the best out of people.'

Almost a decade later Jackson has found himself heading comms at the UK's largest mobile operator, with more than 27 million customers and 15,000 employees.

'I feel I've been very lucky in my career,' he says sincerely. 'I have been in the right place, at the right time and with the right people around me.'

'Right place, right time' could equally be applied to Everything Everywhere's attempts to monopolise early 4G adoption - efforts competitors are unlikely to let happen quietly. Whatever the result, one senses Jackson will enjoy the attention.

CV
2011 Director of comms and corporate affairs, Everything Everywhere
2010 Director of brand comms (Orange and T-Mobile), Everything
Everywhere
2008 Director of comms, Orange UK
2005 Head of media relations, Orange UK
2001 Press and PR manager, Orange Group
1999 Journalist, The Information News Service
1998 Journalist, the Daily Sport and Sunday Sport
1997 Editor of Scan, Lancaster University student newspaper

TIPS FROM THE TOP

What was your biggest career break?

Being elected university newspaper editor. It gave me the opportunity to build a new brand, make - and learn from - my mistakes, and fulfil a childhood ambition.

Have you had a notable mentor?

Tony Livesy, editor of the Daily Sport, now BBC presenter. He's witty, charming and downright filthy. He showed me how to take what you do in business seriously, without taking yourself too seriously.

What advice would you give to people climbing the career ladder?

Work hard, be smart and respect people at all levels along the way. Also, be true to who you are.

What qualities do you look for in new recruits?

Hands-on experience in PR or journalism, determination and passion. All of these things over exam qualifications.

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