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
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
'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
While at the RCN he was, for the second two years of his tenure, speech
writer and communications adviser to general secretary, Christine
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
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.
1996: Senior PA officer, Royal College of Nursing
1999: Director of corporate affairs, Community Service Volunteers
2001: Director of press and public affairs, RSC.