Jackie Brock-Doyle: An Olympic-level operator

The euphoria of London 2012 may be over, but LOCOG's director of comms and public affairs is not taking it easy. John Owens reports.

Wall of words: LOCOG's director of comms and public affairs Jackie Brock-Doyle
Wall of words: LOCOG's director of comms and public affairs Jackie Brock-Doyle

Newly crowned PRWeek PR Professional of the Year Jackie Brock-Doyle is a woman of many talents. She has a sharp strategic mind, is utterly unflappable and - as director of comms and public affairs at London 2012 - is the toast of the UK comms scene.

She is not, however, someone who needs too much sleep. Three hours during the Games, or, to be precise, 'between about two and five in the morning'.

Brock-Doyle, a keen kickboxer, is a no- nonsense character, relentlessly driven and evidently not one to rest on her laurels.

She has been at the heart of the LOCOG operation, ranging from framing the bid and dealing with 7/7 attacks the day after the Games were awarded to London, through to sponsorship controversy and handling the vast event itself.

'At the time, you don't realise the enormity of it in the way that others on the outside might. You just go through it step by step, with goals and milestones to work through,' she says.

Her core role, and that of her comms team, is indicated by the close proximity of Lord Coe's office in a space that neatly encapsulates the necessary contrast at the heart of the Games.

It may be 23 floors up in a Canary Wharf skyscraper possessing lifts that pipe out FTSE 100 news, but look out through the huge glass windows and the real Olympic spirit is there to see. The park, and the memories of sporting excellence it will continue to house, is just a short distance away. So, where does one begin in selling this dream of the Games, corporate backing and all, to a British public for whom cynicism can be a default setting?

Brock-Doyle points to an old piece of paper pinned on the office wall entitled 'New Era'. Scrawled by her with a marker pen three weeks after the bid, it lists key elements going forward. Words such as 'legacy' and 'young people' are discernible.

'Key to the bid was our vision, which was young people and inspiring a generation. The comms just followed,' she says.

Central to those efforts was creating a stakeholder group involving politicians, high-level executives and other relevant groups - an array of sometimes competing interests she describes as manageable 'as long as you are in the lead'.

In the run-up to the Games, brands such as bookmaker Paddy Power attempted to put a spanner in the smoothly running machine - looking to play the rebel against rules around sponsors labelled draconian by some. It is a suggestion she rejects, saying key investments have to be protected and labelling such criticism as 'naive'.

With Coe leading the public comms charge - he was purposely put centre stage as a unifying voice to draw together the multi-disciplinary nature of the Games - it was a relief when the Games did finally commence.

'By the time we got to the start, we were so pleased it wasn't another training exercise,' says Brock-Doyle. 'It was a case of "bring it on".'

And bring it on they did. It is hard to get Brock-Doyle to reveal the peaks and troughs of those weeks, such is her self-confessed toughness: 'I am not an emotional person,' she deadpans.

But alongside her business-minded drive, what shines through is her belief in the Games and its ability to inspire.

The 47-year-old may have sat down only twice to enjoy the sport - which included 'Super Saturday' when Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah all won golds for Team GB - but she was able to soak up the success in others ways.

'What we will remember is the massive generosity of spirit of the general public, the wall of noise they created,' she says. 'You would walk through the Olympic Park and hear people talking about their experiences and it's those moments outside of the sport that stick with you.'

Note the use of the word 'we'. Something else that becomes clear is a strong bond and belief in the team with which she has spent so many hours.

Joanna Manning-Cooper, head of PR and media at LOCOG, says: 'Jackie has a great sense of humour and is actually a very good mimic. She's good value to be around and is a fearless operator. As well as this, it's all about the team. Her door is always open to people and she is not at all hierarchal.'

Where there were staff, there are now cardboard boxes and empty desks, but the work has not stopped for the top team, with the tying up of loose ends and a Rio hand-over keeping its leader busy until March.

And then a rest, maybe?

'I don't need a break. I enjoy working and like what I do, and whatever I do it has to be a good comms challenge,' says Brock-Doyle.

It was a stupid question, really.

CV

2006: Director of comms and public affairs, London 2012 (simultaneously with job below)

2005: Director of comms and public affairs, London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games

2003: Head of media and PR for the bid, London 2012

2002: Director of marketing and comms, Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games

2001: Director, Capital Public Relations (Europe)

1997: Director, special projects, Capital Public Relations (Australia)

1992: Head of corporate comms, Kingfisher

1984: Various roles, leading to board director, Paragon Communications

JACKIE BROCK-DOYLE'S TURNING POINTS

What was your biggest career break?

Starting with Paragon Communications. I was 19 years old and the 24th person to join what became the standout agency of the 1980s. I had no idea what PR was all about. Paragon's boss, Mike Hingston, interviewed me, took me on a tour of the office and it felt like so much fun. I thought I don't care what I do, I just want to work here.

Have you had a notable mentor?

I have worked for some truly amazing people, all of whom have given me huge amounts of their time, as well as support and loyalty, even when things went wrong. Each one has taught me something important and I am still in touch with all of them,except Nigel Whittaker, who has sadly passed away.

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

I have two main suggestions. Choose who you work for and stick up for what you believe in. Do that and you won't go far wrong.

What qualities do you prize in recruits?

Curiosity, humour, loyalty, tenacity and kindness.

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