PRWeek Mentoring Project: The mentors

Meet the mentors for PRWeek's mentoring scheme, designed to tackle the lack of female leaders in communications.

Molly Aldridge, CEO, M&C Saatchi PR

"I'm delighted and excited to get involved in this PR Week mentoring scheme helping to manage, nurture and support the great talent that exists within the PR industry. This is a people business first and foremost and I hope to be able to impart some of the great lessons and skills I have been taught by some fabulous PR practitioners throughout my career to date. I also know I will learn something along the way from my mentees!"  

Prior to M&C Saatchi PR Molly founded and built up SLAM PR (an IPG company) – the first ever global boutique PR agency – that she set up over 6 years ago growing the agency to a 30 strong team in London with international teams across Asia, Europe and the US. 

Molly’s experience over the past 17 years comprises of working with big blue chip companies across the consumer and corporate sectors including fmcg brands such as Coca-Cola, The Body Shop and Orange alongside luxury goods and premium products for example Nespresso, Russian Standard Vodka, Lotus, Beats By Dre, Disaronno Amaretto,The Palladium Alliance, W hotels and Wedgwood.

Her strengths lie in building strong consumer desire for brands via strategic insights resulting in engaging creative platforms – targeting the right audience with compelling content relevant to their lifestyles via celebrity partnerships/ambassador programmes, bespoke events and the right story.

Molly has previously worked at The House (Music & Entertainment PR), Hill & Knowlton and Cohn & Wolfe. She lives in Balham with her pro-golfer husband Henry and nearly 3 year old little angel Jake and enjoys the ongoing juggling act of balancing a busy business life and global travel with family life with the boys.  

Molly is a firm believer that you can have it all as a working woman and mum with the help of a super organised diary/schedule, a highly loyal & supportive PA and clear boundaries!

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Lauren Branston, founding partner, Lauren Branston Consultancy

"I want to see more successful women leaders in the PR industry now & in the future.  So I'm taking part to share my perspective on leadership and also, hopefully, learn something new along the way"

Lauren Branston has worked at the highest levels of a broad range of blue chip companies & charities, including The Coca-Cola Company, Starbucks and Pfizer.  

Lauren worked for The Coca-Cola Company for nine years; she joined as head of strategic communications in 2004 and was promoted to the role of public affairs & communications director, Coca-Cola GB in 2005.  During her time at Coke she oversaw all elements of reputation & PR in the UK from brand PR to crisis & issues management to sustainability.  She led the development of both the communications & sustainability strategies for Coke's sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics.

Prior to joining TheCoca-Cola Company, Lauren worked at environmental management consultancy, Dames & Moore, as a senior consultant in their Reputation Risk Management Group, and on the board of Ketchum, as an associate director, working with clients including Starbucks.

Earlier this year Lauren left Coca-Cola to set up her own consultancy. She is currently working with a wide range of clients, directly with in-house communications directors, CEOs, and direct with PR agencies.

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Alison Clarke, CEO UK & Ireland, Grayling

"This is a great initiative and much needed. For an industry that prides itself on attracting a significant number of women and where the female / male ratio in mainstream consultancy is approx 65/35 it’s shocking how few women make it to senior leadership roles. If this scheme can help bright potentials navigate their way to success both the industry and our gender will benefit"

Alison joined Pedigree Petfoods (a division of Mars) as a graduate trainee before moving into PR consultancy.  She has over 20 years’ consultancy experience working with some of the world’s best-known global organisations, including Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Nestle and McDonalds. Her particular focus has been on reputational campaigns and the effective implementation of multi-market communications strategies.

In addition she has advised on issues management and crisis communications both in the UK and in Asia where she was President of Weber Shandwick Asia Pacific. Alison has been with Grayling since 2011 and sits on the International Executive Board. Prior to that she was based with Grayling’s parent company Huntsworth PLC as business development director.

Alison co-chaired the joint industry taskforce on the measurement and evaluation of public relations, which lead to the production of the first Evaluation Toolkit by the CIPR and PRCA. She is chairman of the PRCA and former president of the CIPR.

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Gay Collins, executive chairman, MHP Communications

"I'm a passionate believer that women make great PR practitioners, and that management teams and boards benefit from diversity of spirit and experience.  It’s essential that more women stay on their career path so they can contribute to shaping the culture and strategy of PR consultancies and other businesses.  Our work at the 30 percent Club is helping to make it more acceptable for women to achieve a place on the Board, so let’s try to ensure that experienced PR’s benefit from that, and from the work that PR Week is doing to champion the cause"

With 23 years experience in PR, Gay specialises in advising companies in the financial services space. After university, Gay began her career selling eurobonds to fund managers at Merrill Lynch and at Dean Witter in London and New York. She then moved into PR, joining an agency where she was part of the team that completed a MBO to set up Ludgate, a public relations firm where she was head of the Corporate Division.

In 1998 she co-founded one of MHP’s predecessor consultancies, Penrose Financial, which became the market leader in specialist capital markets and financial services PR.  When MHP was founded she moved from being CEO of Penrose to executive chairman.

One of Gay’s specialisations is strategic positioning for investment and pensions businesses. She has built up extensive contacts and is experienced in all aspects of corporate work.  Gay is a founder Steering Committee Member of the 30% Club, established to increase representation for women on UK Boards, and a non executive director of JP Morgan Overseas Investment Trust.

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Jackie Cooper, global chair, creative strategy, Edelman

"It is so important to provide support to help others achieve their ambition – if I had not been lucky enough to have inspiring mentors during my career, I wouldn’t have had one!"

Jackie brings over 30 years of experience in brand marketing. In 1987 she co-founded JCPR, the eponymous award winning consumer PR agency in London, running campaigns includingO2,  Allied Domecq, Mary Kate & Ashley, Wembley Stadium and the final flight for Concorde. Acquired by Edelman in 2004, she then served as creative director and vice chair of London, leading campaigns such as Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and Every Child has a Right to Play for Unilever, as well as Wonderbra and the Halo 3 launch for Xbox.

In 2011 Jackie was appointed global vice chair of brand properties, working at the intersection of brand, content and partnerships, establishing global entertainment affiliations for clients internationally and delivering brand counsel for clients including Diageo, Starbucks and Microsoft.

Currently the global chair, creative strategy, Jackie oversees the firm’s creative offeringcollaborating with teams across the Edelman’s international network.

Jackie acts as an advisor for the NGO Children’s University; The Good Pitch, the global documentary initiative; and Wings of Hope, an education charity working in the UK, India and Africa.

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Sally Costerton, consultant, Sally Costerton Advisory

"We have some quite stereotypical role models in this country in terms of senior business women who seem rather scary and dominant. Younger women need to see more ‘ordinary’ women talking about being in these roles and making them work. Leadership ultimately is about being yourself and we need to help the next generation of female leaders feel that they can hold power as well as being themselves"

Sally works with communications leaders helping them maximise their resources to improve performance. This ranges from capacity building and individual coaching to advising on business growth strategies in the UK and around the world. She has spent over 25 years in communications leading and working with teams of all sizes and nationalities, resolving issues from the most straightforward to those involving complex international multi-stakeholder environments. Prior to starting SallyCosterton Advisory she was EMEA CEO of communications firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies. She is a Board Member and Fellow of the PRCA and is a regular commentator on industry issues, in particular the role of senior women in business including a regular blogger on her own blog "Breaking the Glass Ceiling" .

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Carolan Davidge, director of communications, Cancer Research UK

"I was really lucky in my early career to benefit from advice and coaching from some inspiring women leaders. If passing on what I've learnt during my career can help the next generation then that's a way of acknowledging my mentors' impact on me"

Carolan has led award-winning PR campaigns, including helping to make Britain smokefree in public places.

In her current role at the world’s leading charity dedicated to cancer research, she is responsible for the charity’s press, PR and social media activities; corporate, science and internal communications; health campaigns and marketing and the nurse helpline.

Prior to Cancer Research UK, she held a variety of senior PR roles in the voluntary and public sectors including Chief Press Officer at the Medical Research Council, Head of PR at Macmillan Cancer Support and Head of Press at Shelter. Before PR, she edited the Adviser magazine, now published by Citizens Advice.

She is a director and trustee of CharityComms and a member of the Science Media Centre’s advisory board.

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Rachel Friend, chair, consumer marketing, UK and EMEA, Weber Shandwick

"Nurturing talent ranks as one of the most important parts of my job.  I’ve worked for and with some truly inspiring people over my career, who have helped to shape the path I’ve taken.  Sometimes we face very difficult challenges, especially when trying to juggle a family with work.  But if we don’t tackle these issues, we’ll never redress the balance of women in the boardroom.  So I’m delighted and honoured to become a mentor through PR Week’s new programme"

Rachel Friend is chair of the UK and EMEA Consumer Marketing Practice.  She is responsible for the agencies’ major EMEA consumer clients and talent, ensuring the development and delivery of the very best engagement campaigns by the 150 consumer specialists in the region.  Rachel is a brand specialist, with a passion for working closely with clients to get into the mindset of their target consumers to create strategies to excite, engage and create brand fans. 

Rachel brings 20 years of consumer PR experience to her role.  Previously, she ran the London Consumer Practice at Weber Shandwick, leading the team that delivered three London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic campaigns, including the Cannes Lions award winning EDF Energy of the Nation campaign, as well as multi-award winning campaigns for brands such as Samsung and ExxonMobil.

Prior to Weber Shandwick, Rachel was the head of consumer PR at Sainsbury’s, working with both the comms and marketing teams, responsible for all proactive brand and product PR across food, drink, home and lifestyle, fashion, beauty.

Earlier in her career Rachel was a managing director at Hill & Knowlton’s Consumer Practice where she headed up brands such as B&Q, Volvo, P&G, Play.com, The London Eye and Kellogg’s.  She has also held positions at Good Relations and The National Magazine Company. She graduated from Nottingham University with a degree in Classical Civilisation

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Nicola Green, director of communications & reputation, O2

"I have had and still have a number of mentors.  They have helped inspire and develop me to be the person I am today.  I can’t wait to help others become the person they want to be  - that’s job satisfaction"

Nicola Green became Director of Communications and Reputation in January 2012 having spent eight years as Head of PR for O2. She directs all of Telefonica UK’s PR, internal communications, public affairs, campaigning, strategic media relations as well as managing social media activity in both the UK and Europe .  Nicola successfully helped establish the O2 Brand within the press and online media in the UK.  This included achieving board sign off to create O2’s social media team which has established itself as a leader in this space. In Nicola’s new role she created a new campaigning team within her current structure to help board members maintain a leadership positioning within the media.

Her position has seen her work on a number of award winning campaigns including, the launch and positioning of The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome), 4G, Rugby World Cup Victory Parade, O2 Priority, O2 Wireless Festival, Big Brother, the launch of iPhone and supporting O2's change programme.

Prior to joining O2, Nicola worked for a number of major blue chip brands including Orange where she looked after their work with BAFTA, Glastonbury Festival and Orange Prize for Fiction as well as Dr Pepper, Flora Margarine and Organics haircare in marketing and PR roles while working for leading London agency Burson-Marsteller.

Nicola is hopeful that the advances in technology will mean that an application will be created where journalists and influencers will no longer need a written press release but a simple telepathy trigger application will enable them to write exactly what she thinks.  All of the time

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Christine Johnson, partner, Bell Pottinger Corporate & Brand

"It is astounding that there are still so few women in our industry at senior management level. It’s not through lack of ambition but there seems to be a point at which women at a middle management level are unable to take that step onto the next rung of the management ladder. By not acknowledging and addressing this, we’re missing out on so much talent – let alone excluding representatives of half the population from the board room! Through this mentor scheme, by sharing our own experiences, we might at least be able to help a few women to succeed in getting a seat at the top table"

A partner at Bell Pottinger, Christine primarily leads on work in health, education & skills, government and the third sector. A senior PR practitioner with 20 years’ experience, she has worked in-house, agency-side and as an independent consultant. She started her communications career in local government.

As a consultant, Christine has worked across a variety of sectors for national and international businesses but has maintained her interest in public sector communications. She is a member of Bell Pottinger’s senior management team and takes a lead in relation to the company’s personnel management, including the graduate scheme and internship programmes. Christine is a member of the CIPR.

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Denise Kaufmann, CEO, Ketchum London

"The big thing for me here is leadership.  I've been very fortunate to work with some exceptionally talented people.  Men and women who have taken time out to discuss my career and future. Those conversations really helped me to find my own leadership style.  This isn't something you can necessarily learn from a book.  Talking to experienced people, especially other women, who know the situations and choices you are looking at is very powerful.  It helps you understand what it takes, and it instils the self-belief everyone needs to reach their potential at work"

Denise became CEO of Ketchum London in April 2013 after sixteen years with the agency and over 25 years in comms. She relocated to London in 2010 to take the position of managing director, Client Service and was global account director for Philips Lighting and FedEx, managing corporate reputation management programs in multiple countries.

Prior to joining the New York team in 2004, Denise was based in Hong Kong and oversaw three of the agency's largest global accounts in Asia Pacific: FedEx, Dow Chemical and IBM.  She served as the firm's director of Client Services for Greater China from 2001 until 2004.

As well as international programming expertise, Denise provides strategic counsel in specialty communications areas including: employee communications, crisis and issues, consumer health education, CSR, environmental awareness and brand building programs.

Denise holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Kent State University and lives in London.

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Amanda Pierce, CEO Burson-Marsteller UK

"Society needs every individual to be able to use the skills, intelligence and talents they have to best effect.  Women still often find it harder to get to the top and every industry should be addressing this which is why I’m glad PRWeek has started this initiative and why I was keen to be involved"

Amanda Pierce was appointed CEO of Burson-Marsteller UK in June 2013. Amanda currently heads the UK Corporate & Crisis practice at Burson-Marsteller as well as leading the firm’s EMEA Corporate & Crisis practice. She is a member of the Burson-Marsteller EMEA leadership team.

Amanda has been with Burson-Marsteller since 2008 and has extensive experience in national and international campaign strategy development, reputation management and experience in translating business strategy into workable communications’ programmes.  She is a recognised expert in the fields of crisis and issues management. 

Her current clients include such high profile brands as Shell, DeBeers, Kimberly-Clark, Danone.  She was previously head of media and internal communications at McDonald's – her success in that role received industry recognition when the team won PR Week’s In-House Team of the Year and Best Crisis Campaign of the Year. In her first year at Burson-Marsteller, Amanda Pierce won the PRCA’s coveted Consultant of the Year award.

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Kelly Walsh, Chief Strategy Officer, MSLGROUP London

"Studies have shown that men naturally mentor younger guys who remind them of themselves. So it follows that because there are far fewer women at the top levels, fewer younger women get championed"

Kelly was appointed Chief Strategy Officer of MSLGROUP London, the MSLGROUP EMEA flagship office in January 2014, to oversee  the agency’s strategic  capabilities, tools and talent. Kelly also serves as  Global Client Engagement Director for Nestlé and EMEA Consumer Practice Group Director.

Prior to this appointment, Kelly spent six years as MSL London’s CEO, overseeing the development of the agency’s  digital, planning and creative services, as well as the consumer, corporate and healthcare practice groups.

Kelly advises clients on corporate/consumer brand development, corporate/brand reputation and advocacy programmes, with a particular focus on influencer marketing, marketing to women and integrated campaign development. She has had extensive experience working as part of integrated marketing communication teams, including seven years as EMEA director of P&G across the beauty, home-care, fabric-care and health-care businesses.

Kelly has also spent time client-side – four years as PR director EMEA for US fashion company The GAP and two years as PR director for L’Oréal Paris and Garnier.

Kelly sits on the PRCA  Council and written has and spoken widely on influencer marketing and integrated communications. She has been practicing PR in the UK for over 20 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, Marketing from Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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Mary Whenman, managing director, Corporate, Financial & Public Affairs, Weber Shandwick

"For me, the PR Week Mentoring Project is about giving something back to the industry. As the mother of three boys, I’ve been lucky enough to have the three things working mothers need to have a successful career – a supportive partner, a company that offers flexible working and access to reliable childcare. But this still isn’t the case for many woman working in public relations.  But, the business case is simple, gender balanced executive committees have 56% higher operating profit, according to McKinsey’s report, ‘The Business of Empowering Women’ so it is in all of our interests to retain senior female talent"

Mary Whenman has more than 20 years’ experience of leading UK, EMEA and global corporate communications and b2b programmes and advising clients at a strategic level.  She runs Weber Shandwick’s Corporate, Financial & Public Affairs practice which is the agency’s biggest single unit in EMEA after Germany.  As well as leading a team of 60, Mary is mother to three boisterous boys (is there any other kind?).

Mary has spent much of her career handling complex communications issues and advising companies during periods of major corporate change, including crisis, turnaround, joint ventures, rebranding, repositioning, restructuring and closure.  Her passion lies in managing corporate reputation for consumer brands and some major clients have included BP Biofuels, British Steel, Butlins, Cadbury Schweppes, De Beers, Orange and The Carphone Warehouse.

Mary worked in a permanent, full-time role up until 2004, when she left her job while only three months pregnant to set up as an interim consultant. For the next six years Mary worked three-days-a week, as an interim until being hired into her previous role as Managing Director of Grayling’s Corporate & Financial practice.  She is active in promoting the female pipeline and representation in the boardroom.

In 1996 Mary was runner-up in the PR Week Young Achiever award. Mary has a BA (Hons) in Business Studies from Bournemouth University and holds the Dip (CIM) and Dip (MRS).

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Nan Williams, group CEO, Four Communications

"I love being in business – and the communications business is one of the most interesting I know. So I leapt at the chance to help more women get to the top and realise their ambitions. It is very important to me to see women equally represented in business, in politics and the media. And PR Week deserves to be applauded for taking the initiative"

Nan is one of the UK's most senior corporate communications consultants and PR entrepreneurs. Originally specialising in corporate reputation, crisis and issues management Nan joined Charles Barker (then the UK’s No1 PR agency) in 1985 after a short stint in banking.

Starting out as a graduate trainee, twelve years later she was UK chief executive of Charles Barker / BSMG Worldwide (1997 to 2001) and also a director of the BSMG Worldwide European and global boards.  On the way she had also managed to fit in an MBA and two children. In 2001 she decided to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and was one of the founders of Four Communications – one of a new breed of integrated communications agencies. Four is now the No. 5 independent agency in the UK with turnover in excess of £20 million, 160 people and offices in London, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat.

Originally from a small town in mid-Wales Nan got her degree at Cambridge and her MBA at the Cranfield School of Management. Nan has also been a director of the London Print Studio and Centrepoint Trading. As well as her two (now adult) sons, her passions in life are history of art, wine, travel and languages (she studied French and Italian at university and is a native Welsh speaker). Her best tips in business are: be ambitious, work extraordinarily hard, make sure you work well with many different sorts of people – and learn to love Excel!

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