Profile: Kim Fernihough, Avon - Following an Avon calling/Kim Fernihough prepares to give the public face of Avon a full makeover

Almost swallowed up by the cushions of her chair, Kim Fernihough leans forward throughout our conversation, grasping her ankles and her knees, or waving her hands to illustrate a point. Her childlike posture and petite physique could mislead you into underestimating her strong personality.

Almost swallowed up by the cushions of her chair, Kim Fernihough

leans forward throughout our conversation, grasping her ankles and her

knees, or waving her hands to illustrate a point. Her childlike posture

and petite physique could mislead you into underestimating her strong

personality.



’I’m a visionary,’ American-born Fernihough declares half-way through

our interview. ’I know details are important but I don’t want to do that

kind of thinking myself.’



Fernihough is moving to the beauty products giant Avon as its first head

of PR and communications later this month after a year at Boots, as

group PR and communications manager. During her time at the high street

chemist she built an in-house PR team to handle Boots’ No 7 cosmetics,

as well as managing PR activities for Soltan, the Natural Collection and

the Shapers brand. Now she is looking forward to working in an

environment where there is ’no complacency, no arrogance or resting on

laurels’.



’It was a very easy job at Boots,’ explains Fernihough. ’There’s this

halo hanging over Boots that no matter what it does people think that

Boots could never do anything wrong That means the skill involved in

performing a PR job there is probably less of a challenge than

persuading people that Avon is not as dowdy as they may have

thought.’



Fernihough is confident of her ability to use her experience in consumer

and corporate PR to help Avon change its old-fashioned image. While keen

not to alienate the traditional ’housewife’ customers, she feels Avon

could afford to go a little upmarket. The traditional home-selling Avon

has specialised in has the potential to appeal to the ’cash-rich,

time-poor’, convenience seekers of the future.



’A lot of people can’t be bothered to go into stores - look at the way

Internet shopping is taking off,’ she says. ’Avon can win new customers

by presenting themselves as the modern alternative, the convenient

alternative, the cost effective alternative to throwing your kids in the

car and going into town in your leisure time. I’m a prime example of

that, if somebody would come to me and say I will bring all your

vegetables once a week I would pay over the odds for that.’



There are 160,000 Avon representatives in the UK (two million

world-wide) and internal communications is high on Fernihough’s list of

priorities: ’There’s a lot of people who view internal relations as the

poor relation of consumer PR, but it is so much more difficult to do

well. I found the lack of internal communications work at Boots

frustrating.’



Obviously excited at the prospect of awakening Avon’s ’sleeping giant’,

Fernihough says she enjoys working for an underdog, one reason she

flourished during her time at Boots subsidiary Do It All.



’I thrive on the challenge of achieving something that someone told me I

couldn’t achieve. I prefer building reputations rather than maintaining

them. I don’t enjoy accepting the status quo. In order to get the

media’s attention you have to do something that’s different. You have to

be prepared to take a risk,’ she explains.



Her move to Avon is the fifth she has made since arriving in England,

and Fernihough says she is committed to staying at Avon for a ’long

time’, confident that there are opportunities to move up.



Geoff Kidd, who headhunted Fernihough to set up a PR division at Do It

All and describes her as a ’star’ says she relates better to an

organisation where she is allowed to have her head: ’She needs to be

allowed to show her creativity and responds well to not being tied down

to bureaucratic controls.’



Fernihough describes herself as demanding, energetic, passionate and a

perfectionist.



’I get irritated if things aren’t perfect.’ She also admits to finding

American tourists irritating, surely a sign that she is well settled in

the UK.



HIGHLIGHTS

1989

Account manager, Dark Horse Communications

1990

PR manager, Allied and Maples Group

1992

General manager public relations, Do It All

1996

Group PR manager Boots

1997

Head of PR and communications, Avon



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