PROFILE: Sonia Haines, Thomson Holidays - Arriving at her PR destination. Sonia Haines will flex her travel expertise as the new PR chief at Thomson

In October Sonia Haines will leave specialist travel PR consultancy BGB and Associates, where in the space of four years she has risen from account manager to board director. After a short break in Cornwall, she will join Thomson Holidays as head of PR, filling the gap left by Russell Amerasekera who has been made group corporate communications director at parent company Thomson Travel Group following its flotation in May.

In October Sonia Haines will leave specialist travel PR consultancy

BGB and Associates, where in the space of four years she has risen from

account manager to board director. After a short break in Cornwall, she

will join Thomson Holidays as head of PR, filling the gap left by

Russell Amerasekera who has been made group corporate communications

director at parent company Thomson Travel Group following its flotation

in May.



’Traditionally the travel industry has been quite free and easy about

giving out statistics and comment. How we manage that so that we still

give journalists what they want, but at the same time observe our

responsibilities to the City will be a challenge,’ says Haines between

sips of bottled beer as we discuss her career in a cafe close to her

South Kensington home.



Clearly it is a challenge that Thomson Holidays believe she will take in

her stride. Haines was approached about the top PR job at the UK’s

leading package holiday operator because of her work for other Thomson

companies, Lunn Poly and Holiday Cottages Group, at BGB.



Once she has settled in, she will head a five-strong PR team. As well as

handling what she describes as the ’important nuts and bolts’ of

day-to-day PR, she will also address how Thomson Holidays should

communicate its fit within the rest of the group.



According to BGB client Melanie Brandman, Inter-Continental Hotels and

Resorts vice-president of corporate communications, Haines has the

strategic ability to thrive on tasks like this. ’We have relied on her

for a lot of the strategic work we do, such as putting together our

global PR plans,’ says Brandman.



Haines’ current boss, BGB managing director Bronwyn Gold Blyth,

identifies further qualities. ’As an ex-local journalist she has a

really good feel for what people are looking for in news. There’s no

flim-flam. She’s a great one for getting her team around her. That

applies both during work hours and afterwards. ’



One of Haines’ main interests is reading - from the literature of South

American authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, to

travel writers including Norman Lewis and Eric Newby.



Haines is interested in travelling herself. She spent more than a year

between her last job in local journalism and the beginnings of her

public relations career at Paragon - where she worked on the launch of

telecom company Orange - exploring the world. Wanderlust took her

through Asia and South America and she then did a stint as a voluntary

teacher at a Romanian English language camp.



There will be plenty more travel with Thomson but Haines is savvy enough

to know there will be a lot of hard work too. Thomson Holidays, it is

interesting to note, was one of the companies to attend the meeting

instigated by Ford last month to discuss concerns related to the BBC

consumer affairs programme Watchdog.



Haines concedes that holiday companies are ’vulnerable’ to attack from

disgruntled consumers. However, she adds that she has no misgivings

about the quality of Thomson holidays. ’I like mass market brands,’ she

explains.



One of the issues with which Haines has been heavily involved at BGB is

environmentally-responsible tourism. She hopes to apply her knowledge in

this field when at Thomson.



Indeed the application of knowledge and reason neatly defines her view

of what PR should be about. ’I’m a great believer that public relations

should be an intellectual job,’ she concludes. ’There’s absolutely

nothing wrong with parties and launch events but there has to be a

strategy.’



HIGHLIGHTS



1987: News editor, Richmond and Twickenham Times



1991: Producer news and current affairs, BBC Radio Solent



1994: Senior account executive, Paragon Communications



1998: Board director, BGB and Associates



1998: Head of PR, Thomson Holidays.



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