Profile: Jane Howard, Jane Howard PR - The wizard of consumer PR/Jane Howard looks forward to less management and more client contact

It took seven years of lobbying by a professional persuader for Jane Howard to agree to sell her agency. GCI UK chief executive Adrian Wheeler first approached Howard in 1992, but it was not until January this year that she began to seriously consider offers from a handful of suitors.

It took seven years of lobbying by a professional persuader for

Jane Howard to agree to sell her agency. GCI UK chief executive Adrian

Wheeler first approached Howard in 1992, but it was not until January

this year that she began to seriously consider offers from a handful of

suitors.



Two weeks ago, the agencies entered exclusive negotiations. Jane Howard

PR, which counts brewer Scottish and Newcastle and Carphone Warehouse

among its clients, will bring almost pounds 900,000 worth of consumer

fee income to the GCI Group.



A biochemistry graduate from Bristol University, Howard entered the PR

fray in 1980 when her concern over the damage being done to the

environment led her to join Friends of the Earth as a press officer.



’I do not have many gloomy days but when I do, these are the sort of

issues which really worry me,’ she admits. Her concern led her, among

other publicity stunts, to chain herself to the railings of the

Norwegian Embassy in London to protest against whaling.



Howard left the organisation after three years because she was

disillusioned when it decided to reject a no strings attached donation

of pounds 10,000 by a major oil company, money which could have saved a

threatened UK environmental area. ’I didn’t think we should have been

alienating these people - it is only by working with them that we can

change things,’ she says.



She picked up many of her PR skills in what she describes as her first

’proper job’ at Jones Rose Associates, where she handled clients

including glue brand Pritt Stick and electrical giant GEC. She followed

the agency’s joint founder Gareth Jones when he set up Jones PR in

1985.



In 1989, still at Jones PR and two years after divorcing her first

husband, Howard had a lifestyle epiphany. ’I woke up and, for the first

time in a while, felt good again, but realised I had the same friends,

same job and same house. I just needed a change,’ she says.



So she bought a ticket to Manila and travelled around Asia for a month

with Karen Robinson, now an assistant supplements editor of the Sunday

Times, who describes Howard as well-organised without being bossy. She

praises Howard’s cool in extreme circumstances, recalling that she had

remained unflappable even when prevented from seeing Imelda Marcos’

infamous shoe collection because the presidential palace was undergoing

repairs.



Before Howard left on her travels, Jones PR client Martin Birch, at

battery maker Ever Ready, had suggested she set up her own agency and

guaranteed the company would come with her. On returning, she decided to

follow the idea through. On the day she opened for business she met her

soon-to-be husband, journalist Adrian Brewer, at a friend’s birthday

party.



Howard’s family is very important to her. She spends just four days a

week at work and lives minutes from her office in Clapham, which ensures

she has at least four hours each day with her children - Mattie, four,

and Rose, two.



Wheeler rates her skills highly. ’I think she is a PR wizard and imparts

that wizardry to a bright, hard-working team,’ he says.



In the last two years, five of the top 20 UK firms have knocked on

Howard’s door to boost their consumer divisions but were spurned because

she could not see her business moving wholesale into a top 20 agency and

still being able to offer the same level of service.



But three things changed her mind. First, the agency’s clients,

particularly on the retail side, increasingly needed pan-European

coverage as they expanded. Second was the need to invest in technology -

with just 20 people, the agency could not properly keep up with a media

breaking into the digital age. And lastly, she wanted to spend less time

managing and more time with clients.



Howard is already rolling up her sleeves: ’I want to get my hands

dirty,’ she says.



HIGHLIGHTS

1980 Press officer andfundraiser, Friends of the Earth

1983

Account executive, Jones Rose Associates

1989

Founder and MD, Jane Howard PR

1999

Negotiates sale of Jane Howard PR to GCI



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