Profile: Nick Chaloner, Abbey National - Marching down the Abbey road/Abbey National salutes the new commander of its corporate communications

Managing a public relations department of 70 staff should hold no fear for Nick Chaloner. As a former army captain and adjutant to a commanding officer, Abbey National’s new director of corporate communications is used to managing the troops.

Managing a public relations department of 70 staff should hold no

fear for Nick Chaloner. As a former army captain and adjutant to a

commanding officer, Abbey National’s new director of corporate

communications is used to managing the troops.



Long before public relations even occurred to him as a career, Chaloner

was busy manoeuvring tanks across firing ranges in Germany and touring

the hot spots of Northern Ireland on intelligence exercises.



’I ended up as an adjutant to the commanding officer of a group of 800

soldiers,’ he recalls. ’Basically the commanding officer developed the

strategy and I had to implement it for him as his chief staff

officer.



’The army gives you a great deal of confidence. It helps you to think on

your feet and it gives you a structure so that you can find strategic

solutions and then carry them out quickly.’



That experience, say colleagues, has stood him in good stead in terms of

managing people and steering them through heavyweight PR campaigns.



’To call him a safe pair of hands is almost an insult to his abilities,’

says former colleague and Hammond Communications partner Peter Rae.

’He’s a very straight character but with a great sense of humour and is

very good with the staff. He’s perfectly happy to work on the job and

roll his sleeves up.’



Chaloner’s six years in the military, which started after he left

university, ended in 1982 when he took a job with Grand Metropolitan as

a marketing manager for one of its brewing businesses. Armed with ’a

company car, a box of beer mats and a budget’, he took charge of

promotional work for 60 pubs. That work led him into contact with

Saatchi and Saatchi subsidiary Kingsway PR, which he joined as an

account director in 1984.



Two years later he moved on to Burson-Marsteller where, together with

Peter Rae, he worked on the massive Industrial Development Board for

Northern Ireland account. When Rae left to become Hill and Knowlton

chief executive Chaloner followed him there, lured in part by the offer

of a seat on the board.



As head of H&K’s corporate division, Chaloner sampled the full range of

PR disciplines, from financial and corporate to business-to-business and

public affairs, and became increasingly involved in pan-European

projects.



So when the vacancy came up for a managing director at Hill and

Knowlton’s Athens outfit Chaloner seemed an obvious choice. ’It seemed

like the chance to do something interesting outside the UK, gain some

European experience and run an office myself,’ he says. ’Effectively I

was running my own business without the headaches of owning my own

business.’



Arriving in a smaller and less developed PR market than the UK, Chaloner

worked hard to build the reputation of the industry as well as Hill and

Knowlton’s own business. He also took an active role in setting up

Greece’s first PR consultancy association, which was launched last year.

’Having broken through personally in terms of gaining some respect and

credibility and then getting the company moving in the same way, the

next step was to get some of the more serious players together and to

create something that would give an indication to clients that they were

dealing with a serious operation,’ he says.



Back in the UK and working since last June on Athens’ bid to host the

2004 Olympic Games, Chaloner is unfazed by his move to an in-house role

after 15 years with consultancies. ’I had looked in the past, but

frankly I didn’t find either a successful organisation which I wanted to

be a part of or one that was committed to communications,’ he says.



’There has been a major sea change in the last three or four years and

more companies realise that it’s crucially important to get their PR

right.



Abbey National certainly takes it seriously. I wouldn’t have wanted the

job if it didn’t,’ he concludes.



HIGHLIGHTS

1986

Associate director, Burson-Marsteller

1988

Director, Hill and Knowlton UK

1993

Managing director, Hill and Knowlton Athens

1997

Director of corporate communications, Abbey National



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