Profile: Charles Naylor, Centrica - Looking at PR from outside/Charles Naylor is poised to take a refreshing approach to his role at Centrica

When Centrica announced the appointment of its new corporate affairs director Charles Naylor last week, it made much of the fact that he has spent the past 11 years in the energy industry. While it mentioned his Cambridge degree and his MBA, Centrica’s press release left a nine-year gap in 42-year-old Naylor’s CV. ’The only reason there’s a blank is because I did something completely different. I was an opera singer, so it wasn’t completely relevant for the CV for the Centrica press release,’ Naylor says without batting an eyelid.

When Centrica announced the appointment of its new corporate

affairs director Charles Naylor last week, it made much of the fact that

he has spent the past 11 years in the energy industry. While it

mentioned his Cambridge degree and his MBA, Centrica’s press release

left a nine-year gap in 42-year-old Naylor’s CV. ’The only reason

there’s a blank is because I did something completely different. I was

an opera singer, so it wasn’t completely relevant for the CV for the

Centrica press release,’ Naylor says without batting an eyelid.



After four years at the Royal Academy of Music, Naylor joined the Vienna

State Opera before returning to the UK and freelancing for opera

companies, including Glyndebourne.



Explaining his decision to move out of professional singing and into

business, he says: ’The arts is like a religion: it’s the sort of thing

that, if you love it so much it’s the only thing you want to do, you

should do it. But if you can conceive of doing something else, you

should probably do something else. And I started doing something else

and I really enjoyed it. I still sing as an amateur and get as much

pleasure from that as I did singing professionally.’



Coming into communications from so far outside the usual PR spectrum

means that Naylor has kept an outsider’s view on what he does for a

living.



This has no doubt been spurred by his diverse experiences since quitting

professional opera, which have included advising forecourt shop managers

on where best to place their chocolate bars when he worked as a

franchise manager for Shell.



He says: ’Whenever you’re looking at a piece of communication you’re

thinking ’what will that person outside our business think’ and that’s

terribly important. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the jargon and

forget that the language you speak has to be understood by people who

don’t understand the business.’



Talking to Naylor, it is clear that he has applied more thought than

most to corporate communications as a discipline. He sees his role as

bringing the different strands which make up an organisation together,

thus promoting a better understanding of the entity from the

outside.



Coming from outside the PR industry may explain his relatively cerebral

take on PR, as may the fact that, while at Shell, he completed an

MBA.



Those who have come into contact with Naylor professionally describe him

as bright. This, combined with his calm and commonsense approach to life

will no doubt ensure he will get to grips with communicating to a

payroll 15 times larger than that of his current employer Amerada Hess

and millions, rather than hundreds of thousands, of customers when he

joins Centrica.



The flipside of Naylor’s quiet intelligence and poise is his

self-effacing nature. ’He’s not a self-publicist. He’s not antisocial,

but he’s not in your face,’ says Neville Wells, who freelanced at

Amerada Hess until last June and is now corporate affairs project

manager at the Boots Company.



While a PR man not blowing his own trumpet has novelty value, it means

that, when it comes to dealing with the press, Naylor may find the

media-hitting required at Centrica harder to get used to. The sight of a

tape-recorder certainly makes him clam up and utter single-sentence

answers.



The minute the machine is put away, he switches back to what must be his

usual engaging and chatty self. ’Sometimes I don’t listen, but that’s

probably because I talk too much,’ he offers, slightly nervously.



Still, talking may not come as easily as singing, something which still

occupies what free time he has between the office, working out at the

gym and his marriage - his wife is expecting their first baby in

April.



Wells says: ’Charles is great. He practises singing in the office, so

going down the corridor you’ll get this very melodious voice coming out

with an aria. It’s refreshing. He’s not your typical suit.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1982

Junior principal baritone, Vienna State Opera

1987

Franchise manager, Shell UK

1991

Advertising and PR manager, Shell UK

1992

Corporate affairs head, Amerada Hess

1998

Corporate affairs director, Centrica



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