Cable and Wireless Communications bosses must have wished they had
Roy Payne on board last week for a spot of crisis management. Minutes
after Payne gave this interview as C&W’s new head of corporate
communications, the company announced the surprise departure of
marketing director Ruth Blakemore.
In fact, Payne will not be vacating his cramped, hot office at the Cable
Communications Association, where he is director of communications,
until next month. But when he does move in at C&W, there may still be a
call for the crisis management skills he learned as a press officer
working inside Strangeways Prison during a riot.
The merger of Bell Cable Media, Mercury Communications, Nynex Cable
Comms and Videotron into Cable and Wireless remains to be completed.
More high-level resignations and job losses from the four firms are
Payne, 36, is currently interviewing for his new corporate
communications team, and some people from the communications departments
of the four merged companies will be left without jobs. ’I want to
resolve that, so that people know precisely where they stand, one way or
the other,’ he says, in a brisk way, clearly uncomfortable with this
’bad news’ story. He would much rather talk about C&W’s global reach -
it claims more than 15 million customers in over 70 countries - and the
fact that it is the UK’s largest integrated supplier of
telecommunications and television services.
But Payne’s job has its compensations. Not least, the task of choosing a
PR agency to handle the launch of the C&W brand in September, when the
four merged firms’ names will be abandoned. C&W shocked the ad agency
world earlier this month by announcing that Rapier Stead and Bowden is
to create the pounds 50 million launch ad campaignh. And pitches are
about to take place for the pounds 500,000 PR account to support the
C&W already has a special relationship with Brunswick, which was
involved in C&W’s creation. ’They will continue to have, as far as I can
see, an important role to play,’ says Payne.
So how does an agency impress him? ’By sharing my energy and enthusiasm
for the product, but delivering pragmatic proposals. I like lateral
thinking but in the end you’ve still got to have a pragmatic campaign
which actually delivers. I’ve sat through too many pitches where the
ideas are too lateral,’ he laughs.
He apologises for being unable to talk in detail about his plans for
C&W’s communications team, saying that although he has ’buckets’ of
ideas, he has had to confine them to a corner of his mind until his
stint at the cable Communications Association is complete.
C&W asked Payne to apply for his new post after deciding that it lacked
a suitable internal candidate. He was no doubt suitably flattered and
may also have been keen to leave the association, described by one
broadcasting industry source as ’not a very happy ship’.
Before joining the association in September 1996, Payne worked for four
years in the press office at the Department of National Heritage -
rechristened last week as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
He took charge of publicity for the Broadcasting Act 1996, which
established the legal framework for digital TV in the UK, and last year
he become the department’s chief press officer. That gave him
responsibility for 12 people and a divisional budget of pounds
He honed his PR skills working with charities and small businesses in
Belfast, before moving to London and working as a mini-cab driver.
Then in 1988 he landed his first ’real job’ as a press officer at the
Home Office. He also became fascinated by the work of the Forensic
But his greatest passion in life is clearly rugby. ’I love the
millennial feel of the Five Nations (Championship) ... it’s like war
without the angst,’ he enthuses.
PR agencies seeking the way to Payne’s heart should take note.
Press officer, Home Office
Press officer, Department of National Heritage
Director of communications, Cable Communications Association
Head of corporate communications, Cable and Wireless