Profile: Joy King, Eastern Group - Taking power to the people/Eastern Group’s new communications head Joy King is no stranger to utilities

Having spent most of the last 15 years working for utilities companies, Eastern Group’s new communications head Joy King has watched the sector move from what she describes as ’almost a part of Government’ into today’s open market - ’a public goldfish bowl’.

Having spent most of the last 15 years working for utilities

companies, Eastern Group’s new communications head Joy King has watched

the sector move from what she describes as ’almost a part of Government’

into today’s open market - ’a public goldfish bowl’.



She recalls overseeing PR and investor relations surrounding the

flotation of Manweb, the former electricity board for Merseyside and

North Wales, in 1990. Manweb was among the first companies to be floated

after the Financial Services Act, which allowed for privatisation of

utilities.



She describes the experience as ’exciting, but unproductive’. ’I

remember having to provide 10 verifications that Llandudno was a seaside

resort in north Wales! It was a nightmare,’ she says.



But it was this kind of experience which no doubt led to her being

headhunted for the job at Eastern, an energy company with four million

gas and electricity customers in the UK which was the object of a fierce

takeover battle earlier this year between Pacificorp and Texas Utilities

- its eventual owner.



The company has now firmly set its sights on the soon-to-be-deregulated

European stage, an area where King has less experience. Nonetheless, her

new job description is arguably less challenging than some of her

previous posts. As she admits: ’I’m used to moving into jobs and sorting

PR teams out, which happened at BG, Manweb and Pearl. So this is going

to be very different. It’s an organisation that is at the growth stage,

whereas I have usually come in at the change stage.’



Shunning the idea that a more settled job environment corresponds to a

new stage in her life, 46-year-old King says she was attracted to the

job because of the company’s ’humane’ corporate culture, spearheaded by

outgoing chairman John Devaney, who King has known for some time.



Clearly a career woman, King has an almost cerebral attitude to her

work.



She sees her role as: ’bringing that broader viewpoint to the executive

table. I’ve often found myself championing customer issues in an

organisation. If you get that external perspective right at the start

then we can go and do our job and sell the company.’



King’s analytical take on PR as a discipline is echoed by financial PR

consultant Caroline Cecil, who worked with King both at Manweb and

Pearl.



Cecil says she has developed a friendship with King based largely on

regular chats about their respective professional challenges. ’We get

together to compare notes on the industry. We find it very helpful

because you can often talk to somebody not in your own organisation in a

more open way,’ Cecil says.



The flipside of King’s attitude to her work is that, as she admits

herself: ’I can be very focused. Understanding the impact I have on the

teams I work with is the area in which I need to work hardest.’



Claire Baldwin, internal communications manager at Pearl and one of 12

staff who worked under King, says: ’Joy has faith that everyone can live

up to their potential and can be improved. It means that sometimes she

is proved wrong. Only two members of our team are people who had been

there previous to her joining.’



Although King seems to have forged a solid private life for herself, it

has been largely moulded around her career. She is the chief breadwinner

in her household, which she shares with her partner and a selection of

animals worthy of Noah’s Ark - turkeys, bantams, donkeys and geese, as

well as the obligatory two cats and a dog. ’They must be child

substitutes,’ King laughs.



She has spent her career moving around the country - London, Chester,

Surrey, Sheffield, Nottingham - with her job. As a child, she moved

house as and when her father’s job required, ending up as the only girl

in a 600-strong boys’ boarding school - an experience she says was

formative, but definitely not enjoyable.



By comparison, King’s current lifestyle probably feels relatively

settled.



’I keep doing up houses and then moving on, but my partner follows me

around, bless him. He looks after the animals and he looks after me,’

she says.



HIGHLIGHTS

1983

Information officer, East Midlands Electricity

1987

Head of PR, Manweb

1994

PR director, BG Trading

1996

Communications director, Pearl Assurance

1998

Corporate communications director, Eastern Group



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