Chris Tucker is not a run-of-the-mill choice for PR director at one
of the country’s largest listed companies. She doesn’t wear cuff-links,
she doesn’t appear darkly manipulative and she talks in high-pitched
Essex tones interspersed with bouts of childish giggling.
This character trait is disarming and no doubt highly effective at
putting those she deals with - from the CEO to the office junior - at
their ease. The appointee to the newly-created post of group public
relations director at Barclays could scarcely conform less to the
stereotype of a financial PRO.
Tucker is also unusual in that she busts the myth that to rise fast you
must change jobs often. An 11-year Barclays PR veteran, Tucker has
ignored the concept of moving on to move up and remained firmly loyal to
Her PR career started in the public sector as a press officer for drug
and alcohol abuse charity Turning Point. Spending time with some of
society’s most vulnerable and troubled members, clearly had an effect on
Tucker. ’It stood me in good stead for dealing with people from all
walks of life,’ she says.
Her first financial services PR job came two years later when she joined
Girobank as a press officer. Her interest in the personal finance pages
sprang from the Girobank days, as did many of her contacts in the
Tucker joined Barclays in 1989 as a press officer in its retail
financial services division. The main focus of her work was Barclaycard
- now a separate business unit but then integrated within retail -
effectively a ’client’ for whom she was ’account director’. As
Barclaycard embarked on a profile-raising campaign - with ads starring
Rowan Atkinson lending it a more glamorous feel - Tucker is credited
with successfully running PR aimed at turning the credit card into a
After a further six years as head of UK bank PR, Tucker moved to more
rarefied ground as head of corporate banking PR. At 34 years old, she
took charge of a complex communications portfolio. ’You can’t overstate
the diversity of the job at corporate banking. The division had over 300
products. That’s a huge challenge to bring it in to one set of coherent
messages,’ she says.
A challenge it may have been, but Tucker clearly rose to it. It is not
clear whether she is as ruthless as one would expect from such a
high-flyer at a major corporation. But former colleagues agree that
despite the bubbly exterior, she is made of stern stuff.
Julian Goldsmith, European MD of financial services at Ogilvy PR
Worldwide, ran Sector PR for eight years until last autumn and held
Barclays as a client for much of that time. He says: ’There is a
determined streak to her. If someone’s done something wrong, they’ll
certainly find out about it.’
Goldsmith describes his former taskmaster as ’demanding but fair’. He
also has praise for her working style. ’She’s stuck with the core PR
skills and not allowed herself to get bogged down in management issues,’
Mo Dutta, a media trainer who has worked for various parts of the
Barclays empire for three years, says her value is in avoiding the
negative cliches of the PR world. ’There’s a lot of guff in
communications. Tucker has a clarity and acuity quite rare in this
field,’ Dutta says.
She will need both to make sense of Barclays’ new communications
structure. To an extent, Tucker has already proved her mettle in the
battle for supremacy in the bank’s PR department which left one or two
bruised egos. This is the outcome of a thorough review of group services
by CEO Matt Barrett. It involves a new system for, broadly speaking,
dividing the communications people according to function - PR, internal
communications, public affairs, community relations - instead of on
The communications director posts at the four key business units -
corporate, retail, capital and global investors - have been abolished.
The people in those posts - including corporate banking communications
director David Lavarack, who was formerly Tucker’s direct boss - have
either applied for and got jobs on a par with hers, or are leaving the
company. Tucker has emerged as the victor in the power struggle. Her
constantly chirpy style won out.
’I am enthusiastic and, yes, bubbly. I believe in persuading people. You
need to be able to win people over. The main task is to build a highly
motivated team and the way to do that is to get them to identify with
what you’re trying to do. The key is building relationships.’ says
Tucker, who now has 40 staff beneath her to win over.
It has been said by former colleagues that Tucker has a ’consistent way
of dealing with everyone she comes across’. This is the secret of her
1987: Press officer, Girobank
1989: Press officer, Barclays retail financial services
1997: Head of PR, Corporate banking
2000: PR director, Barclays plc.