PROFILE: Shimon Cohen, Bell Pottinger PR - Bell boss is just doing what comes naturally. For a man who ’happened’ on to PR, Shimon Cohen has come a long way

On graduating from Manchester University, Shimon Cohen’s first job was as community youth officer at a north London synagogue. His habit of phoning the local paper as well as the Jewish Chronicle to publicise events caught the eye of the then chief rabbi, Lord Jakobovits, who was conscious that his own message needed to stretch beyond the Jewish community.

On graduating from Manchester University, Shimon Cohen’s first job

was as community youth officer at a north London synagogue. His habit of

phoning the local paper as well as the Jewish Chronicle to publicise

events caught the eye of the then chief rabbi, Lord Jakobovits, who was

conscious that his own message needed to stretch beyond the Jewish

community.



Cohen joined his office and, on the day he turned 23, was offered the

post of private secretary.



Eight years down the line, Cohen wasn’t really sure that what he was

doing with Lord Jakobovits counted as PR until Tim Bell pointed it out

to him. But, seeing in Cohen someone with bags of natural ability at

communicating, Bell didn’t waste any time in offering him a full-time

job.



’I’m pretty much part of the furniture now,’ says Cohen who after ten

years with the agency is set to take on a new role within the Chime

family.



Formerly senior consultant at consumer arm Green Moon, Cohen is taking

over as its chief executive at the same time as the unit is being

rebranded Bell Pottinger Public Relations. Clients include Sega,

Sportal, which produces the official Euro 2000 web site, and Lucozade

Sport. This means Cohen works with Arsenal, as well as foreign glamour

clubs such as St Etienne and Sampdoria. ’I absolutely adore football,’

he says. Despite this, he supports Cardiff City.



In all Cohen spent eight remarkable years working for Lord

Jakobovits.



’It was the most exciting time of my life,’ he says. Indeed, looking at

his career to date, it is tempting to conclude that no period could

match it again. His relationship with Lord Jakobovits was close ’beyond

words,’ he says. He met world leaders with the chief rabbi and Cohen was

still writing speeches for him until his death.



Anything else then must seem a little, well, lightweight. So is his work

now - however stimulating - just a job?



’It’s an interesting question,’ he says, to which the short answer, as

you might expect, is ’no’. The longer answer is revealing. He does not

believe that his work could be viewed as a comedown from his previous

incarnation.



Cohen has a scrapbook at home containing pictures of him with Thatcher

and Gorbachev, and is hugely proud of it. ’Those years were an amazing

part of my life. To some extent, those type of jobs are fantasy jobs,

and you know they are going to end,’ he says.



Knowing that Bell Pottinger has got stories on the evening news or in

the newspapers gives him satisfaction now, he says. He is still

creating, developing and promoting a message, which he loves doing. ’I

get the same buzz and pride as I did then,’ he says. ’It’s different but

I’m a realist. It’s no comedown.’



In 1996, Cohen took a year out to run Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s private

office at the Really Useful Group, his appointment coinciding with

Lloyd-Webber’s foray into food writing. Cohen, who lists eating out as a

hobby, advises that if you can’t be a restaurant critic yourself, be the

dining partner of someone who is. Whether this is luck or not, Cohen’s

success seems to stem from the knowledge that there are other, more

important things in life than instant wealth, but that you are more

likely to find financial success if you dedicate yourself to goals you

believe in. He confesses candidly to finding some dot.com whizzkids

rather dull, for example - ’a bit too single-minded, a bit too focused

on instant wealth’.



’My family is as important to me as my work,’ he continues. The arrival

of his daughter, born three months ago, has only confirmed that -

sleepless nights and all. But then there is tired and there is tired, he

says. ’Jetlag is the most dull, negative tired; this is the most

wonderful, positive tired.’



Cohen is visibly excited about his new role. ’You can wear the Bell

Pottinger label with a lot of pride,’ he says. ’It’s a massive vote of

confidence, but it’s also a challenge. Now the company has to operate in

a Bell Pottinger style.’



There will be continuity, he says, as all his existing clients are

staying with him. There will also be ’a little bit of reorganisation’ -

but he points out, reasonably enough, that Green Moon has sat happily

enough within Lord Bell’s empire since 1994.



Cohen is affable, but undeniably passionate. You won’t find him at the

top of any internal organisational chart, he says, but you will find him

in the middle of the team. He believes leadership means taking people

along with him rather than just ordering them about. He is also ’driven

by happiness’ rather than the pursuit of money.



Many people say things like this. With Shimon Cohen, you get the

impression that he really means it.





HIGHLIGHTS



1983



Director, Chief rabbi’s office



1990



Consultant, Bell Pottinger



1996



Director of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s private office



2000



CEO, Bell Pottinger Public Relations.



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