Charlotte Blenkinsop relishes the thought of life in the
She was first interviewed for Virgin Radio on the same day it became the
first radio station to gave away one million pounds. Blenkinsop recalls
how her eyes lit up at the ’media throng’ outside Ginger Media’s Golden
Square offices that day and she admits she was ’very excited’ by the
buzz about the place.
However, the move to Virgin Radio will raise a few eyebrows as it comes
less than a year after she joined Woolworths as its head of internal and
external communications. But Blenkinsop insists she is simply following
a desire to be involved in PR within the media world.
She describes the move to Woolworths as ’a strategic one, and her
comments are tinged with the ruthlessness of someone very determined to
’I had been in agencies a long time and my career needed a mainstream
in-house consumer brand,’ she adds.
Of the move to become head of communications at Virgin Radio, she says:
’It is an opportunity which came sooner than I expected. The decision is
a bit of a leap of faith, but if l didn’t do it now, l never would.’
Her former boss Julia Thorn, chief executive of Paragon Golin/ Harris,
backs up the view that Blenkinsop is an operator who identifies goals
and inevitably reaches them.
’l worked with Charlotte for ten years. She rose through the ranks at
Paragon. She is a very determined character and applies herself in a way
that means she usually gets what she wants,’ says Thorn.
Although Blenkinsop is still a paid employee of Woolworths, she has
already started to get those things she wants at Virgin Radio. She has
insisted on having a company parking space in Soho. This is so that she
can drive in from her home in Barnes and use the time to ’work’ and
listen to her station.
However, as work goes, she admits it is not too onerous a task. She
calls herself a ’typical girl about town’ and likes contemporary music
and going to the theatre.
Blenkinsop, aged 36, is also a family trustee of the Ward Blenkinsop
charitable trust which gives pounds 250,000 a year to causes in the
arts, education, medical research and sports worlds.
She says that she ’fell into PR’ after university when she did a brief
stint as a publicity assistant at publisher Allen and Unwin. She says
she was attracted by the variety of disciplines in public relations and
the creative opportunities. Blenkinsop’s time at Paragon was obviously a
happy and successful one. She joined the agency from Granard (which
became The Rowland Company) during the ’PR heydays’ of the late-1980s
and fondly remembers ’the work hard, play hard’ culture and characters
at the agency.
She is very much a hands-on PRO. At Paragon she worked on projects as
varied as handling Mastercard’s involvement with the Euro 96 football
tournament, the Prince’s Trust concert in Hyde Park and the massive
Hercules aircraft procurement project for the Ministry of Defence. Her
day-to-day clients included Barclays Bank and Kingfisher, the parent of
She became a main board director at Paragon in 1995. Gwen Gober, head of
corporate communications at Kingfisher, admits to being ’a bit
disappointed’ that Blenkinsop is leaving Woolworths. ’We had a good
working relationship,’ she says.
Blenkinsop is being taken on by Chris Evans’ Virgin Radio at a time when
the ink is not yet dry on a pounds 225 million takeover of Ginger Media
by Scottish Media Group. It is also a time when the station faces
falling listening numbers, which have dropped below three million. Her
brief is to head communications on the radio side of the media empire
and specifically to put a lot more ’oomph’ into this side of the
business. As far as listeners are concerned this will mean extending
publicity for Virgin Radio way beyond the flagship breakfast show.
’Virgin Radio has got to the size and stature that it needs someone to
plan communications with business partners and not someone merely to
puff the artists,’ says Blenkinsop about her new role.
Initially, she will have a team of just two - smaller than in previous
jobs, but she says that she can foresee interaction with the TV and
newspapers sides of Scottish Media Group.
Blenkinsop has already met her superstar boss and presenter Chris Evans
a couple of times and says she is taken ’by the depth of his knowledge
on a wide range of things’. Not a view of Evans that is widely reported
within the media, but with communications professionals such as
Blenkinsop in charge it’s entirely possible that it could all be about
Director, Paragon Golin/Harris
Head of internal and external communications, Woolworths
Head of communications, Virgin Radio