The swish reception of Orange’s London HQ is a hive of glamorous
activity. Camera crews, photographers and microphone-wielding
journalists jostle for position.
Orange has just been awarded a third generation UMTS licence and the
company’s PR machine is cranked up to overdrive. Newly-installed as head
of UK media relations at Orange, Alison Palmer is in the thick of
things. Palmer’s face is flushed from the hectic morning.
She’s wearing a bright orange blouse. It’s very her. Very ... Orange.
’It’s Chanel, you know,’ she informs in a mock snobbish tone.
Meet Palmer, one-time art student, former BA stewardess, erstwhile
expatriate - and today all-round glamour PR girl for Orange.
’I’m a very glamorous person. I love clothes, fashion, being in with the
in-crowd. I see Orange as a reflection of me, of what I really love to
do; being dynamic, on the front line, being first, first, first with
everything, the whole glamour bit,’ says Palmer, who ’pitched out’ of
art school aged 18 to travel the world, subsequently booking a
three-year term as a BA flight attendant. In between there was a
fleeting sortie into television commercials, including one for Sky
Television where she was dressed in a bikini.
’I wanted to move into PR at BA. But I got used to the flash lifestyle,
the flying, meeting influential people,’ she says.
She saved enough to go to college for a year, to study communications,
advertising and marketing. After graduation she landed a job in Dubai
with a medical supply company, United Medical, with a role encompassing
sales, marketing and PR.
She returned to London with plans to head-up the company’s UK
recruitment office, but when it failed to materialise she joined
Garrard, the Crown Jewellers. There she worked under Sally Burton.
’Sally was brilliant: strong, professional, a real influence. I was in
the showroom a lot. It was very front line, a very glamorous job,’ says
In 1997, she joined BT to run PR and communications in the Global
Business Marketing department, managing accounts for companies such as
Natwest, HSBC and Amex.
’I think I made a difference at BT in everything I did. There’s so much
competition in the technology market. Everybody has something to say, so
to the media, it becomes the ’so what?’ factor. You have to be dynamic
to make sure the brand reaches the right area.’
She moved across for ’a stint’ at the BT Challenge round-the-world yacht
race, ramping up the international PR and working with Hill and
Amy Creighton, now director-designate at Jackie Cooper PR, then at Hill
and Knowlton, worked with Palmer on the BT account.
’Alison is a scream-a-minute and has an effective combination of
enthusiasm for every project while always results-orientated. She is an
infectious person, very glamorous indeed, and a person everyone wants to
know and be with,’ says Creighton.
Palmer was poached back by the Global Business Marketing department, and
headed PR for the travel, transportation and leisure department. Tagged
on to that role, she says, was the leisure logistics sector.
’That was a big jump for me. Really exciting and challenging. BT was
going through great changes all the time, from the day I arrived, in
fact, splitting up into Concert and so on. There were some great
opportunities and I like to think I took them,’ she says.
She is well respected by her former colleagues at BT, but those that PR
Week contacted to shed more light on Palmer refrained from quoted
comment, citing a conflict of interest.
However, Valerie Buckle, BT’s head of strategic planning, said,
’Alison’s a great personality with a terrific sense of humour. She
certainly knows how to work hard, play hard and have fun.’
Palmer’s future at the moment looks distinctly orange.’I think at Orange
I am going to have a wider scope for creativity, I think the company is
more open to that side of things as it wants all the best sponsorship.
It wants to be known as glamorous, to be first. It wants to be famous
globally, to be known as leading edge. It’s a vision I share.’
She says her brief is to make simple Orange’s technological message both
to the media and the consumer. She heads a team of five but expansion is
underway. The market is fast moving, more so now the new licence has
been successfully bid for. ’I’ve got my structure head on at the
I like things orderly. Not in a bureaucratic style, not too rigid. But I
need a structure to allow my creativity to flow. A tidy house is a tidy
mind, isn’t that what they say? That is important,’ she says.
That and a touch of glamour, of course.
1996: Marketing and PR manager, Garrard
1997: PR manager, BT
2000: PR manager, Orange.