Global newsmaker: Simon Montague

Eurostar's former comms director Simon Montague has resurfaced in the top comms role at the British Embassy Madrid. As director of comms, he will work alongside his six-strong team to raise the profile of the UK as an investment location, and to support British nationals who live in or visit Spain. PRWeek finds out more about the role.

Global newsmaker: Simon Montague
Global newsmaker: Simon Montague
How does the Spanish PR market compare to the UK?
Business culture in Spain is more hierarchical than in the UK so the PR function often has less priority, with directors of communications less frequently represented on the board or management group. Having said that, there’s a thriving agency sector with offices of international comms agencies here, and major Spanish firms such as Estudio de Comunicación and Grupo Albion, the latter run by a Brit.

What are the differences between the UK and Spanish media?
The biggest difference is in the influence of politicians and business. Whereas UK national newspapers are open to political influence, in Spain they are fixed to the left (El País) or right (El Mundo, ABC) and nothing will change that. By contrast, whereas UK journalists are still generally very resilient to PR people seeking to link editorial and advertising, business in Spain has more influence because the media relies so heavily on corporate advertising. This difference sometimes leaves Spanish companies frustrated as to why they cannot exert more control over what appears in the UK press.

What’s the scale of the English language media in Spain?
Bigger than you might think. With a million Brits living here part or all of the year, and 12 million visitors a year, there is a large volume of English language local papers, talk and music radio, TV, and news and community websites along the coast between Alicante and Gibraltar. They’re crucial channels for communicating with Britons in Spain.

What are the priority messages for the UK in Spain?
Foreign Secretary William Hague has set three objectives. The first, prosperity, means here in Spain using the  press to highlight the attractions for Spanish companies of investing in the UK. Second is supporting British residents and holidaymakers, and  in Spain  there are more than anywhere else in the world. The third, safeguarding UK national security, generally isn’t a pro-active communications issue.  

How is the UK currently perceived in Spain?
The UK is well perceived, as a modern, tolerant, diverse country with great tradition but also a 21st century, global outlook. Spanish newspapers’ fascination with the UK General Election was enormous, and the opposition PP party have talked openly about following ‘the Cameron Plan’ to boost the Spanish economy. This positive view helps us to communicate the message that the UK is a great place to invest, and we’re helped further by the perception that London is a world-class economic, political and media hub.

What are the biggest challenges to the UK's image in Spain?
To be honest, not many. We’re actively countering any perceptions of Euro-scepticism, because in fact we’re good Europeans across a range of issues, such as the single market, climate change, development aid, EU foreign policy and enlargement. Gibraltar is also a sensitive issue.

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