The defence industry is not renowned for its amusing qualities.
Nor is the word fun often associated with large corporate mergers.
Yet Locksley Ryan, outgoing director of corporate communications at
newly merged defence company BAE Systems, seems to have had a ball in
his five years with the company.
’I firmly believe that people work at their best when they are having
fun,’ he says. And when it comes to his team: ’I much prefer to measure
smiles, not output.’
Not that his time at BAe was without its tougher moments. When the
merger process between British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems
began in January 1999, the announcement was initially handled by Ryan
and a team of five. He soon learned that more hands would be needed. By
the summer, a list of the tasks to be undertaken was drawn up and
allocated to the entire 60 staff which made up BAe’s communications
Ryan himself worked closely on the new corporate identity and name,
which caused some controversy among the BAe board. ’It’s the piece of
work I’m happiest about. It was a struggle at the time, with lots of
arguments, but in the end everybody loved it.’
Media reception of the rebranding was also positive, with the dropping
of the word ’British’ from the company’s name receiving press coverage,
but not in a negative light.
For Ryan, 50, the completion of the merger last November acted as a
’good full stop’. He then spent the Christmas period thinking about his
next move. After working in corporate communications for 30 years, a
stint in consultancy beckoned.
Although Ryan has never employed Brunswick as an agency, he has known
managing director Alan Parker for many years. After discussing various
options with Parker, he decided to join as a partner.
Few would question the wisdom of making a move to Brunswick, which is,
as Ryan points out, at a peak in terms of performance. However, after a
career spent entirely in large corporations - as a scientist at 3M,
through positions at Mars and TSB - how will Ryan cope as an agency man
when he joins Brunswick next month?
’It’s not going to be as difficult as people believe, because the
fundamentals of communications strategy are the same wherever you are,’
he says. ’I’m moving out of corporate life, which I understand very
well, and having to provide advice and guidance very quickly, without
having that instinctive feel.’ It is a challenge, but is also the most
exciting aspect of his new role.
As one who started life as a scientist, Ryan speaks a lot about the need
for balance between instinct and reason, and how good information can
help make logical decisions, but he also says that instinct should not
Joy Le Fevre, founder of Le Fevre Communications, whose agency worked
for TSB when Ryan was director of communications there, says: ’He’s that
rare type of PR man who cuts to the quick when it comes to seeing a
problem, and whose creative mind means he moves to a solution
’A consummate professional,’ is how Biss Lancaster chairman Graham
Lancaster describes him, saying Ryan’s experience in a broad range of
roles and sectors has led to his ’ability to see communications in the
Lancaster adds: ’He is also a calm person, and I’m sure one of his
successes with CEOs is that he never panics and is never flustered,
which is exactly what you need in a crisis.’
Based in London, Ryan spends most of the week working and ’drinking,
eating and smoking too much’. Weekends, however, are for spending time
in the country, hunting and fishing - a hobby which has taken him as far
as Cuba and Mauritius.
But work is never far from his mind; he even makes an analogy between a
good gun dog and his profession. ’There is a lovely thing about
communications and dog training. When you have a gun dog, you try and
let it do what it wants to do, but when you want it to do it - it has to
be the right time. It’s just like communications. You want people to do
what they want to do, but at the right time for you,’ he explains.
’What the communications world has yet to catch on to is the fact that
people respond when you are absolutely clear about what you stand for,’
he says. ’I mean, Louis Vuitton knows exactly what it’s offering, always
offers it, never discounts and is crystal clear about itself. Therefore
communicating is relatively straightforward.’
It will be interesting to see what Brunswick folk make of Ryan, who
hates hierarchies, doesn’t like rules and whose favourite piece of
advice: ’Work like you don’t need the money ... dance like you can’t be
Research scientist, Mars
1995 Director of communications, British Aerospace