Charlotte Rowe is keen to dispel the notion that she is a fluffy PR luvvie. It takes some doing - she insists on a moment to don her pashmina before sitting for the PRWeek photographer - but, on balance, she carries it off.
The newly-appointed executive director of communications at the Greater London Authority is described by one associate as a 'furious networker' who always makes sure she knows the right people and makes the right connections.
A career that has largely focused on consumer PR means Rowe has experience of giving both strategic advice and implementation support to a staggering array of FMCGs. Her former client list includes Mars, Kellogg's, Lever Brothers, Guinness, Kimberly-Clark, Philips, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson.
Some public affairs people carp at the fact that such a high-profile job in London's mayoral set-up has gone to someone conspicuously lacking a public affairs background. Rowe does not see this as a problem.
She started her PR life as an account executive at Biss Lancaster 16 years ago. After a year she moved to Edelman PR Worldwide where in a five-year spell she rose from account executive to associate director, co-ordinating a Europe-wide marcoms offering. Susan Chinn, with whom Rowe worked at Edelman, remembers her as bright and confident in running PR projects across 13 countries at a time when PR was very much the poor relation in the family of marketing services disciplines.
In 1989 Rowe moved to Australia as general manager of the then Rowland Company's corporate communications team. Here, potentially invaluable experience was gained running urban regeneration projects.
She came back to the UK in 1994 to take up a directorship at the Rowland Company before landing the high-profile director of communications post at the London Tourist Board in 1997. It is here that she feels she made her greatest impact: 'When I joined it was a reactive press office putting out press releases. We changed it into more of a campaigning body focusing on issues.'
One reason for Rowe's rise to prominence is her determination. She has been called a tough operator by both friends and critics in the past, but is not troubled by this tag. She agrees whole-heartedly that this is a sexist judgement which would not be made of a man who acted as she does. Put simply, she gets things done. Her former boss at the LTB, managing director John Hopper, says: 'Charlotte joined us at a crucial time in the development of London and its tourism industry. Her determination and enthusiasm for London have helped us open doors and establish a strong presence with both government and the media.'
In her new role at the GLA - in which she starts next week - Rowe will report to the authority's non-elected chief executive Anthony Mayer and will sit on the six-strong executive board overseeing all aspects of London's new political arrangements. As well as handling the 15 press office staff, Rowe will take charge of the GLA's undecided advertising budget, public liaison and consultation, development of web content and internal communications. It is a wide brief.
To assist her, Rowe is expected later this year to make several appointments, including a head of media relations and similar posts for marketing and internet issues and public consultation. She is proud that a communications person is being given control of marketing, and not the other way around.
'I will have responsibility for the new London brand and I am coming in with knowledge of what that brand means,' she says.
Rowe is coy on whether or not she voted for Ken Livingstone as London mayor, the elected figure to whom she also answers. She has met Livingstone twice before and is confident they can develop a decent working relationship.
More crucially, she appears determined to overcome the inherent tensions in the existence of the twin roles of a director of communications for the body as a whole and a senior level press secretary for the Mayor himself.
Livingstone's personal press secretary, former GMTV employee Emma St.Giles, has come in for criticism from the journalists with whom she works for alleged aloofness and inacessibility, and had none of Rowe's PR pedigree.
'There is scope for tension in the relationship between those two roles. But in reality we are all working for the same person - the Londoner,' she says, a little disingenuously.
'It will be a top priority of mine to forge a good relationship with the Mayor's personal communications team,' she adds.
Rowe is clearly a deft communicator with a flair for a nice phrase and an ability to connect with people. The GLA is banking on the fact that with or without her pashmina, she can understand the political side of her new role as well. They may just be right.
1985: Account executive, Edelman PR Worldwide
1989: General manager, Rowland Company - Australia
1997: Director of communications , London Tourist Board and Convention Bureau
2001: Executive director of communications, GLA.