Brigitte Trafford is a firm believer in the power of PR as a tool to drive business. The international PR chief for Dow Jones - publisher of The Wall Street Journal Europe and Dow Jones Newswires - has a team mantra: 'PR adds value for brands.'
While Trafford's ethos is nothing new in the world of corporate communications, her results are proof the concept works. Since joining Dow as EMEA corporate communications director, WSJ Europe's readership and circulation has rocketed.
A rebrand campaign in 2000 exceeded coverage expectations by 1,000 per cent and contributed to a 20 per cent circulation jump.
Meanwhile, the mother-of-four created a PR team from scratch and recently gained a promotion, adding the Asia-Pacific region to her remit.
Trafford's PR strategy has been so successful in EMEA that Dow's V-P of corporate communications Steve Goldstein is now looking to take many of her ideas global.
Dow's rising PR star, however, had an unusual entrance into the industry.
Born in Essex of Anglo-French nationality, Trafford has had just one previous PR role - as communications manager for Cable & Wireless.
Before that she worked in a variety of fields, from running London restaurant Casper to acting as an assistant chartered surveyor with Hartnell Taylor Cook. She says she 'always ended up doing communications roles', adding it was only by chance she landed a job at Hartnell through a customer at Casper - a job that acted as the catalyst for the launch of her PR career.
'You never know where life will take you. Being in the right place at the right time is all to do with it,' she says. 'If I hadn't been working in a restaurant in Hanover Square, I may not be here now.'
From Hartnell, she joined telecoms firm Mercury Communications as group co-ordinator in the facilities and property division. Within two years she became manager of commercial development affairs, a role that saw her take on a part-PR remit, writing and giving speeches on regulatory and public policy issues alongside briefing the board and the press office.
'I learnt an important PR lesson in that role,' recalls Trafford. 'The board liked information presented in different ways - so I made sure everyone got it the way they wanted, pictures, graphs or words. You need to understand how audiences like to receive messages, rather than how you think they'd like it.'
Through Mercury's lobbying, Trafford says they persuaded then OFTEL director-general Don Cruikshanks to review UK telecom regulations, which were seen to be stifling competition.
Her achievements did not go unnoticed. Trafford was poached for her inaugural PR role when C&W director Stephen Pettit offered her the job of communications manager - the company's first dedicated European PR post - with a budget in excess of £420,000. She says she had doubts over her suitability, but was told by Pettit: 'If you can put "access deficit contribution" into plain English, you can do anything we want you to do.'
Former colleague Peter Eustace, C&W's group head of media relations, says: 'Brigitte looked on me as a kind of mentor within the company and, in terms of learning the trade, she was a fast learner. She also speaks fluent French, which is useful in European PR.'
After two years at C&W, Dow headhunted Trafford for its top EMEA PR post.
With a clean slate and a remit to build a team and strategy, she relished the challenge: 'I like starting something from nothing. It gives me a buzz to assess what needs to be done, prioritise and then do it.'
As Trafford proved the value of PR to the business, she says she got the budget and additional headcount in return.
Now with a supporting team of six and a budget of £635,000, Trafford is embarking on her next challenge: strengthening the PR function in Asia.
She is recruiting a director of communications for Asia to be based in Hong Kong. And with WSJ Asia celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Trafford plans to use the PR opportunity.
'Our target audiences don't realise that Dow has other products and is online, so we want to communicate this in the region,' said Trafford.
Trafford's team faces the challenge of combating shrinking ad revenues alongside the ongoing battle of convincing readers its flagship title, The Wall Street Journal, is not US-centric, but a global brand. This is made all the more difficult when promoting a publication to media that are reluctant to give space to a competitor.
But Trafford is confident of continuing the Dow PR success story, as is Goldstein of her ability: 'Brigitte's got an unlimited future, I don't think there are many PROs in Europe as good as she is.'
With tougher climates ahead for the print media, Trafford will have more cause to prove how effective PR can be in taking Dow forward.
Ass't surveyor, Hartnell Taylor Cook
Commercial devel. affairs manager, Mercury Comms
Comms manager, Cable & Wireless
Dir. of international corporate comms, Dow Jones