PROFILE: Sue Martin, Investors in People - Martin takes charge at Investors in People - Workforce development group appoints ex-BBC comms boss Sue Martin

Two words had been typed on the sheet and underlined three times:

'No Softies'. Ruth Spellman, Investors in People (IiP) CEO, put this on

the job description to leave her prospective director of communications

under no illusions. Sue Martin considered herself warned and now, with

her feet under the desk, leads a marcoms team of 12 and is tasked with

persuading firms they must attain the IiP standard.

The qualification, with its laurel wreath kitemark, is highly

recognisable. Partly funded by the Department for Education and Skills,

and partly by revenue generated from its own publications, IiP is a

workforce development organisation that has been around for eleven


To qualify for the IiP standard, businesses are exhaustively assessed to

ensure the workforce has an understanding of the business and its goals,

has access to sensible, structured training and appraisals, and

experiences good line management. Holders are reassessed every three

years. IiP liaises with local Business Links and the 47 Learning and

Skills Councils, and positions itself as an authoritative voice on a

variety of hot topics: the work/life balance, employee rights,

discrimination in the workplace, skills shortages, talent wars and so


Martin certainly knows the territory. As controller of corporate and

internal communications for BBC Worldwide, she was instrumental in

making it the first BBC division to attain IiP status. Keeping the

workforce informed of developments is crucial, she says. 'If you get

your internal comms right, instead of doing PR in isolation you find you

have two or three hundred ambassadors for the business. Some people

think IiP is a "nice to have", a bit soft and fluffy. But there are

business benefits.'

And this is the basis on which Martin will sell IiP to the business

community. The organisation says it can demonstrate a clear correlation

between attaining the standard and retaining customers as well as

attracting and keeping staff. IiP is currently engaged on a research

project to quantify its appeal anew while high-profile converts such as

BT, Sainsbury's and transport group TNT queue up to explain how it has

helped their business in a series of case studies available to the

uninitiated and the unconvinced.

But introducing IiP and its procedures into a multinational is one

thing; how attractive is it to the firm with half a dozen people that

can hold entire staff meetings in a kitchen? 'I was a one-woman

consultancy,' Martin says. 'I know how difficult it is to get off the

treadmill and look at the bigger picture. The principles are the same

for any business: to survive and prosper.'

Spellman is clear about the communications challenge her new recruit

faces. 'She is direct and that is what businesses appreciate; they don't

want consultant-speak.' Firms do not appreciate being told what they

should do, particularly not by an organisation with strong government

links, she adds. 'We have a more subtle message: "we have got something

that might interest you". People don't do it for philanthropic


Neat, precise and businesslike, Martin appears an unlikely crusader. Yet

she has been passionate from an early age about the provision of good

public services, such as transport. Her working class upbringing in

London's East End may partly explain this, and certainly led to her to

join what was then British Rail as a marketing trainee. She arrived in

1982 after a bitter ASLEF strike, and cut her teeth in freight, the

least glamourous side of an unglamourous industry. From there her PR

path led to the British Council, promoting exhibitions from Washington

to India, and to the RSA examinations board.

Underlying all of Martin's job choices was the fact that she is, by her

own admission, 'fascinated by the way organisations work'. This tendency

manifested itself during a spell in freelance journalism as she found

time to write a piece on a behind the scenes view of a crematorium.

From 1992-97 Martin was at the BBC World Service with a patch stretching

from Iran to New Zealand. She set up her own consultancy after acting as

the BBC's on-the-spot PR person at the handover of Hong Kong to China in

1997, but was brought into BBC Worldwide on a freelance basis until

taking a full-time post in 1998.

IiP will be looking at specific sectors, such as finance and education -

a number of schools are aiming for the qualification - and construction.

Martin's three-year plan aims to target five new sectors a year.

'Editorial is an important way of reaching people,' Martin says. So,

too, is a presence at trade shows and the creation of regional events.

At the end of October there will be Investors in People Week.

Converting awareness into action, especially with smaller firms, will be

hard but Martin's language and approach marked her out from the start of

the interview process, Spellman says. 'Sue was much less hesitant than

other candidates but it was not a myopic view. Part of it is a

persuasion game. She is not one of these zealots.' Not a softie either,



1982: Marketing trainee, British Rail

1989: Marketing and PR manager, RSA exam board

1998: Controller of corp and internal comms, BBC Worldwide

2001: Director of comms, Investors in People

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