Neil Lovell will direct comms as mobile phone giant becomes
'I think the most powerful form of communication is face-to-face,' says
Neil Lovell. It is a somewhat unexpected comment from someone who has
just been appointed director of corporate communications at Britain's
fourth largest mobile phone operator, One2One. 'Well', he adds hastily,
'One of the most powerful, anyway.'
Lovell is not a traditional PR man. He has never worked in a PR-specific
role, and while others may have cut their teeth winging press releases
off to local newspapers, Lovell has accrued his business experience
Having graduated with an English and Sociology degree from Exeter
University, Lovell joined the advertising arm of Charles Barker as a
graduate trainee, staying for six years and working his way up through
'I came into advertising at the end of the 1980s when it was vibrant and
people used to celebrate everything. It was a fantastic time and I lived
what I thought it was about,' he says.
His career then took a radical tangent when he left to set up his own
residential property development firm. Explaining this move, he says he
'stayed longer in advertising than most as many people had left during
the recession. I decided I wanted to do something else but then I found
that I didn't get enough feedback in property as it didn't involve the
aspects I look for in work. It wasn't a creative enough environment and
I like working with people.'
The spell was, however, instructive in gaining an education in the ways
of business: 'PR, advertising and other communications areas don't teach
you about operational business matters, which you really need to be
aware of. The spell in my own business taught me many of those things,'
After closing down his property venture, Lovell returned to the
advertising world, joining Barkers Advertising, part of the BMB
Resources group. He worked at the firm for five years, rising to
regional director before departing last month for the role at One2One's
His decision to join One2One was evidently influenced by the stringent
criteria he seeks in an employer: 'I need to work with teams, I need to
work with other people I can spar off and you can excite each other. I
need to work in an environment that's about coming up with solutions to
issues. I very much like working at the centre of what's happening and I
like to be involved in what that business is trying to do so that you
can communicate that.'
His communications credentials are not obvious, but he insists that is
no problem: 'I've worked with many different teams of people, different
clients from different sectors so I understand different sectors in
terms of telecom or retail. I've worked internally with people to make
sure they knew what their company was about, how they could make a
contribution, and whether we were having good times or bad times, what
that meant to them.'
His former colleague and Barkers director Ruth Steven believes he will
not be hindered through not having undertaken PR work in the past:
'Where he may not have the specific knowledge for the role, the
attributes that he does possess will enable him to adapt to the
She cites his 'people skills' as being among his strongest traits: 'He's
a very caring people manager. It's the passion and commitment he shows
to others whether it's the team he's working with or the client company
- he takes time to listen to people's concerns.'
His ability to adapt to the role will face a stern test in the coming
months, as in just over a year the One2One brand will disappear to be
replaced with parent Deutsche Telekom's rather cumbersome 'T-Mobile'
'We've got to decide what the brand is about, and when we've got an idea
we'll start to communicate that to the key audiences. We've got to
communicate what it means to be a T-Mobile customer rather than a
One2One customer,' says Lovell. It is the sort of challenge for which
corporate communicators live, but will require all Lovell's reserves of
energy to pull off.
He describes himself as an 'active social person', and enjoys a hectic
lifestyle. He is a keen traveller and cites Thailand and Hong Kong as
his favourite destinations: 'I like noisy places. I like to go somewhere
frantic because you'll bump into all sorts of cultures and ways in which
people go about their lives.'
Unlike many of his university friends, travelling had to wait until
later life: 'I missed that boat because I was always keen to get on with
a job. I'm very driven in terms of wanting to work, earn my own money
and have my independence.'
As the difficulties for the telecom sector combine with the challenge of
a major global rebrand, One2One must hope this bullish self-sufficiency
will serve them well.
1988: Graduate trainee, Charles Barker
1992: Founds own property business
1996: Regional director, Barkers Advertising
2001: Director of corporate communications, One2One