Around 60 comms jobs could go at BT amid restructure and 'modernisation'

BT is consulting on plans to cut its comms workforce by around 20 per cent, with about 60 roles thought to be under threat amid a major restructure at the telecoms giant, PRWeek has learned.

BT's Ed Petter: Changes have 'not been driven by costs per se'
BT's Ed Petter: Changes have 'not been driven by costs per se'

It is part of a modernisation programme at BT, and follows a number of changes in the senior communications team in recent months, including the appointment of former David Cameron aide Gabby Bertin and an expanded role for Mat Sears, director of comms at group brand EE.

Last week BT announced it would cut around 13,000 jobs overall as part of the three-year programme.

Director of corporate affairs Ed Petter told PRWeek the comms functions that had previously been dispersed across BT, which owns the EE and Plusnet brands, would be brought into a single, central team.

"That’s [consolidating] all the external communications - internal, policy, public affairs; globally, nationally, regionally - and all the sustainable business activity, into one place," he said.

BT has also created a new team for planning campaigns, Petter stated. BT uses Brunswick as its corporate comms agency. Petter said there would be no change to that relationship.

A single consumer division at the group has been assembled from the merger of BT’s consumer business, which includes Plus Net, and EE. Sears (below) has been promoted to run comms for the whole consumer unit, which will continue to use the BT, EE and Plusnet brands. He had been with EE and its predecessor Orange since 2006, and has been promoted several times.

Petter said: "BT last week set out a three-year strategy for the entire business, which is essentially about modernising BT for the future. What I’ve been doing with the restructure is a similar job: modernising the corporate affairs function at BT to support that.

"It’s not been driven by costs, per se. We want to be more efficient, but most importantly we want to be more co-ordinated in how we communicate inside and outside the business, and have a more campaigning mentality in the approach. We’ve created a new planning campaigns team, who will drive campaigns across multiple stakeholders."

Shake-up

The news follows a number of recent changes in the senior comms team.

Appointments have included: former BBC Trust director Alex Towers, who joined in November as director of policy and public affairs; Helen Willetts, who held senior comms roles at HSBC, and joined BT in January as director of internal comms; and Tom Engel, who headed corporate and financial comms at Pearson, and since January has been director of external comms.

Also on the senior team is Gaby Bertin, former press secretary to David Cameron when he was Prime Minister. She joined BT as a director in the CEO's office.

Other internal promotions in recent months include:

  • Piers Schreiber as corporate affairs director for BT's Global Services Business
  • Tara Pollock as corporate affairs director for its Enterprise business (UK SME and corporates, plus public sector business). She was formerly head of internal comms for the UK business and public sector unit
  • Matthew Warren-Bostrom as director of planning and operations, joining from the brand and marketing team

Petter said around 20 per cent of the comms workforce is under consultation. It’s understood that around 60 jobs are affected. The consultation covers all areas of the business, excluding Plusnet, and around 80 per cent of the roles are UK-based. 

The new structure is expected to be in place by the end of June.

Petter, who joined BT in 2016 from Lloyds Bank, added: "My boss Gavin says this is probably the biggest modernisation programme for 20 years in BT. We’re re-tooling my department to support that."

Last week BT said it would cut 13,000 jobs over three years, the equivalent of around 12 per cent of the workforce in management and back-office positions. It's part of a bid to reduce costs by £1.5bn.

Announcing the move, the company said: "It is critical that BT transforms its operating model to build a lean and agile organisation that delivers sustained improvement in customer experience and productivity."

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