PROFILE: Glenn Manoff, O2 - Manoff ready to pen a new chapter for O2

O2 head of comms Glenn Manoff is busy formulating PR for the year ahead

With mobile services firm O2 celebrating its first birthday this week, this is just the right time for the brand to step on the PR gas, says the firm's affable head of communications Glenn Manoff.

Spawned from the former BTCellnet - Manoff dismisses that brand as a 'laggard in virtually every area' - the company has, he says, quickly established itself as 'fun, funky and modern', with the next chapter in its development now waiting to be penned.

'If O2 has one area in which there has been no "tick in the box", it's been showing improvements in customer care, but, as an industry, we're all bad at it. This is what O2 is seeking to achieve,' says Manoff thoughtfully.

Efforts to 'enhance customer experiences' will, Manoff says, inspire the company's strategy for the year ahead, although he points out that 'what our field engineers look like, how our sales force behaves, our shops, our customer sales, etc' is not the day-to-day responsibility of his PR team.

Manoff's most recent employer, prior to O2, was B2B telecoms company Ebone, while his career history includes stints at Global TeleSystems and Esprit Telecom.

Given this background, he says he enjoys not having to explain to most people what his employer does: 'For a PR and communications person, that's great - it's the first hurdle cleared.'

Raised in Philadelphia, Manoff first spent time in England as a student in Manchester. After spells in various jobs (including non-profit work in Paraguay and teaching in Washington DC), he settled in London. In the mid- to late-1990s he held a couple of journalistic roles, as an editor for Petroleum Argus Publications and then business editor at Emap's Communications Week International.

O2 has announced that it expects to launch third-generation (3G) services in the second half of next year; promoting customer take-up of the services will offer pressing challenges for O2 and its rivals - Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

As to O2's PR plans, Manoff says: 'To talk about "PR-ing 3G" is a non sequitur. The PR challenge - which is ongoing - is to encourage new customers to come to O2 and encouraging existing customers to use additional O2 services.'

He adds: 'Talking in terms of 2G and 3G is meaningless and sends out the wrong message to consumers.'

Of more immediate concern to Manoff is the need to bolster O2's corporate PR work - a pitch is looming for an agency (PRWeek, 25 April) - with Manoff saying: 'We really need to pump up the volume (of PR) - as a brand we do have a lot to talk about now.

'We want to go from comms push to comms pull. We want people to come to us - we want the phone to be constantly ringing and for us to be constantly solicited for comment.'

But will he and his team have time to field such calls? Having only joined O2 in the newly created top comms role in January (PRWeek, 24 January), Manoff has certainly had a hectic first quarter. Since his arrival, the PR team has moved out of the marketing function, internal comms has been sucked in from HR and a public affairs capability has been built from scratch - all part of a blueprint to establish a comms function mirroring that of parent company mmO2.

Typically, Manoff spends three days at O2's offices in Slough, with his remaining time spent outside the office, 'meeting the press, trade associations, ministers'.

With the corporate PR agency to bring on board - and a simultaneous review of its contract with tech/B2B/online agency Midnight Communications ongoing - there are busy times to come (indeed, with agency meetings pending throughout the day, this interview is held at a brisk 7:30am).

But despite the hectic schedule, Manoff - who has previously held a series of predominantly B2B comms roles - is clearly relishing working for such a consumer-facing brand.

His former publisher at Emap Malcolm Laws says: 'Glenn was an extremely good journalist - he would often get stories not by being aggressive but because he clearly knew what he was talking about.'

Very much an Anglophile, Manoff, who lives in Highbury, has held a season ticket at Arsenal football club for four seasons. He says getting football tickets is 'the best perk of this job', throwing an O2-sponsored replica shirt across the table with a grin.

His former chief executive at Ebone Duncan Lewis describes Manoff as consumer-savvy, saying: 'A lot of B2B selling fails as companies lack a consumer edge. Glenn really has a feel for that.'

Such a background appears ideal as O2 prepares to crank up its PR in the months ahead.

HIGHLIGHTS

1997: Director of comms, Esprit Telecom

1999: V-P corp and marcoms, Global TeleSystems

2001: V-P corporate and public affairs, Ebone, London

2003: Head of comms, 02

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