Profile: Peter Morgan, head of group media relations, BT

The last time Peter Morgan did a photoshoot he posed semi-naked for a PR industry calendar as one of a host of volunteers. In a Calendar Girls-inspired stunt to raise money for leukaemia research, Morgan's manhood was 'discreetly' covered by a leopard-skin rug. 'This is far better for the participant and the viewer,' he jokes while posing (suited) for PRWeek's photographer. It's his sixth week as BT head of group media relations, a role for which headhunters snared him from Weber Shandwick, and he appears to be enjoying the TV newsroom-like BT offices.

Morgan graduated from Southampton University in modern history and politics, then completed a postgrad journalism course at the London College of Printing.

Of the 32 on the course, Morgan and the woman who became his wife were offered reporter posts to effectively launch BBC Radio Devon. That led to 22 'fabulous' years with the BBC covering business that included stints in Tokyo and two years in Berlin.

Then he took the decision to enter the PR industry with Weber Shandwick.

'That was a massive decision. I did not realise at the time what a massive decision it was,' says Morgan, who often talks with a knowing smile characteristic of his past TV appearances.

The 44-year-old, who has three children whom he takes skiing and sailing on his 21ft boat, describes leaving the BBC in 2001 as a 'real bereavement'.

'All journalists of a certain age face the same dilemma - do I stay or do I go? I had commentated on business for 22 years and I thought I should play a part in it. And the money,' he says. Another factor was the thought of reporting the same stories - he estimates that he covered eight consecutive budgets.

Matt Peacock, now director of comms at Ofcom, is one former BBC colleague who will expect to re-energise their relationship. He describes Morgan as 'highly effective' with a 'deep understanding of the way business works'. He says: 'He has a pretty good instinct for consumer-friendly communications and can turn extremely complex issues into very plain language.'

Overseeing a team of 36, Morgan's new brief is to uphold the reputations of senior BT executives, particularly chairman Sir Christopher Bland and CEO BenVerwaayen. Morgan is quick to praise new boss Verwaayen: 'Companies are divided into two - those with CEOs that "get it" and those that do not. This company's CEO believes that press relations are really important.

That gives authority to the head of press to make things happen.'

BT has long taken flak and been attacked vigorously for being slow in allowing competition access to its infrastructure. Its competitors see it as a goliath and hope Ofcom will check its 'dominance' following its ongoing telecoms review. Morgan is ready for the upcoming challenge and points to two 'critical' factors.'We do not want to put up with any bullshit.

There is a lot of loose, inaccurate information talked by our competitors.

There are a lot of people who write about BT but their perceptions are out of date.'

He says the real comms task is 'getting BT's message out there' to ensure that its 100-odd competitors understand 'where we are coming from and what BT's arguments are'.

Morgan is quick to point out that in certain areas competitors such as Vodafone and Cable & Wireless are much bigger: 'It is wrong to say that BT is a goliath that dominates its competitors.'

He hints at complex battles with Ofcom ahead. 'Ofcom and BT are never going to be best pals, but there is a mutual recognition there. As long as the rules are there and we are doing things in an empirical way, that is fine by us.'

He outlines BT's strategy in no-nonsense terms: 'It depends on us selling new stuff', and he points to the firm's broadband offerings along with installing complex IT systems such as a £2bn system for the NHS. Key to delivering the strategy is to take BT to a broader range of media, into 'places other than the business pages', he says.

While coverage for BT in the consumer glossies beckons, it's unlikely to extend quite as far as the semi-nude reaches of the top shelf.


1981 Reporter, BBC Radio Devon

1989 Business correspondent, BBC TV News

1999 Berlin correspondent, BBC TV News

2001 Director, Weber Shandwick

2004 Head of group media relations, BT

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