Profile: Global player - Mark Adams, head of communications, World Economic Forum

Mark Adams was an Old Labour activist and radio DJ in the North-West during the Madchester era. Despite this 'student revolutionary' past he has now 'washed up' at the helm of the World Economic Forum's (WEF) comms function in Geneva.

Smooth and vivacious, Adams, a feisty 42, appears comfortable in any environment. In London to launch a report on global gender inequalities, more broadly, he has the WEF's raison d'etre to promote. 'We need to convince people we are not arch-priests of neo-liberalism,' he says. 'We have warned against the excesses of globalisation and we are sceptical about some of the excesses of capitalism.'

Adams hails from Redhill, Surrey, and studied economics and politics at Manchester University. A radio journalist in the mid-1980s, he sported Doc Martens, a flat-top haircut and says he was a regular at the celebrated Hacienda nightclub.

After a spell in Birmingham with Radio WM, where he met his wife - now a presenter on World Radio Geneva - he joined ITN.

He rose through the ranks to edit the ITV Early Evening News. Though most comfortable in the 'cosiness of the studio' he remembers once finding himself in Albania ('it was only ten years ago but the equipment was still old and heavy - we were guarded by a man with a Kalashnikov').

He then became launch programme editor for Five News in 1996, working with Chris Shaw, who is now senior programme controller of news and current affairs at the channel, and presenter Kirsty Young.

From 'three people and a piece of paper', and briefed to 'redesign TV news to get young people to watch it', they came up with a then radically relaxed approach to news presentation 'You could see Kirsty's legs and stuff,' jokes Adams, mimicking criticism at the time.

Shaw recalls his ex-colleague thus: 'Mark's got a serious mind and a very strong sense of humour, which is an unusual combination. He's charming, which is good for PR, and he's sharp journalistically.'

Adams then became editorial director at EuroNews in France, relocating to Lyon. 'French union laws' somewhat stymied a bid to rejuvenate sections of the newsroom, he bemoans, adding: 'God, I sound like a Thatcherite.'

Adams clearly loved his journalistic days: 'With TV, it's a constant churn of stories. You know when you've done a good job - there's an almost childish sense of enjoyment.'

In contrast, he finds PR 'a longer-burn thing. You have to deal with (tongue partly in cheek) terrible things like strategy - there's a lot talked about strategy that is pseudo-professional'.

Adams, who claimed the WEF's top PR role last month, nonetheless pays tribute to his predecessor Michel Ogrizek's attempts to strategise the body's comms, which, he says, once produced press releases that 'looked like something from the Kremlin'.

The WEF is, of course, best known for its annual meeting each January when the world's business and political elite descend on Davos. 'Yes, we're always the "organisation best known for Davos...",' he laments, saying his team strives 'to ensure people know the WEF doesn't then go to sleep in February'.

Davos is attended by 600 journalists. 'It could be six or seven times that many,' says Adams. 'You see journalists in their true colours when they need accreditation for Davos. There's some horse-trading: who's been good to you, who's been bad to you, etc.'

He is clearly far more comfortable around hacks than with PR types. 'I miss my journalistic days a lot,' he says. 'I don't think I know any PR people.'

He loves the proximity of his office to the Alps. He has 'just switched from skiing to boarding' and has a chalet in the French resort of Samoens.

As the interview closes he's off to his house in Kentish Town. 'There's a gig on tonight that I might go to at the Forum,' he mulls.

From one Forum to another, then, clearly equally content in the company of hip music fans or business leaders.


1987 Reporter, BBC Radio WM

1989 Producer, ITN

1995 Programme editor, ITN - ITV Early Evening News

1996 Launch programme editor, Five News

2000 Editorial director, EuroNews

2002 Head of media, World Economic Forum

2005 Head of communications, World Economic Forum

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