Profile: Another magic kingdom - Siobhan Kenny, V-P of communications EMEA, Walt Disney Television

Siobhan Kenny's Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) leaving bash was not short of 'Mickey Mouse move' ribbings. But her erstwhile civil service colleagues know she will be characteristically ambitious, professional and gunning for action when she starts her new job at the Walt Disney Corporation later this month.

Kenny, a highly respected 42-year-old former Downing Street adviser with a passion for politics and 'direct comms' has left the DCMS to become V-P of comms at Disney TV across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

She has been DCMS director of strategy and communications for more than three years, working on issues such as London's Olympic bid and the BBC charter review, plus the controversial licensing and gambling bills.

Talking to PRWeek at her home in Hornsey, north London, she is reluctant to discuss Disney in advance of starting, but her contacts will clearly prove massively useful as the US firm aims to ensure its views are understood across Whitehall. She will also promote Disney TV brands and seek to boost the 'visibility' of its TV operations across the corporation.

But in taking the plunge at the entertainment giant she is joining an organisation in which she admits she knows but 'a couple of people tangentially'.

Kenny got the job following a call from headhunters in January and handed in her notice during this spring's general election campaign - always a natural time in the civil service, she says, to move on.

She formerly held the top PR job at the National Magazine Company and before that spent five years at Downing Street in various comms roles.

Kenny is passionate about engaging the public in politics, and - in the aftermath of New Labour's 1997 election romp - helped Downing Street target non-political media, such as women's mags (hence her NatMags link), with government messages.

She lambasts the 'tendency for people (in government) to say "We got it on The Ten O'Clock News, that's that announcement done, then".'

Kenny describes the 2003 Phillis Report on the breakdown in trust between politicians and the public as 'fairly brutal' and says government has a growing desire for 'direct communications with the public' - a personal passion, too. She took, for example, press officer Francesca Lewis with her from NatMags to the DCMS comms team specifically to explain department policy to features editors.

Brought up just along the road from her current home, Kenny went on to study French and German at Manchester University. She met her husband Pat, now deputy UK managing director at Ruder Finn, when they were both Whitehall press officers.

Her career began at TV-am as an information officer. She then worked in Strasbourg as senior press officer for the Council of Europe, before moving to Downing Street in 1994, via six months at the Ministry of Defence.

Post-1997 she worked with Alastair Campbell for two and a half years.

Kenny, who has elements of her former boss about her - you would not want to willingly pick a fight with her - lauds the Spinner Supreme as a 'fantastic strategic communicator' and 'fun to work with', adding soberly that: 'He knows his boss well.'

She lists Campbell as having inspired her career, along with Sir Christopher Meyer, John Major's former aide who is now Press Complaints Commission chair. Kenny describes the final weeks of Major's premiership as the most frustrating of her career - although she admits she admires the man - with levels of Tory 'self-implosion' scuppering Downing Street's news-making agenda by making unwelcome statements on Europe.

As Disney looms, will she miss the civil service? 'I'll miss the high-adrenaline news value of everything you do. But I won't miss the fact that it's sometimes hard to think strategically in that kind of environment.'

A wise hire, no doubt, for Mickey and his friends.


1992: Senior press officer, Council of Europe

1994: Senior press officer, Downing Street

1998: Strategic adviser, Strategic Communications Unit

1999: Communications director, National Magazine Company

2002: Director of strategy and communications, Department for Culture,

Media and Sport

2005: V-P of communications EMEA, Walt Disney Television

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