Profile - Modest ambition - Guy Black, corporate affairs director,Telegraph Group

Twelve storeys above Canary Wharf, Guy Black is being manoeuvred by a photographer, an experience he does not appear entirely comfortable with. 'Like this?' he asks on more than one occasion, an apologetic grin flashing across his face.

Maybe he is out of practice. Black gave a few interviews to the nationals when he moved from the Press Complaints Commission in 2003 to become Michael Howard's press secretary, but told one reporter: 'This will be the last time anybody sees or hears from me for quite some considerable time.' And it was.

It is easy to see why he wanted to avoid the limelight. He spent nearly eight years in an intensely high-profile role at the PCC, where he fought tooth and nail to preserve the precarious balance between freedom of the press and rights of the individual. He also spent a lot of his time fending off mutterings over the working relationship between himself, the Prince of Wales' then deputy private secretary Mark Bolland (his partner) and The Sun editor Rebekah Wade (wife of actor Ross Kemp, with whom Black, 41, grew up in Essex).

'The PCC is an organisation constantly under attack,' he says, choosing his words carefully. 'There was a period when I was effectively a spokesman for an organisation that was being assailed.' He is credited with doing an excellent job though. Ex-NotW editor Phil Hall (profiled last week) goes as far as to say 'current press freedoms are mainly down to Black's work'.

But when he was approaching his eighth year in the role, he decided he had spent 'long enough in the public glare'. The Howard job gave him the excuse he needed.

'I have always held the view that the best PR advisers are behind the scenes,' he explains. 'The job of the press secretary is to advise and support the leader - not become the story. We've all seen what happens when that's the case and it's not a pretty sight.' Almost as an afterthought he adds: 'I've certainly never sought a public profile.'

Really? Ten years of agency work would surely have provided far more anonymity than eight years at the PCC followed by 20 months at Tory HQ.

'Funnily enough, I went to the PCC because (then chairman) John Wakeham asked and the job fascinated me, not because I was seeking a high-profile position,' he says. 'At the time none of us knew what stormy waters it would be moving into.'

Before he took on the Howard role, he admits he considered a return to an agency - if only as a stop gap before joining a newspaper ('I couldn't have gone to a newspaper straight after the PCC - even I could have written that headline,' he admits).

But when Howard asked to see him ('I've always been a huge fan of his') and offered him the job, Black did not give it a second thought. Once again, 'a fascinating opportunity', and nothing to do with the profile it carried.

When asked about his new role at the Telegraph Group, Black relaxes and launches immediately into glowing praise for his new employer.

'The Telegraph is a phenomenally successful brand,' he enthuses. 'There are marvellous opportunities for promoting both the group and the titles. The Daily Telegraph has brilliant journalists and it's important that as many people as possible get to read them.'

Brilliant they may be, but there are a lot fewer of them than there were at the beginning of the year. Has sensed any resentment about the group taking on such a high-level spin doctor when editorial staff are being laid off?

'Not at all, everyone has been extremely welcoming,' Black beams, without even a hint of a pause. 'The newspaper industry is a fiercely competitive environment and people know you can never put too much effort into marketing the brand.'

After the years of fending off attack at the PCC and negotiating the 'shark-infested waters' of British politics, it would appear that Black is exactly where he wants to be: 12 storeys up and well out of sight.

RESUME 1992: Account director, Westminster Strategy 1994: Associate director, Good Relations 1996: Director, Press Complaints Commission 2003: Press secretary to Michael Howard 2005: Corporate affairs director, Telegraph Group

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in