Portman Group lures Thompson to top job

Drinks industry lobbyist The Portman Group has appointed Michael Thompson to a newly created head of comms and external affairs role.

Previously a senior press officer at the Law Society, Thompson arrives with concern about binge drinking high on the media and political agenda. He takes responsibility for media, stakeholder relations, publications and public affairs. 

Reporting directly to recently promoted CEO David Poley, Thompson becomes the group’s first permanent senior PR professional since its remit was overhauled last year.

‘Responsible drinking is a topical issue. The onus is now on the industry to prove that its marketing activities in no way encourage binge drinking,’ he said.

Thompson will effectively take over from former director of comms and campaigns Jim Minton, who joined the Home Office’s Immigration and Nationality Directorate in 2005 (PRWeek, 17 September 2005).

The group is reviewing the industry code of practice, which will include new recommendations on the lab­elling of alcoholic drinks, and will be issued in May. One of the group’s challenges will be to ensure the industry supports its
recommendations.

The campaigning and educational remit of the Portman Group was last year siphoned off to a trust independent from the industry. The Drinkaware Trust – which has representatives from the health, educational and voluntary sectors, as well as industry – was formed as part of the Government’s Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy.

Kate Winstanley, The Portman Group’s former head of policy, is now director of compaigns and information at Drinkaware.

The Portman Group’s brief has now reverted to lobbying and the administration of the industry’s self-regulatory code. Originally set up in 1989, heavyweight members include Carlsberg UK, Diageo GB and Scottish & Newcastle.

The group has so far successfully argued against rec­­ommendations from the DoH and Association of Chief Police Officers that alcohol tax should be raised. It has also defended sponsorship of live music events.

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