Profile: Bill Beaver, Church of England - CofE leaves it to Beaver

The Industrial Society’s director of marketing prepares for an altared state.

The Industrial Society’s director of marketing prepares for an

altared state.



Headlines like ’Church rounds on own media chief’, ’Church’s gay feud

erupts at Synod’ and ’Gays prepare secret survey of the clergy’ might

have many PR professionals shuddering at the prospect of taking on the

Church of England’s media relations. But Bill Beaver - the man due to

take the PR hot seat in June - is so keen he is taking a pay cut of 50

per cent to take the job.



From homosexuality and women’s ordination to advertising strategy and

corporate identity, debates within the church have been making constant

news in recent months.



Beaver, who was ordained 15 years ago, insists that the church’s

diversity is its strength. ’The Church of England is a superb test bed

for 21st century communications,’ Beaver says, ’because that’s the way

all companies are going to go - they’re all going to be diverse.’



He views all clergy as communicators and is clear that the common

’ownership’ of the church’s message also means a mutual obligation to

one another.



’It’s the responsibility of the bishops to lead,’ he says. ’And of

people in churches to be responsible. So if someone wishes to speak

nationally they need to be aware they carry our reputation. I don’t want

to see that loused up.’



Beaver is keen to label the church as ’established, not establishment’,

but is convinced that people are returning to what he calls the ’right

kind of values’.



’We’re like people sitting on Malibu beach - the big wave is coming.



We are going to see a change. The values that people are starting to pay

attention to - others before self - absolutely accord with the values of

the Church of England.’



Born and brought up in Colorado, Beaver describes his own faith

developing from the time he was ’pole-axed’ by the Book of Common Prayer

in his teens.



He moved to England to study in the 1970s before making his name in the

charity world as the man who ’took the ’Dr’ out of Barnardo’s’. After

leaving Barnardo’s and a brief stint at Pergamon AGB in 1989, he went on

to work for NatWest, before his current job at the Industrial

Society.



Despite his sober appearance, Beaver’s energy and jovial small-talk

quickly put you at ease. WH Smith communications chief, Tim Blyth, who

worked with him at NatWest describes him as ’smart, rather than

spiritual’. ’There’s a core to the man which doesn’t come across as

being overtly Christian, but overtly moral,’ says Blyth. ’You wouldn’t

know he was a vicar.’



Beaver claims his working style has changed dramatically in the four

years he has spent at the Industrial Society. ’I used to be a normal

command-and-control type of communicator,’ he says. ’What I realised was

that by giving people a chance to strut their stuff they benefit and I

benefit.’



Beaver recalls the row over interest rates for small businesses which

broke when he was at NatWest, during which he chaired the ’crisis

cabinet’.



’I felt I had to be at every meeting and stay there all the hours God

sent. I was not allowing other people the space to make the kind of

contribution they could make.’



Now, although he remains a ’hands-on’ person, his style is more

relaxed.



So, how will he cope in his new job?



’One of the difficulties of being a communicator in the Church of

England is that you can’t guarantee the product,’ he says. ’There’s a

deep spiritual longing in people on the street. People look for

certainty. I cannot promise them certainty in debates, but I can promise

the certainty of love and the constant, universal availability of the

Church of England throughout this country.’



Whatever his future role holds, there can’t be many PR people who have

the luxury of preaching to the converted every Sunday.



HIGHLIGHTS



1983: Director of publicity, Barnardo’s



1990: Group director of corporate affairs, National Westminster Bank



1992: Director of marketing, the Industrial Society



1997: Director of communications, General Synod of the Church of

England.



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