In October Sonia Haines will leave specialist travel PR consultancy
BGB and Associates, where in the space of four years she has risen from
account manager to board director. After a short break in Cornwall, she
will join Thomson Holidays as head of PR, filling the gap left by
Russell Amerasekera who has been made group corporate communications
director at parent company Thomson Travel Group following its flotation
’Traditionally the travel industry has been quite free and easy about
giving out statistics and comment. How we manage that so that we still
give journalists what they want, but at the same time observe our
responsibilities to the City will be a challenge,’ says Haines between
sips of bottled beer as we discuss her career in a cafe close to her
South Kensington home.
Clearly it is a challenge that Thomson Holidays believe she will take in
her stride. Haines was approached about the top PR job at the UK’s
leading package holiday operator because of her work for other Thomson
companies, Lunn Poly and Holiday Cottages Group, at BGB.
Once she has settled in, she will head a five-strong PR team. As well as
handling what she describes as the ’important nuts and bolts’ of
day-to-day PR, she will also address how Thomson Holidays should
communicate its fit within the rest of the group.
According to BGB client Melanie Brandman, Inter-Continental Hotels and
Resorts vice-president of corporate communications, Haines has the
strategic ability to thrive on tasks like this. ’We have relied on her
for a lot of the strategic work we do, such as putting together our
global PR plans,’ says Brandman.
Haines’ current boss, BGB managing director Bronwyn Gold Blyth,
identifies further qualities. ’As an ex-local journalist she has a
really good feel for what people are looking for in news. There’s no
flim-flam. She’s a great one for getting her team around her. That
applies both during work hours and afterwards. ’
One of Haines’ main interests is reading - from the literature of South
American authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, to
travel writers including Norman Lewis and Eric Newby.
Haines is interested in travelling herself. She spent more than a year
between her last job in local journalism and the beginnings of her
public relations career at Paragon - where she worked on the launch of
telecom company Orange - exploring the world. Wanderlust took her
through Asia and South America and she then did a stint as a voluntary
teacher at a Romanian English language camp.
There will be plenty more travel with Thomson but Haines is savvy enough
to know there will be a lot of hard work too. Thomson Holidays, it is
interesting to note, was one of the companies to attend the meeting
instigated by Ford last month to discuss concerns related to the BBC
consumer affairs programme Watchdog.
Haines concedes that holiday companies are ’vulnerable’ to attack from
disgruntled consumers. However, she adds that she has no misgivings
about the quality of Thomson holidays. ’I like mass market brands,’ she
One of the issues with which Haines has been heavily involved at BGB is
environmentally-responsible tourism. She hopes to apply her knowledge in
this field when at Thomson.
Indeed the application of knowledge and reason neatly defines her view
of what PR should be about. ’I’m a great believer that public relations
should be an intellectual job,’ she concludes. ’There’s absolutely
nothing wrong with parties and launch events but there has to be a
1987: News editor, Richmond and Twickenham Times
1991: Producer news and current affairs, BBC Radio Solent
1994: Senior account executive, Paragon Communications
1998: Board director, BGB and Associates
1998: Head of PR, Thomson Holidays.