Profile: Nan Williams, Charles Barker - Firm grounding for board work/It’s been a direct route to the top for Nan Williams at Charles Barker

Does someone at Charles Barker have a crystal ball? It’s almost ten years since the then vice-chairman Robert Keen remarked on 25-year-old Nan Williams’ ’significant management potential’ and his foresight was last week confirmed with her appointment as managing director.

Does someone at Charles Barker have a crystal ball? It’s almost ten

years since the then vice-chairman Robert Keen remarked on 25-year-old

Nan Williams’ ’significant management potential’ and his foresight was

last week confirmed with her appointment as managing director.



Williams’ promotion - from board director with responsibility for

corporate and public affairs - was almost a footnote to Charles Barker’s

announcement of its takeover by US PR group Bozell Sawyer Miller. But

the move to MD will give her a higher profile, especially since she has

tended to stay out of the limelight.



Charles Barker has had a ’good five years’ since its controversial MBO

from collapsed parent Corporate Communications in 1992, she says, ’but

it was time to move on’.



Williams expects the Bozell takeover will change Charles Barker - a

prospect with which she is happy, although she concedes that many people

dislike change. She expects more co-operation with Delaney Fletcher

Bozell - the UK ad agency owned by Bozell’s US parent Bozell, Jacobs,

Kenyon and Eckhardt.



She also looks forward to more campaigning on controversial issues such

as the disposal of oil rigs and retail price maintenance on over the

counter medicines. Certainly, there should be no shortage of contentious

campaigning work, since Charles Barker’s client list includes tobacco

manufacturers BAT Industries and Imperial Tobacco, not to mention the

pro-hunting British Field Sports Society.



As MD, Williams sees herself as ’Mrs Fixit-Do-Everything’, tackling

client work, career development for staff, financial management of the

company and development of the work of its Brussels office. ’She’s a

very sharp thinker, one of the most intelligent people I have ever come

across in this industry,’ says one former Charles Barker employee.



Travelling around Europe is not a problem for Williams, since she

studied French and Italian as an undergraduate at Christ’s College,

Cambridge.



But she learned her first ’foreign’ language - English - when she was

only six, having grown up in north Wales with Welsh as her mother

tongue.



After university she wanted to work abroad and joined the management

trainee scheme at Barclays Bank International. Her year there reassured

her that she could add up, but overall the move was a mistake and in

1985 Williams joined Charles Barker.



She has risen through the ranks of its corporate side, and stayed in PR

simply because she enjoys it. ’It’s got lots of variety, which is quite

important to me, because I’m not good when I get bored,’ she

explains.



’I like trying to translate things in a way people can relate to rather

than corporate speak.’ Without prompting she lists her frustrations as:

not being able to go as deeply as she’d like to into issues; and,

ultimately, relying on clients for implementation of agency

initiatives.



She also feels strongly about being a working parent, pointing out that

problems exist for both parents trying to combine careers and a

family.



But companies can make jobs more family-friendly, she insists. ’You just

have to be a bit more creative and work at it. That’s important to me,

to try and do that for people.’



There must be speculation about whether she will in time inherit Tim

Sutton’s chief executive role. However that may be too obvious. ’I have

looked at some other PR firms over the years and there are some that I

think are very, very good.’



She names Countrywide Porter-Novelli, Smythe Dorward Lambert and The

Rowland Company in Brussels, when asked for examples. ’But it’s probably

unlikely that I’d move in the UK to another consultancy,’ adds

Williams.



She may become a general manager outside PR, she reveals, ’but not for a

while’.



HIGHLIGHTS

1984

Graduate trainee, Barclays Bank International

1985

Graduate trainee, Charles Barker

1992

Divisional director, Charles Barker

1997

Managing director, Charles Barker



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