PROFILE: Mike Peters, British Aerospace/Territorial Army; Saluting life in the army

BAe’s Mike Peters’ second career is one which puts him right at ease

BAe’s Mike Peters’ second career is one which puts him right at ease



Colonel Mike Peters - a man full of military composure - sits next to a

model aeroplane which looks rather incongruous in the plush London

offices of British Aerospace. Peters is BAe’s communications executive,

specialising in media campaigns to win defence contracts.



But this is only part of the story. He’s also the man behind the drive

to sign up another 30 recruits for the Territorial Army’s press corps,

to cope with insatiable media interest in overseas military endeavour.



His recent press release describes a great opportunity for young PR

people and journalists to supplement their mundane routine with military

PR service, advising military spokesmen in action and ensuring

journalists’ safety.



Not such great news for some war correspondents however: ‘I’m not

pleased about any expansion to the Army PR pool,’ says Robert Fox,

foreign correspondent on the Daily Telegraph, ‘They are there to peddle

a line and prevent our access to the real decision makers.’



Apparently former Telegraph editor Max Hastings once sacked a journalist

for joining the pool, seeing the two roles as contradictory.



Peters, 56, was himself a journalist at the beginning of his career and

says he came across similar obstruction. The editor of his regional

paper banned him from joining the TA and he didn’t get a chance to play

soldiers until moving into PR in the mid-1960s.



While using his writing ability to specialise in internal communications

for the Tarmac group, Peters finally joined the territorials. However,

it wasn’t until he moved to the Ministry of Defence as a press officer

that his communications skills and military character really began to

gel. A promotion to senior Army press officer in 1981 coincided with his

elevation to head of the TA press pool.



Peters spent a year in Northern Ireland, then three months in the post-

war Falkland Islands, before going to Beirut in 1983 for his most

harrowing experiences.



‘There was a lot of fear,’ he says, ‘each time I was stopped by militia

I thought ‘do I stay in this place?’ But then I thought I must see it

out, how else can I look at myself in the mirror each morning?’



Peters returned to become chief press officer in the Department of

Employment before moving back to industry, finally settling at GKN

Westland. For five of his eight years there, Peters worked for public

affairs director Chris Loney. ‘Mike was a safe pair of hands, nothing

phased him.’ says Loney.



Another former colleague, Hugh Colver - now consultant to British

Aerospace - had worked on the same local paper in the 1960s and found

his career constantly dovetailing with Peters. He says: ‘Mike is a good,

solid operator. He knows the Army particularly well.’



Reading between the lines Peters emerges as a capable operator but no

visionary. Does he sometimes err on the side of caution?



‘That’s probably a fair comment’ admits Peters, ‘I haven’t had my

fingers burned by journalists, probably because I don’t believe there’s

any such thing as off-the-record.’



Peters is a man of traditional duty and strong loyalty. When asked

whether the media circus surrounding the Army sometimes blurs the reason

why it is there, he replies: ‘The Army doesn’t forget, but the media

sometimes do.’



Nevertheless he says his personal priorities are family first, then

work, then the Army. Peters touchingly admits that he is currently going

through a period of ‘personal re-orientation’ following the loss of his

wife six months ago and admits to throwing himself into his work.



Although, at 56, Peters realises that his military days are numbered, he

is not so keen to consider retirement from the industry firing line.

Indeed, some believe he is being groomed for greater things at British

Aerospace.



Peters is quick to stress that his boss, Locksley Ryan, is not going

anywhere in the near future, but concedes: ‘I wouldn’t mind stepping

into his shoes.’



HIGHLIGHTS



1964 Features editor, Hereford Evening News

1972 Group press officer, The Tarmac Group/Captain Territorial Army

1981 Senior Army press officer/Major, TAPIO (TA press corps)

1995 Communications executive, British Aerospace/colonel TA Media

Operations



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