Profile: Yvonne Iwaniuk, Nike - Running with ethical issues/Yvonne Iwaniuk brings her ability to handle tough challenges to Nike UK

Nike UK’s new corporate communications head Yvonne Iwaniuk has more air miles than Madeleine Albright. As regional adviser for Shell International, the multi-lingual 33-year-old became used to spending two weeks of every month abroad, mainly travelling to the Middle East. If you think that sounds tough - particularly for a young, attractive, forthright woman in a deeply male-biased culture - then consider the first two trips the oil giant sent her on.

Nike UK’s new corporate communications head Yvonne Iwaniuk has more

air miles than Madeleine Albright. As regional adviser for Shell

International, the multi-lingual 33-year-old became used to spending two

weeks of every month abroad, mainly travelling to the Middle East. If

you think that sounds tough - particularly for a young, attractive,

forthright woman in a deeply male-biased culture - then consider the

first two trips the oil giant sent her on.



Iwaniuk’s baptism by fire was a camping excursion to the Peruvian jungle

with ten men, no sanitation and a canoe as the only method of

transport.



She came back ’looking like some kind of wild woman’, covered in insect

bites. The second trip was to the Russian far east, which is further and

colder than Siberia, has average temperatures of around minus 40

degrees, and frequently suffers power cuts lasting ten hours. ’You’d be

sitting in a restaurant and the lights would go out and that would be

it,’ she recalls.



Aside from being eaten alive and finding out what a fish finger in a

Findus factory feels like, those trips actually illustrate why Iwaniuk

will miss Shell, which she leaves after three years in June. Dealing

with local peoples who have had little or no contact with the outside

world, finding out about their concerns over Shell’s gas project in

their region, helping to form a bridge between commerce and community

and being exposed to the local government and media will be a thing of

the past. ’The most difficult thing to leave is the intellectual

challenge,’ she says. ’It is a fascinating company and an incredibly

challenging job. It is not just dealing with human rights issues or the

environment, it runs the gamut from politically sensitive areas to

complex geo/political issues.’



However, the swimming, running, cycling, and aerobics fan has been lured

by the siren call of Nike and a completely different environment. ’It is

such an exciting company - young, vibrant with real energy. I saw it and

I thought ’I want a piece of that’,’ she says. ’It is a really good way

of broadening my experience. It has a really strong public image and it

will be the first time I’ve been involved in brand PR.



Nike’s culture could not be more different from Shell’s if it tried.



Iwaniuk, (pronounced evan-ee-ook), is noticeably younger than her Shell

colleagues, whom industry observers describe as ’middle-aged men in grey

suits’. Iwaniuk wears a grey suit to our interview but that’s where the

likeness ends. At Nike she says she’ll ’probably feel like a granny’ by

comparison.



But while Iwaniuk is loathe to discuss her role ahead of joining the

sportswear firm, her peers are content to sing pre-emptive praises.



’She brings a truly wide range of skills,’ says London First

communications director Patrick Kerr. ’She has a good grounding in all

sorts of management issues, including the environment, politics and

morality. She can grasp a range of commercial imperatives while managing

the communications task and she has a truly international perspective on

business.’



Nike has issues of its own for Iwaniuk to tackle. It has already made

great strides in improving its image with the media, although it has

arguably not fully recovered from coverage of its suppliers’ South East

Asian sweat shops; and stories of the death of the trainer market still

abound.



However, Iwaniuk has proved she likes life tough: she started her career

by campaigning for pharmaceuticals companies and moved on to lobbying

for the paper industries in Brussels, where she was European

communications director.



In 1993, Iwaniuk returned to Burson-Marsteller (she had been a

consultant before going to Brussels), to handle foreign investment

issues for the Phillipino government and tropical deforestation issues

for the Malay government.



And with a CV like that, she should be up to whatever Nike can throw at

her.



HIGHLIGHTS

1992

Communications director, Confederation of European Industries, Brussels

1993

Associate director, corporate commummications/public affairs,

Burson-Marsteller

1996

Regional adviser, Middle East and Asia, Shell International

1999

UK corporate comms head, Nike



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