Profile: Roy Payne, Cable and Wireless Communications: Broadcasting C&W message - Ex-prison press officer Roy Payne is planning some radical reforms

Cable and Wireless Communications bosses must have wished they had Roy Payne on board last week for a spot of crisis management. Minutes after Payne gave this interview as C&W’s new head of corporate communications, the company announced the surprise departure of marketing director Ruth Blakemore.

Cable and Wireless Communications bosses must have wished they had

Roy Payne on board last week for a spot of crisis management. Minutes

after Payne gave this interview as C&W’s new head of corporate

communications, the company announced the surprise departure of

marketing director Ruth Blakemore.



In fact, Payne will not be vacating his cramped, hot office at the Cable

Communications Association, where he is director of communications,

until next month. But when he does move in at C&W, there may still be a

call for the crisis management skills he learned as a press officer

working inside Strangeways Prison during a riot.



The merger of Bell Cable Media, Mercury Communications, Nynex Cable

Comms and Videotron into Cable and Wireless remains to be completed.

More high-level resignations and job losses from the four firms are

inevitable.



Payne, 36, is currently interviewing for his new corporate

communications team, and some people from the communications departments

of the four merged companies will be left without jobs. ’I want to

resolve that, so that people know precisely where they stand, one way or

the other,’ he says, in a brisk way, clearly uncomfortable with this

’bad news’ story. He would much rather talk about C&W’s global reach -

it claims more than 15 million customers in over 70 countries - and the

fact that it is the UK’s largest integrated supplier of

telecommunications and television services.



But Payne’s job has its compensations. Not least, the task of choosing a

PR agency to handle the launch of the C&W brand in September, when the

four merged firms’ names will be abandoned. C&W shocked the ad agency

world earlier this month by announcing that Rapier Stead and Bowden is

to create the pounds 50 million launch ad campaignh. And pitches are

about to take place for the pounds 500,000 PR account to support the

launch.



C&W already has a special relationship with Brunswick, which was

involved in C&W’s creation. ’They will continue to have, as far as I can

see, an important role to play,’ says Payne.



So how does an agency impress him? ’By sharing my energy and enthusiasm

for the product, but delivering pragmatic proposals. I like lateral

thinking but in the end you’ve still got to have a pragmatic campaign

which actually delivers. I’ve sat through too many pitches where the

ideas are too lateral,’ he laughs.



He apologises for being unable to talk in detail about his plans for

C&W’s communications team, saying that although he has ’buckets’ of

ideas, he has had to confine them to a corner of his mind until his

stint at the cable Communications Association is complete.



C&W asked Payne to apply for his new post after deciding that it lacked

a suitable internal candidate. He was no doubt suitably flattered and

may also have been keen to leave the association, described by one

broadcasting industry source as ’not a very happy ship’.



Before joining the association in September 1996, Payne worked for four

years in the press office at the Department of National Heritage -

rechristened last week as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

He took charge of publicity for the Broadcasting Act 1996, which

established the legal framework for digital TV in the UK, and last year

he become the department’s chief press officer. That gave him

responsibility for 12 people and a divisional budget of pounds

300,000.



He honed his PR skills working with charities and small businesses in

Belfast, before moving to London and working as a mini-cab driver.



Then in 1988 he landed his first ’real job’ as a press officer at the

Home Office. He also became fascinated by the work of the Forensic

Science Service.



But his greatest passion in life is clearly rugby. ’I love the

millennial feel of the Five Nations (Championship) ... it’s like war

without the angst,’ he enthuses.



PR agencies seeking the way to Payne’s heart should take note.



HIGHLIGHTS

1988

Press officer, Home Office

1992

Press officer, Department of National Heritage

1996

Director of communications, Cable Communications Association

1997

Head of corporate communications, Cable and Wireless



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