‘If you have a ticket in the raffle you can always get a prize’ is a
favourite saying of Joan Walmsley - reflecting her conviction that she
who dares has got a damn good chance of winning.
Such drive goes a long way to explaining how Walmsley, 53, has become
general manager of Hill and Knowlton’s Manchester office just a decade
after starting her first job in PR.
‘I come from a generation of women that were greatly affected by Women’s
Lib and the Pill in the 1960s, when the shackles of sexual slavery were
taken down,’ she says. ‘I have the attitude that there is nothing you
cannot do. In PR, if you have the talent, the sky really is the limit.’
Walmsley moved into PR after seven years in education, partly because
she felt that advancement in teaching was not based on talent, but on
the years of service clocked up.
Walmsley does not regret her venture into schooling, which followed a
brief stint, before her children were born, working in hospital
‘Teaching has proved very useful for PR. When you have stood up in front
of 35 teenagers who don’t want to be there, nothing can ever frighten
you again,’ she remarks.
Apart from the opportunities available, Walmsley says she moved into PR
- with a youth sailing organisation - because she recognised she was a
Her move to Hill and Knowlton, three years later, followed the
intervention of Tom McNally, a school friend of her late husband Chris
and H&K’s public affairs director.
McNally recalls how he recommended Walmsley to Tony Burgess-Webb, who
was about to launch the Manchester H&K office, after being impressed by
how well she had ‘organised’ his friend.
McNally, now a peer and vice-chairman of Shandwick Consultants, says:
‘As soon as you meet Joan, you think ‘this is a lady who will understand
my problem and deal with it’. She is practical, astute and well
organised - a combination that inspires confidence and trust.’
Adam Roscoe, who preceded Walmsley at H&K before moving on to regional
PR network Greenwood Tighe, pays tribute to her ability to get things
‘When Joan says something will happen, it will happen. She is always
fighting for clients’ interests and is the sort of person you would want
working on your account,’ he says.
However, such commitment can lead to ruffled feathers. Some former
colleagues say Walmsley gives short shrift to any staff she believes are
giving any less than their best.
Tom McNally, although initially unable to find a weakness in Walmsley’s
make-up, points to a similar characteristic when he says: ‘When Joan is
organising things, she tends to talk to even her senior colleagues as if
they were seven-year-olds in her infant classroom.’
Walmsley reacts to this analogy with good humour, saying that her
‘bossiness’ comes from being the oldest child in her family and an
Aries. ‘If you think you know how things should be done, you want to do
them,’ she admits.
This belief in a right way that things ‘should be done’ doubtless
explains why the coming general election will see her standing for
Parliament for the second consecutive time.
Her choice of the constituency of Congleton is particularly poignant as
the seat was originally due to have been fought for the Liberal
Democrats, not by Walmsley, but by her late husband.
Characteristically, Walmsley stresses she was not ‘handed’ the chance of
standing, but went through a full selection process, and that, although
‘his nibs is sitting on his cloud, tickled pink’ by her candidature, she
is standing for herself, not her husband’s memory.
And as to overturning the 11,000 Conservative majority and winning the
seat? ‘There’s always a chance,’ she says. ‘After all, if you have a
ticket in the raffle...’
1966 NHS cytologist
1979 Comprehensive school science teacher
1986 PR officer, Ocean Youth Club
1987 Account executive, Intercommunication
1989 Account manager, Hill and Knowlton, Manchester
1996 General manager, Hill and Knowlton, Manchester