PROFILE: Joan Walmsley, Hill and Knowlton; An education in PR success’

‘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.

‘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

pathology labs.

‘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

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