EILEEN WISE Director of Corporate Communications, National Magazines
Monday 02 June 1997
My first job was as a temporary secretary in a small PR consultancy in London, whose major client was a beer company. I had to type a report about a new lager they were launching, but I typed lager as "larger" all the way through it, and a permanent job didn't happen. After temping around a bit more, I went into Selfridges as a PA to its publicity director. When one of the press officers left, I got my boss to give me a trial in the job, and ended up working there for a couple of years.
I was then offered a job by a company called Tube Investments, which made household goods, but I didn't find consumer PR very interesting. But I moved on to a job with Walt Disney, as chief press officer, which was one of the best periods of my career. It taught me a lot about how the media behave; when we hired actors to dress up and tour round as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to promote a re-release of the film, I got a call from The Sun to say our Snow White had done a Men Only spread.
After about five years there I decided I wanted a change of scene, and was promised a job in New York with a new film company. But as soon as I moved out there the job fell through, and because New York was such a difficult place to find work, I decided to call people I knew on Fleet Street to ask if I could do stories for columns. I began by feeding into things like "Bizarre" on The Sun, and doing things for various newspapers when their New York correspondents weren't available. When I'd been in New York for a while, I was offered work at an entertainment PR company, and I also worked for a terrible American tabloid called The Star, which was an enlightening experience but not one I'd like to repeat.
After two years there I was quite homesick, and in 1985 I came back to London to do PR for a cable movie channel called The Entertainment Network. Unfortunately that folded after a few months, so I went back into journalism, freelancing for the Mail, The Express, the Evening Standard and Media Week. I also spent a year as an investigative reporter for the Sunday People, exposing fraudulent timeshare operations and infiltrating an anarchist group called Class War.
Apart from a six-month stint at Anglia Television as a drama press officer, I carried on in journalism, working at Today as the deputy diary editor and for Hello! as it launched. But in 1990 I was offered the chance to work as press officer to Robert Maxwell for four months, during the launch of The European - which I felt couldn't be missed. It was exciting, launching a new paper, and at the end I felt gratified, having got Maxwell interviewed in every major newspaper, even though journalists didn't like him.
After that I worked for Hello! again as a freelance, before going to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group as public relations manager. But then I decided I wanted to make television programmes. It took me quite a long time to get in, but eventually I was offered a job as a researcher on Surprise Surprise. After that I went to work for the BBC on its Inside Story documentaries, and later for LWT on Crime Monthly.
During my time in TV I became very interested in politics, and went to party conferences for about three years running. I learnt a lot, and made some contacts, one of whom was Charles Lewington, political editor of the Sunday Express. When he later became the Conservatives' director of communications, he offered me a job as head of news at Conservative Central Office, and I started in March 1996. The six weeks of the election campaign were both the most gruelling and exciting of my entire life. But one of my jobs was serving as Norma Major's press officer, and working with her I was able to get away from the fray of everyday politics.
But, at Christmas, Terry Mansfield, the managing director of National Magazines, asked me if I would be interested in running his PR operation. He was prepared to wait until I was free to join, and I left Conservative Central Office a few days after the election. I begin at National Magazines this week, and it's going to be wonderful to be able to promote such good titles as Cosmo, Esquire and Harpers & Queen.
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