MARKETING MIX: PROFILE; Concert’s maestro: Kathleen Flaherty * Business Marketing director * BT

BT’s plans to dominate the global telecoms market hit the headlines last week with the announcement that its joint venture with US telecoms giant MCI, known as Concert, will be developed into a full-blown merger. And Kathleen Flaherty, BT’s first business communications marketing director, is the woman who helped create that brand.

BT’s plans to dominate the global telecoms market hit the headlines last

week with the announcement that its joint venture with US telecoms giant

MCI, known as Concert, will be developed into a full-blown merger. And

Kathleen Flaherty, BT’s first business communications marketing

director, is the woman who helped create that brand.



Flaherty is the new face of BT’s massive business communications

operation and she has a reputation for being a tough woman. She has

already poached one of the brightest men in marketing, Dominic Owens,

from arch-rival Mercury Communications.



A super-cool business woman, she is cautious until she feels she can

trust you. She is highly respected by her colleagues for her

intelligence and decisiveness, but is said to have a short fuse when

things aren’t going her way. However, she’s reputed to be able to ‘cope’

with the infamous BT consultant Ed Carter, known for grinding down

lesser mortals.



Although BT is coy about budgets and marketing spends, the business

unit, which covers everything from home offices to multinational

corporations, is thought to make up over half of its pounds 3.64bn

revenue.



In marketing terms, however, the business side of the company has

generally been viewed as something of the poor relation to the might of

residential marketing.



Flaherty wants to change that. She is one of the new wave of marketers

BT has brought in from abroad; evidence of its commitment to building a

global telecoms brand. Flaherty is a US import, here because of her

awesome knowledge of marketing telecoms in a competitive environment.

Leslie Butterfield, chairman of BDDH, says Flaherty’s competitive edge

is key: ‘She thinks in a competitive way and that gives her a lot of

clarity about competitive strategies.’



Her pedigree includes almost 13 years with MCI, which led to her being

made senior vice-president of worldwide sales and marketing for Concert.



She says there has been little opposition to the North American invasion

(BT’s consumer marketing director, Mike Wagner, is Canadian and Ed

Carter is American).



‘People comment on it but management of BT has made a very considered

decision to bring in people with competitive experience. My most

pleasant surprise is the reception I’ve had. I didn’t think it was going

to be that easy. I’ve worked in organisations as the new guy and it’s

not been pleasant,’ says Flaherty.



But even if the reception at BT had been less welcoming, you get the

feeling it would not have discouraged Flaherty. And being the first

person to hold the job - the function had previously been split three

ways - did not frighten her. ‘It’s my speciality, coming in and making

the rules, and hopefully leaving something behind that works well,’ she

says.



One colleague who knows her well is Liz Wallace. She held the marketing

communications position under Flaherty before moving on to head employee

communications for BT. Wallace says: ‘People have welcomed her because

she doesn’t lord it. She didn’t come in saying ‘I know everything’. She

listened and she’s very open about how much she has learnt.’



Both Flaherty and Wallace worked hard on BT’s business advertising and

the most recent ensemble campaign from BDDH carries Flaherty’s hallmark.



The idea is a reworking of a similar campaign for MCI in the US, but

Flaherty was a force behind sharpening the campaign and making it more

gritty, something acknowledged by Butterfield.



Despite her ‘buttoned down’ manner, as one colleague described it, get

her on the right subject and she has a keen sense of humour and is

apparently all too happy to become ‘one of the girls’ after work.



Establishing a social life in England has been important as her husband

is still based in the US. But she even takes this mammoth commute in her

stride, and says they manage to see each other every couple of weeks, on

one or other side of the Atlantic. The distance did not put her off

coming, and with her children at university she says the timing was

ideal.



But with BT building a global empire and Flaherty’s personal commitments

on the other side of the Atlantic it is possible that the woman who has

made such an impression on BT’s UK business marketing may soon be taking

her expertise to other shores.



BIOGRAPHY



1981-1984 Network engineering - manager to director positions, MCI

1985-1986 Corporate vice-president - financial operations, MCI

1986-1993 Vice-president - national accounts sales/marketing, MCI

1993-1995 Senior vice-president - worldwide sales and marketing, Concert

1995-present Marketing director - business communications, BT



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