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Opinium

Robert Minton-Taylor describes a life most extraordinary

17th July 2014


I was born in Yorkshire, but grew up in immediate post-war Berlin. I could only speak German until the age of six. My mother wanted me to be a doctor, but my first love was journalism. As a teenager I wanted to work in Fleet Street. I blame it on Michael Frayn's novel ‘Towards the End of the Morning’. I only made it to the “Street” in 1973 when I worked on the Lancia car account at Hertford Public Relations.

I got my first job at 19 writing about cars and caravans. I can still recognise the make of caravans by their rear-light clusters. Later I studied tourism at Bournemouth Technical College, but didn’t survive. Hertford PR was acquired by European Ferries and that started my love of ships and the sea. I still get a thrill seeing a vessel set sail. Watching dawn break at sea is magical, but I have also witnessed its terrifying power. I have a deep respect for the unassuming sure-footed way that deck officers and crews go about their work.

In 1979 I joined Burson-Marsteller – it was a great agency. Its training, ability to craft and deliver transnational PR programmes was legendary. I have happy memories because I met Caroline Deller, my future wife there.

My move to Charles Walls PR in Leeds in 1994 as managing director was a mistake. I barely lasted a year. But it brought my family to Yorkshire, God’s own country.

I’ve found in-house and agency roles equally stimulating. I have covered the whole gamut of clients – art, construction, expositions, finance, healthcare, hi-fi, leisure, petrochemicals, restaurants, supermarkets, transport, travel and utilities – but I guess my most unusual were HM King Constantine of Greece and, strangely as a gentile, the Jewish Agency for Israel.

In-house you have a bird’s eye view of the whole landscape. I’m especially proud of my work with Stockholm’s Wallenius Lines and as global media relations manager for Norwegian-Swedish Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. My crowning achievement was helping it win the Thor Heyerdahl International Maritime Environmental Award from King Harald V of Norway.

At Leeds Business School I am a strong advocate of bringing business into the classroom. Working with the PRCA and iconic organisations like IKEA helps give students the consultancy, teamwork and office skills they need for a successful career. My advice to young people is always learn something new, keep abreast of current affairs, be inquisitive and always treat individuals with respect.

I admire ethical agencies like Lansons; Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, great name; and Golin Harris for its commitment to the PRCA’s PR Interns for All campaign. I want to see interns paid a “living wage“, more diversity and more women board directors.

Of the 27 awards I have won, the two I cherish most are the Seahorse Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award (services to shipping) and the Full Circle teaching award from Leeds Metropolitan University's Students’ Union.

Not bad for a 66-year old kid without A levels or a degree.

Robert Minton-Taylor, senior lecturer at Leeds Business School



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