Coral’s director of comms, Fiona Thorne on PR today

A few months ago Fiona Thorne decided it was time to do something “very different” and “fresh” so she took on the role of director of corporate affairs at betting and gambling company Gala Coral Group, having previously worked for over 16 years at PR firm Fishburn Hedges. She explains to PRmoment why she first chose to work in PR, and the different twists and turns her career has taken so far.

Thorne’s earliest ambition was to be a writer, and she used to write children’s stories for her younger siblings, although she explains: “I think they always preferred the proper ones in books to my hand-written, hand-illustrated versions“. Being such a creative teenager, Thorne thinks her teenage self would probably be slightly astonished that she ended up having a "proper job" and loving the business world.

The decision to work in PR was partly fuelled by Thorne’s desire to combine her creative side with her commercial side, but not be channelled into too narrow a direction. She says: “I wanted to work in an industry which enabled me to be creative, and in particular to write, but with a commercial business edge too. I didn't really like the fact that in ad agencies you had to choose between going down the creative, account management or planning route. What I loved then about our industry, and still do now, is that we can play across all those three strands.”

Discussing how she got her first break, Thorne describes how in the summer before her final year at university she managed to get placements at two agencies. Those two agencies ended up being her first and second full time employers. “The first was a teeny little business where I spent a lot of time stuffing envelopes. About a year later I moved to The Communication Group which I had loved when I'd done my internship with them in the summer of 1990. I spent three years cutting my teeth properly there and for me that really was the point when my career in PR started.”

Thorne says that since her early days, she has been “incredibly lucky” as her career has evolved as the industry has: “Back when I started, a corporate comms practitioner could be kept busy with little more than day-to-day media relations. The complexity of today's business world and the reputation issues that it throws up means we can now be advising business, across all communication channels at the most senior level which is great.”

After 16 years at Fishburn Hedges, Thorne decided she needed a change of direction: “I'd had a great time for many of the years I was at Fishburn Hedges, but when I left I knew I needed something very different and fresh. I love complex issues – especially those which span multiple audiences from consumers to politicians and employees to investors. And I need to be in a fast-paced environment full of bright people. Once I met the Gala Coral management team I realised that it was exactly what I was looking for. And everything I have seen so far confirms that I made the right decision.

At the end of our interview Thorne offers a strong and positive message to the rest of the PR community: “The speed of change and endless complexity of the communication landscape plays right into our hands if we want to be at the heart of the business world – so grab the opportunity.”

Fiona Thorne, director of corporate affairs at betting and gaming company Gala Coral Group, was interviewed by Daney Parker