A View From The Comms Team
Louise Shield is the Director of Corporate Communications at Santander.
She has previously worked at RSA, Lloyds of London and Downing Street. She talked to us about her career, changes in the banking industry and the opportunities created by the new ways of working .
PressChoice: How did you get into corporate comms?
Louise: I always wanted a job that combines politics with media. I was doing a Master’s degree in contemporary British History and I started to think about what I was going to do afterwards.
There was an opportunity to do an internship at Downing Street and I was really lucky to get one of the places on that internship during the Blair years. I started off in the Honours department and that was great. But then I had the opportunity of working for Cherie Blair and her special advisor Fiona Millar.
I went as an assistant and then I started writing some of her speeches.
It was an amazing time and an amazing opportunity. Fiona Miller is absolutely brilliant and she's just a great person to learn from and work with.
I then went to work at the Education Department where I was working on ministerial desks and on policy areas.
When I was there, we set up the first kind of rebuttal desk. Prior to that point, all of the reactive calls were handled by the press offices that worked for each of the ministers. The system we set up, centralised a lot of the work and meant there was more coordination.
PressChoice: Why did you leave the government media operation to work in finance?
Louise: I saw an advert for Lloyd's of London and I thought it was a great opportunity to get some experience of international PR and crisis communications. The job meant you had to deal with anything from national disasters through to insuring people's chest hair, tongues, noses and footballers’ legs.
It was a great heritage organisation, but one that was trying to transform, so a great opportunity to do all of those things.
PressChoice: It’s an interesting time to be at Santander as the market is changing so quickly with the rise of challenger banks and changes in customer behaviour. What kind of challenges and opportunities has that thrown up for you and your team?
Louise: You're certainly seeing a big change in people's banking habits and a huge shift towards digital. Santander is very much moving towards being a digital bank with a human touch.
Santander is very successful because it marries heritage, innovation and a huge global footprint. We have great customer re
relationships and great customer service, and we have great relationships of trust and respect built up over many, many years. And we don't take for granted that people put their faith in us to look after their money. That's what we concentrate on.
PressChoice: How has lockdown affected the way you run the media operation and kept contact with journalists?
Louise: In some respects, we're almost having more contact with journalists because the new ways of communicating via Zoom, Skype and Teams, can give journalists access to senior management in a way that wasn’t possible before. Senior leaders can carve out small portions of time and you don’t have the logistical problem of getting people to lots of different meetings in different places.
It’s true to say, the conversations can be a bit more stilted, and I think we're all looking forward to when we can go back and have a coffee. But I think in the future, it will be a much more mixed landscape of using different means of meeting and keeping up contacts.
PressChoice: With the benefit of hindsight and your experience, is there any advice you give your younger self?
Louise: I think just literally take every opportunity and enjoy everything that's given to you. I've been so lucky with the opportunities I've been given. So, I would just say enjoy every second of it. It goes so quickly.
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