A number of people in the UK PR industry will have noted with sadness the plight of Woolies. Woolworths, and its then parent company Woolworths Holdings, were the banner clients of Paragon Communications during the 80’s. Paragon came from nowhere to win award after award and grew to employ over 150 people with offices in Bristol and Leeds as well as two in London before a stockmarket flotation and eventual purchase and then neglect by Shandwick International (a very different firm then from the now very well-run Weber Shandwick). Those who worked on the Woolies business in Paragon’s heyday included Red CEO Mike Morgan (who edited the employee newsletter among other things), London 2012 communications supremo Jackie Brock-Doyle (who eventually did the comms role in-house), Reputation Inc’s Nigel Whittaker who was on Woolworth Holdings board at the time, Charlotte Blenkinsop now Director of Marketing and Communications at CNBC and Weber Shandwick’s President for Asia,Tim Sutton. Yours truly ran the Comet account (then part of the same group) for years and PR Week editor Danny Rogers who also worked at Paragon at the time may even have got involved too.
One happy footnote to this otherwise sad Woolworths tale is that the spirit and success of that once great agency that served it so well has been revived by it’s new leaders Matt Neale and Jon Hughes who run it’s latest incarnation Golin Harris. It’s a pity people of their skill and energy could not have been found to run Woolies.