campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 08 December 2006 12:00AM
Fate has played a big part in Shaun Gregory's life recently. If Dave King, the executive director at the Telegraph Group and a former Emap colleague of Gregory's, had not been buying his wife flowers near Marylebone Station one evening a few weeks ago, Gregory would not have joined the newspaper group.
Gregory had paused outside of Marylebone Station to check his phone messages. Cue the chance meeting with King at a time when Gregory was being linked to senior roles at News Group, MySpace and Bebo. The encounter with King led to an audience with Murdoch MacLennan, the chief executive of the Telegraph Group. The meeting went well, and within a few days Gregory was joining the Telegraph, in the newly created role of development director, rather than at MySpace or Bebo.
Gregory left Emap Radio, where he was the managing director of national brands, just eight months ago, but has spent the intervening time in a dizzying array of consultancy roles: working with his old Emap Performance boss, Tim Schoonmaker, on radio deals for the Australian bank Macquarie, project work for AOL and Viacom, and, oddly, because Gregory is a Sheffield United fan, a consultancy for Ken Bates, the Leeds United chairman, whom he helped to launch a regional radio station.
Given Gregory's background as a bit of a digital evangelist while at Emap (he worked on most of its digital radio licence bids and helped to take its radio brands online and on to the Freeview platform when rivals scoffed at the idea), some were surprised that he ended up in the old-media world of the Telegraph, rather than at a MySpace or a Google. Gregory admits that many of his friends failed to understand his decision, saying that one of the first messages he got from a former colleague said: "You'll need waders to survive that bloodbath."
However, Gregory, a short, pugnacious Yorkshireman who wears his heart on his sleeve, is adamant he's made the right call. He says of the Telegraph Group: "The people there really impress me. Most press barons don't know much about new media or media integration, but MacLennan can challenge me very well on new-media issues. Together with Dave (King) and Will Lewis (the Telegraph editor), it's a very good top table."
And Gregory says he's glad to be back in a large media organisation. He says of his spell in consultancy: "It's good to be around teams and people again. Private equity and consulting is good for the pocket, but not for the soul."
Yet the Telegraph has certainly had issues of late. More senior editorial changes than Britney Spears has had drunken nights out with Paris Hilton, plus the threat of strike action from journalists combined to create a sense in the media community that the Telegraph is far from a happy ship. Gregory says that this is not the case: "There are issues, what with the strike threats and changes, but this is the same with any organisation that is changing and adapting to new things."
Gregory argues he has joined a company with a real vision of media integration and that investment is in place to deliver on the challenge of creating a brand across all media. If its sparkling new offices in Victoria, with TV images beamed on to large white walls, are anything to go by, it has started in its quest to build a more dynamic company. It's a shame the Telegraph isn't ready to give Campaign a full tour of the offices, forcing us to decamp to a nearby pizza restaurant to grill Gregory.
Over a palatable Salad Niaoise, Gregory explains how he will be working closely with MacLennan and King on the Telegraph's integrated future. The aim is that everything, from online to TV to radio activity, will be monetised. "In a world where you can potentially do everything, it's about identifying what you don't do," he explains.
High on the agenda is a January relaunch of the Telegraph website (the Telegraph is currently engaged in a spat with The Guardian over whose website has the most traffic) and the launch of Telegraph TV, a partnership with ITN supplying content, which will also happen in January. Gregory is also spearheading the Telegraph's move into digital radio. It has created a brand, a talk format called Telegraph Talk, and expects to bid, either on its own or as part of a consortium, for the recently advertised second national DAB multiplex.
But in this new world, why is the dusty old Telegraph well placed to capitalise? "The strength of the brand - its honesty, integrity and strong values, combined with an ability to move with the market. It's not frozen in time and has a team of people in place to execute a clear strategy. Lots of media companies have to fight through bureaucracy and shareholders. We're free of that, having developed a clear strategy, an integrated approach and we're privately owned," Gregory says.
Those who know him say that Gregory's directness will be an asset to the Telegraph. Malcolm Cox, the former marketing director at Emap Performance, now the founder of Lunch Communications, says: "Shaun is the bloke who gets things done - he's the completer, the finisher who puts the ball in the back of the net. He has a very good understanding of the digital world, but he makes it happen. It's not all theory with him."
Gregory quotes one of his mentors, Bates, as saying: "There's two types of people: those that talk a good game and those that actually do it." Fate has brought Gregory to the Telegraph, but now it's up to him to get on and achieve things there.
Lives: Wivelsfield Green, Sussex
Family: Wife Ruth, and two daughters, Lily, five, and Ella, two
Most treasured possessions: Family photos, music collection and home
videos - all on my iPod
Interests outside of work: Running, collecting wine and spending time
with the girls
Best piece of advice you've ever been given: Marry the girl from the
research department. Best decision I ever made
Personal motto: Everything happens for a reason.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk