It’s not difficult to imagine Fru Hazlitt elbowing the competition
aside as she storms through to take the top job in Capital Radio’s
new-look sales team (Campaign, last week).
Hazlitt is a formidable-looking woman. Tall, robust, Junoesque even.
And that voice. We’re talking deep, controlled, throaty and loud, loud,
Hazlitt can be a frightening figure and her physical stature and vocal
severity are matched by a brisk, no-nonsense manner which cuts a swathe
through more timid colleagues.
What might surprise, though, is that Hazlitt is actually feeling a
little nervous about this whole promotion thing. ’I imagine I’ll be
portrayed as a bit of a harridan, driven and ambitious, but really I
didn’t expect to get this job. My immediate reaction was ’my God, can I
really do that?’.’
According to those radio buyers out there who have had the pleasure of
sitting on the other side of the negotiating table to Hazlitt, she
really can do that.
Dave King, the head of radio at TMD Carat, says Hazlitt drives one hell
of a hard bargain. ’She’s not easy to deal with, we’ve had some very
tough negotiations. But she’s probably one of the most effervescent
characters I’ve ever met. Fru’s got this enormous drive and energy.’
Now, this drive and energy thing might be a bit of an
I mean, this is the woman who took up marathon running because someone
dared her to do it for charity, and she’s been doing it ever since.
’I find it hard to say no when someone challenges me,’ Hazlitt
’I like to have a constant challenge. God knows where it will all end -
I’ll probably end up in a clinic.’
Now a word of warning before we go any further. The thing you should
know about Hazlitt is that she used to be an actress. Not that this
revelation is likely to surprise anyone who has heard her project and
brushed power shoulders with this flamboyant and theatrical dame.
OK, she was never a great actress. ’What a bloomin’ disaster that was.
The high point of my career was starring in a Bulgarian wine commercial,
which was actually shot in Greece.’ But she confesses: ’Some people
would probably say I’ve never left acting and they might be right.’
So, while ’it’s all a bit frightening at the moment’, one media director
says that there are no flies on our Fru. ’Fru’s the sort of woman who
wets herself laughing when her boss tells a joke, even though she has
heard it loads of times before.’
After studying English and drama at London University, Hazlitt set up a
theatre group in 1983 but moved into sales when bankruptcy hit.
’As an actress you’re judged on so many things over which you have no
control, such as the way you look. With sales I get to do the
performance routine, but I’m judged on the content of my
Ask Hazlitt why she was chosen for the new Capital job, and she points
to her experience of selling to both clients and agencies.
She joined Capital in 1993 as group sales manager, but was promoted to
head of client sales two years later.
’No-one would ever describe me as a technical person, but I’m good at
creating structures to give both clients and agencies the sort of
service they need and I’m good at understanding clients’ current and
future marketing objectives,’ she says.
She also insists that she’s very much a people person. For some,
Hazlitt’s strident personality is an irritant - ’Fru is a big character
and it’s easy for her to squeeze other people out,’ a media buyer says,
but Hazlitt adores meeting people. ’I love spending time entertaining
and presenting to people, I love the human interaction in this job,
which is just as well because I don’t have time for a life outside it,’
For the moment, though, there are a lot of people for Hazlitt to meet
inside the Capital fold as she tries to settle down a team which is
still reeling from the effects of Capital’s takeover of Virgin Radio
earlier this month. Hazlitt’s promotion has coincided with the departure
of senior colleagues such as Duncan George, Capital’s sales director,
and Andrew Oldham, the sales director of the Capital-owned sales house,
Media Sales and Marketing.
Hazlitt knows her newfound spotlight brings with it a very public
pressure to succeed. ’The stakes are high here and I know there will be
some people keen to say ’I told you so’ if I fail,’ she says. But then
being in the spotlight is one place where this erstwhile drama queen
should feel very much at home.
The Hazlitt file
1987 Design Week, sales executive
1992 The Guardian, agency sales executive
1993 Capital Radio, group sales manager
1995 Capital, head of client sales
1997 Capital Sales and Marketing, sales director