It’s been a challenging couple of years for the Co-op’s communications department, with a veritable blizzard of negative publicity accompanying its near collapse in 2013, not to mention the tabloid saga of the Co-op Bank’s former chairman, Rev Paul Flowers (a group of investors subsequently injected almost £1bn into the bank in return for a 70% stake, meaning the Co-op Group no longer has a controlling stake).
The fall-out from that period has triggered significant structural changes across the group, and in February that included an overhaul of the PR department. Out went Nick Folland, and in came Church, who had spent the previous four years in Melbourne heading comms for Coles, Australia’s second largest supermarket chain. He also spent a decade as Tesco’s media director and even enjoyed three years at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, running media relations for the Prison Service.
As well as familiarising himself with all 27 people in the Co-op’s Manchester-based team, Church led an intensive comms campaign in May to encourage members and staff to vote in the group’s ‘One Member One Vote’ AGM, the first time all 2.9 million eligible members had been allowed a say in how the mutual was run.