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My career story: Chloe French, propositions manager

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Chloe French is propositions manager in the marketing team. Ten years ago when she dropped out of university she thought she had ruined her career prospects. The reality is very different. Chloe says:

"I didn't really want to go to university.

I applied because everyone said getting a degree was important, and also because my friends were going. So, being 17, I didn't want to be different. I got a place at Brighton, but never felt comfortable there.

I didn't feel like I connected with people there, or the course, so I left at the end of the year. It wasn't for me.

So then what? I needed to get a job. But even then my aim was to get something that paid enough to allow me to save and get back into education. Ultimately I became a PA. First of all for a property developer, and then at the Post Office.

In 2010, when I was 23, I joined DLG. Well, it was still RBS then. I was PA to Jonathan Davidson, who was then COO. I then worked with Gus Park, who was then commercial director of motor insurance.

I enjoyed it, but knew I didn't want to do it forever. 

I had spent a lot of time around the PR teams, both at the Post Office and RBS, and I decided that was where I wanted to go next. 

Part of my role involved being in lots of meetings, and every time I was in one with Frances Browning (who was then head of UK and international communications) I'd come away thinking, "that's so cool, I'd love to be in her position, working on that kind of stuff". I talked to Frances (who is now head of brand PR and social media) to try and find out more about that world, ask advice and to let her know I was interested.

After a while, a role came up for a media relations executive and I went for it. I put so much effort into the interview and the test, and I got the job. I was so happy, even more so when I heard that I'd been chosen over people with more relevant experience than me, including those with PR degrees. They saw something in me and wanted to give me a chance.

I took to it quickly and loved it immediately. There's nothing like seeing your work in print. I still remember the first bit of coverage I got, which was a piece about winter driving, which appeared in the Daily Star.

It's the kind of job where you go in at the deep end - the best way to learn is by doing - but I was so supported by Frances and Claire Foster, who was then PR manager, and now senior manager in external affairs.

Frances was very trusting and gave me a lot of autonomy early on, which was a big help.

In the beginning, I was helping out with lots of different things, but it wasn't long until I was asked to take the lead on PR for Direct Line's travel insurance product. It was there that I did my first big campaigns. One of my favourites was around the importance of wearing a helmet when skiing. We set up some tests with crash test dummies and involved a doctor who specialised in head injuries and got some hard-hitting footage that was very scary but highlighted the value of having the correct equipment.

Fast-forward a couple of years and the motor PR manager role came up. I was encouraged to go for it by the leaders around me, and I got the job. 

We've had amazing people in that role in the past, but I was able to get numbers going up in the right places, which was terrific for me, especially as I was a relative rookie.

It would take something extremely special to make me move on from DLG.

Motor was different to travel, and there was far more focus on crisis management. I always enjoyed selling-in stories and building relationships, but crisis management work was my favourite. There was a buzz to it that I didn't get from other things. Having to get hold of the CEO on a Saturday morning to get a quote for an urgent statement to the media will do that though!

To do the job well, you need to have a good knowledge not just of our products but the way we run our business and how the insurance market in general works, so I got a good overview of what's going on in the business and the industry at large.

In 2017 I won the PR Moment award for In-House Young Professional of the Year. That was huge for me. Almost immediately job offers started coming in from all over the place, offering me senior roles on very high salaries, but I wanted to stay here.

I didn't want to go anywhere else. DLG has a great culture, and I think it's at its best in the marketing department. It's so vibrant and customer-focused, and we've got a great leader in Mark Evans who is managing director across marketing and digital.

So, I knew I wanted to stay at DLG, but had to decide what was next for me.

That led me to where I am today. Every time there was a new proposition, we helped to launch it through PR, and it was something that really interested me, so I applied for a job as propositions manager.

Although the move meant leaving PR, Frances was incredibly supportive about the move. Frances said "it's better to have you in DLG doing something else, than not in DLG at all".

Propositions is about understanding our customers and finding ways of meeting their needs and giving them reasons to buy with us, and stay with us.

My new boss, Paul Stevenson (head of future propositions and innovation), is wonderful. I'm focused on Green Flag right now, and we're in the middle of an ambitious project that will see the light of day next year.

I've moved around and progressed a lot since starting here nine years ago. I never thought I'd be here that long, but I'm so glad I am. I still feel like I have room to progress. One of the best things about this company is that you can change direction if you want, and as long as you're serious, you'll be supported. I don't know what the next few years hold for me, but it would take something extremely special to make me move on from DLG.

When I look back, I'm so glad I didn't do a degree. At the time I thought I had failed and it was going to hold me back, but it couldn't be further from the truth. If I followed the same journey as everyone else, I wouldn't be where I am now."