In the mid-1990s Microsoft was fond of referring to “internet time”, the new time zone in which people and organisations, fuelled by digital technologies, were expected to produce far more in less time. That was when Fiona Mclean joined RM as head of corporate communications.
And in the 15 years between then and taking up her new role as head of global PR at Promethean this week (August 16) schools have witnessed a digital revolution. Many argue that the changes haven’t gone far enough but the view from RM, and of the company itself, has certainly been transformed.
Commenting on the changes she has experienced in the education sector, Fiona says: “We have come a long way since 1995 when I first arrived at RM. The internet had just taken off in schools (and still had a capital ‘I’) and ICT was taught as a discrete subject. Initiatives like the National Grid for Learning, the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) training scheme, and Electronic Learning Credits (eLCs) all helped bring ICT out of the computer room and in to the classroom.
“RM's Windowbox PCs introduced tens of thousands of young people to learning with technology, and interactive whiteboards from companies including Promethean brought the concept of whole-class teaching through interactive technology to a new level. What's exciting now is that the UK has led the way in developing technology for learning and, with Promethean I have another great story to tell and an exciting product set to take to the rest of the world.”
It may be a long way from Abingdon to Blackburn but the community and many of the customers and journalist collaborators will remain the same. Even her colleagues – “It's also great to be working with my former RM colleague Jim Wynn, a true education guru,” adds Fiona. (Jim Wynn, the former Bristol headteacher who went on to work with Microsoft and Cisco, is now Promethean’s chief education officer.)
Meanwhile, back in Abingdon, RM’s corporate communications responsibilities have transferred from the Scottish (Fiona hails from Glasgow) to the Welsh. The new group PR manager is Rebecca Bleasdale, from Cardiff, who is an inside appointment with plenty of experience with RM. A big focus for Rebecca is her passion for online learning and how RM can interact through social media. “Despite all the changes happening in the political landscape, one thing we can be sure of is that social networking is here to stay,” she says. “We can use social media to create a more personalised message about the education value and choice RM brings.’
All that remains to be checked are her brand loyalties. No, not the digital varieties but those more familiar to Absolutely Fabulous viewers darling – in her predecessor’s case Gucci, Prada and Jimmy Choo. Rebecca smiles and says, “I’ve never been very good with heels – for me it's more like North Face and a favourite pair of (unbranded) jeans.”