14 January 2024

The media analyst in the cupboard : 2006-2009 : Claire Enders, Enders Analysis

 “CRUELLA DE VIL”, our teacher had chalked onto the blackboard at the front of our classroom hut. We had been reading aloud excerpts from the 1956 children’s novel ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians’ and were completing our lesson with content analysis for ten-year olds.

“What does her name sound like if you say it quickly?”, asked our teacher. I stuck my hand in the air.

“Cruel devil,” I blurted.

“Correct, Grant,” she replied, “and we have seen how that could be a description of the way she behaved in the story.”

Our teacher’s message for the adult lives ahead of us might have been: beware of wealthy women bearing gifts! They might end up bearing down on YOU before you know it … and skin you for their own ends. I vowed to file away that advice for the future. The year was 1968.

Four decades later, a work colleague returned to the office to recount what he considered an entertaining encounter earlier that day with a client:

“When I met her, she said ‘YOU must be Grant Goddard. I am so pleased to meet you at last’ and then she seemed disappointed when I told her that I wasn’t him.”

My young colleagues laughed aloud at this case of mistaken identity. I did not. This was not the first occasion that one of them had been dispatched to meet Carolyn McCall, the 45-year-old chief executive of ‘Guardian Media Group’ [GMG] that employed 7,200 staff with £700m turnover … and where a similar conversation had ensued. For me, it was another humiliation, not some kind of ‘Famous Five’ jape.

I had previously spent several weeks researching and designing a 48-page PowerPoint that analysed the state of the UK commercial radio industry for presentation to a conference hall of GMG’s radio staff organised by McCall in Manchester. My boss, Claire Enders, had asked me to accompany her by train there where she would present my work. Although I would not be on stage, nonetheless I was looking forward to meeting McCall and some of her radio team. One dark, cold November morning, wearing my best suit and tie, I caught the train to our central London office, sufficiently early for me and my boss to travel north together.

“I have decided to take the intern with me to Manchester instead of you,” Enders announced to me in front of my colleagues, before the two of them rushed out the door to an awaiting taxi. Evidently, the intern had known to arrive early that day.

No forewarning. No explanation. No apology. I was baffled … but not surprised. This was the latest in the succession of humiliations I had encountered since joining this, er, unusual workplace nineteen months ago. I decided to pass the rest of that day sat at my desk wearing headphones, listening to my music and purposefully doing absolutely no work, a silent (and wholly unacknowledged) protest at my treatment. I felt even more humiliated than usual because the office’s parade of ‘interns’ were, in reality, merely the pampered offspring of posh media bosses whom Enders had befriended. Sat at a spare desk in our office, their mere presence would look good on CV’s already boasting a private education, despite their evident disinterest in our work.

On a separate occasion, an initial meeting had been arranged with the new chief executive of the UK’s largest commercial radio group, Global Radio, whose wealthy father had financed its acquisition, following his offspring’s lack of success securing a significant role within the industry. I was to accompany Claire Enders to meet Ashley Tabor at his office and had prepared a list of questions to ask about his plans to resuscitate the sector’s recent dismal performance. We travelled together from our office by taxi and, only once our destination was reached, did Enders turn to me and say:

“I think this meeting should be millionaire-to-millionaire so you should return to the office.”

Not only was I humiliated to have to make the return journey back across London but I had to pay the bemused taxi driver for the privilege. Although I was employed as the analyst specialising in the radio sector, Enders never debriefed me on what had been discussed at this or her other meetings with senior radio industry personnel. There seemed to be no notion of teamwork in this workplace. I was forced to gather my own intelligence about the industry whilst not meeting its bosses. It was reminiscent of some kind of ‘gentlemen’s club’ where entry was denied to those of us without wealth or influence. Meetings of the privileged elite appeared as much social events and opportunities to propagate gossip as they were business discussions.

On another occasion, I was required to produce a company presentation for the management team of Disney whom I met, accompanying Claire Enders, in the boardroom of its Hammersmith office. Disney was considering launching a national sports radio station in Britain and seemed to believe it could achieve this objective without concern for Ofcom’s regulatory regime that prescribed every commercial radio station’s format and content. I was required to be the harbinger of disappointing news to Disney’s highly paid, but seemingly oblivious, managers that it would prove necessary to proceed within Britain’s media ownership regulations, regardless of how much cash might be on the table.

After the meeting closed, Claire Enders and I adjourned to a side office with the female Disney executive who had invited us to make the presentation. I anticipated that we would be discussing further the regulatory issues I had raised. How wrong I was! For the next half-hour, I sat there while Enders suggested multiple routes for the young woman to bag a wealthy man, proposing potential candidates. Not for the first time, I felt akin to a servant whose presence could be safely ignored because ‘the help’ were paid expressly to turn a blind eye to the intimacies of their masters and mistresses. Neither woman displayed the slightest embarrassment in discussing such personal matters in front of a silent middle-aged man who self-evidently was not of their breeding or status. I was as good as invisible. For me, it merely offered an insight into Enders’ modus operandi.

On a different occasion, I recall a weird taxi ride across London to a client meeting, accompanied by Claire Enders alone, during which she just kept repeating the phrases “I’m a self-made woman” and “I am, you know” to nobody in particular. I stared out the window and remained silent. I had no idea what had prompted this line of monologue. It felt somewhat like it might to be locked in a tiny room with a tragic escapee from a mental health facility.

During that journey, I was reminded of the occasion sixteen years prior when I had attended a public meeting concerning the award of the commercial television franchise for south and southeast England that had been operated by ‘TVS’ for the last decade. Contributions were made by a succession of those seated within the tiered lecture theatre, before an American woman in the back row behind me stood to unleash a loud stream of consciousness that seemed to leave the audience baffled. An audible gap followed, as might occur after an outburst by a wordy aunt on speed at a family Christmas dinner, before the debate resumed in earnest. Afterwards, I had pondered whether I might cross paths with that woman again. TVS lost its franchise the following year.

Shortly before I discovered my time working at Enders Analysis was finally up, I was invited to make a presentation to the ‘2008 European Radio Symposium’ to be held in Portugal. I spent two months creating a 39-page PowerPoint and had booked my flights and accommodation when, a few days beforehand, Claire Enders insisted that I undertake an unrelated project, unconcerned with radio but with an immediate deadline. I was forced to explain to the conference organisers that I had become unexpectedly unavailable and then pass my work to a colleague who knew nothing about radio to travel to Portugal instead to make my presentation.

I have never understood how ‘humiliation’ could be perceived as a productive means of managing personnel within a business. Given how my colleagues at Enders Analysis appeared accepting of this situation, I can only guess that their experiences attending private schools might have conditioned them to regard such treatment as ‘normal’. For state-school-educated me, it was as abnormal as any workplace behaviour I had ever witnessed. There were times when I wondered if my own mental health might be damaged by the experience of working within that environment. It had been such a long, long time since my great grandparents had lived and worked as servants in a ‘big house’. I had no desire to emulate their lives.

Following my abrupt exit from Enders Analysis after almost three years, I applied for every ‘media analyst’ vacancy I found, for none of which I was called to interview. After rejection by one small analyst business beside Charing Cross station, I requested a meeting with its chief executive to explore freelance opportunities. I showed him my published work and the regular coverage it had attracted on radio, television and in the press. He listened and then told me:

“Even if we were to hire you, you would have to take a backroom position. We could not send you out to meet clients.”

After that damning verdict, I gave up applying for jobs as an analyst. Apparently, it was evident to employers that I lacked whatever was ‘the right stuff’ necessary to be in the presence of the posh masters commanding Britain’s media industry.

I never did get to meet Carolyn McCall.

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