Each month, ToyNews finds an industry bigwig to put through the ringer with a series of prying questions. This month, it’s BTHA’s director of public affairs and communications, Natasha Crookes
Firstly, well done on the recent half marathon and money raising (over £2,000) for the ToyTrust. What compelled you to do it?
I needed a challenge to get me started as I’m better with a goal in mind so when the BTHA mentioned they had places for the Toy Trust I thought it might be what I need. The only issue was that I hadn’t run, at all, for about 20 years. I started with the couch to 5K app and worked my way up from there. The longest I had run before the day was about eight miles, so I felt a bit sore but actually not too bad.
Well that is a sterling effort. So, what’s your next planned challenge then?
I won’t do anything sponsored as the generosity of everyone for this challenge was really amazing and I don’t want to ask again for a while. I would like to join an open water swimming club as a personal challenge though.
You’re a name synonymous with the BTHA – but how did it all begin for you?
That’s very nice of you to say. I joined the BTHA in 2002 to help organise the Toy Fair as I came from an events background. I took over from the then organiser, Wendy Pluckrose after the 2003 fair and worked on Toy Fair until 2007 when I also became involved with PR and public affairs and issues-led agenda on behalf of the members. I have been working in that capacity ever since and really enjoy it, even though it is challenging often.
How have you seen the industry evolve over your time within it – and is it all for the better?
The past three years have been the most challenging. Brexit and all the changes that will come with that have been, and will be, difficult for the industry. The UK government needs to put systems in place to govern and the number and breadth of consultations that could impact the industry seem endless at times.
I think the industry will have to start thinking about allocating people within their companies to monitor and measure the impact on their businesses of the various changes coming. For the industry more generally, I worry about the unsafe toys we are finding on online platforms, how the reputable companies can compete with companies not making the right investment concerns me. It sounds a bit doom and gloom but my job is to monitor the issues for the industry.
Growing up, a young Natasha’s go to toy would have been…. ?
I had a Mattel talk up doll – who thought to have a doll that you pulled the head off and as it rejoined its body it had sayings like “I lost my head over you”, I loved it!
What’s been the proudest moment of your career so far?
It is hard to say when you work in public affairs as the greatest achievements are often the ones you can’t talk about, the things you managed to change or managed to make more workable for the industry but that are based on work behind the scenes.
The work to tackle the rise of unsafe toys before a child gets seriously hurt is the most challenging but would be the most rewarding if we can get the changes needed.