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Career Summary:

I started my career at the British Council. I left to complete a part-time MSc at the LSE, working as a recruitment consultant and parliamentary researcher during my studies. Upon completion, I joined the policy team of the professional body for the recruitment industry. I have recently taken up the post of Policy & Public Affairs Manager at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, and I wrote my Profile when working at REC.

Academic/Professional Qualifications:

MSc Media and Communications, London School of Economics
BA (Hons) Film Studies and American Studies, King’s College London
Member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations

How did you get into Public Affairs?

I had worked as a recruitment consultant and as a parliamentary researcher in the House of Lords whilst completing a part-time postgraduate degree at the London School of Economics. With a real understanding of the recruitment industry, as well as a sound understanding of politics and research experience, I was well suited to work in the policy and public affairs function of the largest trade association for the recruitment industry. My experience on the frontline has really helped me in dealing with members and I have really developed my skills in the role.

What does your current role entail on a day to day basis?

I check my emails and phone messages before engaging members on a variety of issues. This can involve engaging journalists, civil servants and politicians to put across the view of the industry. At the moment, I am: writing a number of consultation responses; running an election for the position of Chair of one of our sector groups; and organising a number of focus groups with the Department of Health on the clinical governance of locum doctors. I am also working with the editor of our magazine on a forthcoming feature on the public sector workforce, one of the areas I am responsible for. Speaking, writing, reading in other words!

Working in a trade association, how do you engage members in public affairs and policy issues?

We engage members in public affairs and policy issues through member events, webinars, polls, focus groups and meetings. We often hit the road and a key part of our job is getting members in front of decision makers. This facilitation of engagement is an increasingly important part of our job.

Which campaign/issue are you most proud to have worked on?

The campaign I am most proud of is our on-going activity on NHS VAT schemes. This is a complex area which cuts across employment and tax legislation. I have been working on this for months and it is an area of deep concern for members. My blogs, letters I have drafted to ministers on behalf of senior REC figures, presentations at conferences, together with countless meetings with members and government figures have really built momentum which culminated in the REC contributing to a major ITV News at 10 investigation. We had literally set the news agenda and senior government ministers are actively engaging with the REC on the issue. We are close to a conclusion and continue to drive activity.

What do you enjoy about working in public affairs?

I enjoy the buzz and, as a news junkie, I relish being paid to keep abreast of current affairs. Working for a membership body, I also engage on strategic issues on behalf of our members. It does feel like the work is really important and it is great to play my part on important issues such as the future of the NHS workforce.

How important is political party involvement to a public affairs career?

It helps. There are plenty of people out there who do not have any involvement but I do think it adds a valuable extra dimension. I was Chairman of a major political society at LSE and I am currently Deputy Chairman of an Association in the East End of London. I was also the parliamentary researcher for a government Peer in the House of Lords. I have an extensive network which has come in really handy for getting the full picture of what is going on out there. It has also helped when we are in tight spots, for instance getting speakers for our events at Party Conferences.

As a former recruitment professional, what advice would you give to job seekers (at any level)?

Get yourself out there. We often hear of personal brands and profiles. These are really important but you shouldn’t be scared of advertising that brand! I would also say use a good recruiter (well, given my background, I would, wouldn’t I?!). The amount of times that I have heard people have been looking for jobs for months and then, after getting in touch with a recruitment consultancy, they secure a role in weeks is ridiculous. They have the networks and the contacts and, if you are not right for one opportunity, they will keep you in mind for another. Finally, do your research – evaluate what you want from your next role, where you want to get to and what you want to learn. Take your time, be measured and make sure you have a plan.

What value does post-graduate study provide to a public affairs career?

For me, it added real value. It allowed me to build on the cultural and historical grasp of political persuasion that I had gained through my first degree, as well as the opportunity to hone my writing and research skills further. I would say that the educational institution matters as well. The contacts I made and the activities I was exposed to at the LSE, one of the world’s leading social science institutions, really helped as I sought to get into public affairs.

What are the challenges for the public affairs industry over the next five years?

I think the industry has to adapt to the challenges of the digital world. How can you shape the agenda across a variety of different platforms all at the same time? In this environment, where everyone has a comment or can position themselves as an expert, and one tweet can destroy months of activity, demonstrating the value you can add and leveraging off line and online networks to achieve results will be vital. Those who can cut through the huge volumes of information out there to provide clear, concise analysis and drive targeted, effective campaigns amidst a diverse mediascape will be the winners.

What's your prediction for the next General Election result?

Conservative majority (just).

Quick-Fire Round  
Favourite restaurant for a business lunch Browns Covent Garden
LinkedIN or Twitter? Twitter
Tweet your career-to-date in 140 characters or less Policy professional at the trade association for the UK's £26 billion recruitment industry, former search & selection specialist, LSE alum
What’s your Media diet? Guido (order order), Telegraph, Spectator, Economist, Guardian, BBC
Favourite Film Badlands
Guilty pleasure House of Cards (the original)

Read Chris Wilford’s advice for students and recent graduates in the GraduateForward Advice Centre where he answers questions including: How relevant is Degree subject for a public affairs career? What skills and characteristics are most important in your job? If you could timetravel back to your final year at University, what career advice would you give yourself?

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