Communications professional working in politics by way of consumer PR.
How did you get into PR and government communications? What was your first job and what did you learn most from this role?
I always wanted to get into politics and campaigning, but actually cut my teeth working as part of a consumer PR team, before doing some work in financial services and moving to Whitehouse in 2010.
Mine wasn’t a typical route into the worlds of public affairs and issues communications. But I learnt a lot about what makes a good story, working with journalists and copy writing.
What does your current role entail on a day to day basis?
A large part of my day is spent in contact with clients, advising them on their communications and making sure our work is contributing to their business goals. That might mean writing opinion articles for them, briefing journalists, or supporting public affairs activity. And increasingly my day to day work involves representing Whitehouse externally, speaking on panels on topics such as reputation or crisis.
In your current role at The Whitehouse Consultancy, how is your time split between public affairs and public relations?
The work we do for clients is very much integrated, so I spend as much time advising clients on their public affairs and political engagement as on media relations strategies.
What are the main challenges for public relations in the next five years?
The biggest challenges are going to be demonstrating value, integration with other communications disciplines, measurement and keeping up with technology. The first four go hand-in-hand: clients are extremely savvy, have finite budgets and expect return on investment. As professionals we’re going to have to incorporate elements of public relations, public affairs, social media, digital – but also potentially brand and some marketing knowledge to offer integrated services. And then demonstrate why clients should be employing us rather than other agencies or professionals in an increasingly competitive market.
Would public affairs practitioners do well to integrate more broader marketing and communications practices into their work?
Absolutely. I don’t think you can silo public affairs. It has to be part of a comprehensive communications programme.
In your opinion, how valuable are stakeholder coalitions in making your voice heard within Government?
They’re extremely valuable. Imagine how you behave with friends. One person tells you something, you might accept it or not. Lots of people tell you the same thing, it has credence. And that’s true of coalitions communicating to government. That’s not to say the voice of the individual isn’t valuable. But there are certainly benefits to being part of a collective.
Which campaign/issue are you most proud to have been involved in?
There are two that stand out. The British Gurkha Welfare Society – we pushed for them to get equal pensions after they were granted settlement in the UK. The other one would be JanUary, which is a campaign we’ve created from scratch to encourage healthy living and improve public health.
Does your work involve campaigns at EU level?
Most of my work is UK-based at the moment, although Whitehouse does have an extensive European practice.
In your opinion, what is the best way to evaluate the success of PR and government communications campaigns?
This is a bit intangible, but have you informed the debate and people participating in it. But for the purpose of providing metrics, share of voice.
What’s your prediction for the UK Referendum on EU membership on 23rd June 2016?
We’ll stay in after a close vote. I just hope people take the opportunity to vote. The Whitehouse team have actually created a site that sets out the arguments for and against. Check it out online here.
|Which politician, past or present, would you like to be stuck in a lift with? What issues would you raise?||Abraham Lincoln. I’d like to see how he stuck to his convictions. And would like to see how he’d fare trying to operate the lift.|
|LinkedIN or Twitter?||Twitter. Just.|
|Tweet your career-to-date in 140 characters or less||Political comms professional via an unusual route.|
|What’s your Media diet?||Today Programme, BBC Breakfast, News 24 and all the national newspapers|
|Favourite Film||If pushed, Usual Suspects|
|Guilty pleasure||The amount I’ll happily spend on coffee|