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Career Summary:

I’m an external relations professional with expertise in public affairs, campaigning, public relations and strategic communications. I have experience in a range of sectors including corporate, agency, charity and professional body/trade union. I have worked on consumer, FMCG and business-to-business issues but specialise in healthcare.

Academic/Professional Qualifications:

BA (Hons) Public Relations, Bournemouth University, 2001

How did you get into public affairs?

By accident. After university I got a job as an account executive at a PR agency expecting most of my work to be media relations but one of the accounts I was assigned to had a public affairs programme which I really enjoyed delivering. When the time came to move on, I decided to look for a public affairs role.

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

It’s really hard to say, every day is different. I could be developing a campaign strategy, advising senior colleagues and members on an issue, writing a policy paper, meeting with external stakeholders or politicians, attending an event or conference… All days will involve keeping abreast of the news agenda and what is going on in the four political administrations, meetings with colleagues and a lot of emails!

Your CSP role involves overseeing policy & public affairs across all the Home Nations: what are the differences in public affairs practice? On average, how much of your time is devoted to each?

The biggest difference comes from the different political situations/structures and in particular the different approaches to the health service in each country. The public affairs techniques and tools needed are the same, but they often need to be applied in a different way or focused on a different target audience.

The amount of time I devote to each varies from week to week depending on what is happening. I have an excellent team with experienced public affairs and policy officers based in each of the countries and I spend as much time as possible with each of them.

What process do you follow (with your team) when developing policy?

We make sure that we seek the involvement and expertise of our members and colleagues from across the organisation to make sure we have access to all the necessary information and a range of views. Then we discuss and debate any issues to ensure the end result is a robust policy position.

You’ve worked at a couple of charities over the last decade: how has each differed in their approaches?

The main differences between the two charities I worked for stemmed from their size and the resources available. At the British Lung Foundation I had a UK-wide role covering public affairs, policy and campaigning, and because it was a relatively small organisation, I was able to work across PR, fundraising and volunteering as well. Diabetes UK was a much larger organisation and my role focused on public affairs and campaigning in England. While I worked closely with colleagues in the devolved nations, the media, volunteering and fundraising teams, I wasn’t so actively involved in those areas.

What advice would you give to experienced professionals considering moving into the charity sector for the first time?

Get used to having a very limited budget but don't let it narrow your horizons or limit your plans. Be creative, a small budget can go a long way. Use your resources carefully and sustainably.

Value volunteers, regularly and sincerely thank them for their support and share successes with them. Recognise the integrity/value of non-profit organisations at a time when trust and transparency are high on the agenda.

What are the challenges facing the charity sector in the public affairs industry?

I think there are lots of opportunities for public affairs professionals in the charity sector. Most charities seek to affect social change and are willing to invest in public affairs to do so. Challenges can arise from limited resources and tight budgets, but public affairs activity doesn’t need to be expensive, if you are creative.

Which campaign/issue are you most proud to have been involved in?

There are a number of campaigns that I am really proud of, but probably the most high profile one is the campaign for the ban on smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces. It was a real team effort working with colleagues from a range of different third sector organisations and it has made such a difference to people’s lives and health outcomes.

What value has being a CIPR Accredited Practitioner added to your career?

Being an accredited practitioner means you undertake a significant amount of CPD each year, and that has definitely added value as it means I devote time to learning, networking with colleagues and keeping up to date.

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

I think it is still too far out to say, the Scottish referendum result is not yet known and a lot can happen in 15 months. I don’t think we should completely discount the possibility of the Lib Dems holding the balance of power again though.

Quick-Fire Round  
Which politician, past or present, would you like to be stuck in a lift with? What issue(s) would you raise?

As I work in healthcare, I should probably be taking the stairs… but it would have to be Aneurin Bevan, to ask what he really thinks of the NHS today and whether he would do anything differently if he were still in charge.

LinkedIN or Twitter? They serve different purposes, though I use Twitter more.
Tweet your career-to-date in 140 characters or less

PR, public affairs, communications; healthcare specialist; previously @Unilever @MyriadPR @lunguk @DiabetesUK now @theCSP

What’s your Media diet?

R4 Today programme; a range of email newsletters and briefings; RSS feeds for national newspaper websites; Twitter; BBC News channel.

Favourite Film

My favourite film of the moment is Rush, which just came out on DVD – Brilliant!

Guilty pleasure Not sure it is a ‘guilty’ pleasure, but I am a Formula 1 fan, which tends to surprise people.


Read Donna Castle’s advice for students and recent graduates in the GraduateForward Advice Centre where she answers questions including: You’ve a degree in Public Relations: How relevant is degree subject for a public affairs career? What are the main differences between working in policy and public affairs? How distinct a discipline can each be? How important is being politically active to a career in policy and public affairs?

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