Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
It was pure happenstance. In one of my first jobs after University I sat next to the press office and found myself fascinated by the work they were doing. I took a gamble and a pay cut and started in a junior role in a charity press office and felt like I had come home. I was very lucky. If I had not sat next to the press office I may never have known PR was something I would love.
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
The ability to multi task effectively, take the key points from very long (often dull) documents quickly (I thank my history degree for that particular skill) and a strong understanding that less is more. You also need the ability not to panic, make good judgements quickly, provide sound advice based on experience, and to be clear on what is an issue and what is a crisis. They are very different.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
In my current role the complete lack of control over the agenda can often be a challenge, but that is also a reason for why it can be so varied and enjoyable. Football is a gift that keeps on giving in terms of news stories and one that The FA is always expected to respond to regardless of whether it sits within our remit or not. We work hard at The FA to make sure we still keep proactive and talk about the many positive stories that we oversee – it can often be too easy to lose focus and get side tracked by the issues that affect the game. I have faced a fair few challenges in my career but one of the most fulfilling was having responsibility for the BBC’s marketing and communications for the 2012 London Olympics. Creating a one-organisation look and feel that everyone bought into was very daunting, but an exciting challenge. We had around 70 stakeholder meetings but the feeling of achievement when the games started was huge for everyone in my team.
What one thing would make your working life easier?
No mobile phone.
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
It is integral to most departments as virtually everything relating to The FA plays out in the media.
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
Staying focused and avoid being distracted by outside noise. Collaboration is also key as you have to work very closely with a number of internal and external stakeholder. And ultimately a good understanding of what the media need and how best to work with them is vital – whether that’s working with them on a positive story or managing an reputational issue.
At React & Share, we’re obsessed with helping our clients measure and report their efforts - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to internal stakeholders?
Measurements in communications can often be a challenge, as so much of what we do on a day-to-day basis is subjective. However, we have a very good Insights & Analytics team at The FA and we work with them to gauge sentiment, trust and reputation of the organisation, which helps give us an important understanding of key areas that we can try to positively affect.
Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?
Media and communications is so fast-paced that the next big thing can often be upon you before you know it. The introduction of social media over a decade ago has undoubtably been a game-changer for the media and communications industry, and I still think that some companies and organisations are still trying to understand how to use those platforms well, effectively and authentically. What is the next big thing communications? Who knows, but I’m already looking forward to it.