Portland nabs Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Jimmy Leach

Portland has poached the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's head of digital diplomacy in a bid to boost its online corporate reputation expertise.

Jimmy Leach: ran the FCO’s 250-site web platform
Jimmy Leach: ran the FCO’s 250-site web platform

Jimmy Leach has been at the FCO since 2009, where he has been running the department’s global 40-language, 250-site web platform. He will join the agency in early February.

He will report to Mark Flanagan, who ran digital comms at Downing Street under Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Flanagan explained that the appointment had been made to specifically target international corporates looking for digital expertise.

‘The FCO is held up as the benchmark of how to do digital comms,’ said Flanagan. ‘Jimmy will focus on some UK clients but the focus is international.

‘In a way, his experience is quite similar to mine, but he has had a lot more direct experience in recent years of campaigns that work across borders. It’s the right experience to expand our offer.’

Flanagan added that the appointment would support the agency’s aim to become a leader in the field of online corporate reputation. ‘Corporate reputation is driven online,’ he said. ‘That’s where people recognise that their reputation is being shaped. That’s our killer app.’

Flanagan added that further appointments would soon be made to the digital team.

As well as developing the FCO website, Leach was also responsible for growing its social media presence, including overseeing a network of blogging ministers and ambassadors around the world.

His previous roles have included head of digital comms for prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, director of digital for Freud Communications and a variety of web-based jobs at The Guardian. Leach has also worked as editorial director for digital at The Independent.

Leach will combine his new post at Portland with a role at Gems Education, a Dubai-based company, as director of digital engagement, where he will be working on building new platforms and content strategies.
Leach said he was ‘excited about the challenges ahead, working with a tremendous roster of clients’.

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