So, you want my job? Head of corporate communications, British Transport Police

PRWeek takes a sidelong look at recruitment in public sector comms. Do you want Allison Potter-Drake's job as head of corporate communications, British Transport Police?

Do you want Allison Potter-Drake's job as head of corporate communications, British Transport Police?
Do you want Allison Potter-Drake's job as head of corporate communications, British Transport Police?

Name:
Allison Potter-Drake

Job:
Head of corporate communications, British Transport Police (BTP)

Starting salary/salary band for the job?
You certainly don't join the public sector to get rich, but I don’t think a starting salary of £64,407.45 moving up to £76,740.80 is that bad, particularly when you add on London weighting

What qualifications do you need?
A degree is a must, even better is a postgraduate degree. But academic qualifications are only an indication that you have the brain capacity to quickly understand and decipher often extremely complex issues and concepts. What's just as important is common sense, excellent judgement and the ability to make sound informed decisions. Obvious, I know, but you’d be surprised how many leaders you come across that are lacking in those qualities.

What level of experience do you need?
I'd say in the region of ten years or more. Experience is vital in any leadership role. As a head of department and the most senior person in an organisation in a specialist field, everyone in the organisation turns to you for your expert advice, from the new starter to the secretary of state, chair or chief executive – or in my case the chief constable. "Phoning a friend" is rarely an option.

Is previous experience in a public sector comms role necessary/useful?
I wouldn't say it's vital but it is useful. Having an understanding of the processes, protocols, how decisions are made and what the obstacles are likely to be, is going to give you an advantage. Some organisations specifically look for people who have never had public sector experience, believing they bring fresh, innovative ideas and a new way of thinking. Or perhaps they are looking for a particular specialism, such as a journalist or news editor who will be an excellent senior adviser if handling the media is a major priority. However, you often find people who come from other sectors can lack experience of managing people or budgets which creates its own problems.

What are the main day-to-day challenges?
When you are working with a team that has the reputation of being highly professional and creative and who will always go that extra mile and make the impossible happen, ensuring they have a good work life balance can be difficult. So balancing workloads with resources and saying no to influential clients in a way that doesn't appear unhelpful or obstructive is almost a daily challenge. Protecting the team from the pressures and frustrations that come with being a head of department is another challenge, as this can affect their passion, enthusiasm and innovation.

What is the best part of the job?
Sharing in the success of the team when they've done an incredible job, gives me an intense sense of pride. And we're incredibly lucky to be producing communications that we know directly and positively effects people's lives.

What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job?
I'd never heard of "upskirting", which is the term used to describe taking photographs up the skirt of an unsuspecting woman. I didn't realise the police would treat it seriously as a sexual offence – in fact I didn't even know it was something that people did.

If you get an interview, do say?
Don't let them assume age and experience means being stuck in your ways and closed to new ideas and concepts. Rather show them it also means you recognise talent and creativity and know how to motivate and get the best out of others.

If you get an interview, don’t say?
Don't give the impression you know everything. We all learn from our mistakes and the day I stop learning is the day I'll throw in the towel.

If you’re good at this job you might also be well-suited to?
Well, many years ago I use to be an advanced motorcycle instructor and occasionally took part in track racing. The qualities and skills I needed then weren't dissimilar to those I need now: the ability to teach others new skills, getting the best from people, working at high speed, making quick decisions, keeping my head in challenging environments, a willingness to take calculated risks and being competitive.

Please note: Interviewees for 'So, you want my job' are not leaving their current role.


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