Defra revamps comms to hire press chief for Beckett

Environment minister Margaret Beckett is to get a new press secretary as part of a radical comms shake-up at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Defra director of communications Lucian Hudson told PRWeek that the department is looking for someone to fill a new position giving PR support to the Secretary of State. Beckett’s press secretary will be appointed in the ‘coming months’ and will take over duties currently covered by Hudson and Defra head of news Martin Smyth.

‘We decided we should have someone to give the minister dedicated PR support,’ Hudson said.

Defra is also looking for a strategic communications professional to work in its food and farming division,

following the appointment of strategic communications advisers for the department’s two other divisions, environment and rural affairs.

Former deputy head of marketing at the Department of Work and Pensions Mark Tollitt has already joined Defra as head of marketing and strategic communications adviser (environment), while HM Customs and Excise deputy head of communications Jill Stevens is the department’s strategic comms adviser (rural affairs).

Hudson said the three strategic comms advisers would advise on non-press office PR and how best to allocate the PR resources at Defra’s disposal. He said this would include the appointment of external PR advisers for specific campaigns.

The appointments follow a decision earlier this year to hire senior comms advisers to develop PR strategies in six areas (PRWeek, 9 May).

Defra has also appointed freelance internal comms consultant Claire Stanton as head of internal communications. Stanton has been working for the department since last year to improve overall communication of Defra policy to the department’s staff.

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