NFU selects Oliver as its first director of comms

The National Farmers’ Union has recruited Rachel Oliver as its first director of comms to drive through a raft of campaigns aimed at improving the image of the profession.

The creation of her role follows a review of the body’s comms activity last year which found more could be done to promote positive images of farming. It also recommended the previous most senior PRO post, that of head of public affairs – last held by Diane Lamb, who retired in February last year – be scrapped and replaced with a director-level comms role.

Oliver, who takes up the role next month, said: ‘The public needs to be made aware of the real world of farming, which is a positive one. I would also like to see the NFU be much more of a campaigning organisation.'

NFU policy director Martin Haworth said: ‘‘There has been an image of farming being perpetually in crisis, possibly even a basket-case, and an image that farmers are somehow against the environment; nothing could be further from the truth.’

He added that its target audience was UK politicians and the general public. It was felt that the NFU was already successful at promoting a positive image of farming to European opinion-formers.

Oliver leads a central communications team of 12-plus PROs in eight regional offices. She reports to director-general Richard Macdonald.

Oliver’s previous roles have included RNID head of campaigns. She also stood unsuccessfully for the Liberal Democrats at the 1997 and 2001 general elections. Since 2001 she has worked as a freelance comms consultant.

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