So you want my job? Comms and marketing manager at Selby District Council

PRWeek takes a sidelong look at recruitment in public sector comms. Do you fancy Mike James' job as comms and marketing manager at Selby District Council?

How much do 1.25 million people weigh? Mike James, at Selby District Council, knows
How much do 1.25 million people weigh? Mike James, at Selby District Council, knows

Mike James

Communications and marketing manager, Selby District Council

Starting salary/salary band for the job?

What qualifications do you need?
I have a degree in the History of Art and I can tell you that my understanding of 17th Century Dutch painting is invaluable to my current role… although on a (slightly) serious note, that was all about how people and organisations communicated visually and how this affected people's perception of them. My point is that you can develop your skills in all sorts of ways. I also trained and worked as a broadcast journalist and it's generally accepted that some sort of formal degree of postgraduate qualification is a requirement.

What level of experience do you need?
You need to keep on top of professional development – and show it. Public sector comms brings together public affairs, stakeholder management, traditional marketing and corporate communication skills – it's a real mixed bag. Experience of these things is a must, but you can get this experience in many different ways. What's even more important is a willingness to learn and continually change and improve how you do things. Comms is an endlessly changing environment, and you need to be able to turn your hand to video production, sharp copywriting and dealing with crisis communications… sometimes all in the same afternoon.

Is previous experience in a public sector comms role necessary/useful?
We work in a political environment and it matters that you have an understanding of how this impacts on the job. You need to line up the politicians to act as your advocates, and you need to understand their political positions and priorities and to work within these.

What are the main day-to-day challenges?
Balancing a huge number of different things all at once. You have to multi-task, but – importantly – you need to do this well. It's vital to give yourself dedicated "head space" to make the right decisions – investing in this will help you do a better job overall. Each day bringing new challenges is what makes it fun. I genuinely look forward to Monday mornings... mostly.

What is the best part of the job?
You can make of it what you will – if you prove that you do a good job, make a difference to the organisation and – most importantly – the people it serves – then you’ll be trusted to make the right decisions about what you’re doing, how, when and why. It's up to you to take control of the job to deliver on the big priorities – and if you do this, you’ll be your own boss in many ways.

What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job?
There are loads, but we recently spent 10 minutes in a team meeting working out that 1.25million people weigh roughly 100,000 tonnes. This is based on the average weight of British adults. Don't ask… and please don't try to work it out, in case we got it wrong...

If you get an interview, do say?
"I've got some great ideas." Creativity in this job takes many forms, but it's the best quality to have to deliver great comms in the most effective ways.

If you get an interview, don’t say?
"I'd write a press release." Move with the times. Engagement happens in lots of different ways and we need to tailor our messages to all these different channels. Equally important, however, is that for many people life doesn't revolve around Twitter and Instagram, so it's about finding the right balance based on the needs of your very diverse audiences.

If you're good at this job you might also be well-suited to?
A film director – you need to know how to tell a good story and, increasingly, to do this in film. You need to be able to imagine what the story will look like on and off the screen.

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

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