Scottish Government appoints new comms chief for joined-up public sector communications across Scotland

The Scottish Government has appointed John Booth as its head of comms, with a mission to strengthen evaluation and join up public sector comms across the country.

New head of comms John Booth has worked for the Scottish Government for nearly twenty years
New head of comms John Booth has worked for the Scottish Government for nearly twenty years

The wide-ranging role will see Booth assume overall responsibility for the Scottish Government’s news, digital comms, corporate comms and internal comms, as well as its strategy and insight unit and its marketing team.

Booth leads a team of 120 people and has a campaign budget of £7m.

He began working for the Scottish Government as a trainee press officer in 1997 and gradually worked his way upwards through the ranks, including stints in internal comms and marketing.

Booth also spent time setting up the comms team for the new Food Standards Agency Scotland in the early noughties.

He became head of marketing and corporate comms at the Scottish Government in 2013 and then, following a restructure, became acting head of comms before being appointed to the role on a permanent basis.

Last week, the Scottish Government’s published its ‘Programme for Government’, which includes plans for the country to grow a high-tech, low-carbon economy.

Booth said his priority would be to use the channels and skills at his disposal in the comms team to deliver the programme and that the Scottish Government would set out how it would do this in its annual Communications Plan next month.

The new head of comms, who reports to director of comms Barbara Allison, said there were two areas of Government communications he would like to strengthen.

Booth said: "We evaluate some areas of our work, such as our marketing campaigns, to within an inch of their lives and I’d like to inject greater rigour into the measurement of other areas of our work, such as media relations and internal comms, to demonstrate both the impact and value of what we do."

He added: "The other area where I see potential for improvement is our approach to public sector communications across Scotland; joining up our work so that we deliver greater impact and reduce duplication. We are in the early stages of some exciting work with Visit Scotland and Scottish Enterprise to collectively promote Scotland overseas as a great place to live, work, study, invest and visit, which has massive potential to have a significant impact on the Scottish economy."

As for its strengths, Booth said he thought the Scottish Government delivers "first class" comms in a pressurised environment, thanks to having "one of the most talented communications teams working in the UK public sector".

He added: "Our focus on putting the audience at the heart of our work is transforming the way we work. We used to design comms around the way the organisation was structured – for example, ministerial portfolios and policy directorates – but that’s not how our target audiences view the world, nor how they interact with government. Insight is playing an increased role in all our work, enabling us to put ourselves in the shoes of our audiences and engage with them in a more meaningful way."

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