So, you want my job? Head of news at Public Health England

PRWeek takes a sidelong look at recruitment in public sector comms. Do you fancy Peter Morton's job as head of news at Public Health England?

If you get a job interview, you should probably know what 'Stoptober' is already, says Peter Morton
If you get a job interview, you should probably know what 'Stoptober' is already, says Peter Morton

Peter Morton

Head of News, Public Health England

Starting salary/salary band for the job?
Civil Service Grade 6

What qualifications do you need?
Good writing, strong judgement, the ability to lead a team working on the daily news cycle and on longer-term strategy. A degree isn’t essential if you have the right experience and skills.

What level of experience do you need?
I’ve been working in communications, focusing mainly on media, for over ten years. I became fascinated by public health’s ability to change people’s lives when I was a London councillor leading on public health and adult social care.

Is previous experience in a public sector comms role necessary/useful?
We cover a huge range of issues – from tackling health emergencies like Ebola to research on vaccines and improving people’s health. Public health is central to achieving key challenges facing the country. Our work on obesity and smoking will reduce major pressures on the NHS by helping prevent illnesses like diabetes and cancer. So, a thorough knowledge of the health system and how government works helps, but a lot of the skills are similar to agency work. The clients you take a brief from are internal but the skills are the same: honing in on the objective, creativity, and developing coherent campaigns with arresting content.

What are the main day-to-day challenges?
Keeping a good grip on everything. Health is always at the top of the national news agenda and we communicate across almost every channel possible – digital, national print and broadcast, stakeholder, scientific journals. Often breaking news means re-ordering work priorities, getting on top of a topic, making judgements and working with scientists and colleagues to shape the story at short notice.

What is the best part of the job?
Nowhere else has our unique blend of PR combined with serious health topics like removing 20 per cent of sugar from the key foods children eat, radiation safety or controlling the spread of infectious diseases. You are always learning fascinating things, and we have a culture of creativity, taking risks to get a result and supporting our staff.

What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job?
Public Health England measures the neutron radiation dose received by astronauts in space. Down on the ground, 6 million adults don’t do a monthly brisk 10-minute walk. We’re working to change this with our Active 10 app.

If you get an interview, do say?
Good communications will help deliver your core objectives, persuade people to make healthier choices and protect the public during a health emergency.

If you get an interview, don’t say?
What’s Stoptober?

If you’re good at this job you might also be well-suited to?
Pretty much any other communications role, the experience and the skills you gain at Public Health England are so varied they will stand you in good stead.

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

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