So, you want my job? Senior press officer, National Audit Office

PRWeek takes a sidelong look at recruitment in public sector comms. Do you fancy Stephen Luxford's job as senior Press Officer for the National Audit Office.

Don't ask what part of the civil service the National Audit Office belongs to, warns Stephen Luxford
Don't ask what part of the civil service the National Audit Office belongs to, warns Stephen Luxford

Stephen Luxford

Senior press pfficer, National Audit Office (NAO)

Starting salary/salary band for the job?
From £39,000

What qualifications do you need?
A good degree but no specific qualifications. Strong communication and literary skills are a must, together with an ability to digest often complex information at speed. It is also useful to have a good understanding of the public sector and of the political environment in which the NAO operates. It is important to have a sound knowledge of the workings of Parliament, in particular how the accountability process operates - as a Parliamentary body we work closely with MPs from all sides, as well as Select Committees.

What level of experience do you need?
Prior experience of working in the press and media relations world is a must and, of course, expertise in social media. Given the NAO’s vast remit you need to able to forge good working relationships with journalists across the spectrum, from well-known national TV and radio correspondents to specialists working for trade journals.

Is previous experience in a public sector comms role necessary/useful?
Clearly it’s very useful to have a good understanding about all aspects of the public sector – central and local government, but also the health service. We have a range of experiences in our press team covering the public, voluntary and private sectors, and also journalism.

What are the main day-to-day challenges?
The NAO scrutinises public spending for Parliament to help the Government in its drive to improve public services, nationally and locally, so our primary focus is on publishing close to 90 reports a year for Parliament while the House is sitting. Not easy when sudden General Elections are called, requiring a rapid rewrite of our publication schedules.

Underpinning every report is an integrated communication strategy targeting both traditional and social media audiences to increase and deepen the impact of our work. In addition, we also receive a large volume of inquiries relating either to our vast back catalogue of work, for example high-profile topics such as HS2 and Universal Credit or ad hoc requests where we look at new issues where aspects of spending are questioned. So the day never turns out the way you expect.

What is the best part of the job?
The sheer variety. We look at everything central government does: from nuclear power to teacher recruitment; from tackling homelessness to Brexit. Our reports also make a real impact. A recent report on the NHS cyber attack was covered around the world. And while our work saves many hundreds of millions of pounds each year, they also lead to important non-financial changes. For example, the Economist cited a NAO report that led to the restructuring of NHS trauma care as one of the reasons why so many victims survived the terrible UK terrorist incidents earlier this year.

What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job?
We once got approached by a venue thinking we represented Nao, the R&B singer, but sorry I can’t disclose the fee we were offered!

If you get an interview, do say?
I am interested in helping the nation spend wisely. We are an independent Parliamentary body that exists to help Parliament hold government to account.

If you get an interview, don’t say?
So what part of the civil service are you?

If you’re good at this job you might also be well-suited to?
Anything. Because of the work we do and the range of journalists you will come into contact with, it equips you with the skills and experience to work across the public and private sectors.

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

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