O'Brien has been brought in by director of strategy and comms Jamie O'Hara, who joined the service in December. She started in her new role on Monday this week, from Network Rail where she was deputy head of media, and replaces Anna MacArthur, who took up a role at NHS England in January.
O'Brien said she was drawn to the LAS position out of a love for the NHS and emergency services. "I knew I wanted my next role to be heading up my own department so this role seemed perfect for me," she said.
Media good relations
At LAS, she will seek to develop the service's relationship with the media, which she believes is already "good" but thinks that there is always more to do, including getting out and meeting key journalists, "seeing what stories they like and what campaigns they are interested in".
It is an approach that she will communicate with the rest of the comms team at LAS: "I’ll be encouraging my team to do the same," she said. "I learned a long time ago that one size does not fit all – for example, the same story works in a totally different way for a tabloid newspaper as it does for a health trade magazine. So we should give the media, our customers, a bespoke service to help them tell our story in the way their audiences want it."
Public sector expertise
O'Brien's CV is replete with senior comms positions in the public sector, including at NHS Blood and Transplant, where she was a media and PR manager, and the Met Police, where she was a senior comms manager.
"I’ve only ever wanted to work for organisations that make a real difference to people’s lives and for me, that’s public sector," she said. "Where else can you work on national behaviour change campaigns that quite literally save people’s lives, or help to solve some of the most serious crimes in the world through public appeals?"
While she waxed lyrical about public sector comms, she was also quick to point out the challenges faced by organisations, notably their having to "do more with less for many years".
"Every single £1 spent counts – as it should – and practitioners have had to become more creative to get more for their money," she said.
"I don’t see this changing any time soon and that’s not necessarily something to fear. It means the colleagues I work alongside in the public sector are among the most slick, professional and agile in the industry and are always looking to do the best they can within relatively modest budgets."
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