So, you want my job? Comms Officer (Media), The Academy of Medical Sciences

PRWeek takes a sidelong look at recruitment in public sector comms. Do you fancy Naomi Clarke's job as communications officer for The Academy of Medical Sciences?

Naomi Clarke knows what makes academics tick and she can get them to go on Newsnight (pic credit: Academy of Medical Sciences BigT Images)
Naomi Clarke knows what makes academics tick and she can get them to go on Newsnight (pic credit: Academy of Medical Sciences BigT Images)

Name:

Naomi Clarke.

Job: 

Communications Officer (Media), The Academy of Medical Sciences.

Starting salary/salary band for the job? 

£28,000-£32,000. 

What qualifications do you need?

A good degree, ideally a science one, and a media-savvy mind. Lots of people say that you should get a Masters in Communications, but I managed to get around that by doing various internships and work placements (hard graft, but it paid off!) and having some amazing and patient mentors. 

What level of experience do you need?

It’s been really useful to understand the mindset of both scientists and journalists – and trust me, they can be very different. I used to be a researcher in an evolutionary biology lab, so I know what makes academics tick, and my family almost all work in the media, so I’ve been absorbing 'hack psychology' my entire life, without knowing it would come in useful. It’s like I’ve infiltrated the family business without them realising.

Is previous experience in a public sector comms role necessary/useful?

Previous experience is always going to be useful! But it can be also be really helpful to come into an officer-level role a bit green, so you can look at things in a new way to the colleagues who have 'gone native', to use office-speak. One of the most important parts of my job is being OK asking questions of people that might appear to have obvious answers – that is, until you ask them.

What are the main day-to-day challenges?

Persuading people to read beyond the top line and look at the rest of the article. This is really important and can be a real challenge. I’ve lost count of the times researchers have said 'Oh, what have they done…' at the headline, ignoring the fact that they got all their key messages across in the body of the article. My job isn’t just about getting scientists to comment once, I want to support them to go back and talk to a journalist a second and third time – so having time to debrief the coverage together is really important.

What is the best part of the job?

Undoubtedly one of the best parts of my job is getting to promote our amazing Fellows and grant awardees. I am particularly proud to promote the inspirational women experts as they are often less likely to have a visible role in the media. I am a proud feminist and helping more women to get the confidence to communicate their science to the media and public, becoming role models for young people, will never stop giving me joy. 

What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job? 

Not really a fact as such, but it always shocks me that you can be top of your game in the science field – a well-respected and eminent professor – yet have no self-confidence when it comes to working with the media. Oh, and that the BBC has used our building for W1A filming. 

If you get an interview, do say…

Everything honestly. If you don’t know the answer to something, or don’t understand the question, just say. They should massively respect you for doing so and it’s much better than getting caught up in a convoluted answer. You’re applying for a communications role, so above all else you must make your point clearly. 

If you get an interview, don’t say…

"What’s the Today programme?" 

If you’re good at this job you might also be well-suited to…

Writing, events management, digital content development, moving into the other side of the media – it’s a great role to gain skills in all types of communication. After persuading and coaching someone to go live on Newsnight last-minute and watching them ace the interview, you feel like you can pretty much do anything.

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


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