Senior communications manager at the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Starting salary/salary band for the job?
£33,128 (national salary) or £36,050 (London-based).
What qualifications do you need?
It’s a good idea to have qualifications in one or more communications disciplines, from bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) or National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). Everyone who joins the Food Standards Agency Communications team would be expected to join the Government Communications Service (GCS).
What level of experience do you need?
You need communication skills across a variety of disciplines and need to have managed projects. Being proficient in digital communications is just as important as being effective at media relations and campaigning.
Is previous experience in a public sector comms role necessary/useful?
It isn’t essential to have public sector experience, as the skills you would pick up in a private sector communications role or an agency are all transferable. However, it is useful to be familiar with the best practice guidance that is available. So, if you find yourself working in communications for a central government department, agency or arms-length body, my advice would be to sign up to the GCS and book yourself on some of the training modules that are available when you start.
What are the main day-to-day challenges?
My role is split between dealing with reactive enquiries from journalists and our social-media channels, alongside doing proactive campaign work and selling in stories – it can be tricky to strike a balance. There are days when it would be useful to focus on planned projects, but a food-related issue hits the headlines and instead we are inundated with answering reactive enquiries. However, the rest of the team are supportive and if someone is particularly under pressure we try to help each other out.
What is the best part of the job?
It’s really varied. One day I can be in a meat market overseeing filming for a marketing campaign and the next I can be putting together media lines for national newspapers. It is always a buzz seeing our stories make the headlines. Being in the communications team also allows me to find out about the diverse work that goes on in the agency, from our wine inspectors preventing fake prosecco from getting onto shop shelves, to our novel food team bringing edible insects to market. The FSA also supports flexible working, so sometimes you can work from home – which helps everyone to have a healthy work-life balance.
What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job?
It’s hard to choose, because we get asked a lot of very random questions, but one journalist asked if his guide pony could go in restaurants (he has opted to get one, which is currently in training, because he had a phobia of dogs). There is nothing in food safety or food hygiene legislation preventing customers taking assistance animals (including miniature horses) into the front-of-house areas of catering establishments. So if you're out for dinner, look out for Digby – the UK’s first guide horse.
If you get an interview, do say…
Talk about any work you’ve done that shows your breadth of experience. They are looking for people who can plan, implement, manage and evaluate a multichannel communications project from start to finish.
If you get an interview, don’t say…
"I want this job so I can get free food." Sadly, this is not part of the role.
If you’re good at this job you might also be well-suited to…
This job provides a really varied experience that I think would be beneficial to most PR and marketing roles.
Please note: Interviewees for 'So, you want my job' are not leaving their current role
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