So, you want my job? Head of comms and engagement at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service

PRWeek takes a sidelong look at recruitment in public sector comms. Do you fancy Paul Compton's job as head of comms and engagement at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service?

Working on campaigns that save lives is one of the best parts of the job, says Paul Compton
Working on campaigns that save lives is one of the best parts of the job, says Paul Compton

Name: 

Paul Compton.

Job: 

Head of communications and engagement at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service. Leading a team of 10. 

Starting salary/salary band for the job:

About £49,000.

What qualifications do you need? 

Degree or something of equal standing. Although not essential, I also feel that showing continual professional development and having an accreditation from a professional body are hugely important.

What level of experience do you need? 

Ultimately, it’s whether you can show that you can lead a communications function that is keeping up with the pace of change in the public sector and the world around us. The ability to work with and influence leaders in the organisation to be better communicators has never been more important. 

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

I don’t think it’s essential, but it certainly helps to understand the sector. Some good experience in different roles helps. I’ve worked in local government, NHS, third sector and even a couple quangos. The ability to draw from that experience helps with anything that is thrown at you from leftfield (normally at 4.50pm on a Friday).

What are the main day-to-day challenges?

Juggling the vast amount that is going on at any one time: supporting the team, advising senior leaders, developing better ways to communicate, planning campaigns, and dealing with the unplannable. Large incidents are, thankfully, rare, but they do still happen. When they do, the day you planned to have goes completely out of the window. 

What is the best part of the job?

Seeing a piece of work that a team member has worked hard on get a really good reaction. And knowing that our campaigns support people to take actions that could either prevent an incident or one day save their life. 

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

That the full firefighter's kit can weigh about 25kg. That’s a lot to lug around a small hot space. 

If you get an interview, do say…

"I also want to be an on-call firefighter…" We always need more on-call firefighters. Unfortunately, I don’t live five minutes away from a station (and I’m nowhere near fit enough!) 

If you get an interview, don’t say…

"Fireman." It’s an outdated term – we have more female firefighters than ever, and want more. There has also been an interesting debate about whether firefighter is the right term as our crews do so many other things than just fight fires. 

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

Plate spinner!

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


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