Head of research communications, House of Commons Library.
Starting salary/salary band for the job?
Starting salary £50,870.
What qualifications do you need?
You don’t need any formal qualifications, but it requires lots of reading and analysing research, a fair bit of writing and a decent grasp of current affairs.
What level of experience do you need?
I’m responsible for the strategic direction of the Library’s communications, so experience devising and delivering communications strategies is necessary. Experience leading and evaluating campaigns and launching new products would be an advantage, too. People management experience is important for this role – we’re a team of five, so recruiting and managing people is a big part of the job. Luckily for me they are a fantastic team, so it’s one of my favourite bits of the job too.
Is previous experience in a public-sector comms role necessary/useful?
Not necessary, but it would be useful – particularly experience working somewhere that communicates about contentious topics in a politically neutral way. Maintaining our reputation for impartiality is a really important part of the job, so it can be challenging if you’re used to working in a campaigning environment or framing your key messages around a political point.
What are the main day-to-day challenges?
Keeping on top of what’s happening in Parliament and politics. We take calls from journalists asking for background on niche points of procedure, so it’s helpful to have some idea of what they’re talking about!
It can be a difficult balancing act trying to proactively get coverage for our research while not taking a side. My nightmare would be to wake up to a Sunday splash ‘House of Commons Library reveals…’ – I want our research to highlight and explain issues, but not to be used to score political points. That’s not what we’re for.
There can be a perception that working to get external coverage of our research is at odds with the job we do informing MPs and their staff, but I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive. MPs follow the news, use social media and listen to podcasts, so everything we do externally is for them too.
As well as media relations, our team oversees internal comms for the department, edits our Insight briefings, manages social media and marketing, and also leads on the development of new products like our podcast. So just keeping on top of it all can be tricky.
What is the best part of the job?
A team of specialist researchers, librarians, indexers, economists, lawyers and statisticians work here, so if there’s ever anything happening in the world that I don’t understand I can read one of our briefings or even pop to someone’s desk and ask. I have never been so well-informed! I really like that part of my remit is to look for ways to innovate and improve on how we communicate our research – we make videos, animations, podcasts, short 'explainers'… there’s always a new thing to learn about. Hot-desking in the Members’ Library is a great perk.
What is the most unusual fact you know as a result of this job?
As well as publishing research, we also have 228,000 books, pamphlets, official publications, newspapers and periodicals in our collection, which adds up to around 8,000m of stock.
If you get an interview, do say…
I think access to research, analysis and factual information is essential for a strong, effective democracy.
If you get an interview, don’t say…
Have you thought about sexing up the titles of your briefings a bit? Maybe like ’10 things you won’t believe about Brexit!!’?
If you’re good at this job you might also be well-suited to…
Working in news media or anywhere you have to quickly get to grips with a new issue and communicate about it accurately. Or anything requiring lots of tact and diplomacy!
Please note: Interviewees for 'So, you want my job' are not leaving their current role
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