Exclusive: Police force picks new comms chief from ranks of veterans' charity

Essex Police has appointed former veterans' charity comms chief Robin Punt as its director of comms.

Comms is about making your organisation's purpose clear, said Robin Punt
Comms is about making your organisation's purpose clear, said Robin Punt

Punt, who was with Help for Heroes for more than six years and previously a broadcast journalist for more than a decade, takes up his new role tomorrow.

He will lead a team of at least 15 people across local campaigns – such as those tackling online stalking or harassment – media relations, internal comms and digital comms.

Commenting on his plans and priorities, Punt said: "In any kind of public service, whether it's soldiers deployed abroad, constables on the beat or fire crews on a shout, it's all about trust and value. During 12 years in BBC and ITV News, most stories I covered as a correspondent or as a senior producer centred on those two issues."

He added that another priority will be assisting the force with a recruitment drive for more officers and special constables, and urged those who were interested in joining the service to contact him at Chelmsford Police headquarters.

Help for Heroes

Punt was at Help for Heroes for more than six years, starting with the charity as its head of communications and rising to become its comms director, leading a team of up to 11 people across public affairs, internal comms, b2b and b2c.

Commenting on his greatest achievement at the charity, Punt said: "I built one of the best-performing small communications teams from scratch, working with budgets far smaller than many others in the charity sector."

He also pioneered a comms strand called 'Championing the Wounded', which gave injured veterans an opportunity to tell their stories.

Punt said his concept was now a top business objective for the charity and that he had helped tell the stories of more than 1,000 wounded veterans.

He added: "That authenticity of experience and the fact that my team and I helped people see the person, not just the uniform, is something I will certainly continue in my new role. It's a simple approach and an honest, straightforward way to communicate bigger issues. It's hard to get out of a BBC way of doing things, particularly when it comes to clear and simple messaging."

I built one of the best-performing small communications teams from scratch, working with budgets far smaller than many others in the charity sector.

Robin Punt, director of communications at Essex Police

Punt said the measure of success for this approach was that help for Heroes had been ranked in the YouGov top 10 charity brands for the past eight years. "Not bad for a small charity from Wiltshire," he added.

The approach to individual stories also tapped into Punt’s evolving sense of what comms is for.

"[People] often imagine that communications is about getting stories on the TV. It's not. It's about setting out your purpose so that it is super-clear and making sure everyone understands it and knows how they can work with you," he said. "I arrived at Help for Heroes in 2013 thinking the former, and soon realised that media relations were only one part of the picture."

Broadcast career

Punt began his career in journalism, starting as a reporter and producer for ITV before moving to BBC News as a reporter and later as a correspondent.

He became production manager for the wider BBC and then moved back into news as a senior producer for Newsnight, where he worked for more than three years.

After leaving the corporation for Help for Heroes, Punt enlisted the help of a former BBC colleague to train more than 40 people at the charity in video journalism techniques using mobile phones which, he said, generated £250,000 in value over the space of two years.

Blurred lines across sectors

Commenting on his move from a charity to the public sector, Punt said: "I didn't really see it as a shift as lines are increasingly blurred across sectors when it comes to high-quality communication."

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