Government comms veteran reinforces NHS Test and Trace

Marina Pirotta, dubbed the ‘godmother of local government PR’, has been appointed to the interim role of deputy director, external affairs at NHS Test and Trace.

Marina Pirotta, deputy director, external affairs, NHS Test and Trace

Since starting out as a press officer at Islington Council in 1994, Pirotta has built up a reputation as an expert in public sector comms with a series of senior in-house and agency roles.


Pirotta is one of a number of people brought in to strengthen comms around the controversial programme in recent months.

NHS Test and Trace has been repeatedly dogged by mistakes, delays and failings, and  controversy over the appointment of Baroness Dido Harding, the former head of Talk Talk, to head up the programme. 

A leaked presentation that emerged last month revealed how Test and Trace bosses plan to “reset our relationship with local authorities” and “rebuild public trust” in what they call the “path to Christmas".

Other reinforcements

In June, Alex Green-Wilkes, former head of comms at the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, was appointed deputy director for testing comms; and Mark Harrop, head of comms at the GCS Flex Team based in the Cabinet Office, was brought in as head of business engagement (external affairs).

Victoria O’Byrne, former director of comms at the Lawn Tennis Association, was appointed interim director of comms at NHS Test and Trace in September. That same month Emma Reynolds, comms director at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, was seconded in a strategic comms role, and Naomi Raymond, former global marketing and comms director at L3Harris Commercial Aviation, became deputy director, customer engagement and comms. 

In October Alex Bigham, a consultant with Deloitte, began an external affairs secondment at NHS Test and Trace, while Constance Tombleson, an ex-press officer at the Cabinet Office, was appointed external affairs manager.

Return to government PR

Pirotta started out as a journalist but she left to work in the press office of Islington Council. Spells as head of comms at councils in Newham and Hackney swiftly followed and she later joined Brent Council as director of comms, engagement and consultation.

Less than two years later she set up her own consultancy specialising in public sector comms, which was bought by the Tribal Group for £2.75m in 2003 and subsequently merged with Tribal agencies Geronimo PR and Atlas Media Group to form Geronimo Communications. Pirotta stayed on until stepping down as a board director at Geronimo in 2006. 

Since then, Pirotta has held a series of senior interim comms roles at organisations such as the Audit Commission, the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, and Westminster City Council. She also had a five-year stint running a recruitment agency specialising in comms staff for the public sector.

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