Staffordshire’s combined police and fire comms team appoints head of news

Catherine Foster has been appointed head of news for the combined comms team at Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Catherine Foster has a background in policing and government comms
Catherine Foster has a background in policing and government comms

Foster’s role is to lead and manage the news desk for Staffordshire‘s police and fire services, deliver the comms team’s strategic priorities and head up the response to major incidents, using comms to mitigate risk and maintain public confidence.

She will also advise senior leaders and lead the development of proactive and reactive media comms strategies for the emergency services.

Career path

Foster began her career as a journalist on a local newspaper and was later a health reporter for the Bath Chronicle.

She has worked for Avon and Somerset Police in its corporate comms team and also for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police forces, as corporate comms manager.

During her time across three police forces, Foster led comms on high-profile murder cases, child exploitation investigations, and the launch of the first regional Serious and Organised Crime team.

Foster also has experience in government and political comms.

She worked for the Cabinet Office as a media advisor to former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, as well as for the Department for Education on a campaign for free early years childcare.

During a stint for the Home Office, Foster worked on an international conference to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis and led a campaign to tackle female genital mutilation, with a focus on UK borders.

Joining forces

In 2018, the then-Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, allowed Staffordshire's police and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis to take additional responsibility for the Fire and Rescue Service, with the move expected to save more than £35m over a decade.

While both the fire and police service remain separate entities, with their own budgets and staff, some functions were shared - including the comms team.

The current comms team is comprised of 24 people, working across news and campaigns.

Heather Challinor - formerly Staffordshire Fire and Rescue's head of marketing and comms - took on a similar role for the combined comms team in 2019.

Commenting on her appointment, Foster said: “I am excited to start my new role in what is a really progressive time for policing and police communications, an environment close to my heart and where my public relations career began.

“I am equally excited to be joining a multi-disciplinary communications team supporting the Fire and Rescue Service and I am looking forward to developing new media partnerships to deliver real insight into the services and the fantastic work that often goes unseen.”

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