The role has been taken by Susan Fox, who joins from the Environment Agency, and has been created as a result of an organisational review as the body gears up for the Freedom of Information Act, which comes into force in January.
The act will increase access to information held by public authorities. The review found that the body’s structure needed to have a greater emphasis on PR to communicate the changes to authorities and the public.
The ICO was set up in 2000, taking over from the Data Protection Registry. The previous most senior communications role – director of marketing – has been scrapped. This was last held by Helen Corkery, who resigned earlier this year.
Fox heads a ten-strong team and works alongside retained PR agency Citigate Communications. She takes a place on ICO’s management board and reports to information commissioner Richard Thomas.
Her remit covers reputation management, stakeholder relations, internal communications and external research.
Fox confirmed that her priority will be to raise awareness of the new responsibilities of public bodies under the act.
At the Environment Agency, Fox was North-West corporate affairs manager, where she also had responsibility for internal and external comms.
Earlier this week, constitutional affairs secretary Lord Falconer promised the Government would not charge prohibitive fees for information made available under the act.
In an interview in The Guardian this week, Falconer urged journalists to focus on citizens’ right to information rather than test-cases on the limits of the act.