News Analysis: A change in direction for the COI

The COI is responsible for more than £15m in PR spend each year. After 62 years of handling the Government's comms, it is conducting a wide-ranging review. Matt Cartmell brings you a guide to who's who in the body.

The framework review announced this week by the COI (News, p7) is the latest major change for the government body responsible for £15m of PR agency business each year.

RELATED CHART: See a chart of the COI's key comms players and departments

The non-ministerial department set up in 1946 to handle the Government's marketing and comms has already this year developed a standalone social networking unit, revised its roster of diversity agencies and launched a recruitment service to fill last-minute gaps in comms teams.

The outcome of the framework review, announced in the autumn, could see some well-established public sector agencies replaced by a more varied team of regional agencies and specialists in healthcare, environment and sport.

Here PRWeek brings you a guide to some of the key players and departments relevant to comms professionals.

Neil Martinson, Director of news and PR
Martinson has responsibility for the organisation's entire news and PR offering. A well-seasoned operator in public sector comms, he joined last October from the top comms role at the Food Standards Agency to spearhead the shake-up. Martinson reports directly to COI chief executive Alan Bishop.

Tracey Cobbett, Head of corporate communications
Cobbett has responsibility for overseeing the press office and internal communications.

Formerly the GNN, the network of eight offices across the UK means the COI can offer its clients local intelligence and long-standing relationships with regional media. The network has 100 staff and each office is led by a news and PR regional director.

EMMA THWAITES, PR client director
A new role set up to provide a full-time point of contact for COI's clients. Thwaites manages COI's major PR campaigns and provides strategic advice. Alero Harrison, currently the Healthcare Commission's head of media, joins Thwaites in mid-summer.

Hughes oversees both in-house and agency PR practitioners, assisting with strategy development, agency recruitment, pitching, evaluation and campaign delivery. She also oversees news and PR, cultural diversity and merchandising.

DAVID GADD, Head of monitoring and content delivery
Gadd manages the News Distribution Service, Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) and MMU Regions Monitoring. Gadd's brief is to provide strategic direction for a 35-strong team, to boost COI's news distribution systems.

JO DIXON, PR consultant
Jo is currently overseeing the renewal of the PR framework established in 2004. Her role is to ensure the 'best of the best' are selected to deliver value-for-money comms to government departments and the public sector. The framework will cover: UK-wide, nations (Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), regions, business and international.

Finch oversees all work procured through COI's PR framework.The agencies on the framework support COI's in-house PR expertise and are targeted at a wide range of audiences. Clients that use COI's framework include government departments, executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies and other publicly funded organisations, and the key topics include health, safety, welfare, skills and recruitment.

Karen Campbell-White, Head of in-house PR
This new role builds on COI's in-house PR offering, which services the RAF's recruitment campaign and the Department for Communities and Local Government's 'Fire kills' campaign, among others.

PATRICIA MACAULEY, Head of cultural diversity
Macauley and her team manage a multi-disciplined cultural diversity framework that includes advertising, PR, outreach/grassroots activity, sponsorship and partnership marketing. The framework includes agencies that specialise in communicating to a wide range of ethnic minorities, faith groups, gypsies and travellers, refugees and asylum seekers, and groups who have recently arrived in the UK.

The team has recently extended its remit to target sub-cultures, such as urban youth, whose lifestyle, fashion and attitudes are a major influence on their behaviour and consumption of media.

SARAH WALSH, Head of merchandising
Walsh and her team help clients extend campaign reach by procuring a range of promotional items. The team has negotiated discounted buying rates with a framework of 25 manufacturers, trade suppliers and wholesalers and advise clients on branding, propriety and licensing.

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