Government Communications Service
A day in the life of a press officer
Blog posted by: Qudrat Khan, Media Officer at Department for International Trade, 28 April 2021.
Each morning at work starts with the ‘cuts’ meeting, named as such because back in the day they ran through actual press cuttings. This is when Press Office and External Affairs run through news pertaining to the department that’s been diligently collated by the duty press officer the previous evening and into the morning.
Qudrat Khan, Media Officer, Department for International Trade
These news items are then emailed out to hundreds (no, really) of people ranging from officials to the Secretary of State (no pressure). Coverage is picked out according to relevance and discussed by the press lead, before each team talks about what they’ve got going on that day.
As a Media Officer, no 2 days are the same (apologies for the cliché). You can be forward planning one minute and then pulled onto a last-minute Secretary of State announcement that requires you to work with the digital team, policy officials, external affairs, strategic communications, Special Advisers, No. 10… you get the picture. To that end, it’s really important to be flexible and resilient as Press Office priorities are ever-changing.
In my role, I support a minister on their proactive and reactive communications in their capacity as the Minister for Exports. This can range from drafting social media content to briefing them ahead of interviews with journalists.
It’s very different from my previous role in policy at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), but there are plenty of transferable skills. For example, working with different stakeholders and managing their expectations, plus reading and condensing vast quantities of information.
I thoroughly enjoy what I do – the announcements I work on provide support to businesses all over the UK to start their exporting journey and put them on the global trading map.
I’ve recently finished working on a series of announcements relating to food and drink, linking in to the retail and consumer goods sectors. I’ve been working closely with officials to draft press releases, have briefed the minister and relevant journalists, and have fed into an evaluation document to highlight the successes of the announcements.
I’d say that a good press office is the sum of its department’s parts. We promote the good work that goes on in our area of Whitehall, from large-scale announcements to technical GOV.UK publications. In order to do this effectively, it’s imperative we create and maintain strong working relationships with policy, Private Office, the analysts, the economists (you get the gist) because, after all, their work is our work.
I also take advantage of the GCS’s wide learning and development offer. It was in fact instrumental in my first year in government communications. From the ‘intro to communications’ to the ‘online crisis response’ course, I have been able to gain a wider understanding on the importance of the work we do, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which I use daily in my work.
For anyone interested in life in the press office, I’d recommend either undertaking a secondment there in your own department (I went to BEIS’ press office for a week and that’s where it all began…) or emailing a Media or Press Officer to pick their brains about the work they do. You certainly won’t be bored, that’s for sure!
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