I’ve worked in communications roles since 2001. I now focus on two areas in particular: European politics, and science communication.
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UK-wide social science research group | Major British universities | Medical school
The task of adapting academic material for general audiences has become pretty much second nature. The University of York has engaged me several times as a freelancer to write and edit a series of magazines about their research, mostly in the hard and social sciences.
Meanwhile, I have a strong academic background myself, so I’m equally confident communicating with other academics on their own terms. My initial training was in the humanities, but my PhD is from a British medical school, and I led on communications for an EPSRC-funded consortium working in the social sciences.
I’ve generally worked in relatively small organisations. This means that responsibility for strategic planning has always gone hand-in-hand with the more tactical aspects of communications activities. I led in this area for six years in the University of York’s medical school, planning and re-planning communications activities to meet the radically changing needs of the organisation as it grew from a small start-up project to a mature institution — especially in developing online communications.
My first task after starting my contract with an EPSRC-funded research consortium in 2009 was to write a complete communications plan, both internal and external, for the project. Although I completed this quickly, the challenge was, again, to keep it under review as the consortium grew and its objectives developed.
Training & lecturing
When working for a collaborative research project in the UK, one of my responsibilities was to train early-stage social science researchers in communications activities, both traditional and new media. As well as providing written training materials, I also put on a series of seminars, plenary lectures and workshops at the Universities of Cambridge, Reading, Sheffield and Loughborough.
At the University of York, I taught a successful short course in media studies and media ethics for medical students. The course was elective, but it ran every term and gradually became over-subscribed.
In 2011, I co-led a knowledge exchange project called ‘Left to our own devices’. The aim was to challenge stereotypes, particularly among policy-makers, about the relationship between older people and technology. The first stage of the project was to run a photography competition on this theme, in partnership with a national charity. We then put together an exhibition using winning images which toured Westminster, UK regional parliaments and assemblies, and EU institutions in Brussels.
Working as part of a small team, my responsibility was the communications element. At each stage, I identified key audiences and focused communications accordingly: photography magazines, websites and local groups for the contest; local and national print media for the winning images; politicians, policy-makers and political correspondents in each parliament for the touring exhibition. I also commissioned printed materials to support each stage of the process.
The result was a highly successful knowledge exchange programme which finished in 2013 with our team of researchers being invited back to Westminster to discuss the issues it raised.
EU referendum campaign | UK Labour party | Richard Corbett MEP | Party of European Socialists
I was communications consultant to the EU referendum campaign in the UK, working for the Labour party and reporting directly to the head of the campaign, former home secretary Alan Johnson MP. I advised on communications issues, wrote briefings and media articles, and wrote speeches for campaign events.
I conceived and created a phone app, Doorstep EU, in the early days of the EU referendum campaign. Originally intended for doorstep campaigners, it provided daily in-depth analysis of the main EU-related stories in the British media. By the final weeks of the campaign it had over 20,000 users — including, I later learned, the majority of Labour MPs, plus many BBC journalists, MEPs and activists. It is still available today, though I no longer manage it.Online
I designed and managed a large, comprehensive website for a leading politician, including extensive campaign and policy materials, a widely-read blog, audiovisual resources, and an archive of political activities. An early version of this site was nominated for a New Statesman New Media award in 2005, and the blog was listed as one of Europe’s top ten political blogs by the Wall Street Journal in 2006. Its more recent incarnation (which I designed in 2014 and managed until 2017) remains one of the most comprehensive websites of any British politician.
I have over fifteen years’ experience of copywriting for websites, both political and otherwise, including the UK Labour party, several politicians, political blogs, charities and third sector organisations.Writing
A significant part of my current role with the Party of European Socialists is writing and editing articles for political leaders, up to and including prime ministers of European countries. In advance of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the EU in 2017, I wrote several media pieces to be signed by progressive heads of state and government and published in national newspapers across Europe.
In the UK
Over the course of seven years working for a prominent British Member of the European Parliament, my writing was published in pretty much every British national newspaper and on a wide variety of political websites. I also managed, and wrote most content for, an award-winning political blog. In 2004, during the European election campaign, I wrote three columns for the Guardian newspaper. In 2005, I wrote a short series of pieces for New Statesman magazine (this time, unusually, in my own name!).Research
There is a substantial overlap between issue-based communications and issue research. Through having the good fortune to work for one of Britain’s foremost experts on the EU, I’ve gradually acquired a pretty solid understanding of both how Europe works and how to combat misconceptions about it. This makes me occasionally an annoying person to have at dinner parties but a useful person to hire if you want briefings in specific areas of EU policy, institutional setup or public perceptions.
Having moved to Brussels in late 2016, I am now adding an international perspective to my previously UK-focused expertise.Media relations
Interacting with journalists has always been a significant part of my work, and since moving to the Party of European Socialists it’s now one of the biggest elements. I have a good network of British political journalists and am developing an equivalent network in the Brussels bubble.
In 2007, I ran the press office at the UK’s National Railway Museum, managing a team of staff in a busy media-facing environment. In that year, media exposure topped a record £4m of PR value, with extended coverage on national TV, front-page news in national broadsheets, and a full-length documentary for UKTV History.