Head of News and External Affairs (SCS1)

Contract Type
Media & Communications, Public Sector
Expiry Date
The Cabinet Office is seeking an outstanding Head of News to lead its busy Media Team and act as Press Secretary to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (CDL) and Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Job Description

You must be an exceptionally talented communications professional with skills in dealing with the full range of media outlets. This is a unique position which provides exposure to a range of high-profile and sensitive issues, including for example, the government’s coronavirus response, national cyber security, supply chains, veterans’ affairs and government efficiency & reform.

You will occupy a pivotal leadership role in charge of three key teams in the Cabinet Office, primarily the Press Office that delivers a high quality 24/7 media relations operation for eight Ministers in the Cabinet Office, including CDL Steve Barclay, Leader of the House (Jacob Rees-Mogg) and Paymaster General (Michael Ellis). We are also responsible for media relations for Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and the Chief Executive of the Civil Service (Alex Chisholm).

The Head of News will set the Cabinet Office’s media relations strategy, confidently providing robust advice to Ministers and Senior Leaders and executing communications plans to a demonstrably high standard. In addition to the Press Office, the Head of News leads an External Affairs team that organises ministerial visits and engagements, as well as the specialist Rapid Response Unit (RRU) that works across government to identify and counter harmful narratives on social media.

Job description

More About the Unit

The Media Team explains and promotes the work of the Cabinet Office by turning the department’s activity into compelling stories which engage our target audiences and illustrate our purpose and can be used in digital and traditional media.

There are teams of who specialise on generating proactive coverage of key policy areas, as well as a newsdesk team who lead on responding reactively to breaking news. The press office works closely with the department’s campaigns and internal communications teams to provide an integrated communications capability for our Ministers and senior officials. And being part of the centre, we also work flexibly to support the Prime Minister’s communications priorities when needed.

The Cabinet Office has a vital role at the heart of the UK’s government, responsible for the effective running of government and taking the lead in certain critical policy areas. More information about our work can be found here.

If you would like a conversation about this role, email psalexaiken@cabinetoffice.gov.uk

Key Responsibilities

Working with the Director of Communication you will:

• Shape the direction of the Cabinet Office communications strategy and deliver on the media handling aspect of it.
• Provide strong leadership to the press office, external affairs & engagement team and RRU, managing and developing their communications skills to achieve the best performance while building their potential.
• Oversee the day-to-day operations of the press office as they set up and manage media facilities, organise interviews and brief journalists in order to generate and influence coverage of the Cabinet Office.
• Provide media advice to CDL, ministers and senior officials on some of the most sensitive and complex issues at the heart of Government, in your capacity as Head of News and Press Secretary to CDL.
• Understand the Departmental and Ministerial priorities and convey them to your team so they can communicate the key messages clearly, accurately and creatively to media.
• Quality assure the output of the office in developing proactive longer-term handling strategies that deliver high quality media outputs for Ministers.
• Ensure the team are anticipating and spotting breaking news stories and manage them in order to issue swift, robust and appropriate responses at short notice and under pressure.
• Work effectively with communications colleagues in all disciplines across the department, in No.10 and across Whitehall, so that media handling plans are integrated with wider communications strategies.
• Forge strong working relationships with key journalists and build good relations with communicators in key stakeholder organisations to support collaborative working.
• Play a full part in the Cabinet Office Communications senior management team (SMT) to set the direction and contribute to the smooth operation of the whole directorate, not just the teams you lead.


Person Specification

In the selection process applicants will need to be able to show that they have the professional skills, breadth of experience and personal qualities for this post, as well as the leadership skills to succeed at Senior Civil Service level.

You must have the following essential skills and experience:

• Demonstrable success as a first-rate media relations operator, with excellent news sense, spot-on judgement, acute political savvy and first rate writing skills;
• Experience of creating joined-up media strategies and plans that contribute to the delivery of complex organisational objectives.
• A proven track record of working in an environment that is subject to intense media attention and public scrutiny and of providing clear, balanced advice and professional leadership at senior management level;
• Experience of leading and developing high-performing teams, with staff of varying levels of experience, to deliver effective proactive and reactive media relations, including crisis management;
• Evidence of highly developed interpersonal and influencing skills with a demonstrable ability to achieve personal impact in your working relationships, ideally with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders, including journalists, senior civil servants, and ministers; and
• A strategic thinker, you will have the ability to plan and evaluate in the short, medium and long term, alongside the day-to-day demands of a fast-paced news agenda.