Name: Simon Wakeman
Job title: Head of Communications, Marketing and Transformation
Employer: Medway Council
Find Simon on Twitter @SimonWakeman.
How did I get started in PR?
I started my career in retail marketing as a graduate trainee with Boots. Over time I moved into digital marketing and then broadened my skills to work in public relations as well. There's always a tension between the two disciplines but I see them as complementary to each other. The CIPR Diploma was an important part of giving me a good grounding in the theory of public relations alongside the practical experience I was gaining on the job.
What do I do?
I lead a team of around 20 people who deliver the council's communications, marketing, web and creative services. They do everything from liaising with journalists, planning marketing campaigns, updating our websites through to procuring print materials and producing digital creative.
The team's work is driven by our communications and marketing strategy – this aligns the team's work with the council's strategic goals and helps us focus on the things that make the greatest difference to the council's reputation. A unitary council is a complex organisation with more than 110 different services, so being able to focus on the right activities and prioritise accordingly is important.
More recently I have taken on responsibility for managing the council's business transformation programme as well. This is a group of major projects that is radically improving how the council works, delivering major financial savings as well as improving the experiences we give to our customers. It involves major organisational change combined with implementing a number of new technology systems at the same time.
What motivates me about my job?
I enjoy the complexity of the challenge of managing reputation in the local government environment. You can plan as much as you want, but there will always be something that comes along that takes you by surprise and demands an instinctive judgement about how to handle a particular issue to protect reputation as effectively as possible.
What skills do I need to do my job?
The basic technical skills of public relations and marketing are an important grounding in doing the job. Having taken on the management of the council's transformation programme I have learnt that while the similarities with communications and marketing aren't immediately obvious, relationship management is a really important transferable skill that public relations practitioners have and is vital for successful programme management.
What did I gain from my CIPR qualification?
For me being competent in any profession is about having a good theoretical understanding of the subject along with varied and extensive practical experience. The CIPR Diploma was how I gained that theoretical understanding and gave me a nationally recognised qualification on my CV.
Where do I go next?
It'll be really interesting to see where I end up next. I'm really focussed on continuing to develop my transferable skills in communications, marketing and management and would like to take on a broader role outside local government but who knows? What's important to me is that I continue to enjoy my work and develop my skills - wherever that may take me.
What advice do I have for someone considering a career in PR?
Immerse yourself in the business, develop strong digital skills, make sure you understand the theory of what's going on and take opportunities whenever they come up - you never know where things might lead.