Why the public sector? My Comms Journey

In a new blog post on Comms Women, Carrie Braithwaite, Communications Executive at Leeds Beckett University writes about her love of public sector comms

I always wanted to work in the public sector. Perhaps not always – there were those times I wanted to be a nurse, a florist, the next Columbo, and a Kerrang! Journalist – but, by the time it came to actually finding myself a job, I was sure I wanted it to be in public sector communications.

Having the opportunity to do work placements as part of my English and Media degree at Leeds Trinity opened my eyes to a range of careers I’d never considered before. And a chance placement in the marketing team for an IT software company showed me that journalism wasn’t the only career path involving the things I was interested in – writing, researching, and meeting people.

And I’d gone off Kerrang!

In those days (the early 2000s), there was a lot of focus on having ‘at least a year’s experience’ for getting a job in communications and marketing. This was causing me problems. But I was determined – and had a plan. I decided I wanted to work at a university. I wanted to promote something that was doing GOOD and changing people’s lives. I wanted to work somewhere big, and varied, and exciting. And this was before I even knew about some of the aspects of a university that are now my favourite things to shout about (research and enterprise!)

I got myself an admin job at a university. I kept applying for comms jobs. I kept getting rejected. I moved into international admissions. I did a Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma. I created a newsletter no one asked for, to encourage people to take up their offers of places at the university. I went on a recruitment trip to Malaysia and Thailand. I realised – I was doing marketing! And then I got myself a secondment into the communications team. It was happening!

After ten years as a Press Officer in the communication team, racking up those experience years, I knew – I really knew – that I love working in the public sector. For reasons, I hadn’t even imagined.

Someone recently asked me what I do for a job. “PR! That must be glamorous!” they said. Public sector comms may not be what you would call glamorous – but the important thing is that it is never boring. And I never wonder, “Why am I doing this?”

From running around the pitch at Wembley during the Challenge Cup final to collect photography cards (we were sponsors at the time), to interviewing prisoners at a maximum-security prison who were taking part in the Learning Together module, to meeting stars including Alexander Skarsgård, Matthew Lewis, George Clarke and Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis as they received honorary degrees – I’ve certainly never been bored. And of course, winning the public sector campaign award for Research with Impact at the CIPR Pride awards has been a lovely career highlight!

Every day I’m filled with pride for what I do and for the people I work with. My favourite part of my Press Officer job was always meeting academics and talking to them about their research. Research that directly impacts on real people’s lives! What an honour to get to learn about that and help to share that as widely as I possibly can. Every day it can be a different, challenging subject, for me to understand and translate that complex detail into something accessible to everyone.

By sharing the news of research as a comms practitioner, we are growing that impact – attracting more funding, and bringing that research to the attention of people who might want to collaborate on future projects.

I now work in the Research and Enterprise team at Leeds Beckett, focusing on raising the profile of our funded research projects and collaborations with businesses. Knowing how much this work matters keeps me motivated every day to do the best I can for the talented people I work with.

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