Last Tuesday, 4th November, Cardiff University had the pleasure of hosting Alex Aiken’s talk on a Career in Communications. Here, Virginia tells us more …
Alex Aiken is the Executive Director of Government Communications, based in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office. He went to theLondon School of Economics (LSE) where he studied economics and discovered his fascination for politics. In the past he has been Director of Communications and Strategy at Westminster City Council. He also worked for the Conservative Party as Deputy Director and Chief Press Officer. Hence, he is definitely the most senior communications professional in the Civil Service.
In a funny and witty manner this guest lecturer engaged students from the start admitting that he wanted to be a footballer but wasn’t good enough. Alex Aiken discussed the role of the civil service specifically government communications strategy and how it is much more fulfilling and inspiring than corporate communications. According to him, working for the public service is an enriching experience as you are improving and saving people’s lives.
Even if it is just in the communication department, health and safety campaigns have a great impact on people’s habits. We all try to eat five vegetables or fruits everyday thanks to the catchy “5-a-day” campaign. Similarly, “Stoptober” a more recent health campaign encouraging smokers to quit this harmful habit has shown impressive results. Actually, in the UK the two months of the year where more people stop smoking are January (as part of New Year’s Resolutions) and October (due to the influence of the campaign).
In Aiken’s words “The role of government communications departments is essentially to explain, promote and justify policies taken by Westminster”. In order to achieve this they apply OASIS – which stands for Objective, Audience, Strategy, Implementation & Scoring. This technique requires “a more Germanic and less Italian way of thinking”. In other words, there is a necessity to be less creative and focus on results. It is essential to prove the effectiveness of your communication work. It is also important to understand people’s motivation behind people’s attitudes in order to be successful and make a change.
Alex also commented on how Communications are getting sharper, particularly with the introduction of digital media in our daily lives. He also admitted it is a very challenging profession since there are crises you would have never expected. For instance, he confessed he would have never predicted an Ebola crisis a few months ago. He also shared with the public that he was still thinking of ways and communication strategies to stop citizens from joining Isis.
Finally, he said there were three requirements needed in order to succeed as a civil servant: leadership, results and engagement. Alex Aikens definitely gave an insight into a very interesting part of civil service that surely many students and graduates have not considered. In order to learn more about what the civil service consists of and apply look at the website:
Finally, I would like to encourage you to go as many Guest Lectures, Careers Fairs and talks as possible, even if they’re not related to what you’re studying, meeting successful people might be an enlightening experience that will motivate you to work harder in your studies.
Virginia Bonet Morrel
Final year JOMEC student and Marketing Intern at Careers & Employability
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