Govt seeks £120k/yr Director of Digital Engagement

Who said there were no ‘senior strategic web roles’ in government? The Cabinet Office has just issued a job advert, looking for someone to ‘develop a strategy and implementation plan for extending digital engagement across Government’, and ‘act as head of profession for civil servants working on digital engagement’. It’s a Senior Civil Service Pay Band 2 position – ie very senior indeed, ‘accountable to the Permanent Secretary – Government Communications (Matt Tee) and to the Minister for the Cabinet Office (Tom Watson)’. Oh, and the money’s not bad either: starting salary of £120,000, plus 30 days holiday.
On paper at least, the resources available aren’t great: the job spec promises only a ‘small team’ and a ‘small budget’. But regular readers will know I’m actually quite happy to see that – and the spec justifies it  beautifully, saying one of the role’s key purposes is ‘to assist Government in making effective use of current digital spend, which runs into many millions, and to enable departments to save significant sums on their engagement activities through switching from expensive face to face and postal methods to cheaper digital techniques.’ Perfect.
On the flipside, the demands are sky-high. ‘This is not a role for a generalist,’ it warns – a statement clearly intended to scare off the bog-standard civil servant seeking promotion. ‘The professional skills required are formidable… Within a year the Director of Digital engagement should be able to point to two departments whose use of digital engagement are recognised in the digital community as being world class. Within two years the use of world class digital engagement techniques should be embedded in the normal work of Government.’
The applicants’ information pack spells out some specific qualities they’re after:


  • Is a highly credible individual in digital communications
  • Has run a public facing web site of significant size, for example for a broadscaster or newspaper; or has been a leading figure in getting a large organisation to engage through digital channels.
  • Has innovated in web, beyond ‘web publishing’ and can demonstrate concrete personal examples of changing how organisations carry out their core functions using digital channels
  • Understands the technology and software that enable excellent web development, and has experience of advising on its procurement and deployment
  • Has experience of achieving change through influence, especially with policy and delivery officials
  • Has the authority to be credible with Ministers and senior officials


  • Has experience of the workings of Government

So who’s going to get it? It might appeal to people like DJ Collins, Google’s European comms director (with good Labour connections); or ex-BBC chief Ashley Highfield, although he’s just started a new job with Microsoft… but it’s probably a significant pay cut for those guys. Then again, whoever takes the job will have to be doing it for the love of it, not for the money.
PS: Full marks to that man Steph for setting up a UserVoice ‘idea storm’ to crowd-source the lucky applicant’s to-do list. 🙂

New head of govt comms

PR Week is reporting that Matt Tee, currently chief executive of NHS Direct, has been appointed the new Permanent Secretary of Government Communications; a formal decision is apparently due later today.
It’s an intriguing appointment: Tee’s background is very different to that of his predecessor, Howell James. He came into government (proper) from a business development role at health information company Dr Foster, which already had close links with the NHS. He’s a former head of news at DTI, and was acting director of comms at the Department of Health in 2006 and 2007, whilst Sian Jarvis was on maternity leave. He joined NHS Direct in July 2007; and in the last couple of weeks said he was ‘disappointed’ at having to shelve plans for foundation status.
He’s well connected, judging by his Facebook friends anyway – among them his predecessor in the job, Mike Grannatt, and Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne. And it’ll certainly be good to have someone with hands-on experience of online: Dr Foster ran NHS Choices (until recently), and DH was steadily moving to its new platform during his tenure. Plus, if memory serves, he’s a fellow Arsenal fan? I certainly remember a Matt Tee contributing to the Arsenal mailing list and Arseweb website in the early/mid 1990s.
But I’ll also note that Health has come in for particular criticism in evidence to the House of Lords Comms committee over the summer: there’s quite emotive language in Computer Weekly editor Tony Collins’s write-up of his appearance; whilst Times health editor Nigel Hawkes saying relations were ‘not particularly good’:

They are even discouraging you from developing a relationship of trust with an individual press officer. … Very often big announcements will be so extensively trailed that by the time the report actually appears I cannot persuade my news desk it is of the slightest importance. That leads to bad reporting. … I find [the DH press office] are just useful for getting the line; I would not use them for anything else.
There have been big improvements in communications with the public through websites and participation events and so on. Big efforts have been made there but there is still an understandable reluctance to acknowledge that sometimes policies are not working. If there were more willingness to acknowledge a policy did not work so they will do something else, then they could build a bit of credibility with journalists and be taken a bit more seriously by them.

Update: appointment now confirmed by the Cabinet Office. Interestingly they’ve used the same pic I used… and if you look at the source code of this page, you’ll see exactly where I found it. 😉