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“I love how public affairs presents the opportunity to bring people together, build support and influence decision-making.”

Back in October, we featured our Founder and MD, Jo Field, in our first ever team member spotlight. This time round we’d like to give you an insight into the life of our Associate Director, Helen Deakin. Read on for our interview with Helen.

Helen, what is your job title, and can you give us an idea of what your work at JFG Comms involves?

I'm a communications consultant and Associate Director for JFG Comms. My role involves leading campaigns and activity to meet our clients’ needs, whether through delivering a specific project or providing an experienced pair of hands through interim support. 

I really enjoy the variety this role offers as we help our customers address different challenges and make the most of opportunities. It might mean supporting clients to meet with influential stakeholders, shaping up a key message for a PR drive, or planning their longer-term communications strategy. 

And what was your background before working with JFG Comms?

I joined JFG Comms in 2019 from the Department for Transport's External Affairs team, where I managed their relationship with the aviation industry. This role gave me invaluable experience, particularly in providing advice to Ministers and senior officials, and building connections across the UK’s transport sector.

Prior to that role, I spent five years in-house at Transport for London (TfL) where I specialised in stakeholder engagement to support policy development and secure advocacy to government on the need for investment in transport. I started at TfL just before the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. During my time there I managed their relationship with business to secure support for major projects including the Night Tube and a £4 billion road modernisation programme. I also worked with a range of stakeholders representing the communities that TfL serves, including accessibility and equality groups, transport campaigning organisations and statutory watchdogs.

I've also worked with the voluntary sector and started my career at a national charity supporting young people to participate in policy-making.

So what made you choose to work in public affairs?

After completing my MSc in Public Policy, I initially focused on policy and press work, but then saw the potential to combine government relations, media and PR, crisis management and strategic communications under the banner of public affairs.

I love how public affairs presents the opportunity to bring people together, build support and influence decision-making. So much of public affairs is about creating relationships and trust.

You can’t beat the great feeling of seeing your clients get positive headlines or policy changes that you’ve worked together to achieve.

Can you tell us what first attracted you to JFG Comms and why you choose to work with us?

I've worked closely with Jo throughout my career and, as her agency grew, I seized the opportunity to work with her again as a consultant. 

I really admire how Jo champions inclusive working. JFG Comms was ahead of the curve before the pandemic on running as a virtual agency with an agile team of freelance experts. The opportunity to work in a more flexible way on an exciting range of projects really appealed to me.

Has your role changed much since you started working with JFG Comms, and if so, how?

The pandemic has had an impact on my portfolio of work. It has meant I’ve primarily been focusing on supporting clients with their internal and external communications as we all respond to the latest situation and government guidance. I've been able to draw on my crisis communications experience gained during my time at DfT and TfL. 

Coronavirus is changing the landscape of communications. The future of work is happening now and it's continually interesting to be at the forefront of this.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I live in north-east London and usually I love making the most of all the Capital has to offer, particularly live music and art. In lockdown, I've been making the most of the green space on my doorstep through lots of walks and getting to know my local area a lot better!

What would you say to someone looking to pursue a career in public affairs?

There isn't one route into public affairs, and thankfully we’re seeing more people taking different ways into the industry and we’re benefiting from the diversity of thought that this creates. We’re also seeing the industry take its need to be more representative more seriously, although there’s a long way to go and we can’t let this slide. 

My main advice would be to look to join an organisation that fits your values, and you'll find the right place to build your experience and develop your talent. Please do ask for help and advice too.

And lastly, what would you say to someone who was thinking of applying for a job at JFG Comms?

Come and say hello! You'll find a friendly team based across the UK and abroad, with different specialisms and backgrounds, who will all be happy to have a chat!