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We talk to Andy Rushton, head of communications for the DWP People and Locations Programme and IoIC membership director, in the latest in our IoIC People series.

How did you get into internal communication?

By accident. I was a terrible Parliamentary Drafter – where I wrote replies to and on behalf of MPs and Ministers. I remember being told that I was far too informal and focused too much on getting the message across rather than the technical detail of what I was saying. I moved on as an assistant editor of an internal magazine, never looked back and have sprung out of bed (almost) every day since.

You’re head of programme communications at DWP – what does your job involve?

I am leading the communications and engagement strand of a programme that is looking at large scale contract negotiation. It’s a politically sensitive and wide ranging area that will potentially impact most of our 80,000+ colleagues and make changes to the way DWP delivers its services. My job is to help colleagues understand the changes, know where and when they can influence them and work with a wide range of stakeholders to inform, consult and negotiate. We’re still at the early stages so I can’t say much more or I’d have to kill you.

What’s been your proudest achievement so far?

My proudest achievement in life will always be outside of the workplace – it’s a tie between playing small parts in helping my wife recover from some fairly serious injuries and a work in progress in helping my son become a confident, modest and ambitious young man. In work I’ve done some quite high profile and sexy stuff, but nothing beats the first time I edited an in-house magazine. Opening that box when the first batch was delivered was like Christmas Day. I can smell the print now.

What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) facing internal communication in government?

The political pressure we’re under is greater than ever. It’s important that as internal communicators we are able to reflect and represent the policies and preferences of the administration of the day; however, we must maintain an objective stance. Like many people, squeezed resources are a challenge too. The days of self-contained functions within government departments are, in my view, numbered. To provide a progressive, high-quality service we must combine, share skills, resources, learning and people to compete with the best. There’s some good work going on in this respect through the Government Communication Service led by Alex Aitken.

Who's inspired you in your career?

I’m lucky to have had lots of inspiration. Ken Runicles, then at BT, was an early mentor in the IOIC and I still draw strength from some of the things he said. Even earlier, I had a manager who said very little, but left me with pearls of wisdom and values that I still hold dear. Above all though, a chap called Dave who used to work for me. Dave had a very difficult life outside of work, but he never failed to smile every day, make light of his considerable burden and always looked (and continues to look) for opportunities to go out of his way to help others.

How did you get involved with IoIC?

I remember the day well. I was in a very old fashioned office in Somerset House in London being congratulated for my magazine and strategy winning its first award. I was advised that if I was serious about communication I needed to broaden my horizons. The advice came from a member of what is now the IOIC, so I joined the next day. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received – I could talk for hours about the advice, support, inspiration and friends I have gained through being a member.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about writing for internal comms?

It’s an oldie, but simply put yourself in the reader’s shoes.

What’s your role on the IoIC Board?

I have just taken responsibility for membership. I want to share my passion for the Institute with others and broaden our membership base. We’re a unique organisation that is motivated by doing the right thing rather than by making profit – that’s a powerful selling point.

If you could attend any sporting event – money no object – what would you choose?

The State of Origin rugby league series in Australia. If I could turn back the clock I’d be on the front row at the Thriller in Manila.

What’s your favourite classic car?

How long have you got? For looks the Jaguar XK120, for character the VW split screen camper, for engineering the Nissan NSX. And that’s the short answer.
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