Dave Murphy is Head of Media at the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The ICO is the independent regulator responsible for data protection and freedom of information in the UK. The ICO’s main office is in Wilmslow, Cheshire, with additional offices in London, Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh.
Dave ran the City of London Police’s press office before joining the ICO in 2012. He spent 18 months at the Health Research Authority before returning to the ICO in 2019, initially as a speechwriter.
Here, Dave shared how a recent week in his life went…
The week begins with a commute to Wilmslow, and today I’m listening to the BBC’s If You Don’t Know podcast. I’m trying to listen to a broader range of podcasts – it informs the work we’re doing to talk to different audiences about the ICO’s work, and it prompts more ideas of how we can present that work.
The comms team meets at 9.15 to discuss the week ahead. We’ve got a team of more than 20 people, so there’s plenty of expertise and creativity around the table to assess how our stories might be received on social media, or where we might be able to place a story in the press.
The focus today is on Data Protection Day – we all know how many awareness days there are spread across the year (National Doughnut Day, anyone?) but this one’s an important one for us, as it gives us an opportunity to talk about the work the office does around people’s privacy rights that might otherwise go unnoticed.
One of the great things about working in comms is being able to start the day reading through the news with a cup of tea, and it being part of your job. The ICO’s work is very broad, so there’s always interesting stories in there. Today, there’s coverage across the political pages about a Freedom of Information decision the ICO made, a report in the Mirror about whether criminals could weaponise smart fridges, and a piece in the Mail about sportspeople wanting greater control over how gambling companies use their performance data.
Our work also features in the Yorkshire Post – we fall into the bad habit of focusing on national media coverage at times, but stories like this can be more effective if we’re targeting a specific audience, like small businesses.
After that, I discuss with colleagues how we can improve the way we work. The comms team has grown substantially over the past five years, reflecting the ICO’s growth in size and prominence.
Today we’re looking at how to make sure our processes keep up with that growth – namely looking at better planning, and better evaluation.
Wednesday begins with more important ‘media monitoring’, this time centred on who Everton’s next manager might be. After that, it’s a meeting about recruitment.
A growing team means more people, but finding the right people isn’t a quick process. There’s no short cuts though – we want to find creative and proactive people, in this case for a role running the press team, and I know it will be a good investment of time. The day ends with an update on our ongoing investigations. The ICO has a range of enforcement powers when the law isn’t followed, from working with companies to make improvements to issuing the multi million pound fines that get so much press attention.
Sometimes my week can begin to feel overtaken by meetings – a challenge I know a lot of people face – but I always look forward to the chances to catch up with people in my team on how their work is going.
I started as Head of Media last April, and one of the things that most attracted me to the job was the opportunity to manage a team and help people develop. I think it might be the part of being a comms manager that’s most overlooked, in terms of how much time it takes working with people and helping to grow their skills and confidence. But my favourite part of the role is seeing people growing in their roles, and feeling a small part of that.
On Thursday evenings I walk my daughters to Rainbows and to Brownies, as they tell me excitedly about their day. Losing the commute home is a real benefit of being able to work from home some days, and for all the challenges the pandemic brought, I do find it easier to get that work-life balance now.
The week ends with a final review of our Data Protection Day work. We’ve run a social media campaign about people’s privacy rights which has gone very well, as has press work to promote our services for businesses. A piece with City AM didn’t make the paper, but the interview has happened so we’re hopeful for next week – press work is never easy to predict.
Our top content for the week is an excellent video of ICO colleagues talking about the data protection work they’ve been most proud of, which is primed and ready to go live on Saturday. It’s brilliant that these kind of videos can be produced in house and look so professional – only a few years ago we had to outsource producing this type of videos, and that then limited us to producing only one or two a year.
When I log off on a Friday, I get my trainers on and head out for a run. A podcast helps shift my head away from any stresses from the week at work and towards a weekend that includes going to see Everton play. Out of the frying pan…