Our lovely Laura has moved on (literally) and we in PAS need to replace her. There will, no doubt, be a formal process to recruit and select someone but it might be best to start with something a bit franker. After all, my attempts to write a job description that reflects the fact that this is a pretty unique job have been frustrated. As far as HR is concerned, you have to arrive as the complete package.
It will save time therefore if I put down here the things that really matter to AlicePalace and me. If you still like the sound of the job at the end of this post then I’d encourage you to apply and not be too concerned if you can’t tick every box of every part of the job description. For the right candidate it won’t matter.
This is a role that was originally formed around the shape of John Chantler. He wrote about it here, and ‘editor in chief’ probably remains the best way of thinking about what this job is. For me, there are three things that you need to be about:
Technicals and technology
No point denying it. Many planners are at the ‘arty’ end of the spectrum and this suits someone at the other. You will have to be good friends with our corporate systems, including the CMS and dreamweaver. And our offsite systems like mailchimp, eventbrite and basecamp. If you haven’t already learnt some HTML or similar then you’re going to be in trouble. Coding our newsletter so it works in Outlook is not for the fainthearted (and will make you hate microsoft even more).
As well as the systems you’ll need to be able to think about organising and curating content. And then being able to analyse how people are using it. This is about applied numeracy. This sort of stuff will begin by being most of how you spend your time with us until you get it under control and reduce it to about 50%.
Finding and telling a story
We are blessed in our freedom to do good work. As well as all the stuff that ends up on our website, or as part of our suite of hand-outs and how-tos, we do a fair bit of R&D. And, as is inevitable when you do interesting things with interesting people trying to do difficult things at real places a whole raft of potential stories emerge.
But we (all of us) are rubbish at using this priviledged position. You would not believe how bad. Most of us don’t write anything for anyone if we can help it. Some of us hide it within long, tedious, local government speak. But mostly sharing what we know and our ideas feels for making Planning less of a headache feels a bit like “showing off” and so we don’t.
Part of your job is to help us confront this problem. Help us see what is interesting (and what is not). Be able to spot things that may not be perfect (or finished) but that people might find useful. And, you’ll know that you’re cooking on gas when you can be parachuted into a real council with a real peer and help them tell their story as well.
Be warned. This is more difficult than it seems. As a team we did Krypton College recently (more on this soon) and our conclusion is that collectively we are about as far from self-confident risk-taking entrepreneurs as it is possible to be.
Changing and improving
This job is aligned to the funding for PAS – ie until March 2015. We, and our sponsors (and the whole board) understand and agree that programmes like ours work best when they don’t keep changing. But it will. My first attempt to set up a logical and consistent set of codes to run the budgets and report progress lasted less than a fortnight. Our work (and therefore yours) will keep changing. Sometimes with zero notice.
I don’t think we’ll want to change the main website within this timetable, but we will have to do something about the KHub. And maybe LGInform. So this is not a job that is going to stand still. You will need to be entirely comfortable with never being finished, because the work, the team and the tools you use will all keep changing. And a key driver in all of this will be your appetite to understand what is going on with our users and how to make their lives easier.
And the most important part of any of this – but also I think the most rewarding – is to help AlicePalace and me run PAS better. You will be a marketeer in the broadest sense of the word. A good editor in chief understands her audiences and their needs. Let’s ensure that they don’t get lost in all the cobblers we speak about ‘stakeholders’.
Still interested ?
We can help you grow into the job if you don’t arrive fully formed (just don’t tell HR). If you think you can deliver on these three elements then let’s see if we can make this work. I’ve asked Laura (a secondee from Essex County) to share an unvarnished version of how the experience was for her. Until then you’ll have to accept my assurances that parts of it will be something approaching fun.