Mark Davies, communications and corporate affairs director at the Post Office, knew early on that he wanted to write and had decided by the time he was 19 that he wanted to be a journalist: “I started as a student by writing a very bad review of the Stranglers at Liverpool University – but it ended up in the student magazine and I caught the bug. I then worked for regional newspapers, the BBC and CNN before what many journalists would regard as ‘switching sides’ and becoming a media adviser in government, then a comms director for a mental health charity before I moved to the Post Office in 2012. I am incredibly proud to work for one of the most well-known and important brands in UK life, a commercial business with a public purpose in every community in the land.”
It seems particularly fitting that Davies ended up in the Post Office as his first work experience was delivering mail: “My first ever job was as a Christmas relief postman and I think the teenager who trudged the streets of Teesside delivering Christmas cards would be glad at the way things have turned out.”
Describing what drew him to journalism, Davies says: “I loved writing and that gradually developed when I got my first taste of journalism as a graduate trainee on the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo. I wanted to tell stories, to observe the world and have the privilege to write about it. I was at the Post and Echo for nine years and loved the genuine sense of the paper representing a city talking to itself: there was a link between reporter and reader which was incredibly powerful.”
As well as being clear about wanting to write, and obviously having the skill and dedication to follow a career in communications, Davies says he has had some luck breaks: “I guess my very first was to get elected as the editor of the student magazine in Liverpool: in retrospect that was an extraordinary opportunity to learn, try things, fail and try again. I was fortunate to stand on a ticket with some great people and there’s no question that my year as editor helped me get my job as a trainee at the Echo: I was able to display a clear connection and empathy with the area, albeit as a non-scouser!”
But journalism wasn’t ultimately rewarding for Davies, who wanted to make a clearer contribution to society: “The great thing about journalism as I saw it was the chance to observe from the grandstands: but it is also one of its weaknesses. I wanted to see how it was on ‘the other side’ and play a greater role contributing to things I had previously only written about. I believe communications is fundamental to the success of an organisation – it can stand or fall on how it communicates – and I felt I could contribute from that standpoint.”
One particularly useful spell for Davies was working in the charity sector: “I think a key role was when I worked at Rethink Mental Illness as director of communications and campaigns. From having been a journalist and special adviser, with limited people management, I inherited a large team across a range of functions. That was a brilliant opportunity to learn.”
Finally, when asked what advice he can offer to others in the industry, Davies says: “I really believe that PR needs to work harder with other parts of the communications profession. It’s a fairly obvious observation, but our world is changing dramatically and content really is king – it matters less and less where it comes from and more and more about how hard you make it work. That means becoming all-round communicators, taking proactivity and inventiveness to a new level to benefit the whole.”
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