43430 - Head of News & Digital, NIO

£52,119 - £76,000 Salary will depend on location
12 Months
London, Northern Ireland
Belfast , London
Grade 6
Grade 6
Fixed Term , Loan
Up to 2 years with the possibility of a third by mutual agreement
Full Time
Communications / Marketing

We welcome and encourage applications from everyone, including groups currently underrepresented in our workforce and pride ourselves as being an employer of choice. To find out more about how we champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-justice/about/equality-and-diversity



Post Vacant

Grade 6 – Head of News & Digital


Belfast (preferred) or London

If the candidate does not live in Northern Ireland, please be advised that very regular travel to Belfast will be required.


The post is offered on a two year loan/ secondment for existing civil servants and a two year Fixed Term Contract for external applicants with a possibility of an extension for a further year.

Applications Invited From

Existing Home Civil Service staff at Grade 6 or analogous grades on level transfer or at Band A on temporary promotion. External candidates with comparable skills or experience.

(Salary scale: Inner London £60,295 -£76,000 and National £52,119 -£72,000)

(A Recruitment and Retention Allowance is available for Belfast-based staff up to a maximum of £6,000 for Band 6, bringing the effective band minima up to £58,119. New entrants to the Civil Service are expected to join on the minimum of the pay band advertised for the respective locations of the role.)

Closing Date

12 May 2021

Who we are

Inclusion and diversity

The Northern Ireland Office is committed to being an inclusive employer with a diverse workforce. We encourage applications from people from the widest possible diversity of backgrounds, cultures and experiences.

We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates, as they are under-represented within the NIO at this level.

The Northern Ireland Office strives to be an inclusive employer and is recognised by its staff and externally as being an employer where Diversity and Inclusion are valued.

We hold a Diversity & Inclusion Charter Mark and are an accredited Disability Confident Leader organisation.

In March 2018 we won the award for Best Employer for Diversity & Equality in Northern Ireland (small employer category) in a Gala Award ceremony hosted by Legal-Island, a multi-award winning workplace compliance company based in Northern Ireland.

We have an active D&I network supporting colleagues through D&I Advocates, championed by our Directors.

We want all our people to feel valued for who they are and we are confident that you will find the NIO a warm, welcoming and inclusive place to work.

What we do


The Northern Ireland Office represents Northern Ireland interests at a UK Government level and UK Government interests in Northern Ireland. We have a wide range of responsibilities, including: underpinning political stability in Northern Ireland; overseeing the Northern Ireland devolution settlement; leading on national security policy in Northern Ireland; addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past; delivering elections and constitutional reform in Northern Ireland; playing a key role in rebalancing the NI economy; representing NI interests, including on the border with Ireland, as the UK exits the EU. Our small size and diverse portfolio create a stimulating, fast-paced and challenging working environment, with regular engagement with a range of Ministers and senior officials. We support flexible working and have a modern, flexible IT system which helps enable this.

About the role:

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) is recruiting for a Head of News & Digital (G6). This is a crucial role for delivering the UK Government’s priorities for Northern Ireland. It provides a great opportunity to work at the centre of government, on a fast-paced agenda to deliver tangible results for Northern Ireland. The successful candidate will be a visible ambassador for the NIO.

The Head of News & Digital is crucial to the NIO senior leadership team. You will be expected to hit the ground running, quickly becoming a trusted adviser to the Secretary of State, Ministers and Special Advisers. You must be capable of making a significant contribution to the smooth operation of the whole Communications Directorate

We are looking for an experienced communicator with a highly developed news sense, political nous and experience of dealing with complex issues in a fast-paced environment, subject to significant media attention and public scrutiny. You will have the confidence to brief the media on thorny issues and be responsible for a high-quality 24-hour media operation that delivers fast, accurate, co-ordinated responses to media queries.

You should have demonstrable experience of acting as a digital lead or specialist within a communications environment, knowing how to commission and use research and insight to deliver high quality outcomes. You will be responsible for developing and delivering high quality digital communications, integrated with wider communications activity to support NIO priorities.

You will also work with partners across the Territorial Offices and the wider Government Communications Service (GCS) community in the Cabinet Office to build a joined-up approach to communications, using your experience in digital media evaluation and expertise in a range of channels to effectively target key audiences.

You will be a trusted voice at all levels within the department, providing advice to ministers and senior officials, and acting as a strategic adviser to deliver targeted, integrated communications across digital and traditional channels.

This is a fantastic opportunity to work in an area demanding strategic oversight, leadership, and innovation. We can offer you a competitive package, an excellent range of training and development opportunities, a friendly and supportive team and, above all, the chance to play a key role in communicating the most important issues in Northern Ireland today.

Duties and Responsibilities:

Manage a modern media team in developing proactive longer-term handling strategies that set the agenda across the full range of channels, while managing a busy and reactive newsdesk.

Oversee media handling advice on policy briefs to the Secretary of State, Ministers, senior officials and colleagues on sensitive, complex and high-profile issues.

Understand departmental and Ministerial priorities and convey them to your team so they can communicate the key messages clearly, accurately and creatively to the media.

Anticipate and spot breaking news stories and drive your team to issue swift, robust and appropriate responses.

Have personal impact in the full range of media work, from briefing journalists to advising ministers face-to-face.

Ensure the team is using the full range of channels in promoting our priorities, maximising digital tools and using relevant insight to get the best possible results.

Play a full part in the press office senior management team. Act as a leader in the office, delivering the NIO communications strategy and help the smooth running of the Communications Directorate in and out of hours.

Provide support and direction to the team, with particular attention to their learning and development.

Take responsibility for upskilling the team to achieve the best output and performance based on changing priorities.


Oversee digital communication and media plans to ensure activities are targeted, measurable and deliver on NIO priorities.

Initiate and lead development of reactive and proactive digital media campaigns that build on insight and tracking data.

Demonstrate excellent written communication skills and set standards for communication. Provide overall editorial control to ensure appropriate content, messaging, tone and consistency in all communication.

Evaluate the effectiveness of communication against objectives. Review lessons learnt and compare with industry best practice to identify areas of improvement.

You will also be expected to participate in a management back-up rota for the out-of-hours duty press officers

Personal attributes and skills

As an experienced communicator with a proven track-record in digital and press office activity, you will:

  • have proven experience of leading teams in a high profile press office and have demonstrable evidence of leading a team of digital specialists within a busy communications environment.
  • have a sharp news sense, be politically savvy and possess outstanding media skills garnered from relevant press office experience.
  • have experience of leading large teams and be able to show evidence of driving high performance. You will have the ability to thrive under pressure, take tough decisions in your stride, and the credibility to instantly impress senior stakeholders.
  • have excellent organisational skills and be nimble enough to work at a fast pace, prioritise competing tasks and meet tight deadlines.
  • be proficient in leading and developing digital communication strategies: setting measurable communication objectives, KPI’s, measuring outcomes and ROI to evaluate the impact of a comms activity or campaign.
  • have experience of budget management and financial planning.
  • be confident in thinking innovatively to create no cost and low cost opportunities to engage our target audiences.
  • be able to develop strategic alliances with key external partners to co-create and collaborate on content and campaigns - amplifying our messages to increase the reach and impact of our campaigns.
  • be able to translate complex policy aims into measurable communication objectives and provide advice and guidance to policy officials, ministers, agencies and other colleagues to help develop and deliver coordinated strategic communication strategies.
  • support the team in their shared ambition to be high performing through a strong emphasis on professional development and capability building
  • deputise for the Deputy Director of Communications and Director of Communications

Selection Process:

We will be using success profiles to assess your communication and delivery abilities.

As part of the application process, you will be asked to complete a CV and provide examples of Civil Service behaviours (link here) and competences based on the Government Communication Professional Competency Framework (link here).

At the interview, you will be asked to give a presentation that you have prepared in advance.


Please note that in the event of a large number of applications being received we may run the initial sift on the lead Behaviour, ‘Communicating & Influencing’.


The interview will be of a blended nature consisting of (insert which success profiles will be used).


The interview will be of a blended nature consisting of behaviours, experience and technical based questions.


Communicating and Influencing


Delivering at Pace

Technical Skills

Communications & Digital – Impact: Core

Communications & Digital – Insight: Core

Communications & Digital – Ideas: Core

Security Clearance

Security clearance to (SC) level will be required for this post.

Pay and Allowances

The successful candidate will adopt the terms and conditions of the NIO for the length of their appointment.

Neither Detached Duty terms nor relocation costs will apply to this post.

Further Information

Further information about the post may be obtained from Darragh McElroy (darragh.mcelroy@nio.gov.uk).


You can apply for this post through the Civil Service website at: civilservice.gov.uk. Once logged onto the site go to the civil service jobs page and then search for jobs in the Northern Ireland Office where the application form can be found.

Additional information received after the closing date will not be considered. Failure to provide sufficient information in support of an application prior to the closing date will not be considered as grounds for an appeal if an applicant is not shortlisted for interview.

Home Civil Service applicants who, because of disability, need assistance in completing the application form should contact MoJ Shared Services on 0845 010 3512.

All applications for employment are considered strictly on the basis of merit.

This job description should not be taken as constituting conditions of employment.

Please note that due to the high interest in NIO opportunities, feedback cannot be given if you are unsuccessful at sift stage. Feedback is available on request if unsuccessful following interview.

Additional Information

Further information about us

We are a small and friendly department of approximately 175 staff. Due to our size we are able to offer staff more exposure to ministers and the opportunity to work on a far wider portfolio of responsibilities than might be the case in a larger department. This creates an interesting, though often challenging, work environment.

Other Benefits

The NIO offers a pleasant, modern work environment which allows consideration of a range of flexible working arrangements which support a good work/ life balance. These include flexible/ alternative working patterns, part-time and job-share options

Benefits include:

  • interest-free season ticket and bicycle loans
  • Reward & Recognition scheme

Guaranteed Interview Scheme

The Northern Ireland Office operates the Guaranteed Interview Scheme, details of which are attached to the application form for this post.

In the event that we identify more appointable candidates than we currently have posts available, we will hold applicant details on a reserve list for a period of 12 months from which further appointments can be made. This may include roles at a lower grade. Candidates placed on a reserve list will be informed of this. Those candidates who do not wish to remain on the reserve list should contact MoJ-recruitment-vetting-enquiries@gov.sscl.com to be removed from the reserve list.

Further information on civil service careers can be found at  www.civil-service-careers.gov.uk

The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.  

Appointment to the Civil Service is governed by the Civil Service Commission’s Recruitment Principles. You have the right to complain if you feel a department has breached the requirement of the Recruitment Principles.

Please contact SSCL (Moj-recruitment-vetting-enquiries@sscl.gse.gov.uk) in the first instance.

If you are not satisfied with the response, you may bring your complaint to the Commission. For further information on bringing a complaint to the Civil Service Commission please visit their web pages:



Working Arrangements & Further Information

Some of MoJ’s terms and conditions of service are changing as part of Civil Service reform. The changes will apply to staff joining MoJ who are new to the Civil Service. Staff joining MoJ from other civil service employers will transfer onto the new MoJ terms if they are already on 'modernised' terms in their current post or onto 'unmodernised' MoJ terms if they are on 'unmodernised' terms at their current post. Details will be available if an offer is made.

Flexible working hours

The Ministry of Justice offers a flexible working system in many offices.


The MoJ offers a range of benefits:

Annual Leave

Annual leave is 25 days on appointment and will increase to 30 days after five years’ service.

There is also a scheme to allow qualifying staff to buy or sell up to three days leave each year. Additional paid time off for public holidays and 1 privilege day. Leave for part-time and job share posts will be calculated on a pro-rata basis.


The Civil Service offers a choice of pension schemes, giving you the flexibility to choose the pension that suits you best.


The Ministry of Justice is committed to staff development and offers an extensive range of training and development opportunities.


  • A range of ‘Family Friendly’ policies such as opportunities to work reduced hours or job share.
  • Access to flexible benefits such as voluntary benefits,retail vouchers and discounts on a range of goods and services.
  • For any moves across the Civil Service may have implications on your ability to carry on claiming childcare vouchers
  • Paid paternity, adoption and maternity leave.
  • Free annual sight tests for employees who use computer screens.


The opportunity to join employee-run networks that have been established to provide advice and support and to enable the views of employees from minority groups to be expressed direct to senior management. There are currently networks for employees of minority ethnic origin, employees with disabilities, employees with caring responsibilities, women employees, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.

Working for the Civil Service

The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission's recruitment principles. Should you feel that the recruitment process has breached the recruitment principles you are able to raise a formal complaint in the following order

1-    To Shared Service Connected Ltd (0845 241 5358 (Monday to Friday 8am - 6pm) or e mail Moj-recruitment-vetting-enquiries@gov.sscl.com);

2-    To Ministry of Justice Resourcing (resourcing-services@justice.gov.uk);

3-    To the Civil Service Commission (details available here)

The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equality of opportunity.

There is a guaranteed interview scheme (GIS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.

Grading Structure Review

The Ministry of Justice is currently undergoing a review of posts which are currently graded at Band A to realign our grading structure with the majority of the wider Civil Service.

Posts advertised at Band A may be graded at either Grade 6 or Grade 7 once the review has taken place.  

Interview dates to be agreed by Panel

17/05/2021, 23:55 hours.

If you require any assistance please call 0845 241 5359 (Monday to Friday 8am - 6pm) or e mail Moj-recruitment-vetting-enquiries@gov.sscl.com Please quote the job reference - 43430.
Security Clearance (SC)

To apply for roles in MOJ you will need to confirm your employment history for at least 3 years prior to the date of application so that pre-employment checks (BPSS) can be undertaken. If you have spent significant time abroad (a total of 6 months in the past 3 years) you would be required to give a reasonable account of the reasons why. 

For some roles you will be required to successfully complete National Security Vetting at Counter Terrorism (CTC), Security Clearance (SC) or Developed Vetting (DV) level as a condition of appointment. To meet CTC/SC/DV requirements you will normally need to have been resident in the UK for at least 3/5/10 years prior to the date of application (The level of checks that are required are stated in the advert).

If you do not meet the above requirements, you may still be considered if, for example:

  • You've been serving overseas with HM Forces or in some other official capacity as a representative of HM Government
  • You were studying abroad
  • You were living overseas with parents

In such cases you will need to be able to provide referee cover for the period(s) of residence overseas. The duration of overseas residence and the country of abode will also be taken into account.

Success Profiles will enable a fairer and more inclusive method of recruitment by enabling us to assess the range of experiences, abilities, strengths, behaviours and technical/professional skills required for different roles. This flexible approach to recruitment focuses more on finding the right candidate for the specific role. To find out more about Success Profiles to support your application please click here for further guidance.

In the event that we receive a large volume of applications we reserve the right to conduct the sift based on one lead behaviour. The chosen lead behaviour for this campaign is Communicating and Influencing.
if you feel that your application has not been treated in line with the Civil Service Recruitment Principles, please contact SSCL (Moj-recruitment-vetting-enquiries@gov.sscl.com) in the first instance

This Vacancy is closed to applications.