One of the most valuable things I learned from studying history was the ability to contextualise why things matter

Photo of Florence Williamson
Florence Williamson
Press Officer - Crown Prosecution Service
BA History & Politics; MA Global History
Florence Williamson tells us about the skills she developed whilst studying for a BA and MA with us. She also explains what her role as a Press Officer within the Crown Prosecution involves.

A transcript of the video:

Hi, my name is Florence and I'm a Press Officer in the Crown Prosecution Service, I'm one of the national leads for violence against women and girls. And I head up our Brexit and and our extradition desks. I did both my degrees at the University of Sheffield, I did a BA in history and politics and then I did an MA in global history.

Originally, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I didn't know whether to do history or politics. And eventually I decided on a dual degree. And I was particularly interested in the courses at Sheffield because it felt a lot more coherent. than some of the other unis I'd looked at. It seemed like the modules were specifically chosen to compliment each other. And I felt like I would gain a deeper understanding of each subject area if I studied them consecutively. I was also very keen on Sheffield as a city. It had everything I wanted in terms of student life, a great music scene, arts and culture. And the Peak District is right on the doorstep. I then decided to stay on and do a Masters in global history. I was particularly drawn to that course because it's one of the few courses in the country that decentralise Europe, which gave me the perfect opportunity to continue with the study of Indian history, which I'd been really passionate about at undergraduate level. 

I never really decided that I wanted to work in communications. I wasn't really sure exactly what I wanted to do when I finished my MA. So I applied for a civil service Comms job and I was offered a position in HM Revenue and Customs. I started working in the Brexit team and then I moved over to the press office and social media teams. Whilst I was working the press office, that was when I realised I really enjoyed it. And so I started looking for press positions with a bit more responsibility. Eventually, I was offered a role in the Crown Prosecution Service where I currently work and I really enjoy what I do. 

The skills and experiences gained from both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees have been really useful in my career. One of the most important things I do is I write press releases and I send them on to journalists. Obviously, history is an essay writing subject. So I've really taken the ability to form a strong line of argument. This is really important in my job because if I don't write something that's clear, interesting and engaging, then it won't get picked up for national coverage. One of the most valuable things I learned from studying history particularly at MA level was the ability to contextualise why things matter. I use this approach every day in my job as I need to persuade not just my CPS colleagues, but also journalists, that the things I'm writing about have real world implications and will affect the everyday person. 

Interacting with the media is one of the key responsibilities in my role. I talk to journalists on a daily basis if somebody needs a comment then I'm the person who facilitates that. I also set up interviews for our prosecutors to talk about their cases, or our larger policy announcements. This can be on the news, in documentaries, or in TV programmes. Once I've set an interview up, I then ensure our prosecutors are effectively media trained. This includes making sure that they are comfortable in front of the camera and talking to journalists, and that they are aware of our latest lines and official stances. A lot of that forms the reactive side my job, however, I also play a key role in provocative strategic media planning. This means that we plan a media campaign in advance. It's often for a larger policy announcement that we do this. This means working with key stakeholders. Sometimes they're internal like policy colleagues or prosecutors, and often they're external. So that can be the police, charities, or even influencers. We then tried to engage with a variety of audiences across a multitude of platforms. This can be in a traditional media sense, so for example a broadcast or in newspapers. And now more often than not, we're trying to take a more creative and innovative approach, which means engaging with audiences on social media. 

There are lots of things that I really enjoy about my role. I think the fact that it's fast paced, exciting and reactive, are probably my favourite things. I love politics, so I really enjoy working on policy areas that are in the news. I also feel incredibly privileged to be working on something I feel so passionately about. And that is the violence against women and girls brief. I feel like I get to work on something that is really important and I get to be part of that cultural shift. However, some of the biggest challenges in my role is that because it's so fast-paced and reactive, it can be incredibly stressful. We are juggling a lot of deadlines all at once. And there are a lot of people relying on us to work at pace. 

Some advice that I would give prospective history students that are interested in a career in communications is definitely to try and get some experience with writing. Obviously, doing a degree in History is a really good start, but in order to stand out on your job applications it's really useful to have something a little bit extra. Communications is a really great profession because it is so varied. I work in government comms, However, there is so much you can do in the private sector. It's definitely worth trying to get involved in student journalism, or try to get some work experience at a local paper or even just writing a blog. As they are the things that employers look at when they come to hiring.

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