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Katie’s Journey from University to Partnership Manager

Katie Hickmott, Partnerships Manager, joined the Met Office as a graduate just over four years ago with an English degree. Since embarking on her career with us, Katie has expanded her knowledge of the Met Office, our key partners and how we operate in a variety of industries throughout the world. Katie explains how she has been supported by the Met Office in order to progress her career.

What attracted you to the Met Office?
When I started university studying for an English degree, I had no idea what I would do afterwards. But, a week before my final exams, I decided I wanted to go into communications and marketing. After university I got a job as an account manager for a design and advertising agency in Devon. We were lucky enough to win a contract to do some work on the Met Office website. It was a big coup for us, a really decent piece of work for a well-known brand that we were very proud of. Although I wasn’t involved in the project I was interested in it and found out more about the Met Office. Colleagues from the agency that came and worked here during the project found it a really nice place to work. Before that, I knew of the Met Office, and was aware of forecasts on TV, but I didn’t have a clue how much goes on here.


How did you start working at the Met Office?
I had a degree in English but felt like I needed to get a good grounding in marketing in order to apply for other roles so I did a CIM qualification while working at the agency. I gained some understanding of marketing principles and then applied for a Business Graduate role, part of the Met Office Graduate Scheme. I started in that position in September 2011 and was in that role for about 18 months.


What kind of training and development opportunities have you had at the Met Office?
Initially, I was looking after the marketing efforts of the rail sector which was a nice way to cut my teeth on a bit of real marketing. At the same time I was moving around the organisation, gaining understanding of the wider Met Office through short-term placements in teams like Communications, Plans and Performance, and the Products team. The aim was to build a broad knowledge and gain a good understanding of what the Met Office does because it’s such a complex place.

What experience have you gained while at the Met Office?
Once it was felt I was ready for a permanent position I started looking around within the Met Office and a Marketing Manager position in the Government services team came up. I focused on the health and defence sectors and really started to understand the marketing role more, understanding the markets, what the pressures are, the opportunities, and the risks.


How did you become Partnership Manager?
After being in a marketing role for two years, I felt like a change so applied for the Partnership Communications role as a secondment – a ten month contract to cover maternity leave. That is the beauty of the Met Office – there are opportunities to do secondments into other roles. In fact, the person that is doing my job in the Government services team is actually a forecaster on secondment.


What sort of things have you been doing in the partnerships role?
I have written a strategy for partnership communications for the next three years, which supports the broader Met Office communications strategy. Most of it is about establishing more targeted, focussed, long-term partnerships to reach new audiences. I’ve produced a pro-active information pack to send out to other organsiations saying, “We’re here, we’re interested in your audience, are you interested in ours? Let’s work together to increase each other’s reach.” Digital channels play a big role in that and will continue to become more important.


What do you get up to day to day?
A big part of the job is looking after the ‘Get Ready for Winter’ campaign. This involves teaming up with the Cabinet Office, taking information from Government organisations, voluntary sector, regulatory bodies about winter wellness and preparedness and putting it on our web pages as they have such good reach. There’s lots of content generation and editing of existing content to do, making sure messages are up to date, useful, relevant to people’s lives. This year we’ve focused more on social media, making sure we’re linked up with all of our partners. We’ve also refreshed the look and feel of the campaign. There’s some light-hearted content from Go Outdoors but also got some great content with our corporate charity, the RNLI warning people of flooding.


What does the role involve that people might not expect?
Part of the role is making people aware of the work that we do to protect life and well-being and part of it is getting those messages out there, making sure the channels of our partners are utilised to the full extent. Another part of the role is encouraging organisations to become advocates of the Met Office if they’re not already. This involves getting them to see how much work goes into our forecasts, how much pride we take in it, how valued we are, and hopefully they go away with a really positive impression. Much of the partnerships role is what I make it, but what this role is really about is making sure it is aligned to the bigger picture, making sure we’re working with influential brands with values that match our own, reaching audiences that we have previously found hard to reach.


How do you think your career might progress at the Met Office?
I would like to continue with my interest in marketing and communications; understanding why brands make the decisions they do, why they choose certain colours, why they’ve come up with that advert, why they’ve got that person saying something. It really appeals to my creative side and I’m fascinated by the language involved too. Weather touches so many aspects of peoples’ lives but ideally I would like to focus on digital marketing communications as the digital side of things and getting our messages out is what really excites me.

What does the Met Office give you that you feel you couldn’t get elsewhere?
I have come into touch with all elements of marketing that probably would’ve taken years to have gained elsewhere – every single sector that I’ve worked in here from health to devolved administrations, government, commercial – is really varied.