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Profile: A passion for precision - Lucian Hudson, director of comms, The Department for Constitutional Affairs

Lucian Hudson cuts a charismatic figure with a personality as large as his hairstyle and as much vibrancy as the carpet that adorns the comms division floor at his outgoing government department Defra.

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Hudson, who is leaving Defra to become The Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) director of comms, loves to talk. During our interview, he tests out his Spanish on a colleague heading off on holiday, and starts extolling the virtues of rugby in which he sees parallels with his working life.

'I love the rough and tumble of it and the sense that despite the greatest frustrations, you can also have the greatest breaks. You just have to throw yourself into the game. I approach most things wholeheartedly,' he says.

Words flow from Hudson's mouth with the rhythm of a speechmaker, his hand on the table marking out the beat at moments of particular zeal.

But he is also prone to taking the less direct route, often making it unclear whether he has answered the question.

This points more to his diplomacy and sheer enthusiasm, as he promotes himself fearlessly as a champion of openness. 'I'm passionate about freedom of information. I have been Defra's accessibility champion now for three years, where we inherited a legacy of being inward and secret,' he says.

'The public has a right to know and we in government need to plan and prepare for full enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act next January.'

Hudson, 44, this week, spent the first 16 years of his career as a journalist, mostly with the BBC, that included producing the first six hours of BBC TV's coverage of Princess Diana's death.

When asked about the difficulties adapting to the world of government comms, he says: 'At the BBC, we set high standards and met deadlines.' Only when pressed does he add:'That's a good discipline for government, too. The civil service is making huge strides.'

Hudson has met the civil service half way: 'I've become more patient.

It's healthy and sensible but sometimes I do think one needs to speed things up.'

He points to his fiery introduction to Defra at the height of the foot-and-mouth storm as informing his practices: 'We did some heroic work, but in retrospect I would have paced our effort more, including my own.'

He says: 'Going in to Number 10, you have to hand in your mobile at the door and the anecdote about me goes: "Come along Lucian, let's have the other one too". The joke among my team is little do they know there's a third mobile on me.

'I was pretty lousy at work-life balance three years ago but I've become a lot more serious about it. It encourages everybody to work smarter and I think a leader has to set a personal example.'

Hudson, who applied for the permanent secretary for government comms role landed by Howell James, has been attracted by the DCA's 'weighty issues', and welcomes its high profile and ambitions. 'It's becoming a key player in Whitehall.'

His hunger for difficult comms tasks includes joining the independent GM Debate Steering Board that encouraged public debate last year. Its chairman, Professor Malcolm Grant, praises Hudson for taking on a job that 'a lot of civil servants at his level would have backed away from. The reputations of all of us were on the line, but he was willing to do this and engage with the subject at a very intellectual level'.

Hudson values a considered approach: 'I make a big point of not having back-to-back meetings. They are a recipe for ineffectiveness. You need to build in time to look ahead or catch up and hear from people first hand. I also arrange part of the day for private reflection, often completely switching off and listening to music or reading.'

So how will his style fit in at DCA, where personalities are well known in lobbying circles for their pop passions, such as newly appointed permanent secretary Alex Allan's for rock band the Grateful Dead?

'I listened and danced to Soft Cell at college, so with any luck there'll be a connection,' he offers, adding: 'I'd like DCA to be a mixture of Puccini and Elgar - passion and precision. Those are my watchwords.'

RESUME

1994 Editor, BBC World

1997 Head of programming international channels, BBC Worldwide

2000 Editorial director, Armstrong International. In October became

director of e-comms, Cabinet Office

2001 Director of comms, Defra

2004 Director of comms, DCA

This article was first published on PR Week UK

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