Stephen Naylor is passionate about politics.
So he’s in his element at present – with the EU referendum and US presidential elections to feed his habit!
Stephen, who runs communications, media and strategy specialist Waverley Consultancy in Brighouse, is following both with keen interest.
The question of Britain leaving or remaining in the EU is a vexed one says the former Conservative Party adviser.
“It’s a long campaign and there’s a lot of fear stuff from both sides,” he says. “I’m quite open-minded, but I’ve yet to hear a convincing case for why we should leave.
“Neither campaign has yet to engage with the wider public. At the moment, we seem to have politicians fighting with each other, which is guaranteed to turn people off.”
Stephen says all the evidence from previous referenda – including the one on Scottish independence – suggests that people vote for the status quo.
But he adds: “Events can change all that. Politics is always subject to events and things can happen at a drop of a hat.”
For an example of how politics can prove unpredictable, Stephen cites the rise of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
“Six months ago if anyone had said Donald Trump would have this much traction you wouldn’t believe them,” he says. “A lot of it is down to an anti-establishment feeling among voters. It’s hard to call – just as last May in the general election when nobody expected a Conservative majority.”
Stephen says his interest in politics isn’t ideologically driven, but its an interest that goes back to his teenage years.
Stephen was born in the Wirral, but has lived in Brighouse since he was three. He attended North Halifax Grammar School and despite excelling at maths and geography went on to graduate in politics and law from Durham University in 2003.
His first job was with Huddersfield-based radio station Home FM where he became news editor and programme controller.
Says Stephen: “I came into contact with local politicians and although I was not looking to leave, someone approached me with the opportunity to work for the Conservative Party in Yorkshire. It was a new role which involved working with a lot of politicians and aspiring politicians.”
His six-year spell in politics included working on the party’s 2010 election campaign in Yorkshire and three years working directly for Skipton MP Julian Smith before Stephen took the skills he had honed advising politicians on communications, social media and strategy to set up Waverley Consultancy.
“It was a fascinating time to be involved,” he recalls. “I was working with the local MPs, helping them get their message out to the voters via the media.
“But I wouldn’t want to cover another general election doing that sort of role. On the eve of polling, I was standing in a Morrisons delivery depot at 2am in the morning with David Cameron talking to some of the workers!”
He certainly wouldn’t swap jobs now. Stephen set up Waverley Consultancy in 2013 and has built up a client list of organisations and companies ranging from small retailers to the Yorkshire Jets netball team.
“I always wanted to have my own business, but I wanted the experience of working for other people first,” says Stephen.
“It seemed the right time to make the move, although there was a lot of agonising because it’s a big decision to go from having a salary coming in every month to starting your own business from scratch.”
Waverley helps clients develop and execute communications strategies to get their voices heard via websites, Twitter, Facebook and in print.
Stephen says: “Social media provides huge opportunities because it allows you to contact your customers directly. But it also presents challenges. People don’t always think before tweeting – and say things on Twitter that they would never say to a journalist.
“We have seen the careers of people like politicians come crashing down as a result.
“And companies can be just one tweet from a disgruntled employee away from a major incident.”
Says Stephen: “Customers like to hear from real people. It’s about engagement. But organisations cannot be half-hearted about it. You are better not going down that route if you aren’t going to do it right.
“Some companies get involved in Twitter or Facebook because they think they should – then don’t post anything for 12 months!”
Stephen works from home, but also has desk space at Thornhill Brigg Mills, where he rubs shoulders with other ambitious businesses.
He does a lot of travelling to visit clients along the M62 corridor and as far afield at Ripon and Sheffield.
“It’s always difficult separating work and home,” he says. “You can be flexible, but you have to be available for clients as and when they need you.”
Stephen and his wife Helen spend most of their spare time looking after their one-year-old son Dominic – leaving less time for Stephen’s interests of cooking and reading. “I do read quite a lot about politics,” he says. For light relief, he turns to crime fiction.
Says Stephen: “People say they don’t like politicians – but when they meet a politician they are quick to say ‘I don’t mean you’. It’s that thing about the Westminster ‘bubble’.
“I’m passionate about how politics can do good, how politicians can help and make a difference.”
Family: Married to Helen with one-year-old Dominic
Car: Volkswagen Golf
Holidays: We’re going to Jersey this summer. We went to Australia a few years ago to visit my sister who lives Sydney
First job: Journalist at Home FM, Lockwood Park
Best thing about the job? Working with such a diverse range of businesses
Worst thing about the job? It’s hard to switch off.
You’re always on duty for your clients
Business tip: Just do it. Don’t end up thinking about what might have been
Work: Communications, social media and strategy
Phone: 01484 598498