A modern communications profession

Blog post by Alex Aiken, Executive Director, Government Communication

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Over the last three years, with your help, we have put in place the building blocks of a modern communications function for government. In that time, we have improved the effectiveness of our campaign work and cut costs, saving over £1 billion.

Alex Aiken Sept2015

Now, it’s more important than ever to show that what we do makes a difference and gives value for money. Provisions in the 2015 Spending Review, and new aids to working, will help us.

Single marketing budget

As you may have seen, the Spending Review provides for a single, centrally managed marketing budget. From 2016/17, this will give Directors of Comms more control over the areas we spend on, for greatest impact and cost-effectiveness, and the flexibility to redirect spend if priorities change or new ones emerge.

The Spending Review also contained the good news that spending on the GREAT campaign would rise, reflecting the success of this cross-government, carefully targeted and rigorously evaluated campaign. That’s evidence of the positive impact that brilliant communication work can have with ministers and senior officials.

I recognise that the spending reductions following the Autumn Statement will have consequences for everyone in the GCS. The Directors of Communication group is working carefully to ensure that reductions prioritise our most important work and are managed fairly. We meet regularly to exchange views, review our approaches and see where we can help each other and our staff in agencies and departments.

New tools

At the same time, we have produced new tools to help comms teams achieve their public service goals. These tools focus even more closely on understanding our audiences and, crucially, how we demonstrate the impact of what we do in building understanding and trust, and changing behaviour.

The Modern Communications Operating Model is based on the best advice for organising effective communications teams that are integrated, digital by default and use data and audience insight to produce comms with real and demonstrable impact.

Supporting this, the new Evaluation Framework is our most comprehensive tool yet to help you prove that the comms you produce are delivering the results you want. As well as showing what does work, a core set of robust metrics for each comms discipline will also show more clearly what doesn’t, so that we can stop doing it.

Take a good look at both these documents – they are there to be used and set standards of operation and accountability. It may help you to get together and discuss what the new operating model means for your individual teams, how you are organised, what your capabilities are, and whether these meet your specific comms challenges. Let me know what you think, directly or via social media.

Higher standards

The GCS Improvement programme, which runs to March 2016, is working with departments and agencies on how we implement these new tools and set higher standards in our work. Alongside our professional capability, structures and internal communications work, a new focus on Public Service Co-Operation is part of the project. This is already providing new and effective ways for local authorities and government departments to work together, mapping communications teams and running joint campaigns.

These are just some of the things we are doing to make UK government communications exceptional and support your professional development. There are lots of others: from our Inspire senior talent programme, to graduate recruitment, and the new campaign and advanced digital training and Insight briefings. I keep Directors of Comms and Heads of Communication updated on these through weekly briefings, and I hope that this news is cascaded through your teams.

I’m always willing to visit, support or advise on the work you are doing, so if you’d like help, please get in touch.

With Christmas approaching, I wish you all a happy and relaxed festive season. Take the opportunity to recharge your batteries and come back with renewed focus on the task ahead.


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