Communication essentials

Essential courses

The Professional Standards Team works with the heads of each discipline to design and deliver relevant development opportunities. This is to ensure our offer is up to date, relevant and practical for the work we do in the Government Communication Service (GCS).

To help you hit the ground running in your new role, we encourage you to read the following and do these essential courses.

On this page:


A guide for new starters

Find out about what the Government Communication Service does and how it will support you.

A guide for new starters

Standards and guidance

The GCS is setting professional standards and providing the knowledge and expertise to deliver world-class communications. Follow our guidance and standards to help you save time and use best practice and tools in your work:

Diversity and inclusion in practice

Read the GCS action plan 2020 to 2021.

Diversity and inclusion in practice: action plan 2020 to 2021 (GCS members access – ask the development adviser in your department for the GCS password)

Publish accessible content

Learn how to publish accessible documents to meet the needs of all users under the accessibility regulations:

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR

For General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) information and the style guide, see our digital communication resources.

Reading list

See the selected titles overarching across the communication discipline: external affairs, media, internal communication, marketing and strategic communication:

Strategic Communications

‘Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters’ by Richard P. Rumelt

This book explains the logic of good strategy and the sources of power that talented strategists have tapped as well as the pitfalls to avoid.

‘Organisational Listening: The Missing Essential in Public Communications’ by Professor Jim MacNamara

Jim MacNamara argues that improved organisational listening is a key to citizen, customer, and stakeholder engagement.

Internal Communications

‘The Culture Builders’ by Jane Sparrow

The Culture Builders takes a very practical approach for leaders, managers and professionals that explores the levels of engagement required to build a high-achieving culture.

‘From Cascade to Conversation’ by Katie Macaulay

This book looks at how to really connect with your organisation in two-way conversation in a digital age. It includes case studies from BT, Sainsbury’s, Oxfam, B&Q, Post Office, Crossrail, HSBC, Waitrose and Coca-Cola Enterprises

Media and Campaigns

‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness’ by Richard Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Nudge is about choices—how we make them and how we can make better ones. Drawing on decades of research in the fields of behavioural science and economics, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offer a new perspective on the choices we make.

‘Risk Issues and Crisis Management in Public Relations: A casebook of best practice’ by Michael Regester and Judy Larkin

This book defines reputation, explores how to value it and provides practical guidelines for effective reputation management.


‘Dataclysm – what our online lives tell us about our offline selves’ by Christian Rudder

Drawing on data from OKCupid, Google, Facebook, and more, Christian Rudder reveals our hopes, fears, dreams and desires.

‘Information is Beautiful’ by David McCandless

This is a visual journey through the most revealing trends, offering inspiration on how to visualise your data.

Strategic Engagement/External Affairs

‘Public Affairs in Practice: A Practical Guide to Lobbying’ by Stuart Thomson and Steve John

A full guide to all aspects and tasks within the wider public affairs industry.

‘New Strategies for Reputation Management: Gaining control of Issues, Crises and Corporate Social Responsibility’ by Andrew Griffin

A modern guide to reputation management, incorporating the impact of social media, and how to cultivate better reputations amongst the general public and stakeholders.


‘Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead’ by Sheryl Sandberg Learning to ‘lean in’ is about tackling the anxieties and preconceptions that stop women reaching the top.

‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’

by Angela Duckworth Pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed that the secret to outstanding achievement is not just talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”


‘Fake News: A Roadmap by King’s College London and NATO StratCom COE

Fifteen MA students from the Department of War Studies have collaborated with NATO to publish the first definitive analysis of the growing phenomenon of ‘fake news’ in a new book, ‘Fake News: A Roadmap’ launched in February 2018.

News from Germany: The Competition to Control World Communications, 1900–1945

We are familiar with the influence of the BBC and familiar global news agencies like Reuters and AP. Heidi Tworek’s book tells the story of attempts by the German governments between 1940 and 1945 to develop alternatives to these Anglo centric organisations. This was part of the recognition in the early part of the 20th century of the power of communication and from the German perspective concern that the first draft of history was being written primarily from a British perspective. 

100 Years of Government Communication

Alexander McKenna’s book was produced to mark the first hundred years of formal government communication. It deals with the development of the Ministry of information in the First World War and the struggle for government communicators to become an accepted and now an integral part of the machinery of government. 

Conference room with attendees at tables and presenter on stage
Introduction to government communication conference, delivered in February 2020


GCS academy: webinars and podcasts

To further support learning and development across our profession, we offer the following:

To watch recorded webinars or book a live one, ask the development adviser in your department for the GCS password or contact us if you need to know their details:  


The Academy courses are scheduled throughout the year, check our listing to book upcoming courses, webinars and events.

Introduction to Communications (in partnership with GCSI)

Introduction to Communications is a 6-module online course designed and delivered by GCSI (Government Communication Service International) that teaches participants about the important role that communications play within government. The course will cover the core areas of communications and give you valuable insight into the work communicators do day-to-day.

The course is due to launch on 6 July 2020. Places are limited. For those who do not secure a place in this cohort, you will be added to a waiting list for future cohorts.

What’s expected of you:

You must be able to commit 2 hours per module for 6 modules, across 6 weeks.

What’s expected of your line manager:

You must speak with your line manager to approve your place on the course and ensure they understand the commitment that comes with completing the course

Learning outcomes

You will learn key concepts and ideas in the different areas of communications. You will learn the key skills and experience what life is like for communicators who work in these core areas of communications.

The course covers the following topics:

  • strategic communications
  • audience insight
  • working with the media
  • creative campaigns
  • digital communications
  • internal communications

Learning method

The course uses digital learning technology including a range of video case studies and interactive activities. You will be learning from communication experts from across the UK Government.

Campaigning Excellence (in partnership with GCSI)


Campaigning Excellence is an 8-week online course that teaches participants how to plan, implement, and evaluate a successful government campaign using the OASIS Framework. This Framework has shaped all successful UK Government campaigns, including the GREAT Britain Campaign.

What’s expected of you?

  • Teamwork: you will be working in a team with other communicators across government
  • Time Management: you need to commit about 2 hours each week for 8 weeks.

What’s expected of your line manager?

  • Approving your place on the course and understanding the commitment that comes with completing the course.
  • Making your campaign task at the end of the 8 weeks (a marking rubric will be provided).

Learning outcomes:

By completing this course, you’ll:

  • understand in depth the 5 stages of OASIS (Objectives, Audience/Insight, Strategy/Ideas, Implementation, and Scoring/Evaluation)
  • understand how OASIS helps to make the planning process more rigorous and how it is used as a practical tool to support government communicators to plan, deliver, and evaluate communications activity.
  • apply the knowledge gained by completing a campaign plan based on a fictitious scenario designed to tackle a real problem.

Using Behavioural Science to Communicate Strategically (COM-B)

The Capability, Opportunity, Motivation, Behaviour (COM-B) model is one theory of behaviour.


In this webinar:

  • we will discuss behavioural insight and its role in shaping our communication work
  • our experts will draw on their own academic research to show how understanding how humans make decisions can improve our communications outcome

Learning outcomes:

  • how to consider the policy context, identifying policy objectives in terms of behaviours
  • how to set objectives and use audience insight, using the COM-B model to identify barriers to the desired behaviour and assess the best role for communicators so you can set communications objectives with clear links to the needs of the policy
  • how to use behavioural insight in your strategy and implementation through the EAST (Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely) framework
  • scoring and evaluating your communications activities in terms of behavioural outputs

This course is worth 5 CIPR and CPD points.

Watch the recorded webinar: Using behavioural science to communicate strategically (GCS members only)

Watch our webinars by asking the development adviser in your department for the GCS password or contact us for their details.

Civil Service Learning

The Civil Service Learning website offers learning and development that supports you to provide excellent public services.

We recommend you do the following training (learning outcomes described below):

  • unconscious bias (part of diversity and inclusion)
  • creating inclusive virtual teams (part of diversity and inclusion)
  • an introduction to parliament

Discuss with your line manager, add these to your professional development plan and sign in to do these with Civil Service Learning

Creating inclusive virtual teams

Creating an inclusive team environment, where every team member feels welcomed and valued, is crucial in helping a team perform to its maximum potential. 

Learning outcomes

On completion, you will:

  • understand how to maintain, or even increase, inclusion within your teams, despite the barriers of working virtually
  • have developed the skills needed to observe the power dynamics and patterns of behaviour within a team and will understand how to respond accordingly
  • know how to handle the corrosive connections that might otherwise damage team inclusion.

An introduction to Parliament


This online learning introduces you to the workings of Parliament. It covers the differences between the Lords and the Commons, how a government is formed, laws are passed and tax and expenditure is approved, as well as some of the terminology and roles specific to the Palace of Westminster.

Learning outcomes:

  • provide an overview of the institution of Parliament
  • describe the functions of Parliament
  • explain how parliamentary business is both managed and supported

The Skills Toolkit

The Skills Toolkit is made up of free online courses, tools and resources to help you improve your digital and numeracy skills

The Skills Toolkit from the Department for Education

    Image credit:
  • GCS (1)