External affairs

The external affairs areas for development include:

  • building and maintaining relationships with influential individuals and organisations
  • listening and gathering insight
  • encouraging advocates
  • building awareness
  • coordinating and delivery stakeholder activities.

Use this information to discuss your personal development plan with your line manager, read about the different levels in our learning strategy

On this page:

Read (introductory)

Our guidance

Use our external affair guidance section. You can also read;

GCS toolkit: Ensuring Effective Stakeholder Engagement

This guide will support your engagement with stakeholders and equip you with some helpful tools and advice to develop effective stakeholder communications plans within your own teams.

GCS Stakeholder toolkit: Ensuring Effective Stakeholder Engagement

Book: ‘Public Affairs in Practice: A practical guide to lobbying’

In this book, Stuart Thomson and Steve John create a full guide to all aspects and tasks within the wider public affairs industry.

Read (advanced)

Report: Creating ‘An Architecture of Listening’ in Organisations

The report by Professor Jim MacNamara (Professor of Public Communication at the University of Technology Sydney) discusses how well organisations practice two-way communications and makes the case for creating ‘an architecture of listening’ and how to re-engage with audiences.

Read: Creating ‘An Architecture of Listening’ in Organisations

Book: ‘New Strategic for Reputation Management: Gaining Control of Issues, Crises and Corporate Social Responsibility’

Andrew Griffin (Chief Executive at Regester Larkin) writes a modern guide to reputation management, incorporating the impact of social media, and how to cultivate better reputations amongst the general public and stakeholders.

Book: ‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’

In this book, Stuart Thomson (Public Affairs and Communications Consultant) details an all-round guide to public affairs and lobbying covering many aspects, and the environments within several individual countries.

Watch or listen (introductory)

Video: Your strategy needs a strategy

Business strategy expert Martin Reeves advocates transitioning from relying on a single “classical” approach to strategy and moving towards a more tailored approach to strategy and execution selecting from 5 distinct patterns of success.

Watch the TED Talk: ‘Your strategy needs a strategy’ (11 minutes)

Video: Building stakeholder relationships

Bob Whelan, 2009 Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow, talks about the importance of building relationships with key stakeholders to achieve your goals.

Watch the TED Talk: Building stakeholder relationships (2 minutes)

Video: Key issues in stakeholder management

In this short film, Anne Gregory, Professor of Corporate Communications at Huddersfield University, discusses key issues in stakeholder management.

Watch the TED Talk: ‘Key issues in stakeholder management’ (3 minutes)

Watch or listen (advanced)

Panel discussion: The lost art of listening

Video of a panel discussion around organisational listening held at the London School of Economics in November 2016 including Professor Jim McNamara.

Watch: The lost art of listening: the missing key to democratic and civil society participation (1 hour 6 minutes)

Video: How to build a business that lasts 100 years

Strategist Martin Reeves explains how executives can apply six principles
from living organisms to build resilient businesses that flourish in the face of change.

Watch the TED Talk: ‘How to build a business that lasts 100 years’ (14 minutes)

Video: Corporate communications at Hitachi

This video by Hans Daems, from an International Advertising Associations Business Lunch, gives an interesting insight into effective corporate communications from one of the world’s largest technology companies.

Watch: ‘Corporate communications at Hitachi’ (22 minutes on YouTube)

Do (introductory)

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

Academy: Introduction to external affairs


Strategic engagement is a core pillar of the Modern Communications Operating Model (MCOM). Stakeholders have the power to inhibit or accelerate the achievement of our communications objectives and can galvanise resources far beyond government.

The right approach can make all the difference. Stakeholders can add independent credibility to what we are trying to achieve, facilitate our access to audiences, feedback on the progress of campaigns, flag issues early, and add their expertise to the development of communications and policy.

Learning outcomes:

  • give attendees the confidence to be in involved with all stages of stakeholder engagement
  • make use of the tools and techniques when assessing and prioritising stakeholder in order to make an initial approach
  • learn to establish and sustain effective partnerships as well as evaluate the results

This course is worth 5 CIPR and CPD points.

Watch the recorded webinar: Introduction to external affairs (GCS members only)
Watch our webinars by asking the development adviser in your department for the GCS access code or contact us for their details.

Academy: Strategic partnerships


This course is designed to increase awareness and understanding of how successful partnerships can support the implementation of Government communications. It will give best practice case studies from different GCS teams including Business Partnership and GCS Local.

Learning outcomes:

  • understanding how to use internal and external networks to support priority Government projects
  • practical guidance on building, sustaining and growing long-term partnerships
  • Hhw to deliver the voice of partners into policy development and policy evolution

This course is worth 5 CIPR and CPD points.

Webinar: Introduction to Public Affairs

This introductory Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) webinar is for those who would like to gain an insight into public affairs work.

Watch PRCA recorded webinar: Introduction to Public Affairs (1 hour 33 minutes)

Do (advanced)

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

Webinar: Unleash your inner creative

This training guarantees you’ll walk away with a toolkit of idea-generating techniques and a raft of ways to overcome creative burnout individually and as a team.

Watch PRCA recorded webinar: Unleash your inner creative (1 hour 29 minutes)

Webinar: Running Effective Political Campaigns – Influence the Political Agenda

This course will explore the strategies and approaches available to communications professionals who want to run a campaign designed to influence the political agenda. This webinar will help you to understand how external organisations try and influence government.

Watch PRCA recorded webinar: Running Effective Political Campaigns – Influence the Political Agenda (1 hour 33 minutes)


Share what you learn with your colleagues. If you are interested in becoming a trainer on a course, contact us at gcs@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.