Alex Aiken launches the Government Communication Plan 2019/20

Blog post by Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communication

Wednesday 10 April 2019

I’m delighted that today we have published the Government Communication Service’s functional plan for the year ahead. It is designed to set the direction for GCS, the profession and function as we focus on the important task of delivering for our communities and build a country that works for everyone.

Alex Aiken headshot

Recently Cressida Dick, the Met Police Commissioner, wrote in The Times of the power of public communication to generate reports from the public which help the police prevent crimes: “on many occasions attacks have been prevented and lives have been saved”.

That’s further evidence that public communication is a force for good, improving and, on occasions, saving lives. The joint public service approach to saving young people from death and injury by knives is evidence of this. This month I chaired the Public Services Communication Council with police, fire, health and local government. It discussed how we can work together to support the Home Office #KnifeFree campaign together, which has already increased awareness of the dangers of carrying a knife and early reports show is reducing the carrying of knives.

The further evidence of the impact of our campaigns is set out in this plan. £4bn benefit to the UK economy from the GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland campaign. £140m of inward investment generated by DIT marketing, 27m working days saved by HSE. Public relations by DCMS that has ensured remembrance and recognition of sacrifice and internal communication by DfE which creates an inclusive and supportive working culture.

Those are fantastic achievements, but we will not rest on our laurels. Technology changes, new trends emerge, trust needs to be built and truth needs to be defended. This has been the mission of government communication over 101 years.

The Government Communications Plan this year focuses on ways that communicators can help strengthen our democracy and maintain the integrity of the United Kingdom, maintain the highest standards of professional practice, and help our communities through the provision of timely, relevant and accurate information.

This plan has been put together from the work of communicators who plan our campaigns, Directors of Communication working together to challenge our practices and see where we can work more closely, and scrutiny and challenge from the Ministerial Board chaired by the Minister for the Constitution, Cabinet Office Chloe Smith MP. This is a genuine cross-government collaboration involving senior officials and ministers, a model we will showcase to the OECD later this month.

I’d like to highlight some of the things that are new in this document.

First, more campaigns – 160. New work on social justice to build resilience in children, decrease inequality, combat loneliness and be more disability confident. Established work on the Industrial Strategy led by BEIS and building the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine, co-ordinated by MHCLG. And new campaigns on Internet Safety, the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, Media Freedom, led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Year of Engineering Legacy.

Second, new tools to tackle disinformation – the new FACT and RESIST toolkits.

Third, our ambition to be the best government profession, carried by the GCS2020 programme, the Accelerate digital programme and the Year of Marketing. We are well on the way: our media buying agency Manning Gottleib are assisting on the Year of Marketing programme and are transforming media buying, which lead to a record week for teacher recruitment marketing last week.

Fourth, improving our Inspire and impact leadership programmes and introducing a new core curriculum for government communicators.

Finally, expanding the work of GCS International, which has delivered projects in fifty countries, enhancing our security and prosperity; this includes supporting NATO, building the capability of partners and allies from Afghanistan to Jordan, and helping fight cyber-crime in Ukraine.

My goal is to build the best public service communication organisation in the world, working across departments, agencies and local authorities to develop a modern, professional digital public service communication community that is characterised by expertise and impact.

The Government Communication Service will exemplify the best of British public relations and marketing. This will see the Directors of Communication leadership group and departments working together on major campaigns. National Security agencies working together to create communications strategies that combat hostile states and terrorism. Communications agencies providing peer reviewers, banks supplying secondments and local authorities helping amplify public service campaigns.

Working together, in uncertain times, government communication is a powerful force to reassure, inform and explain and justify public services and help citizens make the decisions they need to in order to make the most of their lives.

Visit the Government Communications Plan 2019/20 website