Delivering excellence in public sector communications

In this blog, Lester Posner and Anna Milne talk about the on-going GCS 2020 work to help government communicators make delivering excellence one of their daily habits.

If you’re looking for sage advice about communications, it doesn’t hurt to start looking back 2,400 years to Aristotle. As well as brilliant insight on how to influence an audience, he also had something to say about standards in public life:

For Aristotle, ‘Excellence is not an act, it is a habit.’

Forming a good habit

We all know good habits are often hard to form, so it’s always helpful to have some guidance to motivate you. For the last seven years, through the leadership of Alex Aiken, the work of the GCS Improvement Programme and the help of hundreds of GCS colleagues, government communicators are fortunate to have some of the best guidance in the profession to help us develop our skills and capability.

Whether it’s GCS Local, the IC Space, our behaviour change or counter misinformation guidance, we’ve worked hard since GCS was established to make sure government communicators have the resources in their regions, professions and work areas to do their jobs effectively.

Next level excellence

Our insight work showed that while there’s a high level of awareness of GCS professional standards, more needs to be done to improve understanding of how it all fits together. Our work on the ‘Delivering Excellence’ strand of GCS 2020 is to improve the impact of GCS standards and make public sector communications even more effective. We’re aiming to integrate all the best practice GCS has developed into government communicators’ day to day working lives. This will help us build the good habits Aristotle envisaged and achieve next-level excellence.

What we’ve been up to

With a core team of around 15 GCS professionals, we’re now up and running and starting to deliver some exciting projects. We’ve already designed and delivered a course to help improve leadership standards for grades assistant information officer (AIO) to grade 7 (G7). Together with the GCS professional standards team, we’ve developed a quality assurance framework to help departments deliver against the new Communications Functional Standard.

We’re also delivering a project to improve diversity in our most senior leadership roles, in line with the Civil Service’s commitment to becoming the most diverse and inclusive employer in the UK by 2020.

For those joining the GCS, we’re developing a new welcome pack to help embed our standards (and good habits) from day one. The core team are also working to develop a new ‘one-stop-shop’ for standards on the GCS website– so everything is super easy to find and what’s expected of you as a government communicator is very clear.

Why are standards so important?

For a final word, we’d like to share some of the stories from government communicators about how GCS standards make a difference in their jobs.

Watch our short video from the Health and Safety Executive’s Communications team at Redgrave Court in Bootle. You can also read what Nicky Hudson, Director of Policy and Communications at the National Cyber Security Centre, had to say on how she has used the GCS standards in a leadership role to ensure the profession is equipped to respond to new and emerging challenges.

Find out more

We’d also love to hear from you on how GCS standards are helping in your roles. Please send your suggestions to, so we can share your insights.

Lester Posner is Head of Communications for the Health & Safety Executive, follow him on Twitter: @posnerlester and stay up to date with @H_S_E.

Anna Milne is Deputy Director of Internal Communications & External Affairs at Department for Work & Pensions, stay up to date with them on Twitter: @DWP.