GCS Standards in practice: Interview with Nicola Hudson

Woman presenting at a conference.

We sat down with Nicola Hudson, Director of Policy & Communications at the National Cyber Security Centre. In this short interview, we discuss how Nicola has used the GCS standards in a leadership role to ensure the profession is equipped to respond to new and emerging challenges and ways of operating.

Nicola joined the National Cyber Security Centre in September 2016. Prior to this, she held many exciting and interesting positions where no two days were the same. Moving from the private sector, she began her time with government communications working in the Olympic directorate, among other things working on the ‘GREAT’ campaign and planning government activity during the Games. From this, she moved to No 10 working on PM foreign trips and summits, as well as Head of News during two referendums and elections.

How have you used GCS standards?

As a leader getting the right mix of staff in the right roles is important in building a strong communications team. Part of that is recruiting a diverse and inclusive workforce including from different socio-economic backgrounds. I am part of the GCHQ BAME Leadership Board as there is more we can do. I regularly use the Government Communication Professional Competency Framework to help recruit staff from different walks of life in a fair and transparent way.

Even though we are a small team at the NCSC we have provided placements for GCS fast streamers, hosted summer diversity interns and have participated in secondments to and from Whitehall departments. These programmes are great in providing opportunities and experiences and sharing knowledge.

How have they helped you in your career?

The MCOM model has played an important role in my career in building strong, effective and efficient communications teams.

For the Government Olympic Hub, I ensured that all communications disciplines were represented and working as one team. At No10, I brought in the digital team which physically sat in the Cabinet Office into the No10 media team. This delivered a joined-up, speedy response to breaking news as well as being an integral part in the planning of stories.

My most recent challenge has been to set up a fully integrated communications team at the NCSC incorporating grid planning, strategic comms, media, internal comms, digital and events into one single cohesive unit which operates across three different sites.

A strong understanding of insight has also helped. I began my communications career at Camelot where behavioural science was a huge part of the National Lottery launch. A graduate at the time, behaviour change has shaped how I have approached strategic comms throughout my career.

Most recently, working with the Home Office, Cabinet Office and DCMS, we undertook extensive qualitative and quantitative research to help inform the development of a new national campaign on cyber security.

How do they support communicators?

Developing communicators is a priority for me. It is sometimes difficult to get out of the office and attend training courses – we all know that, but training is critical and there are brilliant GCS courses available out there to help you be the best you can. As well as developing skills the Aspire courses are great to network with colleagues and learn and understand how to put the OASIS (Objective, Audience insight, Strategy, Implementation, Scoring/evaluation) model to best use. For more senior communicators the Inspire programme is essential for progression. I am genuinely proud that I have been able to sponsor several people on this programme.