Global temperature check of government communications

Overcoming big policy challenges – levelling up, building our international reputation, and meeting our net-zero targets, requires effective conversation and communication between the UK Government and those who live here.

To make ourselves resilient to the trend of declining trust in government, we need a robust communications profession. The UK’s Government Communication Service (GCS) has a duty to deliver value for money but also hold ourselves to high standards. Government communicators need to adapt to the latest developments in communications. This includes harnessing technological changes for the public good as well as incorporating good practices such as the use of insight, behavioural science, and evaluation.

The COVID-19 pandemic was novel for the current communications era. To ensure governments were using the latest techniques in their communications, we shared GCS’ expertise and learning with other governments and we also took learnings from them. Together we found similar challenges such as declining trust in government communications, misinformation and disinformation undermining our responses.

This collaboration exposed an opportunity – if we have similar challenges, what does effective government communications look like globally? Are there opportunities to collaborate beyond COVID-19? Perhaps we could share other insights and key learnings?

Together with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (a network of governments who collaborate to establish evidence-based international standards), the UK Government supported the development of the OECD report: “Public Communication: The Global Context and the Way Forward”.

Using surveys and dialogue from 46 countries, the OECD looked at the resources, functions, utility, and approach to public communications to inform the international capability report.

The report is the first deep-dive into government communications on a global scale, including leading practises and reform priorities, and compares each government to give an indication of where government communications is, as a global profession.

It outlines how public communication is crucial in addressing the double crisis of trust, in both governments and information. The UK Government has already incorporated a number of the findings of the report for many years:

  • government communications should be informed by evidence, including behavioural insight
  • evaluation of government communications should be part of the communications campaign planning process
  • digital communications should be citizen-centric to have conversations with citizens
  • responding to misinformation and disinformation requires a holistic approach with legislative and regulatory responses
  • campaigns, media relations, internal and crisis communications can help with policy implementation, service delivery and democratic principles

GCS already has frameworks that meet these criteria. The OASIS campaign plan incorporates insight and evaluation and we have a Digital profession within the Civil Service. 

In response to the report, the UK Government and the OECD are collaborating to build a global government communications profession, to strengthen the role of communication for effective policy and governance around the world. 

In an increasingly globalised world, audiences for our communications go beyond our borders – now’s the time to collaborate and learn, to secure the future of government communications. 

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  • OECD report of Public Communication: The Global Context and the Way Forward, 2021 (1)