Simon Baugh: day one as the first Chief Executive for GCS

Today is my first day as the new Chief Executive of the Government Communication Service (GCS).

I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to lead UK Government communications. From working in 3 different departments, I know just how many amazing, innovative and hard-working people we have in GCS.

GCS members work in arm’s-length bodies, non-ministerial and central government departments. They are marketeers, internal communicators, designers, press officers, content producers, speechwriters, behavioural scientists, data analysts, and digital experts. All are seeking to explain and build support for policies, or change behaviour for the public good. Their achievements represent the Civil Service at its best and I am proud to be leading them.

As well as celebrating their successes, it is my responsibility to make sure that we are ready for the future. Communication is changing fast. The landscape we operate in is volatile, with a high level of technological innovation, new players and fragile public trust. Every aspect of our work is subject to the transformative power of technology and this is creating new opportunities and expectations.

The central challenge for GCS is how to keep modernising the profession to harness these changes for the public good. To continue to deliver for ministers and the public, we need to deliver more efficiently while driving a revolution in our data, insight, and digital communications skills. We need to be more confident in using data to improve outcomes and in equipping ourselves to listen to audiences and honestly evaluate impact.

The skills and expertise of the people who make up GCS will be the ultimate determinant of our success. I want us to have the strongest learning and development offer for communications professionals of any employer in the UK.

Being part of GCS should be something that every credible communicator in the UK wants on their CV. I have spent most of my career in the private sector. It should be natural for people with communications skills built in business or the third sector to experience serving in government communications for a period, and for those in public service to spend time in the private sector.

Increasing diversity of thought is critical to our operational success. We cannot communicate effectively with people across the UK unless we draw our talent from every section of society. I want an open and inclusive environment, where people know that different views, backgrounds and experience are welcome and where everyone can flourish. I also want to create more opportunities for people to develop their careers outside London if they choose.

Our core Civil Service values are more important than ever, but in an increasingly polarised public debate they are questioned more frequently too. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has reminded us that having people trust government communications is crucial to our national security and wellbeing.

The 350 organisations which make up GCS each have their own priorities and objectives. However, we will achieve more working together than we will achieve alone. The big challenges facing the country, and this Government’s response to them, such as levelling-up, creating a global Britain, or net zero, can only be tackled successfully together. Sensible collaboration doesn’t mean an end to operational independence. We need to break down silos to help people across GCS to work together effectively.

I want this to be a moment to get our mojo back, bring people together and share ideas. It is a moment for us to be even more confident, ambitious, and innovative post-pandemic. A moment to work together as a network of people who deliver exceptional communications in service of the public and have fun and build a rewarding career while doing it.