Case study: Working with embedded communicators

“All civil servants are required to be competent at communications – for example, drafting succinct submissions and engaging with stakeholders. 

Like other departments and ALBs, some roles require specialist communication skills. These mostly sit within the central DfE comms team, but we also have a wider community of embedded comms professionals. All professional communicators have strong links to the non-professional but essential operational information and stakeholder engagement staff.  Working in partnership with the operational engagement and information teams was vital particularly during our response to COVID and remains so today.”.

Sherma Julien, DfE Deputy Director Internal Communications and GCS change


In the Department for Education for a role to be classified as an embedded comms professional, it needs to meet all the following criteria:

  1. Be under one of the seven professional MCOM disciplines.
  2. Be recruited into using the specialist GCS technical competencies.
  3. Have transferable professional comms skills so the incumbent, if necessary, could be redeployed to work for a short time anywhere across GCS e.g. covid response, bridges, MoG support, coronation, terror attack response (rather than comms skills that are only related a specific policy area).
  4. Contain the following activity which requires technical communications expertise to deliver:
    1. Communications strategy and planning
    2. Campaign development, implementation and delivery 
    3. Strategic relationship management
    4. Brand and corporate identity guardianship
    5. PR, content strategy and social media
    6. Internal communications specialists supporting organisational and cultural change 
    7. External affairs specialist to build strategic alliances with key partners and secure advocacy
    8. Consumer/public facing audience communication
    9. Horizon scanning 
    10. Risk identification and management
    11. Crisis and Reputation management
    12. Comms advisory and quality assurance
    13. Communications Business Cases and Professional Assurance including scrutiny of communications spend.
  5. A minimum of 75% of the role is professional communications in line with the MCOM model. 


The Director of Communications has to approve all roles in DfE using the comms and marketing category to advertise on Civil Service Jobs. There is an agreement with HR that jobs don’t go live without checking first with the communications function. 

Embedded roles

Any embedded posts which are approved will generally be long term or permanent roles that need to work particularly closely with policy colleagues, for example in Teacher Recruitment.  Where appropriate, the embedded post should have a dotted line reporting to the central team and a representative from the communications function should be on the interview panel.

Non-professional comms roles

Any role that is not deemed professional communications such as stakeholder policy engagement roles or operational information roles should not use the word ‘communications’ in the job title. We try to reserve this for professional communication roles only. 

These roles are recruited against general civil service competencies or success profiles and should ideally not include communications or marketing in the job title to avoid confusion. Instead, job titles that include ‘information’, ‘knowledge management’ or ‘engagement’ are used.

Professional comms roles

When a role is classified as professional (either within the central team or an embedded communicator), this guides how it is advertised and recruited within DfE.  A professional communicator should be recruited using the GCS technical competencies.  Candidates will be required to demonstrate skills within one of the seven MCOM disciplines along with communications expertise to enable surge capacity deployment. 

Working practices

Once in post, DfE professional communicators are expected to maintain a dotted line to the DoC and to be a member of GCS. They should use the OASIS and Evaluation Framework, ensure that their work is aligned to the DfE and GCS Communications Strategies and work in an integrated way with the other MCOM disciplines. 

The operational information and stakeholder engagement roles that are unlikely to be classified as professional communicators include roles with tasks that do not need specialist comms skills for example:

  1. Routine stakeholder engagement for policy and implementation such as webinars and newsletters.
  2. Responding to correspondence, PQs & FOIs.  
  3. Delivering technical information to end users for specific operational purposes
    (e.g. funding deadlines).
  4. Policy teams running project related events or roadshows,
  5. Stakeholder consultation work.
  6. Delivering technical digital content for service delivery,
  7. Publishing policy and operational digital content for GOV.UK
  8. Internal communications to share and cascade information with staff as part of local communications,
  9. Preparing or writing guidance or information for stakeholders and customers.

There is a requirement for policy or operational experience, along with expert knowledge of a particular policy or operational field. However, they would not be required to be deployed to another government department on the basis of their communications expertise.   Their objectives would be aligned with the organisation’s business plan, rather than the GCS or DfE communications plan.