Digital communication

We are now well and truly in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an era defined by the unprecedented integration of data and technology into every aspect of our lives.

No sector is affected more than communications, and the rate of change is exponential: every day we are presented with new opportunities to connect with new audiences in new ways.

In this fast-changing future, digital development is no longer just the latest trend but the driving force behind this change. We must embrace it across all our communications specialisms to continue to succeed.

What are ‘digital’ communications?

In the GCS, ‘digital’ means the application of contemporary data and technology to all specialisms set out in the GCS Modern Communication Operating Model (MCOM), and the use of web, mobile, social media and other non-analogue channels for communication with the public.

Digital skills vary according to MCOM specialism and include: creating content, managing platforms, securing third-party influence, digital marketing, data modelling, coding, and open-source anonymised social listening.

Why does digital matter?

The purpose of the GCS is to deliver world-class communications that support government priorities, enable the effective and efficient operation of public services, and improve citizen’s lives. In order to achieve this we cannot merely keep-up with the pace of change, but must actively lead the way.

To assess our current level of digital success, in December 2017 Directors of Communications commissioned an extensive assessment of government communications digital capability. The conclusion of this review was clear: we need a fundamental shift in how digital is positioned in government communications.

This shift is as much about mindset as skillset. A strong digital attitude depends upon a broad awareness of technological advances, an understanding of the implications of current changes in communication for government, and active consideration of emerging opportunities for innovation.

What are we doing in the GCS to achieve this?

A central GCS Digital team sets the benchmark for government digital communications activity. Operating across the Cabinet Office and No.10, we provide cutting-edge digital communication services for central government and Downing Street. We also lead cross-government transformation programmes to enhance GCS digital capability throughout the profession.

We work closely with the Government Digital Service (GDS), which leads the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) function, to ensure our transformation of government communication operations and practice is fully aligned with their wider digital transformation of government services and infrastructure.

Our remit currently includes:

GCS Accelerate

Launched in September 2018 and managed jointly with the central GCS Professional Standards team, this ambitious two year programme aims to transform the GCS into the most digitally advanced communication service in the world. Encompassing all levels and disciplines of the entire profession, and aligned to the MCOM framework, the programme is delivering industry-leading professional development, expert consultancy and immersive training across the whole of government. With certification available from Summer 2019, Accelerate will empower, equip and engage all 4000+ government communicators to succeed in this digital age.

Rapid Response Unit (RRU)

Launched in April 2018, the RRU works to counter misinformation and disinformation and reclaim a fact-based public debate. We achieve this by using the FACT model to monitor, assess and respond to online news and (public) social media activity round the clock, coordinating with National Security teams when necessary. We are also delivering secondments and media toolkits through the Accelerate programme to build media capability in press offices across government. We continue to innovate and develop our approach.

Read about some of the online trends the RRU identified in 2018.

Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) Modernisation

The RRU is also radically modernising the MMU, delivering a range of new daily, weekly and commissioned online news reports and tailored social media insight products to press officers and media specialists across government. We are also enhancing the pre-existing MMU service.

Subscribe to the new Social Headlines updates, or register for other MMU services.

Media-Buying Transformation

Sitting within the GCS Digital team, a Media and Marketing Data (MMD) unit leads the digital, data and tech transformation of government advertising. This follows the transition of our £600 million four year media-buying contract to Manning Gottlieb OMD in November 2018. Our new partnership (‘OmniGov’) is built on pillars of transparency and value for money, with a collaborative focus on real outcomes and a commitment by us to become smarter clients.

Read more about the media-buying transition.

Digital Centre of Expertise (DCOE)

The DCOE is a cross-government forum, managed by the central GCS Digital Content team. It facilitates the continuous coordination and amplification of central government digital content and publishing activity, and hosts monthly sessions for industry experts and government content and publishing leaders to share best practices. Membership is open to all central government Heads of Digital.

Thought Leadership

The GCS Digital team identifies emerging trends and provides guidance on how government communications professionals should respond. Launched at the 2018 GCS & LG Comms Academy, our latest report (‘5 Trends in Leading-edge Communications’) is available to read online. We also work with industry experts to run immersive workshops across government, sharing best practice and research and analysis of the latest communications trends.

Web-based Development

Our Development team designs and hosts a variety of innovative micro-sites, tools and online platforms to support government campaigns, enhance data infrastructure and analysis, and provide specialist applications for our transformation programmes. Alongside this, we manage and deliver the TV & Radio Fillers Marketing Service, securing free airtime on local and national channels to promote government campaigns. The team also works very closely with GDS to support the management and governance of cross-government campaigns sites and GOV.UK.