Digital communications

Suggested ways to build your digital communication skills.

Specific areas for development within digital communication include:

  • better understanding of data and how it can be used to reach and communicate with our audiences
  • increase skills and capability in the use of social media analysis software to gain insights
  • create more relevant and impactful content, improve reactive media handling online
  • understand digital marketing and the targeting opportunities it offers, and improve evaluation of online communications activity

This list is not exhaustive and should be used in conjunction with discussions with your line manager about your professional development plan (PDP). You should also look at what is on offer from Civil Service Learning and any professional body that you belong too. 

Read, watch/listen, do

Continue to build your expertise. At this level, it is most effective to network with colleagues, keep abreast of current thinking and contribute to senior practitioner groups both within the profession and across industry. As the GCS Professional Development Performance Management Standards specify everyone at Grade 7 and above should be actively helping to up skill others. We also encourage colleagues with this level of expertise below Grade 7 to do the same. Contact if you are interested in being a trainer.

Read (introductory)


Government information should be as accessible and inclusive as possible. Something can be accessible to some people, like a video or a tweet, while being inaccessible to others. Find out more about accessibility:

Think with Google

This website is regularly updated with digital marketing and audience insights: Think with Google .

‘Dataclysm – what our online lives tell us about our offline selves’

This book by Christian Rudder Drawing is about data from OKCupid, Google, Facebook, and more. Christian Rudder reveals our hopes, fears, dreams and desires.

Read (Advanced)

  • Book: ‘Connected: The surprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives’ by Nicholas Christiakis and James H. Fowler Christakis and Fowler present compelling evidence for our profound influence on one another as they explain how social networks form and how they operate.
  • Book: ‘Information is beautiful’ by David McCandless This is a visual journey through the most revealing trends, offering inspiration on how to visualise your data.
  • Publication: ‘Fake news – a roadmap’ published by King’s Centre for Strategic Communications and NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence Fifteen MA students studying strategic communications have collaborated with NATO to publish the first definitive analysis of the growing phenomenon of ‘fake news’ in this fascinating book.

Watch (introductory)

Digital accessibility for government communicators (with GDS)

Learn all about the new digital accessibility requirements, and how to make your digital communications accessible

The learning outcomes are:

  • the new accessibility requirements for all government digital communications
  • how to go about ensuring your digital communications meet those standards

This recording is simulated live, so you won’t be able to pause it once it starts. You will be asked for your name and email.

Watch the digital accessibility webinar (48 minutes 19 seconds)

The transcript for this webinar will be available on Tuesday 26 May.

TED Talk: ‘The power of story’

Greg Power is President of the Canadian operations of world leading public relations agency Weber Shandwick. Throughout his communications career, his interest has been in the challenge of building the bridge between a message and an audience. Watch TED Talk ‘The power of story’

TED Talk: ‘How to get your ideas to spread’ 

Marketing guru Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. Watch TED talk ‘How to get your ideas to spread’

BBC Academy Podcast: ‘The truth about fake news’

The BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan asks James Ball, Special Correspondent at BuzzFeed News, and Mark Frankel, Social Media Edtitor at BBC News, about the different meanings of ‘fake news’ and how journalists should respond to it. Listen to ‘The truth about fake news’

Watch/listen (advanced)

BBC World Service Podcast: ‘The past and future of fake news’

The past and future of fake news – what can be done about social media misinformation and what impact does it have around the world? Mike Wendling asks a panel of experts from Buzzfeed, the Poynter Institute, and First Draft News. Listen to ‘The past and future of fake news’

TED Talk: ‘What Physics taught me about marketing’ by Dan Cobley

Physics and marketing don’t seem to have much in common, but Dan Cobley is passionate about both. He brings these unlikely bedfellows together using Newton’s second law, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the scientific method and the second law of thermodynamics to explain the fundamental theories of branding. Watch ‘What Physics taught me about marketing’

TED Talk: ‘The Secret to Successful Crisis Management in the 21st Century’ by Melissa Agnes

Melissa Agnes discusses the impacts that the digital landscape have on crisis management and the key to successful crisis management. Watch ‘The Secret to Successful Crisis Management in the 21st Century’

Do (introductory)

GCS courses are scheduled throughout the year, check which courses are currently available and book.

GOV.UK training

To be able to publish any kind of content on GOV.UK, you have to first attend a 2 day-long course on ‘Writing for GOV.UK‘ and ‘Using Whitehall publisher’ which you can book through your department’s head of digital publishing.

Introduction to Content Design

Run by the Government Digital Service, discover the fundamentals of content design. Learn about user-centred content that’s easy for everyone to understand and access. Join the course for free (starting 18 May 2020)

Creative Content – Photography 101

This Photography 101 course comprises tutorials and practical sessions covering key photography skills using a DSLR camera, top tips for storytelling and lessons learned for those taking photos for Government communications.

Google analytics for beginners training

Free online training course in how to use Google Analytics to understand how people are interacting with your websites. Visit Google Analytics

General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR)

GDPR compliance requires that individuals be able to opt out of being subject to automatic decision making, such as the use of cookies on websites, personalised marketing and how individuals information is being processed. It is important you learn about GDPR:

The Skills Toolkit

The Skills Toolkit is made up of free online courses, tools and resources to help you improve your digital and numeracy skills, from the Department for Education.

    Do (advanced)

    GCS Aspire courses are scheduled throughout the year, check which courses are currently available and book.

    GCS Aspire Course: Online Crisis Response and Media Relations

    This course will include real life examples from the public private sector as well as some useful models and checklists. In three phases spread through the day participants will be asked to work in teams to handle an unfolding fictional crisis scenario using a private online crisis simulation platform, Crisis90. Participants will be guided through three stages where they will be able to compare their strategic responses, key messages and tactical approaches.


    Share what you have learnt with those you work with so that we can all continuously improve and if you come across other great sources of learning to read, watch or do, tell us. Finally, once you are confident in your expertise in digital communications, contact us at so that you can help others build their skills.