Strategic communications

Suggested ways to build your strategic communications skills.

Specific areas for development within this capability include: horizon-scanning; understanding the context in which your team operates; strategy and message development; gathering insight, setting SMART objectives and evaluation. In some departments teams will also need capability in programme and account management.

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 to.

All GCS courses and PRCA webinars are available for free to GCS members. Book a course.

Read – Suitable for everyone

GCS Campaign Guide OASIS
The OASIS Campaigns Guide outlines the five steps you need to create a campaign (Objectives, Audience/Insight, Strategy/Ideas, Implementation, Scoring/Evaluation). It should be used by all government communications professionals regardless of discipline, department or grade.

GCS Insight Guidance 
The GCS Insight guidance is essential to government communications. By finding out more about audiences’ attitudes, habits and preferences, insight can help ensure government communications are as relevant, meaningful and effective as possible.

GCS Evaluation Guidance 
The GCS Evaluation Framework and guidance supports a more consistent approach to evaluation across GCS where outcomes are aligned to objectives. The GCS Framework is a quick, easy reference tool to ensure we measure what matters.

Read – Suitable for advanced

Book: ‘Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters’ by Richard P. Rumelt
This book explains the logic of good strategy and the sources of power that talented strategists have tapped as well as the pitfalls to avoid.

Book: ‘Organisational Listening: The missing essential in public communications’ by Professor Jim MacNamara 
This book argues that improved organisational listening is a key to citizen, customer, and stakeholder engagement.

Book: ‘Strategic public relations leadership’ by Anne Gregory
This book provides a framework for communications professionals to be able to clearly articulate and demonstrate their own contribution to organisational effectiveness.

Watch/listen – Suitable for everyone

PRCA webinar: Digital landscape for PR
From the changing face of the media and how it uses the digital platforms to communicate through to the advent of social media platforms such as Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook – there is a new backdrop to the practice of communications. This webinar examines the landscape against which we must operate.

TED Talk: ‘Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make a toast’
Making toast doesn’t sound very complicated – until someone asks you to draw the process, step by step. Tom Wujec loves asking people and teams to draw how they make toast, because the process reveals unexpected truths about how we can solve our biggest, most complicated problems at work.

PRCA webinar: ‘Measuring and evaluating PR’
This webinar provides an overview on the latest thinking in evaluation and how to apply it to your campaigns.

Watch/listen – Suitable for advanced

Talk: Crisis Management Strategies
‘Successfully Managing Crises’ author and crisis management expert Ian Mitroff talks about crisis management for today’s business world.

PRCA webinar: ‘Getting maximum impact from a disappearing PR & communications budget’
The online seminar will take you through the ways to develop public relations on a shoestring but still make an impact and to see the opportunities that lie in front of you.

TED Talk: Political campaigning in the digital age’
Lucian Despoiu is an influential person in the political marketing world and discusses how voters can and should influence political parties in the new digital era.

Do – Suitable for everyone

GCS courses are scheduled throughout the year, book a course.

GCS Aspire Course: ‘Strategic communications’
This course will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to design and implement strategic communication campaigns. It is based on the Government’s model for Strategic Communication called OASIS (Objectives, Audiences, Strategy, Implementation and Scoring) and you will have the opportunity to explore its five stages in depth.

GCS Aspire course: ‘Horizon scanning’
Horizon Scanning enables communicators to be better prepared and to take the opportunity to alter plans in light of potential risks and emerging issues. In this half day training course, you will hear what Horizon Scanning is and learn how to implement it with a strong process of intelligence gathering, filtering and reporting. You will also learn some of the academic models that back up the concept and put it into practice in interactive exercises.

GCS Aspire course: ‘A practical approach to Insight, Planning and Evaluation’
This course will demonstrate the value and importance of good audience insight as you work through every stage of the OASIS model. This will give you the knowledge, tools and tips that you need to identify, gather and analyse data and apply insightful thinking that will improve your planning and evaluation skills.

Do – Suitable for advanced

GCS Aspire courses are scheduled throughout the year, book a course.

GCS Aspire Course: Advanced strategic communications
This new advanced course will focus on challenges in strategic communication planning; developing a deep understanding of context; meeting the challenge of campaign integration; resource management; coping with complexity.

GCS Aspire course: Behaviour change
This course will provide an overview of changing behaviour with government communications. You will learn the framework of behavioural change, insights into what shapes our decision making, and how to apply this knowledge to running effective campaigns.

GCS Aspire course: Communicating locally
The course will introduce you to the essentials of local campaign planning including building successful local stakeholder networks; listening to the voices in your area; working with key partners (including devolved and national governments); identifying effective local channels; tailoring your campaign messaging for local audiences, and making the most of traditional and digital low and no cost platforms.


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 please tell us. Finally, once you are confident in your expertise in strategic communications, please contact us at so that you can help others build their skills.

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