A guide for new starters

Use this guide if you are new to the Government Communication Service (GCS).

A guide for new starters

PDF, 2MB, 20 pages


You will find a checklist to help you settle into your new role and a guide to understanding what is expected of you, as well as what you can expect from your new professional community.


Introduction: what I wanted to know when I joined GCS

The Government Communications Service (GCS) is the professional body for people working in communication roles across government.

GCS draws together professional communicators with different experiences, backgrounds and skills to support the work of:

  • 24 ministerial departments
  • 20 non-ministerial departments
  • over 400 agencies and other public bodies

All our members are civil servants. We carry out our work in accordance with the Civil Service Code, our Propriety Guidance and without political bias. Our goal is to provide an exceptional standard of professional practice in support of the government, implementing the priorities of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to build a stronger economy, a fairer society, United Kingdom and a global Britain.

We design, plan and deliver world-class media work, public‑facing campaigns and stakeholder and internal communications. We partner closely with organisations in the public, private and third-party sectors in pursuit of the greatest cost-efficiency and impact.

The work we do is rarely easy, constantly challenging, and always rewarding.

We are an active network that will help you achieve your career goals by sharing:

  • guidance
  • knowledge
  • conferences
  • networking events
  • toolkits
  • courses

Justine Harding – Strategic Campaigns and Planning Manager:

“I didn’t get what GCS was to begin with – how it fitted with my department and the wider civil service. Now I see it’s a great network to share knowledge, ideas and best practice across government so all communicators are working towards the same goals and high standards.”

Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communication:

“Skilled, passionate, talented government communicators don’t just inform the public: our work helps build the economy, saves lives, protects the vulnerable, and promotes Britain in the world. Communication is one of the four main levers of government alongside legislation, regulation and taxation.

When done well, its contribution to delivering government policies is profound. It is no surprise that communication is regarded as one of the major professions within the Civil Service.

GCS delivers world-leading communication that helps the citizens of the United Kingdom understand how they can make the most of public services. To remain effective, GCS strives to be a profession that is representative of modern Britain; one that actively supports talented individuals to succeed regardless of background.

In 2019 I set out three priorities – raising standards, strengthening our democracy and reassuring communities. This welcome pack has been developed to provide you with the knowledge, tools and networks you will need to develop a successful career in government communications and help us deliver on our priorities.

Therefore, whether you are joining us as one of our apprentices or as a director of communication, I would like to welcome you to the Government Communication Service”.

Twitter: @AlexanderAiken

The essentials

Whether you are joining us as a press officer, digital content producer or internal communications specialist, government communicators need to be agile and constantly adapting to a fast-changing audience environment.

In order to achieve this, we expect government communicators to demonstrate capability in more than one communication specialism.

We are the GCS

The benefits of being a member of the Government Communication Service (We are GCS video (YouTube) 1 minute 24 seconds).

The Modern Communications Operating Model (MCOM)

MCOM sets out the essential skills, capabilities and practices required for an effective public service communication profession and function.

MCOM 2.0 is built around 5 disciplines with strategic communication at the core:

  • Media
  • Marketing
  • External affairs
  • Internal communications
  • Strategic communications

Modern Communications Operating Model

What we do helps save lives

Across the government, professional communicators bring experience and expertise together to deliver on the government’s priorities. To do this, we use the OASIS framework (Objective, Audience insight, Strategy, Implementation, Scoring/evaluation).

The public expects the government to be a fast and reliable source of information in times of crisis – from flooding to terror attacks. A changing media environment means that disinformation can now spread faster than ever, to more people than ever. This is why, in addition to our Government Communications Plan that is published yearly, there are two GCS toolkits that we are calling on all communications professionals to prioritise this year.

The first is our crisis response toolkit, PRIMER (Plan, Rehearse, Implement, Maintain, Evaluate, Recover), which provides an emergency planning framework, and the second is our counter-disinformation toolkit, RESIST (Recognise disinformation, Early warning, Situational Insight, Impact analysis, Strategic communication, Track outcomes).

How GCS will support you

In 2019, we published a career framework to help our members develop their careers in government. The framework includes the stories of professionals across departments, which you can access here.

It also includes our talent programmes:

  • Impact
  • Inspire
  • Fast Stream

We have also created a new community platform to connect you to colleagues and insight from across the country. GCS Knowledge Hub is a community platform for Government communication professionals to connect and share knowledge and experience. It also houses an extensive and diverse library of audience insight, case studies and guidance material for members to use and learn from. You can request to join by emailing: insight@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

All government communicators will also have a Personal Development Plan and access to courses and webinars to support them as they develop their skills, build expertise and plan their careers.

There are cross-government teams that can also provide you with advice and expertise to reach different audiences, including:

To deliver on our commitment to be a truly diverse and inclusive profession that actively supports talented individuals to succeed, we have developed our own Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategy. This is supported by a series of mentoring schemes that will help you to grow your network and share your expertise across levels:

Whether you join one of our talent schemes or are looking to extend your professional network, there are many benefits, discounts and offers available for GCS members through professional bodies such as PRCA (Public Relations Consultants Association) and the MRS (Market Research Society).

What’s next

Join in and make your mark today. Complete the welcome pack checklist.

Follow our social media presence:

Welcome pack checklist

Before day 1

Day 1

Week 1

Week 2

Month 1

  • Reach out to your GCS buddy and arrange an intro meeting
  • Meet with your Director of Communication or Senior Communication Leader

Year 1

Marie Moller – Senior Communications Advisor Department for Transport:

“If you love working at the centre of things that matter to people, there is no better place to be than in government communications.”

Be the best

All GCS members should complete this Welcome Pack when joining the profession.

Members of GCS may have a primary specialism in one area and are supported in developing their skills and capability in core areas consistent with the Modern Communications Operating Model.

Members of GCS are encouraged to network with colleagues, learn new skills and share best practices across organisations. GCS offers a host of national and regional opportunities, from our Comms Exchange events to regular networking groups. Get involved. Use your skills across GCS, for example, you might support GCS recruitment by helping with our assessment centres, volunteering to deliver a course or webinar or by joining a cross-government GCS Project under the GCS Improvement Board.