Government Communication Functional Standard

Government Communication Functional Standard GovS0.11 sets the expectations for the management and practice of government communications, in order to:

  • deliver responsive and informative public service communications that support the effective delivery of HM Government policy and priorities
  • assist with the effective operation of public services


The standard provides direction and guidance for:

  • permanent secretaries, directors general (and chief executive officers (CEO) of arm’s length bodies)
  • senior leadership and board members within organisations;
  • those commissioning communications
  • communications leads within organisations
  • those involved in developing, managing and delivering communications
  • third parties engaged in government communications, including in partnership marketing


1 About this government functional standard

1.1 Purpose of this government standard

The purpose of this government standard is to set expectations for the management and practice of government communications in order to deliver responsive and informative public service communications that support the effective delivery of HM Government policy and priorities, and assist with the effective operation of public services.

This standard provides direction and guidance for:

  • permanent secretaries, directors general and chief executive officers (CEO) of arm’s length bodies
  • senior leadership and board members
  • those commissioning communication
  • communication leads
  • those involved in developing, managing and delivering communication
  • third parties engaged in government communication, including in partnership marketing

1.2 Scope of this government standard

This standard applies to all HM Government departments and arm’s length bodies.

Communication, in the context of this functional standard, includes announcements, media management, co-ordinated communication activities (including social media, branded campaigns, external affairs and stakeholder management) aimed to support the organisation’s policy and priority objectives. This includes external and internal audiences.

This standard excludes official correspondence, telephony, drafting of official papers and submissions, legal, transactional and operational notices.

1.3 Government standards references

The following standards are necessary for the use of this standard:

  • Govs 002 Project Delivery
  • GocS 003 HR
  • Govs 004 Digital
  • Govs 006 Finance
  • GovS 008 Commercial
  • GovS010, Analysis

2 Principles

At all times those managing communication shall:

  1. promote a shared vision across government, ensuring communications meet the needs of government as a whole in relation to policy and crisis and emergency management
  2. promote a culture of diversity and inclusion which represents the society served
  3. align with government policy and government-wide communication priorities
  4. ensure, through tiered accountability, that it is clear who makes decisions and owns outcomes and processes 1 VERSION 1.0 – 8 AUGUST 2019 GovS 011: Communication
  5. work collaboratively in order to achieve clear, simple and consistent communication on behalf of government managing duplication and minimising complexity
  6. keep processes simple and user-focused
  7. promote opportunities for continuous improvement, efficiency, innovation and transformation where this represents value for money
  8. that public service codes of conduct and ethics, and those of associated professions, are upheld

3 Context

3.1 Government communication

3.1.1 Government Communication Service

The Government Communication Service (GCS) is responsible for the development and delivery of the government’s annual communication plan and sets the direction for the development of professional capability, talent management, standards and guidance for communication across government.

Government communicators manage more than media handling or the communication that are released. Communication professionals are responsible for managing the reputation and brand of an organisation, both of which are at stake during a crisis or emergency.

3.1.2 Government Communication Service Ministerial Board

The Government Communication Service Ministerial Board oversees the operation of GCS and is chaired by the Minister for the Constitution at the Cabinet Office. The board reviews performance against delivery of the government’s annual communication plan and is responsible for ensuring:

  • an appropriate annual government communication plan is developed and delivered
  • the plan contributes to the delivery of government policy priorities
  • government communications are delivered in an effective and efficient way
  • the government can respond appropriately to risks and crises in an appropriate and timely manner
  • those involved in communication operate within the Civil Service Professions Best Practice Framework [4]

3.1.3 National Security Communications Committee

The National Security Communications Committee is a forum for determining and addressing national security strategic communications priorities. Its remit is to ensure communications is an integral part of the UK’s approach to national security and it is attended by Directors of Communication from relevant departments.

3.1 Campaigns and communication

The government as a whole, and each government organisation, (department and arm’s length bodies) has an overall communication plan which sets out the themes and ambitions for the major campaigns for the forthcoming period which fulfil one or more defined objectives.

Each campaign can comprise one or more communication package, each of which is aligned to the campaign objectives and covers a specific need or event. A communication package can be made up of a number of sub-packages. See Figure 2.

3.3 Digital communication

The future of government communication depends on the ability to connect with target audiences in a timely, appropriate and relevant way, giving them information and helping change behaviours in a way that fits in with their lives. In this respect digital media can enable communication teams to integrate more closely, connecting directly and quickly with influencers and audiences in a well-governed and planned way. This means communicators need to master new techniques, including digital technologies, and remain at the forefront of the latest practice, revising and updating their skillsets to keep ahead of the extraordinary pace of change.

Note: reference 5 Trends for Leading Edge Communication [5]

Note: see also GovS.004 Digital functional standard

(Figure 2: relationship between communication plans, campaigns and communication packages, showing associated roles – see in the PDF, page 3)

4 Governance

4.1 Governance framework

4.1.1 Governance

Governance comprises authorising, directing, empowering and overseeing management.

A governance framework shall be defined and established at cross-government and at organisational levels, which complies with this standard.

The governance framework should include: the appropriate delegation of responsibilities; authority limits; decision-making roles and rules; degree of autonomy; assurance needs; reporting structure; accountabilities and responsibilities; together with the appropriate management frameworks for undertaking the practices defined in this standard.

4.1.2 Cross-government governance of communication

Cross-government policy, directives and guidance relating to the management of government communication should be defined, kept up to date and be communicated to and available for the use of organisational communication teams.

4.1.3 Organisational governance of communication

The governance of communication should be an integrated part of an organisation’s overall governance and should comply with government and departmental policies and directives.

4.1.4 Campaign governance

Each campaign shall be undertaken in accordance with the campaign lifecycle (see 5) and should be the accountability of a named campaign commissioner (see 4.5.4) who, working in collaboration with a named head of campaign, will agree the objectives for the campaign (4.5.5). The head of campaign defines the roles, responsibilities, strategy, plan and resources for the campaign.

If a campaign forms part of a wider initiative, such as a programme or project (see GovS002, Project delivery) the governance of the campaign should be integrated with that of the wider initiative.

4.2 Communication planning

The purpose of communication planning is to set out the themes, ambitions and risks for the major campaigns for the forthcoming period.

4.2.1 Government-wide communication plan

A government-wide communication plan should be defined, which sets out the government-wide priority communications to be delivered in year. This plan should be approved in accordance with the government communication management framework (see 4.1.2).

4.2.2 Organisational communication

plans Each organisation shall prepare a communication plan annually, which:

  • shall demonstrate how the organisation’s communications support the government-wide annual communication plan and any higher-level organisational plan
  • should outline how communications support the effective delivery of both the wider government, and the organisation’s own, policies, priorities and public services
  • should include outcome-based metrics summarising what outcomes they are seeking to achieve that year

The organisation’s annual communication plan, and any updates, should be agreed by the senior officer accountable for the organisation’s communications (4.5.3) and approved at an executive board level.

Note: reference GCS Evaluation Framework 2.0 [2]

4.3 Decision-making related to communication

Key decisions required relating to communications include, but are not limited to, the approval of the following:

  • communication policies and directives
  • communication spending (see 4.4)
  • communication plans (see 4.2)
  • campaigns, initiatives and projects (see 5) • individual communication packages (see 5.5.2)

Decisions should be holistic, taking account of the wider context, risks and possible stakeholder reactions.

4.4 Assurance

4.4.1 Assurance framework

Assurance is the systematic set of actions necessary to provide confidence to senior leaders and stakeholders that communications are:

  • controlled and support the safe and successful delivery of policy, strategy and objectives
  • acceptable to, and understood ‘as intended’, by the target audiences

Organisations should have a defined and consistently operated approach to provide appropriate and proportionate assurance that communications are being planned and managed effectively and appropriately. This should be integrated with the organisation’s overall assurance framework.

Assurance may be carried out:

  • by, or on behalf of, operational management in organisations, who apply their judgement to support successful delivery and monitor adherence with a function’s standards
  • by, or on behalf of, senior management independent of operational management, to ensure the first line of defence is properly designed, in place and operating as intended
  • by independent bodies (within or external to government, such as internal audit and National Audit Office) who provide an objective evaluation of the adequacy and effectiveness of governance, risk management and controls

The work of internal and external assurance providers should be planned to:

  • proactively support known events of campaigns
  • minimise disruption to the work – overlaps with other assurance activities and duplication of effort, whilst remaining rigorous

Where assurance includes formal review activity, the customer for the review should be clearly identified.

Assurance of communications should focus on requirements and audiences, not government policies.

4.4.2 Advertising, marketing and communication spend controls

HM Government organisations shall comply with the GovS 006. Finance, the Professional Assurance process [6] and the advertising, marketing and communication spend controls on campaigns or programmes of communication with a value of £100,000 or over (per year) in accordance with GovS 008, Commercial.

Expenditure should be in line with the annual government communication plan. Where it is not, written approval shall be sought from the senior officer responsible for cross-government communication (see 4.5.1).

Applications for approval of expenditure shall have written approval from the relevant departmental minister and the senior officer accountable for an organisation’s communications (see 4.5.3) before being submitted. Arm’s length bodies shall seek these internal approvals from their parent department before submitting a request.

4.4.3 Buying advertising, marketing and communication services

HM Government departments, agencies and arm’s length bodies shall use approved government frameworks for the purchasing of external advertising, marketing and communication services and support, in accordance with GovS 008, Commercial.

Note: see guidance on buying advertising, marketing and communication services [20]

4.5 Roles and responsibilities

4.5.1 Senior officer responsible for cross-government communication

The senior officer responsible for cross-government communication is accountable to ministers via the GCS Ministerial Board (see 3.1.2) for the efficient and effective operation of government-wide communication.

The senior officer responsible for cross-government communication is responsible for:

  • the government’s communication strategy
  • the effectiveness and efficiency of government communication through the approval of marketing spending and the procurement of external contracts
  • providing advice to ministers and senior officials
  • major cross-government campaigns
  • the government’s communication plan
  • standards of professionalism in government communications

Note: the current job title associated with this role is Executive Director for Government Communications who runs the GCS (see 3.1) and is advised by the Evaluations Council on the development, understanding and implementation of evaluation best practice

4.5.2 Accounting Officer

The Accounting Officer is the senior executive in a central government organisation, accountable to Parliament and the public for the stewardship of public resources, ensuring they are used effectively and to high standards of probity. The Accounting Officer has ultimate accountability for commercial activities in their organisation.

Note: the permanent head of a government department is its Principle Accounting Officer, who generally appoints the most senior executive in organisations under the department’s ambit as an Accounting Officer

4.5.3 Senior officer accountable for an organisation’s communication

The senior officer accountable for an organisation’s communication is accountable to their respective Accounting Officer for:

  • developing the scope of communication in the organisation 6 Government Functional Standard
  • setting communication-related objectives, terms of reference, and responsibilities as necessary, to underpin the organisation’s objectives
  • developing the governance and management framework for communications
  • developing and maintaining the organisation’s communication plan and grid
  • setting performance measures and evaluation criteria to assess progress against the plan
  • ensuring adequate resources are available and organised to support departmental objectives
  • managing expenditure

4.5.4 Communication commissioner

A communication commissioner is accountable to their organisation’s senior leadership (and ultimately the Accounting Officer) for setting a campaign’s objectives and ensuring they are fulfilled, in particular:

  • keeping their senior leadership informed of the progress of the campaign, seeking guidance and direction as appropriate
  • developing and defining the objectives and desired outcomes in collaboration with the head of campaign
  • keeping the head of the campaign up-to-date on the context and relevant changes, providing direction and seeking advice, as appropriate
  • advising, in collaboration with the head of campaign, on the handling of escalated issues and risks, and approving changes to the campaign plan

4.5.5 Head of a campaign

A head of a campaign is accountable to the communication commissioner for developing and managing a campaign on a day-to-day basis, in particular:

  • mobilising, briefing and motivating the campaign team
  • developing a campaign plan in collaboration with the communication commissioner and managing progress towards its achievement
  • keeping the campaign’s commissioner up to date on the progress, providing advice and seeking guidance and direction as appropriate
  • keeping those working on the campaign informed of the context and progress, providing direction as appropriate
  • managing issues and risks, escalating as appropriate and requesting changes to the plan, in consultation with the campaign commissioner
  • evaluating the outcomes of the campaign and taking preventative or corrective action when needed

4.5.6 Communication lead for a communication package

The communication lead for a communication package is accountable to the head of a campaign for managing the work assigned to them, including:

  • ensuring work is completed within defined constraints
  • planning, monitoring, forecasting and reporting progress on their work
  • managing the resolution of risks and issues, escalating those they cannot deal with
  • requesting changes to their work scope

4.5.7 Communication business partner

Communication business partners are communication professionals who work directly with teams to build local, specialist knowledge. Business partners should be expert communicators, ensuring that communication advice is integrated in planning and decision-making from the outset.

Note: reference GCS business partnering guidance

4.5.8 Other specialist communication roles

Other specialist communication roles should be defined to suit the needs of the activity being undertaken. This can be for managing a variety of aspects of communication practice in accordance with this standard and the organisation’s communication governance and management framework.

Such roles may be either advisory as part of a team or may fulfil a leadership or executive role with accountability assigned.

Note: examples include roles for campaigns, marketing, press and media, digital, internal communications – see Government Communication Professional Competency Framework [7]

4.6 Other requirements

Government communication should be undertaken in accordance with the government’s communication governance framework for communication [1].

Staff engaged in communication activity shall follow and be subject to the GCS’s codes of practice in their communication activities [10].

Note: see also the Handbook [21] page 42

5 Campaign life cycle

5.1 Overview

The purpose of a campaign is to ensure each communication is viewed in the context of a wider campaign and that an organisation’s communications can be linked to a clear objective so that their impact can be evaluated.

The campaign lifecycle, shown in Figure 3, provides a framework for implementing communication initiatives, enabling:

  • problems to be addressed from an audience perspective
  • a united course of action to be taken
  • communications to be implemented in a co-ordinated way

A campaign should be planned and managed by a head of campaign (see 4.5.5) in consultation with the campaign commissioner (see 4.5.4), key influencers, marketing partners (where appropriate) and other relevant stakeholders. Lessons from previous campaigns should be drawn on (see 6.12).

Note: see the OASIS model (Objective, Audience insight, Strategy, Implementation, and Scoring) [8] and campaign planning tools [9]

5.2 Campaign objectives

The purpose of defining campaign objectives is to ensure hose managing the campaign and its component parts are clear on what is required and that those component parts are aligned.

Campaign objectives should be developed which:

  • support the policy aim – communication objectives should be developed for the activities that are intended to deliver this
  • include the part that communication should contribute to achieving the policy aim

Campaign objectives should be achievable, measurable, (expressed numerically) focused on outcomes not outputs, and related to changing attitudes and/or behaviour. When objectives cannot be measured numerically, the criteria for validating their achievement should be defined.

Note: see Strategic Communication: a behavioural approach [11] and the evaluation framework [2]

5.3 Audience insight

The purpose of understanding audiences is to determine the target audience’s attitudes, habits and preferences so that government communications can be relevant, meaningful and effective.

Government communicators should draw on a range of data sources – quantitative and qualitative, commissioned and publicly available – to create a full picture of target audiences and identify the appropriate method to reach them to achieve any given communication objective. Analysis should be undertaken in accordance with GovS 010, Analysis.

Note: see Annex C for a framework for gaining insight

Note: key audience categories include those in work, businesses, older people, families, young people, international stakeholders

Note: to access GCS content, or to join the insight and evaluation basecamp group, email

5.4 Campaign strategy

Government communicators should use audience insight to set out the strategic approach. The strategy shall include:

  • a defined target audience (see 5.3)
  • a proposition
  • messages
  • a channel strategy

5.5 Campaign implementation

5.5.1 Campaign planning

The purpose of campaign planning is to ensure the objectives of the campaign can be achieved within the known constraints (such as time, cost, resources and risk).

The campaign plan should be developed from the campaign strategy (see 5.4) and include:

  • the objective
  • purpose of the campaign (for example, instruct, influence, inform)
  • audience
  • internal and external issues
  • messages
  • channels
  • accountabilities
  • measurement
  • the approach to be taken
  • the timescales for delivery
  • resources required
  • influencers to engage
  • partners to be involved

The campaign plan should initially be developed using a channel agnostic approach, with the most appropriate channel, or combination of channels, used to achieve any given communication objective. The chosen approach should be piloted to verify its effectiveness as measured against the defined evaluation criteria. If necessary corrective action should be taken to improve the plan.

5.5.2 Communication packages

A communications lead (4.5.6) should manage each communication package, the plan for which should be approved before roll-out. The plan should include the:

  • objectives
  • audience
  • key message(s)
  • channels
  • timing, resources and cost

Each communication package should:

  • be relevant to government responsibilities
  • be objective and explanatory, not biased or polemical
  • not be – and not liable to being misrepresented as – party political
  • be conducted in an economic and appropriate way, and should be able to justify the costs as expenditure of public funds

Public finances shall be managed in accordance with GovS003, Finance.

5.5.3 Campaign roll-out

The campaign should be rolled out with each communication package initiated in accordance with the plan. Progress should be monitored in terms of outputs, outtakes and outcomes.

5.6 Campaign evaluation

Evaluation is conducted to assess the performance in delivering on objectives such as changing behaviour, improving operational effectiveness, building the reputation of the UK and explaining government policies and programmes.

Outputs, outtakes and outcomes should be monitored throughout a campaign and evaluated once the campaign is complete.

It is recommended that approximately 5% to 10% of total campaign expenditure is allocated to evaluation.

Analysis should be undertaken in accordance with GovS010, Analysis.

Note: see Evaluation Framework [2]

6 Communication practices

6.1 Strategic communication

The purpose of strategic communication is to set, co-ordinate and guide the implementation of activity, based on insight, in a timely way, as part of an overarching plan to deliver against the government and organisation’s agreed priorities to measurable effect.

Strategic communication should be:

  • aligned to the delivery of HM Government priorities
  • planned using defined practices
  • focused on audience understanding
  • evaluated to demonstrate value and capture future insight
  • integrated with all other aspects of communications

Strategic communication specialists should work alongside policy, operations, HR and project delivery colleagues from the outset, so they can inform and advise the government and organisational decision-makers on appropriate communication options and strategies.

Communication priorities for the government and each organisation should be agreed in consultation with policy makers and influencers and with the organisation’s senior leaders. Priorities should be recorded in an annual communication plan (see 4.2). When necessary, incoming requests for communication support for new or emerging communication priorities from ministerial/ policy requests/wider horizon scanning should be evaluated and priorities and plans changed, if necessary.

Long term communication requirements should be identified, and threats and opportunities noted by long-term horizon scanning.

Short-term planning should be managed through a forward-planning grid (published weekly).

Research should be carried out to understand the audiences and the impact of communications on them.

Analysis should be undertaken in accordance with GovS010, Analysis.

Note: see Strategic Communication [19]

6.2 Marketing

The purpose of marketing is to help fulfil operational and policy objectives by effectively understanding and meeting the needs of citizens.

Marketing campaigns include research into citizen behaviour, insight generation, strategic planning and the implementation of communication programmes across multiple channels.

Marketing campaigns should:

  • focus on delivering a high-quality end-to-end service and customer experience
  • support the raising of awareness of policies, influences attitudes and behaviours
  • aid the operation of services
  • be based on reliable data
  • use appropriate and validated creative techniques to influence attitudes and behaviours
  • be founded on established behavioural science
  • build confidence and trust in the government’s institutions and brands
  • be measurable in terms of effectiveness and achievement goals

Analysis should be undertaken in accordance with GovS010, Analysis.

6.3 Media relations

The purpose of media relations is to explain the policies and services of government departments and agencies through partners in the media to create public understanding of the aims of government and build the trust that the public place in the government’s services.

The media has a duty to hold the government to account and media teams should promote, explain and justify the government’s policies accurately and in an appropriate style. Those advising ministers and officials shall be prepared to communicate (verbally and in writing) with honesty and based on professional expertise and evidence, to advise ministers and officials on the appropriate approach to meet the needs of the media and achieve the government’s objectives.

The government and each organisation shall have a media relations operation which shall maintain a media planning schedule and forward look (in some organisations, referred to as the ‘grid’) to plan announcements which should be coordinated with the government-wide-grid.

Practitioners should have the expertise to work across all media platforms and channels (broadcast, print, online), including:

  • proactive media handling, such as making announcements
  • reactive media handling, including monitoring the media, handling calls and managing crises (see 6.7)
  • relationship management including engaging policy makers, ministers and special advisors and winning journalists’ trust
  • content creation, both proactively and reactively using appropriate channels
  • insight and evaluation including communication impact assessment and tracking across media

Note: see Modern Media Operating Mode, a guide [17]

6.4 External affairs

The purpose of external affairs is to build and maintain, for the public benefit, relationships with an organisation’s external stakeholders, including influential individuals.

External affairs practitioners and teams should:

  • gather intelligence to inform internal thinking and provide early warning of issue which might need to be addressed
  • take a balanced approach, encouraging supportive voices and mitigating criticism, and disseminate messages through selected stakeholder channels
  • explain government and the organisation’s policies to influential individuals and organisations for public benefit
  • co-ordinate high-level stakeholder engagement, providing advice based on gathered intelligence and an evaluation of impact of related campaigns and communication packages

Note: see External Affairs Operating Model [18]

6.5 Internal communication

The purpose of internal communication is to inform and engage employees in a way which motivates staff to maximise their performance and deliver the business strategy most effectively.

Organisations should develop, in consultation with senior business leaders and representative stakeholders, an internal communication strategy describing the current situation, agreed future state and means to achieving that future state.

Internal communication should be designed to support the organisation’s leaders by helping:

  • the organisation to deliver its objectives
  • staff see the connection between their job and the organisation’s vision
  • understand employee engagement and what drives it
  • managers communicate better with their teams

Internal communication should:

  • add value to the organisation in the short and long term
  • support the organisation’s reputation and brand
  • be agreed with the organisation’s commissioning manager(s)
  • be authentic, achievable, actionable and compelling
  • engage line managers in action
  • consider employees’ views and challenges
  • be authentic, and consistent in style and content

Note: see Internal Communications Operating Model [15] and Engage for Success [16]

6.6 Behaviour change

One of the primary purposes of government communication is to encourage changes in behaviour which benefit individuals and the public at large and help the government to run more effectively and efficiently.

Behaviour change should be a consideration in government communication campaigns, regardless of discipline.

The behaviours necessary to meet the wider government policy objective(s) and any barriers to change should be identified and those which can be addressed by communications included within campaign planning, considering how people are likely to behave in response. In this respect, it should be determined whether the audience has the:

  • right skills, mental and physical ability, and knowledge to change their behaviour
  • the resources and systems and support
  • the motivation to change

Note: see Strategic communication, a behavioural approach [11] and GovS002, Project delivery

6.7 Communication in an emergency or crisis

The purpose of communication management during an emergency or crisis is to ensure the flow of reliable, accurate, relevant and timely information to those who need it.

A crisis communication plan should be developed and validated in advance for known risks and should aim to:

  • keep stakeholders informed
  • build and maintain public trust in government and the organisation
  • ensure accurate information is being reported by the media
  • recover lost reputation

The plan should be updated to reflect the emerging situation. The plan should include:

  • who would be affected in the crisis
  • the worst case scenario and how to handle it
  • key messages to be used
  • channels to be used

Roles and responsibilities should be established as soon as a crisis has been identified. If not already planned, a crisis communications plan should be developed as soon as the crisis has been recognised, drawing on existing crisis plans where possible.

Communication should be open, transparent and informative, and based on established facts; trusted sources and channels should be identified.

Senior management should be advised, at the start and as the crisis evolves, of the key messages to be communicated.

Note: an emergency or crisis can include incidents such as flooding, terror attacks, civil insurrection, acts of war, death of a major public figure

Note: for more information on practical crisis communications, see the PRIMER framework [12]

6.8 Partnership marketing

The purpose of partnership marketing is to provide a cost-effective way to reach audiences, by harnessing relevant third-party influence and insight to increase the impact of government communication.

Partnerships shall be negotiated on an in-kind basis and partners shall not be required to pay a fee to be associated with a campaign.

Partners may be from the business sector, civil society or public sector bodies (such as fire and rescue services, police, local authorities and other government departments or their arm’s length bodies).

Partnership campaigns should be undertaken in accordance with section 5 together with the requirements and recommendations contained in this functional standard.

The objectives of a campaign should be defined and an assessment of potential partnership organisations undertaken against reach, relevance and impact to the target audience. Additional criteria may be used depending on the campaign subject and/ or audience to be addressed and determine the role the partner is intended to take. Existing relationships should be identified, reviewed against the organisation’s current and previous partners, and where necessary across government, to determine the potential partner’s reputation and the risks of working with them.

A partnership agreement shall be drawn up taking into account, but not limited to, requirements, roles, time considerations (including embargo and restricted periods), resource needs, budget, funding sources, value exchange, data security, governance, risk allocation and performance indicators.

The relationship with the partner shall be managed in accordance with the agreement. Any changes to the agreement should be formally agreed. Performance should be measured and preventative and corrective action taken if needed. If the campaign is significant in terms of size, duration or complexity, it should be managed in accordance with GovS002, Project Delivery.

Commercial partnerships should be defined and managed in accordance with GovS 008, Commercial.

Note: reference GCS Delivering Excellence in Partnership Marketing [13]

6.9 Capability and capacity

Resource, capacity and capability management balances the supply and demand for appropriate communication resources (such as people, equipment, material and facilities) to be deployed when needed. Communication resources may be sourced from within government, by recruiting or from the supply chain.

A comprehensive view of future resource needs should be developed and maintained, with possible shortfalls identified and addressed.

Planned resources should include the expertise and capability to provide consistent and effective application of contemporary technologies and data across all disciplines, and the use of online (such as web, mobile, social media and related channels) for the dissemination of content.

Communication resources should be developed or acquired, and work prioritised to meet the planned needs.

Development of communication staff should be undertaken in accordance with GovS 003, Human Resources.

6.10 Brand

Government departments, agencies and arm’s length bodies shall comply with the HM Government identity guidelines [3].

The unifying element of the government’s identity is the Royal Coat of Arms, approved by Her Majesty the Queen in 1956. Only departments of HM Government and its organisations are permitted to use the Royal Coat of Arms and associated insignia.

Note: reference Government Brand Portal https://

6.11 Writing style

Communications should be written using the most appropriate language to effectively engage with target audiences to achieve the given communications objective. Writing should be:

  • clear
  • concise
  • consistent

Note: see Style guide [14]

6.12 Learning from experience

The purpose of learning from experience is to avoid repeating mistakes and help spread improved practices to benefit current and future communication work.

Lessons should be continually captured, evaluated and action should be taken to mitigate risk and facilitate continual improvement of communication practice, including an evidence base of what techniques work best with different audiences. Organisation leaders (including arm’s length bodies) and owners of standards, processes, methods, guidance, tools and training, should update their knowledge sources and communicate learning as appropriate.

A. References

  1. Government Communication Service Modern Communications Operating Model
  2. Government Communication Service (2018) Evaluation Framework 2.0
  3. HM Government Brand Guidelines and artwork
  4. Civil Service Professions Best Practice Framework
  5. Government Communication Service, 5 Trends for Leading Edge Communication
  6. Government Communication Service, Professional Assurance
  7. Government Communication Professional Competency Framework
  8. Government Communication Service, OASIS Campaign Framework
  9. Government Communication Service, Campaign planning tools
  10. Government Communication Service, Propriety code of Practice
  11. Government Communication Service, Strategic communications, a behavioural approach
  12. Government Communication Service, PRIMER framework
  13. Government Communication Service, Delivering Excellence in Partnership Marketing
  14. Government Communication Service, Style Guide
  15. GCS Internal Communications Operating Model
  16. Engage for Success
  17. Government Communication Service, Modern media operating model, a guide
  18. Government Communication Service, External Affairs Operating Model
  19. Government Communication Service, Strategic Communications
  20. Government Communication Service, Buying communications support
  21. Government Communication Service, Handbook (access on the national archive website)

B. Glossary

campaignA planned sequence of communications and interactions that uses a compelling narrative over time to deliver a defined and measurable outcome.
channelThe medium to deliver a message to an end audience. Often categorised as either ‘paid’, ‘owned’ or ‘earned’.
channel (earned)The publicity gained through means other than paid-for advertising or own channel.
channel (owned)Owned media refers to media channels that a party has complete control over such as their website, blogs, email newsletters, social media and internal communications.
channel (paid)Covers all paid media, including TV and radio advertising, display, programmatic, search, media partnerships and sponsorship.
communicationCommunication, in the context of this functional standard includes announcements, media management, co-ordinated communication activities (including social media, branded campaigns, external affairs and stakeholder management) aimed to support the organisation’s policy and priority objectives. This includes external and internal audiences.
communication packageA communication package, managed by a communication lead, is an element of a campaign which covers a specific need or event and is aligned to the campaign objectives. A communication package can be made up of a number of sub-packages.
external affairsExternal affairs is about building and maintaining relationships with influential individuals and organisations for the public benefit.
fillersLow cost government TV and radio public service announcements, containing public welfare, health and safety messages, which are aired entirely at the goodwill of media owners who have donated free airtime
gridA media planning schedule and forward look to plan announcements.
internal communicationInternal communication helps leaders in an organisation inform and engage employees, in a way which motivates staff to maximise their performance and deliver the business strategy most effectively.
marketingIn a government context, marketing is the strategic application of a range of techniques that help fulfil operational and policy objectives by effectively understanding and meeting the needs of citizens.
mediaCommunication channels through which news, entertainment, education, data, or promotional messages are disseminated. Media includes every broadcasting and narrowcasting medium on and off line such as websites, social media platforms, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, billboards, direct mail and telephone.
partner longlistA list of potential partner organisations who are able to reach a defined audience before prioritisation has taken place.
partner shortlistA prioritised list of partner organisations to be approached for campaign support.
partnership marketingThe development and delivery of government messages via partnerships with private sector organisations, the public sector and civil society, utilising one or more elements of the partner’s marketing communication channels.
reachThe number of people reached by a communications activity.
sponsorshipA contractual arrangement where an organisation pays for the rights (exclusive or non-exclusive) to be associated with an activity. This may be financially or through the provision of products or services.
strategic communicationStrategic communication sets, co-ordinates and guides the implementation of activity, based on insight, in a timely way, as part of an overarching plan to deliver against agreed priorities to measurable effect.
value exchangeEnsuring that each side of a marketing partnership is content with what they are receiving from the relationship relative to what they are giving.

C. Framework for gaining audience insight


Vital statistics

How many people are like this? Trends? Indices and comparisons.

Who they are

Key economic or demographic characteristics (individuals’ age, sex, etc.).

General lifestyle

How they live. What they like doing. Priorities. Aspirations. Consumer trends. Attitudes to government/life in general.

This area/issue

Needs, benefits and motivations

Rational needs, emotional or hidden needs. What motivates them?

Behaviour – what they do

What drives and triggers action? Where do they do what they do? How frequently? Barriers to doing/thinking? Key words language used?


Who or what influences them? Why? (See also ‘Media’, below.)

Beliefs and attitudes

Thoughts, beliefs, attitudes to this? What values do they hold that relate to the issue? What makes them feel good? Bad? Why?


Getting information and messages

Place, time and how they get info. How much info they want/need. Where they get it from-media used. When and where they’re most receptive?

Who influences them

Who they do/don’t listen to and respect. Who delivers for them? In contact with?