UK Government comms plan goes live

The Government Communication Service launched the Government Communication Plan 2018/19 here in London tonight.

The plan is important because it outlines what communication professionals across Government will collectively deliver to support the Government. It will help them achieve the priority outcomes in the year ahead and is packed with advice and guidance all professional communicators can learn from.

What’s GCS?
The Government Communication Service (GCS) is the professional body for people working in communication roles across government.

Its aim is to deliver world-class communications that support Ministers’ priorities, improve people’s lives and enable the effective operation of public service. They’re some of the hardest working practitioners I’ve encountered and I recommend reading the latest plan to be inspired by outstanding comms.

I was invited to attend the launch in London this evening, but unfortunately was unable to make it, so I’ve embedded Tweets below to share what we missed.

What’s in the plan?
The 2018/19 plan highlights high-profile campaigns contributing towards the Government’s ambition, Building a country that works for everyone: a Britain fit for the future.

Within the plan, there are four priority themes. The themes deliver the Prime Minister’s new narrative:

  • a stronger, fairer economy
  • a more caring society
  • a truly global Britain and Northern Ireland
  • a strong, new relationship with Europe.

It also explains the structure and core aims of Government Communication Service (GCS), and highlights its programmes and plans for improving communications professional practice across government. It’s a comprehensive and worthwhile read for all communicators.

Launching the plan, Executive Director of Government Communication, Alex Aiken (pictured below) said: “In January 2018, I set colleagues across the government communication profession eight challenges for the year ahead. Over this next year, we have a lot to do and we must continue to challenge each other, ensuring every government communicator delivers exceptional campaigns.

“Each campaign must make the best use public funds, and generate return on investment. To achieve this, we must continue to partner across the public sector, and utilise the expertise of private and third sector organisations too. This will ensure our reach and impact, but most importantly, the outcome of all our work.

“GCS is the pinnacle of the Civil Service Leadership statement, no matter your grade or managerial responsibilities, we are all leaders in our own rights. As always, GCS remains wholly committed to continuously improving ourselves, our members and our work. Our challenging improvement programme and our development of each member continues with extensive training and learning opportunities and a library of resources and recommended reading lists.”

Why the plan is important
Alex Aiken says: “This year’s plan is a must-read for every government communicator, every piece of our work, no matter how big or small, fits into our overall narrative and delivering the Government’s priorities. We all have a vital role to play in the busy year ahead and to ensure our profession continues to be one of the most renowned, both within and outside of Government.”

The work and the standards GCS practitioners adhere to in their work is also outlined, noting upcoming frameworks, guidance and support materials due to be published throughout the year. The plan was approved by Whitehall Directors of Communication in March 2018.

What do I think?

If you’re looking for a best-in-class example of a comms plan, you’ve found it.

The plan includes a quote from Chloe Smith MP, Minister for the Constitution and I like how she describes the role communication plays: “Communication is crucial in successful policy implementation. Whether it is raising awareness, influencing attitudes and behaviour, promoting effective operation of government services, supporting our citizens in times of crisis or helping them to understand decisions made. It is an honour to be responsible for GCS. It is clear both from our tradition and our daily performance now that you can and will continue to deliver a Britain fit for the future.”

Here are some of the highlights from 2017/2018. Well done and thank you GCS and all the Government comms pros for your hard work. We have best-in-class communicators guiding our country under the watchful eyes of Alex Aiken and the cross-government Directors of Communication. Thank you.

Professional standards

Earlier this year, the cross-government Directors of Communication set eight professional challenges for GCS in 2018. These will be common across the communications industry:

Enhance two-way communications using active listening to build trust and to better all major government campaigns.

Build a rapid response social media capability to deal quickly with disinformation and reclaim a fact-based public debate with a new team to lead this work in the Cabinet Office.

Raise standards by ending opaque digital marketing with a focus on value, safety and transparency, creating greater accountability for the Government – this will be at the heart of the new Media Buying Contract we’ll implement by the end of 2018.

Maximise the role of government communications in challenging declining trust in institutions through honest, relevant and responsive campaigns.

Demonstrate the role of communication as a valuable strategic tool that can deliver cost-effective public policy solutions, partly through a new approach to strategic communication that we will be implementing from June 2018 and is part of our GCS Improvement programme.

Work harder to master the techniques of behavioural science and start considering audiences by personality as well as demographic – we’ll be updating our guidance in this area and publishing a new guide by the end of 2018.

Create engaging content that will be shared and owned by audiences – pictures, videos and facts.

Transform the mass of data we have about audiences into actionable insight, which will be used to improve government campaigns. We’re already analysing data from our campaigns to improve our content and make it relevant to our audience.

The 2018/2019 plan has an extensive list of resources, which are all on the GCS website and are worth familiarising yourself with, whether you’re a Government Communicator or not. I regularly talk about the OASIS framework in my Strategic Internal Communication Masterclasses.

Further reading

Download the Government Communication Plan 2018/19 or you can follow the launch of the plan using Twitter, #GovCommsPlan.

Post author: Rachel Miller

First published on the All Things IC blog 26 April 2018.

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