Government Communication Plan 2019/20


Ministerial foreword

The year ahead celebrates 20 years of devolution in Scotland and Wales, showing the positive impact that devolved government has brought to all parts of the United Kingdom. As outlined in Chapter Two: Strengthening our democracy, we are committed to maintaining our Union and strengthening our democratic systems, with an emphasis on demonstrating the ways in which we are tackling disinformation and maintaining integrity in our elections.

Chloe Smith MP

The Minister for the Constitution, Chloe Smith MP, chairs the GCS Ministerial Board. In January 2019, the board signed off the major campaigns for 2019/20.

To support a smooth and orderly departure for the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, communication will offer the latest official advice and provide information to all those affected. Never has there been a more critical time to reinforce our values, strengthen our international relations and build a Global Britain. The GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland campaigns and the work we do with embassies and high commissions will be essential in embedding our new position on the world stage and will provide more economic benefits in trade, tourism, inward investment, exports and education.

We will support our nation through delivering on the domestic issues that our people care about and which make a difference to their everyday lives. We will show the benefits of the NHS Long Term Plan, priding ourselves on the world-class healthcare available, free, to all we offer to those who need it. We will also deliver on our priorities to build the homes people need, offer every child the best possible education, keep our country safe, and protect our environment for future generations.

The Government Communication Service (GCS) will play a significant role in achieving positive change. Whether this is through raising awareness, changing perceptions or encouraging behaviour change, we cannot implement policies effectively without compelling communications.

It is with great pleasure that I oversee GCS and I am very pleased to see continuous evidence of the impact of government communications, as well as the strategies in place to help build our country in a way that benefits every citizen throughout the United Kingdom.

Chloe Smith
Minister for the Constitution

Introduction from the Executive Director of Government Communication, Alex Aiken

The year ahead will be a hugely important time for the Government Communication Service (GCS). In ‘A country that works for everyone’, the government sets out its clear domestic agenda. The long term plan for the NHS, the next stage of the Industrial Strategy, building a stronger, fairer economy for our citizens, building more housing and supporting people to get on the housing ladder are all major policies which need effective communication to help the public, businesses and communities understand how they can make the most of public services.

Alex Aiken

Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communication

To ensure we are able to deliver against these challenges and are fit for the future, I’ve set the profession three key challenges for the year ahead:

  • Raising our standards through an ambitious portfolio of improvement programmes
  • Strengthening our democracy through our activity to maintain the Union, tackle disinformation and strengthen electoral integrity.
  • Delivering for our communities through our major campaigns for the year ahead that are necessary to meet the challenges the nation faces in the year ahead

Each year, I have the pleasure of touring the Government departments and their agencies to assess the quality of communication and leadership across GCS. I’ve been extremely impressed by the exceptional work I’ve seen and inspired to consider where we can improve further to use our skills to explain policy and help deliver services. The 2018 Civil Service Awards featured great examples of campaign communication and evaluation, including a new and effective approach to prison officer recruitment, which exceeded its 2,500 target.

Despite these successes, as a profession we just can’t afford to stand still. Our Skills Survey identified the significant progress we’ve made over the past few years but showed there is still more to do in addressing digital skills and leadership across the profession. We need to drive continuous improvement, address structural inefficiencies, streamline recruitment, retain staff and improve the skills of every communicator. At the same time, there are major challenges we have to face including artificial intelligence, rapid social media, the growing presence of online influencers and disinformation which we need to meet and master, hence the creation of the Rapid Response Unit and the RESIST counter-disinformation toolkit.

We are in a strong position as this financial year starts, but we have a big year ahead. I hope, and expect that as over the last 101 years, government communication can play a proper and effective role in enhancing our democracy and public discussion through the power of accurate information. Our development programmes will ensure we continue to be the best we can be, our work remarkable and we’re prepared to serve our country, meeting the demands of the future.

Alex Aiken
Executive Director of Government Communication

A country that works for everyone

We are a Government for the whole country, committed to delivering on the issues British people care about. That means honouring the country’s decision to leave the EU by making Brexit work. And it means building a stronger, fairer economy that works for ordinary working people. By doing that we will build a country that works for everyone – with the world-class public services, cleaner and greener environment and safe and secure streets that the British people expect and deserve.

Number 10

Delivering on the issues people care about

This Government is delivering on the issues people care about: securing the exit from the European Union the nation voted for, protecting and enhancing our National Health Service, building the homes people need, making sure every child gets the best possible education, backing our police, armed forces and security services, and conserving our environment for the next generation.

By doing this, we are tackling the burning injustices that hold people back. We are building a stronger, fairer economy that works for ordinary working people, and a more caring society that works for everyone, with opportunity for all those who work hard and do their best.

The right deal

The referendum was the biggest exercise in democracy in this country’s history. We will honour the result with the right deal, one that takes back control of our money, laws and borders, promotes jobs and protects security and our Union. We will introduce a skills-based immigration system based on people’s skills, not where they come from.

A stronger, fairer economy

We’re proud that our economy is growing, but know that some communities have been left behind. To change that, we will:

  • make markets work for everyone, including the housing market, so people can get on the housing ladder
  • end austerity with a balanced approach of getting debt down and spending more on public services including our long-term plan for the NHS
  • help people with the cost of living by keeping taxes down, helping with the cost of childcare and increasing the National Living Wage
  • improve schools, colleges, universities and opportunities for those wishing to develop new skills
  • deliver good jobs and growth across the whole country, with a modern Industrial Strategy that prepares us for the future

About the Government Communication Service

The Government Communication Service (GCS) is one of 14 functions that operate across the Civil Service. Our purpose is to deliver world-class public service communications that support ministers’ priorities, enable the efficient and effective operation of public services, and improve people’s lives.

John Manzoni and Sir Mark Sedwill

John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary (Cabinet Office) oversees GCS as one of the core Civil Service functions. Sir Mark Sedwill, National Security Advisor, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service established the Fusion Doctrine which guides our National Security Communications.

GCS brings together over 4,000 professionals across 25 ministerial departments, 20 non-ministerial departments and over 400 agencies and public bodies. We carry out our work in accordance with the Civil Service Code, our Propriety Guidance and without political bias. We abide by legislation that affects our work such as data protection, Welsh language, disability discrimination, freedom of information and copyright.

Led by Executive Director of Government Communication, Alex Aiken, GCS is governed through departmental Directors of Communication and the GCS Board, which is chaired by the Minister for the Constitution. The board makes recommendations on the direction, operation and development of the profession and holds us to account for the implementation of our major campaigns.

We bring together people, process, and specialist expertise within and across government. We work in partnership to ensure we set the highest standards of communication practice across the following key areas:

  • Embracing our commitment to professional development, skills and standards, as well as setting clear career pathways
  • Implementing outstanding campaigns, following the OASIS campaign framework
  • Evaluating the outcomes and impact of every campaign utilising the Evaluation Framework 2.0
  • Maximising technology to gain audience insights, develop the best ideas, implement strategies and achieve maximum impact
  • Engaging our staff through strategic internal communication excellence
  • Exemplifying Civil Service leadership behaviours
  • Upholding the highest ethical standards through the Civil Service Code and Diversity and Inclusion policies
  • Improving delivery through the five core disciplines set out in the Modern Communication Operating Model 2.0 (MCOM)

Working collectively across government

As we look to the year ahead, we have an important task to deliver for our communities and build a country that works for everyone.

Our portfolio is wide-ranging, with over 160 high profile campaigns based on a combination of foreign and domestic policies, as well as specific EU Exit communications, and we are committed to focussing on the things that matter to people across society. As explained in detail in chapter three, our campaigns will support government efforts to build a strong economy; enhance our National Health Service and provide access to the best possible education. We will ensure that people have a decent and safe place to live and will protect our country, helping to prevent social and environmental issues from occurring. We will also work hard to enable social mobility, as well as celebrate and inspire equality, diversity and inclusivity.

Directors of Communication

In February 2019, Directors of Communication met at the Ministry of Justice.

It is by working collectively, both within government and with partners from across different sectors, that we will have maximum effect and achieve meaningful outcomes for society.

We will continue to adopt a collaborative approach across our campaigns, delivering nationally and locally, and will use a combination of public relations, external affairs and marketing to achieve our ambitions.

We take huge pride in our 2018/19 achievements which, as seen on the pages that follow, demonstrate the palpable impact that our communications deliver and the significant difference that we make to the lives of our citizens. The year ahead promises to be significant, perhaps challenging and most definitely exciting. We will harness the expertise of the profession and work with our teams to continue to build on our success, using learnings and insights, great and small, to inform our approach and continue to deliver world class communications.

Departmental Directors of Communication