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Government Communication Plan 2019/20

Raising our standards

Our portfolio of improvement

Rapid changes in digital technology, social media, and changing public perception as well as demographic shifts mean we need to step up our efforts to ensure we are a profession equipped to respond to new and emerging challenges and ways of operating.

To help us towards this goal, in early 2019 we collectively agreed Raising our standards, an ambitious portfolio of improvement programmes (outlined below) that will drive transformation across departments and agencies.

The newest of these programmes, GCS2020 builds on and accelerates our prior phases of improvement activity over the last five years by:

  • Leading the GCS way: launching a new model for communication leadership practice that defines the collective future vision for government communication, integrating new and emerging trends in areas including digital, marketing, media, audience segmentation and behavioural science.
  • Delivering excellence: implementing a new professional standards and quality assurance framework that validates and promotes ‘next level’ excellence and innovation in public service communication.
  • Ensuring the right people in the right place at the right time: publishing the first collective workforce and skills strategy for GCS, produced by departments and agencies.
  • Maximising our scale: bringing expertise together through innovation hubs to share and promote excellence in current communication practice, ensure effective use of resources and facilitate the continuous improvement of the profession.

2019: The Year of Marketing

We will raise the profile of government marketing, with a Year of Marketing in 2019. We will improve the capability of government marketers and increase understanding of the effectiveness of marketing as a tool to deliver operational and policy objectives. This activity will be based on a visionary manifesto of future marketing trends that we will publish in spring 2019.

As part of the Year of Marketing, we will:

  • Run a series of events for members of GCS with inspirational speakers exploring the themes of the manifesto.
  • Deliver training to ensure the profession has the skills needed to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.
  • Ensure we have the best processes in place to support the delivery of world-class marketing campaigns.

Our transformation of media buying is crucial to this work, and ensuring our marketing campaigns are the most efficient and effective possible. Paid media placement has a vital part to play in allowing government to deal with the varied and often unpredictable challenges ahead. In 2018, GCS entered a new four-year media buying contract with Manning Gottlieb OMD (MG OMD), which has been designed to help find solutions to some of the biggest advertising challenges facing government and industry.

Fire it Up Apprenticeships

Working in partnership with MG OMD, we are significantly enhancing our ability to responsibly use data to give better audience insights and enable more responsive, transparent, and efficient media buying.

Being certain that our campaigns appear in a safe media environment is a vital part of ensuring they are delivered effectively, so we are continuously pushing for the highest standards of brand safety. We are also committed to pushing for 100% viewability of all our digital advertising campaigns.

Accelerate: digital skills and culture transformation

In 2018, we set up the Accelerate programme. It offers industry-leading professional development, consultancy, and training across government to ensure that GCS is leading the way digitally.

The programme will drive innovation and help communication professionals commit time, resources, and energy to personal and team upskilling.

It will help communicators stay abreast of the latest technological advances, understand current communication trends, and be able to consider emerging opportunities for innovation within government.

Accelerate delivers transformation through six specialist ‘learning hubs’, which each align to the disciplines set in the MCOM 2.0.

An additional executive leadership strand delivers tailored learning and development opportunities specifically for Directors of Communication.

The offer to all government communication professionals includes:

  • details of the digital and technical knowledge and skills necessary to succeed
  • formal training events and informal learning resources, including practical toolkits providing easy-to-understand and actionable guidance to assist communication professionals in their day-to-day work
  • specialist learning pathways supporting 120 GCS members in their professional development journey in 2019, with additional opportunities available through the GCS-wide Aspire curriculum
  • immersion sessions for leaders to learn about industry best practice, and dedicated consulting support

Modern Communications Operating Model 2.0

In 2015, GCS published its Modern Communications Operating Model (MCOM). It provides the proposed structures, skills and capabilities a high-performing communications directorate or team should have. A refreshed blueprint for core communication disciplines and guidance for professional practice will be published in spring 2019.

MCOM 2.0 introduces marketing and emphasises the importance of strategic communication, which puts audience understanding at the heart of policy and service design, resulting in better decision-making and improved delivery. The five core communication disciplines work together to deliver the strategy set.

  • Internal communication engages staff in delivering priorities and supporting organisational and cultural change, maximising performance and delivering business strategy most effectively.
  • External affairs explains policies, but also listens to help build campaigns that deliver.
  • Marketing raises awareness of policies, influences attitudes and behaviours and supports the operation of services.
  • Media includes proactive and reactive handling of the press, relationship management, content creation and insight and evaluation.
  • Strategic communication sets, coordinates and guides the implementation of activity, based on insight as part of an overarching plan to deliver against agreed priorities to measurable effect.

World-class professional development

The Raising our standards portfolio is underpinned by comprehensive professional development and standards designed to attract, retain and develop diverse and high performing government communicators.

Building on our successful academic and award-winning talent programmes, we will introduce new accredited and validated qualifications and industry-leading recruitment strategies.

GCS staff member at a GCS Early Talent Programme event

In February 2019, a two-day course focussing on leadership and resilience was held as part of the GCS Early Talent Programme.

Working with industry and academia, we will build on our internal expertise to provide the best resources and support to keep GCS colleagues up-to-date with emerging policies, societal influences and best-practice trends. We will maximise the use of digital technology to do this. In addition, we offer an extensive UK-wide programme of events for our members, providing networking opportunities across all departments and agencies.

Our industry-leading offer to GCS members in 2018/19

  • 40+ speakers and 600 delegates attended the 2-day Public Sector Communications Academy in Birmingham in October 2018
  • 1000+ places for over 36 Comms Exchange best practice events by GCS members for GCS
  • 80 GCS Comms Hub sessions held across the UK at Civil Service Live 2018
  • 1947 places offered across 103 Aspire courses covering 20 subjects
  • 95% of delegates say attending Aspire courses make them more effective
  • 3 GCS talent programmes reaching over 230 communicators
  • 78% of GCS Apprentices secured permanent roles across GCS
  • 71 GCS interns from diverse backgrounds will be placed across the UK
  • GCS Fast Stream applications increased from 11,000 to over 14,000

The role of communication in influencing behaviour change

One of the professional standards for GCS is OASIS. This is the campaign planning and delivery model that brings order and clarity to all government communication activity. Its five stage process helps communicators across government to ensure that their communication activity is effective, efficient and evaluated, whether they are working on no cost or low cost media, stakeholder and internal staff engagement or large scale multi-million pound behaviour change campaigns.

Communicators should use principles of behavioural science at each stage of the OASIS model to ensure that their campaigns are as effective as possible. The Strategic Communication: A Behavioural Approach Guide sets out a recommended approach that communicators should follow to ensure their campaigns are based on robust behavioural evidence.

The COM-B model is an established behavioural science tool that enables communicators to identify the barriers that are stopping a desired policy outcome from being achieved, then define the role that communication can play in overcoming one or more of these barriers through the communication objective.

COM-B diagram




Does your target audience:

Have the right knowledge and skills?
Have the physical and mental ability to carry out the behaviour?
Know how to do it?

Does your target audience:

Have the resources to undertake the behaviour?
Have the right systems, processes and environment around them?
Have people around them who will help or hinder them to carry it out?

Does your target audience:

Want to carry out the behaviour?
Believe that they should?
Have the right habits in place to do so?

Once clear communication objectives are in place, the EAST model enables communicators to plan and deliver a campaign that will meet these objectives by making it EASY, ATTRACTIVE, SOCIAL and TIMELY for the target audience to adopt a desired behaviour.

EAST stands for Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely