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8 vital skills to empower communicators, now and in the future

Blog posted by: Jo Pennington, 04 July 2022.

On Tuesday 21 June, Gemmaine Walsh, GCS Chief Operating Officer, spoke at Civil Service Live on the three pillars of the GCS Strategy – one of which is Great People.

To ensure that we have ‘great people’ working at GCS we need to know what ‘great people’ look like. What are their skills? What qualifications do we want them to have? What makes a good communicator? To find out, we launched the Future Communicator project. We had numerous questions to answer, starting with these three: 

  1. What will the world look like in 2025? 
  2. How can we make sure we’re ready for it? 
  3. What skills will we, as GCS communicators, need? 

If there’s one thing that the last few years have taught us, it’s that we can’t predict the future, but we can prepare for it – and that’s what GCS is doing.

Futuristic cityscape

Looking ahead

What are the skills that will empower communicators to thrive in their current roles and prepare them for their future careers?

The Future Communicator project – referenced in the GCS Strategy – aimed to look ahead to 2025, identifying what support GCS communicators would need to develop their own skills, and support the delivery of government priorities.

We looked at a huge range of research – both public and private sector – and interviewed experts in agencies, government, academia and public bodies. We wanted to know:

  1. What trends were they observing which they thought would affect communications to 2025?
  2. What skills would communicators need to work with – or counter – those trends?
  3. How best might we acquire those skills? 

Our analysis of those findings, and our resulting recommendations, became the Future Communicator Report, which is being used to enhance the curriculum and learning offer for GCS communicators, and think about how we group our disciplines and develop our professional guidance. 

Evolution, not revolution

The first thing to note is that our response is very much evolution, not revolution. GCS was acknowledged by interviewees as a global leader in government communications, with our work to reach out to citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic, and our standards and ethics are particularly highly regarded.

We’re building on a strong foundation; we have great people, strong standards and brilliant examples of innovation.Throughout our research and interviews, 8 groupings of skills recurred consistently:

  1. Ethics: Building trust through transparent and rigorous guidance including ethical use of data; and diverse, inclusive and sustainable communications
  2. Strategy: Creating great audience journeys through integrating measurable strategies built on insight and engagement with policy and operations
  3. The modern workplace: Supporting confidence across an array of platforms, tools and automated systems
  4. Collaboration: Better commissioning and project managing of blended in house and outsourced teams
  5. Data: Transformative use of data analysis and visualisation for decision making and storytelling
  6. Digital Content: Creativity in content creation and purpose driven messaging, that builds trust and connection  
  7. Digital Channels: Enabling a digital channel mindset and adopting new channels to reach audiences faster and more accurately than ever before
  8. Managing Disruption: Promoting authoritative sources to support citizens through emergencies and to break through misinformation

Simon Baugh Chief Executive of GCS yesterday said:

“I’m proud to lead a Government Communication Service full of talented, dedicated people delivering impactful – and sometimes life-saving – communications. What we do matters, and the wellbeing and development of our people matters.

“To ensure we’re delivering the right impact, and developing our people to meet their potential, we need to invest in the right skills. The Future Communicator research is woven into our GCS Strategy, and will inform our training and assessment through to 2025.”

What’s in it for you?

Over the coming months, you’ll see further training added to the curriculum that develops these future skills. 

We will also try out different techniques, platforms and formats to make sure that everyone is able to learn in a way that meets both GCS requirements and their own personal learning needs.

We’ll be building on our findings and asking for your feedback and support as we seek to make it come to life. 

Next steps for you:

  1. With your manager, review the curriculum and future skills and put together a PDP for the year ahead
  2. Make sure it covers 30 CPD points and any skills gap areas you’ve identified
  3. Keep it under review – and drop us a line if there’s anything we can help you with

Dee Cotgrove, Deputy Director GCS Professional Standards team, yesterday said:

“This was an exciting project, geared to support learning for the future so that as a profession we better serve citizens. Dozens of people – from GCS experts to external stakeholders – gave generously of their time to support our work. I am especially grateful for the mentoring of Owen Brace, Director of Communications Office for National Statistics who ensured we embraced operational communications and Arm’s Length Body perspectives.”


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