Government Communications Service
Happy fifth birthday to the Government Communication Service
In 2018 we celebrated 100 years of government communication, marking the founding of the Ministry of Information. This year, we mark the fifth birthday of the Government Communication Service (GCS).
The new Government Communication Service officially opened its doors to members 1 April 2014. The new GCS launched in January 2014, setting out to move beyond the loose network of the then-Government Communication Network (GCN). The ambition for GCS as a profession and for individual members was to be more unified, less bureaucratic, and more skilled.
Five years ago – read
- GCS is open for business: Alex Aiken introduces the new GCS. Article originally published January 2014.
- GCS membership: an offer you can’t refuse. Article originally published February 2014.
Earlier this year GCS launched an ambitious ‘Raising our Standards’ programme that brings together the GCS2020, Accelerate and Year of Marketing programmes under a single banner. GCS members can expect to hear a lot more about these in the coming months.
To mark our fifth year we have taken the opportunity to look back at five years of continuous improvement through the GCS Improvement Programme, a truly collective effort that has drawn on the commitment and skills of volunteer GCS members to develop a world-class communications profession.
David Rose who has served as Head of Standards and Secretary of the Ministerial Board over the past five years said: “It’s been exciting seeing the development of a new community, collaboration on campaigns and substantial professional improvement. It’s also true that the demands on government communicators have increased. In 2014 we started with a focus on evaluation and standards, we are now dealing with the digital Accelerate programme and opportunities and threats like AI and disinformation.”
A world-class profession – Five years of continuous improvement
Through the five completed phases of the GCS Improvement Programme, we have succeeded in building and delivering an impressive canon of professional practice which has enhanced the reputation of communications, the profession and Function across government, and in the communications industry both in the UK and internationally.
In November 2017, GCS launched Phase Five of the GCS Improvement Programme which consisted of six project strands:
- Strategic Purpose of Government Communications: this project aimed to define the strategic role of communications and through Strategic Communication MCOM function guide set out the core functions of a strategic communications team;
- Business Partnering set out the principles and practice for effective communications business partners operating as critical links between communications teams and the rest of the organisation. See the business partnering guide;
- Strategic Engagement to External Affairs: moving GCS beyond stakeholder engagement, this created a new definition, principles and External Affairs Operating Model for this essential MCOM discipline; and
- The Engage programme, a digital transformation workstream which established the Accelerate programme currently being rolled out across GCS.
GCS Improvement Programme Phases One, Two, Three and Four
Phase four of the programme consisted of four projects:
- The GCS Story campaign relaunched the GCS membership offer to all government departments, agencies and arms length bodies, with a new GCS Handbook for all members, a revised professional development offer and networking opportunities;
- Improving Professional Capability: this project built on evidence obtained through the annual GCS Skills Survey to address skills gaps across the profession. The project introduced a new Professional Development Plan for all members and Professional Development Standards for all departments;
Modern Media Operation: this project, led by Heads of News, created the model of best practice for media relations. The \ set out, for the first time, the skills and capabilities required of government media relations teams; and
- Single Campaign Approach: this project formalised work to identify ways to collectively improve GCS campaign activity by a single approach to audiences, shared campaigns, government brands and partnerships see Delivering Excellence in Partnership Marketing.
Phase Three (September 2015 – August 2016) drew upon the success of the first two phases to bring together a programme of five projects:
- To create a more unified profession through the ‘single service’ Modern Communications Operating Model (MCOM) and establish firm governance;
- Internal Change and Engagement – to raise the overall standard of internal communications across all government departments and agencies and helping to improve staff engagement. See ICspace for guidance, tools and resources.
- Professional and Personal Capabilities – building a capable workforce through recruitment, talent management, employee engagement, and learning and development. Projects focussed on leadership and saw the launch of the GCS Diversity and Inclusion strategy to ensure that GCS becomes a profession that is more representative of the public it serves;
- Set clear professional standards, published in the GCS Handbook;
- Public Service Co-operation, through closer working between central government departments and local authorities and their related public services. We continue to work in partnership including the Public Service Communications Joint Council (bringing together the central, local government, health and emergency service communications professions) and the annual Public Service Communications Academy, the UK’s biggest public service communications professional development event – this year’s Academy will be held in Manchester November 2019.
Phase One and Two of the programme saw the foundation of GCS (from the previous Government Communication Network GCN) through the implementation of over 100 improvement actions, including improved evaluation (Evaluation Council and GCS Evaluation Framework 2.0), cost-effective communications, and enhanced internal engagement.
David Rose, who has served as Head of Standards and Secretary of the Ministerial Board over the past five years, said: “It’s been exciting seeing the development of a new community, collaboration on campaigns and substantial professional improvement. It’s also true that the demands on government communicators have increased. In 2014 we started with a focus on evaluation and standards, we are now dealing with the digital Accelerate programme an opportunities and threats like AI and disinformation.”
Latest News from
Government Communications Service
Conversations: Connecting Diverse Voices launches in 201917/04/2019 16:10:00
Blog post by: Laurence Ainscough and Anusha Mata, Wednesday 17 April 2019.
Why you should apply for the Inspire programme15/04/2019 16:38:00
Sasha Fuller, Head of External Affairs at the Department for Work and Pensions, writes about her experiences on the Inspire programme, and why you should apply to join it.
GCS Impact and Inspire development programmes launch today15/04/2019 13:25:00
Applications are now open for the Impact and Inspire accelerated development programmes. Both programmes are open to GCS members. The closing date for applications is 8 May 2019.
RESIST Counter-Disinformation Toolkit11/04/2019 16:10:00
The GCS toolkit to help public servants spot and counter disinformation was launched yesterday (10 April).
Government Communications Plan 2019/20 published11/04/2019 14:28:00
GCS has published the Government Communications Plan 2019/20.
Alex Aiken launches the Government Communications Plan 2019/2011/04/2019 12:10:00
Blog post by: Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communication, 10 April 2019.
Alex Aiken welcomes new Directors of Communication01/04/2019 15:38:00
Alex Aiken, Executive Director for Government Communications and Head of Profession, is delighted to congratulate and welcome to GCS colleagues recently appointed to Directors of Communications and senior leadership roles for the profession.
Want to offer a different perspective? Join the GCS Shadow Board27/03/2019 16:20:00
Now in our third year, the GCS Shadow Board provide a fresh and alternative voice to the GCS. As part of the GCS governance structure, we act as a sounding board for the Directors of Communications group and GCS Professional Standards team.
Congratulations to the Department for Work and Pensions for winning Gold at the Public Service Communications Awards18/03/2019 15:37:00
The ‘You Work, Your Pension Works’ campaign from DWP supports the automatic enrolment policy, implemented in 2012 to reverse the decline in the number of people saving into a workplace pension.