Government Communications Service
Having a plan
Blog posted by: Dee Cotgrove, Deputy Director, Operations and Professional Standards, 14 June 2021.
I’m delighted to join the Cabinet Office as the Deputy Director, Professional Standards. It’s my first role working at the heart of the Government Communications Service. So how did I get here?
Up until 3 years ago, I worked for the Met Office – an amazing government agency, respected as global leaders in science and operations. As Executive Head of Communications, I built an award-winning communications team with huge reach through its app, website, broadcasting and content syndication. A chartered marketer, I also played an active role in the GCS – closely tracking GCS guidance and news to keep up to date professionally, being a member of the Improvement Board and sharing best practice through speaking and training engagements.
As part of my Personal Development Plan (PDP), I had set myself a goal to work abroad. It was a somewhat realistic goal as my work already took me overseas, collaborating with counterparts across Europe and in the USA. Notably, I devised and collaborated with Met Éireann to introduce Storm Naming – a low cost/no cost campaign. The initiative achieved a Silver AMEC (International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) award for impact in changing behaviours, with many more people taking action to keep safe. I was also very fortunate to be nominated to join the Commonwealth Study Leaders Conference, which connects leaders from all over the world to tackle development challenges.
Through the GCS Monday Matters update, I spotted a 2 to 3 year secondment as the Director of Communications with the Cayman Islands Government. This was part of a Cabinet Office initiative to improve governance in overseas territories. What an amazing opportunity!
Doubts started to creep in though: was it realistic for me to apply for this, was it a good time in my life to leave the UK, what would happen in 3 years’ time? Having a strong commitment to a long-term development goal pushed me to apply – after all if not now, when? If not me, who? By mid-2018, following an extensive interview process and a mountain of paperwork, I was in the Cayman Islands. Glorious place, wonderful people and a great team who needed my help to realise their potential. My role was two-fold: to create a world-class communications service, and to hand over to a Caymanian successor. The clock was ticking, thankfully the UK GCS master plan offered a great model to follow:
- Step 1 – Unite the profession with shared standards and processes
- Step 2 – Invest in training
- Step 3 – Develop a cross government plan for priority campaigns agreed by Ministers
- Step 4 – Implement rigorous evaluation to ensure a culture of continuous improvement
Roll on to 2020; a momentous year in the Cayman Islands with a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, a series of landfill fires, COVID-19 of course, and one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record.
All of these events acted as innovation accelerators and the by now well-trained, united communications team stood up to the relentless challenges. It was very pleasing that our improvement and role in saving lives were praised in Parliament by both government and opposition, and that our best practice experience was included in the GCS-commissioned COVID-19 Advisory Panel report. It was with great pride that by mid-2021, I handed over the baton to a fellow marketer, the stellar Oneisha Richards who had been working alongside me through all those sudden-onset events.
So here I am, super excited to be leading the Professional Standards team here in the UK Cabinet Office.
I can now give back to the GCS
I can now give back to the GCS which has helped me so much, contribute to advancing your careers, and to progressing the highest standards of practice in delivering life saving and life improving campaigns and services.
I feel honoured to be working at the very heart of government and to be part of building back better right across the nations and regions, to advance our wonderful curriculum, to ensure a diverse and inclusive GCS that nurtures talent from interns to senior grades, and to support the continued roll out of Professional Development Plans. Having the right training and experience helped me to build capable teams that saved lives through effective campaigns, and having a stretching PDP helped me go to places I couldn’t have dreamt of.
I look forward to working on your behalf, and to hearing your views on what we can do next to make this the best profession in government – a world class communications service.
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