Government Communications Service
Historic England’s collaborative ways of working
Blog posted by: Katherine Grice, 26 July 2023.
Historic England is a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Arm’s Length Body (ALB) and our purpose is to improve people’s lives by championing and protecting the historic environment. As the government’s expert advisor on England’s heritage, we recommend places that should be listed, securing positive change and sustainable futures for historic places through our expert advice and investment.
Who we are
Historic England’s communications team comprises of 17 people, including two apprentices, across media, internal communications, external affairs and regional public engagement. 7 of the team are based in our regional offices in Newcastle, Manchester, York, Birmingham, Cambridge, and Bristol (we also have two head offices in London and Swindon).
What we do
In 2015 English Heritage split into two organisations, Historic England initially focused on national media to build brand awareness. We are consulted on 20,000 planning applications a year and process more than 1,500 applications for listings. Many of these cases generate MP interest and discussion on social media, which is great for engagement.
We created a regional public engagement team in 2019 to develop our influence and to build understanding of our role and our public value at a regional level. Our 6 public engagement managers deliver this through working with regional media, briefing MPs at a constituency level, and creating social media content.
The team have developed a strong working relationship with stakeholders and local MPs giving listing and planning advice. This approach has helped Historic England become the 4th ranked reputable public sector organisation in the UK.
Internally, having public engagement managers embedded within regional teams helps to build trust and understanding of the importance good communications makes in achieving the organisation’s strategic aims.
Embracing collaborative ways of working
We have over 900 employees and being ‘on the ground’ is helping to break down silos and lean into a more collaborative way of working. It has helped us to discover and promote projects and areas of the ‘business’ previously untouched, and we can advise early on issues that have the potential for reputational risk. The public engagement managers also work closely with our local stakeholder teams, to ensure that activity is aligned and leads to greater impact.
While rooted in the Regions our public engagement managers have strong working relationships with our central media, digital and campaigns teams. This ensures that our national projects are tailored and delivered in a regional voice, mindful of any local sensitivities and issues. There are also benefits in being immersed in the regional media and cultural landscape.
As part of personal development, we facilitate secondments for learning new skills and have a flexible approach to location as mentioned above. We would welcome extending these opportunities for them across the GCS network.
Communications colleagues in the regional offices have informal relationships with their peers in Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund where we collaborate on day-to-day work.
Regional GCS communities could:
- Help broker contacts and extend networks to include ALBs
- Create forums for sharing learning and exploring ideas – regionally this would give colleagues chance to discuss the changing media landscape, political engagement, and regional social media strategy
- Help with career development through secondment and job opportunities
If you are interested in a development opportunity or would just like to get in touch, please email: Katharine.Grice@historicengland.org.uk.
I’d like to thank colleagues – Fran Gorman, (Head of Regional Public Engagement) and Deborah Wall, (Head of External Affairs) who also contributed to this blog.
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