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Introduction to GCS and the case for change

The Government Communication Service (GCS) is the professional body for more than 7,000 public service communicators working in government departments, agencies and arm’s length bodies. Communication is one of the four main levers government has to affect change, alongside legislation, regulation and taxation.

Our membership includes marketing, stakeholder engagement, internal comms, media, digital and social, and operational communications professionals. We work across 25 ministerial departments, 21 non-ministerial departments and more than 300 agencies and other public bodies. We serve the public across the United Kingdom and promote our interests overseas through the network of communicators based at embassies and posts around the world.

Our mission is to deliver exceptional public service communication that makes a difference.

What we do matters

People work in government communications because what we do matters. We explain the objectives and policies of the government of the day. We provide clarity and reassurance to the public at times of crisis. We support businesses to grow. We protect our environment. We help those in need to access support.

The case for change

Our mission is as relevant as ever. But if we are to continue to deliver for the public, whilst continually striving to be better, we need to change. Communications itself – how we communicate and where – is changing fast. The transformative power of technology is creating new opportunities, challenges, and ethical questions.

Exponential growth of data and harnessing the power of technology

The volume of data created in every area of life is increasing exponentially. As more data is collected and processed by increasingly sophisticated algorithms, data will become more predictive and allow for greater understanding of people’s behaviour. This is an opportunity for GCS to provide increasingly personalised communications to help us target the right message, to the right audience at the right time.

Rapid transformations in media consumption

Increasing fragmentation of the media landscape means the end of shared national conversations. Social media echo chambers are reinforcing beliefs and judgements. Different groups with their own opinions are accessing information they want, and are less likely to hear opposing views. There is a need for GCS to create content that cuts across silos and through the noise.

Fragile trust and false content

Public confidence and trust in government communications is critical to our security and well-being. Misinformation and disinformation are a threat to our democracy. The ability to successfully change minds by supplying evidence, facts and statistics is becoming increasingly difficult as emotion beats evidence as a source of truth. Our Civil Service values are as important as ever. We need to apply them to a modern setting by creating emotionally resonant and factually accurate content.

New skills for data and new technology

The central challenge for GCS is how to harness technological changes for the public good. We need a revolution in our own skills and capability, especially in data, insight, and digital communications. We need communicators who combine the data analysis, numeracy and software savvy of an engineer with the story-telling, creativity and empathy of an artist. We continue to require colleagues with specialist expertise and fresh ways of thinking. That means a re-evaluation of our approach to learning and development, career progression and professional accreditation.

The need for greater efficiency

Continuous improvement is not just about adding new skills or people or equipment, but also looking at how to reprioritise and reduce work that is less relevant. We have a duty to continuously strive to deliver better value for money and demonstrate impact through advanced evaluation. Increasing demand for communications in part reflects a greater understanding of the value of communications in helping to achieve policy outcomes. But the answer to every problem cannot be to do more comms or recruit more people. Efficiency forces us to choose priorities. It drives innovation and it challenges us to think about how to deliver differently.

Changing expectations of the profession

People entering our profession today want to learn and be stretched, progress quickly, and be given opportunities that match their talents, not the time they have served. They want to work in an environment where they can be themselves and work in a way which suits their lifestyle. This is an opportunity for government communications to develop a different offer: the ability to do interesting, meaningful and purposeful work; a strong learning and development offer; greater workplace flexibility; and a diverse and inclusive culture where everyone can flourish.

Last updated 10 May 2022