Skip to main content
Civil Service

Government Communications: Why it matters...

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Professions
Alex Aiken
Alex Aiken, Executive Director, Government Communications

Last week, the Prime Minister said that effective communication is central to providing the very best public services. Simply put, it is the job of the Government Communication Service is to make that vision a reality.

We are not just a support function. We change behaviour, we change perceptions, we change lives. The revolution in social and digital media has swept through our industry, giving us more direct access to the British public and the chance to interact and engage in a completely unique way. Across Government, every day communicators are designing and delivering innovative, ground-breaking campaigns to improve and enrich people's lives. Our work is now more professional, more successful and delivering better outcomes than ever before.

Was this made possible by spending more money and recruiting more staff? The answer is no. We are consistently proving it is possible to do more with less. We are spending a massive 47% less on communications than 6 years ago. Instead we have something far more valuable. What we have now is a relentless focus on clear campaign objectives coupled with internationally recognised evaluation. This has helped us deliver exceptional results. We have had to be much more efficient and creative and this has ultimately made us seek out and grasp a more complete understanding of how our work impacts the lives of British people.

GREAT examples

The Government Communications Plan, published last week, highlighted some superb examples. For instance, when DECC needed to increase the number of households switching energy supplier and saving money we designed a campaign called ‘The power to switch’. 55% of people were aware of the campaign and 80% more households switched supplier during the campaign period. The £4.7m campaign provided a return on investment of at least £5 in consumer savings for every £1 invested.

The impressive GREAT campaign continues to deliver increased levels of trade, investment and tourism in the UK leading to a measurable economic impact.  GREAT unifies the growth promotion efforts of 17 departments and organisations into a single powerful brand that has achieved a confirmed economic return of £1.2 billion since 2012 and aims to create more than 10,000 direct jobs for the UK economy.

Images from the GREAT campaign
Images from the GREAT campaign

A new narrative

Our plans for the next year are just as ambitious. The new Government Communications Plan also includes the new One Nation narrative that provides a clear focus for all our work, with four themes: helping working people, spreading hope and opportunity, bringing our country together and Britain in the world. Our plan highlights campaigns created  to achieve those goals by getting young people into apprenticeships, encouraging the right to buy and using the tools of communication to tackle threats to the UK. Alongside these campaigns are the necessary but life-saving business of public service information; from our campaigns to secure blood donation to tax information and road safety campaigns.

The Prime Minister has also highlighted the need to make sure that "all our communications with the public should be human, clear, simple, helpful and professional. This means explaining complexity in everyday terms and translating jargon into simple English". The 18th-century theologian Joseph Priestley, the man sometimes credited with discovering oxygen, would agree with him. Priestley once said, “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”

That is a very simple idea, but a strong challenge to every civil servant: to put clear communications right at the heart of what they do. It's our responsibility, as communication experts, to help them make that happen, securing the public's trust and helping Britain to succeed.

Sharing and comments

Share this page

1 comment

  1. Comment by Stuart Holttum posted on

    "We are spending a massive 47% less on communications than 6 years ago." a meaningless statistic in the context of "doing more with less staff".

    It doesn't quantify shift between paper-based and web-based communication.
    There is no comparison between campaign success rates 6 years ago and today.

    In short, it is dramatically INeffective communication.....unless the point of "communication" is to spin a particular message without providing the necessary evidence to critically examine it?