The Number 10 press office has been reorganised with four specialist policy teams and a new team serving regional and specialist media.
The three-strong nations, regions and specialist media team replaces the small support function that used to sit in the old Cabinet Office comms team. As well as planning and supporting comms around the Prime Minister's domestic visits, it is envisaged that the new team will now be able to help departments to better co-ordinate comms on cross-government issues.
Downing Street head of news Vickie Sheriff, who developed the system, told PRWeek: 'We want to build our relations and activity with the regional and specialist media across Government so we can explain what national policies mean to people locally where it's relevant to do so.'
The three-strong team will be led by chief press officer Allan Ross, who joins from the Home Office. It will also cover the Olympics.
In addition, four specialist policy teams have been set up covering 14 government departments. Each 'mini-team' will oversee newly created groupings of departments with which they will work closely on announcements and topical issues. This replaces the previous system under which major departments had one dedicated press officer in Downing Street. It is understood that the previous system led to problems when the designated press officer was not available to take media enquiries.
Sheriff said: 'The benefit is that we can see across the piece - you can have a very broad context of what Government is doing across the board and what the priorities are, and where we should be putting focus and energy.'
However, one Government comms expert was sceptical about the latest attempt at joined-up comms.
Mike Granatt, director at Luther Pendragon and former director-general of the Government Information and Communication Service, said: 'It's a laudable objective but whatever mechanism is invented cannot avoid the reality of the Whitehall press office effort - handling thousands of calls and opportunities a year concerning the fine grain of a department's responsibilities. As the front line faces more cuts, Number 10 may well need two minders per department to sustain some focus on the bigger picture.'
THE KEY TEAMS
Nations, Regions and Specialist Media Leads on PM's domestic visits and covers regional media, specialist and features media. Will also cover Olympics.
Foreign Affairs and Defence Covers FCO, MoD, DfID and faith media.
Home Affairs and Justice Covers HO, MoJ, Attorney General, Defra, propriety & ethics, appointments, FOI and domestic security.
Public Services Covers DH, DWP, DfE, DCLG, efficiency issues (including Big Society).
Economy and Business Covers HMT, BIS, DFT, DECC and DCMS.