Time for internal comms to shed Cinderella mantle, Comms Academy told

Effective civil service reform will require internal communications to rise up from its reputation as a "Cinderella service", one of its leading proponents in Whitehall has claimed.

Sian Jones: Driving internal comms reform
Sian Jones: Driving internal comms reform

Speaking at the Public Sector Communications Academy in Manchester, the Department for Work & Pensions' Sian Jones claimed major efforts to improve internal comms were key to wider changes across government.

Jones, who heads up internal comms in the department, said: "It’s our responsibility to make sure civil service reform is supported by great internal communications. It’s not just about structural change, it's about massive cultural change ensuring the civil service responds to the challenges of the 21st century."

Efforts to reform the Whitehall machine were kicked off in 2012 with the launch of the Civil Service Reform Plan.

Since then, these efforts have extended into major reform across PR teams, which has led to the recent launch of the Government Communications Service and an upcoming influx of digital talent

"We need to take more people with us in an environment where a lot of people are cynical about civil service reform and unless we get line managers motivated and communicating effectively we won’t get the change we need to," Jones said.

Jones told the audience that the perception that internal comms lacked the importance of other communications disciplines was "a big mistake".

"People like press officers or digital communicators punch their weight in terms of the way they're viewed by other communicators. We’re not viewed in that way, or seen as core and vital to good comms practice as it should have been, and that's a big mistake.

"We have a fighting chance to drive change and not just be viewed as a Cinderella service but one at the cutting edge."

However, she admitted that there "was a lot more to do" to improve a discipline that had come under scrutiny as part of the recent communications capability reviews.

These have led to led to last year’s launch of the #ICExcellence programme aimed at driving up standards, which includes the development of an online toolkit and ongoing discussions with business leaders including Sainsbury’s outgoing CEO Justin King.

"We know we can’t operate in a vacuum, and the leaders in organisations have a huge role in setting the right context in which we operate," she said. 

Led by LG Communications and covering both local and central government, the Public Sector Communications Academy concludes today.

Speakers who also took to the podium yesterday include WPP’s Michelle Harrison, who encouraged communicators to realise the worth of government brands. 

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