GCS chief calls on comms teams to ‘get their mojo back’

Simon Baugh has issued a call to arms to comms staff on his first day as chief executive of the Government Communication Service (GCS).

Simon Baugh is the first chief executive of the Government Communication Service
Simon Baugh is the first chief executive of the Government Communication Service

In a passionate post on the GCS website yesterday, chief executive Simon Baugh said: “I want this to be a moment to get our mojo back, bring people together and share ideas.”

He added: “It is a moment for us to be even more confident, ambitious, and innovative post-pandemic. A moment to work together as a network of people who deliver exceptional communications in service of the public and have fun and build a rewarding career while doing it.”

His rallying call comes after months of criticism over the Government’s comms response to the pandemic, and amid uncertainty over plans to downsize the GCS that were set in motion by Alex Aiken, the ex-head of the GCS, last year.

Baugh paid tribute to his “amazing, innovative and hard-working” colleagues. “Their achievements represent the Civil Service at its best and I am proud to be leading them.”

Stronger together

He stressed the need for unity in the face of “big challenges” such as the Government’s 'levelling up' agenda and net zero carbon targets: “We will achieve more working together than we will achieve alone.”

Baugh added that “sensible collaboration doesn’t mean an end to operational independence.”

Embrace change

Exploiting the “transformative power of technology” is a “central challenge for GCS” and the profession needs to revolutionise its “data, insight, and digital communications skills”, Baugh said.

There also needs to be greater confidence in using data as well as “equipping ourselves to listen to audiences and honestly evaluate impact”.

He warned that comms is operating in a “volatile” landscape where public trust is “fragile”, and said: “It is my responsibility to make sure that we are ready for the future.”

The stakes are high, he said, because the pandemic has highlighted how “having people trust government communications is crucial to our national security and wellbeing”.

Opening up

Having a greater “diversity of thought is critical to our operational success” and “we cannot communicate effectively with people across the UK unless we draw our talent from every section of society”, Baugh said.

He wants to see “an open and inclusive environment” and for the GCS to have the UK’s “strongest learning and development offer” for comms professionals.

Baugh said: “Being part of GCS should be something that every credible communicator in the UK wants on their CV.”

Moving on

The blog post does not refer to Aiken, who led the GCS for nearly a decade but missed out on being appointed to the chief executive role when it was created.

Alex Chisholm, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office and chief operating officer of the Civil Service, commented that Aiken will remain a “a senior leader in the Government Communication Service, supporting the transition period with the new CEO”.

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