A small fish in a big pond – local to central government communications

The transition

I would like to share my thoughts on my move from a local government to central government communications role.

Whilst I was job hunting I explored a number of private sector opportunities, but found myself coming back to, and feeling more comfortable with roles within the public service.

The UK Civil Service involves the expertise of 300,000 people, so I am often surprised at how many of them know each other work reach other departments in the past. I arrived during the post Brexit summer and inevitably this is a focus of many conversations and work priorities.

Katy Gibbins, Whitehall, DCMS

What’s different?

The scale is very different as you would expect. Although my focus is on internal communications, the department I’m working for has less staff than the council I previously worked for. For external communications, working on a national and international involves a different mindset.

Until you’ve worked there, it’s difficult to understand how different each of the departments are in size, culture and approach to communications. I enjoy attending a regular Head of Internal Communications meeting which means that I can find out what other departments are focusing on and hear about priorities from the Cabinet Office.

There is a way to go on all aspects of diversity within the workforce, which I know something that is being worked on intensively across the Civil Service.

I have been struck by the history associated with some of the buildings and the decisions that have been taken within them. I even unwittingly walked past what was Churchill’s bedroom recently!

What are the similarities?

We work with ministers in central government in much the same way that we do with councillors in local government, but with a different scale of responsibility.

Pretty much everyone who is a public servant or civil servant signed up for citizen and community focused reasons. The internal communications challenges (and those facing external communications colleagues) are largely similar. We use the same channels, all be it employing different emphasis and specific nuances. We focus on relationships to make things work like any organisation, the Engage for Success principles of internal communications and engagement are 100% relevant.  Based on my experience, current resources are not as stretched as within local government, where I experienced stringent budget cuts.

Summary

I’m really enjoying the Civil Service and find the Government Communication Service approach a really useful framework. Follow UKGovComms for updates and campaign case studies.

I hope to find new opportunities with the Civil Service once my current contract ends next Summer. I would love to hear from you if you’ve been through a similar experience.

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