Communication is changing fast says new GCS head Simon Baugh

Digital transformation in communications Tenchu screen grab

If you’re as passionate about digital transformation in communication and public relations as I am then the statement by Simon Baugh, the UK Government Communication Service’s new chief executive on his first day in the job will resonate with you as it did with me.

As well as celebrating their successes, it is my responsibility to make sure that we are ready for the future. Communication is changing fast. The landscape we operate in is volatile, with a high level of technological innovation, new players and fragile public trust. Every aspect of our work is subject to the transformative power of technology and this is creating new opportunities and expectations.

The central challenge for GCS is how to keep modernising the profession to harness these changes for the public good. To continue to deliver for ministers and the public, we need to deliver more efficiently while driving a revolution in our data, insight, and digital communications skills. We need to be more confident in using data to improve outcomes and in equipping ourselves to listen to audiences and honestly evaluate impact.

Simon Baugh, Chief Executive, Government Communication Service

I have been passionate about the transformational power of technology ever since getting my first computer for Christmas in 1984. I taught myself BASIC, so I could write a program for my Dad to work out the wages for his team. He was a civil service manager in the Forestry Commission and had to make up wage packets with cash and coins. My program worked out how many of each note and coin he needed to make up the wage packets. It saved him an hour or so of work a week.

For my whole career I’ve been passionate about how technology can be used to enrich lives and transform work. I have always loved experimenting and innovating to see if I can find ways to use new technology to improve what we do, make it easier, make it faster, or make it more effective. If done properly, digital transformation can mean it is improved, easier, faster and more effective.

Digital transformation for communication and public relations has been one of the main focuses of my work for the last 10 years. The other two have been crisis communications and measurement and evaluation. This is no accident. It is because those are two areas which are often the most ripe for transformation and modernisation. It is where I provide clients with the most professional development opportunities.

The Government Communication Service has always been an excellent source of ideas and best practice as it publishes and shares many of its guides, plans, playbooks and templates.

Simon Baugh’s statement shows he intends not only to continue this work, but to give it even greater focus and emphasis. I remember sitting on the sofa with Simon in the 90s playing Tenchu on my PlayStation 2. This isn’t an irrelevant point as it illustrates how today’s generation of leaders grew up steeped in digital technology.

The equally exciting quote in the statement is:

The skills and expertise of the people who make up GCS will be the ultimate determinant of our success. I want us to have the strongest learning and development offer for communications professionals of any employer in the UK.

Simon Baugh, Chief Executive, Government Communication Service

Digital transformation for communications and PR

Too many people make the mistake of thinking digital transformation is about technology. It isn’t. It is about culture. People can only embrace technology to transform the way they work if they have the encouragement and skills to do so. That is why professional learning and development is essential. Too often in-house communications teams and PR agencies invest in technology, but fail to modernise their professional practice, so they never use it to its full potential.

I shared some thoughts on the future of GCS when Simon’s appointment was first announced. It will be interesting to watch how the future unfolds and see what changes Simon brings to the Government Communication Service.

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