Public Service Communications Academy 2020

The 2020 edition took place on 24-26 November in a fully online setting. Organised by LGcomms and the Government Communication Service (GCS), the first ever virtual Academy offered a mix of learning, expert speakers, networking, practical training and interactive sessions for communications professionals at all career levels.

In year that has seen communications professionals deliver results under intense pressure, it was a unique opportunity to appreciate our industry’s achievements and build for the future.

More details about the sessions that was on offer is available below. You can also read more about this year’s speakers and our amazing sponsors, as well as the winners of the 2020 Public Service Communications Awards.

About the programme

This year’s Academy focused on six areas of professional practice crucial for public sector communicators to continue to be effective in future: Unified, digital, direct, data driven, skilled, diverse and inclusive.

  • Unified – Collaborating across traditional boundaries to deliver integrated campaigns and communications. 
  • Digital – Designing creative and accessible digital communications and leading digital innovation.
  • Direct – Making powerful connections with our audiences through direct communication channels and tools.  
  • Data-Driven – Applying data to engage our audiences and deliver measurable outcomes. 
  • Skilled – Going the extra mile to improve professional standards, develop and future-proof our skills and the skills of other communicators.
  • Diverse and Inclusive – Committing to fostering diversity and inclusion and building community cohesion through inclusive communications. 

*Programme as of 26 November 2020

Day 1: Tuesday 24 November 2020

TimeThemeSessionSpeaker(s) / Panel Members
09.00 – 09.10Welcome and introduction to the eventAlix Macfarlane, Chair, LGcomms
09.10 – 9.25Unified, Digital, Direct, Data-Driven, SkilledOpening address: The future of our professionAlex Aiken, Executive Director for Government Communications
09.25- 10.00Unified, Digital, Direct, Data-Driven, SkilledHow Covid-19 has changed public sector communicationClaire Pimm, Director, National Resilience Communications Hub, Prime Minister's Office and Cabinet Office Communications

Eleri Roberts, Birmingham CC

Alix Macfarlane, Chair, LGcomms
10.00 – 10.15Break
10.15 – 11.15Data-Driven, SkilledUsing behavioural science to create world class campaignsAbigail Emery, Acting Head of Behavioural Science, Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office

David Watson, Deputy Director of Communication & Marketing, Department for International Trade

Rebecca Benn, Senior Business Partner (Communications) at NHS Digital
11.15 – 11.30Break
11.30 – 12.30Digital, DirectDigital & Direct: Introducing the first Hybrid House of Commons and remote votingAlice Holmes and Clare Jennings, Communications Directors, House of Commons
12.30 – 13.00Lunch break
13.00 – 14.00Unified, SkilledThe role for mail to engage with vulnerable citizenRoyal Mail
14.00 -14.15Break
14.15 – 15.15Unified, DirectExternal Affairs: Covid Advisory Panel ReportStephen Waddington, Managing Partner, Wadds Inc.

Jennifer Sproul, IOIC

Mandy Pearse, Director, Seashell Communications

Chris Daly, Chief Executive, CIM

Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA & Executive Director, LGcomms
15.15 – 15.30Break
15.30 – 16.30Unified, Diverse and InclusivePanel discussion: Diversity and InclusionPoli Stuart Lacey, Director of Communications, HM Revenue & Customs and GCS D&I Lead

Florence Obinna, Consultation & Engagement Manager
Dan Beagle, Senior Consultation Officer, London Borough of Hackney
16.30 – 16.45Break
16.45 – 17.30Unified, Diverse and InclusivePanel discussion: Maintaining our resilience through the pandemicKoray Camgoz, Director of Communications and Marketing, PRCA

Matt Dolman, Senior Communications Manager, GCS Flex Team

Sara Vogt, Deputy Director, Corporate Communications, MOJ

Georgia Turner, Head of Communications and Marketing, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Day 2: Wednesday 25 November 2020

TimeThemeSessionSpeaker(s) / Panel Members
09.00 – 10:00Digital, SkilledWorld-class digital capabilityPeter Heneghan, Deputy Director of Digital,
Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office Communications
10.00 - 10.15Break
10.15 - 11.15SkilledThe role of communications in tackling climate change issuesCraig Woodhouse, Director of Communications, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Kate Horner, Deputy Director – Head of Campaigns, Partnerships & Brand, COP26, Cabinet Office

Rebecca Eligon, Senior Associate, Collaborate CIC

Alysse Strachan | Programme Manager, London Borough of Hounslow
11.15 – 11.30Break
11.30 – 12.30Skilled, Diverse and InclusiveAdding value through influence: the communications professional as a strategic fixerClaudine Munro-Lafon, Deputy Director, Strategic Communications, HMRC

Mark Fletcher-Brown, Director, Reputation Counsel
12.30 – 13.00Lunch break
13.00 – 14.00Direct, Data-DrivenCampaigns and marketing in times of Covid-19: lessons learned to dateConrad Bird, Director of Campaigns & Marketing, Government Communications Service

Rebecca Taylor - Campaigns & Stakeholder Manager (North of England)

Ben Kitching - Senior Campaigns & Stakeholder Manager (South)

Sarah Rochester, Service Manager, Communications and Marketing, Aberdeenshire Council
14.00 -14.15Break
14.15 – 15.15Digital, Data-DrivenThe Inclusive Economy Partnership: national and local recovery and renewalShevaun Haviland, Deputy Director, Business Partnerships Team, Cabinet Office

Toddington Harper, CEO, GRIDSERVE
15.15 – 15.30Break
15.30 – 16.30Skilled, Data-Driven, Diverse and inclusiveBeing An Effective IC Practitioner and The Hidden Power of Internal Communications in Creating Inclusive WorkplaceRussell Grossman, Director of Communications, Office of Rail & Road, Head of Government Internal Communications Profession

Harriet Small, Internal Communications Lead, Hackney London Borough, the role of internal communication in diversity and inclusion
16.30 – 16.45Break
16.45 – 17.30Digital, Data-DrivenDigital campaigns: low cost/no cost basicsDarren Caveney, Founder of Comms2Point0

Liam McCallion, Communications Officer, Oldham Council

Tom Vigor, Senior Content Officer, Hertfordshire County Council

Ross McLean, Senior Campaigns Officer, Herrfordshire County Council

Eleri Salter, Sales Manager, Council Advertising Network

John-Paul Danon, Sales Director, Council Advertising Network

Day 3: Thursday 26 November 2020

TimeThemeSessionSpeaker(s) / Panel Members
09.00 – 10.00SkilledCreating crisis communications strategiesJulie Odams, Assistant Director - Communications and Customers, Derbyshire County Council
10.00 - 10.15Break
10.15 - 11.15Digital, Direct, Diverse and InclusiveCountering disinformation with the Rapid Response UnitKatie Williamson-Walsh, Response Lead, Rapid Response Unit, Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office Communications (Countering Disinformation with the Rapid Response Unit)

Marcus Beard, Head of Media Monitoring & Analytics, No.10 and Cabinet Office
11.15 – 11.30Break
11.30 – 12.30Data-Driven, Skilled, Diverse and InclusiveAudience segmentationTom Carney, Deputy Director, Transition Communications, Government Communications Service

Neil Harrison, Campaigns Manager and Megan Howlett, Business Improvement and Communications, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council.
12.30 – 13.00Lunch break
13.00 – 14.00Unified, Digital, Direct, Data-Driven, Skilled, Diverse and InclusiveThe Public Service Communications 2020 AwardsAlex Aiken, Executive Director for Government Communications
14.00 -14.15Break
14.15 – 15.15Skilled, Data-DrivenQuantifying the impact and benefits of our workRichard Bagnall, Co-Managing Partner & CEO of Europe & Americas, CARMA and Chairman, AMEC

Catherine Hunt, Head of Insight and Evaluation, Government Communication Service
15.15 – 15.30Break
15.30 – 16.15Unified, Diverse and InclusiveDigital campaigns: Best practice accessibilityChristina Mallon, Head of Inclusive Design, Wunderman Thompson

Stephanie Hill, Digital Content Producer, Professional Standards team, Cabinet Office Communications

16.15 – 16.30Break
16.30 – 17.20Unified, Skilled, Diverse and InclusivePanel discussion: What makes a good communications leader?Alex Aiken, Executive Director for Government Communications

Amrita Devaiah, Head of External Affairs and Engagement, Cabinet Office

Richard Etienne, Deputy Head of Internal Communications & BAME Network Co-Chair, Department for International Trade

Polly Cziok, Director of Communications, Culture, and Engagement - London Borough of Hackney

Alix Macfarlane, LGcomms Chair
17.20 – 17.30Closing RemarksFrancis Ingham, Director General, PRCA & Executive Director, LGcomms

About the Public Service Communications Academy

The Public Service Communications Academy (Comms Academy) is a well-established annual event for public sector communicators from across the country to come together, develop key skills and share ideas, with a focus on low and no-cost campaigns. Organised by LGcomms, and the Government Communication Service (GCS), the event offers a mix of learning, expert speakers, networking, practical training and interactive sessions for communications professionals at all career levels.

The event is supported by the PRCA and the Local Government Association (LGA).