Public Service Communications Academy 2021

The 2021 Public Service Communications Academy (or Academy) took place on 23-24 November under the theme Partnerships, Performance and People. Just like previous years, the event also hosted the Public Service Communications Awards ceremony.

You can find out more about the 2021 sponsors on our Academy sponsors page, and about the speakers our Speaker A-Z page.

Looking for presentations?

The presentations from Academy 2021 are available for download from the programme information displayed in the tables below. More downloads will follow.


Day 1: 23 November

09.15-09.25Welcome and introduction to Academy
Alix Macfarlane, Chair, LGcomms
09.25-09.40Day 1 opening address
Simon Baugh, Chief Executive, GCS
09.40-10.00Keynote 1
Shayoni Lynn, CEO and Founder, Lynn PR
Session 1
Global focus, local delivery
This year has seen global interest in the UK, from our role in combating Covid, the impact of Brexit and announcing an Indo-Pacific shift in security policy. It’s also seen the G7 summit in Cornwall, COP26 in Glasgow, the European Football Championships and a new GREAT campaign to boost tourism. This session will examine how the world views our country, how communication shapes our reputation, trade and tourism, what lessons we can learn from international engagement and when the world comes to your doorstep, how you cope.

Colin Edgar, Glasgow Head of Communications (COP26)
Alex Aiken, Executive Director, GCS
Samantha Edwards, Deputy Director, Cabinet Office Campaigns
Beth Robins, Deputy Director, International Security Programmes, Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office Communications
Session 2
Paralympic effort: (Dis)ability and what it means for communicators
Following the inspirational stories of the 2021 Paralympic Games, an inside look at the communication efforts behind the scenes in Tokyo.

Mark Webb, Head of Communications and host of the Disability@thetable podcast
12.00-12.40Lunch break
Session 3
Carbon 2030: The impact of joined up communications (download presentation)
To meet the ambitious targets of a low carbon future, a joint approach from local and national communication teams is going to be crucial – what does this look like, and what should we be doing now. This will include practical case studies that can be used by very small and low budget communications teams.

Polly Cook, Leeds City Council about the Big Climate Conversation
Chad Newton, Senior Communications and Marketing Officer at Leeds City Council and 
Kate Lock, Policy and Communications Manager at Place-based Climate Action Network, and UK Climate Resilience Programme, University of Leeds
13.30-13.40 Break
Session 4
Internal communicators: Never more important (download presentation)
Offering insight on the exceptional skills of internal communicators that have been called on across the nation over the last year to support the incredible efforts of the public service in tackling a global pandemic.

Caroline Baillie, Deputy Director, Internal Communication, DWP
Harriet Small, Internal Communications Lead, London Borough of Hackney
Session 5
Content is king: How to navigate the new social media order (download presentation)
Our digital experts are invited to tell all on what’s next for social media and why content is still everything when it comes to reaching audiences.

Peter Heneghan Head of Digital GCS
Helen Reynolds, Founder, Comms Creatives
The recent trends in consumers’ current use of social media, and the expectations consumers have from their front-line services. Armed with this knowledge, we outline the building blocks you need to have in place to deliver on these expectations.

James Leavesley – CEO, SoCrowd
Jordan Smith – Head of Customer Success, SoCrowd
Session 6
Accessible communication: A new standard
One year on from the new legal requirements on accessible communication, a practical session looking at best practice for content creation and audience engagement.

Facilitator: Stephanie Hill, Digital Content Producer, GCS
Louise Alabaster and Karen Yates Case study from Essex County Council

Louise McQuillan, Workplace Solutions Manager, TextHelp
17.10-17.20Day 1 summary
Programme for Day 1 at Academy 2021

Day 2: 24 November

09.15-09.25Welcome and introduction to Day 2
Alix Macfarlane, Chair, LGcomms
09.25-9.40Day 2 opening remarks
Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA & Executive Director, LGcomms
09.40-10.00Keynote 2
Afghanistan: from crisis to collaboration, communications as a force for good (download presentation)
Christian Cubitt, Director of Communications at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities
Lauren Scott, Executive Director, Refugees at Home 
Session 7
Future skills: What next for comms?
Join our panel discussion on the future of comms, exploring the potential major shifts that may affect how we operate, from harder-to-reach audiences to channel diversification. What will our landscape look like for future communicators? And how might this affect the skills they need?

Dee Cotgrove, Deputy Director for Professional Standards, GCS
Adam Skinner, Chief Operating Officer, Omnigov
Gemma Swinglehurst, Government Industry Manager, Google
Martin Friar, Deputy Director for Insight, Evaluation and Behavioural Science (Covid-19 response), Cabinet Office
Selvin Brown, Deputy Director for Communications, Department for Work and Pensions
11.15-11.45Investment, infrastructure, information and inspiration: 
How the Out-of-Home advertising industry can support the levelling-up agenda at a local level.
(download presentation)
Actionable insights and real-world examples of how public service organisations can work in partnership with Out-of-Home media businesses to help deliver across every area of the levelling up agenda: improving public services, strengthening local leadership, raising living standards and helping grow community pride in local areas.

Phil Drye, Chief Commercial Development Officer, JCDecaux UK 
Chris Dooley, Head of Social Impact, JCDecaux UK
Andrew Jordan, Head of Partnerships, JCDecaux UK
Session 8
Mental health: Safeguarding wellbeing as we return to the workplace
The what, why and how of the mental health conversation we all need to have, to ensure we can continue providing the exceptional communication consultancy and services we are known for. To include the pressures of working in the post pandemic world, mixing the return to the office with WFH.

Cheryl King-McDowall, Deputy Director, Cabinet Office
Georgia Turner, Director of Communications and Marketing, BCP Council
Sally Northeast, Deputy Director of Communications and Participation, NHS Dorset

Francis Ingham, Director General, PRCA & Executive Director, LGcomms
12.45-13.40Lunch break
13.40-14.10The Public Service Communication Awards 2021
Session 9
Managing talent: From the ground up
A panel discussion to explore the ins and outs of what makes a successful comms team now and in the future, covering the importance of diverse and inclusive teams, nurturing young apprentices and setting future leaders on their path.

Facilitator: Kohinoor Meghji, Head of HR & Workforce Strategy, GCS
Danni Clayton, Head of Communications, Leeds City Council, (runs LGcomms Future Leaders programme)
Amber Warne, GCS Apprentice
Session 10
Comms on the front line: Fostering resilience when under pressure
Public service communicators face unique challenges in their roles, many under extreme pressure in life changing circumstances; this session focuses on those who do it every day.

Claire Pimm, National Resilience Communications Director
Olivia Lerche, Deputy Director of Communications and Media, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust
Session 11
Who I am: Ask me anything
A panel discussion featuring diverse leaders from across public service
communication, answering questions from the audience on their past,
present and future.
Facilitator: Alix Macfarlane, Chair, LGcomms
Shaun Gibbons, Communications Manager, South Holland Council 
Peter Holt, Chief Executive, Uttlesford District Council

Minaxi Henegan, Deputy Director, Prime Minister’s Office and Cabinet Office Communications
Philippa Clayre, Executive Director, WPP
17.10-17.20Closing remarks
Programme for Day 2 at Academy 2021

About Academy

The Public Service Communications Academy (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).