It’s a small world: comms in two of the smallest government bodies

Post by Lisa Browne, Head of Comms at GAD and Alex Barnett, Head of Comms at GIAA

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Have you heard about the actuaries and auditors in the Civil Service? It’s a serious question, even though it does sound like the start of a joke!

Actuaries and auditors both provide highly specialised services to help their clients deliver policy objectives. They are part of the checks and balances of public life and are based in two of the smallest organisations in the Civil Service.

Experts at the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) provide actuarial advice on pensions, social security, investment and insurance. They are experts in modelling, quality assurance and communicating financial and demographic risk and uncertainty. These skills can help governments in highly complex areas where long term risk and uncertainty feature most heavily.

At the Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA), their expert analysis helps clients by identifying inefficiencies, reducing costs and highlighting good practice.

Having previously worked together in the Home Office, Lisa Browne and Alex Barnett reflect on being comms leads in these two specialist government bodies.

Sharing the news

Lisa: In GAD (a non-ministerial department with only 180 people) our people are committed to sharing project successes and conclusions with colleagues and clients.

Team members write and publish newsletters and bulletins on topics such as investment risks, pensions, general actuarial issues and mortality insights. They write in-house technical briefings and regularly hold talks for colleagues. Recent subjects included data visualisation and GAD’s place in the Civil Service’s Analysis Function.

So far, so good/GAD.


Vision and action

Lisa: GAD’s 5 year strategy sets out ways to develop our client relationship skills, be innovative and consider how best to engage with new clients. The department committed to enhance its profile, reinforce its brand and attract new business opportunities.

So, as GAD’s first Head of Communications, my role is to help the department up its game. I began with a clean comms slate (it’s not often you can say that!) and wrote the communications strategy, identified our audiences and assessed the most effective internal and external communication channels.

Along with an extensive planning function I also lead a project to refresh GAD’s look.

Speaking to specialists

Alex: GIAA is an agency of the Treasury, and we have around 450 people in more than 60 locations – mostly auditors and counter fraud investigators, plus our corporate teams supporting them.

Our audit teams work very closely with the public bodies who are our customers to carry out internal audits for them, finding ways to improve business processes and sharing good practice across the normal organisational boundaries; they’re great at what they do, but it’s a very different skill set to what we tend to find in comms people!

Hitting the ground running

I’ve been extremely lucky to have a very dedicated team here – shout out to Glyn Hughes and Jim Woodfine – and I’ve found the support from many GCS colleagues, as well as the professional toolkits and models that we now have access to through GCS, absolutely invaluable.

Communications champions

Lisa: As the only communications professional in GAD, I have tapped into the willingness and enthusiasm of colleagues to communicate with clients and the wider public. I set up the communications champions group where GAD’s newsletter editors and contributors will consider and share current and upcoming stories.

This change, together with the introduction of planning around future editions, will go a long way towards reducing ‘silo-working’, lead to more creativity and encourage contributors to use clear English.

It is about communications in the round. I work with colleagues to share GAD’s news and show how the expertise of our actuaries and analysts is key to helping client departments deliver their policy objectives. As the Government Actuary Martin Clarke, explains actuaries are essential to government.

Joking aside

In the meantime, here are a couple of actual jokes about auditors and actuaries:

  • How many auditors does it take to change a light bulb? How many did it take last year?
  • There are two kinds of actuaries: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data…..

You’re welcome!

Lisa Browne, Head of Communications, Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) -( )

Alex Barnett, Head of Communications, Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA) – (