Strategic communication capability development

Submitting Institution

Leeds Metropolitan University

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Education Systems
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration

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Summary of the impact

The capability development model for Government Departments and civil service communicators, designed by Anne Gregory for the UK Cabinet Office, was adopted across Whitehall. This work includes continuing input into the development of communication capability in Government. It has also underpinned best-practice policy development in the Department of Health, and is currently being applied across the NHS as well as being used in local government and in the private sector. Overseas governments, NGOs and private organisations as well as the Global Alliance (the international confederation of PR and communication management associations) have all adopted Gregory's approaches and recommendations on capability development.

Underpinning research

The research in PR capability follows two linked strands: firstly, the development of a model for strategic communications planning and second, capability development more broadly (including training in the use of the model) up to Board level in a range of organisations, particularly government departments. This is being undertaken by the Centre for Public Relations Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University, of which Professor Gregory is Director.

The starting point was Gregory's identification of the lack of a systematic approach to planning communication programmes and campaigns for large organisations. The planning process model she developed, first published in 1996, was underpinned by research which synthesised academic and practitioner models, the academic literature and practice experience. The resultant text was endorsed by the professional body, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and is the most widely disseminated book in a series of 17 published jointly by Kogan Page and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

The founding research began in the mid-1990s, but accelerated when Gregory proposed a structured approach to capability development to Government. A secondment to the Cabinet Office resulted in 2004-2005 where she led a team which developed the Government's capability framework, Evolve, used across Whitehall. The research underpinning Evolve took a grounded approach and included secondary and primary research into capability and educational frameworks generally and then focused specifically on communication education and training. The resulting model embedded capability within a strategic process framework for communication - unique at the time. In 2005 Gregory became an advisor to the Permanent Secretary for Government Communication, after providing evidence to the Phillis Review (2004) and delivered courses based on Evolve. A further attachment to the Cabinet Office in 2012 resulted in the articulation of academic accreditation for Government professional development leading to Masters and Doctoral qualifications.

Between 2005-2007 the capability work was extended by the Department of Health (DH) who funded research to adapt and extend Evolve. It involved further primary research into the competencies needed by communicators in the NHS. An additional piece of largely qualitative research investigating `What Good Looks Like' in NHS Communication was commissioned in 2009 from Gregory and her Leeds Met colleague, Paul Willis and underpins the Good Practice policy document `The Communicating Organisation' (TCO) issued by DH in 2009 to all NHS organisations. This was supplemented by conceptual research in 2010 on metrics to evaluate organisational performance in communication. In 2011-12, Gregory, on attachment to DH, completed primary research using the principles of TCO to frame communication capability requirements in the wake of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

In parallel to these activities Gregory has taken an active role with the national and global professional associations. In 2004 she was President of the CIPR and in June 2013 she became Chair of the Global Alliance (GA), the confederation of professional associations worldwide. In 2010 she was responsible for co-developing the Stockholm Accords, an action-research led, global benchmark for the profession and in 2012 co-developed the Melbourne Mandate, an advocacy platform for the profession, which was again action-research led. These initiatives have been used by professional bodies, organisations, and NGOs internationally as a benchmark for inclusion in their own capability programmes.

References to the research

Gregory, A. (1996) Planning and Managing a Public Relations Campaign, 1st Edition, London: Kogan Page (submitted in 2001 RAE). 3rd edition published in 2010.

Gregory, A. (2006) A development framework for Government communicators. Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp 197 - 210 submitted in 2007 RAE)


Gregory, A. (2008) The competencies of senior practitioners in the UK: an initial study, Public Relations Review. Vol. 34, No. 3, pp. 215 - 223


Gregory, A. and Willis P. (2009) What Good Looks Like: an Evidence base. Report commissioned by Department of Health from Centre for Public Relations Studies. Linked to The Communicating Organisation at, also at

Gregory, A. (2011). The Status of the Public Relations Profession in the UK: a review of the first decade of the 21st century. Corporate Communication: An International Journal, Vol. 16. No. 2, pp. 89 - 104.


Willis, P. and McKie, D. (2011). Outsourcing public relations pedagogy: Lessons from innovation, management futures, and stakeholder participation. Public Relations Review. 37(5), pp. 466-469. Jointly awarded the National Communication Association 2012 PRIDE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Relations Education as contributing author to the 2011 Special Issue on Pedagogy in Public Relations Review.


Gregory, A. (2012). UK government communications: full circle in the 21st century? Public Relations Review, Vol. 38. No. 3, pp. 167-175


Gregory, A. and Willis, P. (2013). Strategic Public Relations Leadership. Routledge: Abingdon, UK.

Gregory, A. (2012). Collaborative author with 1 other of Character section of Melbourne Mandate. Global Alliance, Lugano, Switzerland. Available at

Gregory, A. (2010). Leader of Management section of Stockholm Accords. Global Alliance, Lugano Switzerland. Available at

Details of the impact

The impact of this body of work has been far-reaching. The book on strategic planning was the first of a series of 17 published by Kogan Page and the CIPR — edited by Gregory. Since 1996, it has been the core text in strategic planning for the CIPR's professional courses taught in the UK and overseas, and a recommended text for the CIPR's 57 approved UK University courses. It has been translated into 10 different languages, including Chinese. A shortened version of the book forms the basis of a chapter in Europe's best selling edited textbook on public relations (Tench and Yeomans, 2008). Professional-body approval denotes that strategic planning is recognised as a corner-stone of practitioner competence. In addition, as President of the CIPR, Gregory led the Institute to Chartered status with professional development being a mainstay of the application to the Privy Council. In recognition of this work she was awarded the Sir Stephen Tallents medal in 2009 for her outstanding contribution to the profession, one of only 30 ever recipients of this honour.

Secondly, following the work done with the Cabinet Office in 2004-2005, all Whitehall Departments reframed their approach to communication capability development. While the original version of Evolve has been superseded, the most recent iteration (March 2013) was reviewed by Gregory and returned to the process approach first designed by her in 2005. The courses on Strategic Communication and Stakeholder Engagement developed for the Cabinet Office and delivered by the Centre for PR Research (Leeds Met) from 2004 became part of the core offering for Government Departments until it was taken over by the National School for Government on the basis of cost in 2009. As a result there has been a notable up-skilling and upgrading of the communication function in a number of them, for example, the Departments of Work and Pensions, Health, Transport and Her Majesty's Revenues and Customs. A number of Ministries commissioned the Centre to deliver bespoke sessions for them, including Scottish Office, DEFRA, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Welsh Office. Gregory, on attachment to the Cabinet Office in 2012, benchmarked their CPD courses for academic accreditation which lays the ground for them being part of a full Masters, with the framework allowing study up to doctoral level.

In 2013, Gregory was appointed by the Cabinet Office as a communication capability Reviewer of Government Departments and was also one of five Livechat Panelists (including the Executive Director of Government Communication) launching the Government Communication Service, the successor to the Government Communication Network.

Thirdly, the impact of work done for the DH has been extensive. NHS Evolve (developed 2005- 2006) provided a web-based capability framework, purpose built for the NHS and developed from the Cabinet Office research. An enhancement was research on the specific competencies of senior communicators which formed the basis of the first paper on communicator competencies (Gregory, 2008) published in the field's foremost academic journal.

The research underpinning the DH Best Practice policy document, TCO, issued to all NHS organisations has been the subject of academic and practitioner conferences around the world, including in Europe, Scandinavia, South Africa, Australasia and the World Public Relations Forum in Stockholm in 2010 where Gregory was a plenary speaker with Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum and Professor Mervyn King. This capability research was drawn together in a co- authored book by Gregory and Willis (2013) which is the world's first on public relations leadership. TCO remains the communication policy guide in the NHS and formed part of the Authorisation process for Clinical Commissioning Groups in 2013. Its principles are currently being used by the Trust Development Authority to assess Trusts aspiring to Foundation status. The content has also been adapted for a range of different professional audiences including communicators from local government and the private sector.

The research underpinned a closed Masters programme in Strategic Communication for the NHS which ran from 2009 - 2012 (withdrawn since the changes in the system). It drew delegates from up to Board level and was delivered using an innovative co-creation methodology (see Willis & McKie, 2012). Three graduates from the programme moved onto the NHS Top Leaders programme for future CEOs. The Centre for Public Relations Research also secured the NHS pilot Graduate Trainee Scheme in Communication.

The work done to date has led to the Centre being involved in the development and delivery of on-going Executive development programmes for UK local authorities and private sector firms, the South African Government (recently secured in association with the University of Pretoria as partner), Swedish Institute of Public Relations (Professional body) and leadership development for the New Zealand professional body.

The impact of the research with the Global Alliance has also been significant. The principles behind the Stockholm Accords and Melbourne Mandate initiatives have been embedded in professional body curricula across the world, therefore every practitioner who takes a professional qualification benefits from Gregory's research. Global Alliance represents 160,000 working practitioners worldwide.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Details for Individual Named Sources are supplied separately by the identifiers listed below.

  1. Executive Director for Government Communication, the Cabinet Office UK (Identifer 1) corroborates the work undertaken for the Cabinet office.
  2. Corroboration for the work undertaken for the Department of Health can be obtained from the Director of Communications, NHS CSU South (Identifier 2)
  3. Further corroboration for the work undertaken for the Department of Health can be obtained from the Former Director of Communications for the NHS (Identifier 3)
  4. Identifier 4 is a source of corroboration for work undertaken for the South African Government.
  5. For the impact on the Global Alliance, the former Chair of the organisation is a corroborating source (Identifier 5).
  6. Evidence presented to the Phillis Review, see Phillis R. 2004. An independent review of Government Communications. The Stationery Office: London
  7. Gregory, A. (2011) The Capability Requirements for Communicators in the `new' NHS. Report commissioned by the Department of Health.
  8. The Communicating Organisation at