#104 Sean Larkins – why governments should invest in communication skills

Sean Larkins from WPP continues his discussion of “The Leaders’ Report” – the first global research focused on government communications. He found that government bodies that invest in communication skills and training achieve better outcomes. This is part 2 of a double episode of InTransition.

In Part 1, Sean talked about the decline of trust in government.

In part 2 of this podcast he speaks with David Pembroke about:

  • where communication fits into project management
  • the lack of training in modern communication skills
  • how high performing organisations invest in training
  • starting with a competency framework
  • communications needs to be treated as a profession
  • the ten attributes of high performance communications in government

Listen to Part 2 of the podcast:

Get it on iTunes

Selected links:

Download the transcript

Access The Leaders’ Report (WPP website)

Sean Larkins on LinkedIn

Sean Larkins on communication skills in government:

“Only half the respondents to the research said that they have the right tools and resources to do their job. And over forty percent … I think it was forty- three percent of people that took part in the research, said that they have been in-post for more than ten years. But in that time, few have been able to build up modern communication skills. So, forty-three percent have been in their post for more than ten years, but they acknowledge in that time they have not been able to build up modern communication skills.

Now if you look at Facebook and you look at Twitter and you look at Snapchat and you look at Pinterest, were they around ten years ago? Some of them weren’t … yeah, some of them were only in their infancy. So the jobs that we do have, have changed fundamentally in the last decade. The people are not getting the training and the skills to do their job. And one of the things we were able to do in this research is to identify high performing communicating functions and low performing communicating functions and we were able depending on the research, to put a figure or percentage that demonstrated the degree to which certain issues related to those. I’ll explain that a bit more clearly now.

So we found that maintaining sufficient investment in talent, skills and professional development was a core indicator of success. And for those organisations we were able to judge as high performing, seventy percent said they sustained investment in talent and skills. As oppose to only twenty percent in the lowest performing communication functions. So for me this is absolutely clear cut. The world that we operate in, communicate in, has changed fundamentally over the last decade; our skills have not. We still have brilliant people with medium management skills, of course, that’s necessary. But where are the people that really have fundamental digital skills that can create and curate that content that you’ve talked about. That understand how to commission research in the modern age and interrupt it and develop those insides. We are lagging behind in that.”


David Pembroke

About David Pembroke

David Pembroke is the CEO and founder of contentgroup, a government and public sector content communications agency based in Canberra, Australia.

He has a commerce degree (marketing major) from one of Australia’s leading business schools (University of New South Wales) and worked in product management for the American multinational 3M. He changed careers to work in media where he spent a decade as a radio current affairs and sports reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

He was the communications director of the Australian Rugby Team when they won the Rugby World Cup in 1999 and is a member of the Australian Olympic media team.

contentgroup was founded in 1997 and offers consulting, content production, training and research services. David hosts InTransition, a weekly podcast which examines the practice of content communication in government and the public sector.

More posts by David Pembroke

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