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Foreign Office Scraps Communications Directorate

March 23, 2012

I’ve noticed that the Foreign Office is prone to reorganizing itself without telling anyone – anyway they’ve done it again scrapping the central Communications Directorate discussed here

Despite a major trawl the only background that I’ve been able find so far is this  short piece from PR Week from last November that reports that

The size of the central comms team has been reduced from more than 100 to under 70, with much of the FCO’s strategic comms delivery being farmed out to its policy directorates.

The central department will now focus on media relations, digital comms, internal comms, professional development and relations alongside the FCO’s comms arms-length bodies, such as the BBC World Service and British Council.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office told PRWeek: ‘Like all government departments, we have had to review the size and structure of our comms function. We have taken a very clear decision that we will have a central planning department but not central delivery of strategic comms activity.’

What’s not clear is whether any resources have been reallocated from the centre to go with the additional responsibility for implementation being passed to the policy directorates.  This line of thinking is very much consistent with the typical UK view of PD as an extension of diplomacy.  It also fits with other steps that William Hague has been taking to devolve responsibility from the Centre of the FCO to policy directorates.

Of course while there is a policy dimension to it until we actually get some more background on the reasoning behind the change the suspicion is that saving money was the major factor here.  (William Hague had earlier announced a reduction in strategic communications spending from £3m to £2m – by way of comparison Coke spends nearly $3Bn a year on advertising)

The communications organization has now been integrated into the Policy Unit and consists of  Press and Digital under Carl Newns, the long serving FCO spokesman, and Communication and Engagement under Anna Clunes. It woudl be useful to have some clearer indications of what Communication and Engagement actually does.

From the PR Week story the reason for actually scrapping the directorate is that after the cuts in staff numbers the new unit was too small to have someone of director rank in charge.

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