Communications policy

1) Introduction

The National Portrait Gallery recognises that consistent, effective and appropriate communications – both external and internal – are essential for the Gallery to achieve its aims, objectives and policies, and to its credibility as a publicly accountable organisation. This document outlines the principles for managing communications, including a summary of key strands of communications, and the responsibilities of staff in relation to communications.

2) Scope

The Chair of Trustees, the Chair of Audit and Compliance Committee, members of Director’s Group and Heads of Department should be familiar with this Policy, and all other Trustees and staff should be aware of it. The aim of the Communications Policy is to reduce the risk to the Gallery of damaging or ineffective communication, and to ensure that all staff are aware of how communications are best conducted externally and internally, and who has responsibility for which aspects.

3) Definitions

External Communications include all of the messages and information that the Gallery presents to different audiences, whether directly (through telephone calls, letters, e-mails, newsletters, marketing materials, social media channels, online and press releases) or indirectly through the media and word of mouth. External Communications includes the messages and information given to Gallery visitors and stakeholders including Trustees, sponsors, partners, supporters and key suppliers.

Internal Communications include all of the messages and information (whether verbal or written) shared within the Gallery, principally between members of staff, but also between Trustees and staff. Internal Communications includes the information given to those working in franchise companies, and to the staff of companies involved with Gallery projects, as well as to volunteers.

4) Legal Basis

The Gallery’s responsibilities in relation to Communications stem from its duty to achieve its core purposes under the 1992 Act of Parliament. They are additionally conditioned by the the Freedom of Information Act (2000) and the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018.

5) Statement of Principles

The objective of the Communications Policy is to help the Gallery achieve a better understanding of what it offers to the public and its audiences. It also ensures that the Gallery can undertake its arrangements for work as efficiently and effectively as possible. The National Portrait Gallery’s Communications Policy also aims to:

  • improve the clarity with which the values and identity of the Gallery are understood
  • promote transparent and open communication
  • provide clear and well-judged information at the most appropriate level of detail in relation to the needs of the reader or user

The improvements and benefits which good Communications should provide are:

  • a greater likelihood of achieving the Gallery’s aims, objectives and priorities
  • a more effective and purposeful ‘face’ to the world
  • a trusting working environment in which staff and associated workers and volunteers can locate the information they require
  • providing everyone with the skills to be confident communicators

General Principles

  • All communications are important and need to be considered carefully
  • External and Internal Communications form part of strategic and business planning, as well as project and team appraisals (including work with other organisations)
  • Effective communications play a positive role in the day-to-day operations of the Gallery, through the consideration of the content, and the audience for any particular message or information to be disseminated
  • Managers and staff at all levels have a responsibility to foster good communications internally and externally
  • The Gallery fosters a culture which encourages transparency of communication, clarity of style and the sharing of best practice and expertise across the Gallery

Principles for managing External Communications

Communications should be considered as part of the wider field of advocacy in which the Gallery wishes to:

  • distribute high-quality information about its plans, projects and programmes of activity, ensuring that those who are influential for the future support of the Gallery (whether from the press, government or in the academic world, or as private or corporate supporters, or as key opinion formers) are well informed
  • reach out to target audiences, to potential visitors, to those in partner organisations and potential participants, where the Gallery is building key audiences and developing its Access, Learning and Engagement work
  • offer background and corporate information – principally through the website – as a reference source, as well as increasing the availability of the Collections, with associated and research information, for a wide range of users
  • ensure that the visual identity of the Gallery, as shown through all its print and digital communications, is clear, coherent and expresses the Gallery’s key values
  • have a beneficial dialogue with its audiences using research, feedback and social media channels to gain insights, answer queries and deliver key messages about the Gallery’s work

Principles for managing Internal Communications

Internal communications are based on active management across the Gallery to ensure that:

  • staff and Trustees are informed of the most important information relating to the good management of the Gallery (including visitor numbers, ticket sales, press coverage and results on key performance indicators) on a regular basis
  • regular exchanges through e-mail, meetings and telephone calls are thoughtful, respectful, efficient and well disciplined
  • an informal exchange of information is encouraged through the use of the intranet, staff enewsletters, notice-boards and staff training events
  • staff are asked on a regular basis through the Staff Survey about the efficacy of Internal Communications
  • A cross-departmental internal communications group meets on a regular basis chaired by the Director’s Assistant, who also manages the creation of the regular staff content, including an enewsletter, all-staff sessions and articles for the intranet. This forms part of an internal communications strategy, which is being developed by the Director’s Assistant in consultation with the Director of Communications and Digital and Head of HR.

6) Responsibilities


  • The Chair of Trustees is responsible for ensuring that the Trustees help to promote the Gallery’s reputation through consistent external communication
  • All Trustees are expected to be familiar with the programmes and activities of the Gallery and to refer complex or difficult external questions to the Director, Director of Communications & Digital


  • The Director, with the Chief Operating Officer and Director of Communications & Digital as appropriate, is responsible for the overall clarity and coherence of the Gallery’s external communications
  • The Director seeks opportunities for good advocacy in order to promote the interests of the Gallery
  • The Director works to create an internal culture of open, honest, efficient and transparent communications

Directors Group

  • The Directors Group has overall responsibility for ensuring that staff share information and knowledge through the best external and internal communications
  • Individual members of the Directors Group ensure that their staff are thoughtful and consistent in their communications, and are aware of the principles and guidelines available for different aspects of their work

Chief Operating Officer/Director of Communications & Digital/Senior Communications Manager/Senior Marketing Manager

The Chief Operating Officer, Director of Communications & Digital, together with the Senior Communications Manager and Senior Marketing Manager, are responsible for:

  • ensuring that the Gallery offers clear and consistent messages about its objectives and its work
  • overseeing all print and digital communication from the Gallery (other than publications) including social media, all marketing and corporate print, and onsite information and signage, as well as setting the standard for communications through the website
  • promoting effective communications through the media, whether printed, online or broadcast, and seeking collaboration with appropriate media channels and partners
  • ensuring that communication for visitors within the Gallery, and at associated sites, is appropriate and as clear as possible
  • overseeing the Gallery’s brand, as well as its implementation across Gallery departments and its use by external partners
  • working with the Estates and Operations department and the Director’s Office, as well as the Chief Financial Officer and Head of HR to promote good internal communications, liaising with the Executive Director, Programmes and Partnerships, Director of Learning and Engagement, the Chief Curator and the Interpretation Editor on internal and external interpretation

Heads of Department

  • Heads of Department are responsible for ensuring that information is carefully and appropriately made available to the public, and that the principles of the Freedom of Information Act are followed throughout their department’s work
  • Heads of Department should promote good internal communications by following high standards of clarity and integrity in all aspects of their work, as well as ensuring that members of staff follow specific guidelines when communicating with press and on social media

Communications Team

  • The Communications team, together with the Director and Chief Operating Officer, act as the public voice of the Gallery and communicate with a variety of audiences via a range of media.
  • The team identifies the needs of visitors and potential visitors and delivers communications that encourage them to interact with the Gallery
  • The marketing team manage the Gallery’s brand and uses paid-for and free promotional tools including advertising, print distribution, third party promotions and digital, online and social media channels to develop and build the Gallery’s audiences. The press team proactively generates media coverage by identifying stories and news to publicise Gallery activity. They facilitate media requests, respond to media enquiries and seek media partnership opportunities, using media relations to develop engagement with Gallery’s existing and potential audiences. The Communications Team also coordinate reputation and crisis management efforts and manage the Gallery’s digital communications (social media and e-newsletters)
  • The Communications team aims to develop an accurate and positive understanding of the Gallery’s brand and work, and to maintain the Gallery’s reputation


All Gallery staff are responsible for maintaining good internal and external communications, suggesting improvements wherever possible and reporting breaches of the Policy.

7) Procedures

  • Trustees are guided in communications matters through induction and by the Governance Handbook and guidance appended to the Terms and Conditions of their appointment as Gallery Trustee.
  • Staff are guided in matters of internal and external communications by the Staff Handbook, by the Press Guidelines and by Online Content and Social Media Guidelines, available on the Communications Team page of the intranet
  • The Gallery’s Brand Guidelines offer guidance on the principles and standards for external communication and define the values and the associated design style to be adopted in all external communications. Any materials using the Gallery’s brand should be approved by the Director of Communications & Digital, or by the Senior Marketing Manager, Senior Communications Manager or by a member of the marketing team.

8) Breach of the Policy

Any actions taken by members of Gallery staff that contravene the Communications Policy will be dealt with by a line manager or Head of Department. Depending on the severity of the contravention, any external matter will be reported to the Director of Communications & Digital, and any internal matter will be reported to the Head of HR. If in either case it is a matter that threatens the reputation of the Gallery, or creates severe disruption, then the Gallery’s Disciplinary Code will be followed.

9) Date of Approval

This Communications Policy was reviewed by Audit & Compliance Committee on 29 June 2022 and approved by the Trustees on 6 July 2022.

10) Review

The Communications Policy will be reviewed every five years as part of the cycle of reviewing Gallery policies and procedures. Following its review on 6 July 2022, the next review will be in Spring 2027.