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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 Management Team and Heads of Section 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 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. They also include the messages and information given to visitors at the Gallery, as well as to other stakeholders including Trustees, the Development Council, sponsors, supporters and key suppliers.

Internal Communications include all the messages and information (whether verbal or written) shared within the Gallery, principally between members of staff, but also between Trustees and staff, and to and from management and staff. Internal Communications include 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 Data Protection Act (1998) and the Freedom of Information Act (2005).

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 to ensure that the Gallery can undertake its arrangements for work as efficiently and effectively as possible, and 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 needs 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

Corporate and marketing 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 and Learning 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 staff newsletter Up Close and Personnel, notice-boards and staff training and development events
  • staff are asked on a regular basis through the Staff Survey about the efficacy of Internal Communications

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 or Deputy Director/Director of Communications and Development.


  • The Director, with the Deputy Director 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.

Management Team

  • The Management Team has overall responsibility for ensuring that staff share information and knowledge through the best external and internal communications.
  • Individual members of the Management Team 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.

Deputy Director/Director of Communications and Development

The Deputy Director/Director of Communications and Development, together with the Head of Communications, is responsible for:

  • ensuring that the Gallery offers clear and consistent messages about its objectives and its work
  • overseeing all print communication from the Gallery (other than publications) including marketing, social media, development, learning and access, hand lists and signage, as well as setting the standard for communications through the website
  • promoting effective communications through the media, whether printed or broadcast, and seeking collaboration with appropriate media channels
  • ensuring that communication for visitors within the Gallery, and at associated sites, is appropriate and as clear as possible
  • working with the Director of Operations and Resources, the Head of Visitor Services, the Head of Communications and the Head of Personnel to promote good internal communications
  • liaising with the Director of Participation and Learning, the Chief Curator and the Interpretation Editor on internal and external interpretation

Heads of Section

  • Heads of Section 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 Section’s work.
  • Heads of Section 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, such as the Press Guidelines.

Communications Team

  • The Communications team, together with the Director and Deputy Director, 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. The press team proactively generates media coverage by identifying stories and news to publicise Gallery activity and facilitates media requests, and responds to media enquiries.
  • 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, for suggesting improvements wherever possible and for reporting breaches of the Policy.

7) Procedures

  • Trustees are guided in communications matters through induction and by the Trustees Handbook (revised and updated February 2012) and sections 6c and 6h offer guidance on corporate responsibility and on public information.
  • Staff are guided in matters of internal and external communications by the Staff Handbook, by the Press Guidelines (attached as Appendix 2) and by Social Media Guidelines (attached as Appendix 3).
  • 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 and Development and the Head of Communications or by a member of the Marketing Team.

8) Breach of the Policy

Any actions taken by members of Gallery staff which 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 and Development, and any internal matter will be reported to the Head of Personnel. If in either case it is a matter which threatens the reputation of the Gallery, or creates severe disruption, then the Gallery’s Disciplinary Code will be followed.

9) Review

The Communications Policy will be reviewed every five years as part of the cycle of reviewing Gallery policies and procedures. The next review will be in autumn 2018.

10) Date of Approval

This Communications Policy was reviewed by Audit & Compliance Committee on 24 October 2013 and approved by the Trustees on 7 November 2013.


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