Communications policy

This policy outlines in a single document the framework for the Gallery’s internal and external communications, while responding to a priority 1 internal audit recommendation on internal governance.

The objective of the Communications policy is to help the Gallery communicate effectively and transparently by:

  • achieving a better understanding of what the Gallery offers to the public, its values and identity; 
  • providing clear and well-judged information appropriate for the needs of the user; and 
  • arranging its work as efficiently as possible.

The policy includes sections on:

  • Definitions 
  • The legal basis of the policy 
  • A statement of principles 
  • The responsibilities of Trustees and staff in relation to communications 
  • Procedures (guidelines on contacts with the Press are included in Appendix 3) 
  • Breach of policy 
  • Review

A summary of key strands of external and internal communications is included as Appendices 1 and 2.


Trustees are asked for comments and approval. Audit and Compliance Committee approved the Policy at the meeting on 19th February 2007.

Sandy Nairne, Director
Pim Baxter, Communications and Development Director
Barbara Jotham, Head of Finance and Planning

National Portrait Gallery Communications Policy

1) Introduction

The National Portrait Gallery recognises that consistent, effective and appropriate communication – external and internal - is important in achieving 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.

The policy can be found on the staff network.

2) Scope

The Chair and Deputy 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 policy is to reduce the risk to the Gallery of damaging or ineffective communication, and to ensure that staff are aware of how communication is best conveyed 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 the website, telephone calls, letters, e-mails, newsletters, marketing materials and press releases) or indirectly through the press and word of mouth. They also include the messages and information given to visitors at the Gallery and to users of the website, as well as to Development Board members, sponsors and supporters, suppliers and customers. The Gallery has a Freedom of Information Publication Scheme, providing an active means for the release of information. Matters of interpretation around the Collection, although an important part of communication, are considered in greater depth elsewhere.

Internal Communications include all the messages and information (whether verbal or written) passed within the Gallery, principally between members of staff, but also between Trustees and staff, and to and from management and staff. They include the messages given to those working in franchise companies, in companies helping the Gallery on projects and with volunteers.

4) Legal Basis

The Gallery’s responsibilities in relation to Communications stem from its duty to achieve its core purposes under the Museums and Galleries Act 1992, 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 communicate more effectively by achieving a better understanding of what it offers to the public and by arranging its work as efficiently 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 environment for work in which staff and associated workers and volunteers can find the information they require; 
  • providing everyone with the skills to be confident communicators.

General Principles

  • All communication is important and needs to be considered carefully. 
  • External and internal communications will form part of strategic and business planning as well as project and team appraisal (including working with other organisations). 
  • Good communications play a very 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 will have a responsibility to foster good communications internally and externally 
  • The Gallery will foster 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, 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.

Principles for managing internal communications

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

  • staff and Trustees are informed of the most important information relating to the good management of the Gallery such as Business Plan priorities and results on key performance indicators e.g. visitor numbers, ticket sales, press coverage 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, notice-boards and staff development events. 
  • staff are asked on a regular basis (through the Staff Survey every two years) about the efficacy of internal communications.

6) Responsibilities


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


  • The Director 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 Management Team ensure that their staff are thoughtful and consistent about their communications and are aware of the principles and guidelines available for different aspects of their work.

Communications and Development Director

The Communications and Development Director is responsible for:

  • Ensuring that the Gallery offers clear and consistent messages about its objectives and its work 
  • Setting the standard for and overseeing print communication from the Gallery (other than publications, gallery labels and text panels) including learning and access, exhibition handlists and signage, as well as setting the standard for communication through the website 
  • Promoting good and clear 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 Head of Resources, Head of Visitor Services and the Head of Personnel to promote good internal communications between all staff. 
  • Liaising with the Interpretation Editor on internal and external interpretation.

Heads of Section

  • Heads of Section have the responsibility to ensure that information is carefully and appropriately made available to the public, and that the principles of the Data Protection Act and 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.


All staff have a responsibility 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 2006). In particular 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 guidelines on contacts with Press (attached as Appendix 3), by the section of shared drive titled ‘Guidelines for handling requests for information’ and by the IT policy {staff network hyperlink} which guides the conduct on e-mail and other digital communications. 
  • The Gallery’s Visual Identity project (2003-04) offers guidance {hyperlink to guidance document} on the principles and standards for external communication and defines the values and the associated design style to be adopted in all external communications.

8) Breach of the Policy

Actions taken by staff in contravention of 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 Communications and Development Director, and any internal matter to the Head of Resources. 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 first review will be in spring 2012.

10) Date of Approval

This Communications Policy was reviewed by Audit & Compliance Committee on 19 February 2007 and approved by Trustees on 1 March 2007.

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