Communications Community Office 2020-2021 Annual Report

Communications Community Office 2020-2021 Annual Report

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What we do

The Communications Community Office (CCO) is a horizontal organization that supports communications professionals across the Government of Canada. We help communicators enhance their skills and abilities and grow their careers by offering a variety of services, including learning events, communications tools and news, staffing processes, and networking opportunities.

The CCO also serves as the secretariat for monthly heads of communications meetings and the annual Heads of Communications Retreat. We work closely with departments, central agencies, communities of practice, and other functional communities, as well as with public and private sector partners, to get ahead of the trends and develop the skills needed to keep pace with the speed of communications.

Message from the Communications Community Champion

I am pleased to present the 2020-21 annual report of the Government of Canada’s Communications Community Office (CCO).

As the Communications Community Champion, I value the impact of effective communications and its critical role in connecting Canadians with their government.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging citizens and businesses has been essential to effectively implementing the government’s COVID-19 strategy. As the communications community worked through the complex challenges of communicating the government’s response to COVID, it demonstrated a remarkable ability to adapt, working remotely from each other but together to reach all Canadians with the right information at unprecedented speed.

Thank you to all communications professionals across the Government of Canada for your commitment and dedication to serving all Canadians.

As always, the professional practice of communications is evolving at lightning speed. The CCO continues to facilitate a community founded on collaboration, the expansion of inclusive and diverse relationships, the provision of networks and communities of practice; and a commitment to remaining informed, agile, skilled, and equipped.

In support of the Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service, we also continue to work towards building a community that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the Canadians that we serve.

I invite you to take full advantage of the opportunities the CCO continues to offer as we navigate an increasingly digital world and collectively shape the future of our work.

What a year this has been. This community rose to the occasion, going above and beyond with exceptional work on a daily basis. It is my privilege to serve as your champion and to work with the CCO to continue to strengthen our community. Together, let us celebrate your many accomplishments over this past year.

Headshot of Valerie Gedeon

Valerie Gideon
Associate Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services
Deputy Minister Champion of the Communications Community

Message from the Co-Chairs of the CCO Steering Committee

In these extraordinary times, the Communications Community Office (CCO) continues to grow and thrive along with the community we serve.

There was no playbook for this unprecedented year. As professional wordsmiths, even we have, at times, run out of adjectives to fully describe the moments we have lived through this year. Government communicators have been challenged both professionally and personally to support Canadians in response to COVID-19. As a communications community, we have leaned in and found ways to be quicker, smarter, more creative, and focused on evidence-based outcomes for Canadians.

As we continue to work with an increasingly digital mindset, technology continues to evolve and provides us with new ways to work and collaborate with and engage Canadians. As a community wired for collaboration and speed, we are well positioned to refine our skill sets, and understand the environment in which we are working, relying on storytelling as part of an inclusive approach to better support the Canadians we serve.

The CCO delivers key support in learning services, training tools, career development, and recruitment and retention while fostering community engagement.

Highlights include:

To our communications colleagues across government, thank you for all that you do for Canadians.

And finally, we wish to acknowledge the contribution of our Steering Committee of senior leadership and thank all the contributors, participants, and volunteers who continue to support our community through their dedication and commitment.

Headshot of Ken MacKillop

Ken MacKillop
Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet,
Communications and Consultations,
Privy Council Office

Headshot of Kelly Acton

Kelly Acton
Assistant Secretary,
Strategic Communications and Ministerial Affairs,
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat


The CCO’s Steering Committee is made of Directors, Directors General (DGs) and Assistant Deputy Ministers of Communications. The Committee provides direction and sets priorities for the CCO and for the communications community. Members come from large, medium, and small organizations, with at least one representative from the regions.

The CCO coordinates monthly meetings of heads of communications and with its Steering Committee to address the top issues facing the community and to get quick feedback from DGs on initiatives, plans, and priorities.

We also consult with executives, managers and individual communications specialists on a regular basis to ensure our services are aligned with the needs of the community. Community members regularly support and share their knowledge at our learning events and write articles for our newsletter and social media channels.

Steering Committee members

Our partners

The CCO is supported by memoranda of understanding and financial contributions from communications branches in departments and agencies across the Government of Canada. This funding model enables the CCO to offer a variety of services to the communications community. The CCO’s activities support communicators’ learning, training, and career development.

The CCO is also supported by in-kind contributions from many community partners who have provided their support, expertise, and advice throughout the year. Most notably, these community partners include:

Communities of practice

Communities of practice (COPs) are grassroots initiatives driven by federal communicators with expertise and a passion in a particular realm of communications. Their community-led structure offers their members the opportunity to share information, best practices, tools, and resources, discuss common challenges, and develop new approaches.

In 2020-2021, the CCO supported learning and networking opportunities offered by several of the COPs, including the newly formed Plain Language COP. As a result of COVID-19, COP meetings were held virtually. Despite this challenge, many COPs continued to flourish, often hosting meetings with hundreds of participants from across Canada.

List of Communications COPs*

*accessible only on the Government of Canada network

Accomplishments for 2020-2021

Career development

In February 2020, the CCO held its annual Learning Days Conference with the theme “The Power of Community.” The conference attracted well over 1,500 participants both in person and online from across the country.

In September 2020, the CCO launched its 2020-21 Mentoring Series. The series fosters career development and a culture of continuous improvement, collaboration, and information sharing among communications professionals.

Headshot of Mona Harb, mentee
"I hope to have honest conversations with my mentor and to gain new perspectives and methods that I can bring to my work and someday pass along to others."
Headshot of Valerie Samaan, mentor
"Trust, openness and mutual respect are key components to a successful mentorship."

This year brought together another record number of communications professionals from across the country. There was an almost 20% increase in participation over 2019 and more than a six-fold increase in participation over 2018. In total, 280 individuals participated in the 2020-21 cohort, with many participating as both a mentor and a mentee.

Training and learning

Helping communicators develop their skills and careers is an important part of the CCO’s role. Moving forward, the CCO will continue to work with partners such as the Canada School of Public Service, Apolitical, other levels of government, the private and not-for-profit sectors as well as the communications community to develop an updated communications curriculum. The communications curriculum fosters continuous learning among federal communicators and contributes to the overall professionalism of the communications function in the Government of Canada. Here are some projects in development:

Monthly learning sessions have long been a staple of the CCO mandate. In 2020, due to the pandemic, monthly learning sessions went virtual. The switch to online allowed the CCO to host 15 learning sessions – nearly doubling the number held the previous year. Participation rates also soared, nearly tripling since March 2020.

@lindalouwatson and @Mar_Mansour at Virtual Learning Series event
Virtual Learning Series event

In 2020, the Virtual Learning Series included the following events and sessions:

  • Dis(information): Evidence-based Communications Beyond 2020
  • Speechwriting: The Power of Rhetoric
  • Create events that matter
  • Plain language: The power of simple words
  • UX and COVID-19
  • Visual Storytelling – More Than Making It Pretty
  • CoVid-eo Production – the new normal
  • Learning Data Tools for the Rest of Us
  • COVID Communications – Reaching Canadians during a pandemic
  • Measuring what matters – Digital analytics best practices
  • Communicating in times of change
  • International Plain Language Day
  • Conversations with Canadians – New opportunities and best practices in stakeholder engagement
  • All about your Communications Community Office (CCO)
  • Words that resonate: A short introduction to Speechwriting in French
4 headshots of people at Virtual Learning Series event
Virtual Learning Series event

In addition to the Virtual Learning Series, the CCO worked with the Canada School of Public Service to deliver panel discussions on some of the most trending topics in communications in 2020. These events included:

  • Engaging with Canadians Effectively
  • How to Engage with Canadians through Social Media
  • Senior Leaders Share Their Perspectives on Transferable Skills for communicators
  • Optimizing your Web Presence on

With the onset of the pandemic, the CCO had to shift the way it offered learning opportunities. This prompted the launch of the CCO Learning Portal. The Portal hosts learning opportunities available off the government network and that can be accessed from anywhere by employees of the Government of Canada.

Moreover, in collaboration with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the CCO supported the development and promotion of the Accessible Communications Resource Portal (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) to provide information and tools to make communications products and activities accessible. The CCO also worked with the Canada School to develop a 1-minute micro-learning video about writing for the Web and will continue to co-create these types of learning products.

Collective recruitment and retention

In March 2020, the CCO team developed a surge capacity list of communications professionals looking to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 400 public servants, at all levels, raised their hands to support in capacities ranging from strategic advice, writing, and Web strategy to marketing, video production, and language services.

This surge capacity list answered, and continues to fulfill, the urgent need in many departments for increased communications. As the pandemic persists and the demand for communicators remains high, the CCO actively maintains and shares the list with departments in need.

In addition to the surge list, the CCO began working on collective staffing processes for all IS levels. Over the past year, two were launched:

The CCO actively manages pools and at-level lists of communications professionals of all levels and departments from across the country.

Communications Awards of Excellence

In April 2021, the third annual Communications Awards of Excellence ceremony was held virtually via Microsoft Live Events. Congratulations to this year’s winners.

It has never been more critical that the government provide Canadians with clear information and messages than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, a decision was made to bundle the top-ranked nominations for the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic response into a one-of-a-kind “Platinum” award. This award recognized individuals and teams that have shown outstanding leadership, creativity and dedication and an unyielding commitment to excellence in their communications and service to Canadians during the response to COVID-19 in 2020.

The Communications Awards of Excellence Tweet
  • Platinum Award of Communications Excellence – First Wave COVID-19 Communications Response
  • Diamond Award of Communications Excellence
  • Golden Alliance Award of Communications Excellence
  • Lighthouse Award of Communications Excellence
  • Insider Award of Communications Excellence
  • Regional Powerhouse Award of Communications Excellence
  • Master Storyteller of the Year Award
  • Digital Master of the Year Award
  • Exceptional Social Leader Award
  • Rising Star Award
  • Outstanding Career Award

Information sharing and data analysis

Planning for our communications community of the future

The CCO also led the delivery of a benchmark review and business analysis of our community. The report will be a snapshot of the structure of the communications function in the federal government and provide a comprehensive overview of the

The findings of this report will support departmental communications leadership in their organizational and human resources planning and decision-making.

Staying connected

Over the course of the year, the CCO issued 12 monthly digital newsletters to keep the community up to date on the latest news and trends. The distribution list grew by more than 500 subscribers and now reaches nearly 4,000 communicators.

The CCO continues to maintain a social media presence (Twitter and LinkedIn) and to share information and resources on GCTools (GCconnex and GCpedia [accessible only on the Government of Canada network]) and on the CCO website. In 2020-21, the @CCOBCC Twitter account reached over 3,500 followers. The CCO LinkedIn account grew to over 2,000 connections in the same period.

New Key Messengers Blog

In November, the CCO launched a new article series titled Key Messengers. This new platform highlights stories from the communications community. Since launching, the CCO has published nine articles:

Anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion

Anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the federal public service – The time to act is now.

The CCO’s mandate aligns to the Clerk’s Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service.

While there is much work ahead, below are the measures undertaken to advance inclusion and diversity:

Accessible and Inclusive Communications

Through the pandemic, public servants have communicated important health, safety, and economic recovery information to Canadians living both at home and abroad—using primarily digital platforms. It is our continuing challenge to ensure our efforts are informed by diverse perspectives, easy to understand, and meaningful for all of the audiences of Canadians we serve.

The CCO and many other departments and organizations are actively working to implement better accessibility strategies. Last fall, the CCO worked with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) to create and launch the Accessible Communications Resource Portal (accessible only on the Government of Canada network). The Portal aims to consolidate these excellent practices and provide communicators with a one-stop shop for accessibility-related resources. Hosted by TBS, the Portal can be found on the Government Communications hub  (accessible only on the Government of Canada network) of the GCintranet.

To celebrate the Portal, the CCO dedicated the month of October to plain language, accessibility, and inclusion. The month included a targeted email campaign to the CCO’s mailing list of nearly 4,000 subscribers. It also included a social media campaign and a series of articles on the CCO’s Key Messengers blog:

With the October campaign, the CCO set a new record for monthly online engagement. This high engagement rate further highlighted the communications community’s need for increased resources on diversity and inclusion.

The way forward

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada’s communications community has pivoted to a virtual work environment. At the CCO, this has meant adopting the MS Teams platform for team meetings, community of practice meetings, Virtual Learning Series events, and the launch of the 2020-21 CCO Mentoring Series. Despite the challenges, however, the community continued to flourish, making 2020-21 a very memorable year.

In 2021, the CCO will develop a new three-year business plan that lays the groundwork for long-term progress and outlines short-term activities to address the challenges the communications community is facing. The plan will be informed by input, feedback, and data collected in the benchmark review, findings from the Public Service Employee Survey, and guidance from the communications community.

The CCO has secured funding until 2024, with the completion of new three-year funding agreements with departmental partners. We also welcome the addition of 10 new funding organizations, which brings the total to 49.

In 2021-22, the CCO will continue to build on its solid foundation and promote activities within the following five areas of focus:

In addition to updating the communications curriculum, the CCO will continue to:

Our communications community’s main asset is its people. There are so many examples of collaboration, innovation, and excellence. The CCO will highlight the outstanding work of communicators through its channels (social media, newsletter, and Key Messengers blog), with an emphasis on virtual learning events and the Government of Canada’s Communications Awards of Excellence.

The CCO is proud to serve such passionate, talented, and high-performing government communicators who are making a difference in the lives of Canadians. The communications community is at the heart of everything we do.

CCO numbers at a glance

Annual funding for 2020-2021

To facilitate long-term planning, the CCO has negotiated multi-year funding agreements with departments and agencies for the period from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2021. Currently, there are 39 departments and agencies participating in the multi-year funding agreements. The funding formula is based on the number of employees in the Information Services (IS) category at each participating department and agency.

Due to the pandemic and the absence of in-person conferences over the course of the year, the CCO amended departmental funding by 10%.

The total funding for fiscal year 2020-21 amounted to $1,120,500. The breakdown by departments and agencies follows.

Funding by departments and agencies

Financial results




We want to hear from you.

Let us know how we can support you better. Send us your ideas for the future.

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©Privy Council Office (2021)
All rights reserved
All requests for permission to reproduce this document or any part thereof shall be addressed to the Privy Council Office.

Cette publication est également disponible en français :
Rapport annuel 2020-2021 du Bureau de la collectivité des communications

ISSN 2562-5993

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