Directors' Cut with 'hands face space' creator Conrad Bird

Directors do some of the most interesting and challenging work in the civil service. Here, Conrad Bird, director of campaigns and marketing, Cabinet Office, explains what it takes to do his job

By Civil Service World

04 Jul 2023




What does the role involve?

Overseeing government paid-for campaigns (assessing them for value and effectiveness), as well as delivering major cross-government PM priority campaigns, such as for Covid-19 and most recently on the cost of living.

To do your job well you need...

Resilience, optimism, a good sense of humour and a powerful desire to do public good.

First job in government?

Strategic communications at the now defunct Central Office of Information.

Proudest achievement to date?

Receiving a CBE for my work on the GREAT Britain Campaign, and 23 months of Covid-19 communications (including creating the “hands, face, space” slogan!)

Most bizarre thing that’s happened to you at work?

Hard to give just one… being grilled by 23 editors for four hours in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the subject of Great Britain without an interpreter; a fleeting visit to war-torn Eritrea, taking only a laptop and PowerPoint presentation; persuading David Bailey to photograph Her Majesty and presenting three major campaigns to a former PM in under 10 minutes…

If you weren’t a civil servant you’d be...

A cartoonist.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever been given?

Make a decision and move on.

If you could wave a magic wand over the civil service, what would you change?

Recognise and value the importance (and messiness) of creativity in everything we do – take more risks.

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