Cover bands don’t save the world and 7 other lessons from Birmingham


It was an epic journey to get to AHCM and by the end I was more like Homer Simpson than Homer’s odyssey, but traveling around the uk by rail certainly takes on the feel of a quest in Greek mythology.

However it was well worth the trip from Newcastle, as healthcare communicators from across the UK came together to hear the latest trends from across the NHS.

Here’s my take on some of the key lessons from the day:

#1 Some leadership insight from an inner city GP
“Cover bands can’t change the world, but there’s nothing new invented under the sun,” said Dr Nick Harding. It’s that unique blend of vision, delivery and understanding the reality on the ground that will determine the success or failure of our work.

#2 The characteristics of a great campaign
Journalist Danny Rogers has just written a book called ‘campaigns that shook the world’ and quickly won friends in the crowd by lauding the role of PR over advertising. He contends that all the successful campaigns share some key characteristics including:

  • An objective agreed at the top
  • An obsessively clear vision/authenticity/purpose.
  • Consistent narrative & message.
  • It must be collaborative & PR led.
  • Able to leverage partnerships.
  • A creative flair.
  • Something that can feed into a connected world.

#3 New politics?
There was also an interesting look at how political leadership trends from the last few decades are currently being inverted. People like Trump & Corbyn seem to be showing that like ability, credibility and authenticity are all different things but can be successful against more traditional archetypes.

#4 Dr Kate Granger’s #hellomynameis campaign has proved to be one of the most significant grassroots drivers for change that we’ve seen in the NHS. Not just that but she’s a hugely inspirational figure.

#5 Finances are tough but we’ve been here before.
Some of the seasoned comms pros who have worked in the NHS for many years warned that we allowing the current financial situation to consume us entirely. Cuts & investments go in cycles so we still need to be positive, engage with people and show the great work that the NHS does.

Worryingly 76% of NHS comms people expect budget cuts to impact on their ability to deliver a good service and only 36% of people say they have enough time to do their work. My personal take on that – We need to work differently.

#6 Devolved or just confused?
Nobody seems to know what devolution actually means or what it will deliver in the long term. Although it should make things simpler, it could actually make things even more complex. Nirvana or slight of hand? Powerhouse or showerhouse? Too soon to say.

#7 Some concise advice from a top comms director: “Comms people should be the organisational voice of reason. Be confident, but listen more than you talk. Always be available.” Advice I can certainly live by.

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