10 things about social media in the NHS

imageIn a week that saw most people coming to terms with the trauma of Bake Off, it was very much a case of baking as I headed into the 32 degree furnace of a supposedly Autumnal London for the latest NHS Providers get together.

This was the first of a new style of network meeting that aimed to focus on a single, strategic issue with the speakers looking at it from various different angels.

This time around the focus was on significant service change and how communications and engagement should help deliver reconfiguration. There was an update on the current national picture from NHS Providers then some excellent learning from North West London on dealing with large, complex change programmes.

In the afternoon Shaun Lintern from the HSJ looked at the media angle, Mike Birtwistle picked up the political and it fell to me to talk about the role of social in times of major change.

In the spirit of the buzzfeed generation, a love a listicles and more importantly the fact that I was in the graveyard slot on an increadibly warm day – I hope brevity and the ‘ten things to think about’ format combined to offer some food for thought.

Without posting all the slides, here’s my brief ten thoughts on social media during major change in the NHS:

  1. Build a strong social strategy and follow it. It needs to reflect your own organisation and recognise the limitations around things like the appetite for risk. It’s pointless creating a strategy that will only be shut down at the first smell of something people don’t like, so be upfront about that at the start. Make sure you have a strong matrix on how you will repsond to people on social media in advance.
  2. Social is a perfect tool during times of change because it’s your direct, unfiltered line to your publics. But, and it’s a big but, you need to forget about the ‘myth of control’ and accept a genuine two-way dailogue.
  3. Be a content creator. Having a good spread of channels lets you become your own media. Create a strong pipeline of stories, don’t waste anything, try new things and keep talking about your key messages in lots of different ways.
  4. Think of new ways of telling your story. During times of change social offers myriad ways of getting your story across to all sorts of different audiences. Videos, picture boards, infographics, 360 tours, webcams all helped us during the building of a major new hospital.
  5. Evaluate, monitor and learn. Social not only provides you with real time intelligence about your customers and what they’re talking about it also lets you constantly learn what works and what doesn’t. You should be using analytics regularly to fine turn your output, but also to feedback to trust boards.
  6. Build a community. People are interested and passionate about the NHS. If you build a community they will come.
  7. Don’t forget staff. The NHS is essentially a service industry and staff are the most important element in making it tick. Increasingly I find for us that social is becoming the main staff engagement route.
  8. Be more than a cheerleader. This is where we can add real value as comms people. We need to be the outside voice, inside our organisations.
  9. Take time to read and use the free resources available. There are stacks of ideas for places to get free advice (I’ve written about some of them here)

Without the daft photos and poorly judged jokes this doesn’t seem quite as much fun but I hope some of the messages stand.

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