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Confessions and tactics at Hospice UK’s communications workshop and networking day

Author: Suzanne Stevenson
18 July 2016
  • Newspapers

Suzanne Stevenson from Hospice UK reflects on a recent event for hospice communications and marketing staff held by Hospice UK aimed at helping them increase their influence.

There were plenty of memorable moments during the recent communications workshop and networking day held by Hospice UK entitled: Influencer or afterthought? Your role in shaping strategy before story - but one in particular stands out for me.

The event - attended by communications and marketing staff from hospices across the country – explored the standing of communications in hospices and looked at different ways that communicators could increase their influence in order to achieve key organisational goals and tell their hospice’s story with greater impact.

I was intrigued by the proactive approach adopted by one of the delegates who clearly took the event’s theme to heart. During the event she told us that beforehand she had approached her hospice chief executive and put her on the spot asking “I want to ask you, am I an influencer or an afterthought?”

It was an effective tactic that certainly helped focus her CEO’s mind on the place of communications in their hospice and rethink its importance for their organisational strategy.

Around 50 communications staff from hospices across the country attended our event held at St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds and based on the positive feedback received so far, it proved to be a successful and informative day.

It kicked off with a fun ice-breaker where delegates were asked to rank themselves on our colourful “Richter Scale of influence” – ranging in scale from those who created small tremors to seismic movers and shakers that created major impact in their hospice. Most clustered around the mid-way point.

Highlights on the day included a lively panel discussion where three leading hospice communications staff talked about how they had successfully managed to increase their influence in different ways, whether using social media to showcase hospice care stories in new and compelling ways or building strong internal relationships and gaining the trust of senior managers.

There was also an entertaining and highly instructive “Confessions of a Communications Professional” slot where many delegates shared a previous communications-related mistake and what they had learned from it.

Common challenges faced by hospice communicators

Many of those who attended commented on how useful they had found the event in highlighting the similar challenges they face in promoting their hospices and a welcome opportunity to learn from others about new approaches.

Some common themes emerged. Many delegates cited the critical importance of buy-in from hospice chief executives who understand and value the role of communications in achieving organisational strategic goals and who could help “open doors” across the organisation.

However it was also emphasised that this buy-in had to be two-way, with hospice communicators actively working to “earn their spurs” and gain the trust of the CEO and other senior managers.

Internal communications was regarded as a key challenge for many hospices. Many delegates emphasised that it should viewed in its broadest sense, with communications staff working to promote their hospice’s messaging to all key stakeholders, from senior managers and supporters to volunteers and van drivers.

Discussions also focused on building good relationships between the communications and clinical teams. Several delegates shared that they would regularly “walk the wards” and spend time with patients to help build trust for when patient case studies were required by the media, inevitably often at short notice.

There was also plenty of talk about the role of communications in a hospice and how it needs to service all of its work areas and not be “buried under fundraising”.

And it was highlighted that small budgets are not necessarily a barrier to creative and impactful communications, as demonstrated during a compelling presentation by Keech Hospice Care about their hugely successful video of children talking about death, with the concept and filming all created and delivered in-house.

Keeping the conversation going among hospice communicators

We hope our event will encourage more conversations among hospice communications staff about their work so they can share different approaches towards both the opportunities and challenges of promoting hospice care.

Hospice IQ – Hospice UK’s new knowledge and information-sharing hub for hospices – presents an ideal channel for continuing these conversations, especially via its interactive forums where hospice staff can consult with peers on a range of work areas.

Its dedicated communications section contains a range of useful documents including communications strategies and case study permission forms. Current resources for communications professionals on Hospice IQ  include a “top ten tips” guide on how hospice communicators can increase their influence, as well as Hospice UK’s crisis communications toolkit.

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Suzanne Ostler

It was indeed a really excellent event - so useful to be able to share best practice, hear the thoughts of others and compare experiences, particularly as many of us are a 'team of one' within our hospice. I've already shared some inhouse training with a new contact and have tapped up others to continue some valuable conversations started on the day. I look forward to next year.

18/07/2016 15:21:16


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