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Hospice Comms Day 2018: Sharing knowledge and building the brand

Author: Kay Taylor
24 May 2018

Kay Taylor, Communications Officer at St Catherine’s Hospice in Preston, attended Hospice UK's Hospice Comms Day in Luton last year, the annual event organised by the charity for communications professionals from the hospice sector to network and share knowledge. Here Kay tells ehospice what she gained from the day.

"What happens in Luton, stays in Luton" – that was the reassuring message ahead of one particular session at last year’s Hospice Comms Day. But of course with a room full of communicators and chatterboxes, that was never going to be the case!  

So the ‘Confessions of a Communications Professional’ segment revealed some interesting anecdotes of comms slip-ups, mishaps and near-misses - and who am I to gossip and tell other people’s secrets?

But as far as the rest of the seminars and workshops went, I could not wait to get back to St Catherine’s Hospice in Lancashire and share all of the top tips, ideas and advice I had gathered throughout the jam-packed day.

The overarching topic was ‘storytelling’, which is absolutely essential as we aim to educate, engage with, inspire and encourage our communities to fundraise, volunteer, shop with us and more – not to mention our efforts to break down barriers and misconceptions some people still have about hospices.

It was great absorbing everyone’s experiences and opinions about the best ways to gather patient, family and supporter stories; share those stories with the wider public; and make a real difference to the charity. Ideas, challenges and solutions came not only from the organised presentations, discussion panels and workshops, but also from speaking with other comms professionals during the breaks.

Personally, I am not keen on the term ‘networking’ – it makes me think of salespeople and ‘business’ types. But actually, the effortless networking which I found myself engaging in at the Hospice Comms Day was one of my favourite parts of the experience. It is really just chatting – go figure!

I picked up tips about Instagram Stories and the YouTube Audio Library – tools which we have used many times at St Catherine’s to really bring the hospice to life and give our communities a true picture of what hospices and the people working, volunteering, and accessing care and support here are really like.

We have even used the Hospice Comms Day ice-breaker exercise in our own staff seminars, encouraging staff from right across the charity to think about what ‘ingredients’ make a good story – the answers are written on post-its and stuck on a big photo of a tiered cake. We also served cake to sweeten the deal!

The aim was to help people think about what we look for in a good story, and the value of staff telling the comms team if they come across someone who wants to share their story at St Catherine’s.

I think this year’s theme, ‘Managing your hospice’s reputation and brand: what do you stand for and how can you stand out from the crowd?’ is a great sequel to the storytelling subject. What people think and say about our charities plays such a significant role in how successful we are. We need people to respect and care about our cause so they will feel happy and confident about their loved ones accessing our care if they need it, and feel motivated and excited about doing their bit to support their local hospice.

Reputation is everything – Taylor Swift has built a whole album, worldwide tour, and ‘brand’ around it, and she always knows how to get people talking. So what more can we be doing to protect our good name or even improve people’s perceptions of us? I am sure we will find out in Birmingham this July…

Hospice Comms Day takes place on Thursday 12 July at Holiday Inn Birmingham Airport. For more information and to register by July 6 visit Hospice Comms Day 2018

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