What could you learn as a marketer during COVID, working for a hospital?

Sarah Roberts, Head of Digital Communications, CUH NHS Trust

Marketing the nhs

COVID has changed everything. But what is it like when you’re a marketer, and expected to communicate with patients and staff alike the changes that are going on clearly, while everything is changing around you?

It’s a huge, daunting task, and one that Sarah Roberts and her team at CUH NHS Trust tackled head on.

In this talk, Sarah shares her her learnings from her time as the Head of Digital Communications at CUH, specifically focusing on:

  • How did the Trust communicate with humanity?
  • How did they build a community spirit when everything is going crazy?
  • How do they just deal with the day to day impact – to just stop, think, and breathe from a personal wellbeing perspective?
  • How did they give hope and purpose through their messaging and actions?

The scale of the challenge

Sarah is operating in an organisation with 11,000 employees and 1,000s of patients at any one time. When COVID struck, it was clear there were four main challenges to surmount:

1. Communicate at pace

2. Keep and remote and frontline workforce connected

3. Reassure patients that they would be there in the time of need

4. Manage a whole new set of demands on the workforce

The rest of the talk was dedicated to the lessons learned in the pursuit of these goals

Don’t underestimate the power of the human voice

To start with, the Trust took the standard government templates to stay consistent with the messaging. However, with consistency, some of the humanity of the messaging was lost.

For this reason, the team took it on themselves to produce video messages from members of the CUH NHS team. The immediate result was assets which didn’t just say the message, but one where every word was felt through the voice of the team member.

Key lessons:

– Where possible have a human deliver difficult messaging

– Keep it simple to three key messages

– Scenario plan on all possible outcomes and think how to could make each situation a little more human

Connecting people together is important

COVID brought about a change of pace and environment for much of the workforce. This meant people ultimately weren’t getting the information they needed at the pace that was required.

Ultimately, this looked like a Facebook group for the workforce. Today, some 4.1k members of staff are in the group, not only receiving regular updates from the leadership but also generating their own content.

Sarah suggests that group rules have their place, but applies the ‘if in doubt, leave it out’ rule works best. Ultimately, this is about trusting people to be in charge of self-regulating.

Key lessons:

  • Have a clear purpose for the group
  • On group rules, if in doubt, leave it out
  • Have content lined up – in this case, have folks signposted to a daily bulletin and Facebook Lives with senior leaders
  • And, empower people to become self-moderators

Working under one mission can take you places you never knew you could go

Don’t forget to breathe

Sarah shared the personal experience of sitting on a ‘Silver’ board meeting, where the various heads and experts within the hospital had to meet and decide what to do tactically with the strategy put together by the ‘Gold’ level meeting. She shared how walking into that meeting she was nervous, but focused on her breathing.
She recommended this GIF to help you focus on your breathing, which we love!
Key lessons:

– Take a deep breath

– FOFBOC – Feet on floor, bum on chair

– Remember you’re the expert, that’s why you’re in the room

Stories are a powerful tool in your armoury

The three main objectives of storytelling throughout the digital team’s efforts were:

  • To bring hope when the national outlook looks bleak
  • To reassure people who are understandably scared
  • To help manage expectations and make sense of what was going on

While as marketers we regularly discuss the tool of storytelling, Sarah gave us the reminder that these stories have the ability produce very real behaviour change, and should therefore not be considered lightly.
Key lessons:

  • Understand what’s important to your audience
  • Find stories and characters to help bridge the gap
  • Find an inciting incident, a conflict, and the resolution
  • Know when the story needs to move on

You can’t pour from an empty cup

Understanding that every person will be experiencing everything in different ways gives us all permission to know that we don’t need to be at 100% all the time.

Key lessons:

  • Be honest about how you are doing and embrace vulnerability, it gives permission for others to do the same
  • Nurture a ‘check in’ culture
  • Take leave and set an example

A united sense of purpose can take you so far

COVID presented a unique set of circumstances where everyone was working towards the same purpose. Whether it was clap for carers, or calling our NHS staff ‘heroes’ – there was a moment in time where everyone worked together for one purpose.

While this is hard to bottle up in a post-COVID environment, Sarah makes the suggestion that through making your purpose clear, you can start working towards those moments of magic that COVID created.

Tips as we move into recovery:

  • Be proactive and honest about the impact COVID has had on your organisation/company
  • Truly understand the operational challenges you are going to face in the months and weeks to come
  • Find the stories that demonstrate recovery – often people don’t realise that the job they’re doing makes a difference


Joe Glover 0:08
Sweet. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to another Tuesday webinar. It’s so lovely to have you here today. I’m just shifting across my notes. And so and thank you for being here for another webinar session. And I think it’s probably a blessing that we’re doing this nice and early this morning because it has been hot. And the only thing is that I hope you’ve all managed to get some sleep because I did not. Anyway, today, our guest is Sarah Roberts. Sarah is the head of digital communications

On a personal level, I’ve actually been a indirect beneficiary of Sarah’s work. So my work, my wife works at the hospital, Sara covers. And regularly, she’ll come back and tell me all about the email she’s received. The online community that Sarah’s team has established during the height of COVID. And like how useful it was and how it was like a place of support and how people came together and chatting and just how wonderful it was. So, without meaning to give the game away. Sara’s hard work has been an invaluable source of just community for thousands of staff working with or in the hospital, which is just absolutely incredible. So we’ll hear all about that in just a moment. But you know, it’s absolutely

Brilliant to have you here today.

Today’s session comes with a couple of things that need establishing up front, you know, just for the sake of prosperity, first of all, is, of course, none of us wish for a second that we were speaking about any of this COVID is obviously flip the world upside down. And while you know, we’ve all been looking to find those positives, it’s also impossible to escape the virus has changed so many lives for the worst. So, you know, I think when we head into this talk, we acknowledge that none of us wants it to happen, but it has and we can all learn something from it. So that’s, that’s the attitude we’re taking in this. And secondly, I’m sure Sarah will cover this but everything in this talk I’m sounding like a Twitter bot, a Twitter bio Here is her own personal opinion, her own personal reflections and doesn’t reflect the wider reviews of the trust. And I think it’s just important to set up from because obviously there’s a whole lot of stuff that is wrapped up in that Finally, of course, this session will just be fascinating because it’ll be able to take a view into a world that many of us thankfully, haven’t seen from the other side. But you know, we’ll get a little window into it. Of course, we can all just learn from the adversity that’s gone on. So, you know, I’m really, really looking forward to this. This has been one of the ones that I’ve, you know, particularly been looking forward to this session today will run as a presentation, and then there will be an opportunity for a q&a afterwards if we like. Although now or you know, after is the time to get your questions in using the q&a feature. So down the bottom, if you wiggle wiggle your mouse, you’ll be able to see down the bottom, there’s a q&a feature, you can pop your questions in there. And you can also use the thumbs up feature if you see a question that you like. And that means that we can answer those questions first, rather than look to just answer ones that only a couple of people would like answering. And there is a also an additional thing on the q&a, which is that there are some questions that obviously we’re just not going To cover in the session for like, the same reasons as the personal reflections. So we’re just gonna have to be sensitive to that in this session, but I think everyone understands why. And finally, I just want to thank the sponsors, we sat here, it has since the beginning of this crazy, crazy time, and every one of them has stepped up and said, we’re going to continue supporting you. And we wouldn’t be able to do these sessions if we didn’t have that. That source of income, that source of support, but also then just supporting the community in general and saying, look, we like marketers, and we want to help them. So here we are. And you’ve already had the the men in the pre mail, you also have their names in the post email. And there’s one ask as ever, I’m sure we’ve got lots of regulars on the webinar today. But if you haven’t already, please do take a second to thank each of these individuals behind these companies. Because then ultimately, that people they’re not they’re not just companies. So please do take the time to thank those folks. So I just want to say a big thank you to pitch content, cow fibre, red gate, Cambridge, Martin college leading brand further third, like Bravo and human. Just give them a thing, because that’s a that’s probably what they deserve. So that’s my introduction over with. So I all I can say now is, Sarah, it’s over to you.

Unknown Speaker 5:25
Thanks, Joe, for that really lovely introduction, and I’ll try my best to live up to that. And so, as as Joe said, I’m Sarah. And what I really care about is making sure that patients our hospitals, have a great digital experience. And that could be whether they visit our websites, whether they go to our social media channels, or have it interfaces with their digital appointments. I’ve got 12 years experience in public sector communications and marketing and I have the privilege at the moment of leading a team of five brilliant digital comms pros, which I think is it’s not arguable that it’s one of the difficult times of NHS history.

Sarah Roberts 6:00
So that’s that’s a really unique position, I find myself to be leading that team. And I think before I dive into the six lessons that I feel that I’m going to take away from the most, and I just like to explain about the scale of the challenge. So how big are we actually talking? So, as Joe said, MC, which runs Adam Brooks and the Rosie, which are world renowned hospitals, and it finds itself on the Cambridge biomedical campus as well, which puts it in a really unique position against research, which has been incredibly important, as you can imagine, throughout this period of COVID and 10s of thousands of patients receive hospital treatments and within different specialties, around 170 specialties. So it’s a massive place It feels like its own little village, and as it’s a sprawling campus, and I’ll show you some pictures of it to give you a size of the sense of the scale. And in terms of the challenges that we faced as a communications and marketing

Team, I think you remember back to the daily briefings. So the communicating at pace. So every night It felt like that there was something new in the policy that we had to really consider and work through. Because the next day, our staff will be asking, Well, how does this affect the way in which I do my job? And patients was was saying, Well, how does this affect my care? And that’s really important to make sure that that’s, that’s taken into consideration. Secondly, keeping a remote workforce and a frontline workforce connected. So obviously, we had a lot of staff who was still delivering care on site, but also we had a chunk of the workforce who began to work from home. And I think it’s, it’s

Unknown Speaker 7:46
a lot of organisations face this, we had the position when not our IT infrastructure was not set up to have that large amounts of people working from home. So it was a real challenge to keep The people on the frontline connected with those who were now newly working from home too. And thirdly, we obviously needed to reassure patients that we would be there for them in their time of need. And that was that was a really core part of delivery of communications throughout this period of time. And finally, the challenge of actually managing the shift to digital. So people who had never really considered digital has been part of their jobs of how they had they talk to their patients, or how they talk to their teams, we’re now in a position where they have no expertise or knowledge in this and very much the demand came through to our team to help manage some of that. And while we’ve done some of that of ourselves, we weren’t exactly the experts in it. So I think that we’re now in the position to say that we probably are but at the beginning of this, we certainly weren’t so happy working through those challenges. I think I have to say those challenges, challenges are very different to the challenges that the organisation faced. So things like PPA Things like how you reconfigure a hospital so that you keep patients separated and isolated who do have covid from those who don’t. So those are all the background challenges that our communication challenges had to operate in. And we were always mindful of how those messages and how we keep people connected throughout that period of time are really important. So moving on to lessons my first lesson is don’t underestimate the power of the human voice.

Unknown Speaker 9:29
So overnight, our hospitals went from this

Unknown Speaker 9:42
to this, empty hallways, say staff coming into hospitals, it felt very, very different. Usually it’s a vibrant it’s a bustling community and you feel the sense of music movement as you move through the through the hallways and corridors. So What that did mean though, was that’s where visitors were there. That was it. That was a very difficult decision that had to be made operationally, and not one that was taken lightly because what it meant was that visitors were not allowed to come and visit their family, their friends in hospital, and that’s heartbreaking. And what had been happening was that we are gradually reducing the visitor into the hospital. So we’ve gotten to one adult be able to come in no children. I, I hadn’t thought that we would blanket ban visitors from coming to the hospital and suspending visitors coming that I just not considered it. I didn’t think that that was a possibility. So when it came on a personal level, it came as quite a shock that that we were having to make that call. And so we initially communicated out using the same kind of graphics that we have been doing for communicating about signage in the hospital and and helping people to understand what’s going on. And at the time, it was very much aligned to the green of the, what was the government original communications. And we were hoping to keep that consistent so that people understood what it was about and why it was happening. And, but what we hadn’t anticipated is that it’s really impersonal. So when you’re talking about something that’s really emotional, having just a graphic and some text felt really impersonal. So the way in which it landed was probably not the way that we had really wanted it to because it was such a difficult call. So we created a series of videos to bring that human voice through and, and I’ll show you a short clip of Giles, who you’ll be able to tell from the moment that you hear his voice. What a difficult decision this was for the hospitals.

Unknown Speaker 11:45
The reason that we’ve made this decision is to keep people safe and to save lives. Thank you for your help and support and understanding.

Unknown Speaker 11:53
So even just hearing just a few few moments of Giles, his voice you can hear that that that has a completely different fields. And often when emotional messaging happens, people, people react in different ways, and you need it to land in the best possible way. So using human voice is really important to do that. And, and also, in lieu of being able to visit, I’m really proud of the contribution that I’ve made to this. So this is letters from loved ones. And I’d seen that other hospitals had set up a service where people weren’t obviously able to come into the, to the wards to see their families, but they could send a letter, or they could find the pulse helpline and then have a letter written up and the message passed on to their family. So I’m really proud that the pals team took this up and actually resource this and made this happen because where we couldn’t obviously have patients being visited. This was the next best thing and the difference this made anecdotally from patients and their families was that it made a huge difference to how people felt and didn’t feel so isolated. Tables also don’t remember, don’t forget the value of the written word team. So my top tips for communicating with compassion is where possible, have a human deliver difficult messaging. And keep it simple to three key messages because of that emotional reaction you want people to take away what the key points of your message on and also the learning from from which was quite quite hard learning and something that I do all the time now is scenario plan on all the possible outcomes, no matter how how outrageous you think that they are, because it might happen. And how could you make each of those scenarios just a little bit more human so that it lands in the way that even 10 the first time around? My second lesson is about the importance of communication of connection. Sorry. So people were obviously feeling quite isolated. You know, think back to if you were working from home that that those first couple of weeks have a change of status. pace the change of environments. And so keeping people connected was was really difficult in our hospitals, as I’m explaining that a big chunk of the workforce with it was then working from home. And so what, what we found again, because the IT infrastructure wasn’t at that point able to facilitate that amount of people working from home is that people weren’t getting the information that they needed to be able to do their jobs and do their jobs quickly, particularly as that fast pace of information was coming out from governments, and we need to react to it very quickly. So I have to say hats off to Michael and my team who created in less than a week, I might add a staff portal, which housed all of the information which sat outside of the network. And that’s that’s quite a bold move, which the management team approved to have that information sitting sitting there so that people could access it on mobile, they could access it from home, and they importantly, they could access at any time of day and it didn’t have you didn’t have to rely on The it network to be able to get there. So alongside that we, we set up a Facebook group, which which Joe has mentioned. And this was about helping people to stay connected in a bit more of a personal way. So initially, I set this up, and we now have more than 4000 members of our 11,000 strong workforce, which is it’s about 37%. So it’s, it’s a really brilliant tool to keep people connected. And so the types of things that we originally planned for it to have was pushing out things, bulletins, that people could have the information that they need on that daily basis. We will increase the bulletin to twice daily at some points as well. And you’ll see that the variation in the Coronavirus versus the CH bulletin where as an organisation we felt it was important that we switched off from talking about Coronavirus back to will this is actually now the way that we do business so you’ll see that that’s that’s from days ago, compared to last month where we were still using the Coronavirus and, and also, we then began to see that staff was sharing thank you that they’d received and helping build up morale. And also, and it was an opportunity because there was so much love for the NHS that lots of organisation donated so much, and it was so generous, but not everybody would be able to know about it. So it allowed us to, well, not just us, but any person in the organisation to share where they knew that people were offering that generosity.

Unknown Speaker 16:39
And then from our point of view, we were able to share stories. So the one on the left here is about David and Joyce and it was it was a beautiful moment where and he was able to em to Matt to Mary Joyce on our ICU, which is just, it’s just lovely. And it’s about having that opportunity to provide uplifting moments where this This is what we’re doing all this for this is this is the reason why we’re here to help people. And we also had things like Facebook Lives that kept bringing people back and gave people a reason to keep coming back to the group. And so the 827 is the weekly meeting that that happens at exactly 827. And in the normal times, it would have been the case that it was held in the boardroom, but now it’s held virtually via Facebook, so that people can access it outside of the hospitals. And then we’ve now started to see so much about people who are now just generating their own content and becoming, asking questions and then people are answering their questions too, and it’s a really lovely space to be operating because often you don’t know how these things are going to go and how much moderation really you’re going to need to input. So having a community that becomes the sound Moderate is a really exciting place to be. And so largely it’s like touch in terms of involvement, though, but keeping things going and keeping an eye on it. So that anything that does breach rules is obviously taken down. But if this one I really liked and for those of you who do know Adam Brooks we have Henry the cats who causes all sorts of mischeif in the hospitals and people like to nominate him for you made a different difference awards because he brings so much joy to the hospitals and so I just wanted to show you that so my top tips for starting a Facebook community so be very clear about the purpose and the reason why you’re setting it up. And, and ours was was very clear, it was about ensuring people had that fast access to information that they might not necessarily have had from home. So that that was really important, but now it’s more about the connection about people being so and ask questions and find the answers themselves. And creating group rules is also important. And the one that I’m most I think has the most value is if in doubt, leave it out because largely people are sensible. We like to give people the benefit of the doubt. And there are over rules about you know, not spamming, etc. but giving people the benefit of the doubt and leaving them to decide if they feel what they’re posting is appropriate. And then having step in only if you need to have content lined up. So we obviously have had the signposting to the daily bulletins and the Facebook Lives with senior leaders because that is what keeps pulling people back as well as the conversations and also having the ability to empower people to become self moderators of content to so that you don’t have to keep stepping into that position where you’re scolding people and potentially banning them from a community because people often do that themselves and they can help self regulate What isn’t what isn’t acceptable on one of the groups

Unknown Speaker 20:06
by less than three is remember to breathe. And I’ll talk through Firstly, how the hospitals in a major incident mode, they operate. There’s a change in decision making and and I’ll recall the first time I sat on silver command which was was quite a nerve wracking experience. So when a major incident is declared in the public sector, this happens in other organisations like police and ambulance, etc. as well as NHS we run gold, silver and bronze command, which means that all decision making is taken through the roots and ultimately gold is that sign off as a strategic level. Silver’s about being tactical, and so recommending what those decisions are and understanding what’s happening. And bronze makes the stuff happen. So each individual unit in the house Because we’d have one of these command structures. So for communications, we had a gold, silver bronze. And there’s a central one to where different people from each of those units comes and talks about what’s happening in their business unit and what’s important. So from from my point of view, the I was sitting on silver, I was one of a few people who was on silver commands. And the first time that I attended a silver command meeting, as I say it was it was quite nerve wracking because it originally was in the boardroom before. I suppose social distancing became so pertinent. And looking around at 30 different colleagues who were all from different areas of the hospital, who I think as well were quite scared about what was going to happen because they were seeing what was going on in northern Italy. And thinking we have never ever dealt with anything like this. So to see colleagues also feeling a bit nervous was a bit like bought We don’t know what’s going to happen here. So we need to work out what can we do to be able to provide ourselves and our staff with reassurance, but also then provide patients with reassurance to about how the hospitals and their care would be affected. So, at one point, I realised because my heart had been racing so quickly, I hadn’t been breathing, I’ve been holding my breath. So every time now that I step into a stressful situation like this, I come back to this and this gift about making sure that you’re taking some deep breaths and sinking your breathing. Because only when you’re breathing properly, you’re able to get enough oxygen to be able to not not enter into that kind of panic and anxiety mode. So that’s, that’s now what I do. And our internal communication colleagues are now responsible for attending silver command meetings, while other people have been shifted on to different priorities. So it’s not how it was, as it was in the beginning. But it still is quite a stressful situation. So here’s some of my top tips for entering stressful situations. So make sure you take a deep breath before, before you go in. And make sure that you’ve regulated your breathing so you can properly listen to what’s happening. And I love the the acronym here, FF BOC and that’s feet on floor, bum on chair. And that’s about giving yourself that sturdiness, that stability, so that you when you feel stable and you’re breathing, and you’re giving your best in a situation where you need to be able to give your best. And also remember, you’re the expert. That’s why you’re in the room. So people look to you to provide that level of expertise. And that’s that’s a really important space to operate from.

Unknown Speaker 23:51
And my less than four is about the impact of stories.

Unknown Speaker 23:55
So the three main objectives of storytelling for our COVID responses bringing hope, when often the national outlook has been pretty bleak. And the national narrative as a lot was about how many people have been infected, how many people have died. So that, of course, creates conditions where people are scared, they’re scared to come into hospital if they need to receive treatment. They’re scared about what might happen to their friends and families and from a staff point of view. And the hospitals were in a position where they requisition some hotels to be able to offer that space so that people could step away from their families and loved ones to be able to make sure that they kept them safe if they if they were worried about that. And, and we also use stories to reassure people who were scared and help to manage expectation and make sense of what’s happening in the hospitals. So part of the joy of some of this has been about the gathering of stories. So this is a shout out to Josh our digital apprentice and Abby are one of our data Officers. And we’ve spent quite a lot of time getting out and about hearing the stories and understanding what is important to staff. What is important to patients so that we could tell the stories that have the most impact. And so on the right hand side this, this is Josh and filming a swab swab at RM, our testing station. And it’s it’s been really illuminating to hear those stories and see those stories and actions and help to tell those stories. Because it’s, it’s very difficult to imagine what goes on in a hospital for at COVID it’s almost like a black hole. You kind of know stuff is going on and people are being careful with COVID and people are, you know, they’re being tested for Coronavirus. But you don’t get to see that. So it was really important to make it visual as well. So stories have helped us to do that. And I think one of the best pieces of storytelling which credit goes to M My colleague, Sarah Vincent, for setting this massive opportunity up is the 12 hours in our hospitals that the BBC spends and doing hospitals live BBC. And this was an incredible piece. And you know it, it allowed two teams of journalists and we embedded some external affairs colleagues and digital colleagues, to go around the hospitals and hear the different stories from patients and staff and tell the story from our point of view so that we were owning our own narrative rather than hearing from the National point of view about, well, what’s happening and we know there’s going to be waiting times this is this is going to be a long period of recovery. But part of that reassurance is that this is what we’re doing to make that that possible and as safe as possible. So this has come well, and I love cam Well, she is the divisional director for women’s and children’s and she was one of the main cast characters that appeared throughout the day she started the day and she ended our day. And it was probably one of the most normal days that she’d had in a long time. So she was operating on a baby who had a cleft lip and so and did a jewel reconstruction on another child too. So hearing about how she goes about her day differently so we’ve heard surgery perspective, there’s there’s different ways of operating though, you know, you have so much pee pee and that makes that a challenge. So just hearing it from the hospital side means that people can understand why it doesn’t it you know, something, we can’t just flick of a switch and the services come back online. So helping to tell those stories makes a difference. And this is Tim who was waiting for an X ray after experiencing chest pain and he was having treatment for leukaemia and so was able to explain that she feels really safe in in the hospitals due to having her cancer treatments. This might make a difference for a person who is feeling scared about coming in and perhaps might not come in. So sharing these stories does have a massive difference to how people

Unknown Speaker 28:11
their perceptions and potentially changing their behaviour. So it’s something that can’t be taken lightly. So my top tips for telling stories and i think i think the last face to face marketing meetup was on stories, so I won’t I won’t go on too much about this because they’re much more experts than I am. And but understand what’s important to your audience. So we know that people want reassurance and that’s what we’re going to give them find stories and characters who help bridge that gap. So people like your cam wells of the world, your your patients like Tim and zoo, how does how did how can they help tell that story that you’re you’re hoping to convey the inciting incident I think for everybody, it’s COVID. And but where’s that conflict? So for us very much the conflict is about switching services back on but it’s an uphill battle. And it’s not something that can be easily done, there’s hurdles to overcome. And the resolution obviously is about getting people seen in a swift time as possible. But also, there’s this, this important thing about knowing when you need to move your story on. So I’ll come on to this in the next lesson, and in a bit more detail, but this is about, well, there comes a point where you do need to move the story on because you’ll have seen from our daily bulletins, we were putting out COVID bulletins, and it was a very deliberate choice to move to ch bulletin to signify that shift in where we felt the organisation was operating from a very much a fighting and reactive response mode through to a more. This is our new business as usual, and this is how things are going forward. So knowing when to move that on is important. And we’ll also see that through the national narrative of clapping as well. So you’ll remember that So less than five you can’t pour from an empty cup. And I think that’s fair to say for everybody. And, and this will feel familiar to many this this is my working life journey as it’s evolved throughout COVID. So I first started on the sofa and then sometimes when it was nice moved out to the garden, and now I’m working from my lovely garden shed office that is extremely hot in in the afternoons. And, but this is it, this is different for everybody and knowing that people are dealing with the way in which they’re changing their environments, things are happening that, for example, I’ve had to postpone my wedding I would have been getting married a week on Saturday. So there’s so much personally that people are dealing with that you often don’t know what the impact is underneath the surface. So understanding that each person is different and that people will be experiences in different ways. Not everything can be solved in one fell swoop. And so my tips for well being for this has been about being honest and embracing vulnerability. So I’m really upfront about how I feel, and with the team, because hopefully that gives them permission to feel that they don’t have to be 100% all the time. And especially in the beginning, I was I was saying, you know, our response was still sorting this out, we don’t have all the answers. And that’s okay. And, but what we will do is we’ll work through this together. And that’s, that’s very much where we’ve come from this. And something that we’ve, I’ve personally really enjoyed is in some of our wider team meetings, having a checking culture, where we rate from zero to 10 how we’re doing. So we, again, as a team, we understand how each other is feeling and we can pick each other up when we need to choose and freeze up to about eight and is something to really celebrate because coming through the other side of this is it’s been a really important journey and not all days aerates but appreciating that again, that’s okay. And making sure you take leave and set an example. So I again try to get as much time in the diary and use up as much of that leave which often doesn’t feel possible when you’ve got all this going on you having to communicate for your staff and your patients. It’s not it’s not always possible but trying to set an example so that other people feel that they can have leave is again also very important. Now finally, my my lesson six about how far a united sense of purpose can take you.

Unknown Speaker 32:43
So, when COVID struck, and a lot of hospital services had to stop in terms of research, anything other than COVID related research stopped, so it felt like every every part of the hospitals, every part of our wider health care partners was all focused on delivering and fighting COVID. And that’s a really unique space to be in. Because when else has anything ever stopped in such a way that gave such a big purpose? And Joe and I were talking just before about how, and how can you bottle that up and use that in a way that that can propel you into the future. And I’m not convinced that you can completely create those conditions again. But what you can do is be really clear about that purpose and and help people understand what is important and what is a priority. So

Unknown Speaker 33:51
other emergency services would come and clap, patients would come and clap, staff would come out and clap and it was a really special moment. And you probably were on your doorsteps clapping as well. And that was a really unique again a unique time where people had such love for the NHS.

Unknown Speaker 34:10
And then

Unknown Speaker 34:12
people were saying thank you.

Unknown Speaker 34:16
And people making those scrubs for our staff say, the level of generosity and the level of feeling the rainbows. It was all such a lovely, lovely period of time. And even our dogs were saying thank you to the NHS. And yeah, don’t tell the dogs but Pablo is my favourite pets as therapy dog. And they come into the hospitals and they help patients to to again just just feel a little bit more normal, especially if they’ve got that, you know, animals at home. And they really help but what they haven’t been able to do is come in due to COVID. So we’ve even they’ve been really thankful that what happened at that point was that once this lovely NHS feeling this sentiment, it came a point where we were using words like hero, which puts people on a pedestal. And that’s absolutely where they should be for that period of time. But once we felt the shift was changing, we made, again deliberate choices about uses of words and language like hero to moving it from hero to proud. So we’re very proud of what’s been achieved. And I’m really proud of what my team’s achieved. And but that was a very deliberate shift from being about the clap, to moving on to and signifying that, that change in direction that this is the new normal and things are going back to as normal as they can, can be. But the story isn’t over yet. It’s far from over. It’s this is that was the first chapter. And we’re moving into many, many more chapters of the story. And so I think these are the things that I’m taking With me, most importantly into this next phase of whatever this looks like, for everybody, and that’s about being proactive and honest about the impact that COVID has had on the organisation, that BBC piece very much spoke to that. Because had we have not done that I think people would have been thinking, Well what on earth is going on in that massive hospitals? And and how are they responding? And why am I waiting so long to receive my treatment? So being proactive often allows you to own your own story. Understand what operational colleagues are facing now but also in months to come. So what are those challenges that you can help with? So for example, I sit on the outpatients and diagnostics Task Force. So for that, the big ones are about well, how do we encourage people to come to the hospital and come to the hospital when they need to? And how do we make sure that they attend video and telephone appointments and understand that they are as valuable as coming to the hospital so there’s some real behaviour change pieces that are Most will be working on over the next couple of months. But also find stories that demonstrate that recovery. And often it’s the people who don’t realise that they’re doing an amazing job are the ones who make the biggest difference. And I’ll end on the note of Terry, who he is one of our domestic cleaners and he operates what he describes as being a Dalek. That is a fogger. It goes into wards to decontaminate them. So imagine this Dalek going in and he takes off a panel and he makes sure that the this Dalek decontaminates, the the wards as well as it can be. Someone I spoke to him is that he’s a man of very, very few words. And he was just, he just sees it as doing his job. But actually, if he doesn’t do his job to the best of his abilities, then that can make people not safe and potentially, you know, it could mean that they they don’t they We can’t say their lives. So what he does is really important, but he doesn’t see that. So you really need to scrape beneath the surface to see where those stories are, because often they won’t just land in your lap. So make sure that you go out and get them. So to summarise the my six key lessons are, don’t underestimate the power of the human voice. Connecting people is really important. Don’t forget to breathe. That’s what that’s, you know, vital, and stories. Absolutely, they’re in a really important tool in your armoury. You absolutely cannot pour from an empty cup. And think about how you can get people to work onto one single mission because it takes you to places that you did not know that you could not even reach. So thank you, Joe. I just want to say if you want to connect with me, I’m on LinkedIn and Twitter, and then I’ll hand back over to Joe for any questions that have come through.

Joe Glover 38:54
Well, thank you so much, Sarah. That was like, you know, you You set up some times when they’re, you know, when you set up a marketing based event and stuff like that you don’t necessarily expect to be so profoundly moved in the morning. And, you know, like, I, there’s some comments coming in here, which, you know, to the effect of, well, there’s one here from David, he says, Thank you, sir, for your quiet understated, hugely impactful presentation. So glad I was here to see and hear you. And like, I feel exactly the same that like, you know, Blimey, what a huge challenge that you had, but also, you know, you can see that you face it head on with, with poise and amazing thinking and, you know, the comments are just rolling in that it was, you know, of course, it’s been an amazing effort. And, you know, I hope, you know, I think we feel proud of you in anyway, you know, you know, really, really spellbinding I sort of sat here for the entire time. Actually just sort of thinking Well, there’s a question and then you answered it just in terms of both both the presentation and you know, the context for it all absolutely spellbinding. So thank you so so much and I really couldn’t appreciate that. Appreciate it any more. And there are some questions. So we will go through those if you’d like to stop sharing your screen sir them

Unknown Speaker 40:27
before so

Joe Glover 40:31
we’ll see if you can find us. There we go. Three. Fabulous. So I guess the first lot of questions actually came in like on a very sort of tactical basis about Facebook group. So I know that you weren’t you. It will be your team that managed it as well. So there might be some stuff here that you don’t necessarily in the Wheaton but this stuff like at the very quick questions, but how did you find you don’t make sure that the right people will get into The group so what did you do when people requested to join the group? Did you have to go to their profile? or What did you do? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 41:05
yeah, it was it was quite still quite a labour intensive process. So the nitty gritty of it is that we need to make sure that every person who enters that group is a member, an employee of the trust. So one of the questions that we ask them is, what is your trusted email so that they have to provide that and then we make sure that they’re on the system. So there is a level of logistical admin that sits behind that. And of course, when we had felt like thousands at the time, it probably was where we were having to check all of those and go for it so that the team did amazing job to to make that happen. And we were conscious to get people on there as quickly as possible because that was somebody who potentially wasn’t receiving our messaging. So as I say, the team did a cracking job to get as many people on there as possible and we’re still regularly like I get alerts on my phone even this morning saying, so and so wants to join the group. So it’s continuing To grow as more people are inviting people as well, and seeing the value of being connected in that way, but I have to say not everybody likes Facebook, and not everybody is is, I suppose, agrees with Facebook as a platform. So we need to make sure that not everything is on there. But equally, we’re providing value for the people who do use that as a platform. Yeah,

Joe Glover 42:23
that makes perfect sense. And to sort of emphasise them, you know, I think we all go through those problems because Facebook does seem to be the best place for all these groups. You know, unfortunately, maybe, but but you’re spot on. And when you actually started the groups, you know, you mentioned at the beginning you see that it with bulletin stuff, but then people almost naturally started to post their own, you know, sort of Thank you messages and stuff like that. So were you surprised by that? And like, did you was the intention always the seed it and hope that people started engaging or what’s the strategy behind it? I think

Unknown Speaker 42:57
we’ve been thinking about it for a little while. And As with all these things in organisations, as large as as Addenbrooke’s in the Rosi is that things like this do take time to get through, and you need to get buy in from the right people. And we probably would have created a little policy around it for how we manage it. And that’s something that we’re retrospectively going back and doing. And but at the time, it was really important to make sure that we were connecting with people in a way that it would appear where they are. So rather than having to pull people to where we are, at least we were going where people were, and that was a that was a deliberate choice to do it. So that you know, as they’re scrolling through their feed up pops the latest bulletin so that they can find that information that’s really important that you know, if they’ve got five minutes, they can read through and know that they’re walking into a situation that they can handle the next day.

Joe Glover 43:48
Absolutely. And that there is a question here from Adam, who asks, have you had any stories of issues of self regulation because, you know, you’ve quite rightly pointed out that you should just trust people to say To extend, and actually, I’m thinking now that we should change the marketing via Facebook groups that people can just post rather than, like, an approved base. But like, have you had any stories there? And have you ever needed to step in

Unknown Speaker 44:12
and say nothing that is like a hair raising Lee? Awful. And I think we get some who complain, but perhaps not in the most constructive way. And it’s remembering that often when you complain about something that that could be somebody else on a different Ward that could be, you know, somebody’s family member. So dealing with it carefully. I think we’ve only ever had to remove a couple of posts, and I can’t remember what the content of them was, I think it was something like perhaps spam or something. But the majority were people do complain, we have people who say, Well, you know, either they they pile and say, You know what, that that is that is bad. And, and for some things, absolutely. You know, it helps to get things rectified. And But often, it’s the challenge. Don’t have how that comes across in the online world, and perhaps they wouldn’t have worded something like that, where it to be a phone call to that departments if something wasn’t quite right. So that’s that’s the only ways that we find it. But as I say, a lot of people in those departments are able to provide the answers so often like, you know, where, say the hand sanitizers run out in a particular area, and some it hasn’t been reported, because everybody else thinks somebody’s going to report it. Gets it something like that could get reported and then you know, somebody from estates and facilities is on there and goes, Oh, so I can get altered. And it’s a wonderful thing to see when it when those questions do because often, like, as anybody knows, through managing social media channels, you’ll have questions that come through and often it’s you have to go and find the answer. Go and get somebody to sort it to help provide a response. Whereas in this, it means that often the people who can provide the answers do and that’s it really lovely place to be. And from social media point of view, it’s it’s time saving as well, which means it could be on something else.

Joe Glover 46:09
Absolutely. And I guess there’s an interesting point here because you you alluded to it a few times where you spoke about like, almost like a phased approach to things. So you switched it to a CH bulletin rather than Coronavirus update and using the Facebook group as a lens, but also widen it out if you’d like to, how are you thinking about progressing the channels that you’ve developed over the course of time? You know, I don’t know how far, you know, the group is planning, you know, ahead and stuff like that. But do you have an intention that, you know, x 10 will shift and y away because that will be appropriate at that point, or he is still sort of without saying but you’re on the backfoot you know, reacting to the circumstances as they are because there’s that too.

Unknown Speaker 46:57
I think it definitely would be portal So we have an intranet that sits behind the network. And the portal with information, which is action to the side of the network is on there. So, from that perspective, we’re obviously considering Well, the digital experience for staff and the benefits of having something that sits outside the network. But also considering Well, what technology will be available within the infrastructure at that point of time. So will it be worth redeveloping the staff portal to be the internet? Because everybody can access it? They can get it on their mobile devices where at the moment, you can’t on the internet? So there that there’s definitely thoughts around that, I think with this with the Facebook group, and it’s a bit more difficult because it very much reflects the the voice of staff and what’s happening at the time. So we use it for things like polls to inform what potentially what we do next. So for example, we were looking at the regularity of bulletins that we were putting out so do we move today Do we move to weekly? You know, how much information is it too much, and using it as a bit of a check in for staff. So I think I think it will evolve naturally on the Facebook group, unless there’s specific campaigns and content that we think that people can really get behind and be more intentional on our suppose our bigger channels. And as I think I was mentioning, when we were talking earlier, that we are in the process of launching a new website as well, for the end of September, one that absolutely complies with that public sector legislation that’s coming in, and we’re currently it doesn’t, you know, it’s a, it’s an awful experience don’t go there.

Unknown Speaker 48:40
It’s not a reflection of them, of where we are digitally. We’re, as I say, in that process of

Unknown Speaker 48:45
developing a website.

Joe Glover 48:47
We’re laughing about this before and that like, you know, I feel like in these times at the moment, you know, something like a new website would be a project that so many of us would stress over as marketers for, you know, months and years on end. But you know, it’s just one thing amongst many. So you know. And so we’ve got a question here from Amy, which is, you know wider about digital digital marketing, really. And it’s probably quite personal at the moment if you’re managing your team. So she just says a, what are the top digital skills that you’ve really valued in your team? So her question is actually phrased, what the top digital skills marketers need to have, but just phrase it.

Unknown Speaker 49:37
There’s definitely something about being able to tell stories. So whether that’s digitally whether that’s non digitally, being able to tell those stories is really important, but but translating them into digital, so knowing what is the right platform, what is the right type of content for that particular story in it and it’s not a it’s not a blanket of how it’s done. So We regularly consider well, is the video The best way to do it? People always want a video. And actually, we from our channels, we’ve we’ve analysed that. And often photos are much more impactful and have more engagement than videos, which, which surprises when we said that. So I think the ability to look at insights and stats as well, and to inform how you do things is really important. And then finally, I think, just having an eye on what’s going on in the world and helping to, I suppose, what is that technology having that one, one eye on the future while you’re trying to get a grip on on the today, but how could you be doing this in the future? So not just appreciating that this is, you know, this is where we are now, but what could come next? And

Joe Glover 50:51
it’s that it’s that curiosity, I guess, in a sense,

Unknown Speaker 50:54
yes. Yeah.

Joe Glover 50:57
So got a question here from Simon. I won’t read that the first bit. But the second bit is, is there been any moments which sort of like, blindsided the team? And how did you react to that? So I guess you alluded to it right at the beginning where you guys needed to communicate at a pace. I think it was what you said, because, you know, everything was changing. So regularly, was there a moment where you’re like, wow, I wasn’t expecting that. And now we’ve got to deal with it. And if so, you know, you know, I’m not expecting you to detail it if that’s something you can’t do. But what was the reaction in that sort of situation because it was changing so quick.

Unknown Speaker 51:35
It was and I think it probably was half the converse internally. It was changing as well. So I for a big chunk of time, was leading on the comms for PPA, which Crikey that that was that was heavy going because of what we were hearing and there was obviously concerns nationally about the pipeline of pee pee into the company. Let alone. How could we ensure that we had enough PP for staff and thankfully, we never had a position where there wasn’t PP for staff and that that is down to the amazing work of the procurement team. But sometimes listening in to those conversations and hearing quite, you know, how close align we were. That would that was why do you know what that’s that’s really quite something and part of it was down to the responsible use of pee pee, because where people were panicking and hearing the national narrative, people were stockpiling PP, to make sure that their unit was okay. So part of our behaviour change comes with absolutely about well, don’t worry, we’ve got enough as long as you don’t hold on to it. And to make sure that, you know, you have a part to play in all this. So I think that was probably the most wide okay. This is where we can really impact with our communications. And yeah, incredibly heavy going because at times, it was It did look, it did look bleak, but the work of the procurement team to get that PP into the organisation was it? Yeah, it was, it was really important. And, and I’ll just remember about the, one of the meetings where we had people who were innovating as well we have chemical engineering who are just incredible people who, you know, they, they look at problems and they they go off and they find solutions. So, and some of the way moments have been through the creativity that people have had to create different things. So they, they, the air protectors that you put where you put your mask on, and you loop them over. So now, what they created is now available for all staff. They’ve also done this magnifying glass thing where people are nppa obviously, you know, you’ve got your mask on. Some people have the visor depending on where you are in the hospital. Yep, you can’t read properly. So they’ve created these little magnifiers that help people to read and we’ve all escaped Upon. So there’s been a lot of ya moments, but I think for me, it’s been sitting on that PP group, hearing some of the challenges, but also some of the real creativity, and that that staff have come up with, it’s a brilliant place to work. So,

Joe Glover 54:13
yeah, the way it sounds incredible, actually, you know, you know, those challenges we don’t we don’t get every day, you know, and that’s, that’s quite, you know, really quite special and light, I guess, is a follow up to that. Yeah, this is your daily life, right? You know, so I’m sat here and I’m like, Whoa, you know, there’s a lot of stuff going on here. How do you even begin to process that on a tactical level? Because you are, you’re just moving so quick. Do you ever feel like and, you know, from everything, we can see that the quality of your work has been maintained as well. You know, with the quality, the assets, the thoughtfulness, the shift from something was a little bit more cold to something more human. You know, how do you as a thought process, how do you start to think okay, we’ve got this challenge today. So we’re going to go out and tactically implement this, because I think the strategy is one thing, but that’s in the weeds stuff. You know, it’s quite another in a relatively small team as well, really?

Unknown Speaker 55:10
Yeah. So there’s five of us in Digi comms. And then there’s a wider team, which includes XM fers and internal comms. And I have to say, my boss, Lady Baden director of comms, she introduced something called alongside of executive directors, CH reflex, which was a period of about, I think, two or three weeks where we asked the organisation to pause and reflect on what had happened, you know, how had life changed for people in departments? And we did that ourselves in communications, too. So how have things been working? What what worked well, what didn’t work? What do we stopped Actually, we don’t want to bring back and so there was a lot of time that we could do that. I mean, things are moving quickly in the background. So while we reflect we’re also you know, happens to crack on with the day job, but having that that space and that again, that passion mission to stop to think well, how could we do this differently? That was really important. So hats off hats off to Alli for making that happen in the organisation, and now we’re using that feedback in the organisation but also within the team. And so on that kind of day to day level about how do we tactically manage that it’s a challenge is really difficult. So we have task forces that are across the hospitals, and we have people who are assigned to those and we kind of bring back everything that we hear that’s going on that we think you know what that’s actually really important that we do something with that. And we have a content pipeline. We use Asana, to when to manage our workflow and our our content planning, which is a blessing really, because it means that we can see what others are working on. If there’s something that’s cropping up in external affairs or internal then we know that from a digital perspective, we can make sure that gets covered. And so having that story pipeline where everybody feeds into They’re different areas we can understand and go through what’s important. And we’ve been doing that probably for the last month now. And that’s had a real impact on them understand what’s important, and how we go about doing things. And sometimes we just have to accept that there’s not enough time to be able to do everything. So we have to put our resources where they matter most. And that can be challenging because I like to be able to do a great job across the board. Sometimes I just have to accept that and move on.

Joe Glover 57:27
Absolutely. No, that makes perfect sense. I feel like I could speak about this, you know, is actually fascinating and like I, you know, not that you need my praise, cuz you’re clearly not incredible. But you know, you know, I think we’re just so proud of you say, so, you know, well done to you and Weldon, to your team, because, you know, this is this is real, you know, this is real stuff. And this is real marketing, too. So, so thank you. I think we probably have used up our allotted time, so I want to be respectful for folks, but you know, so just Thank you so, so much this has, you know, made my day and I’m sure it’s made the day of so many people just to hear about it. There’s so many takeaways and they’re absolutely unbelievable. So, so really, really grateful. Thank you for spending your time today.

Unknown Speaker 58:15
Thanks, guys. Thanks for being

Joe Glover 58:18
open. So and then. So thank you to everyone that’s been his day. And also, please do take the time to thank the sponsors. It really does make a big difference webinar next Tuesday as ever, but for right here right now. Coming to you from little down, I’m feeling very, very inspired. So I hope you all have a wonderful day. Thank you, Sarah, and thank you for being here today. And I hope you enjoy another scorching hot day as well. So take care everyone and we’ll see you soon.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

This event was live on 11 Aug 2020, 12:00

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