Leading the way with expert information

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Communication planning, Talking care

In a world where we’re all at risk of ‘information overload’, how do you share your specialist knowledge and expertise through credible content?

Membership organisations – including professional bodies, charities and educational institutions connected to health and care – have a lot of important insight that should make them a primary ‘go to’ source of online information and innovative thinking on their particular area of interest.

But it’s not always that easy to develop your niche. The ‘thought leadership and content delivery’ stream at MemCom 2015 – an annual event for membership marketing professionals – offered valuable tips on getting started.

As I highlighted in my round-up of the stream’s presentations, it takes planning and ongoing commitment, clear communication structures and branding.

You need to ‘talent spot’ among your own people to identify those with their finger on the pulse who are willing to scope ‘hot topics’ where you can add value to the discussion.

You want to be able to tap into relevant communities – including those generated through your own organisation – and uncover what not just interests them but is of real use. You should aim to continually repurpose and prepare your expert information to deliver it in different ways and at the most appropriate times. And you can act as a ‘curator’ for your audience, filtering other content so that it is meaningful and in context.


First steps to improving communication

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Communication planning, Talking care

I recently gave a masterclass on internal communication at the Improving Patient Care conference. My main point was that poor communication and not listening to staff or making them feel engaged are often underlying factors when things go wrong in healthcare. On a very basic level, if people don’t understand what they’re meant to do, or have clear guidance to follow, then errors are inevitable.

One of the issues I raised was that organisations need to find out exactly what communication already happens, and what impact it has. After all, how can you improve if you don’t know what you’re currently doing, if there are any gaps, or if things aren’t working as well as they could be?

I’m a big believer in carrying out comprehensive communication audits as a worthwhile investment of time and effort. If you do it properly, you’ll involve a variety of staff, which is a chance to hear their views on communication generally as well as in relation to specific processes, responsibilities, activities and channels.

And just by carrying out this exercise, you are demonstrating a real commitment to taking communication seriously.

Give everyone a voice

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Communication planning, Talking care

I’ve just had an article published on a website focusing on health and social care reform. The gist of my piece is that any organisation can benefit from making an effort to listen to what its staff have to say.

The other side of the coin is the negative impact of then ignoring not just any concerns they may raise, particularly about quality of care, but their ideas and thoughts on how practices and systems could be improved.

Not only may you miss out on some extremely useful insight and realistic suggestions for change for the better, but by not taking on board what frontline practitioners in particular have to say, or perhaps taking some action as a result but not letting them know that you’ve done so, gives out very negative messages about the perceived value of their opinions and, implicitly, their skills, knowledge and the work they do.

This is clearly not good for employee relations generally, engagement or motivation. And if you do not show willing to take their views seriously, it could lead to a situation where, should they have major concerns, they may see only two options – keeping their worries to themselves or waiting and taking more extreme ‘whistle-blowing’ action at a stage when it is harder to find a rapid and effective solution. 

Don’t ignore the ‘boring stuff’

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Communication planning, Talking care

I was recently trying to explain to someone what I did and where I felt I could offer most value in communications. I explained that I actually like the challenge of making the ‘boring stuff’ – by which I mean things like reports, strategies and policies – not just interesting but more likely to have a real impact.  I enjoy both writing and editing this sort of potentially dry, information-heavy material. But frustratingly I’m often brought in simply to proofread final versions, to check that they’re accurate, error-free and set out correctly, and that they make sense.

The frustration comes from knowing that at this stage there is little opportunity to ask questions that could make the content much more meaningful and effective. Who is it for? What response do you hope to achieve? Is this new or existing information? Do you know how similar materials were received by the target audience previously?