The Communications Team8th June 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an enormous challenge in terms of communications. In times of crisis it is vital that an organisation as large as the Trust is able to quickly respond and communicate in the clearest possible way with our staff, patients and wider population.
The sheer scale of the unprecedented, complex and ever-changing circumstances involved made this a particular challenge for the small Corporate Communications team. The huge public interest in the pandemic has driven a huge rise in the number of queries directed to The Trust from the media – there has been an increase of 178% between March and May when compared to the same 3 month period last year.
The team responded by focusing all resources towards explaining the major changes taking place within the Trust in preparation for the pandemic. They have also been working closely with senior management through Trust Board, SMT/Bronze and the Operations teams as well as colleagues across the HSC to ensure that simple, regular and clear communication is used to explain the strategic plans and work going on behind the scenes.
A particular effort has been made to keep staff informed throughout this process – Southern i was increased to three editions a week and there was a major drive in digital communications to record and share regular videos and podcasts to reflect changing rules and realities. With the suspension of many local newspapers, our social media channels have been maximised to engage with thousands of people – reaching entirely new audiences and allowing for effective two way communication.
Due to social distancing restrictions, current infection control measures, and sheer demand, the team haven’t been able to access all the clinical areas that they would normally do to take photos or videos. However, they really appreciate the flexibility and efforts of colleagues throughout the service who have worked with them to overcome these obstacles to produce some brilliant content, with limited technology.
They have also worked closely with other organisational support teams including IT and HR on the development of the new staff app, sharepoint and launching the new website, which are all really valuable communications tools at this time.
Over this period, the team have also secured significant local, regional and national press and broadcast coverage including the three part Channel 4 series which very positively conveyed how the Trust has responded to the pandemic and demonstrated the great compassion and high quality care delivered by our staff. .
The majority of the team are working from home during this pandemic which adds another layer of challenge as people balance home and family responsibilities with the ongoing need to provide strategic communications for the Trust 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Communications professionals are trained and well experienced in crisis management but like everyone else, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique challenge for the communications team. Of course, communications will be just as important as we move into the next stage into planning to restore services, so the team looks forward to working with other teams to help make sure our patients, clients and wider public understand how we will run services as we move forward.