Are you helping to save lives? Attract students? Make roads? Sell stuff? It doesn’t matter what your company does – every sector needs to prioritise the health and happiness of their workforce.
Not just physical health, but their mental health too. And this is finally being talked about, and written about. A lot.
I invited Jude Tipper to add to the abundance of wisdom that’s already out there and share her story. I heard it in person at an NHS event I chaired last January and I’m delighted to welcome Jude to my blog.
What you’ll find below is an outstanding initiative and one we can all learn from. I’ve been recommending this approach to my clients since hearing about it. There’s so much in here, I know you’ll enjoy it.
What is particularly striking is how much has been achieved in terms of behavioural change – and all on a modest budget of £5000.
Jude (pictured) is strategic communications lead at NHS Digital, based in Leeds. She has nearly two decades of experience in NHS communications, mainly working with frontline mental health, learning disability and community services.
Committed to her values, Jude has extensive experience across both internal and external communications. She loves finding a creative edge to ensure messages and brands resonate.
I’ll hand you over…
How to communicate wellbeing in an organisation
I recently left a (wonderful) job where I led marketing, comms and engagement for an NHS trust in glorious Yorkshire. And, just as I went, we won a prestigious national award for #allofus, an internal wellbeing campaign which I devised and led, alongside my brilliant team.
The trust provides mental health, learning disability and community services to 1.2million people. There are 4500 staff, mostly based in the community or in inpatient settings (eg locked mental health wards). As you might expect for an NHS trust (though, it isn’t always the case) we had an amazing array of wellbeing services for staff. From in-house physio to health checks, counselling to yoga.
So, what was the problem?
The comprehensive offer made to staff just wasn’t landing; we knew this from survey results. The various teams who offered staff wellbeing services all routinely required comms yet were essentially competing for space with uncoordinated messages. We had a significant disconnect between what was on offer and staff knowing about it.
And, you know how the NHS loves targets? Well, we had a target to meet here too. Without getting knee deep into NHS speak, we have things called CQUINs. Alas, they’re not sparkly little metallic discs, instead a target that if we hit we get to keep part of the income given to us. (And it’s that income that pays wages and provides care).
Achieving the CQUIN that year meant keeping £133k, a significant amount. Achievement is measured by response to a national NHS staff survey question about perception of wellbeing support; we had to improve by 5% over 2 years. So, before we’d even begun, we had one strong measure for the success of our internal comms.
What did the campaign set out to do?
On a budget of £5k, it had three main aims:
- Increase take up of staff wellbeing resources
- Help achieve the Trust’s staff wellbeing CQUIN (£133k)
- Deliver consistent messages to change behaviour and attitude around four key themes:
- Staff having flu jabs (which also attracted another £133k CQUIN payment if we hit target)
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Lived experience (people with experience of mental and/or physical health problems)
Collaboration and consistency
We knew success relied upon close alliance with other departments – not only for buy-in and ownership but also for insight and evaluation. So, I held a workshop with HR, occupational health, unions and frontline clinical staff.
We brought together all the insight on each of the campaign themes – survey results, sickness absence and occupational health data. From this we established key challenges and opportunities.
Together, we co-produced a key message grid for the overall campaign. We then carried the top line messages into each of the four key theme message grids, building their own supporting messages underneath.
Yes, it was complicated but it ensured consistency and repetition (and therefore recall). As Frank Luntz puts it in a soundbite I love to quote whenever comms planning:
“There’s a simple rule: You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you’re absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time.”
What did the campaign look like?
Following the workshop, we were able to create a multi-channel timetable of activity, within our modest budget.
A campaign brand was developed – #allofus – tying in with our well-established organisational brand ‘with all of us in mind’. Our award-winning visual identity is based around a brushstroke, so the wellbeing brand reflected this paint theme. It became lovingly known as The Splat.
The campaign launched with a cheeky texting animation.It was backed up by an all-time favourite comms channel: toilet door posters. Ignore them at your peril; they work!
It was all very different to our usual corporate style, and therefore more impactful. We enlisted the help of domestic staff to put posters up across our 50+ sites – which also ensured one of our key audiences had already seen key campaign messages.
A series of print and digital assets followed, all united with the wellbeing brand.
You can see further examples of materials in this Twitter thread– all produced in-house. We also made sure execs carried the same language, in presentations through to weekly chief exec messages.
A place for print
The centre piece of the campaign was a 36-page magazine, carefully chosen to invest the bulk of our budget. It reached everyone regardless of role or base and, as it had been years since we’d invested in a physical magazine, it was bound to get noticed.
A detailed content strategy ensured we covered every key theme with their set narratives woven throughout, as well as signposting to services. We targeted certain staff groups to get them to pick up the mag to spot people they knew (eg our porters did a piece on how to get 10,000 steps a day) and covered a variety of services and locations. There were no top-down pieces from execs so it didn’t feel too corporate. This was also aided by photos of real staff, and we even bagged a dog for the front cover.
Did it all work?
In short, yes. Check out this graphic for impact in the year following the campaign.
And if you need a reminder of the importance of repetition and consistency of key messages – our evaluation included asking staff what they thought the campaign was about. Many answers accurately reflected the key messages of the campaign. In multiple cases, it was pretty much word-for-word.
Has it had sustained outcomes?
We dug deeper beyond our original agreed evaluation. Since campaign launch we’ve seen strong downward trends across a variety of sickness absence measures including lost days and length of episodes – this included a salary based absence reduction of £250k in the last 12 months. All this against a backdrop of some of the toughest workforce and financial pressures the NHS has ever seen.
#allofus is now part of the organisation’s narrative; it wasn’t a one off campaign.
It’s (quite literally) emblazoned across walls and there’s a section on it in appraisal paperwork – making sure every single member of staff discusses what #allofus means to them with their manager.
The human impact
The NHS workforce is admired worldwide; we’ve got a duty to look after their wellbeing. Our campaign brought this to the forefront.
Better staff also means better care – research consistently demonstrates how NHS providers with higher levels of staff engagement, comms and wellbeing tend to have lower levels of patient mortality, make better use of resources and deliver stronger financial performance.
Yet, beyond our targets and the evaluation data we will never know the full human benefits of the campaign.
Of those staff who went to occupational health, how many stayed well (or halted decline) as opposed to had they not attended? What happened to the staff referred to their GPs, had something serious been picked up and suffering avoided? Have we helped someone open up about their mental health?
Have we saved lives of those who save lives? Who knows – but we’ve certainly tried to improve them.
Our campaign used insight, consistent messaging, a strong brand and creativity to make a demonstrable impact. We not only made a financial difference and increased the use of wellbeing resources but, most importantly, we improved lives of NHS staff and therefore the lives of people they care for.
Our internal comms made a difference. For all of us.
Post author: Jude Tipper.
I love this so much! Thank you Jude, I enjoyed discovering the details and finding out more.
I hope you did too, as ever you’re welcome to comment below or you can find Jude on Twitter @JudeTipper.
Further reading about mental health and wellbeing via All Things IC:
- Paws for thought – how PDSA gives colleagues a voice on mental health
- How to communicate Mental Health Awareness Week 2019
- Why we need to talk about mental health in Comms
- How to communicate World Mental Health Day 2018
- Strangers on a train – living with social anxiety, by Michael Cambell
- Why a University is offering mental health first aid
- How to understand and improve diversity – includes new PRCA guidelines
- How to stay mentally healthy if you work in comms
- What you need to know about mental wellbeing
- The challenges facing NHS communicators.
Thank you for stopping by,
First published on the All Things IC blog 20 June 2019.