Why blog or tweet? An NHS leader shares his view

Professional communicators spend hours influencing and persuading their stakeholders and business partners. One conversation which has become increasingly popular is the importance of senior management regularly communicating with employees, particularly through social media.

I’ve lost count of the number of articles I’ve  come across which focus on top tips for internal communicators to help them encourage leaders to consider incorporating new channels, be more visible and to start engaging in dialogue with employees. These certainly provide value for comms pros but I decided to do something different and rather than write from a professional communicator’s point of view, look for a senior manager who is doing this and ask them to provide a fresh perspective.

One leader who regularly uses social media is Dean Royles, Director of the National Health Service (NHS) Employers Organisation. Some of his communications can be read via Twitter, and you can see his messages and videos on his organisation’s website. He is a member of the Employee Engagement Task Force and I asked Dean to write an article for Diary of an internal communicator to provide an insight for my readers from the view of a leader who sees the value in communicating with employees and using social media to do so. I’m delighted that he was happy to oblige, so I’ll hand over to him to carry on the story, Rachel.

Why blog? Why tweet? With a busy schedule and pressured job, where do you get time?
Despite all the things on my agenda – pay, pensions, industrial action, health and well being, politics – this is the most commonly asked question. As an advocate of social media perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. But the question is always asked as if I see blogging or tweeting as a discretionary hobby rather than a fundamental part of my role.

What do I see that some others don’t? It seems to me that asking why I blog is like asking why I bother to communicate. No one asks me why I speak in meetings! Or why I email or why we do press releases. Yet social media seems to me to be a much more effective media. It is an essential part of stakeholder relations and a key aspect of management and leadership.

You will find communication on page one of any management textbook. Usually with a flow chart! New medias don’t diminish the need for communication – they exacerbate it. If you think you get by without, you are probably wrong IMHO (an acronym for Tweeters!), it becomes exponentially more important.

Don’t get me wrong. I do take the time and effort to chat to staff and keep up to date with employees, stakeholders and partners face to face whenever I can. But the ground you can cover on social media is enormous.

If you are like me you are probably reading this on a train, bus or on your way to or from work. It doesn’t feel an imposition on your time to read it does it? In the same way there was no imposition on my time to write it. It’s part of what I do and who I am.

Showing personality
Another great advantage of blogging and other forms of social media, in addition to reach (you can get your message to thousands more than you would than newsletters and emails) is the opportunity to give of yourself and show your personality and values.

The nature of my job means I do get quoted regularly in magazines and newspapers. British citizens love the NHS and this feeds an appetite for information and views. This relationship is something I love about the job, and I hope I get the response and tone right to the circumstances of the story.  But in all those quotes and references, there is no opportunity for the reader to see my personality – to see who I am, what’s important to me. Yet I know from face to face communications that this is such an important part of whether people believe what I say. Am I consistent and does it resonate with what they know about me? With social media I feel I can engage in this territory.

Those that follow me and read my blogs know that I’m a dad, a father to four children, a husband, a hiker and a Sheffield united fan (really!). That I’m proud – very proud – to be a public sector manager. That I think whistleblowing is good for the NHS and that we don’t praise NHS managers enough, that partnership working with unions is good for patients and good for employers.

Opportunities to listen
It also allows me to listen, to find out about others, to understand the issues and anxieties of those that work in the NHS, and to pick up on the tone of conversations and what issues are rising up the agenda and what issues are resolving themselves. It really is a fantastic way of giving of yourself and listening. Give it a go. It’s the new management by walking about!

Post author: Dean Royles.

Thank you to Dean for providing insight into the value he places on communicating with employees and using social media. I think it’s refreshing to come across a leader who clearly sees how his communications have a role to play within the make-up of an organisation and why social media works for him. What do you think of what he has written? Does anything surprise you? Feel free to comment below and thanks as ever for stopping by, Rachel.

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