Ten mantras for a digital communications team

Here’s a post from Tim Lloyd that I keep coming back to. I find it extremely useful to remember these when starting a new digital project or even just when deciding on what to tweet.

Number 7 is always the one I need reminding. Number 9 is often entirely alien to the NHS.

I’ve printed the list out and have it on my desk at all times. I’d recommend you do the same.

1. Put users and their needs first

2. Go to where your audience are

3. Listen, then engage

4. Measure engagement, not traffic

5. Content is king

6. Only start digital activity that you can sustain…

7. …and have a plan for leaving


9. Fail fast

10. No I can’t make a PDF, you need the IT help desk

Ten mantras for a digital communications team.


#HSJTwitchat: A few thoughts

Unfortunately a meeting today will stop me from joining in the oddly but hopefully not ironically hashtagged #HSJtwitchat. So here are a few things reading the Cogitamus report made me think about.

Section four (thought leadership) is absolutely key

I don’t think this can be overstated. In my three years in the NHS nothing, other than the statutory reforms, has lead to change not matter how big or small without leaders championing the cause. Having a range of individuals who can lead the discussion, provide viewpoints, evidence and counterpoints to detractors enables the rest of staff to see the need for change and start to work towards it.

Who ‘owns’ social media

This question breaks down into control of what is said and control of publishing.


Communications teams role is to be the hub of expertise on how these things work, interact, damage and improve. They should be enablers. They can’t own the social media brand but they can lead it.

Social media is here to stay

This will be said time and again. The point being that this has reminded me that social media practitioners across all organisations surveyed are coalescing around this point and are realising its implications.

If social media is here to stay then for organisations to take advantage of its benefits it needs resource, capacity and capability given to it. How is the NHS going to build these things around social media (whatever platforms exist now and in the future) when comms teams are being decreased in size and social media expertise is spread thinly across it’s 1 million plus staff?

Finally here’s the link to ‘that’ Taunton meeting in the report’s preface: https://attdigital.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/thoughts-from-a-social-media-chat/ 

Enjoy the chat!

#reformten 73 essay challenge: Jeremy Browne

Today’s Reform Ten essay is from Jeremy Browne: Lib Dem, Taunton MP, Somerset Cricket Club supporter (good man) and Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for:

• Far East and South East Asia
• India, Nepal
• Latin America
• Australasia and Pacific
• Caribbean
• Emerging Powers Co-ordination
• Olympics
• Human Rights
• Consular Policy
• Migration
• Public Diplomacy
• Drugs and International Crime.

His essay, entitled ‘Britain needs a wake-up call’, highlights what such a ministerial position requires – a wide, wide angle view of the world. A view of specific generalisations that help individuals as single nodes in the humongous worldwide system of business, economics, politics, workforces education and health understand what is going on.

There will always be friction between people who naturally look at change on an individual basis and people who naturally look at change as Jeremy has to everyday, on a big picture basis.

Take for example the withholding of expensive cancer drugs from individuals. One angle shows it to be a great injustice deigning someone a longer life, the other an injustice of spending limited money on an individual’s illness instead of many individuals illnesses or preventative measures. Extremely difficult indeed. I shall leave the rest of that point to the philosophers amongst you.

A few facts and more thoughts the essay sent my way

• Currently the British government is currently borrowing £400 million a day
• The British people are getting very close to spending £1 billion (£1,000 million) every single week on paying the interest on our debt <<< Wow!
• Schemes like ERASMUS and travel abroad will be key in the future to ensure the British workforce stays at the top of the tree through knowledge of the world’s different cultures and traditions
• Foreign languages will be very important in the future. The British’s general ambivalence towards foreign language at schools will come back to haunt us if we’re not careful
• Jeremy relabelled Western values as universal values – those of free speech, free trade and free societies. A good and clever linguistic trick perhaps?
• There is a change of mindset needed in UK society. A change to understand how globalised the world is and an acceptance that we are competing in a global workforce
• The logical conclusion of globalisation of the workforce (to me) is the commoditisation of professions. Doctors and engineers will not be able to hold onto the high regard of their profession once there are thousands of graduates from across the world with the same and better skills as British graduate, they just be another x or y. Commercial bodies will be able to salary off positions as they draw down from a global pool of highly educated talent. How can that fit with our societal views and values?
• And finally, how does the need for a better global understanding and position from Britain affect the potential devolution of Scotland and then Wales? Would these countries truly be able to compete in a global world?

Mind dump over! Please do place any comments below.

ATTdigital’s weekly read-round-up #5: GPs are private contractors, a national patient experience challenge for engagement staff, making videos is easy and national service

“I honestly don’t think it matters whether that [NHS care] care is delivered in a state hospital or a privately operated GP surgery.”

This quote came from a Guardian Healthcare Network interview with Stephen Dorrell, chair of the Commons health committee.

I highlight it not because it is a very insightful article but because this is the first time I have seen a GP surgery being classed as private by a politician.

To often for my liking GPs are seen as the guardians of the NHS despite being private contractors. They are not part of the NHS but an extremely key partner, just like the private sector already is through contracts to help the NHS get through its elective waiting lists.

Politicians would do well to help the public understand that GPs don’t necessarily always hold the NHS’ best interests at heart. After all they too are running a business, a business that has to make a profit.

Why we need a national framework for patient experience

Jocelyn Cornwell from The King’s Fund has blogged on the new DH framework for patient experience.

This framework is designed to ‘to apply a single generic framework for patient experience to a wide range of health conditions and settings’. Jocelyn sets out well the challenges that stand in the way of getting the framework adopted across the NHS.

One she doesn’t explore fully is the engagement staff who may well own patient experience questionnaires as part of their work. In my experience NHS engagement professionals are often extremely wary of change preferring to stay within the comfortable boundaries of face-to-face meetings (during work hours) or presentations in town halls to audiences of older people and the usual community champion suspects.

Implementing the framework without a top-down dictat will require a huge amount of engagement work with NHS engagement professionals to teach them that their local population isn’t that different from others and that the same questions across the nation apply to them too. After all a knee op is a knee op in Newcastle or Bristol.

The framework is a great step towards pushing patient experience up the agenda and I hope comms and engagement staff across the NHS embrace it and become experts in it alongside their clinical colleagues.

Ruth Carnall give us her views on Health and Wellbeing Boards in London

This video was taken after Ruth had given a Greater London context at the first of four London health and wellbeing challenge events that bring together the people and organisations that will make up Health and Wellbeing Boards (HWBs).

While the context may not be of interest to many (even though HWBs offer a lot to think about and act upon, especially integrated care) the point of me showing you this is to break down how easy it is:

  1. Film Ruth answering 3-4 questions with a Flipcam
  2. Download the films to my laptop
  3. Use basic Windows Movie Maker to cut them together
  4. Insert a couple of fade outs and fade ins
  5. Publish (wait a while as your processor works hard)
  6. Upload to YouTube
  7. Promote: Tweet, embed and share with staff and colleagues.

Total time taken to get all this done? About 2 hours. Easy!

Hint: Make sure the interviewer asks the interviewee to repeat the question in their answer and tell the interviewee not to jump straight in after the answer has finished so editing is made easier.

NB: Windows Movie Maker is included on most, if not all, Windows laptop and desktop packages, but is nowehere near as good as Final Cut or Final Cut Pro on a Mac

National Citizen Service (NCS)

This government initiative is an opportunity for 16 year olds to explore their skills, likes and dislikes through outdoor pursuits, helping their communities and creative endeavours such as making short films.

A lot of thinking is currently going into how to make the most of the talent, energy and enthusiasm that British youth have and I like the sound of NCS as part of the answer.

It doesn’t  prescribe a right and wrong Q&A style education like exams, it enables participants to learn through making mistakes (e.g. do taking the right gear when hiking) and gives them the freedom to be creative and explore what makes them tick, something the school system doesn’t do very often. Additionally, as the programme looks to add value to their CV, helping them show the breadth of experience required these days on job and university applications.

If you know any 16 year olds looking to use their long post GCSE summer well this year send them to: http://nationalcitizenservice.direct.gov.uk/

ATTDigital’s weekly read-round-up #4

Seeing visions: Science’s annual visual challenge – in pictures

The Guardian science section did its bit last Friday to promote the highly technical and specialised skill of microscopy and visualising science, publishing a nice little ‘best of’ gallery of the winners of Science magazine’s 2011 International Science & Engineering Visual Challenge.

Covering the categories of photography, illustration, informational posters and graphics, interactive games and videos the competition winners just goes to show how important visualising science and not just writing about it is. The pictures even got a raise of interest from a few non-science colleagues.

Also, it’s great to see that software is helping make science more interactive and ‘real’ to an audience of non-scientists and enthusiasts.

A glass half-full: how an asset approach can improve community health and well-being

One for the reading list this but it sneaks into the read round-up as I’ve read the first few pages with great interest.

As I understand it an asset approach is effectively a look at how partnerships between individuals, public sector organisation and private sector organisations can look for the existing positives in communities and seek to maximise them in time and space (positive things happening more often over wider areas).

As the publications says: ‘The asset approach values the capacity, skills, knowledge, connections and potential in a community. It doesn’t only see the problems that need fixing and the gaps that need filling. In an asset approach, the glass is half-full rather than half empty.’

On first look the asset based approach looks to complement the growth of thinking around complexity and how people and organisations interact with each other. So I reckon it is worth a read and a mull over.

Social media explained using donuts


Be Better at Twitter: The Definitive, Data-Driven Guide

While 43,000 tweets is a small sample the subjective feedback makes the summary of this study a worthwhile read.

Read it. Try out the findings. Make Twitter an even more interesting place.

Alzheimer’s brain plaques ‘rapidly cleared’ in mice

Good reporting of research into human disease models in mice from the BBC; very conservative, no false hope, just rational reporting of an idea that might work.

The Alzheimer’s Society predicts the number of people with dementia will reach a million by 2021 in the UK so it is very comforting to know this research is ongoing and has promise.

And finally…

You may have seen a tweet from me in the week about this article from Mark Steel in The Independent on Wednesday:

I hope to expand on this tweet over the next week. But I urge you to read the original article and the measured opinion piece that was opposite it and tell me what you think.


My piece in three sentences (for now) is:

  • Mark Spencer has stuck his head over a political and clinical parapet no politician has publicly dared to yet, full marks to him.
  • The is limited, if not no understanding in the wider English public of how the NHS works and how it could work better in the future.
  • The NHS must reform, now (that does not say I agree or disagree with the current plans) and it is key that the public are spoken to and with by people in positions of knowledge so that the public can make an informed democratic decision.

ATTDigital’s weekly read-round-up

Here’s the first of something I thought I’d try over the next few months…

Hanging Out with 100 others: 5 tips for Bringing Health Professionals Together with Google Hangouts

A nice little post from the 21st December 2011 on healthworkscollective.com describing how groups of Paediatricians across New York State (53,000 sq miles in area, over 300 miles from north to south) have started using Google+ Hangout to enable them to have bigger and better meetings. Taking the focus away from just those Paediatricians in Manhattan and giving those across the state a chance to share ideas and knowledge. The post includes a top 5 tips for using Google+ Hangout.

Do any UK clinicians use this at the moment? Do you think it could be a valuable addition to your Continuous Professional Development training and networking?
As a non-clinician I certainly think a Google+ hangout with a few of my peers would be useful, but only if there was a good chair and a solid agenda.

Spam Volume Falls to 2007 Levels
I got this little beauty from the Harvard Business Review updates that you can sign up for daily stats, blog updates and news.

‘Spam volume dropped from more than 379 billion messages daily to about 124 billion messages daily between August 2010 and November 2011—levels not seen since 2007 —as law enforcement and security agencies shut down major spam-sending botnets, according to Cisco. In September 2011, India was generating the highest percentage of spam volume (13.9%). Vietnam was second with 8% and the Russian Federation was third with 7.8%.’
Source: Cisco Connected World Technology Report

Spam is not an area of computing I understand at all but the numbers in the above are incredible, almost fantastical, so I thought I’d share nonetheless.

100 things we didn’t know last year
A great lunchtime read from the BBC website’s Magazine section with a good sprinkling of left field facts. Some of my favourites include:
1. Aristotle is thought to have been the last individual to know everything that was known at the time. More details
2. More than 90% of UK schoolchildren study Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. More details
3. The Queen’s swans get flu jabs. More details (Daily Telegraph)

Lucifer’s Boob
A 32 year-old friend of a colleague was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and has decided to write a blog about her experiences. Whilst the subject matter is fairly grim she manages to make the blog funny and it’s full of pathos without being overly emotional. She is also very honest about the NHS and has pretty much nothing but praise for all concerned.
Give it a look and I hope it helps to show the power of the written (digital word).
P.s. Read it from the bottom, as it’s in chronological order.

Mapping the social media landscape for 2011: infographic
I shared this earlier on in the week but it is interesting so you’re getting it again.

Stand outs for me are:
• Parents of 10 year olds (Facebook don’t allow children under 13 to sign up) are signing their children up for them
• 55% of active Twitter users access the service from their mobile (it’d be interesting to know if they also use desktop and laptops and which is most popular by minutes spent on Twitter/Tweetdeck/Other management software/webpage)
• 56% of college students said that if they were offered a job by a company that banned social media use, they’d turn it down  how is the NHS going to ensure that it gets and retains the top digital talent needed to provide world class digital healthcare services and informations?

I hope you enjoyed the first ATT read-round-up of 2012. I hope to get a few more published over the coming months. Happy New Year to you all let 2012 be a happy one!