Engaging with Communities

It is important that health and social care leaders communicate with their community,
and their ‘community’ could be a range of different groups of people.

The definition of a community is a social unity with commonality such as religion, values,
or interests; or a group that share an interest in a certain place or geographical area. For
health and social care leaders, communities are likely to take the form of staff,
customers, residents, stakeholders, fellow practitioners and even influencers.

How Health PR can connect communities

So, what part does public relations play in supporting communication with these
communities?

Well, a huge part actually. The role of PR is to manage reputation and influence opinion
and behaviour. This is often done by using a range of media and communications tools.

The health and social care sector has faced growing pressures, with the pandemic
pushing the industry into a state of crisis, and the media have always been quick to
cover stories of failing and inadequate services. With this in mind, leaders need to
ensure their media communications are beneficial in influencing public perception,
attitude and behaviour.

This will help to create a positive perception of the organisation, and sector, for your
various community groups. If a crisis does occur, which often cannot be avoided, you
are more likely to have the support of your community from the outset if their
perception of you is already positive.

It’s critical that leaders consider how they will communicate with their communities,
and it’s likely that a range of PR methods will be used to target the different groups.

Word of mouth does the job – doesn’t it?

Relying purely on one single form of communication can be a dangerous game to play
for a growing health and social care organisation. Many believe that word of mouth is
the most important marketing tool. While it is powerful, it should not be relied upon to
convey a message quickly and accurately.

We all know the game of Chinese whispers. So, leaders need to consider what their key
message is, when it should be communicated, and how their target audiences would like
to receive it. What, how, who and when?

Influencing – not advertising

An advert shouts about how good you are. However, unless a reader is looking for
something at that particular time, most will switch off to these ‘paid for’ messages. A
leader’s job is to influence and motivate, and it’s a powerful tool in PR. A story told well,
that is emotive, trustworthy and moving, can make your communities feel empowered
and proud.

Technology

When communicating key messages, it’s important to remember that technology has
transformed the way people can receive information.

Social media and the internet provide our target audiences with a wealth of knowledge
at their fingertips. If your content is not out there, you could be missing out. Make sure
you have a constant stream of news and updates for your various community groups to
share and engage with, and keep up to date with the latest platforms and trends.

Face to face

Why hide behind a screen when you can share your passion in front of a crowd. There
are a number of ways to convey messages face to face. This includes roadshows, events,
conferences, and networking.

Although getting in front of a crowd can be more time consuming, it provides the
opportunity for your communities to see a real person and hear first-hand your
thoughts and expertise on business news. Public relations can support how these events
are planned, secure speaking opportunities and ensure your key messages are being
conveyed in the correct way.

Video

Video continues to dominate all types of marketing content. When being in front of
people is not possible, second best would be video. Technology has provided a way to
put video content in front of target audiences quickly and cost effectively.

A video can be much more real and engaging than a written piece of communication. It
is therefore more likely to deliver your key message. According to Wordstream, social
video
generates 1200% more shares than text and image content combined.

The communication tools mentioned are by no means all the methods that could be
used to communicate and connect with communities. Having clear business objectives
and a PR and marketing strategy will ensure health and social care leaders are clear
about their direction, target audiences and messages.

So, think about who your audience is and what groups they belong to, to ensure you are
at the heart of your community!

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