The NHS's 70th birthday could be inspirational for healthcare comms

Healthcare comms in 2017 will be characterised by a refinement of the way in which we use rich media, and the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

The 70th anniversary of the NHS is a perfect moment to showcase its achievements, argues Rachel Rowson
The 70th anniversary of the NHS is a perfect moment to showcase its achievements, argues Rachel Rowson

The world became a serious place in 2016. People who were unhappy with it, and previously didn’t feel like they had a voice, have spoken loudly and decisively about wanting change. Finding ways to communicate effectively with them will be a challenge for governments and brands alike. Healthcare is no exception to this need to communicate with all groups.

Watch: NHS teams up with Twitter to tell patient and staff stories

In healthcare, issues and content can often be complex, so creating a simple and compelling message using storytelling techniques will remain an important trend in 2017. Using the faces and stories of people who use the healthcare system can bring the driest of topics to life. Rich media content is becoming more sophisticated, and new ways to engage with a wide range of audiences have begun to emerge.

One particular challenge will be finding better ways to produce video that will be watched without sound.  Subtitles are fine, but making content effortless to engage with requires a better way to get messages across than literally spelling it out.

Disease awareness, public-health initiatives and other campaigns that aim to educate and inform lend themselves well to shareable, easily digestible content like video.

Live-streaming on social media such as Facebook gives the opportunity for two-way communication in real-time.

The pharmaceutical industry continues to have difficulties engaging in dialogue with the general public, but some firms have taken the plunge with social media and are reaping rewards. The potential to inspire and engage in real-time is huge.

Being able to see a scientist working in a lab, a doctor in a clinical setting and patients leading their lives will create a new way to communicate and allow more access to areas of healthcare that previously have been off-limits.

Embracing digital channels will enable better measurement of the impact of comms. PR has struggled to find robust ways of measuring outputs, outtakes and outcomes, but taking data collection seriously and measuring the effect of communication through digital channels will boost our ability to tailor strategies and develop campaigns in a more sophisticated way.

Alongside the new audiences who must be communicated with, and new technology and techniques to experiment with, 2017 brings a key theme that will create an infinite number of comms hooks: the NHS’ 70th birthday celebrations will begin. This will lead to a period of nostalgia, reflecting on the amazing advances in science and access to healthcare in those 70 years.

This anniversary will present an opportunity to showcase innovations being developed today. It will also encourage future-gazing and give a framework for charities, industry and the NHS itself to paint a picture of what the next 70 years might bring.

So, if 2016 was the year when people stood up to ask for something different, 2017 has all the ingredients to deliver exciting, innovative and compelling work that inspires the healthcare sector and offers hope to its beneficiaries.

Rachel Rowson is managing director and head of health at MHP Communications

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