Public sector comms plans don't work without effective social, NHSBT tells conference delegates

Social media engagement is vital to ensuring organisational success and helping public sector campaigns with limited budgets punch above their weight, delegates heard at the annual NHS Confederation's Comms Conference on Tuesday.

Social media: Vital for engaging 18- to 34-year-olds in NHSBT's 'Date 2 Donate' campaign
Social media: Vital for engaging 18- to 34-year-olds in NHSBT's 'Date 2 Donate' campaign
In a presentation to the conference, NHS Blood and Transplant social media manager Melissa Thermidor and the organisation’s interim director of comms, Ceri Rose, cited research that said 55 per cent of those who engage with organisations on social media eventually take action on its behalf.

This was vital for NHSBT’s behaviour change campaigns, the speakers said, because the public’s knowledge and education about organ donation is low.  

They said NHSBT’s job was to save lives by making donation matter to more people and that they set out to achieve that via a comms strategy that aims to "normalise donation" and appeal to specific audiences.
Social media, they said, has the potential to educate, inform and precipitate action.

"The opportunity is to do more to turn people into advocates – particularly where budgets are limited," the speakers told the conference. "Social media – especially Twitter – is quickly becoming an advocacy platform." 

They said the strategy was particularly important when targeting campaigns at younger people, citing the #MissingType, #MyMentalHealth and #MeToo campaigns.

They continued: "The 17-36 audience group is no longer just interested in selfies and self-focused messaging, but more about the use of social media for good – blood donation, organ donation. Key issues like mental health, disability, environmental causes, abuse are at the forefront of public digital debate."

Date 2 Donate

The speakers unpacked their recent campaign to build a donor base of 18- to 34-year-olds through the use of video storytelling and to encourage individuals to make a ‘Date 2 Donate’ with a series of films that captured the energy of friends, families and couples who give blood.

The fact that the featured people donate blood was intentionally downplayed.

The speakers said: "That these people are actually donating blood becomes background for the audience: it’s the stories, the gossip and the laughter the characters share that the audience are drawn to."

The speakers compared the appeal of the campaign to the public’s appetite for TV programmes like Gogglebox where people can see their "own kind participating in an ordinary, relatable task", and said they hoped the video series would "normalise blood donation as another one of life’s shared experiences".

The series went out to more than seven million people including NHSBT audiences. Press coverage of the campaign included the BBC, Cosmopolitan and NME and the campaign had its strongest performance on Twitter and Instagram in terms of reaching its target audience.

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