Can healthcare and charity sector comms learn from each other?

Having worked in both the healthcare and charity sectors, I have seen how successes and failures become a matter of life and death.

Charity and healthcare comms professionals have much to learn from each other, argues Matthew Hunt
Charity and healthcare comms professionals have much to learn from each other, argues Matthew Hunt

Good cop/bad cop clichés, which previously swayed public perception of these areas, are simply lazy. 

There is a common goal to prolong life and improve wellbeing and, once more of us in comms recognise this, then we can learn from each other to deliver campaigns with real impact.

Keep your friends close and competitors closer 

Health companies have always understood this and charities should not be afraid to show their teeth and adopt a competitive mindset as they fish in the same pond for support. 'Winning' at the expense of another charity can seem unpalatable, but every penny is precious, so knowing the runners, riders and innovators in your field is critical to achieving your effective competitive edge.

Streamlining sign-off 

It's hardly a topic to set pulses racing, but the resource impact can be heart-stopping – in a good way. Healthcare companies have established speedy electronic approval systems that allow simultaneous review and sign-off, where everyone is accountable. By contrast, charity sign-off is typically manual and time-consuming. Drawn-out exchanges are disempowering and costly, as individuals chase up the food-chain for feedback. Agreeing this process early on saves time and energy.

Why should only charities have to demonstrate impact? 

Numbers of people helped, environment improved, or political change achieved - regular updates ensure people feel and see the difference made. If the health sector wants to earn its stripes and prove a genuine community-centric approach, investor reports alone won’t cut it. Corporate social responsibility is no longer the domain of fantasy unicorn islands, so feedback on the change your organisation is making is a story to shout about – or risk getting called out on poor performance.

Successfully tugging at heart strings 

This has been the masterstroke of many a successful charity campaign; emotively showing the need, to move people to take action. By contrast, the health sector’s predilection for numbers, graphs and decimal points is, frankly, dull. Undoubtedly part of the communications journey, this cannot be the whole story. We all know emotional campaigns are more than twice as effective at driving market-share growth than rational campaigns (Binet & Field, 'The Long and the Short of It', The IPA), and in this instance the heart is more important than the head.

Healthcare and charities deal rightly face growing scrutiny

Verifying the supply chain of fundraising merchandise or responding to claims of suspected price-fixing; neither can afford to fumble on transparency, so robust crisis communications planning and a 'hands-up' commitment to being clear at all times is a must.

The old-fashioned labels for healthcare and charity campaigns are thankfully falling away. The challenge now falls to us to pick up the pieces and communicate life-changing benefits for all.

Matthew Hunt is co-Founder and managing director of 11 London

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