LAS social-media chief who coined viral 'Nee-Naw' tweet departs

London Ambulance Service digital comms chief Lauren Smith is to leave her job in January to take up a new role as comms and engagement manager at North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT).

Lauren Smith is leaving London Ambulance Service to join North East London NHS Foundation Trust
Lauren Smith is leaving London Ambulance Service to join North East London NHS Foundation Trust

Smith will lead internal and external comms and engagement for NELFT, which provides mental health services, including emotional wellbeing support for children and eating disorder services, in Kent and Essex.

Her job will be to promote and communicate the range of mental-health services on offer to people in Kent and Essex, as well as highlighting the achievements of staff.

Smith said: "I'll also be able to use my digital and social-media experience to help lead and develop digital communications, content and strategy, and to advise on improvements in how we communicate and provide a service for people online."

She will have two direct reports and will herself report to NELFT's head of comms, Oliver Wilkinson – who, in turn, reports to comms director Carrie-Ann Wade.

Career path

Smith began her comms career as a volunteer press officer at Sussex Crimestoppers before moving to South East Water, where she stayed for five years, rising to the role of corporate comms officer.

She joined LAS as a digital media officer in 2016 and took a one-year secondment to NHS England, where she was a digital comms manager, before returning to the emergency service as its digital content and comms manager.

NEE-NAW

During her time at LAS, Smith was responsible for one of its most viral tweets.

When Twitter began offering users the new 280-character, Smith experimented with the format to create the 'NEE-NAW' tweet, to mimic ambulance sirens.

The tweet received nearly two million impressions, 10,000 retweets and was emulated by emergency services from land, air and sea across the UK.

Emergency services from as far afield as New Zealand and Canada also joined in the action and the tweet was widely reported in mainstream media.

Emergency services to mental health

While Smith remains in the wider NHS family, her new role will take her to a different area of health altogether, as well as moving from digital to a senior multidisciplinary comms job for the first time.

Commenting on her reasons for the move, Smith said she was looking forward to the new focus of her work.

She said: "I am really excited to be working in an organisation where I can promote and raise the profile of mental-health services and care to the people who really need them."

One mark of success in her new job, for Smith, will be "if I hear that someone got the help they needed after seeing a piece of comms our team created".

She added: "I feel like I have the chance to make an impact to service users and staff, and isn't that the point of being in NHS and public sector comms?"

NELFT comms priorities

The Trust's work involves partnerships with other NHS bodies, local authorities and voluntary organisations, as well as patient groups.

Smith said an important priority will be for the organisation's comms to support these partnerships and deliver campaigns and projects for operational colleagues.

Goodbye, LAS

The well-respected comms professional said she would miss being part of London's emergency services and working in the same building as frontline medics and control-room staff doing "some of the toughest – and bravest – jobs in the NHS".

She added: "With such a big – and engaged – audience, there are amazing opportunities in that team to get involved in and deliver really creative comms, and it was always fun to push our creativity on the digital channels."

However, speaking last week, before Friday's terrorist attack on London Bridge, Smith said she had decided to move on in her career.

She said: "It's exciting and fast-paced, and has undoubtedly given me opportunities not all comms professionals get, but being part of a 999 service means responding to and dealing with 999 emergencies. Some of the incidents we deal with can be incredibly stressful and upsetting and the work around it can last for years."

She added: "I've had an amazing and unforgettable career at LAS and for the NHS in London, but it's certainly time for me to move on and I'm really excited about this new challenge."




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