How the NHS is teaching us that you make your own PR

Neighbours are tripping over themselves to shop for the doctors and nurses in their communities, we’ve lit buildings blue, Facebook is flooded with calls for pay rises for every NHS worker once we’ve emerged out the other side of the coronavirus crisis; it’s hard to recall a time when the public held such affection and gratitude for any single organisation.

You make your own PR, as the NHS is clearly demonstrating, argues Kerry Sheahan
You make your own PR, as the NHS is clearly demonstrating, argues Kerry Sheahan

There’s been such a change in opinion, a shift in perception, that I’d argue no PR campaign could replicate it, no matter how carefully planned.

You make your own PR – it’s how you act and operate in the moments that matter that control how other people see you.

We’ve heard tales of how exhausted NHS staff are working double shifts without breaks to care for us, putting themselves in danger for our benefit.

Of course, the public has long respected our National Health Service, and rightly so; but this sentiment has reached new levels amid the current pandemic.

I can’t think of many instances when members of the public have felt so spurred to demonstrate their appreciation, as when the nation came together to clap for our NHS employees.

Hundreds of thousands of UK residents applauded from their doorsteps and windows.

Watching and hearing everyone come together like that is a feeling that’s hard to describe – let alone try to recapture.

But more than that, what speaks volumes is that it took the NHS asking us to stay at home for people to listen and take note.

The country had been largely divided, with dismissals of cold and flu statistics along with boasts of #BusinessAsUsual, with many choosing not to follow the initial government advice on working from home and cancelling plans.

When individual NHS staff started begging us to stay at home, though, we did it for them – not for ourselves and, sadly, not always for our elderly neighbours, but because the NHS directly asked us to.

If that’s not a measure, I don’t know what is.

The government even recognised and leveraged this sentiment to achieve better enforcement of its new restrictions.

For me, though, the feeling is perhaps best encapsulated in that, despite the horror stories that have emerged, and the compromise to their own safety, more than 700,000 people signed up to be NHS volunteers.

To inspire people to want to be part of what you do, despite such adversity, is nothing short of impressive.

People react differently if they feel like they are the ones taking charge, rather than reacting to a planned PR campaign.

The public are making these NHS stories go viral – they take pleasure from that and I believe that’s what’s partly responsible for this surge in emotion.

The public is taking PR into its own hands, and that’s a powerful thing.

Kerry Sheahan is head of PR & Content at FSE Digital

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