NHS Salford has been hailed by industry professionals for an innovative outreach event in a traditional fruit and veg market.
The event, which takes place on 2 October in Salford Market, is aimed at improving people's health while promoting the new NHS constitution, which outlines for the first time what people can expect from the NHS. The stall has been organised by the in-house comms team, led by head of comms Karl Brookes.
The proposed event has been praised by Health Secretary Andy Burnham, who said: 'It is fantastic to see NHS Salford deliver this innovative and novel way of trying to communicate with the people I know they serve well.'
Meanwhile, in-house and agency PROs have commented that the plan will provide Salford with access to hard-to-reach audiences.
St George's Healthcare NHS Trust director of comms Jean-Pierre Moser said: 'People often view the NHS simply as one organisation. However, in reality the service is made up of many complex organisations that need to communicate effectively with patients and the general public.
'Health promotion stands are not new but the market-stall approach is an interesting one and will help NHS Salford to engage with often hard-to-reach audiences.'
Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust director of comms Antony Tiernan said: 'It is an excellent idea, something all trusts - primary care, acute, mental health and others - need to start doing if they are not already. It is very easy for NHS communicators to be too inward looking, focused on the media or the usual stakeholders such as local MPs or patient/campaign groups.'
He added that other outreach events, such as stands in shopping centres and train stations plus touring buses, were useful tools for public health campaigns.
Epsom and St Helier is planning a 'meet the managers' scheme, where bosses from board to senior nurse and doctor level visit different parts of the hospital to chat with patients, visitors and other staff.
Fishburn Hedges director Ron Finlay said his agency had placed minister Phil Hope on a fruit and veg stall to promote a government adult numeracy campaign.
However, he pointed out one potential problem with Salford's plan: 'Markets can be worth using if the campaign content is appropriate for the people who shop there. I wonder just how interested market shoppers will be in the NHS constitution.'
HOW I SEE IT - LAURA OLIPHANT, MANAGING DIRECTOR, KINDRED
NHS Salford has the right idea: getting out and about and talking to people face-to-face can be beneficial and is a tactic that is currently common to all primary care trusts.
However, these tactics are not enough on their own, because the messages need to resonate at every level.
To change underlying attitudes and behaviours in the long term and bring about real change, social marketing campaigns need to learn from the biggest brands, where getting under the skin of the relevant audiences, creativity and planning are central to success.