#ournhs24 – learning from commscamp15

CommsCamp has been the source of many an idea and plan. But one vision, for a new NHS comms initiative, was sparked before-hand and road-tested at the event for communicators instead. Good thinking.

by Amanda Nash

I’ve never felt so naked in a room full of hundreds of strangers. I don’t want to put women off pitching at conferences, in fact Emma Rodgers’ blog inspired me to get up off my seat.

But the reality is, you’re up front alone, with just your idea for a session and a microphone in hand. It could be a great idea, if could be a really bad one. At the point when you see everyone out front staring at you expectantly, that’s the moment you think it’s probably the latter … but it’s too late. You have 30 seconds to sell it.

You have to pitch your idea, Dragons-Den stylee to a group of people who may or may not be interested.

Oh, and you get instant feedback because the crowd cheers and applauds loudly if they like it, or not if they don’t.

I can’t remember what they did after I’d pitched. I was too busy trying to remember where my seat was so I could crawl back into it.

So, my pitch was:

I’m really interested in a social media ‘event’ covering 24 hours in the life of our NHS – from multiple viewpoints, staff, patients, carers, organisations, anyone who cares to lend their voice to it.

@Gemma_Finnegan, who sadly couldn’t be at CommsCamp15, called it a ‘living documentary’ when a group of people came together to chat about this on the tweetchat #nhssm last month.

Gemma said: “moving away from movement or initiative and unrelated to organisation, more 24 living documentary”.

There’s more about the concept of a possible #OurNHS24 here.

I thought it might make a good session at #commscamp because:

The people involved in the first twitter day highlighting the work of Walsall Council were in the room. Gritter updates on Twitter might be the norm now, but back in the day of the first #Walsall24, it was all new.

I hoped some of the people behind #housingday might also be in the room and could share.

I thought there may be people involved in running other social media events or activities which it might be useful for.

I needed help. There’s been lots of offers of support on twitter and email from @jayneycee, @patientopinion, @butNHS, #nhssm participants and many, many lovely folk, but actually doing the doing, contacting people, trying to make it happen on a national scale …. It’s a different order altogether and it makes you question whether you should.

So, enough about that, what you really want to know is, did I die on my arse?

You see, if you’ve never been to an unconference before, you pitch a session, it gets stuck on a board in competition with lots of other sessions and people vote with their feet.

So was I sat in a room on my own or did people turn up?

Yeah, they did, they really did. I want to say about 15.

And d’you know what, they were so generous with their time, their own experiences and ideas and although I didn’t want it just to be about this one idea for the NHS …. people seemed happy to talk about that. These are just some of the things I remember from our discussion.

@danslee told us about #Walsall24, how they had made heroes of the council staff often hidden behind-the-scenes. But he also shared his own learning – he said if he did it again, he’d include some ‘calls to action’ – say, encourage people to pledge to join a library etc

@lizcop who works for @knowledgehub stressed the need to keep it an ‘our’ day. Everyone ‘owns’ the NHS and the day should belong to everyone.

Shak from Leeds talked about #tweetwell and the importance of involving patients and encouraging their feedback.

Someone asked us to consider carefully, if you’re putting time and effort into it, what difference will it make? Will there be any return on that ‘investment’?

Two women told us about the #promotingvoting campaign to encourage those with learning difficulties to vote . They also stressed the importance of differentiating from other events such as @NHSChangeDay

Other people talked about @NHSChangeDay, the need for ongoing human stories during the 24 hours, the importance of using the 24 hours as an opportunity to educate people about aspects of health as well as to promote the NHS; whether it should start local before going national.

And @touchScott asked the all-important and tricky question – Why?

As @whatsthepont would say, what is the point?

It does all come down to the why and I’ve been wondering why that is such a difficult question to answer for #OurNHS24.

I think the answer is hard because it’s multi-layered…

The NHS is a wonderful thing and I think it should be celebrated. That’s not to say I think everyone should only write positive things. People should write want they want, about the impact the NHS has on them during those 24 hours.

It makes a difference to how people feel. I work in an NHS hospital. I know what a boost it makes to staff morale when there is more positive reporting and greater understanding of modern healthcare. It makes them feel more valued. That’s important. There’s research that shows the link between staff wellbeing and engagement and better quality of care. See here and  here for examples.

It’s a great opportunity to educate people about the scale, breadth, skills, reach of the NHS – as well, as perhaps more importantly what individuals may be able to do to enjoy better health themselves and help others.

So, some of the calls to action could be around giving blood, signing up as an organ donor, becoming a stem cell donor, considering training as a nurse or other health professional, volunteering as part of your local NHS.

Because it allows people to share their experience, and when we do that, we connect and we can learn. There’s something very human about that and the NHS is about people, people who provide care, people who receive care, people who support them and recognizing that they are not discrete categories – we move between being staff to patients, from patients to carers, from carers to volunteers and so on.

Perhaps @patientopinion could encourage and capture any reported experiences and analyse them as they have done recently here

As thought-provoking as the session was, I’ve got to be honest and say I was left feeling really confused.

Then the young woman next to me said: “I think you should all just get on and do it. So what if it doesn’t take off?”

And for that – the permission to fail - and everything else everyone generously shared in the session, I would like to say a big thank you.

As I read back through this blog, I can see how much the session has helped develop the idea and I think we might even be closer to a hashtag… #OurNHS24

Follow @NHSDay for more info.

Amanda Nash is a senior communicator within the NHS

images by Amanda