It’s a joy to see great work win at the UnAwards. This one was part inspired by an famous local landmark, and part by a less famous but brilliant workforce.
by Ross Wigham
“People are always asking, why an angel? The only response I can give is that no one has ever seen one and we need to keep imagining them.”
The sculptor Antony Gormley is, of course, talking about his 65 foot, world renowned colossus The Angel of North which sits on a hill just up the road from our hospital. The quote however is erroneous because in the NHS we hear that people see them all the time.
On our social channels, in survey responses and in their thank you cards grateful patients and families often use the term “angels” when describing those who have cared for them during difficult times.
Maybe the idea of angels have seeped somehow into our collective psyche because of the proximity or because the Angel of the North has become such a totemic symbol of a region and a people.
Either way I owe a personal debt of thanks to the Angel, because this time last year my team won best internal communications campaign at the Unawards for a really simple idea based around our giant steel friend.
In designing the campaign it reminded me of the old maxim that the simplest ideas are always the best. We wanted something that could say a powerful thank you to our staff and give a more public voice to our internal comms by sharing some of the simple stories that local people wanted to tell about their NHS experience in Gateshead.
Inspired by our famous local landmark we asked the public to use Facebook or Twitter to nominate their own Gateshead Angels and tell us the story of how someone from our organisation had gone the extra mile to help them. This generated more than 750 often heart wrenching stories about the heroic efforts of our staff which were shared by the public online.
Overall around 110,000 people were reached via social with more than 6,200 comments, likes and shares on Facebook alone.
Because the public told their stories in such an honest and simple way they were incredibly moving and even brought a lump to the throat of this cynical old hack.
There was also media coverage and more than 4,000 hits on the website but more than anything it generated hundreds of positive individual stories about us and really supported our values of being a caring organisation that puts patients at the very centre.
More than 250 NHS staff were publically recognised by the organisation but more importantly by the individuals who they had helped. Everyone mentioned by the public got a reusable coffee cup with “I’m a Gateshead Angel” printed on it and these became a real badge of honour across the hospital.
In a wider sense it was reassuring for patients and the community while tapping into feelings of pride about their area and their local health services.
In writing up the campaign for the award entry one of the key lessons for me was the way the lines between internal and external communications are blurring and that while trust in all institutions is eroding our frontline NHS staff are the real stars.
So when Gormley said he built an angel because no one has ever seen one, I’d humbly disagree. I see them every day in the care they give, the hours they work, the smiles they bring, the kindness they show to total strangers and that should be celebrated as the ultimate strength of our brand and our culture.
Ross Wigham is head of communications and marketing at Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust
image by David Wilson Clarke (= Dwclarke) - Picture taken by David Wilson Clarke., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=986284