PRCA Health: ‘Better Communication, Better Engagement, Better Healthcare’.

March 2019 – ellwood atfield gallery.

Last month Ellwood Atfield hosted the first PRCA health campaign half-day conference, with numerous speakers from the industry discussing topics from running a successful health campaign, combating fake news to what digital disruption is going to mean for healthcare.  Here are some key takeaways:

Health Campaigns

Kate Dale, Campaign Lead at Sport England began the event discussing the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign – and how it became so successful. They had an unusual situation in their target audience ranged from 14-70 year-olds and the campaign aim wasn’t just to raise awareness, but to break through the clutter of activity and change the perception of sporting activity.

They succeeded in getting 2.9 million people active for the first time.

Kate shared the Top Ten Things that lead to a successful campaign:

  • Use insight
    • After the 2012 Olympics, 75% of women said they wanted to do more exercise but felt there were barriers. When statistics are as big as that – it is clear there is a desire for change.
  • Do the legwork
    • There was over a year of research required for the launch of the campaign. They spent over 3 months getting individuals on board who weren’t their usual stakeholders to include YouTubers, influencers and even Grazia. By the time they launched they already had followers and media support.
  • Listen before speaking
    • You cannot go to people with a solution and expect it to take. People understand what they ‘should’ be doing, and all have their reasons why they aren’t. So take the time to really understand their reasons.
  • Have the conversations
    • By having honest conversations, they there were 3 main areas of judgement women felt: 1) appearance; 2) already required to have some pre-existing ability (which often comes from perceptions left over from school/stereotypes); 3) it being a genuine priority in between work/family/commitments/etc.
  • Use the right role models
    • Aspirational imagery isn’t aspirational if it doesn’t feel achievable. This campaign was done without airbrushing and focussed on its manifesto: for all shapes and sizes and abilities.
  • Share authentic stories
    • “I jiggle therefore I am”. You need empathy to create relevance.
  • Respond to the response
    • There must be a two-way dialogue. You need to be responding to everything on social media, but also need to be seen to be taking people’s feedback on board.
  • Innovate and disrupt
    • Sometimes stakeholders aren’t going to be on board as it requires them to change as well. You need to be clear of your aim and then work out how to (if you can) bring them on board.
  • Adapt and evolve
    • Successful campaigns do not stay the same– they require adapting to feedback and evolving with time. Often this will require you to repeat the above 8 steps… over and over again.
  • Take the plunge and have fun!

Digital Disruptions in healthcare:

Soon there will be billions of people with access to smartphones. Already we spend an average of 6.5 hours a day on the internet. We have 8 different social media platforms on average. Before accessibility to healthcare was the issue – now it is going to be affordability.

The speakers discussed the 3 digital issues that health tech will look to support and the 6 things any innovation is going to have to consider.

  • Prevention of lifestyle-related conditions
    • Tech influences our habits and will be able to used to try and change habits that put our health under threat and put additional strain on the NHS.
  • Better coordination between services (integration and coordination)
    • How do we join someone who has multiple conditions, dealing with multiple hospitals, departments, specialists and doctors to be able to organise the process smoothly? This doesn’t apply to patients but can make doctors, nurses and other clinician’s lives easier.
  • Efficiency of workforce
    • Demand for healthcare is growing while the workforce is shrinking – and anything that can make any process simpler, easier and quicker will free up valuable time.

Whilst there is a wave of innovation in health tech communications – it is going to require a very different approach than Facebook’s ‘gung-ho’ attitude as it requires a very delicate balance between innovation and safety. Health companies are going to have to work with commissioners and regulators as well as with doctors, clinicians and other health sector workers. When developing any new product they are going to have to think about:

  • Ensuring it doesn’t put people’s health at risk
    • We are trying to save lives, not break them. Healthcare is complex and it is never going to be a simple equation of “if you do x then you get y” and so there will rarely be a one size fits all.
  • It can be niche
    • There are many areas that will need tech support in the health space, but when creating a user-centric product, design is key but the question is not just ‘what does it do?’ but needs to focus on: “Who exactly is it for? What problem is it trying to solve?’
  • Investing in a target audience and monitor analytics
    • Once you have your audience, you need to know how to target them correctly. Analytics aren’t everything but are key to know how your audience is engaging with the product. Check that people are using and learning.
  • Use the lowest possible threshold of what someone will remember to do
    • Whilst everyone is filled with good intentions – if it is not simple, you won’t get the right number of people engaging with it.
  • Privacy is going to always be critical
    • In a time when we are already concerned about our data and privacy, there are going to be greater concerns when our health becomes private data that may be accessible.
  • Perhaps we should be aiming for better rather than perfect
    • With driverless cars taking to the road – who is to blame when something goes wrong? If you trust your life to technology, where does the responsibility ultimately lay? But if this technology ends up reducing the number of deaths on the road, then is this not something to aim for? It is the same principle with health technology – it is never going to be infallible but may still be better than the status quo.

Combating fake news:

The era of fake news has shown us how easy it is for anyone in society to spread their ideas, regardless of whether these opinions are based on fact or fiction. This has been seen in numerous areas from political campaigns to public health issues. One of the most shared posts in Facebook’s history is a story on anti-vaccination posted by LADBible. The content in the post did not contain any comments from experts and left the claims by the blogger unchallenged to gain traction across the world.

That we are influenced by those around us, by those whose opinions we come into contact with on a daily basis, is not a ‘new trend’. However, what is new is the role social media has to play as we can actively choose to ‘follow’ people whose opinions most closely align to our own, resulting in creating echo chambers where we are not exposed to new opinions that challenge our views. The lack of scrutiny and regulation around what can be posted is exemplified by the fact that measles outbreaks tripled across the globe due to an anti-vaccination rhetoric being peddled across social media channels.

Many within the media and communications industry are calling it time that content posted to social media channels should face the same scrutiny as traditional media outlets.


Speakers included:

Dr. Helena Rubinstein (Head of Behavioural Sciences)

Dr. Fiona McMaster (Innovation Consultant) at Innovia Technology

Sam Tatam MPRCA (Head of Behavioural Science at Ogilvy)

Hazel Wilkinson (Head of Client Relationship at Flamingo)

Claire Cater (Founder of The Social Kinetic)

Kate Pogson MPRCA (Head of Health at MHP)

Sarah Manavis (Digital Culture and Technology Writer at New Statesman)

Jane Kirby MPRCA (Health Editor and Press Association)

Dilip Chakrabarti MPRCA (NHS Development Director at Babylon Health)

Dr. Ben Maruthappu (Founding CEO of Cera Care, co-founder of the NHS Innovation Accelerator and was senior NHS fellow for NHS England)

Jennifer Heape (CCO & Co-Founder at VIXEN LABS)

Marc Southern (Digital Health Specialist, Co-Founder of B.O.B Health)

Rachel Cooper (Director of Digital Content Strategy and Editorial, at GSK)

Jessi Langsen MPRCA (Head of Healthcare Content and publishing, Associate Director and Hill+Knowlton Strategies)

Kate Dale MPRCA (Campaign Lead – ‘This Girl Can’ at Sport England)



Ellwood Atfield is the Communications and Advocacy Headhunter with a dedicated Health and Social Care team. Contact us to speak about all aspects of Corporate Communications, Internal Communications, Public Affairs, Policy, Digital & Social Media, Consumer PR, Financial PR, Sustainability & CSR.

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