In this blog I reflect on how we’ve engaged and communicated with people working in health and social care to support the development of a new organisational strategy over the last 18 months.
Should anyone outside your organisation really care about your strategy?
That’s a valid question. Is an organisational strategy more than a document for boards and executive teams to obsess over. I’d argue that it can and should be something that has much wider relevance.
That doesn’t mean it’s something you expect 1000s of people to read or know back to front. But the content does matter. Matters because at it’s heart your strategy should be the narrative that describes what your organisation is for, what it’s ambitions are, what values drive it and how it’s work will impact all the people you serve.
Your key stakeholders may not read the whole document more than once (if that), but if done well, the core of the story that it tells about you should stay with them and become a key part in shaping how they view you, especially as they should see that story replicated through all the work you do.
So engagement around your strategy matters because it helps you understand what aspirations your stakeholders have for you so you can reflect them back, building confidence you’re on the right track. Also important is involving key partners in the creation of your strategy, making your work a shared endeavour and partnership a reality.
Clear communication matters as it helps you tell the story of how your strategy develops, building trust and transparency. Telling the story of what your organisation will be and it will achieve for people.
Reflecting on the above also shows us the key role PR professionals need to play in the development of organisational strategies. As links to external stakeholders with the expertise to analyse the external environment. As storytellers, crafting the narratives that describe the impacts your strategy will have.
So, what worked well in our communication and engagement approach…
We effectively took a dual approach to this work. Broad communications and engagement opportunities for everyone working in health and social care. Alongside growing a community of interest that would remain more closely engaged and involved across the development period of the strategy.
While the broad activity meant our core messages reached as much of our audience as possible, developing a more closely engaged community gave us opportunities test, develop and refine the broader activity so it was more effective. As well as a ready source of insight that informed the organisational strategy itself.
We had a clear narrative that guided everything we said internally and externally. Covering what we were doing, why and the impact we want a new strategy to have. Having this single version of the truth helped us maintain a consistent message no matter who we were speaking o and when.
Keeping a regularly updated view of what our audience was thinking, feeling and how best to reach them. This helped inform what messages would have the impact we want, when the right time to communicate was and how to communicate our message.
Genuine coproduction was at the heart of this work. Both to ensure we developed the right organisational strategy but also to give us the best chance of building a sense of ownership and support from those who work in health and social care. During a pandemic this meant pivot to digital engagement methods. But also offering multiple ways to be involved in shaping the strategy and different times to meet the varied needs of our audience. At times broad and at scale and other times focussed.
Communication to shape sentiment
We focussed our communication activity on building support and interest in the new strategy. Using multiple channels and content forms to reach our audience. With messages developed with reference to audience insight and included in the most appropriate form of content. E.g. thinking about what messages work best in a podcast compared to a blog.
So, what next
Since May we’ve been working to develop what the implementation of the new strategy looks like. This has meant more involvement but also describing what this will mean for people working in health and social care.
Very much continuing the approach we took to develop the strategy itself, but iterating and developing further based on what worked well and what didn’t.