It's been another super busy week with lots of new opportunities, exciting new connections, and delivering some work I'm really proud of.
Here's what's been particularly great about week commencing 3rd September.
1. NHS Expo 18
I was really privileged to be at NHS Expo in Manchester this week. I'm currently working with an NHS-affiliated client at the moment, but as it's been a few years since I did any NHS work, it was wonderful to be back among old friends.
But it was also really inspiring to see how much the NHS is embracing innovation, digital technology and partnership working to provide solutions to today's biggest challenges. Some might say that this way of thinking has been a long-time coming - but I was really struck by the very clear sense of prioritisation that is being articulated across the NHS.
Long term chronic conditions such as Diabetes, ensuring that Mental Health is right at the top of the agenda, fast-tracking and mainstreaming digital patient care systems, and the real sense of urgency around out-of-hospital care were very clear among all the exhibitors I spoke to and the seminars I attended.
Another thing that really struck me was the ever changing landscape around new challenges to health and wellbeing.
NHS England CEO Simon Stevens' keynote was really interesting in this regard. I was really struck with what he said about how unrealistic body-image and the shocking increase in self-harming are having very real negative consequences among young people. He also touched on the ubiquitous nature of the online betting industry and how resulting addictions are having a real impact on already-stretched Mental Health services.
The debate will rightly rage on about the role of government versus individuals, and the role of national policy versus local implementation. This is not even to mention how funding and commissioning structures can be both robust and lean enough to allow the creativity and innovation needed to address these new and emerging challenges.
But what is clear to me is this: the many thousands of NHS staff are proud of their work, proud of the difference they make, but not burdened by the weight of myth and history. There's a real desire and commitment to move healthcare forward so that it's fit for the 21st century and beyond.
And it also means that, as communicators, there is no shortage of challenges, and an ever increasing necessity to innovate and be creative in how we meet them.
It's a great and exciting time to be working and doing comms in health.
2. A model for creativity?
I don't get to watch too much TV these days.
As the parents of a 2 (nearly 3) year old, the TV consumption in our house tends to focus around CBeebies with the occasional foray into Peppa Pig, if we're feeling particularly creative.
But we have been watching the brilliant short series on Netflix called Abstract.
We've just completed the series, and I was really inspired by the final episode, detailing the work of renowned interior designer Ilse Crawford.
I am very much not the interiors person in our house. That role is very obviously taken by my wife Nicola, whose Nordic Notes blog has just been nominated for an Interior Deisgn Blog Award - (I might've mentioned this before)
But I was still fascinated by this episode. Beyond the stories of high class airline lounges and fine dining restaurants, was something that I really related to; which was the very simple process Crawford's studio adheres to for every project. It goes in four stages:
I think this is really good simple model to follow for any creative project. It's essential to fully understand the issue at hand, and your audience's needs (interrogation); then it's about finding messages or solutions that meet their aspirations (empathy); then it's the fun bit where we come up with creative applications of those messages (imagination); and then use the channels and methods that we have mastery over to deliver them (tools).
There are a ton of models out there for delivering successful creative projects. I think this is about the most simple and best I've seen.
3. Blog post of the week
Continuing the NHS-theme, the most interesting and thought provoking blog post I've read this week is:
Having worked in-house and as a contractor in "the NHS", it's very clear that, in reality there is no such thing as "the NHS", but a very complex, inter-connected, sometimes competing network of organisations that essentially operate under this banner.
Oz argues that the national myth of this all encompassing body is actually detrimental to making the right, evidence-based decisions about the future of healthcare in the UK. This pervading concept also leads to very broad, sweeping assertions about, for example, how "the NHS is being privatised." Where there is a kernel of truth in some of these assertions, very often, the reality is a lot more nuanced and complex.
The challenge or us communicators is about telling an emotive story and utilising the incredible brand equity around "the NHS" whilst treating our patients and public like adults, and involving them in the sometimes tough choices that need to be made about highly localised services.
This is a fascinating read, and I'd be really interesting to hear about what NHS Comms professionals think.
4. Podcast of the week
A few months back, I decided to strictly limit my intake of political podcasts. I have two that I regularly return to on a weekly basis, but that generally is it these days.
However, I did give this week's Progressive Britain podcast another listen, and it was a brilliant episode.
Ok, so yes, it's produced by Progress, the left of centre organisation. But even if that's not your politics personally, it's still a great listen if you're interested in how political parties are utilising modern online comms channels to reach and influence potential voters and (more often than not) galvanise existing supporters.
In this episode Emma Burnell of the Zeitgeist Tapes podcast discusses how the 2 main political parties use Prime Minister's Questions to ensure quick exchanges that effectively translate into 2-minute Facebook videos; how Facebook remains the key comms channel for political messaging, and how, in her opinion, emailers are "the new leaflets".
Even if you don't stay for the rest of the podcast, this conversation is fascinating, and required listening for anyone
5. UnAwards launch!
I absolutely love the UnAwards by comms2.0, and it was super exciting to see the 2018 programme launch this week.
It was being shortlisted (I didn't win unfortunately, but still) for an UnAward back in 2014 that first connected me to the Comms2.0 and CommsCamp communities - and this has had a profound impact on my life and career.
The UnAwards are a brilliant way to recognise the creativity of the UK public and third sector's comms teams; and are always announced at a day out at the cinema in Birmingham just before Christmas. It's always a great day out and a fantastic way to connect with other comms people.
So, enter. Or even if you don't enter, get down to Birmingham for the day itself - as it's always ace.