A look at the work of a hospice comms team

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.

When news came that a patient at St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth who desperately wanted to spend precious time with her horse would see her wish fulfilled, the charity’s Communications and Marketing team sprang into action to ensure the horse’s visit to be with his loving owner was captured on video, just as she and her husband wanted.

Viewed by over 500,000 people online, the film not only meant a great deal to the patient and her family, it illustrated how the skills of the team dovetailed to create impact for St Luke’s, telling stories both internally to colleagues and externally, including to new audiences as well as loyal supporters.

Robert Maltby, Head of Communications and Marketing, said: “The film is a great example of the additional people skills involved in our work. It would be easy to think as an outsider a 30-second video is fairly quick and simple to produce.

“In reality, behind the scenes it took our team of four several days, with many interactions with the patient and their family, to build trust and deliver something that was both respectful and met everybody’s expectations. You are dealing with a situation that can change by the hour and re-purposing content for a multitude of platforms.

“As a manager, I also have to ensure the health and well-being of my team are a priority, encouraging them to open up about the emotional challenges they may face when working on such an emotive story. It can be very emotionally challenging, but it is a real privilege to be involved with a family at such a personal and private time.”

Robert added, “While for many healthcare professionals there are support mechanisms in place, for example ‘clinical supervision’, St Luke’s should be praised for going over and above to support non-clinical staff. Often for every patient video or photo the wider public may come across, there are many more videos the team are involved in that stay private for the family. If support wasn’t in place it would ultimately take its toll.”

The team of four spend much of their time collaborating to make sure the public and other stakeholders, from healthcare professionals to local authorities, are better informed about the hospice’s services through brochures, feature articles, media relations and social media. They also work hard to engage donors and people willing to fundraise.

The team (Robert, Graphic Designer Jessie, Digital Communications Officer Rhianne, and Communications Officer Paola) have created innovative print and digital campaigns for the hospice’s flagship events such as Tour de Moor and Men’s Day Out, as well as crafting content for Hospice Care Week and their Impact Report.

Their work extends to St Luke’s retail network, too. Robert said: “With our chain of over 30 charity shops, as with all our print and digital materials, making sure St Luke’s branding is ‘on point’ is crucial. Our team’s work to build, enhance and protect it is an important part of maintaining the high profile and high esteem we hold in the community and attention to detail really matters. So, whether it’s shop signage, staff uniforms, web pages or leaflets, we are here to make sure the look is right.”

The team is also responsible for all St Luke’s social media across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, key internal communications through the intranet and St Luke’s TV screens, and working with the media to deal with their queries and promote important news about the charity.

In terms of challenges, Robert says it’s mostly about people’s perception of hospice care. “I think our communications challenges are the same as every other hospice in the UK, and that is around the public’s understanding of how hospice care has changed over the years.

“People will associate hospice care with a building. That was St Luke’s over 35 years ago. Over 50 per cent of our care is now delivered at home with only 5 per cent in our traditional hospice building.  Taboos around talking about death and dying, and understanding we are about more than just cancer and go beyond serving the city of Plymouth also are communications barriers. However, we are making great progress to change perceptions with stakeholders by ensuring simple key communications messages flow through all our channels at every opportunity.”

“I firmly believe the key to a successful hospice communications and marketing strategy is all about storytelling and a focus on the people” he adds. “It is not necessarily about the ‘ask’ to get loyal stakeholder buy-in. As many of my fellow hospice communications professionals will concur, there is a lot more behind the glossy fundraising posters and social media posts.

“From protecting the reputation of the charity to horizon scanning for new trends and technology, many of these daily tasks happen unnoticed. The future of digital communications is exciting. As regional media declines outside our major cities, becoming self-sufficient with your digital content has the potential to reach far greater audiences than relying on a traditional media release”.

“It’s definitely a challenge though because not only are there so many teams needing our support, we also get affected emotionally when we are meeting patients and their loved ones and telling their personal stories to the world – that’s part of what makes us human.”

For more information visit St Luke’s Hospice