Hospice UK National Conference 2019: Brand & reputation, and the importance of strategic alliances

Categories: Care, Featured, and People & Places.
L-R: Sarah West, plenary chair Kerry Jackson, Tony Collins, Claire Marshall. Photo by Jonathan Goldberg.

Day two of Hospice UK’s National Conference kicked off with a session on brand, trust and reputation.

Hospice UK’s Director of Communications and Campaigns Sarah West highlighted the need to build trust and ensure hospices remain sustainable in the future. “The brand is who you are and what you do” she said, “but does it carry through everything you do, all the way down to your shops and volunteers?”

Communications can strengthen a brand by telling stories that prompt an emotional response, showing impact, personalising communication – a key element as audiences have grown out of blanket mailing lists – and helping to reach better financial times.

Sarah explained how digital communications can benefit charities, enabling them to reach new audiences by helping them feel part of the solution to the challenges the charities are facing. It can be harnessed by using social media to create awareness, and a website that converts visitors into supporters. Over a period of time if the brand is strong enough and the message is compelling, these channels will keep supporters engaged, retained and loyal.

In Sarah’s previous role at Plan International, a charity that supports the rights of children and young girls, Sarah worked on the hugely acclaimed period emoji. Digital communications were essential to this campaign’s success.

Other recommendations she gave were the use of brand trackers, audience surveys such as SurveyMonkey, monitoring website traffic and social media channels.

Tony Collins, Chief Executive of Harrogate District Hospice Care spoke about the hospice’s changing identity over the last decade, from being Saint Michael’s Hospice in Harrogate, to introducing Just B, a bereavement service for children and adults, adding a small local charity called Talking Spaces that works with people affected by domestic violence among other issues, and finally merging with Herriot Hospice Homecare, which is based in rural Yorkshire.

This prompted a “fascinating range of emotional responses”, including Herriot’s desire to retain its own local identity.  The solution was to resurrect their registered charity name: Harrogate District Hospice Care, an all-encompassing name that incorporates the various brands.

Next Claire Marshall, Chief Executive of Compton Care, described the journey the charity embarked on in the last two years, which has seen them drop the word “hospice” from their name and radically transform their messaging.

A perception study involving patients, families, staff, volunteers, referrers, supporters, health and care partners found some negative impressions including confusion over the service they offered, and the association between the word “hospice” and death.

With the resulting feedback they created a new brand, a three-year strategy and a new corporate identity, which Claire explained created huge dilemmas.

Removing “hospice” from the name was a bold change. Now they don’t use it to describe any of their services, and they don’t make many references to death and dying. “It’s part of the discussion but not the primary focus” she explained. “Families will come back and talk about their experience of Compton, and because they’re often talking retrospectively their conversation is about death. Most of the time they’re speaking to us because we’ve helped them, and it was a good death.”

Strategic alliances

Steve Curry, Chief Executive of Harlington Hospice in North West London, spoke about the secrets of partnership working via a video presentation. This was followed by Wayne de Leeuw, Chief Executive and Donna Peake, Head of Community Development at Dorothy House Hospice near Bath speaking about creating an end of life care eco-system.

“As leaders in end of life care we are living through extraordinary times” Wayne said.  “People’s needs are becoming more complex, the landscape of the NHS is evolving and traditional ways of delivering end of life care in the community requires a quiet revolution of thinking and behaviour. From this crucible came our concept of an ecosystem of strategic alliances to help meet the needs of our community sustainably both now and in the future.”

They discussed the importance of looking at how organisations are managing the growing need for end of life care due to demographic changes, increasing costs and a national shortage of skilled end of life care staff. As a result hospices are thinking differently about their models of care.

Other sessions this morning included a look at models of care for patients with dementia, how to manage increasing unmet need in palliative care, and a thought-provoking talk on the taboos surrounding sexuality in young adults with life-limiting conditions.

Hospice UK’s National Conference, Dying for Change, runs until Friday 22 November.

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