5 ways digital communications can help improve your STP communications and engagement strategy

As the first round of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) are readied for publication this autumn we look at how digital communications can help support the communication and engagement surrounding an STP.

1. Adverts on social media

2. Rebuttal of misinformation

3. React with pace to developing news stories

4. Staff engagement and involvement

5. Political insight

Let’s go!

1. Adverts on social media

64% of 16–65+ year olds say they use social media each week¹.

Social media adverts offer a fantastic opportunity to promote your STP information to multiple audiences. The below example shows a Facebook advert set up to promote a page to the South West of England. Taking the median value of daily reach as 49,000 profiles, a budget of £1,500 for a 30 day campaign costs as little as £0.001p per profile reached per day²!

A Facebook ad campaign set to cover some of the South West of England.

As part of the campaign you get access to a wealth of measurement and evaluation data to report back to the PMO.

This compares to a door drop with the royal mail which, for an A5 leaflet, costs c. £2,969.40³.

¹Ofcom Communications Market Report 2016, http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market-data/communications-market-reports/cmr16/ — Figure 5.4 page 189

²A £1,500 budget for a 30 day campaign equates to a £50 per day spend. If you ad reaches 49,000 profiles in one day for that £50 then: £50/49,000 = 0.001. Reach does not mean engagement or retention.

³Figure taken from the Royal Mail door-to-door rate card assuming 49,000 leaflets and an average Postcode band of D. More info: http://www.royalmail.com/business/services/sending/specialist-services/door-to-door

2. Rebuttal of misinformation

In some quarters there is growing suspicion around STPs and we have seen, especially since the 38 degrees ‘exposé’, a structured and planned set of anti-STP messages coming from both campaign groups and Party Political sources.

These are beginning to group around hashtags such as #STPwatch and #secretNHSplans, and in national, regional and local Facebook groups.

Communicators in the NHS and local government have an important role in ensuring these views are understood and engaged with within STP programme teams.

By monitoring what is said on social media platforms, STP programme leads and officers have the opportunity to correct any misinformation that becomes part of anti-STP messaging. We recommend the STPs have official STP social media profiles and a designated central source of all STP information. This will help the public more easily find out about the STPs; reducing the opportunity for the plans to be labelled secret.

3. React with pace to developing news stories

The first message someone hears about the STP is likely to be the one that sticks in their head the most. Reacting to the setup of groups such as ‘Save our Hospital’ within 24 hours or less (ideally <4hours) can help shape how the STP is presented to thousands of local people.

These groups often spring up organically, started by the public on the back of a rumour before the official STP plan has been finalised, signed off or communicated. It is therefore essential that STP programme teams monitor social media channels throughout the STP’s development and delivery stages.

Having active accounts on social media platforms gives STP programme teams the ability to engage with such groups with the aim of working together towards a plan which both reflects the public’s preferences for the services they use and the demographic and financial facts in health and social care.

4. Staff engagement and involvement

Our work with organisations across the NHS has shown that staff are often the largest group of engaged people on an organisation’s digital communication channels. Be that the website, Twitter account or a Facebook page. Staff love to see each other in photos of awards, hear about patient feedback and celebrate the tireless work they do every day.

Using digital communications for staff engagement during STP development and delivery is crucial in helping to inform over 1.2 million NHS staff about the plans. The power of great engagement with staff about STPs cannot be overstated. They are the advocates and detractors of the plans, they are the face of the changing service and trusted by their patients and the public. Platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp provide an unmissable opportunity to engage staff — the weekly e-newsletter in isolation just doesn’t cut it.

5. Political insight

From Jeremy Hunt to Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbot to local councillors, the STPs are political.

Local government councillors are subject to election every 4 years, MPs every 5 years. Representing their local community, councillors and MPs tread a thin line between supporting much needed change within the health and social care system and campaigning against changes their local communities disagree with.

The social media profiles of the politicians are a fantastic way of keeping an eye on the bellwether of political opinion. We recommend every STP footprint has a Twitter list of all local councillors and MPs to see what they are saying about the STP to their communities. STPs should also like the Facebook pages of relevant councillors and MPs to keep up to date with their views, and more importantly see what the public say in the comments under politicians’ STP posts.

Out now! 5 more ways digital communications can help improve your STP communications and engagement strategy

Digital communications should always make up a part of the overall communications and engagement strategy. We are not advocating digital replacing all other forms of communications and engagement. We are advocating the professional and proactive use of digital as a core part of STP communications and engagement and not as a last minute bolt- on.

Super Ant is a multi-channel communications and events agency based in the South West of England. We provide our clients with expert communications, engagement and events advice and project management. We have lived experience in both local government and NHS communications teams, enabling us to provide project support which works within your day-to-day contexts.