Rachel Royall has a cure for the challenges of public sector communication: blending it with a healthy dose of internal comms
When Rachel Royall, Director of Communications and Marketing – Barking, Havering and Redbridge Trust, spoke to one of her colleagues about promoting a recent work success, they were less than enthusiastic. They replied: “It’s like bragging about your kitchen when your house is falling down.”
Rachel found that this was a common attitude. Against a backdrop of media scrutiny and public pressure, people felt it was inappropriate to sing about individual successes.“This external context of crisis affects the way people engage with work internally,” Rachel explains. “They can’t help but bring it to work with them.”
Your people are always going to communicate – whether it’s internally or externally – so we might as well make sure we’re making that as simple as possible, and facilitating the conversations that matter on the topics that matter.
So how could they combat this? Rachel’s response: “I believe internal communication sets the tone for external reputation. That’s why we need to be driving an integrated approach to internal and external communication.”
An excellent sentiment, but does Rachel have the goods to back it up? She points to the time their Chief Executive thwarted expectations in a press conference by thanking administrative employees for minimising disruption to patients around the junior doctor strike.
“We realised we needed to recognise the contribution of the whole team and that didn’t go unnoticed. We had a huge response from employees, over Twitter and in letters, who were pleased their efforts were being publicly recognised. This external show of support had a positive impact on internal engagement.”
As for their internal efforts, it’s about having a strategic framework that helps employees – and patients – join the conversation. That means communicating like ‘insurgents’, seeding control and allowing people to communicate in a more creative, constructive way. There’s the @NHS Twitter feed, for example, which is put into the control of a different patient or team member each week, giving them a space to share their story.
Rachel adds: “Your people are always going to communicate – whether it’s internally or externally – so we might as well make sure we’re making that as simple as possible, and facilitating the conversations that matter on the topics that matter.”