NHS story tellers – blood, sweat and tears (and a good story) are needed to make the headlines

Written by Stewart Pimbley|21st February 2018


You would have had to be living on a different planet not to have seen the headlines about the NHS in recent weeks. The annual winter media feeding frenzy about the imminent collapse of the service. Experts rolled out, waiting list stats analysed, images of ambulances queuing up at A&E and apologising Secretaries of State

You would have had to be living on a different planet not to have seen the headlines about the NHS in recent weeks. The annual winter media feeding frenzy about the imminent collapse of the service. Experts rolled out, waiting list stats analysed, images of ambulances queuing up at A&E and apologising Secretaries of State have dominated our screens. The headlines have been damning for the NHS.

I certainly don’t envy the press officers at our country’s NHS trusts. It will have been fire fighting at the extreme. Reactive communications with little opportunity to be proactive and the age old balancing act of robust defence and explanation of the funding issues versus biting the hand that feeds you. No doubt demoralising at times but that goes with the territory.  There will be a stack of unreleased good news stories, patient testimonials and case studies but limited opportunity to be seen, heard or read.

So what is the best time to get your stories out? How do you pick your moment? How do you get the right tone in the face of widespread criticism? And mostly importantly how do you make an impact?

Here’s a great example.  Eighteen months ago a friend experienced a severe debilitating heart condition, the NHS kicked in and he is now leading an active life again. The doctor treating him asked him would he mind telling his story to the local newspapers – in a bid to explain how truly life changing the NHS can be. He jumped at the chance and what a fantastic story – the NHS at its best – caring, ingenious and ground breaking in equal measures. A double-page spread in the local newspapers appeared.

It hit the mark. Timing was just before the winter headlines kicked in (got in there first), it wasn’t defensive (just stuck to the facts of the story and avoided politics) and first and foremost was a great human interest story.

The basic rules of great story telling were followed and it worked.

Over the years most PR professionals will hear “but the media ignores good news……” This simply isn’t true (and point proven above) – the media just won’t run  stories if they believe they won’t resonate with their particular audiences. When clients tell us they have a great story we always test the “greatness”. Is it something that would interest them if the were looking through their local newspapers, trade publication or favourite new website?.

If the answer is yes then there is a gem of a story to be mined, polished and refined. A truly great story will usually weather most media storms and find its way into print or online in some form or another

Back to the story tellers of the NHS.  We are not going to see a sea change of good news stories filling our newspapers. With something as politically charged as the NHS, it will always be a struggle to tell the positives. However, as the weather improves, we move into spring and the winter pressure eases opportunities will surface and rest assured that the good news stories about the NHS you do read will be well thought through and certainly crafted in order to hit the target audience.

 

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