By Hugo Greenhalgh on 16 Jan 2015
Growing power of social media for NHS frontline
As this year’s news agenda continues to follow the tales of woe within the NHS – and in particular A&E – it’s interesting to see the variety of voices taking part in this dialogue.
The increase in first-hand accounts being shared through traditional and social media provides valuable lessons for PR professionals.
With the rise and prevalence of social media and its role in distributing news, no longer is the news editor the gatekeeper of a certain agenda, nor the politician or expert the only valued opinion. Instead we are seeing the rise of those directly on the frontline, be it NHS staff or patients, telling their story in their own words.
Take, for example, Dr Rob Galloway, an A&E Consultant from Brighton and Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, who last week posted on Facebook an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron describing the numerous daily challenges faced by NHS staff and describing the state of hospitals as “crisis-stricken”.
Encouraging others to repost and share, Dr Galloway’s post went viral through social media channels including Twitter until hitting the mainstream news agenda with a piece in Mail Online, which included the letter in full.
We are now more than ever hearing tales directly from the frontline. Guardian Health Professionals Network published a piece by a student paramedic describing the pressures faced by colleagues, as well as the A&E department, over a 12 hour shift. BBC Health has also published a series of real-life accounts from patients and families and their experience with various A&E departments.
Lessons for PR
This “bottom-up” shaping of the news agenda provides an opportunity for PR professionals. By fostering and using real-life case studies and distributing their stories or structured comments via social media channels, clients can gain real credibility without the notion of trying to manipulate the news agenda for their own gain.
Strategically planned social media posts may not be immediately picked up by the mainstream media but can help to build a strong message, positioning your client in the way they want to be seen.
An opportunity exists to establish a thought leader – not just through published comment pieces- but also through a sound social media strategy.
When a client’s spokesperson says something of interest or posts something they’ve written on their own page – which may have been ghostwritten by a PR – it creates increased credibility.
Social media also allows the thought leader to engage in debate and put across opinions that may otherwise be silenced by traditional media.
The power of real-life case studies is as a great tool to break into the news agenda and tell a different side of the story. An opportunity exists to use case studies to post personal experiences, thoughts and feelings, perhaps backed up via personal social media pages, thus building credibility while also harnessing your client’s message.
Shaping the news agenda from the bottom-up, PR can help to increase the likelihood of balanced reporting and expose the truth and depth of what those on the frontline face on a daily basis.