How to Communicate With a Fragmented Audience


By, Kathryn Mills-Webb


I recently attended the UK Health Show in London, which was focused on IT, cybersecurity, procurement and commissioning in healthcare. Walking around the exhibition some of the big issues being discussed centred around the use of technology and how it can be best used by the health service. I’ve been thinking about these issues and what they mean from a PR point of view. There is no room for a scatter-gun style, cross your fingers and hope for the best approach today. For companies selling to the NHS, there are many different audiences and they’re not all interested in the same issues – the key concerns of an IT manager from a big NHS trust are unlikely to be the same as those of a junior doctor working in a small GP practice. With this in mind, it might be time to test your current strategies and tactics and make sure they stand up to these new rules of engagement.

Tech companies want a slice of healthcare budgets

There are a lot of technology companies keen to win a slice of the NHS budgets. Cybersecurity and Big Data were two big themes at the show - how to prevent another attack like Wannacry, and how to use Big Data to improve efficiencies and deliver a better experience for patients.

For technology companies wanting to work with health providers to address these issues, it’s not enough to talk in general terms about why, for example, Big Data is useful. Messages need to be specific to the audience. How can Big Data help with diagnosis and treatment? What improvements do GPs surgeries stand to make by investing in these technologies – why is it worth the investment? How can organisations as large as the NHS practically make improvements in cyber security?

Do you want to reach big trusts or individual surgeries?

There’s a big difference between what the big hospitals can do vs small GP surgeries in terms of IT and technology. Many smaller practices don’t have a dedicated IT manager, but someone needs to take responsibility for ensuring that things like security patches are up to date. Often this falls to the practice manager or GP themselves. The issues facing an IT manager working in a hospital will be very different from those facing someone managing IT in a small surgery, and a one size fits all message isn’t going to cut it. These are busy people and they want solutions.


Be specific in how technology can help

It’s no secret that GPs are stretched. I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing frustration that I never seem to be able to get an urgent appointment when I need it, but I listened to several presentations which talked about how with better data insights, it is possible to create a better work/life balance for GPs, and improve the experience for patients at the same time. It’s not as simple as saying move patient records online, try out a new appointment booking and management system, or use this phone consultation system. Companies trying to solve these problems need to help GPs surgeries understand where the time drain occurs and how to identify inefficiencies and implement solutions that will actually help, rather than trying to sell the latest tech which may actually go unused when staff fall back on the old ways of doing things as it’s quicker/easier/more familiar.

Think beyond the budget holder

Cybersecurity in healthcare is about more than enterprise-grade defence systems deployed at a central level. The NHS employs 1.5 million people and every single one needs to know the basics – not just in their professional life but also in their personal life. While the budget holder might be the CIO, CTO or CSO, ultimately the successful rollout of any new security system also relies on the many employees using it properly. Think about how to reach and educate every single employee as anyone could be your champion.

When it comes to tech and healthcare, it’s clear that tech has the power to disrupt and innovate the healthcare market, improving outcomes for patients and enabling smarter and more secure working practices. There are so many options available to companies today to communicate their messages whether through traditional PR or social media channels, meetings and events. Ultimately the most successful campaigns will be those that are targeted and tailored to the specific audience – remember though, there could be several different audiences, each with a different set of priorities and concerns. There is no excuse for a one-size fits all approach, especially with organisations as vast and varied as the NHS.

Erin LaFavor