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Arden & GEM CSU > News & Insights > Archived News > Successfully communicating winter healthcare messages

Successfully communicating winter healthcare messages

A dancing elf, a talk delivered in Somali or sharing health information to a deaf group in sign language. When it comes to changing people's behaviour it's all about getting away from mass messaging and making it personal. 

Health messages come at us thick and fast, whether it's eating more fruit and veg or eating less sugar, exercising more or drinking less alcohol, the heart of successful social marketing is cutting through this noise to make an individual change their behaviour, transforming a PR campaign from awareness changing to behaviour changing. 

We have to recognise that simply giving people information and asking them to be healthy is not enough. 

It is only by research and insights that we establish the barriers (blockers) and incentives to enable an individual to have a change in attitude, increase their understanding, motivate them, and support and encourage them in changing their behaviour. 

Stay Well this Winter

The ‘Stay Well this Winter’ campaign from NHS England carries a number of messages that can be communicated widely through social media, the press and on websites. They encourage people to get their flu vaccination, to keep their home at 18 degrees, to call 111 or to talk to their GP, in fact to do pretty much anything other than go to A&E unless their condition is very serious. 

And through an integrated communications campaign these messages have been shared across the Arden & GEM footprint with dozens of press releases reaching tens of thousands of people whether in print, on the radio or on television. 

On social media, for our CCG clients, there were 3,800 tweets sent with Stay Well this Winter messages, engaging more than 27,000 people, potentially reaching more than 14 million people and 16,900 clicking on links in tweets to find out more. 

Healthy 'elfy

Getting people engaged on social media this year was down in part to the creation of a fun 'elfy' character with his stay 'elfy this winter messaging, with a different message shared each day on the 24 days advent build up to Christmas. These elfy videos were watched almost 5,000 times. 

Other YouTube videos included use of A&E, with an animation showing various real life fail tales of people who had gone to A&E with some rather curious ailments, including badly applied fake tan. 

Direct dialogue

All of this is great for awareness, for getting people engaged, but for those final nudges in changing behaviour we needed to enter into direct dialogue with more than 2,000 people in our target demographics – including over 60s, specific ethnic communities, parents of children aged 0-5, carers and people with long term conditions. 

These sessions have been delivered in different languages, such as Somali and Gujarati, and one was delivered in sign language for the deaf. 

These sessions challenged people about their use of health care, testing their knowledge of urgent care, A&E and 111. Once people come to the conclusion themselves that calling 111 is a better first action than just going to A&E, or visiting their pharmacy rather than their GP, we start to see people making decisions to change their behaviour. 

Making an impact

We are now carrying out the full evaluation for winter, ranging from flu vaccination figures to A&E attendance and calls to 111. This brings its own challenges with seasonal variations, such as the mild winter, but we'll be working to identify the trends and data that will show that we are actually making those changes.  

Behaviour change is never something that will happen overnight, but we know that whether it's getting someone cycling, eating their fruit, or choosing an alternative to A&E, a thoroughly planned social marketing campaign will have the biggest impact every time.

Author: Jack Linstead

As senior social marketing lead, Jack works with a team of marketers and designers to deliver social marketing healthcare campaigns that bring about behaviour change. A former news and motoring journalist, Jack has worked on a range of award winning marketing and communications campaigns including environmental, social services, public health and recently a hard hitting campaign around Child Sexual Exploitation which secured the endorsement of musician Ed Sheeran. Jack is also a regular speaker and trainer in social marketing and campaign planning, delivering sessions locally and at national conference level.