Most trust communications teams undertake a core of similar activities, but there is often variation depending on team size and other factors. In this section we explore this as well as how trust communications teams’ priorities are changing given they are often being required to deliver more with less resource.

Priority areas of work

All respondents have social media and crisis communications/reputation management within their team’s portfolio.

Eight respondents said that all 18 activities listed in the survey question were within their team’s portfolio, the lowest number was 7 and the average was 14 of the 18 activities.

Figure 8

The most common activities not listed in the survey question that senior communicators have in their remit were: graphic design (though this was covered under the ‘publishing and production’ option); managing freedom of information requests; and volunteer services. A small number said that raising income through sponsorship and advertising was becoming an increasing part of their remit – in order to contribute to cost improvement plans.

In terms of the activities that senior communicators and their teams spend most of their time on, 93% of respondents listed internal communications and engagement, followed by media relations (80%) and social media (63%). It is notable how high crisis communications and reputation management come in the pecking order.

Figure 9

Changing priorities

Three quarters of respondents said they had noticed a change in their priorities over the past year, with a general view that they are having to deliver more with less resource. The main growth areas noted were:

  • increased stakeholder and public engagement
  • more strategy and planning
  • more collaborative/partnership working
  • increased focus on internal communications
  • more focus on digital, social media and video

Figure 10

It is clear from the comments provided in the survey that a significant number of senior communicators are spending more of their time focused on managing stakeholder relations and delivering public engagement activities as part of transformation initiatives.  

One said: “We are doing more around change management and transformation communications, and working across organisations as one team.”  Another commented: “As we move towards consultation more stakeholder and public engagement required, including managing upwards (NHS Improvement and NHS England).”  

Senior communicators said this has also resulted in the need for more focus on internal communications with staff. One said: “More internal communications focus due to trust-wide transformation programme.” Another said: “Much more focus internally as we have a number of major projects – new hospital, cost improvement and patient flow. An increase, particularly over winter, in crisis comms around A&E, which is very time consuming. We are also working much more with other trusts as we explore mergers with other providers.”

The other major growth area is in social media and digital communications, often linked to the need to engage more effectively and fully with the public over service change. One communicator said: “Channel shift to digital and social media and doing more at scale public engagement instead of member engagement.”