Every day 619 seriously ill children from across the UK come through the doors of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).
GOSH Charity exists to raise vital funds to support the hospital’s most urgent needs and support the hospital to give seriously ill children who need help the most, the best chance for life.
The communications and digital teams tell the stories of these incredible children and their families, who are going through some of the most challenging times. These are often very sensitive and emotional stories and both teams have a variety of systems and resources in place to ensure they are supported through their work. It’s our resilience and ways of working in these ‘business as usual’ times which have strengthened the teams and enabled us to support each other during periods of heightened activity or “crisis”.
Being ‘one team’
The communications and digital engagement teams have cultivated a way of working where we operate as one team, despite sitting in two departments. The social media manager and digital content manager take turns to join the Monday morning press team huddle, and this information is shared with the digital engagement team in their stand-up. These are the diarised moments, but the teams do informally check-in with each other throughout the week – ensuring PR or celebrity moments are amplified online, or content creation for digital also works for press.
Working as one team has created an easy and transparent flow of information between the two teams. During times of crisis these huddles happen daily – or even hourly! These offer an opportunity to update everyone at the same time, share content plans, workload and the chance to identify any themes coming from external audiences that could affect the content coming out of and into GOSH Charity channels.
Upskilling each other
Being one team also means recognising that sometimes your area of expertise is completely different to your colleagues. Through our huddles and collaborative working, we’ve upskilled each other in PR and digital, which means that when a crisis does occur, we are all more clued up about how it may play out across media and digital.
An example of this in action is sharing lines from press releases on social media – previously, we would have used the same language as the release, but from closer working and understanding of the different audiences and tone, we now collaboratively tailor the language and content to ensure it’s not jarring and is offering the information a public audience would want, rather than a journalist.
Sharing the workload
As part of upskilling, we’re also prepared to get stuck into work that doesn’t naturally fall into our job roles – especially during crisis periods. There have been times where teams have supported each other to ease the workload and pressures of dealing with difficult content. For example, taking shifts to monitor social media channels in order to provide a break for colleagues.
We have formal support available through Care First for staff who feel affected by any of the stories they hear, or as a result of online comments. Care First provide independent counsellors who we can speak to in confidence, and their phone line is open 24 hours a day. In particularly difficult situations, staff have been offered one-to-one counselling. Quarterly workshops are run for charity staff on self-care and coping with bereavement by the Hospital Bereavement team. Charity staff are able to access this support on an individual basis. Individual support is also available from trained HR colleagues.
The charity also has a wider reaching health and wellbeing programme. This includes access to mindfulness app Headspace and an option to select a mental health drop down on absence recording to encourage greater understanding and openness around mental health. The Staff Representation Group at the charity are looking to set up a wellbeing week, which will encourage staff to take part in activities focused towards mindfulness, learning and connection.
Accessing internal expertise
We are lucky enough to have a dedicated member of the team who acts as lead contact point for all patient family outreach and stewardship. This provides a level of consistency for the GOSH families who work with the comms and digital teams and wider charity, and tell their stories through external channels – whether it is social media or print and broadcast media. This role is integral; it’s someone who works with our families every day, understands the audience more and can provide insight into how requests might be received by families, especially when dealing with sensitive issues.
The role also provides advice and resources to staff in the comms and digital teams who work closely with these families, such as shaping the right questions to ask of families going through a difficult time or advising when they might need space. This role also leads on our consenting processes and helps the communications and digital teams understand GDPR and how it applies to content we get from families. Advice and guidance through this ensures that the teams can be confident in collecting and sharing what is often very sensitive information.
Looking out for each other
We are all too aware of the challenges of working with sensitive stories and are incredibly supportive of each other – a cup of tea or quick walk in the local park is a valued offer from our colleagues!
This case study is part of CharityComms’ Wellbeing guide for comms professionals.