Who's who Wednesday

Welcome to our weekly profile about who's who in internal comms.

If you'd like to be featured, just complete the online template and send your favourite photo. If there's someone you'd love to know more about, let us know and we'll do the rest!

Name

Ross Wigham

Company

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

Job Title

Head of Communications and Marketing

Time with company

3 years

Connect with Ross

Take five

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A journalist, and that's what I became before moving into comms and marketing.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Anywhere on the North East coast, Britain's hidden gem. Failing that, I'm a bit of a Francophile and I've always loved Paris.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Learn what you can from everyone around you but be authentic and try not to take too much advice. When I first joined the NHS the same person also told me ‘don’t go native too early’.

If you could be a fictional character, what would it be?

That probably changes all the time but at the moment I really like the George Smiley character in the John Le Carre novels. I've just binge read a load of them.

Who would play you in a movie?

Sticking with the John Le Carre theme let's go with Gary Oldman. I know he's a good character actor but I think he might struggle with the Newcastle accent!

Proud moments

Some of the comms team with the Comms2point0 award.

Medical staff at QE Gateshead

Entrance to the new hospital

New children's A&E unit

Tell us a bit about your role:

As Head of Communications and Marketing I have a fairly wide remit, but in essence it's about providing strategic advice to the board and senior team about the best ways of engaging with all our publics. For us that means patients, staff, families, local people and the wide range of partners that we work with in healthcare.

It's been a very busy few years in Gateshead as we've seen some really exciting new openings including a £32m emergency care centre and a state of the art pathology centre for the region. That's provided lots of exciting challenges for communications particularly with staff.

What’s on your internal comms agenda right now?

Ask anyone working in the NHS and they'll tell you that this is a crucial time because of the winter pressures that all acute organisations face at this time of year. It's important that staff get clear, concise messages to help them do their job in the face of increasing complexity and bigger workloads. It's also a time of immense change across the whole of the NHS so engaging with staff and making sure they understand how the system is evolving is crucial. I think there's also a responsibility to help keep morale up in what can be a difficult time of year for people who are working to support others who need their help.

Aside from that we've just completed a big internal communications survey where we've been listening closely to what our teams have to say about the way we do things. It's given us loads of new ideas to make sure we're delivering the right messages in a way that's convenient and accessible for everyone.

Who, or what, has had the biggest impact on internal comms in your organisation in the past year?

Probably the most satisfying was winning the best internal communications campaign at the national Comms2point0 awards which recognise the most successful work from right across the public sector. It was fantastic to have our hard work recognised, especially for internal comms which can sometimes be the poor relation compare to other areas.

The Gateshead Angels campaign has run over the past two years and enabled patients to share their own stories of excellent care at the hospital, making sure the staff who helped them got some much-needed public recognition. We know that our staff often make the key difference to the overall NHS experience and it’s been very humbling to read some of the stories from the public.

What’s your proudest achievement or best day in your current role?

There's been lots of proud moments in the past three years but opening a brand new hospital has probably been the overall highlight. That's not something you get to do everyday.

How would you advise someone considering a career in internal comms?

I think the best advice is always to be authentic and do things your own way. Having said that there are some important things that can help. I've found that reading around the subject and taking lessons from outside your own sector is a real help. There are so many resources out there that can help like blogs and networking groups so try and make the most of it. Being visible and taking the time to get out and meet staff from across your organisation is also important in being a trusted source of information. It will also give you lots of soft intelligence so you can know what the real stories being told are.

What do you think are the top three trends in internal communications to watch out for in 2018?

1) Collecting and understanding data about staff is incredibly important. There's far too much guesswork especially around the channels people want to use.
2) In the NHS the idea of employee advocacy in the social space is a growing challenge and opportunity.
3) Creating content that can be adapted and distributed in a number of ways for different audiences is something we're working on now. We need to reach such a diverse range of professions and people in the NHS so this can be a challenge.

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