Alice Fiancet on being the voice of the people

Alice Fiancet on being the voice of the people
Want to learn from the best? Our interview series is the best place to get advice from those with their finger on the pulse of what's new in the comms arena.

Alice Fiancet, Communications Specialist at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, delves into her experience of the challenges faced by NHS comms teams and shares her insight on the future of communications (clue: there are no posters in sight). 


Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance? 

I completed my degree in multimedia journalism back in 2017 and spent the next year applying for all sorts of journalism roles to no avail (apart from a couple of part-time internships). After about seven months I thought about widening my search and looked into whether communications was something I could do as a career and found that all the skills I had learnt were transferrable so thought 'let's give this a go!' applied for a role at the hospital, got it and now I wouldn't want to do anything else.


What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular? 

I think being able to listen and understand what people want is important when you work in communications. Sometimes, people will come to you with a vague idea of what they want, not really give you anything to go off but have an image in mind that they want to be created and trying to interpret that can be a challenge. Listening and giving people time to explain all their thoughts to you can really help to find a solution to their problem or help to make a campaign come to life. Also remembering that you are the expert can help, especially when you aren't able to do something due to time or resource limitations, and offering a backup idea that is feasible shows them that they have come to the right place for help.  


What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out? 

Working in a hospital provides lots of different challenges, especially when it comes to communications, due to the volume of the workforce and the different roles this includes. We always find it hard to engage with the variety of staff groups we have and during COVID, it became particularly important that we ensure everyone knew what the latest guidance was and what changes were in place at the hospital. This did allow us to experiment a bit more when it came to how we communicate with our staff, we set up a Whatsapp broadcast group which now has just over a tenth of our workforce subscribed to it and this made it easy for us to share updates with staff who don't necessarily have time to check their emails, or who don't have access to a computer during their working day.

Social media can also be a challenge for us as we can't control what members of the public or patients take photos of and on a few occasions, we have had to react quickly to something we have seen on Twitter or Facebook. This does have its benefits though, by being able to engage with our local community so quickly, we are able to regularly help with issues as they are happening, adding to the experience of our patients and their loved ones who might be worried at home.


What one thing would make your working life easier?

One universal platform that was accessible to all our employees no matter what role they do or what hours they work.


How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation? 

We are seen as 'the voice of the people'. Our faces are well known across the organisation and people are constantly stopping us on the corridors to ask us a question or pick our brains. We are also seen as the team that spends a lot of money on coffee!


What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications? 

I think the secret of success in communications is having a team that works well together. Having members of staff in a Comms team who have different and similar skills makes it easier to share the workload and also bounce ideas off each other. It can really help when creating campaigns, especially if they have to be ready to go in a short space of time.


At React & Share, we’re obsessed with helping our clients measure and report their efforts - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to internal stakeholders?

I think Comms teams should be sharing their success stories; campaigns that have gone well, events that have had big numbers of attendees or even just the number of people internally who have engaged with a piece of content they have produced. In our line of work, being able to prove to other divisions/departments what type of comms works is super helpful when it comes to creating content. 


Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications? 

I see there being a surge of digital changes for comms teams. The world is becoming a lot more digitally savvy, and people are much more in tune with technology nowadays than they were before and this could have a big impact when looking at how we engage with the next generation. It's quite exciting to think there might be a time where communications is solely digital and there will be no need for printed posters.