Katherine Raven on the secrets to comms success

Katherine Raven on the secrets to comms success
Katherine Raven, head of communications and engagement at Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership, shares her rigorous and comprehensive list of secrets for success in the comms field.

Katherine Raven, head of communications and engagement at Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership, shares her rigorous and comprehensive list of secrets for success in the comms field.

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

It sounds a bit cheesy but I always wanted to work in a profession where I could make a difference and help other people. After finishing my degree at university in social psychology and sociology, I began looking for jobs in the health sector. After applying for a variety of roles, I was lucky enough to land a role in a health charity supporting the press and campaigns team. Very quickly I knew I had found the career I wanted to pursue long term as I felt it suited my skills and values.

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

In my opinion an important attribute working in communications is having high emotional intelligence as it is the business of working with people! Whether that’s thinking about the audience you’re trying to reach and the best ways to engage them, working with your team or working in partnership with wider stakeholders. It always comes back to influencing others and working collaboratively. 

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 communications we have a helicopter view of the organisation so we are in very privileged position where we have the opportunity to work with leaders, staff across the organisation, and stakeholders. However this can mean that we can sometimes spread our resource too thinly so I think one of the biggest challenges is ensuring we can prioritise our resources to support organisational strategic priorities. Also managing the inevitable curve balls that come along each week!

How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation? 

I am very lucky to work in an organisation that really understands communications and its strategic role in delivering organisational goals. This was very evident last year when we set up our local response to the coronavirus pandemic and the comms team and I were a key part of the incident response team. I was very proud that we were recently recognised for our work responding to the COVID pandemic when we won two NHS communicate awards — one for promoting diversity and inclusion to reach out to diverse communities to encourage them to get the COVID-19 vaccine and the other for staff engagement and internal communications where we received the highly commended award.

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

In my view the secrets to success when working in communications are:

  • Lots of common sense and trusting your gut instincts!
  • Being able to ‘hold the mirror up’ to senior leaders/colleagues and challenge in a constructive and helpful way
  • Keeping in touch with your network of comms colleagues. I always find it helpful to pick up the phone to trusted colleagues and discuss issues or approaches.
  • Recruiting talented people to work in your team and supporting them to develop and achieve their goals
  • To keep your skills up to date by joining a professional body such as the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and doing continuous professional development each year. I have been a member of the CIPR for 13 years and have continued to develop my skills as the world of comms has rapidly changed.

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? 

My team and I use the Government Communications Service OASIS framework to measure the impact of our communications and engagement work as it is a tried and tested model. We report our outcomes against strategic priorities for the organisation and I present at each board meeting in public so we can be held to account by board members and the public. My advice to other comms teams would be to use a model such as this to show your impact and to regularly promote your successes to your leadership team, wider staff and stakeholders. As communications professionals we need to remember to do our own PR! 

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

I think the science of behaviour change is being applied more and more in communications as we work to cut through the noise and influence our audiences to take action. This has really been shown by the successful roll out of the COVID vaccination programme and how comms teams have used insights to encourage populations to take up the vaccine.