William Chambers on syncing comms across an organisation

William Chambers on syncing comms across an organisation
William Chambers, communications and media manager at Medway NHS Foundation Trust, joins us to chat about relationships, flexibility, and staying proactive.

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

As an aspiring sports reporter in my younger days, I chose to study sports journalism at university, but after graduating I quickly realised the career wasn’t for me. In my first two full time jobs I gained good experience at the Telegraph Media Group and Kantar Media, before I got my big break in the world of communications at Medway NHS Foundation Trust. Prior to applying for the job, I had fixed my mind on pursuing a career in comms, as I felt my background and skills would make me very well equipped. I’ve loved the almost-five years I’ve spent working for my local hospital in Gillingham, Kent, and I have been proud to excel in the role, gaining two promotions and an employee of the month award.

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

Listening is vital – it might seem like a basic skill but you need to be able to clearly understand what somebody’s needs are before you communicate the message with your organisation. Elsewhere I would say teamwork, attention to detail, and leadership skills are all equally important.

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

Communicating with all staff across different areas of the organisation. We have many colleagues working on the front line or in vital services behind the scenes at the hospital, who do not regularly use emails or access our other communications channels, due to the nature of their job. As a result, this can be challenging, particularly when you need to communicate an urgent message to staff in different areas of the organisation.

What one thing would make your working life easier?

Better technology – I know money can be hard to come by in the NHS, but access to better computer and filming equipment would be ideal. Saying that, I recently acquired a new laptop at work which has been fantastic, so I mustn’t grumble too much!

The other thing would be removing the use of abbreviations. It’s an issue that seems to be particularly widespread in the NHS and it can be very time consuming having to work out what things stand for!

How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?

Thankfully, it is well-valued at our Trust. We have a good working relationship with our Chief Executive, as we have done with his predecessors. We are a fairly large organisation (4,000 plus colleagues) and we know from feedback that our comms are relied-upon, and have been even more so throughout the pandemic.

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

For me it is a blend of relationship-building, flexibility and being proactive – with these skills you can tackle anything that is thrown at you. Oh, and knowing how to shoot a good video and take photos also helps!

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?

Things like total media/social media reach and open or read click rates are great, as they can demonstrate the value of your work to stakeholders. However for me, it’s always worth looking a bit beneath the surface – for example we’ve done a big push on comms for staff health and wellbeing recently, launching a suite of comms and overseeing exciting projects such as the opening of a new staff-only gym. Then we saw through a monthly survey that our staff had reported an increase when asked ‘do you think your organisation looks after your wellbeing?’. Clearly our comms played a big part in the improvement – this was incredibly rewarding and provided a clear and impressive measurement to share with stakeholders.

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

I believe the next big thing will come from social media – in the last few years we’ve seen how companies have evolved their communications techniques through social media channels, adapting their messages to suit the audiences they are reaching out to. Short form video apps, like TikTok, are a perfect example of this – I’m excited to see what will follow in its footsteps.