Comms profile: Gaby Insley

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Gaby Insley

In the second of our series profiling communications professionals working in the NHS, we put our questions to Gaby Insley. Gaby gives us a glimpse into life as director of communications at Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust, explains why the benefits of social media far outweigh the risks and talks about the future of live video broadcasting.


How long have you worked in the NHS/ health and care?

I celebrate five years this month with Birmingham Children’s Hospital, which merged with Birmingham Women’s in February to become Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. Prior to that I worked for a range of government departments, including the Department of Health and various NHS providers, and spent time in the charity sector as regional marcomms lead for the British Heart Foundation. Healthcare communications is a cause that’s very close to my heart!

What’s top of your to-do list today?

  • Agree comms plan for new trust-wide efficiency campaign. 
  • Chat with Alder Hey comms director to share internal comms and staff engagement experience.
  • Review job applications for interim media lead position.
  • Review and agree  team training and development plan.

Sum up your approach to comms in 140 characters or less.

Be prepared. Know your audience. Keep it simple. Listen, share and learn.

Which campaign – inside or outside of the NHS – has most inspired you, and why?

One campaign that really stands out to me is the British Heart Foundation campaign to raise awareness of hands only CPR. Using Vinnie Jones as the front man with the Bee Gees Staying Alive track, the charity really added humour to a very serious message. The moment of impact for me was when a member of our own hospital staff saved a man’s life on the bus to work as a direct result of seeing the advert and remembering the Bee Gees track. If that isn’t an impactful campaign, I don’t know what is.

Social media at work – best thing since sliced bread or one more thing to worry about?

Totally the best thing since sliced bread! The benefits far outweigh the worries and risks, offering a direct line for your audiences to engage with you in a way that’s never been possible before. It enables you to set our your stall as an organisation and really demonstrate your values and personality, and gives you a way to involve your patients/ supporters/ staff in your initiatives and campaigns. And due to the ever declining traditional media, it offers a news sharing tool with far greater reach than your local newspapers. What couldn’t be better than that!?

What one thing would make your job easier?

Having more time to be creative and think together as a team. NHS comms is very reactive and fast paced and this is often the part of our jobs that gets put on hold, despite it being one of the most important.

Where/ when do you have your best ideas?

On the train to and from work (I’ve got quite a long journey). It’s my quiet time to read, think and critique, and I’d struggle without it!

Your work – what’s coming up next?

Lots of exciting projects are on the horizon for our comms this year. 

As a newly merged organisation we now need to develop our combined vision, mission and values. This is the first time we’ve worked together as one trust in this way, so it’s important that we get our staff engagement right and set the benchmark for how we want to engage with our teams in the future. 

Digital comms, however, is the key focus for my team this year. We start work on the development of a new trust website next month, bringing together our two sites which are old and no longer fit for purpose. We want to create something new and exciting that offers our patients, families and partners exactly what they need in a new and truly engaging way. 

If this wasn’t enough to keep us busy this year, we will be working with staff to develop a new intranet which is long overdue. I actually cannot contain my excitement at what this new system will bring - social interactivity, mobile access and collaboration opportunities are what we have been crying out for for so long, I can't wait for it to go live.

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

There’s no one standout piece of advice I can think of, but I’ve always been of the mind set that you don’t get anywhere in the world of communications without being positive and enthusiastic, by making the most of the opportunities you are given (no matter how dull a task may seem!) and by staying connected to your colleagues/contacts. They are probably going to be the ones who will help you get your next big career break.

From WhatsApp to augmented reality - what’s the next big thing in comms?

Live video. Video now accounts for more than 50 per cent of all mobile traffic and platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook now offer live video streaming making it easier than ever before. Broadcast and print media are increasingly using live video to complement their articles/broadcasts and increase engagement. As communications professionals we should be thinking about how we optimise this to help reach out and bring together our own audiences too.

Follow Gaby and Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust on Twitter. 

Do you know another NHS comms professional who deserves to be in the spotlight to share their comms work? Nominate them by emailing comms@nhsemployers.org.

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