Comms profile: Ross Wigham

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Ross Wigham

This week we're profiling Ross Wigham, head of communications and marketing at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, as part of our series of blogs looking at health care communications professionals. 

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

I’ve been working in the NHS for three years but had no background in healthcare at all before that. That was a challenge and a pretty steep learning curve at first but I also think it was a big advantage in some ways. Coming in fresh helped in seeing things slightly differently and bringing something new to the role.

What’s top of your to-do list today?

The best thing about the NHS is the variation and spread of things you get to work on. So currently we’re juggling with a big social media campaign, preparing for a BBC TV interview and finalising a new video for our charity.

For me that’s been the most exciting thing about working at an acute NHS organisation – it’s very hands on but you also get to work across so many comms and marketing disciplines.

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

Understand your message and keep it brief, human and simple. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. Flexibility and common sense are also hugely underrated traits. 

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

From the NHS I’m always impressed by the Give Blood work and I thought the missing type and Rugby World Cup campaigns were both excellent.

I’ve been a judge for a few different communications awards in the past couple of years and I can honestly say that some of the campaign work right across the public sector is really outstanding at the moment. There’s too many brilliant campaigns to mention here.

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

It presents us with more challenges at times for sure but overall it’s probably the best tool we have now to effectively communicate with all our publics. There’s never been a more exciting time to work in communications because we have these amazing tools that can connect and engage with people in a much more direct way. It helps that they’re also great fun to use.

Social is a perfect tool during times of change because it’s your direct, unfiltered line to your publics. But, and it’s a big but, you need to forget about the ‘myth of control’ and accept a genuine two-way dialogue if you want it to be successful.

What one thing would make your job easier?

I’m not sure there’s any one single thing, but a way to triage work faster and more efficiently would be great. I think we could all learn something from the way our front of house teams in the NHS assess and prioritise the most important things to focus on each day.

Where or when do you have your best ideas?

Usually in the most unlikely places and never when I’m sitting at my desk. The notes tool on Iphone is a fantastic way of recording those ‘out of the blue’ ideas which I then email to myself. Admittedly it does look a bit weird when you log on at work to a screen full of emails from yourself.

Your work – what’s coming up next?

It’s been an incredibly busy 18 months where most of our time as a team has been taken up with new facilities and official openings. At the moment the focus is slightly more internal and we’re in the middle of a staff recognition scheme called “Who is your Gateshead Angel” where the public can nominate staff who have gone above and beyond by telling their NHS story on our Facebook page.

The Angel of the North is just down the road from our hospital so the creative uses that as a bit of a twist and everyone mentioned gets a thank you letter and a small token of appreciation. More importantly though they get the public recognition on Facebook. So far we’ve reached more than 60,000 people and had 230 nominations.

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’.

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

Predictions can quickly make fools of us all and as Paul Gascoigne famously said: “I don’t make predictions… and I never will!”

Communications is much more visual now and expect new tools in the future that help manage ‘fake news’ and reach beyond social media bubbles. The collapse of trust in our traditional institutions will continue to be a growing challenge.

I do think we live in hugely uncertain times and we shouldn’t be surprised about the scope and pace of change. Expect the unexpected.

Follow Ross and Gateshead Health 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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