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Communication Strategies (with users/stakeholders): their importance to specialist public health practice. Chris Lines Director of Communications NPHS/Wales Centre for Health. Curriculum vitae. 20 years in public relations Private, public and voluntary sectors With NPHS since 2005.

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Communication Strategies (with users/stakeholders): their importance to specialist public health practice

Chris Lines

Director of Communications

NPHS/Wales Centre for Health

curriculum vitae
Curriculum vitae
  • 20 years in public relations
  • Private, public and voluntary sectors
  • With NPHS since 2005
  • Communication strategy
  • Corporate communications
  • Internal communications
  • Stakeholder communications
  • Public communications
  • Case study: childhood leukaemia in North Wales
  • Understanding
  • Two way process
  • Perceptions and reality
  • Action and words
communication strategy
Communication strategy
  • What are the objectives?
  • What are the issues?
  • Who are the audiences?
  • What are the audience perceptions?
  • Who are the communicators?
  • What are the messages?
  • What are the best communication tools?
corporate communications
Corporate communications
  • Structural context
  • Political and media contexts
  • Very little public understanding of corporate roles and responsibilities
  • Difficulty in establishing internal and stakeholder understanding
nphs corporate challenges
NPHS corporate challenges
  • 750 staff on 40+ sites
  • From different organisations
  • Teams embedded in Local Health Boards and NHS Trusts
  • Partnership working
  • Variety of specialisms – niches
  • No statutory responsibilities
  • Service not a health authority
service culture
Service culture
  • Compare with consultancy
  • Not just doing what ‘customer’ wants
  • Help meet the ‘customer’s’ needs
  • Requires ‘customer’ confidence
  • Requires service and communications excellence
internal communications
Internal communications
  • Identification with the organisation
  • Understanding the organisation
  • Making all the connections internally
  • Representing the NPHS consistently
  • Communication of the same messages
strategic response internally
Strategic response internally
  • Intranet
  • e-bulletin
  • Information Exchange – Regional Forums
  • National Forum
  • Staff Conference
  • Director’s Diary
  • Corporate identity
stakeholder communications
Stakeholder communications
  • Stakeholders or partners
  • Range of stakeholders
  • Tensions between stakeholders
  • Understanding of the role
  • Everything in partnership
  • Invisibility of NPHS
  • Recognition of contribution
strategic response externally
Strategic response externally
  • Internal communications strategy
  • Web site
  • Stakeholder e-news
  • Stakeholder conferences
  • Liaison meetings
  • Public health leadership and contributions
public communications
Public communications
  • Different publics
  • Engagement or communication
  • Reactive
  • Systematic or ad hoc
  • Complex subject
  • Different communicators
  • Confusing and mixed messages
strategic response publicly
Strategic response publicly
  • Engage staff, stakeholders and partners
  • Engage and understand public
  • Credible communicators
  • Credible and consistent messages
  • Proactive
  • Systematic
childhood leukaemia in north wales
Childhood leukaemia in North Wales
  • Fears of raised levels of childhood cancer in Menai Straits resulting from Sellafield radiation
  • Fears raised by:
    • Green Audit
    • Alun Ffred Jones AM
    • Y Byd ar Bedwar
health response
Health response
  • Analysis of data by Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU)
  • Report by National Public Health Service for Wales (NPHS) for Gwynedd and Anglesey LHBs
government response
Government response
  • Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) asked to review :
    • Green Audit paper
    • WCISU paper
    • NPHS paper
interested organisations

NPHS Wales

Gwynedd LHB

Anglesey LHBs





Environment Agency

British Nuclear Fuels

Local Authorities


Interested organisations
report findings
Report findings
  • “There was no evidence to link the diseases with nuclear discharges” (WCISU)
  • “There is no evidence of an increase in retinoblastoma or in tumours of the brain and spine in the Menai Straits area.” (NPHS)
comare findings
COMARE findings
  • The pattern of diseases in the studies does not suggest a connection with man-made radiation
  • The analysis and methodology adopted by WCISU was appropriate
  • The interpretation of the WCISU study by the NPHS was appropriate
comare findings21
COMARE findings
  • “The Green Audit analyses have several significant weaknesses and cannot be regarded as reliable”
communication issues
Communication issues
  • Radiation
  • Sellafield
  • Cancer
  • Scientific validity of small area figures
  • Morass of authority and expertise
  • Family and community needs for an explanation
public health message
Public Health message
  • There is no evidence to link the diseases with nuclear discharges
communication opportunities
Communication opportunities
  • Get the message across to reassure the public
  • Lead the agenda
communications threats
Communications threats
  • No categorical guarantees
  • Spin
  • Media sensationalism
  • Pressure Group activism
  • Political hijack ahead of a General Election
communications strategy
Communications strategy
  • Reassure the public
  • Get the facts on the record
  • Set the agenda
  • Be independent and authoritative
  • Reduce opposition opportunities
communications plan
Communications plan
  • Jointly agree plan
  • Jointly agree statement and Q&A
  • Use single spokesperson
  • Quick timeline for correct notification
  • Focus on briefing time
  • Wider distribution by post and e-mail
  • Web site
statement letters and q a
Statement, letters andQ&A
  • Partner perspectives
  • Working with scientists
  • Complicated issues
  • 9 drafts!
timeline for notification
Timeline for notification
  • Confidential briefings for partners
  • Minister’s letter to AM
  • Media briefing
  • Web site
  • Letter and reports to opinion-formers
  • On-message and extensive media coverage
  • Limited pressure group response
  • No political storm
  • Appreciative opinion-formers responses
  • Strategy worked well
  • Message delivered effectively


  • Just one episode in communication
  • Green Audit is still campaigning
  • Engage staff and stakeholders first
  • It’s a long game!