Building awareness and influence for a large member-based health organisation

The brief 

UHUK is a partnership of urgent healthcare social enterprise providers who cover 64% of the UK population.

Its members provide a wide range of urgent and primary care NHS services including NHS 111, local clinical assessment services, virtual wards, palliative care, GP Out of Hours, Urgent Treatment Centres and A&E triage and treatment.

Organisations in this sector believed they hadn’t always received the same recognition around their contribution to the health and care system as others. They felt many external stakeholders including some policymakers didn’t properly understand exactly what the sector did or its value, and therefore the sector often missed out on funding and opportunities to make contributions to policy discussions about the future of health and care.

UHUK asked MIH to help them begin to change this situation. The solution was to be no/low cost – in other words relying on earned coverage and the amplification of messages via stakeholders. It needed to be sensitive to the fact that UHUK had not previously sought public attention and that they wanted to maintain positive and good relationships with policy makers and other stakeholders.

MIH worked with UHUK throughout 2023 and early 2024 to build awareness around UHUK and its members, including by running a no cost communications campaign over Winter, when the sector’s services were a key part of helping the NHS manage peak demand. 

What we did

We worked closely with member CEOs to understand in detail why they were members of UHUK, the role they saw for the organisation in the public sphere and the benefits they felt their organisation and UHUK brought to the overall health and care system. This was done through a combination of facilitated group discussions, one to one interviews and a detailed survey. We challenged members to think deeply about the identity of the sector and UHUK and how they might grab more attention and increase the external perception of how relevant they are to policy discussions. We also worked to draw out positive stories, case studies and data to evidence their views.

Using this research, we developed a new narrative and brand for UHUK which formed the basis of a suite of new ‘foundational’ communication materials we produced for both UHUK and members – including a video, webpage, fact sheet, case study database and key lines.

We pulled together a compelling argument backed by data and case studies as to the significant and unique benefits UHUK member services brought to the NHS – including the ability to provide patient services effectively and efficiently that demonstrably reduced demand on A&E and ambulance services, the ability to innovate, and a history of being agile and responding positively to unexpected health system challenges. We also promoted the positive social impact these social enterprise organisations made in their communities and the employment opportunities they provided.

We launched a winter campaign sustained over several months which included national and local press interventions at key points, a social media campaign and direct mail to 100 of the top national health and care policy makers and influencers. We also provided materials to members and other supportive third parties so they could amplify the campaign on their own channels and with their own stakeholders. We also worked with the UHUK CEO and members to ensure campaign messages were embedded in external presentations, speeches at conferences and other stakeholder meetings and interactions.

The result

The campaign was effective at increasing awareness around UHUK at both a regional and national level. The campaign was designed to be longer-burn to seek out, develop and build relationships, but green shoots became apparent early on.

Campaign materials were taken to briefings with very senior political figures and caught the attention of NHS officials. Because of the detailed engagement and effort to co-design the campaign with members, it received a far wider reach than might otherwise have been possible because members also took it upon themselves to promote the campaign with their stakeholders.

We significantly increased the presence of UHUK on social media (LinkedIn and X). Most pleasingly, there was a significant spike in the number of additional followers, unique impressions and unique interactions – suggesting UHUK was, via the campaign, reaching a whole new audience. The majority of these appeared to be within the health and care sector and at a relatively senior level.

Over the campaign period we increased UHUK’s followers on LinkedIn by 40%, compared to the number gathered over its history to date. We garnered five times more unique impressions on social media over the campaign period than the first eight months of the year. Total engagements with UHUK content during the campaign reached a comparable level to other national, larger, higher profile NHS and health bodies. The campaign was amplified by members, member CEOs and other partners, providing exponential exposure beyond the core campaign.

Our PR campaign received coverage across national and local publications, with some local newspapers celebrating the role of their local organisation in helping the NHS manage demand. The BMA Doctor magazine worked on a feature promoting one of our case studies, around virtual wards. Our campaign was sent directly to our key audience’s Inboxes after it was featured in the NHS’ own integrated care newsletter. Our PR campaign caught the attention of third parties too, with at least one major non-profit health body seeking partnership opportunities with UHUK.

Anecdotally, UHUK reported an increase in awareness and approaches from relevant stakeholders including meeting requests and opportunities to present and participate at conferences and meetings. It provided a very positive springboard, they said, off which UHUK planned to continue to build its profile and influence.