NB: image from tumblr.com
COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN – ASK DON’T REFER
We have all heard of the concept of ‘walking in another mans shoes’ (personally as I favour 3-4″ inch heels, I’m not sure ‘men’s’ shoes would suit me). But joking aside, we best understand others when we get into their heads, discover what makes them ‘do what they do’.
This is the essence of ‘social marketing‘, which cleverly uses ‘insight’ gained by various means, to give an understanding of people’s behaviours. When you use social marketing techniques, you start with the person, really understand them and then craft messages and interventions to change specific behaviours. In classic marketing, you tend to start with a product or service and then craft messages relevant to specific segments and ‘push’ them out.
Social marketing was first used in the 1970s and the idea was to change behaviours for ‘social good’; for example getting people to wear seat belts, to recycle and to save water. I studied ‘classic’ marketing and although there are many similarities, the main difference is the real understanding of behaviours. The real insight gained to craft appropriate messages, but also to link to policy change and service reconfiguration. Interestingly, it could be argued that the main driver in reducing the numbers of people smoking was not the medical information on the damage you can do as a smoker, but the ‘ban’ on smoking in public places. Thoughts please!
So, lets consider some of the messages we in the NHS ‘push’ out and the potential breakdowns that poor communications can cause.
Please picture a young woman who is pregnant and still smoking cigarettes. A well-meaning practice nurse or midwife will encourage the young woman to stop smoking to prevent ‘having a small baby’. The medical aim is to ensure the mum-to-be is fit and well and not causing any damage to the unborn child. To a clinician, it is a no brainer!
Now, to the young girl, who is frightened of pain, has heard horror stories of difficult births and is surrounded by peers who are pregnant or have been pregnant ans still smoked. To that girl , a small baby is just what she wants. In her mind there will be ‘less pain’ and ‘less problems’. The mum-to-be and the midwife exist in the same world but have very different outlooks. How do you deal with that? This is the opportunity to adapt your medical message relevant to the insight you have gained.
Consider the same mum-to-be who is then ‘referred to a smoking cessation clinic’. Now, lets be honest, how does that sound? Being referred…. to a smoking cessation clinic
Come on, let’s get real!
This young mum-to-be may tell us; firstly…… ‘I’m not ill’, secondly, she may say…… ‘ask me to come and talk to you about smoking!’, ‘don’t treat me like I’m ill, and I’m bad!’ And lastly ‘what the @@@@ is smoking cessation?’
These are words and phrases we choose to use in the NHS. We construct an NHS language that creates elitism, a language of power.
Lets stop the Communication Breakdown…. lets live in another mans, or woman’s shoes and lets think about the words we ( Jimmy) ‘Choos’ to use which may have a negative impact on others.
And as a gift, here is a live version of ‘Communications Breakdown’ from my favourite band, Led Zeppelin
and very gratuitous shots of some of my favourite shoes