Like many professional bodies, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy aims to inform the public about the benefits of its members’ work on their lives. Rob Ledger, Assistant Director for Strategic Communications, tells us how co-creating content with members has helped the CSP produce more effective messages and build members’ engagement with their society.
Despite our best efforts to reach the whole population with consistent, up-to-date advice about their health, we often see misleading reports in the press and on social media. This often leads members to challenge their professional body along the lines of ‘Why are you letting this happen?’. The trend is for these complaints to come through social media – quickly, publicly visible and potentially widely spread.
While we can’t control everything that appears in the press, less still what crops up on Twitter, we can produce good quality health advice and use a mix of channels to push it to the intended readers. We can do some of this through the expertise of our staff, but really we depend on the knowledge and experience of our members to develop evidence-based, credible messages.
Beyond ensuring high quality content, this co-creation encourages those members who participate to feel closer to their society, building some of that member engagement that we all chase. As a bonus, members who have had a positive experience are more likely to share that good feeling with their colleagues and peers.
Co-creation of public health advice
When faced with criticism from some of our members about the currency and validity of certain back pain coverage in the press, we decided to bring in those critics to help us do something better.
As part of a working group set up to develop new advice, we included a number of members who were prominent on social media and known to challenge messages with weak evidence. Where previously we may have seen some of their challenges as difficult, by involving them in the creation and promotion of something that we both could support, we started to grow a mutually beneficial relationship.
Jointly, we identified back pain as an area in which we could make a substantial impact, by overturning some of the outdated and un-evidenced advice in common circulation. Together we developed a set of myth-busting messages about back pain, which we were able to use to push positive advice about activity as an essential way to stay healthy.
The outcome: a better product and positive engagement
Our primary aim was to maximise the reach of these messages, and the range of approaches (media coverage, support from NHS trusts, influencing other health professionals, social media) helped us to exceed our expectations.
On its own that would have been a good result. But by challenging vocal critics to join us in producing something better, and thereby capturing their support, we brought about a more positive conversation across the membership about the promotion of physiotherapy. Social media criticism turned to praise and sharing figures rose well above previous levels.
This initial involvement has given us a foundation to increase engagement further. Since the project, we have found that the contributors have been more willing to join in subsequent activities and to speak alongside us on behalf of the profession.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and union body for the UK’s 56,000 chartered physiotherapists, students and support workers.
Rob Ledger is Assistant Director for Strategic Communications. Rob has specialised in communications and engagement for professional bodies for the last 20 years, with a particular focus on digital transformation. Follow Rob on Twitter.