Good communications can be the key to effective programme delivery.  

Caroline Maddams, our Interim Head of Communications, Design and Change, knows this from over two decades of delivering communications in the NHS.  

Here, she provides her six steps to communications success – and sets out why taking a strategic approach to communicating about your digital healthcare transformation programme is essential.  


One of the things that strikes me every time I start working for a new client to scope out a complex programme, clinical or otherwise, is how sometimes,  things I’d think were common sense often don’t appear as such to people in other roles.  

Common sense, though, is a funny thing in its subjectivity – what seems obvious to a comms person might seem far from it to a programme lead.  

So, I thought it might be useful to list a few issues to think about that will really help speed things up when you call on your trusty comms steed to save the day help support the planning of your digital transformation programme.  


1. Why do you need to communicate?  

Knowing what the purpose of your messaging is, and, importantly, what you want people to do as a result of it, will really help you hone what you say and how you get it across. You should include a call to action to each group – but understand that it won’t be the same for everyone.  

Be aware that sometimes it’s better to say nothing – especially when there’s nothing to say. Don’t communicate for the sake of it. Pointless communications turn people off before you’ve even started.  

If, however, planning is taking longer than you’d first thought, and people are starting to speculate, you might want to nip that in the bud and say that, just for now, there’s nothing to update on, so hang fire and be patient. Read your audiences! 


2. Who do you need to communicate with?  

This happens a lot.  

Me: “Who do you want to talk to?”
Programme lead (looks slightly baffled): “um….well…everyone?”  

Knowing which specific groups of people you want to keep updated and interact with – both internally and externally – will make things much quicker and clearer when it comes to devising messaging.  

Consider how and when you want these people to be involved, too – not everyone will need to be brought along and kept updated at the same times. 


3. What do you want to say and when?   

This happens a lot, too.  

Me: “So, what do you want to say?”
Programme lead: “Well, I thought you could tell me that – you’re the comms person!”  

The thing is, while we’re great at writing and translating what you want to say from initial ideas or complicated technical language, we aren’t subject matter experts in every field. We do need you to tell us what the thing is in the first place, even if that’s only a rough guide.  

Always keep in mind your purpose. Consider how you’ll get your key points into each set of messages you want to convey to your different audiences. What will really grab their attention? 


4. Commit 

Do what you say you’re going to, even if you have to revise your timelines or it results in difficult conversations. Nothing loses trust and engagement quicker than people going back on their promises and not explaining why.  

For example: if you say you’re going to consult with clinicians, make sure you do it. Don’t leave it until two days before your deadline and then set unrealistic timelines for feedback.  

If you really can’t do what you promised, be honest about that and say you’ll do it properly later. Honesty will get you a LONG way – you’re only human! It maintains the all-important credibility that you’ll need as your programme progresses. 


5. Listen 

If you ask people what they think, listen to them and act on it. Yes, it sounds basic. No, most people don’t do it.  

Be prepared to adapt and iterate your planning – as above, if people feel heard, they’ll be motivated to engage. 


6. Don’t silo your communications team  

If you’re planning a team structure, include communications as an overarching function, rather than siloed in one of your workstreams.  

The comms lead needs access to everyone equally so we can see and hear what’s happening across the different teams and feed back into decision-makers accordingly. 

Lastly – and this is a final plea from a timeworn comms lead – please, please listen to what your comms folk tell you. They are experts at reading a room, picking up on political nuance and working across multiple teams with different (often competing) priorities. Include them at the highest levels of discussion – they’ll make your life a whole lot easier.  


Get in touch 

If you’d like Caroline’s support to develop an effective communications strategy and delivery plan for your digital healthcare transformation programme, contact her at