Nicola Richards, Director of Palms Row Health Care, has been shortlisted for the ‘Not All Heroes Wear Capes’ category in the CovidComms awards in recognition of her work to raise awareness of the care sector during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Palms Row Health Care is a small care home group based in Sheffield. In the face of continued cuts to budgets and the likely impact of COVID-19 on the functioning of the operations of the home, Campaign Collective was appointed to support internal and external communications.

Working closely with Nicola and key advisers, we developed messaging which set out the hard work and challenging circumstances staff were working under as well as the solutions needed to ensure they could cope with COVID-19. We decided to offer our work at our lowest day rate in recognition of the difficulties facing the care sector through this pandemic.

A hard working proactive and reactive press office function propelled our message onto the national agenda.

We set the scene with print and online coverage to establish Palms Row as a well-run quality provider while an exclusive behind the scenes report on Sky News set out the challenges they were facing.

This was followed up by regular press releases, commenting on the national news agenda, diary / by-line pieces and follow up exclusives with the Mirror, Sun, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Metro, Daily Telegraph, Independent, ITV and BBC National News and Good Morning Britain.

In total, over 1,000 pieces of coverage have been generated to date, including 127 national hits. The combined reach of the coverage in five months is 169m.

An influencer engagement campaign got our message into the corridors of power.

Alongside media activity, letters to MPs and councillors set out the details of our campaign messaging and the changes we needed to see. This secured responses from local MPs, the identification of local councillor champions and interest from the Health and Social Care Select Committee in our situation. We also worked with the media to have questions posed to Matthew Hancock and Ministers at the 1700 daily COVID-19 briefing.

Relative and internal communications ensured key stakeholders were kept informed.

A weekly letter to families, staff newsletter and daily social media content was created to keep relatives of care home residents and staff informed about our campaign and the latest information on COVID-19.

The long-term results of the campaign are still to be determined, but in the short-term, we have seen the government change policy on care homes and in Sheffield, the Council has reformed its funding and operational model to meet our recommendations.

Nicola has given a voice to some of the most vulnerable people in our society and has ensured care homes have stayed firmly on the media agenda.  Most importantly, the impact of the coverage has been to see care homes propelled onto the government radar and changes in national and local policy to become more supportive of the sector.

On hearing about her nomination Nicola said:

“I’m blown away by this nomination and the fact that I’ve been shortlisted has made me feel really emotional. I’ve seen first hand how hard this pandemic has been on the care home sector, our tirelessly dedicated staff and, of course, care homes residents and families across the country. I’ll continue to speak out for the protection of our elderly and vulnerable for as long as I need to to make sure that their voices are heard.”

The results will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on 18 November.


Campaign Collective

Campaign Collective is a social enterprise helping charities, social enterprises, public service organisations and other campaigners benefit from affordable professional communications advice and support. With all Members having over ten years experience in a range of communications skills, the Collective helps organisations create, build and deliver effective marketing campaigns. Profits are used to subsidise support for micro charities and community organisations as well as help develop the next generation of communications professionals. Visit campaigncollective.org for more information.

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