Feb 252014


With a week to go to the Health and Care Innovation Expo I’m delighted to have a guest post from my co-presenter at the Pop-up University, Dominic Stenning aka @Patient_Leader. We’ll be running a session on social media:

Only one week to go until the  Expo that I’m presenting at with @VictoriaBetton. Both Victoria and I love our social media and know just how valuable a tool it can be for sharing ideas and more importantly, building relationships.

If you’re honest, genuine and open to other people’s views then, in my experience, you have nothing to fear from Twitter. Yes it will challenge your thinking and yes you won’t agree with everyone, but that doesn’t mean you have anything to fear.

On the whole if you stick to the rule ‘you are what you tweet’ – such as being considerate – then you can only get the very best social media has to offer.

Building relationships and networking in general is what it’s all about. My advice is get stuck in and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. We’re a forgiving bunch on Twitter and if you get something wrong, just say sorry and if the other person doesn’t understand, then that’s their problem. We all make mistakes or say something without thinking, on the whole you will not only learn from it but make new friends in the process, as I have.

My life has significantly changed since using social media (Mainly Twitter) and that’s mainly to do with following up online relationships with real life meet ups.  I’ve ended up working with various healthcare professionals and also making friends with people who are also passionate about healthcare.

I’m looking forward to Expo and really hope you join our exciting &  fun session at the Pop-up University!

Feb 232014

photo (39)

Why blog about recent events in the police force? Well the purpose of my blog is to capture key learning points, reflections and even events as they emerge, which both influence my PhD research and my work role.  So when @teaandtalking live tweeted her experience from an inpatient ward I thought that was a formative moment and, with her support, blogged about it. Over the last week the mental health social media sphere has been buzzing with the suspension and resumption of Inspector Michael Brown aka @mentalhealthcop’s Twitter and blog accounts. I don’t intend to describe what happened but you can check out @Sectioned_ excellent summary if you aren’t aware of it or would like to find out more.

I haven’t pestered @mentalhealthcop for an interview as he quite rightly wishes to not discuss the event in public. I am also not going to speculate about the whys and wherefores of what happened. However, with @mentalhealthcop’s blessing, I am going to share a few thoughts and reflections on what this episode might mean for public sector professionals and institutions in social media spaces.

Back to the beginning (for me at least)

Over the last few years Twitter and blogging, as well as other platforms, have become increasingly mainstream in the public sector.  With more and more people (particularly those in formal leadership positions) entering these spaces, and with the advent of social media guidelines for pretty much every professional group, Twitter and other platforms are increasingly being recognised and promoted as legitimate spaces for professionals to occupy.

Are the stakes higher?

My sense of what happened to @mentalhealthcop is that the stakes feel suddenly higher than a week ago – anyone can say something flippant (goodness knows I have…) make an error of judgement or have a well-intentioned tweet misinterpreted, but it might shock us to think that this could end up the subject of public debate and even hit the mainstream media.  The separation of professionally led journalism and citizen led journalism (such as blogging) are increasingly collapsing – with one informing the other and in reverse.

Reputational damage                       

It is important t(hat people in public positions are impeccable in their behaviour in social media spaces – following guidelines and applying the offline rule  ‘what would I do if this happened offline?’)  I was struck by the kindness and support of @mentalhealthcop’s online community – his strong personal and professional reputation paid off. For the institution concerned it was another matter – a warning to others that what appears to be a draconian or disproportionate approach may have negative reputational implications. Institutions (or that is their bosses and communication functions) needs to be thinking as much about their own reputation as do the people who work for them.

One tiny bit of speculation

The one and only bit of speculation I will allow myself in this post is to wonder whether the police force in question acted proportionately and if the consequences of their behaviours in managing this situation may have negative/draconian ramifications for public sector professionals and institutions in the future. I do hope not. Time will tell.

If you haven’t read Inspector Brown’s blog then I recommend it – you can find it here.

Jan 192014


Social media platforms create spaces for a bewildering array of conversations to take place on any manner of topics. And we each make sense of the social media spaces we occupy by creating an ecosystem that relates to our particular interests.

Hashtags make it easy to search for or curate a particular topic and we use them to create some order or boundaries to what is possible to find. Twitter chats are another way in which we attempt to boundary the conversation – agreeing a set time to come together using a common hashtag to have a conversation on a particular theme.

I’ve been wondering what the different qualities might be to hashtags which emerge unexpectedly and those which are pre-planned and used by organisations or campaigns to start a conversation. I’ve previously blogged about #mentalpatient – my favourite ever hashtag – emerging spontaneously as it did in protest at the now notorious offending Asda Halloween costume. But is that virality possible to replicate given that #mentalpatient was created by ordinary people in a particular moment rather than an orchestrated organisational campaign?


This week there are two particular hashtags in the mental health sphere that I stumbled upon in my timeline and which caught my attention. The first was a Twitter Chat with Frank Bruno @frankbrunoboxer which went on for a marathon two hours. I briefly jumped in and was rewarded with a nice tweet from the man himself. However, there was no consistent hashtag for the chat, which meant it was almost impossible to follow or curate either during or after the event. Whilst @TimeToChange promoted the chat through retweets, as did @MindCharity, the absence of a hashtag or any apparent pre-media to promote it probably meant it didn’t have the traction that it could have done given that Frank Bruno remains a popular figure and has over 20,000 followers.  An opportunity missed perhaps.


The second hashtag which caught my eye was #FindMike a campaign by @Rethink_ to raise awareness of men and suicide, delivered in partnership with @MrJonnyBenjamin. This campaign had a number of elements which hit the spot in terms of virality and I think has the key ingredients for others to imitate. So what made it work?

Personal #FindMike is deeply intimate, fronted by a real person, sharing a real-life experience. Jonny is articulate, young and handsome – his persona immediately challenges stereotyped attitudes about what someone with a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder might look and sound like. The person comes first – and social media is about people after all.

Drama – at its centre #FindMike is a personal, compelling and dramatic story of man saved by the kindness of a stranger who gave him hope when considering taking his own life on Waterloo Bridge. It is a modern day version of the ‘good Samaritan’ parable that will resonate with many because it has been told so many times and in so many different ways.

an act of kindness changed my outlook on life and I have thought about him ever since. I want to find this man so I can thank him for what he did. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here today (Jonny’s blog post)

Mystery and a quest – we don’t know who this man is but we can help find him so that Jonny can thank him in person, creating both a sense of urgency and a clear call to action. This is perfect for virality on social networks – Twitter is great for asking questions and making connections. And a possible reward – if we retweet then maybe we might be the one that connects Jonny back to ‘Mike’.

Multichannel – the campaign is designed to work across a variety of social and mainstream channels – from TV appearances through to leaflet distribution on Waterloo Bridge, a short film (first person, direct to camera) and website content with share buttons. The subject matter works seamlessly across channels and was picked up by multiple networks from the BBC through to the Huffington Post. A search for #FindMike on Google comes up with just under 3000 hits.

Evidence based – research suggests that there are three distinct core approaches to challenging stigma – direct contact, protest and education (Corrigan et al, 2012). #FindMike blends all of these together. Facts and figures on the website provide educative fact and figures; the protest element is subtle but Jonny talks of the stereotyped views and attitudes he has experienced and their impact upon him; and most importantly of all is that we have direct contact from Jonny – dispelling myths and stereotypes about mental distress through his use of self. He even manages to employ an aspect of his experience, one which often frightens people, with a positive frame:

One delusion that’s always remained with me is that I can change the world. I wrote letter after letter to politicians, activists, and celebrities when I was unwell once to set out my vision of doing so. In reality, and I hate to admit this, I probably can’t change the entire world. But if I can make a difference to just one person’s life through the Finding ‘Mike’ campaign and give them hope that it does get better, then surely this is all most definitely worth it. 

What works for you?

Big enormous respect to Jonny for speaking out about his experiences, which I’m sure will positively influence the attitudes of many. I recommend Jonny’s vlogs which you can find on his YouTube channel here.

So has #FindMike found a way for organisations to simulate the immediacy of the naturally evolving hashtag? or can it never be quite as powerful as one that emerges out of pure energy in the moment? What do you think?

Postscript – a lovely end to this story is that Mike (or Neil as he is actually called) was found. You can read about it here.