CorpComms Awards

Best employee engagement initiative

Winner 2021
Flu campaign
The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

Every year, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust offers the seasonal flu vaccination to all staff to protect themselves, their families and friends and, crucially, their patients. As a world-leading cancer centre, this is particularly important as patients are often immuno-suppressed and vulnerable to viruses like the flu, which can prove fatal.

Historically, however, the vaccination take-up among Royal Marsden has been lower than other NHS Trusts at just 57.5 per cent against an average of around 71 per cent for London-based front-line healthcare workers. With the added complexity of the ongoing Covid-19 battle, the Royal Marsden set itself an objective to significantly improve its vaccination levels to 70 per cent.

Obviously, its previous strategies had not worked, and the feedback indicated that any new approach needed to be more about ‘carrot’ rather than ‘stick’ and that it had to ‘cut through’ the myriad communications staff were faced with.

Working closely with a multi-disciplinary project team, the strategy shifted from the serious NHS flu messaging to a light-hearted and humorous approach designed to grab attention and drive action.

The new creative used ‘flu puns’ of popular song lyrics, dubbed ‘flusicals’, such as And I guess that’s why they call it the flu, for the September to January campaign running in 2019/20 and well-known film titles, ‘fluvies’, like Back to the Fluture, the following year. To keep up momentum, the campaign included Christmas variants – which coincided with the peak flu season – and, towards its latter months, incorporated employee-generated content to refresh its appeal.

The campaign ran both on and offline, with posters, hospital information screens and banners in high footfall areas. The messages were adapted for screen savers and the intranet homepage, while weekly email bulletins kicked off with new puns suggested by staff to debunk flu myths.

Roaming ‘peer vaccinators’, wearing tee-shirts adorned with flu puns, also visited wards to encourage harder-to-reach colleagues to participate. A diverse cross section of staff also featured on the trust’s social media channels, using the hashtag #jabdone.

The engaging campaign caught colleagues’ imaginations and led to a 15 percentage point rise in vaccination rates. Staff uptake rose to 71.2 per cent in 2019/20 and 73.1 per cent in 2020/21. It is now in line with other healthcare workers in London.

But, perhaps more importantly, the low-budget campaign – it cost just £3,300 – also changed their mindsets. Staff actively chose to have the jab, rather than seeing this as a compulsory measure, while anecdotal feedback suggests they now look forward to the annual flu campaign to see what creative might be in store.

The judges loved the creativity of this campaign, and its lightness of touch. ‘A stunning increase [in take up] driven by real insight,’ they said. ‘This was bravely and creatively executed. The team should be so proud.’