Call the Midwife and other communication case studies

I love the BBC show Call the Midwife – the part played by the lovely actress Jenny Agutter is so serene, but I do have to hit the ‘mute’ button for the shouty-giving-birth bits!

The most recent episode had a story line about a couple wanting to adopt. There is already a son in the family and the parents decided that they should seek his views before they went ahead (good but of consultation there).

It was the scene which followed that amused me and I think taught us an important lesson about communication with stakeholders; that is that very often the things that they want to know, aren’t the things that the organisation wants to tell them.  We can spend a lot of time giving people the ‘big picture’ and ‘selling the benefits’ but how much time do we spend finding out what stakeholders think and what they want to know?

The little boy in this scene had three key questions for his father and step mother:

  • Will I have to share my bedroom?
  • Will I only get half my pocket-money?
  • Can the new arrival take over playing the piano in church so I can go play cricket?

There are lessons here for all of us in communication and I thought it was also timely in light of the recently announced delay of the NHS database (which I have blogged about on my book website which is all about how to communicate projects and change). A lot of commentators are saying that more should be done to sell the benefits of the scheme and personally I think the benefits are potentially huge. But what actually concerns many people is data privacy- that’s what they want to know about and need re-assurance on. It illustrates how important it is to do your research up front to understand your stakeholders, then design your communication strategy accordingly.  Otherwise you could waste a lot of time and energy when all the stakeholder wants to know is if they will still get the same pocket-money!

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