Helen Griffee trained and worked as a journalist, before moving into PR for various charities. She joined St Richard’s at a time when the organisation needed to raise its profile. As Helen says, those that had a connection with the hospice valued it very highly, but beyond this, there was a need to spread the word even wider in the community. Helen’s job was to raise the profile about the work of the hospice. She set about doing it in many ways; producing booklets, banners, leaflets and newsletters, getting regular features in the papers and on TV and radio, promoting events and organising publicity for donors, and more recently, using every strand of social media. In her interview, Helen explains the importance of images in publicity and the value of the snowdrop logo, but above all, she believes the greatest impact comes from hearing people’s personal stories.
When Helen joined St Richard’s in 2003 the organisation didn’t have a communications department as such; any publicity was managed by Marilyn Peachey and her colleagues in the fundraising team. Helen recalls working in a cramped office at Rose Hill and later a Portacabin in the Rose Hill gardens. Her experience as a journalist meant that she quickly and successfully got to grips with raising the profile of the hospice. In this extract, she explains how the local newspapers came on board during the Capital Appeal and why personal stories are such an important way of spreading the word.
Helen recalls a sense of growing excitement as the money came in and later when she visited the site of the new building, marked out in tape on the grass at Wildwood. In this extracts she gives her first impression of the new hospice when it opened and how carefully she thinks it was conceived with the patients in mind.
Publicity and communications have changed a great deal since Helen’s arrival at St Ricahard’s in 2003. The hospice did have a basic website but it wasn’t interactive and has been updated twice since then. Now social media plays a big part in spreading the word about St Richard’s and its services. In this final extract, Helen talks about the challenges that lie ahead in her line of business.