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Noticed more about physios in the national media recently? You’re not imagining it, says Graham Clews

File 104123Last year more than 1,250 physiotherapy stories appeared in print, online and on television and radio

Physiotherapy is too good to keep quiet about and the CSP has been working hard to raise the profession’s profile.

More than 1,250 stories about physiotherapy, generated by the CSP, appeared last year in newspapers, magazines, websites, television and radio. That makes a total of more than a billion potential ‘reads’, with a publicity value of £2.38 million.

These are the astonishing statistics that demonstrate the worth of the society’s press and media activities in just one year.

In 2011, the CSP’s main priorities for media activity covered four areas:

 

  • the NHS reforms and cuts
  • the Physiotherapy Works campaign
  • the Move for Health programme
  • pensions and pay for CSP members

By the end of October last year, the CSP press office had secured 714 items of coverage, including 81 in the national press.

The end-of-year figure is expected to top 1,250, with a potential audience reach of more than a billion.

Crucially, 96 per cent of the media coverage for the CSP was judged to be positive, and none was deemed to be negative.

The coverage ranges from hard-hitting exclusives, devised by the CSP press office, to an expert physiotherapist’s comment on the merits – or otherwise – of the latest fitness craze sweeping the nation’s gyms.

The figures for coverage, reach and value of CSP-related press coverage were brought into even sharper focus around the public sector pensions strike of 30 November.

The total number of print and web news stories to feature the CSP or physiotherapists on the strike was over 400.

The combined circulation of these press articles reached 12 million, and the potential number of readers of the online stories hit over 200 million.

A software programme that estimates the publicity value of press coverage calculated that it would have cost the CSP some £500,000 to achieve this industrial action-related publicity alone.

In depth

Among the coverage was an in-depth case study carried by the Guardian, featuring physio Sarah Williams, who works at Russells Hall hospital in Dudley.

Sitting prominently on page seven of the national newspaper, the article explained how Ms Williams would have to pay an extra £29,600 into her pension pot over her working life to maintain her benefits, under the government’s NHS pension proposals.

This equals almost a whole year’s salary.

The paper also featured Katie Wilkie, a specialist physiotherapist at Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh.

She told the paper: ‘This the first time in my 25-year career that I have gone on strike. I don’t want to. It is not what my job is about.’

The Welsh Western Mail quoted the CSP’s assistant director of employment relations, Peter Finch, in the run-up to the strike, explaining why the industrial action was being taken.

The Times also prominently featured a physiotherapist in its strike coverage. Sara Berry, a physio who works with children with special needs at the Whittington Hospital in north London, explained that feelings were running high in a profession that was not associated with union militancy.

‘We love what we do,’ she told the newspaper. ‘It’s a vocation, but we can’t live off what they’re proposing.’

Throughout the year, the CSP press office team work hard to help journalists produce stories that should broadly support the CSP’s aims.

They provide journalists on newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and the internet with story ideas, contacts, background information and statistics.

In April, for instance, the CSP developed an original story based on the ongoing cuts to NHS physiotherapy services, and the effect that this was having on frontline care. Using a poll of more than 1,000 members, and a string of examples where services were suffering, the press office pitched its story to specific journalists.

The result was a page-lead story in The Observer newspaper, with quotes from CSP chief executive Phil Gray and a number of physiotherapists.

Commissioning

For another CSP-initiated story, the society carried out an audit of more than 100 primary care trusts in England to establish how physiotherapy services were commissioned and funded. The story was then sent to the press.

It was covered by a number of publications, including the Daily Mail, which headlined its story ‘Patients face wait of six months for NHS physio because budgets have been slashed’.

The regional press is also widely used to promote both the CSP and the physiotherapy profession.

In one case, a CSP steward working in Sheffield was supplied with information to approach the local press and supported throughout the process of the journalist researching and writing the story.

It resulted in an exclusive-tagged article for the Star in Sheffield, with the steward quoted explaining what a difficult decision it had been to go on strike, but that it was sadly necessary.

Coverage achieved by the press team falls broadly into one of two categories: policy or consumer.

The major policy issues in 2011 were the pensions dispute, NHS cuts and the planned changes to the NHS, as well as proposals to give physios the right to prescribe drugs.

CSP press office research shows that among national newspapers The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph carry the largest number of policy-related articles.

Consumer coverage can fall into a number of categories, but most common is advice on recovery from injury, or fitness and exercise more generally.

The Daily Mail and The Independent dominated CSP-related consumer articles among national newspapers.

Workout at Work Day

The very successful introduction of Workout at Work Day last September swung the balance of coverage towards consumer stories – 64 per cent of the total coverage by the end of October.

The CSP press office is often asked to provide expert comment on injuries suffered by prominent sports players.

For example, professional adviser Clare Claridge appeared on the BBC’s Breakfast programme last year to discuss the extraordinary sight of tennis star Rafa Nadal disappearing under a table during a press conference.

He blamed cramp, and when the BBC contacted the CSP’s press office, the society responded with a well-briefed professional adviser ready to be interviewed.

Clare Claridge was also quoted promoting self-referral to physiotherapy in lifestyle magazine Top Santé.

She explained that self-referral was available in about a third of NHS trusts, and suggested that readers interested in the service could simply ring their local hospital and ask if they could self refer.

The CSP also helped the magazine Runner’s World produce an article on aqua running, sparked by Olympic athlete Jo Pavey’s use of the technique to recover from injury. CSP spokesperson Sammy Margo was prominently quoted.

Getting the message across

Evidence suggests that the CSP’s media message is getting through. Polling carried out for the society last year shows that the public’s appreciation of physiotherapy has improved dramatically in just a couple of years.

The survey shows that 72 per cent of people now agree with the statement ‘Physiotherapy can help you stay healthy and improve health problems you may have’.

This compares with a figure of 60 per cent who agreed with this statement in 2009.

The message people most often took away from a CSP policy-related story was ‘concern over waiting times for physiotherapy’, according to the press office’s analysis.

‘With an increased emphasis on patient choice and good use of health budgets across the UK, it is more important than ever that we raise public awareness of the value and effectiveness of physiotherapy,’ comments the CSP’s campaigns and communications director Lynne Stockbridge.

‘The CSP PR team worked hard, with members, to achieve some excellent publicity last year.’

In 2012 the CSP press team will continue to be a vital part of the lobbying effort as the NHS reforms make their way through parliament. The Physiotherapy Works campaign will continue to be promoted.

Workout at Work day will run again. And the CSP will go on promoting physical activity and highlighting the role of physiotherapy in helping people stay in work, through ‘Move for Health’.

The London Olympic Games will present opportunities to secure positive coverage of the role that physios play with competing teams, and as volunteers. Ms Stockbridge notes that the CSP press office will have to work hard to secure coverage among the din that is likely to be all-encompassing during the summer. But on the present showing, that’s what they’ll do. fl

They work for you.... and are happy to hear from you

The senior staff who lead CSP’s marketing and communications work are:

The CSP and social media

The CSP entered the world of social media last autumn, when it opened its Twitter account.

Since then the feed has attracted more than 400 followers and the number is growing all the time.

Senior staff in CSP’s professional communications team  tweet on behalf of the society. The CSP uses Twitter for ‘outward facing’ communications to external audiences.

It is used mostly to promote CSP’s campaigning messages and to encourage people to link to news stories on the CSP website.

‘It’s a way of promoting physiotherapy to the outside world, and encouraging traffic to the CSP website,’  says Donna Castle, head of public affairs.

And an increasing number of CSP members are signing up to ‘follow’ for the CSP Twitter account, says Lynn Eaton, head of member communications.

‘We’re also being followed by some of the overseas physiotherapy organisations, including the Australian Physiotherapy Association, so it’s bringing an international dimension to getting our message across.’

The busiest day for the CSP Twitter account was 30 November. The society kept up regular updates on industrial action, with Phil Gray’s photographs from the London march posted on Twitter, while members tweeted pictures of picket lines. These were posted to the CSP website, for others to see.

Though the CSP does not have a presence on Facebook, it is considering widening its use of social media this year. But members already enjoy their own version of Facebook – the iCSP.

You can visit the CSP Twitter account by signing on at www.twitter.com and following: @thecsp

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