On a recent city break to Glasgow, I paid a visit to the Gallery of Modern Art. I must confess that while I respect the creativity and imagination that went into the pieces on display, I suffer from a general ignorance of understanding exactly how the artists were trying to reach out. After a brief attempt at appreciating the local culture as expressed by the modern artists, I retreated downstairs to the more familiar surroundings of the museum coffee shop. What I encountered there surprised and impressed me in equal measure.
At the far end of the coffee shop was a Macmillan Cancer Information and Support service. They had an array of information leaflets about the various types of cancer. In addition, they provided comic books designed to help parents explain about cancer to children. A notice on the wall indicated that people should free up the table and chairs under it one day a week for a support worker, who would be available to talk to patients, carers, family and friends about their concerns. This is such a brilliant way to reach out to those who are coping with cancer.
The fact that this information service and support is not in a clinical environment is of great benefit. Cancer patients and their loved ones spend a lot of time in hospitals and clinics. Therefore, a more relaxed, cosy coffee shop can give them a sense of normality at such a challenging time. Coming to terms with a serious illness can take a while and some patients appreciate the discretion and privacy of being able to browse through information leaflets at their leisure or to have a chance to gather the courage to talk to someone and ask for advice.
When someone is ill, it is like when a stone is thrown into a pond. The consequences of their illness have a ripple effect which impacts on the loved ones as well as the patient. They desperately want to help but are sometimes at a loss to know how to go about it in the best way. To have an outreach service that is accessible to the wider community is a wonderful way to provide useful help. Also, it is important to provide expert knowledge to family, friends, neighbours, employers and teachers. This is because they are in regular contact with the patient and their families.
The Role of PR
This kind of information and support service programme is a brilliant example of public relations practice. It can be beneficial at times of great stress and worry. The burden of illness can be debilitating so community engagement and effective reach out can alleviate the distress a little.
If you would like to learn more about how to use public relations to benefit your community, have a look at this online public relations course.See More