Case Study Proposal

Working in partnership with the NHS (National Health Service), this case study shall take place at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske (RCHT) within the Communications and Press Office department, between Tuesday 26th April 2011 – Friday 13th May 2011. Working with Communication’s manager, Laura Mason and fellow members of the team, the case study will engage in taking part and observing how the trust maintains a public image with the local media, along with advice and news management techniques used on a daily basis. As well as this, the placement will also consist of added journalistic workloads, working alongside a range of marketing, public relations, and educational materials which are produced in the form of brochures, booklets and magazines.

The Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske is one of three operated by the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, along with St. Michaels Hospital, Hayle and West Cornwall Hospital, Penzance. The larger of the three in Cornwall, Treliske, as it is formerly known, is the main District General Hospital in the region, and is set up to deal with many kinds of disease, injuries, urgent health threats and emergency matters. What took six years of planning and development the Trelawny Wing, RCHT’s main healthcare department, officially opened in 1998 and to date is the largest single investment of health care Cornwall has seen. Providing patients with the quality of healthcare they need, the trust is also a teaching hospital. Used for clinical training of medical students from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, Treliske is one of six campus sites scattered around South West England, and is maintained by University College Plymouth and the University of Exeter.

The trust has experienced negative press in recent years, mainly as a result of the debt crisis of more than £30 million, along with failing to meet the standard hygiene procedures back in 2009. Building a relationship with the local media is key, and today the term “press” no longer means newspapers and magazines. This has changed, and now includes radio, TV and the World Wide Web. Establishments need to know who to turn to in the cry of a breaking story, therefore networking the right person for a particular matter is essential. Within this case study, the main interest will surround this, and have based the case study question on similar grounds. ‘How does Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske Press Office build and maintain a relationship with the local media?’

Working with both the establishment and press whilst on placement, observation is essential when answering this question, and is a necessary methodology of collecting data whilst on the placement. Seen in the Harper School case study report taken from Robert Stake’s The Art of Case Study Research (1995), observation allows for participant viewpoints, may they be structured or unstructured, along with gaining a sense of setting and idea of interactions between one another within a natural environment. This later provides a thick description for further analysis. Analysing a person’s body language, or vocal tone in their everyday environment can all add to the way a relationship is formed and can be key to collecting data.

Observing the relationship between two subjects, further methodologies will also need to be considered. Formal and Informal interviews may have to take place, gaining views from both the press office, and members of the press with regards to one another. May they be semi-structured or unstructured depending on the time scale, these will allow the viewpoint of data to triangulate, resulting my data collection to become more accurate.

Whilst carrying out this research within these chosen methodologies, a number of further questions are going to have to be considered when reviewing this. Early suggestions will include:

How does RCHT work with the press?
How does the press work with what RCHT provide them?
Does RCHT work alongside a variety of local media organisations, or are they specific?
What impression comes out of both RCHT and the press when working alongside one another?

There is a direct link between journalists’ relationship with an organisation’s press team and the impact this can have on the ‘slant’ of articles. Andrew Berman, Professor of journalism, believes he knows the key to where relationships tend to be at best. He believes an establishment needs to build their own database, a list of relevant media publications in the area along with a contact name and number on hand, later thanking them for a particularly positive story or to discuss a negative one. Press offices know what journalists want from a story, and must use what Berman sees as “the three P’s” when dealing with the press. Profession, Patience and Politeness. Berman’s theory suggests the relationship between the two acts like a friendship, and mirrors a typical love-hate relationship between two people. He suggests further the expected norms of human interaction come into this direct link, following the example ‘if you are good to someone, someone will be pleased to return the favour.’

Carrying out a research project within the NHS, it is important to consider the ethical implications of the study. Studies involving confidential information surrounding NHS patients, staff and equipment will not be included within the write-up of the project. To ensure this, it has been confirmed that Laura Mason will read the final case study report to allow any confidential material to be removed from the final write-up. Any copyright material issued, must also receive permission to be published or edited at a later stage if necessary.

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