Cancer Research UK Facebook Page

Facebook is an important way of communicating with our supporters

In recent years we’ve seen huge changes in the digital channels through which people can access information. At Cancer Research UK we have looked hard to see how best we can communicate with the public through these media, not only to engage with people but also to ensure that they are provided with top quality information about cancer.

One thing we’ve noticed is that different channels work best for different purposes. For example it’s challenging to answer a complex medical question about cancer in the 140 characters of a tweet, but tweeting is an excellent way of keeping interested people up to date with the latest news about our research, campaigns and fundraising.

So we’re really pleased to see that the International Cancer Information Services Group (ICISG) have put together guidelines for Cancer Information Services about how best to use different types of media. As members of the ICISG we contributed to the guidelines, but there’s also been a lot of input from organisations that provide cancer information services from round the world.

The idea for the guidelines came out of a board meeting of the ICISG last year. During the meeting it became clear that many of the group’s members had questions about social media and digital communication channels. Many of the organisations who had dipped their toe into the field, out of the comfort zone of providing telephone and email based services, had drawn similar conclusions about which channel to use for different types of communication.

We have quite a bit of experience in communicating through different media. For example, we have more than 28,000 followers on Twitter and our nurse team held a day of tweets earlier in the year, to help our followers better understand what it’s like to work on our telephone helpline for people with cancer. We also have an extremely lively facebook page, which is a great way to engage with people and get support for our campaigns.

As well as providing information for people through the freephone number (0808 800 4040) and by email, our nurse teamnow answer questions on Yahoo Answers, where Cancer Research UK is a knowledge partner. They’re also writing for a three month period on Netdoctor, and run weekly Q and A sessions on our forum Cancer Chat. And, of course, we mustn’t forget that this blog itself is an important source of information about the latest research and cancer stories in the news.

As all of us move forward and explore new ways of communicating with each other we have to make every effort to choose the right channels to communicate different information. So it’s great to see these guidelines have been produced, and we hope it gives confidence that we’re doing our best to make sure we communicate with you through the right channel and in the right way.

Martin Ledwick, Head of Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Information Nurses