Ensuring impact from SCRIS

What we did

Collaborate with key delivery partners

To ensure impact from SCRIS, it has been essential to embed communications capacity across the project.

The communications lead role needs access to the expertise in the SCRIS development team to understand the topic area. Having buy-in at executive level to the production team has been crucial in agreeing the communications plan.

It is important to include communications from the project outset, or understand where a communications resource could be best employed. This builds interest around a project as well as maintains momentum and engagement with potential users.

Key steps

Include communications resource as early in your project as possible.

Ask partners if they have thought about communications or if they have communications resource.

Organise virtual meetings if possible. Removing the need for travel can speed up progress – as remote working during the COVID19 pandemic demonstrates.

Have rapid weekly catch-ups (e.g. 30 minutes), chaired by the communications lead, to identify tasks and act as regular project management check-ins - these should be stand-alone meetings, for this specific purpose.

Understand SCRIS audience needs and support dialogue

Identify audiences.

It is essential to map appropriate audiences and channels through which they can be best reached. A wide variety of stakeholders was identified as SCRIS audiences. It was important to tailor messages and strategic communications approaches to each group.

SCRIS audiences summary

A more detailed description of audience groups can be found under ‘SCRIS audiences and users’.

Current Audiences – those aware of and engaging with the SCRIS dashboards and analytical service.

Potential Audiences – those who could currently apply for access to the SCRIS dashboards (i.e. NHS employees), who are not already aware of and engaged with the SCRIS dashboards and analytical service.

Future Audiences – those who may have an interest in accessing Scottish cancer data, but do not currently have potential to request access. This includes academia and those working in research outside the NHS, policy makers, patients and the public.

Identify needs

Having identified SCRIS audiences, IHDP had to understand their needs and address them.

Engagement channels

Following the SCRIS dashboards launch in May 2019, IHDP and the SCRIS team hosted a series of interactive Frontiers sessions that were designed to ensure that the ongoing SCRIS work programme and longer-term ambitions are driven by its key audiences. The first session, independently facilitated by Cancer Research UK, focused on the requirements of clinicians, service managers and cancer networks (the initial SCRIS audiences). Further sessions involved the research community (academics, the third sector, policy makers), and future events will involve patients and the public.

Using specific exploratory questions, IHDP and PHS use these sessions to improve our understanding of what different audience groups may need from the dashboards.

We also carried out a user survey to understand how current users were engaging with the SCRIS dashboards, and any issues they were having. We discovered that:

  • some users found it difficult to navigate the dashboards due to the vast amounts of information, indicators and datasets contained in them.
  • it wasn’t always clear how to carry out specific tasks, such as viewing reports, setting up shortcuts to favourite dashboards, or setting up customised views for dashboards.

Using this feedback, we developed communications and engagement activities to address each of these issues.

After the launch of the user-friendly PHS SCRIS website in December 2020, we hosted a webinar as a “refresher” to the SCRIS project, to give users a chance to ask direct questions of the SCRIS team. We also asked attendees to evaluate the webinar, to provide another round of feedback. From this, we learned that audiences would like a demonstration of the dashboard and how it could be used in their daily roles.

One important factor has been to show how audience feedback has informed future SCRIS plans, including thanking participants for contributing. This builds trust and engagement in audiences with the possibility of some becoming ambassadors in the future.

Key steps

Listen to your audiences and develop communications and engagement activities based on what they need.

Offer a range of opportunities for your audiences to feedback on their issues and requirements, for example:

  • those who are current dashboard users
  • those who are engaged in the wider SCRIS programme of work
  • those who met approval requirements to gain access to the SCRIS dashboards, but were not using them

Feedback cycle – tell your audiences what you will do based on what they have said.

Raise awareness

Priority groups.

Once audiences and channels have been identified, priority groups can be created:

  • IHDP/PHS agreed the following priority groups:
    • those who are current dashboard users
    • those who are engaged in the wider SCRIS programme of work
    • those who met approval requirements to gain access to the SCRIS dashboards, but were not using them
  • Since non-NHS researchers, academics, third sector organisations, policy makers, patients, journalists and the public do not currently have access to the SCRIS dashboards (due to data access and security rules around patient confidentiality), they are not priority audiences at present. However, future developments planned for the SCRIS dashboards and analytical service include secure access to non-identifiable Scottish cancer data for these audiences.


Distinct messaging may well be needed, depending on the target audience, for different groups.

  • For SCRIS, we had one over-arching message for all audiences: SCRIS is the go-to place for Scottish cancer data and analytics.
  • We then developed slightly different messaging for different audience groups depending on whether they already had access to the dashboards, could gain access to the dashboards on request, or if they were not currently in an approved SCRIS dashboards user group but may be able to gain access in the future.

We identified various channels that we could use to reach each of the audience groups, including a website, email, through regional cancer networks or centres, newsletters, social media accounts and events.

Key steps

Connect with your potential audiences early on.

Identify key messages (which could differ for different audiences)..

Engage audiences with your messaging and encourage them to share information in their networks.

Identify and use multiple channels (email, website, newsletter, social media, events) to engage with various audiences.

Provide resource

Communications resources.

Having a dedicated staff resource for communications was and remains a key enabling factor in getting best value from SCRIS, to:

  • plan and drive communications project management
  • provide communications expertise to deliver strategy and activities

A collaborative approach is essential. The project team can provide content and understanding of the product and its relevance to users, while the communications role can provide expert guidance on how to engage various audiences.

Dashboard user resources

For current and potential audiences, we wanted to make registering for access and learning how to use the SCRIS dashboards straightforward and highlight that SCRIS would make lives easier, not be an additional task. Tools included:

  • Video/text guides on
    • How to register for access to the SCRIS dashboards
    • How to view reports
    • How to use the most popular dashboards
  • A webinar as a refresher of SCRIS to re-engage stakeholders and attract new audiences
    • To add value, we repurposed some of the video content to use in a toolkit for health professionals.

Key steps

Give your communications professional access to all levels of project development so they can have a full understanding of the project in order to identify any communications opportunities.

Develop easily digested resources to show how the product can help people to do their jobs more effectively.

Impact Stories

The ways in which IHDP’s approach and activities contributed to improved outcomes and impact are shown through impact stories.