How smart branding can make taboo subjects easier to discuss

Running sexual health services in the UK, like any part of the NHS, is a story of challenges. Aside from ever-increasing demand from a growing population, reaching those most at risk of poor sexual health, exploitation and unwanted pregnancy is a big challenge for providers.

Virgin Care has been providing NHS services for more than a decade now, and sexual health services have been part of our portfolio since 2010. Since then, pressures on providers to improve services have been high. Commissioners (the people who buy the services from providers like Virgin Care) want to see innovative services which help the community stay well and intervene early when people are vulnerable, while the communities we serve want services that suit their lives - and that means opening more often and for longer, nearer to people’s homes and empowering them with information and access.

In the past, sexual health services have suffered from a 'bad brand'. Based at hospitals and other 'clinical' locations which have made them unattractive to visit and restricted their opening times, the reality of 'getting tested' hasn’t always been that attractive.

Waits for walk-in clinics have been long, and there’s been a social stigma around ‘getting tested’ that’s stuck around, preventing people who want to keep themselves healthy from doing the right thing.

That’s why commissioners have looked to Virgin Care, with the reputation of a no-nonsense approach and great customer service that comes with the Virgin Brand and the clinical excellence, and trustworthiness of an experienced NHS provider, to deliver the innovative and easy-to-use Sexual Health Hub.

Read: Brand purpose - five rules to follow

We’ve taken the dull and informational ‘clinic website’ and thrown it on its head to create a magazine-style site that not only empowers people to enjoy sex and stay healthy, but puts them in charge.

We’ve cut out the jargon (almost half of all adults in the UK are considered ‘health illiterate’) in our guides, and partnered with leading sexual health brands to develop content that fits people’s lives and comes from brands they trust. Our jointly-produced health literacy guide keeps our content in check, our brand consistent and our patients in the loop.

We’ve added an online portal so patients can take control of their health and book appointments wherever and whenever they are via whatever device takes their fancy – and check out their symptoms with our great content too.

And if someone really wants to speak to us, we’ve made sure that’s top-notch: a new phone system joins our services together and means there’s someone on the other end of the phone 24 hours a day during the week.

Put together, this means our patients get what they need, from people they trust, when it suits them, keeping healthy sex fun, while the Virgin brand adds its perfectly-suited red for passion and a touch of irony too.

Whether your local sexual health service is run by us or not check out www.thesexualhealthhub.co.uk yourself to find out more about how we’re helping everyone feel the difference.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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