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We have a saying in our office: There's no such thing as a slow summer. I'm sure anyone who works in healthcare and hospital marketing and PR would agree. On the other hand, it seems that in social media, engagement drops a bit as people are enjoying summer vacations. It's a good time to reflect on things in a lighter, more relaxed way, and it is what inspired me to write this post.
It has been barely more than three years since we launched our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts to support the marketing efforts for our health system. As I look back on it, every one of those days has been different. It might be meeting new people, helping a patient resolve a complaint, sending out best wishes to someone whose family member is a patient, or simply learning something new in the social media world.
There also can be some darker days, when the thoughtful and well-planned posts garner no response or there is a need to ban a user from Facebook due to policy violations.
All of these examples can or do happen to anyone who manages social media for a hospital, in real life and in real time. It can be incredibly rewarding, and sometimes overwhelming, but these examples are exactly why hospitals must understand that the person who manages social media wears many hats, and for all intents and purposes, IS the public face of the hospital in all those social media outlets.
As I take time this summer to reflect on my role, there is one thing that stands out for me. For the first time in more than 25 years in healthcare communications, I feel like I am actually able to connect with people. I'm inspired by the opportunity to help someone in a one-on-one situation almost every day. I've provided a link to a map of our largest hospital campus for someone looking for the right parking lot for their appointment. I've helped a volunteer get into an orientation so she could be at the hospital during her summer break, not in September when she was back at school. I've sent kind words to families who were worried about their child in the pediatric intensive care unit. I've shared excitement with families when a loved one reaches a milestone or turns a corner or gets discharged.
Those are things I could never do when I was coordinating events, writing speeches, managing a press conference or pitching a story. From a marketing standpoint, these are kinds of actions that create a lasting impression of an organization, and help to instill brand loyalty among members of the community.
That, in a nutshell, is the beauty of social media, and why it's so powerful for hospitals. It creates an opportunity for a personal connection to be made to your patients, their families, your community and beyond. Hospitals are scary places, but social media might just be able to make them a little less scary. At least I hope so. What do you like best about social media?
Nancy Cawley Jean is a senior media relations officer for the Lifespan health system in Rhode Island, managing social media for five hospitals and a women's medicine practice.
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