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What job candidates can teach healthcare communicators

January 7th, 2014

by Nancy Cawley Jean

Sometimes we do a job for so long that we lose perspective. We think "been there, done that." But with a new year just beginning, it's a great time to take a fresh look.

I recently had the opportunity to interview a candidate to fill an open position on our media relations team in replace of a colleague who recently left. I developed four questions I thought would give me a good sense of her work style and skills and where her passion lies. Getting a better feel for that would help me determine if she was a good fit for our team.

The interview went really well, and the questions did exactly what I hoped. They led us to a much deeper discussion of how things have changed in the world of public relations, marketing, and inevitably, social media.

As I spoke with her, though, I realized our discussion was actually making me reexamine how we do things. As a result, I came up with two essential actions hospitals should consider when launching their own marketing plans and social media efforts in the new year.

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Blogging - Don't have a blog? That's understandable. While incredibly valuable from a content marketing standpoint, they are time and resource intensive. So why not counter that by looking for guest blog opportunities for your experts. They could be either one-time posts on a breaking news item or a regular column on timely topics. Either way, by selecting well-respected and well-read sites (think KevinMD, Women's Health or Psychology Today), you're positioning your expert among a whole new segment in the population. Be sure to include links to your social sites so these new readers, in turn, can connect with you there.

What's on your calendar - Hopefully you've got a calendar for social media, similar to an editorial calendar that will guide your content through the year, at least on a general basis. But is that working for you? How are you developing that calendar--are you building it in a silo, or as part of a team looking at the larger objectives and mission within the organization? Does the calendar include posts that will build engagement and trust for your brand, or is it only a placeholder to support tactics in the marketing plan? It's a new year, and it's time to evaluate your calendar and its content.

That brings me to another topic I didn't discuss with the candidate, but something that needs to be addressed on a regular basis:

Analytics - That dreaded word. But the fact is, if you're not looking at how your social media efforts are working, then they are probably not worth doing. We all know resources are short, especially financial ones, but the back-end analytics on many of the more popular social media sites like Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are all free. (As a side note, if you set up a Twitter advertising account, you will then have access to the analytics for your account. On Pinterest, as long as you verify your website, you also will have access to the analytics.) These give you a snapshot of what is and isn't working in your social media plan.

You also can dig as deeply as you'd like in many of them. I've found Tweet Reach for Twitter accounts, campaigns and hashtags. For Pinterest, you can check out one of my favorites, Tailwind (formerly PinReach). If you do have a budget for it, then you've got even more choices. The fact is, though you can still analyze what you're doing at a basic level for free, you want to be sure you're moving in the right direction and not wasting your time in the social world.

Those are three things we should all be looking at as we start the new yea; but there are plenty more. What are you reevaluating this year in terms of your social media plan?

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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