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[PODCAST] Your Social Media Policy: The Missing Piece in Healthcare Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Every company should have a social media policy—and most healthcare organizations already do. Too often, however, that policy is a document handed to new employees that gets lost in the shuffle. It may only be a few forgotten lines in an employee handbook. Today’s podcast guest knew there had to be a better way.

Diane Lang is the Senior Manager of Social Media for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Her recent presentation at SHSMD 2018 was called, “Teaching Social: Why Understanding Social Media’s Usage and Impact Is Important for Every Employee," and I had the chance to catch up with her right after her talk.

Press play to hear our interview or keep reading for my insights.

The Problem with Most Healthcare Social Media Policies

Lang points out that every organization should have a social media policy. But simply having a policy doesn’t mean employees will be aware of it.

She asks, “What do you do beyond handing out that legal-size double-sided single-spaced piece of paper that every new hire gets in their folder with everything else? What do you do to further their education?”

Person's hands rummaging through file cabinet files

Don't let your policy end up here!

Most employees at her organization, it turned out, were stashing that paper away and forgetting about it. And that led to mistakes.

Additionally, they were unaware of the way patients and consumers use social media. They had no background on where patients were going to complain about patient care—or how to handle those complaints.

Unfortunately, the hospital dealt with an unfavorable viral incident, but they used it as a learning opportunity. That led to the idea to educate the entire hospital, from the CEO down to every new hire.

What Does It Mean to Have a Complete Workforce Social Media Curriculum?

And that's how the complete workforce social media curriculum came to be. Lang is one of two people who oversee this curriculum at Nationwide. All in all, they train 13,000 people on the topics of advocacy, professionalism, awareness, and compliance in social media.

On top of her responsibilities for creating proactive and reactive social media marketing messages, handling reputation management and reviews, and managing blog content, Lang has governance over additional users of social media affiliated with Nationwide: including service lines, groups, and individual physicians or clinicians who might have affiliated accounts.

Her team of two is responsible for developing and updating this curriculum, working with the Center for Faculty Development to distribute curriculum to new hires and existing faculty, and working one-on-one with many physicians and clinicians.

Another major responsibility involved getting this curriculum approved in the first place. Leadership was nervous about social media and the hospital's usage of it, let alone individual physicians sharing content. But after a thorough risk assessment and presentation of positive social media usage throughout the hospital (along with legal approval), her team was able to get leadership on board and have her curriculum approved.

Methods of Communicating Curriculum

In creating this complete workforce social media curriculum, Lang and her team developed many different ways of communicating that curriculum to various departments, service lines, and individuals. For example, they hold departmental meetings and use an intranet model that managers must review annually.

However, most of the curriculum is voluntarily. Employees can opt to view infographics, listen to podcasts, attend lunch and learns, and much more. It turns out that people want to advocate for the hospital. They just need access to training that can help them become social media masters and do it in a really compliant way.

Related: 5 Social Media Essentials for Healthcare Marketing

It’s important to keep the curriculum current, constantly changing up the presentations to keep them at top of mind. The curriculum also includes constant reminders of the rules (avoid befriending patients, obtain consent forms, etc.).

Lang and her colleague take turns every other week speaking to new hires. They also work with the Center for Faculty Development to get physicians engaged and help the curriculum trickle down to other departments.

Leading by Peer Example

Physicians and faculty are motivated by their peers’ success on social media. And Lang is thankful that she came into this curriculum already armed with a few really great case studies...and some good examples of what not to do.

The curriculum includes examples of, say, graphic depictions of blood or poor phrasing that could get a physician or hospital in trouble (or lead to serious trolling). It’s not just a blind social media policy; these are case studies with statistics to back up their misuse.

Even more effective are their positive examples of individual physician success. For example, one of their suicide prevention coordinators wrote an article about a Netflix series centered on suicide and shared the article on social media. Although he was new to Twitter, that reach got him national speaking engagements and earned media with CNN and USA Today.

When a message like suicide prevention is spreading so effectively, it can’t help but trickle down to other positions in the hospital, inspiring others to become thought leaders and share their insights on social media. Besides, a survey showed that 84% of locals were searching for healthcare information online. Her team wants to make sure the information they find is accurate and helpful, and that’s something all physicians can get behind.

We ended our talk with an important reminder from Lang, “We have to continue the education constantly. This is not something we can let people forget. We cannot rest on our laurels. We have to remember to reintroduce the policy to staff members over and over because everyone is using it.”

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