As part of our “Insider Insights” series, I feature the personal perspective of a health brand CEO, senior marketer, digital or social media expert. I’m pleased to have Nancy Cawley Jean as this month’s participant. Nancy is a senior media relations officer for Lifespan, a health system in Rhode Island, splitting her time between social media for Lifespan and its affiliate hospitals.
Each guest addresses the same four questions, so that we build a wealth of perspectives and knowledge around these four issues. Here’s what Nancy has to say about the future of health brands and social media:
1. The organizations and brands that will thrive in the future are those that…
realize that consumers now have a voice and expect to be heard. Brands must be aware of the conversations taking place all around them that could damage their brand. Hospitals and the healthcare industry are no exceptions.
With today’s technology, communication has changed rapidly, and not only do consumers expect to be heard, they also expect a response. Social media is a way to do that – it is a way to build brand awareness, expand customer service, provide vital public service information and engage on a personal level with people not only in our own community but around the globe. Unless brands are willing to recognize the power of social media, they will be left behind.
2. Specific to social media, how has it impacted the way your organization conducts business?
While healthcare is a business, it is unique in the service it delivers, and we are governed by strict rules surrounding the protection of patient information. While it has not changed the way we do “business” it does offer additional areas of concern for potential violations of HIPAA policies, and that is something hospitals in particular must be cognizant of when entering the world of social media.
In our business, the tools we are offered through social media do not offer new ways of conducting business, but they allow us to expand our efforts in the realm of marketing, customer relations and communication. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube now provide new avenues to engage with our community, and hear back from them. It is another avenue through which we can receive feedback as well. As a result of social media, we can listen more to consumers, and this certainly creates the potential for an impact upon policies and procedures that will enhance the patient experience based on suggestions we hear.
3. What are the key challenges your organization is grappling with as it considers participation?
The sensitivities surrounding protected health information of our patients is always a top priority and a great concern. Our risk management and legal departments have expressed concerns over liabilities that exist in social media. As with any other new procedure, service or technology, communication to staff is vital to ensure that expectations are clear and that they are aware that even in this world of social media, HIPAA regulations and patient privacy must remain top of mind. In other words, if an employee has their own blog or is commenting on a Facebook fan page, there are certain things that are still off limits, even if it is on their own time.
4. What are your top lessons learned for implementing a social media strategy?
Sometimes the best way to learn is to jump right in, but in social media, the best approach is to start by listening – listen to what people are saying about you and your brand, listen to what other brands are saying and doing, and look to those brands in the social media world who have emerged as “leaders” – those who have figured out this new world and have been able to truly experience an impact on their reputation and improve customer relations through this medium.
Management may be hesitant to implement a social media strategy because of what is viewed as the “loss of control” but the fact is that they have already lost control given the plethora of communication vehicles available to the consumer today. Important messages to senior management must focus on acceptance that there is no longer any “control” and social media is a way to be involved in the conversations surrounding the brand.
Even in a large organization, getting the right people around the table will go a long way in developing a social media strategy. By having discussions and getting buy-in from folks like legal, human resources, risk management, and medical directors, you will have the support you need to develop appropriate policies and guidelines to help you move through the ever-changing world of social media while maintaining the focus on your overall company mission.
Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share?