Remembering the “Social” Aspect of Social Media

How to Use Social Media to Build Meaningful Relationships with Patients

Social media has evolved into one of the most important ways businesses across all industries can connect with consumers, and the healthcare industry is no exception. In fact, one recent study showed that 57 percent of people choose their healthcare providers based on their social media presence – proving how integral social media is to the overall patient experience.

While most providers know how vital social media is to their success, many find themselves still struggling to truly engage with their followers. In an effort to prove their level of prestige and experience, they often focus too much of their content on clinical topics and forget about the human, “caring” side of healthcare.

So, how can healthcare organizations build meaningful relationships with their followers by bringing back the social part of social media? Below are a few tips to help healthcare providers tap into their emotional side and establish lasting connections with their patients.

 Showcase employees.

When selecting a doctor, patients tend to choose a physician who they feel they can trust and build a connection with. While most doctors don’t have time to get to know their patients during appointments, social media has created another way for them to become more of a familiar face outside of the office.

One example of this is client Holy Redeemer Health System’s recurring “Practitioner Spotlight” social media series. Back in July, we published a blog post about how we use this series to highlight a different physician each week by sharing a photo of the doctor and summary of his or her practice, experience and hobbies. This series still garners the most engagement from followers compared to the rest of Holy Redeemer’s posts, as it allows them get to know their doctors beyond what’s listed on the website.

Share patient-centered content.

Posting relatable content is one of the best ways a healthcare brand can engage with consumers – and there’s nothing more relatable than posts involving other patients. When a provider posts about its patients, it helps followers “see themselves” in the content and feel as if the organization understands who they are as a person.

Along with the Practitioner Spotlight series, content that showcases patients receives high levels of engagement on Holy Redeemer’s social media pages. From photos of an “Eagles pep rally” held in its maternity ward before last year’s Super Bowl to an article about a puppy parade visiting residents at one of its senior living facilities, sharing positive patient stories allows them to consistently resonate with followers in an emotional way.

Use a professional and empathetic voice.

In addition to learning more about a provider, people often reach out on social media because they are worried about something related to their health. While it’s important for providers to show that they’re knowledgeable, it’s just as crucial to be empathetic when talking to their followers, as well. Patients look to practitioners as trusted resources when they aren’t feeling well, so using a professional and comforting voice will help them feel less hesitant about seeking care when they’re experiencing health issues.

Be as responsive as possible.

One of the most important, yet forgotten aspects of a brand’s social media pages is that they act as a way for consumers to have direct communication with the organization. If a business doesn’t respond to its messages or comments – especially negative ones – it can create the impression that it doesn’t truly care about its followers.

Whenever possible, aim to respond to any negative comments or messages within an hour of when it’s posted. Even if you don’t have the necessary information right away and have to give a “non-answer,” responding promptly will help patients believe that their concerns are heard and being taken seriously.

When used correctly, social media is one of the best ways for healthcare providers to connect and build relationships with their current and prospective patients outside of the doctor’s office.

Partnering Makes Healthcare PR Less Lonely

Collaborate to Share Work and Celebrate Success

Public relations can be a lonely function, especially when we bear the weight of delivering earned media for healthcare provider clients in major markets.  It requires high doses of adrenalin and drive, assuming your material is newsworthy on its own merit.

Recently at SPRYTE we’ve been enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate with other healthcare communicators because the physicians we support are themselves collaborating with innovative partners.

Our portfolio includes work for both independent doctors in private practice and non-profit hospitalists.

Relievus and NeuroFlow Advancing Management of Pain Patients

Dr. Young Lee, founding partner of Relievus, a multi-location pain management specialty medical practice, collaborated with local Philadelphia start up NeuroFlow to test a mobile software platform that patients check in with daily.  NeuroFlow gives providers daily insight into patients’ mental health – a key indicator for care plan adherence.

In mHealthIntelligence,  a mental health and telehealth online publication targeted to healthcare practitioners, Dr Lee said, “We used to document (a patient’s mental status), but we didn’t do anything about it. Now we’re paying attention to mental health and we’re realizing that pain is not just a physical issue. This is a physical and mental issue.”

Our clients at Relievus asked SPRYTE to work with NeuroFlow to help their experienced public relations consultant deliver earned media about their platform.  NeuroFlow needed real life examples of doctors using NeuroFlow in the field and Dr. Lee was an early adopter and an enthusiastic partner to NeuroFlow.

As can be imagined, our biggest challenge was finding time in Dr. Lee’s schedule for media interviews.  The opportunities had already been sourced by NeuroFlow and they were good ones.  We just had to step in and deliver the doctor.  So, in addition to the placement in mHealthIntelligence, Dr. Lee and Relievus’ use of NeuroFlow were also featured in the Camden Courier Post the daily newspaper serving the practice’s flagship headquarters location in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Of course, doctors in private practice aren’t the only ones pursuing collaborations that positively impact patient care.

AirXpander®  Revolutionizes Patients’ Preparation for Reconstructive Breast Surgery.

Our longtime clients at Holy Redeemer Heath System asked us to support Chief of Surgery Dr. William Scarlett and his use of an innovative approach to preparing a patient for reconstructive breast surgery, the use of a new medical device, AirXpander®


In this case, SPRYTE’s collaboration was directly with the manufacturer, AeroFlow  The marketing team was delighted by the potential for consumer earned media and available and helpful every step of the way.

First, they confirmed Dr. Scarlett was the first and only physician using AirXpander® in the greater Philadelphia market.  And we needed that confirmation to make the claim.

We were also supplied with great imagery and solid explanations of the product to expand what Dr. Scarlett shared with us.

But what Holy Redeemer delivered was key to the success of our consumer media outreach, a wonderful and satisfied patient spokesperson who was thrilled with Dr. Scarlett and her AirXpander experience.

Patient Miriam Dougherty’s willingness to be interviewed on camera with Dr. Scarlett was critical to SPRYTE’s delivery of a television feature segment on Philadelphia’s number one rated local network 6ABC 

So, in these two SPRYTE examples, public relations wasn’t so lonely.  In the case of Relievus, we saw another communications pro work his magic but he needed Dr. Lee to deliver a solid story to both consumer and trade media.  SPRYTE’s advocacy for Relievus and our expert coordination and facilitation skills led to two excellent earned media placements for both businesses.

With Holy Redeemer we secured the earned media opportunities and worked with the physician and patient spokespeople with the enthusiastic support of the device manufacturer.  

Most collaborators will tell you that communication among partners is critical to success and we agree.  Clearing up any blurred breakdowns of responsibility is job number one.  When they work, collaborations are truly a beautiful thing.  Pursuing client goals with other healthcare communicators and delivering results together is energizing and those earned media placements are a great way to stoke doctors’ continued interest in earned media, highlighting their successful approaches to patient care in the most credible way while building the brands of their healthcare provider organizations.

The Media Advisory is a Critical Tool

Healthcare Providers in Pursuit of TV Coverage Need to Nail Them

What we refer to as a Media Advisory at SPRYTE Communications is also sometimes called a Media Alert or a Calendar Alert. Whatever you call it, the Media Advisory is a critical media relations tool for encouraging television news coverage of a single event or function.

For many healthcare communicators, in large and small media markets alike, winning television coverage can be elusive.

You have to think like a producer and succinctly present the opportunity for the cameras to shoot very strong visuals, the kind you see every night on TV news. The following factors are also important and can make or break a TV opportunity:

  • Day of the Week: SPRYTE likes a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday.
  • Time of Day: We like mid late morning.
  • Proximity to News Station: If it’s more than a 30-minute drive, that adds challenge.

Here are some of the shortcomings of Media Advisories I’ve seen written at SPRYTE over the years:

  •  Visuals aren’t mentioned.
  •  Headlines lack creativity.
  •  Dispassionate.
  •  A specific time for the main “moment” isn’t given.
  •  Longer than one page.
  •  Written like a News Release.
  •  Lacking parking and entrance instructions.

We do a lot of Media Advisory training actually, more than I would have expected for both seasoned and more junior pros with media relations responsibilities. The reasons these folks need training?

  • Don’t ever watch television news.
  • Don’t sell it.
  • Value print over broadcast coverage.

When You Hear the Anchor Use Your Words

When the TV Anchor uses your words to accompany the video their cameraperson shot at your event from the anchor desk, you know you wrote good ones.

That was the case in December when SPRYTE reached out to televisions news assignment desks in pursuit of their coverage of an intimate and humble graduation ceremony for a large faith-based social service agency it represents in Southeast Pennsylvania.

Two adults completing Episcopal Community ServicesRISE Initiative were celebrated at a non-traditional recognition ceremony.
SPRYTE’s Media Advisory  enticed Philadelphia’s number one rated local television news station, 6 ABC, to send a cameraman to cover the program.

The resulting television news segment included favorite local anchorwoman 6 ABC’s Monica Malpass including words from SPRYTE’s Media Advisory headline.

Part of our earned media strategy for Episcopal Community Services includes attempting to win coverage of key milestones in their program year including RISE Initiative completion recognition programs for the following reasons:

Reasons to Pursue TV News Coverage

  • Shows (rather than tells) their great organization in action.
  •  Simplifies a multi-faceted mission by focusing on one great, visual moment.
  • Covers a wide geography.
  • Affirms donors’ good decision to support you.
  • Boosts morale of program participants and staff alike.
  • Builds the organization’s brand in the community in a visible way.

Remember sometimes the cameras don’t show up to even the most inspiring, visually-charged and meaningful events. We all know that can happen. But if we think there is potential for a great TV story that will be enjoyed by viewers throughout our media market, we will try at all costs to get the coverage again next time too.