Julia Kramkova

Before she joined UPMC, Julia worked in a completely different industry in social media.

You have to be passionate about what you’re putting out there while accepting that it’s not always going to get the reception you want.

She was hired on to a digital agency right out of college and picked up local Pittsburgh grocery store chain, Giant Eagle, as a client. There, she managed their social media channels, developed content and promotions, and helped grow their presence.

And while it may sound like a big leap from Giant Eagle to UPMC (a brand with 21 hospitals and over 62,000 employees), she says it’s not without its similarities. For example, both have to balance reaching different audiences simultaneously.

“At a grocery store, you may have foodies who care about new ways to cook an expensive kind of meat or who are willing to explore new ingredients. That’s much different from the average Joe looking for the best deal on basic staples,” Julia explains.

“At UPMC, we have to reach moms with healthy families just looking for wellness tips as well as the cancer patient or someone with a heart condition looking for medical information. Through social media, we have to make sure the content we’re distributing is consistently of interest to a lot of different areas.”

To reach those audiences, Julia works closely with the paid media and search part of her team.

She says their approach is to house content on UPMC’s HealthBeat blog and distribute it to social as a way to drive traffic back to the blog. They rely on search insights to determine what people are looking for, see what’s trending, and develop content calendars.

Their team is split into two halves: On one side, developers, content managers, and specialists maintain UPMC’s digital entities and websites. Julia sits on the side focused mainly on engagement where she works directly with analytics, search, paid media, and email.

Physically, the team all sits in close proximity to one another, which helps them collaborate and change gears quickly, according to Julia.

“When something sparks our interest, we’re immediately talking to each other about it.”

We’re not afraid to pause our regular work, take a risk, and develop something new and different to see if it works or not.

“We’re not afraid to pause our regular work, take a risk, and develop something new and different to see if it works or not.”

She says regular communication is the only way they’re able to go above and beyond their regular responsibilities to test new ideas and push the limits. They also have occasional two-hour meetings throughout the year with people from IT, creative, analytics, and the clinical side to have an open brainstorm across departments.

It’s helped them collaborate on projects like Medical Mondays, one of UPMC’s first 360-degree campaigns. Each week they work with clinical marketers to pick a service line and feature it on the blog, in social, native advertising, digital ads, and traditional media.

“It’s been really exciting to see the different areas of UPMC’s marketing team come together to put something like that out. We’ve seen a lot of articles starting to grow in organic rankings just because people are really engaged in that content, and Google recognizes that,” Julia says.

But even with successful campaigns like these, the unpredictability of social media is a challenge.

“You have to be passionate about what you’re putting out there while accepting that it’s not always going to get the reception you want.”

For one thing, Facebook’s regulations on UPMC’s content can be confusing. In one example, Julia explains that channel reps pushed back on an article about tonsil stones because UPMC used a photo of someone’s mouth. Facebook said the photo was an “idealized image.” And in some cases, a campaign predicted to be successful can fall flat without a clear reason.

“There are many things outside of your control, and that’s what makes social media so great and so difficult at the same time. It’s so real-time and so personal that you never know how people are feeling that day and how they’re going to react.”

In this industry, she says it’s just as rewarding when something works well.

Some of their most successful posts showcase the simple things that happen in their hospital every day. For example, a simple photo of newborns in stockings who were born over the holidays, or the story of a doctor who sings to every one of the newborn babies he delivers.

UPMC Facebook

Julia says, “It’s nice to see something so simple, innocent, and good be so successful. The rare opportunities where we get to showcase our professionals and people respond really positively is when I feel like we did a good job.”

Find Julia on Twitter and ask her about kickboxing and great Russian food.


  1. Kelly Mellott |

    While I am sure that Julia Kramkova has produced nice content for UPMC, I have to post a correction – she did not produce the Singing Doctor pieces. She did not even work for UPMC at the time these pieces were created. I was the producer, writer and interviewer for all the singing Doctor projects and videography credit goes to Steve Mihalic.

    It’s really not cool to take credit for work that is not yours – we’re all in the industry together and should understand that.

  2. Kevin Smith |

    As the director for both of you while at UPMC I didn’t read this as anyone attempting to take credit for the Singing Doctor pieces. To me, it read like the author mentioned them as an example of engaging and popular content that UPMC created.

    While I get your sensitivity to content that you worked extremely hard on and that wouldn’t have been produced without you and Steve, I certainly don’t see her taking credit for it.

    You both have produced tremendous content and assets for UPMC and were able to work in a difficult, political environment while keeping the patients and communities as your main focus, not the easiest thing to do.

    I hope you’re doing well in your current role, they’re lucky to have you.

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