Skip to main content

Key takeaways:

  • Review new employee advocacy initiatives: Gauge staff willingness to use newer platforms and start with a pilot program, especially in healthcare where community support can mitigate negative interactions.
  • Revamp your social media guidelines: Develop clear, concise social media guidelines with legal teams, avoiding complexity and sticking to existing rules for consistency during election periods.
  • Monitor your content strategy during this critical time: Regularly monitor analytics to adjust content strategies based on engagement, ensuring non-political messages still reach and resonate with the audience during tense political climates.

During our recent leadership panel on social media planning in an election year, and Health members shared essential insights on how to strategically manage social media in the heated context of an election year.

We’ll examine the crucial focus areas our members shared for protecting your brand reputation and effectively engaging with audiences.

Q: How should you launch an employee advocacy program to get more faculty active on X/Twitter near election time?

John Nelson

John Nelson, Vice President of Communications at Kaiser Permanente:

John emphasized the importance of understanding your staff and team’s willingness to engage in potentially contentious discussions on X. For healthcare systems, he suggested having candid conversations with faculty members to ensure they understand the platform’s dynamics.

“It depends a lot on the appetite of that faculty audience to dive into something that is going to be very robust and, at times, unpleasant conversations that are happening on X today,” John explained.

He advised starting with a pilot program if there is hesitation. John also highlighted that healthcare professionals often benefit from a supportive community that can mitigate negative interactions.

“If you’re talking particularly about folks who are in healthcare, you get an extra halo,” John said. “The community is relatively forgiving and will even come and help heal and protect in a lot of ways,” he noted.

Q: Are there any examples available of policies for staff members’ use of personal social media and what they may be saying online?

Sarah Rose Watkins

Sarah Rose Watkins, Global Media and Issues Management Manager at FedEx:

Sarah recommended developing clear and concise social media guidelines in collaboration with the legal team.

“We do have social media guidelines, and we worked with our legal team to create those,” she shared.

She also stressed the importance of making these guidelines straightforward and avoiding overly complex or vague language. Sarah suggested that sticking to existing guidelines might be more effective than introducing new ones specifically for the election year.

“If you create something super complicated and vague, it’s not going to work,” she advised.

Q: When will social media begin to be saturated with political campaigns, and when should we begin to pull back efforts?

Sandra Phillips

Sandra Phillips, Director of Content Strategy at UC San Diego Health:

Sandra highlighted the need to monitor analytics to determine when political content starts to dominate your specific region. 

“It’s going to be dependent on your area and how large of an area you cover in your audience,” Sandra said. “It’s important to look at your analytics.”

She added that if engagement begins to decline, it might be time to adjust your content strategy.

Sandra noted that many users filter out political content, meaning your messages can still reach and resonate with your audience.

“Keep a pulse on your analytics, look at the year-over-year of your cycles and see when it’s happening,” she recommended, adding that keeping a close eye on data and being ready to pivot is essential.

Q: How should social media teams deal with individuals who send complaints and staff who may be breaking guidelines?

Danielle Thompson

Danielle Thompson, Social Media Manager at Dartmouth Health:

Danielle shared her approach to handling complaints about staff conduct on social media. She advised verifying the complaint’s details through a background check, including checking the active directory and public social media profiles.

“Our standard response is, ‘Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” Danielle explained. “We’ll be sure to address it with the people that need to know.”

She said the information is then forwarded to employee relations for action. Danielle also recommended acknowledging the complaint and informing the complainant that the issue will be addressed without promising specific follow-up actions. 

“We never promise to the person that has submitted the information that we’re going to get back to them or that we’ve taken any action,” Danielle said. “We just say, ‘Thank you for the information. We’re sharing it with the people that need to know.”

Q: What lessons can you share from the last presidential election?

Sandra Phillips, Director of Content Strategy at UC San Diego Health:

Sandra reflected on the significant role of COVID-19 during the last election. As a health institution, being at the forefront of vaccine distribution and providing expert information helped UC San Diego Health boost their community presence.

“Our infectious disease experts were at the forefront, working with other academic medical centers and the CDC,” Sandra said. “This gave us a boost in our community, showing that we had people at the forefront trying to help.”

Sarah Rose Watkins, Global Media and Issues Management Manager at FedEx:

Sarah advised that if your brand takes a stance on political issues, ensure it is well-founded and aligns with your mission or DEI strategy. 

“If you are going to come out and say something on behalf of your brand, have a reason for it,” she emphasized. 

Sarah also stressed the importance of preparing executives for media interactions, as their statements can significantly impact your organization. 

“Know what your executives are saying because if they say something off the cuff, your social media team is going to be dealing with it,” she cautioned.

John Nelson, Vice President of Communications at Kaiser Permanente:

John highlighted the significance of early voting in the context of the last presidential election and its continuing impact. He mentioned that by election day, a substantial portion of Americans will have already voted, some even weeks in advance via mail-in ballots.

He explained the importance of considering the timing and content of social media messaging, as audiences may have already made their voting decisions.

“Going back to our earlier conversations about not going dark and not assuming it’s all going to be negative and all taken over by politics — it won’t be,” John said. “There will be an audience looking for something else. So keep that in mind.”

Gain More Insights from Senior Social Media Leaders

Navigating social media during an election year requires a delicate balance of timing, readiness, and strategic communication. Catch all the insights shared by and Health members by watching the panel recording here.

To gain more insights on how to plan for election years, you can join your peers in Our members meet weekly to benchmark their top strategies and provide actionable insights to help you run effective social media programs.

Interested in learning more about membership?

As a social media leader, your mission is important. We’re here to help you win.