Gina Czark

Gina Czark on starting NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s social presence from scratch

Gina Czark is the first Head of Social Media for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

She took the job when she made the switch from the agency side to the brand side — a move the former reporter said she made so she could “be a storyteller again.”

“When you're at an agency — whether it's in marketing, advertising, or PR — in many cases, you're juggling multiple clients, and you don't always get time to dedicate to that one client. For me, I wanted to work for a brand that I truly believed in and to really help grow and define what that brand's story would be, especially in the online space.”

“What I loved about the opportunity at NewYork-Presbyterian was that I wasn't inheriting anything,” Gina says.

“I could grow this from the ground up and build something I believed in.”

And with a “lean and mighty team of two,” she and her Community Manager colleague Jessica Fillinger's first order of business was to meet with stakeholders across the hospitals' multiple campuses.

For about two months, they met with the more than 20,000 employees at NewYork-Presbyterian's multiple campuses to listen to their needs, ideas, and concerns. After that, they developed a plan and presented it to the hospital's president.

With just two people handling social for one of the largest hospitals in the country, they recruited “all-stars” to help source content.

They created an ambassador program made up of staff from key content areas like their children's hospital, volunteer department, senior leadership, and food and nutrition. Those initial 30 employees regularly shared content with Gina and Jessica and helped act as the eyes and ears of all the amazing things taking place at the hospital.

“We're trying to function like a newsroom, so our editorial calendar reflects what's happening in the healthcare news cycle, the awareness months, and includes listening to what our community wants.”

And as for community management, Gina says, “I don't believe in outsourcing social to an agency. While there's always room for support with design, strategy, or creative, I don't envision ever giving up control of community management. When you're working for a brand, you know that brand better than anyone else — the players, the voice, and also the boundaries.”

Gina says having senior leadership support helped shape NewYork-Presbyterian's social media program.

We can't really articulate the story of our hospitals without our employees.

In addition to having an active Twitter presence himself, NewYork-Presbyterian's President, Dr. Robert Kelly, encourages staff to connect with him on social media and embrace it as another communications vehicle.

“That really changed the tone of our social media program. When you see your leaders taking part in something, you feel more comfortable participating. Once they started interacting and sharing their thoughts throughout their day, it made for a very organic and real experience,” Gina explains.

Having a lot of employees active in social is a good problem to have for Gina.

Given the brand, there's heightened sensitivity to HIPAA and respecting patient privacy. The team sometimes has to get creative and think outside the box, and their staff helps.

“We can't really articulate the story of our hospitals without our employees, because the staff is really the heart and soul of what makes NewYork-Presbyterian an amazing place to not only give, but also to receive care.”

For example, one of their initial most popular social media posts was a “thank you” album sharing gratitude for the employees who went above and beyond to care for patients during Hurricane Sandy.

“It's kind of exciting, because I think we've just barely scratched the surface on social in terms of what we're able to do for our patients.”

Gina says that while it's easy for some organizations to get lost in ROI or to put social in a silo, at the end of the day, it's all about storytelling and meaningful engagement. And last year, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital was named Digitally and Socially Engaged Brand of the Year by the Bulldog Reporter.

“The fact that I can engage with patients every day — trying to improve their experiences here, putting them at ease, or sharing inspiring stories with them — that really makes all the difference in the world. It makes really busy days that much better knowing you had an impact.”

Gina's been a member of since 2014. Follow Gina on Twitter and ask about her favorite thing to do in NYC.