Advocate Aurora Health Social Media Director Sarah Scroggins and her team have always had a focus on taking authentic stories and creating moments made for social media.

They recently came across the story of the McCarthy’s, a couple who had traveled from Ohio to Advocate Children’s Hospital in Wisconsin when their newborn son, Jack, was diagnosed with Loeys-Dietz.

Jack tragically passed away at 81 days old, but the McCarthy’s credited Dr. Luca Vricella, the pediatric cardiovascular surgeon who took on their case, with extending his life and giving them priceless memories with their son. When the McCarthy’s gave birth to their second son in January, they decided to honor Dr. Luca Vricella by naming the new baby after him.

Upon hearing about the story, Sarah and her team immediately knew they should spotlight it on social media.

Sarah said with social moments of this nature, the team’s main goals are creating engagement and awareness.

“When we think about storytelling and social moments, it’s always about awareness,” she said. “We know it’ll work for the platform and get engagement as well.”

She said they also consider how the story supports their priority areas within the organization. “For this story specifically, the physician is a pediatric cardiologist, which is a big focus area within our children’s service line,” she said. “Obviously it’s a great, touching story, but it also talked about our children’s hospital and the great service we provide to pediatric cardiology.”

To get the ball rolling, they partnered with their PR team, which works specifically with their children’s service line.

“We have two children’s hospitals in Illinois and children’s services in Wisconsin,” said Sarah. “We were talking to PR off the cuff about this story, saying how great it would be if the family was local so we could capture their meeting with the doctor.”

That’s when Sarah suggested setting up a virtual meeting between the family and Dr. Luca Vricella.

“We started working with our PR team, the family, and the doctor on logistics,” she said. “We started to test Skype as a way to video the meeting, and then we just made it happen.”

Sarah’s team frequently works with PR on these types of initiatives, she said.

“We work very well and closely together,” she said. “We’re all within the same team, and we look to extend our stories as much as we can when it makes sense.”

Sarah said PR had contact with the McCarthy’s because they had worked on the original story with their first son two years ago. So, when the story came back up in conversation between Sarah and the PR team, they were able to help orchestrate the virtual meeting.

“We gave them guidance on what we were looking for from a visual perspective,” she said. “From there, they worked with the family and the doctor.”

The team’s first step with content like this is always to get the physician’s permission.

The circumstances were unique — Dr. Luca Vricella never had a baby named after him before — so it was especially important to make sure he was comfortable with them sharing the story, Sarah said.

“He doesn’t necessarily want to boast about himself,” she said. “So, that always has to be our first discussion. Then, once we knew he was comfortable, we could go to the family. They were so grateful, gracious, and thrilled to be able to thank the doctor in this way, on top of naming their child after him.”

Sarah said they have encountered scenarios where doctors don’t want to be featured on social media.

The family was so grateful, gracious, and thrilled to be able to thank the doctor in this way, on top of naming their child after him.

“We had a situation where a patient got a tattoo of a quote from a doctor here who had helped her get through a tough time in her life,” she said. “We only saw it because she posted a picture of the tattoo dedicated to her doctor on Instagram and tagged us.”

When they asked the doctor if they could share the photo, he said he wasn’t comfortable. “We respect that,” she said. “To him, he’s just doing his job. He said, ‘I’m glad I touched someone like that, but I’m just doing what I do.’”

Once they knew everyone was comfortable with the story being shared on social, they began planning the virtual meeting.

The team chose Skype as the platform for the video call, which allowed them to download a recording of the video. They also obtained the pre-story and some photos from the McCarthy’s to include in the final video.

Then, they worked with the family and the doctor to find a time for the call.

“Physicians’ schedules are always the hardest part,” Sarah said. “But we had a quick turnaround, it was about a week after hearing the story that we were able to get on the doctor’s schedule and the family’s schedule.”

To make it as convenient as possible for Dr. Luca Vricella, the team went to the hospital where he worked to set up the video call.

Then, after the call ended, Sarah’s teammate, Social Media Manager Cailtin Ruiz, took the 15-minute video and cut it down to two minutes so it’d be more socially friendly.

There was a lot of great content, but we needed to cut it down to keep people interested throughout.

“There was a lot of great content, but we needed to cut it down to keep people interested throughout,” said Sarah. “She added captions to the video as well to tell the full story. It was done within two days.”

They posted the video on the hospital’s Facebook page and shared it across Instagram and LinkedIn as well. “It did well on LinkedIn,” said Sarah. “We had a lot of team members engage with it there.”

Then, they shared it to their internal channels, including their employee newsletter.

Sarah said they’ve learned over the years that content around pediatric cardiology tends to get high engagement — so they knew this video would resonate.

“There’s a community around pediatric cardiology that people tend to follow,” she said. “We see that community anytime we share this type of content.”

She said they made a point to let the conversations happen naturally because they often consist of patients and patient families talking about their own experiences.

“We found people from out of state were engaging as well,” said Sarah. “They would say they came to see this doctor. It was great for people to see that they’ll travel for this type of care.”

The team doesn’t have goals around the number of videos they share on the hospital’s social pages, but they are always on the lookout for potential video content.

“We try to create these social moments, and we try to attend certain events we think will be good for social media,” she said.

For example, the hospital recently sent patients to spring training with the Cubs and the Brewers, with the social team there to document it.

“It’s important for us to capture that content,” she said. “We might decide in the moment a specific interaction would make for a great standalone video. Or, we’ll get some great B-roll and do a recap video at the end of the event.”

She said they can’t always plan for feel-good content, but this type of storytelling is vital to their social media perspective.

According to Sarah, because the video didn’t need to be posted within the same day, the team was able to be more meticulous with the process.

You need to be willing to try this type of content. It’s not highly polished, but a lot of times that’s the content that performs the best and gets shared.

“We’re starting to realize with some of these videos, we can be a bit more thoughtful about the work that goes into it,” she said. “We aligned with PR on what makes sense for when they want to pitch it out.”

She added by giving themselves time before posting, they were able to look at the video after it was edited and make sure they were happy with the final product and strategize about how it would be shared on social.

“We sent the full video to the family, but because it needed to be so short for social, we were able to take a day or two and make sure it was edited to where it needed to be,” said Sarah.

She emphasized the importance of being willing to try new things when it comes to patient stories.

Sarah said the team had no idea how this video would go or what Dr. Luca Vricella and the McCarthy’s would say to each other.

“Logistically, we were able to plan out everything we could, but we didn’t know if the final product would make sense to share on social,” said Sarah. “You need to be willing to try this type of content. It’s not highly polished, but a lot of times that’s the content that performs the best and gets shared.”

She added at the end of the day, they want their followers to have some kind of emotion toward their content. “Be willing to go outside your comfort zone,” she said. “It may not be perfect content, but social media doesn’t have to be perfect.”

Sarah Scroggins has been a member of SocialMedia.org Health since 2016. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.

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