Amanda Marzullo and Christina Stolfo from Northwell Health on telling the story of a heart transplant patient and her recovery on social

Two months ago, Northwell Health Digital Content Producer Amanda Marzullo and Director of Audience Development Christina Stolfo underwent an ambitious and intense video project with a truly inspiring ending.

This is the second one we've documented from start to finish and we've learned that patience is key.

“We worked with the cardiac service line to develop a campaign based around the opening of their heart transplant program and the benefit it will have for Long Island, since it is the first of its kind in the area,” explains Amanda. And that campaign centered around a heart transplant patient named Yvonne.

But they didn't know Yvonne would be the patient until the day it happened.

“Once we received the notification that there was a heart available and there was the final approval that the heart transplant was a go, we had to make sure it was a match and that the blood type was correct. So we didn't actually find out who the patient was that we were going to be following until about four hours before the shoot.”

At that point, Amanda and a team of videographers and photographers weren't even sure if the patient would consent to have them follow along. “We were working on the project for a couple of months because we were interviewing the doctors about the new program,” says Amanda. “But we really didn't have the crux of the story which was the patient.”

“We had pre-planned this all out, so everyone knew that they were on standby,” says Amanda. “They needed to have their camera gear because whenever it was a go, we had to pick up our stuff and just head out.”

Once Yvonne had given consent for filming to proceed, they got to work and started shooting — “it was a real team effort,” says Amanda.

They even had to do some last minute troubleshooting when they weren't allowed to film in the operating room. “One of the doctors that we were working with for the project was in the operating room and was able to shoot with her iPhone,” says Amanda. “She provided us that footage which was very, very helpful to help tell that little section of the story.”

A few days after her transplant, they followed up with Yvonne in another interview.

The whole process — from patient to publication — was about a month.

“That is one of the advantages of having your own in-house team for these stories,” explains Christina. “You have full control over what's actually distributed and released. We didn't want to release anything until we knew that the patient was doing well and the surgery was a success.”

The full video lives on the Northwell Health website, “The Well.” Amanda and Christina worked together to direct traffic from social to the landing page.

“We didn't want to give the whole story away on Facebook because we want people to be engaged with our website,” says Christina. “So we did a trailer video with a link to watch the full video. And then we did a similar approach to Twitter. For Instagram, we put the link in our profile and we did two Instagram Stories to drive traffic.”

For Amanda and Christina, these videos led to partnerships that cemented the campaign's success.

If you're with the patient through the journey, they're more willing to open up and tell their story and be more emotional with you, which produces stronger content.

“What's always great about this type of content is that we can use it to promote organ donation registration,” says Christina. “We worked together with Donate Life and Live On New York who also helped promote the content we produced.”

“We had connected with Donate Life and Live On New York through social a couple of times,” says Christina. “But I think this is the first time where the partnership was really pre-planned. Because you know when we're thinking, ‘we're putting all this great content together for this heart transplant program' — it's really so much more than that — we could actually do a lot of good here by promoting organ donor registration.”

And as for advice they'd give members doing video patient stories?

“This is the second one we've documented from start to finish, and we've learned that patience is key,” says Christina. “You have to wait for the right time to distribute. There is always this feeling that you have to keep going and pushing new stuff out. But I think that if you wait until the story is complete from start to finish, you get a much better quality product.”

“And you get more of the emotion, too,” Amanda adds. “When you stay with a patient for a longer period of time, by the time you're finished telling their story, they've opened up to you a lot more than if you just went and met with them for the first time, did an interview, and left. If you're with them through the journey, they're more willing to open up and tell their story and be more emotional with you, which produces stronger content.”

Christina Stolfo has been a member of Health since 2016 and Amanda Marzullo has been a member since 2018. Connect with Christina and Amanda on LinkedIn.