Avera Health’s Alicia Schumacher and Paige Baskerville discuss the Avera Balance blog and how it’s impacting their social strategy

People connect well with storytelling, and we recognize that. Paige Baskerville
Over the past two years, Avera Health Director of Digital Media Alicia Schumacher and Social Media Coordinator Paige Baskerville have ramped up their Avera Balance blog to help position the hospital as an expert in the field of health and wellness.

“Our health system has a focus on helping people live healthier lives,” Alicia said. “Our name, Avera, actually means ‘to be well.’ So, it’s a big part of our mission.”

The blog is managed by PR and touches numerous teams within that department — including content, social media, and digital.

Outside of PR, they also work with experts across the organization who contribute content on a regular basis.

We're very focused on content strategy, but we want to make sure we're not putting all our eggs in one basket. Alicia Schumacher
“A common theme on the blog is ‘Try It Tuesday,’ a fun theme where different content experts and Avera writers share their experience trying a variety of unusual activities, such as a dance class, triathlon or a new eating trend,” Paige said. “Our writing team creates content in addition to content that is submitted. We weave those articles throughout, but there are a few pieces that have a set schedule and a few pieces that we publish as they’re available.”

She said this prevents the blog from becoming inundated by one specific topic or service at any given time.

Their writing team reviews each piece written by outside content experts to ensure it fits Avera’s style.

It's not just digital and social. It's content, video, and marketing, too. It's the whole team. Alicia Schumacher
Paige said their digital team then adds links to any related information on their public-facing website as well as links to provider profiles where applicable.

“If somebody submits content that mentions a location, facility, or service and we have information about that specific location, facility, or service on Avera.org, we’ll link back to it,” she said.

The blog has given Alicia and Paige’s team an avenue to share patient stories in an effective way.

According to Paige, they use those stories to explain new services or health offerings to their audiences.

“One of the biggest things we do when our team members speak with our partners is to ask for patient stories,” she said. “People connect well with storytelling, and we recognize that.”

Avera Balance now also plays a key role in their social strategy.

“We’re very focused on content strategy, but we want to make sure we’re not putting all our eggs in one basket,” Alicia said. “Social is a great place to put our information out there and get to a larger audience. We don’t publish everything, but we do take into consideration our audiences and our regions because specific articles can impact specific audiences differently.”

We don't always have to put large marketing dollars for digital around specific blogs, but we'll take fifty or a hundred dollars and boost that to an audience. Alicia Schumacher
The blog has influenced how they develop content for social, because blog articles and images can be divided up into digestible pieces for Facebook posts, Instagram stories, and graphics.

“It allows for visual storytelling on the different social channels and gives us a way to engage with that audience in a different manner,” Paige said.

The team also leverages evergreen content on their main Facebook pages and boosts posts to specific audiences — which has made an impact at a low cost. “We don’t always have to put large marketing dollars for digital around specific blogs, but we’ll take fifty or a hundred dollars and boost that to an audience,” Alicia said.

They’ve also started to look at how different types of content performs on their different social channels and using that information to help fine-tune their strategy.

One of the biggest things we do when our team members speak with our partners is to ask for patient stories. Paige Baskerville
They take into consideration what their audiences are searching for and engaging with on social and then develop content that will resonate with them.

“When we do features on people who are working on the frontlines providing patient care, they perform well organically on social because people recognize those care providers and they can talk about how wonderful that person is and how they’ve helped them,” Paige said.

Alicia hopes that moving forward they can continue to refine the blog content.

“Our goal is to be as strategic as possible with the content we’re putting out, because our content has increased in volume substantially,” she said. “So we want to capitalize on that opportunity and continue to reach audiences where they are and whatever journey they’re on.”

Alicia said the team has needed to take a collaborative approach to fine-tune aspects of the blog and social strategy.

“It’s not just digital and social. It’s content, video, and marketing, too. It’s the whole team,” Alicia said. “Collaboration is key in creating our content strategy and utilizing it in the most strategic way possible.”

Paige emphasized the importance of a content calendar and looking for opportunities to utilize content that is already being created.

Our goal is to be as strategic as possible with the content we're putting out, because our content has increased in volume substantially. Alicia Schumacher
She said if they blindly ask teams to write blog posts for them, it could be daunting and overwhelming for people who have never done it before.

“But there are plenty of people willing to raise their hand and contribute to the blog, and that submitted content helps take some work off the marketing team,” Paige said.

The creation of a content calendar has been essential as well.

“It’s an Excel sheet, and it gives a good overview about what’s coming in the next few weeks, what we have scheduled, what we’re working on, and who the provider that’s going to be featured in the article,” Paige said.

“We’re proud of the fact that content has always been something we find important,” said Alicia. “And we’ve taken it to the next level and haven’t left it stagnant. I’m proud of the group for always looking for opportunities to refine the content and improve the audience’s experience.”

Alicia Schumacher and Paige Baskerville have been members of SocialMedia.org Health since 2017. You can connect with Alicia and Paige on LinkedIn.