Elizabeth Whittington and Carrie Strehlau share the social strategy supporting the collaboration announcement between St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and World Health Organization to fight childhood cancer

This was a big announcement for the organization — and for Elizabeth Whittington and Carrie Strehlau, it required crafting a social media messaging strategy with a wide range of partners and stakeholders around the world.

“We’ve previously worked with World Health Organization, but because this announcement was being made during the United Nations General Assembly, there was an additional layer of rules and regulations,” says Carrie.

With so many moving pieces, the team weren’t able to finalize specific messaging in advance. Instead, they used templates to plan ahead, which made it easier to adapt on the fly.

You want to have a consistent drumbeat of messaging. Carrie Strehlau
“With so many important pieces and players working behind the scenes on the collaboration, details for social media often changed,” Carrie says. To prepare, Carrie and Elizabeth set about developing templates to build a framework.

Carrie says that when building templates ahead of time, it helps to think about assets you have available (like photos), hashtags you want to use, the appropriate channels to post in, and message timing (even if you don’t know the exact day and time, she says you can still make a rough outline).

“I cannot say enough about Carrie’s templates,” Elizabeth adds. “They’re so detailed — we also use them [to plan communications] for medical and scientific conferences a lot, and we share them with other people outside of our team so they can see the other information about the conference and schedule.”

The announcement involved three major events ranging from a Wall Street Journal exclusive to an event at the UN General Assembly.

Using the right hashtags, tagging the right people, and involving the right influencers really made a difference. Carrie Strehlau
The coordinated announcements began with an exclusive in the Wall Street Journal, a St. Jude-hosted reception during the week of the UN General Assembly, and an announcement at the UN, “Global Initiative on Childhood Cancer: Ensuring a Right to Cure.”

“We had three main events we were working with,” says Elizabeth. “For each of those, we had photos, videos, live tweets, infographics, and media stories we were pushing out.”

Though they managed the social media from their home base in Memphis, Carrie and Elizabeth say having communications team members on the ground at the UN General Assembly in New York for the announcement was critical.

Carrie says one of their key goals was to be involved in the live conversation surrounding the announcement. With so many high-profile influencers and organizations in the conversation, it was critical St. Jude was present in the conversation.

They relied on their team members to send photos and updates and used that content to supplement their live updates.

“Don’t just rely on one or two people to send you things if you can’t be there,” says Carrie. “Make sure you have a backup to your backup — especially if you’re not physically there, and the excitement and pressure is on to do things in the moment.”

“To Carrie’s credit,” adds Elizabeth, “after the event, some of our internal staff who were following everything on social mentioned, ‘Oh, New York must have been great’ — they didn’t realize we were doing it all from Memphis.”

Through their engagement during the live UN announcement, they were able to hit their goals and make key connections.

You want to blanket the announcement, you want people to know it's happening, but you don't want to just do it all at once and then forget about it. Carrie Strehlau
Carrie says that while it’s not all about the numbers, they did see really strong impressions. And perhaps more importantly, the people and organizations that were liking, sharing, and following their content were the exact audience they were trying to reach.

“We reached several new organizations and people in global health,” says Carrie. “Using the right hashtags, tagging the right people, and involving the right influencers really made a difference.”

Though the announcement was a success, Carrie and Elizabeth stressed that the story is just beginning.

Ongoing communications after the announcement include sharing all of the high-quality images and content from the event over the coming weeks and months.

“You want to blanket the announcement, you want people to know it’s happening, but you don’t want to just do it all at once and then forget about it,” says Carrie. “You want to have a consistent drumbeat of messaging.”

If you’re tasked with a similar announcement, Carrie and Elizabeth suggest starting with strong guidelines.

With so many moving parts, so many stakeholders involved, and such high-stakes messaging — Carrie and Elizabeth stressed the importance of establishing strong guardrails to help guide you and your team determine what you can and can’t do.

Elizabeth says the guardrails help you establish your foundation for messaging — but that with such a complex project, you still have to be open to the rules changing (and make sure the people you’re working with understand how important it is to keep your team in the loop).

Carrie echoes that openness to change: “If you’re in communications for any length of time, up is down and left is right. And the next day, it’s completely changed. And you have to be OK with being flexible and patient with that.”

Carrie and Elizabeth have been members of SocialMedia.org Health since 2017. Connect with them on LinkedIn to say hello!